A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
Truly Passover Shabbos was a two fold event, the chance to taste through my Shirah wines that I had been yearning to get to and the chance to taste a barrel sample of wine sent to me by Andrew Breskin of Liquid Kosher (a high-end kosher wine merchant). Andrew warned me that I needed to air the puppy out so indeed, I opened it Friday morning and it was still kicking Saturday night.
As, I already documented here, about all things Shirah, I was talking with Gabriel before Passover and we agreed that we would both open Shirah wines over Passover. To me, it was time to see if the Coalition, which I thought was severely lacking in the finish and mouth, had come around. Humorously, there are some that think my article on Shirah wines was a cheerleader post – but such is life, I really did feel passionately about the Weiss Brothers and I really do like their wines. We tasted through four of the Shirah wines that I had around, the two coalitions, from 2010 and 2011 and the 2008 10-2 punch and the 2010 Counterpunch. All four of the wines were truly unique, but the winner of the four was the 1-2 punch and the 2010 Coalition – the very wines, I though was truly lacking – how funny life can be sometimes.
Benyo came over for the Shabbos and brought over two oldie but goodies – 1996 Four Gates Merlot and 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay. Now, as you all know Four Gates Winery was “officially” founded in 1997, but that dos not mean he did not make wine in 1996 – actually he made a fair amount of wine in 1996, and all of his friends and family were the beneficiary of his abundant kindness! To me, the wines rival the 1997, 2003, and 2006 vintages. Though his best wines so far are still the 2012 releases (year wise – not vintage). Anyway, the 1996 Chardonnay was so good and clean and ripe, the real shocker was the color – pure light gold color, like a 2006 or a 2012 Chardonnay! Quite impressive as always – his older 1996 Chardonnay wines are truly unique. I did not take notes – sorry, but this one was not the soft, honeyed, caramelized Chardonnay that I come to expect from his stash of 1996 Chardonnays. This was bright and expressive – really like its color! Blind, I would have thought it was a 2000 or 2010 wine!
After that we enjoyed a march of red wines, one after the other, each one unique in their own right, with really no duds or holes, it was a really fun night. Friends brought over some wines, but none of them made the table, as I really wanted to taste through the Shirah wines, the Frenchie, and one Israeli wine. They brought over a Peeraj Habib – nothing to slouch over AT ALL, but I was single minded on my plan, and I did ask forgiveness afterwards. Read the rest of this entry
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
Two weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely meal with friends and family and it was centered around meat lasagna and kosher wine blends from around the world. We had some vegetarians over, so I made lasagna with soy instead of meat, and in the end both pans of food disappeared, so I think it came out OK.
The lasagna dishes used the same recipe as I have here, but one used trader joe’s soy meat and the other used plain old beef chuck ground up.
I am cutting it short today – so this is the wine list and thanks to everyone for coming by and making the meal that it was:
2010 Don Ernesto Clarinet – Score: B+
The nose opens with lovely blueberry, the blend is undocumented but is quite nice for Hagafen’s entry-level wine, along with raspberry, ripe black and blue fruit, along with butterscotch. The mouth has nice toast, chocolate, mouth coating tannin, along with espresso coffee, and black cherry. The finish is long and spicy, with graphite, toast, boysenberry, and more cinnamon.
2009 Karmei Yosef Winery Bravdo Coupage – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is one of my favorites and a wine that needs time to open, but I also think this wine is in a bit of a funk and needs more time to find itself, such is the way of wine – time to time. For now the score is lower than in previous tastings as it was in a funky mood.
The nose on this deep black colored wine is rich with mineral, herbaceous, black cherry, raspberry, and rich plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely but closed for now, with blackberry, heavy not integrated tannins that coat the mouth, and cedar. The finish is super long and rich with ripe fruit, heavy tannin, lovely vanilla, tobacco, and rich chocolate. Give this wine 6 months and it should start showing its real self.
2006 Elvi Wines Priorat EL26 – Score: A-
I know this wine continues to have its polarizing following, with passionate lovers and haters, given its unique and clearly earthy qualities, I love it. The earth and mineral almost accentuate every flavor in the mouth and add so much complexity to it – that I think the mouth will explode.
