Blue Smoke dinner and the London KFWE 2019, posh events in a growing kosher wine and food market

As I said to me old and new found friends in London, I will miss the people, I will miss their kindness and their civility, but they can keep the weather and their inability to drive on the correct side of the road!

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Well anyway, back to wine and food! As stated in my previous post, this was the first year I tried going to more than two KFWE events around the world. I arrived in Paris on Monday, Went to the Bokobsa Sieva tasting, and then on Tuesday, I took the train to London. I arrived in the afternoon and I then got a short rest before heading to a crazy dinner at Andrew Krausz’s house, the master chef of BlueSmoke.

I first met Andrew, and his sidekick, Mordechai, on the hilltop of Four Gates Winery, some 20 months ago! The wines we enjoyed there are listed here. But beyond the wines, one quickly got a sense for the Jewish community of Hendon, London. I must say, I still have nightmares from the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Golders Green, a large Jewish community kitty-corner to Hendon. Hendon reminds me of everything that is great about London. The people are really nice, the community is tightknit, and they are a bit more aware of the outside world than say Golders Green. That said, I have heard wonderful things about the Golders Green community, I just need to exercise the nightmares of my past. Anyway, enough of my nightmare! The next time you need a nice hotel in Hendon area, Pillar Hotel! Solid, kept up nicely, kosher, and the folks are really nice.

Blue Smoke and Andrew Krausz

Take a quick read of this article to get a sense of Andrew and the work he puts into Blue Smoke and the joy people are getting from it. The dinner at Andrew’s was insane, to say the least, and there were many winemakers there that we would be seeing again the following evening at London’s KFWE! The courses were highlighted by cured more than smoked but streaked with bits of smoke throughout. The dinner started with gravlax and pickled beetroot. The pickled beetroot was straight crack! It was infused for 6 months! I hope this starts to give an understanding to the participants of the level of effort that was made to put this event together. The care and love for the task at hand by Andrew and his family! Yes, the family, were incredible! They have to live with the madness that fed people like me. From what I could tell, they are happy travelers on the road of food madness that is paved by Blue Smoke, but I am sure the 25 or so people invading their home on a weeknight, and the days and weeks of preparations leading up to that day, may not have been a path so easily traveled. Also, please understand that we would see Andrew for a few seconds as he explained the dish and then he disappeared into the same black hole from which he miraculously reappeared from over and over again. That black hole, the cavernous sized kitchen, was packed with humanity and hands coordinated by Andrew to push out 25 dishes over and over again throughout the evening.

The dinner was paired by many a wine, but I have decided not to state them here, mostly because it was not the setting for wine notes. However, there were two wines that were served with dinner, which I cannot help but state here, because for the love of God – they were incredible!! More on that in a bit.

I really need to say my many thanks, here is a man who I met on a hilltop, an eclectic hilltop, in the middle of nowhere, and to many, who know Benyo, or come to know Benyo, a hilltop of true serenity. This man and his family opened their home to me and many others not once but twice within the same week, for Shabbat lunch as well, and were beyond gracious and kind. It is this kind of open graciousness and hospitality that I will miss from London. Blue Smoke is a labor of love, hard work that turns into cured and smoked goodness, that foodies in the Hendon area come to love. It is this very community of like-minded foodie and wine lovers that came to converge on Chez Krausz, but one that is highly coveted and one that the kosher wine world is courting with great effort, even if the outcome of those efforts fall short, but more on the KFWE and other wine importers in a bit.

The Gravadlax and crack beetroot were followed by another dish of beautiful fish, Brill this time, served two ways, one pan seared and one in ceviche form. The Brill was served alongside a stack of quail egg, stacked upon the Brill Ceviche, which was stacked upon the Rosti potatoes. Each bite was quite an experience, the balance of acidity, salt, and umami from the egg was really fun, quite a home run there (though in the UK that would be a Six)!

After a refreshing Amuse Bouche/palate cleanser in the form of a well-balanced Tequilla and Tomato Gazpacho, the next dish was a tour-de-force in both presentation, idea, and implementation, IMHO! A Sous-vide ribeye marinated in a very expensive Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port cask was served alongside bricks of pink Himalayan salt. One took the already cooked meat and seared them on the burning hot bricks of salt. This never quite seared them like a cast-iron pan, but the sear was still quite nice, and the salt flavor and the experience/presentation was another SIX points! The meat was served alongside watercress, smoked garlic, and blood orange wedges. Once again, the balance of acidity, umami, salt, worked together quite wonderfully! One quickly got a sense that Andrew understood balance, structure, and focus when it came to dishes, really impressive.

What came next was pure smoked heaven and another example of what I call Blue Smoke crack. The dish was a pairing of smoked lamb breast with house smoked Brisket, on a bed of Red cabbage, honey glazed baby carrots and leeks, with crushed Hazelnuts, and the piece de resistance – AKA crack – some Apple chili barbeque sauce. The Apple Chili Barbeque sauce has some 20 ingredients in it and takes 3 days to make. It is yet another example of the level of effort and quality that went into every dish that Andrew served that night. All the plates, from the components to and through the entire dishes, showed a consistency, a vibrant balance, clean and professional, with unique brilliance and out-of-the-box thinking, with true concern and focus on the balance of acidity/umami/salt/and mouthfeel, really a joy.