This wine is a lovely blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It starts with an aromatic nose of anise, ripe blackberry, black pepper, raspberry, and plum. The mouth is full and concentrated with mouth coating tannin, nice dirt, graphite, black cherry, ripe fruit, with spicy wood all coming together into a nice mouth. Finish is long with spice, mineral, herb, eucalyptus, tobacco, and chocolate. This is a massive and extracted wine with ripe fruit and one that balances well with the oak and spice. Read the rest of this entry
In a historical tasting, Jose Penin, for the first time ever, in an official capacity, came to Israel and tasted through some 32 or so wines, and then tasted them against his own country’s wines as well. Jose Penin, is no stranger to the wine world, he is the Robert Parker of Spain, and has been doing this for some 35 years, and is world-renowned for his tireless drive and professionalism in the world of wine. In 1990 he released his first book on the wines of Spain, and has continued this every year since, adding to it and augmenting the wineries he visits as more come online.
Yair Gat is not as well known as the late Daniel Rogov was in the English-speaking blogs and public, because Mr. Gat writes in Hebrew and pretty much stays to himself. Still, Yair Gat is a highly accomplished wine writer that writes a wine article for Israel Hayom, a daily newspaper in Israel.
The tastings accorded over three days, with Penin, included some winery visits and the chance to taste some 32 wines, were all put together by Hacarem/Vineyard. Hacarem, is one of the largest and most influential Israeli wine & liquor importers, which imports many Spanish wines into Israel including one of my favorites; Elvi Wines. Read the rest of this entry
Dr. Moises Cohen, owner and head wine maker of Elvi Wines, fell into his current love as part of his thesis defense of his other love - Agricultural Engineering, which he received from the Technion in Haifa. For the next 21 years Moises has used his degree and knowledge to build patented technology that allows vineyards to be remotely monitored on all aspects of the vine’s health and stress. Telemetry ranging from the vine’s overall health to how much water it has consumed and how much it still needs! It turns out that with some really cool technology a vine can tell you all the info you can ever imagine without damaging it in any way. The telemetry data allows the vineyard manager to control the water, fertilizer, and/or vineyard fans to cool or heat the vines.
Moises and his wife, Anne who holds a degree in History of Art and is a Sommelier, has been consulting with wineries, all around the world, to manage their vines and to make wines. In 2003, Moises started Elvi Wines, while continuing to being a wine consultant for wineries across Spain and South America. The duality of seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres allows Moises to help each in their own wine harvest and growing seasons.
Dr. Moises Cohen, the winemaker, is passionate about the terroir, and their winery’s name (Elvi) says it all; an abbreviation as Cohen explains it; EL (elokim or general rules or mother nature, just as you want, as you feel, as you believe) is always above VI (vino, wine). Wine is a mirror image of the vineyard and the wine maker. The more the wine maker manipulates the grapes and the wine, the more it feels and tastes fake. The more he/she lets the grapes and wine change and age naturally, the more the wine will be able to show its true terroir characteristics. All of the Elvi’s wines come from organically maintained vineyards! Further, the wines are brooding with earthy and mineral notes that show the terroir in ways that are quite enjoyable.
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel
This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!
The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.
We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:
Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick
In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.
At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend was still Passover and we invited friends and family to hang out and join us for a lovely meal. Passover is a time meant to represent rejuvenation, freedom, and the need for each of us to spark the embers of possibility that lie deep within us all. The combination of Passover and the Sabbath meant we needed to dig deep and make some really fun stuff, so that is exactly what we did. We made my favorite cut of meat, a brisket in the manner that we always do, with help from friends of ours that were hanging out with us for Passover. We also made other Passover favorites this year, including our Herb Encrusted Gefilte Fish Loaf, and a new vegetable kugel, that was killer. Most kugel has some kind of binding agent in it, and on Passover that is either Potato Starch or Matzah Meal. However, this recipe has neither! This is a slightly modified recipe from an insert we saw in a magazine created by the folks at the Pomegranate Supermarket in Brooklyn, NY.
Passover Vegetable Kugel Recipe
4 red potatoes (unpeeled)
4 yellow zucchinis (unpeeled)
6 carrots (unpeeled)
3/4 cup of oil
Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grate all the vegetables in your food processor. Mix in the eggs, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, and then pour into either a single 9″ x 13″ pan or two 9″ round pans. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another hour. The kugel should be slightly charred on the top and sides but cooked thoroughly within, which is easy to check with a toothpick or fork.
The recipes for the brisket and the Gefilte Loaf can be found here. We changed the brisket recipe only slightly, by NOT using ketchup, and using tomato sauce instead.
To pair with this feast we had a few wines, some that people brought over, and some that we took out of the cellar. One of them is a rather unique wine, a blend of Moscato and Sauvignon Blanc. This is not a common blend and one that many dislike, but one that we really liked and one we spoke about previously, when we wrote an article about Elvi Wines. Jay Miller, a wine writer and critic for Robert Parker‘s highly influential Wine Advocate newsletter, echoed the words “Kudos to the Cohens (of Elvi Wines) for this remarkable array of Kosher wines…” when tasting the Elvi’s wines. We have now tasted the wine in question a few times, the 2008 Elvi Ness Blanco, and each time it has put a smile on my face. Some critics did not like it, but Mr. Miller and I seem to like it just fine. This time around the wine is showing more Alsatian in nature, with rich honeyed styling and good minerality to boot. The wine went perfectly with the herb encrusted fish, the honey pairing well against the herb and the mineral notes pairing nicely with the fish’s slight sweetness and weight.
This past weekend I spent time with some family in NY, as I was attending the 8th Annual Gotham Wine Extravaganza, which I MUST say was the best one so far. Both the VIP tasting, and the wines and ambiance at the normal tasting, were really fun and enjoyable. Kudos to Costas and the entire Gotham staff. On another aside, I helped to open bottles this year, which was really cool, because it will probably be the one and ONLY time I get to open a 2007 Yarden Rom bottle, at 170 bucks a pop, it is a safe bet that I had my onetime fun in the sun!
My entire time spent in NY was just lovely, and spending a lovely shabbos with my family and then going to a wedding of friends of ours on Sunday capped it off. All in all a great trip that was punctuated by a rather large number of dud restaurants in the larger NY metropolitan area. The only really good “restaurant” was a pizza place, that made a lovely whole wheat and vegetable pizza, but the fries and onion rings were deplorable.
So that is my quick recap of the past few days. The wines I enjoyed over shabbos were quite nice and highly enjoyable.
The wines notes follow below in the order that they were consumed:
2008 Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is hopping with rich espresso coffee, nice dirt, raspberry, cranberry, and cherry. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and silky with more espresso, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, and lovely tannin. The mid palate is balanced with dirt, acid, tart fruit, oak, and tannin. The finish is long with nice red fruit, acid, tart raspberry, cherry, and espresso. On a side note, this is a wine made by the only full time kosher winery in Italy!
2009 Bravdo Coupage (40% Cabernet Franc, 33% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet – Score: A- to A
In case you are wondering what a Coupage is? It is loosely translated from the French as “cutting”, which is another way of saying a blend. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with spicy black pepper, crushed herbs and green notes, dark black fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, cedar, slight floral nose, more cedar, mineral, and tar. The mouth on this massive full-bodied wine has yet to even start to settle down, the tannins and extraction are intense and nothing has yet melded to give the wine what is expected, a rich full mouth. For now, the wine is massive, intense, inky and showing its extracted structure with blackberry, black cherry, plum, and huge tannin. The mid palate is rich and oaky with raisin, black fruit, cedar, balancing acid, tannin, and vanilla. The finish is super long and super spicy, with cedar, vanilla, spice, blackberry, cassis, tannin, raisin, tar, more extraction, leather and vanilla. This is an exciting wine to keep your eye out for and one that will do well to wait to be enjoyed. Also, kudos to Happy Hearts for importing this wine and not jacking the price up upon realizing what a crazy winner this wine is and will be for some years to come!!!
2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, Rioja, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich an oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, cedar, raspberry, cranberry, and rich espresso coffee. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich and expressive with raspberry, integrating tannin, cranberry, mineral, and bright fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. The finish is super long, spicy, and rich with dark cherry, spice, vanilla, coffee, and chocolate. Rich mouth of chocolate, coffee, dark cherry, and coffee linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!