The final meat dish, before the dessert course, returned to the brine/cured calling, while continuing with the Blue Smoke name, with a Duo of Brined Smoked Duck breast with Victoria Pineapple and shredded smoked goose in Cinnamon Apple, Roasted shallots, Quince cheese, with salted edamame beans, and a Fiery Morello cherry sauce. The birds were divine, but once again the smaller components, one of which required SIX months of work, stole the show. The crack star of this dish, was the quince jelly/cheese, are you KIDDING ME! That stuff is addictive and really dangerous for one’s health! While the Morello sauce was equally impressive. Once again, as stated many times now, the dish was well conceived, well implemented, with the plating and balance showing a clear lawyer’s mind through the madness that must have been residing in the black hole from which Andrew would appear.

Dessert was a duo of Rhubarb and custard tart, with sorbet, and a lemon sugar crepe. The dessert was lovely, though I personally, always skip dessert unless ERK is making it. But what they served with the dessert was straight up liquid gold crack from Yaacov Oryah’s brain! OMG! I have spoken often about the Old Musketeer, a wine that defies definition, other than maybe a wine or maybe a sherry, or maybe liquid crack that Yaacov has the legal right to sell!

Many thanks again to Andrew and his family. I think it was summed up better than I could possibly say, by Andrew himself: Good food, good wine are great ingredients for elevating the soul and bringing people together – so true!!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Elvi Wines Rioja, Reserva – Score: 94
The nose on this wine is lovely and ripe with blue and red fruit, with hints of black fruit with crazy notes of soy sauce, root beer, and crazy smoke and lovely roasted meat. The mouth on this rich and layered full-bodied wine hits you with crazy sweet oak, sweet dill, with rich blueberry, ripe and juicy raspberry and strawberry with lovely extraction, layers of sweet and controlled fruit, showing sweet herb, lovely black Forest berry, and menthol, with mushroom and garrigue. The finish is long green, sweet, and really fun, with tobacco, roasted espresso, rich dark chocolate, with mint, menthol, and sweet herbs. Bravo. Drink from 2020 until 2032.

10 year Yaacov Oryah the Old Musketeer – Score: 95
This is maybe the most unique dessert wine I have ever enjoyed. No, it is NOT a sauterne and it does not have any of the botrytis funk, but what it lacks in terms of terroir and environmental impact, it has in spades with regards to technical makeup and impressive patience. This wine was made in the sherry wine style, using the solera technique (a fractional blending system from different age-scales of stacked barrels), which takes forever to get to its full potential. As the wine ages in the barrels its slowly consumes the oxygen and oxidizes the wine slowly, this slow oxidation also makes sure that the wine itself will never further oxidize and makes for a wine that is close to indestructible.

This wine is made from a blend of late harvest Muscat of Alexandria and 2015 chardonnay that was added in later on to give the wine its incredible balance and acidity. I thought the 8-year-old, old musketeer was crazy, well the 10-year-old wine is even better. We tasted the 8-year and 10-year side by side, and the 10-year is incredible.

The nose on this crazy wine is rich and layered with rich floral notes, followed by not as intense notes of maple syrup notes as the 8-year old wine, but still, the nose is crazy floral, showing a crazy nose of caramel, dried nuts, candied walnuts with white chocolate, dried flowers, almond paste, halva, more tropical than the 8-year, and citrus. The mouth on this incredible full-bodied and unctuous wine starts with rich acidity, followed by nice ripe fruit, guava, hints of pineapple, candied grapefruit, and yellow peach, followed by a really intense mouth coating sweetness that is both incredibly oily in nature and one that glistens in the glass with legs that go on forever, But it is also perfectly balanced by great acid with rich spices, spicy oak, and loads of mango. The finish is long and never-ending with a sweetness that is perfectly balanced and NOT cloying. Bravo!! (not available at this time, just a barrel sample).

KFWE London 2019

So, when I was asked how the London KFWE 2019, was? My reply is honest and to the point, the hall was the classic UK scene, sumptuous and beautiful. The wine selection was in some ways, better than in NYC, specifically in regards to Herzog wines! The crowds were there, even a bit the VIP, but like I have heard there was no pushing, there was just a slow dance between guests, as they moved from table to table. Still, it was busy. The real letdown to me was the food. However, before we get to the food, I state the issues that really made it hard for me to taste wines, which shockingly, as a wine taster, is why I am there.

To start, the worst offense was the perfume, and no not the perfume of the people in the room, that DRIVES me crazy, but I can work around “those people”, I am a professional. However, the hall was perfumed, the ENTIRE hall, the stairwell, the upstairs, all if it was perfumed! Why? Why would anyone allow that to happen?? The smell lingered and drive me and many other professional tasters NUTS! The only place I could hide, was in the back room, the waiters were looking at me like I was nuts.

Follow that up with the small glasses and the pervasive heat in the hall, it made for a very hard time to taste and enjoy wines. My hope is that next year, they can fix these things. Use the same glasses that Royal used in NYC and LA, they were GREAT! Same with Bokobsa’s glasses – great! Next, fix the heat, but more importantly, do not allow the hotel to disinfect or perfume the hall, a couple of hours before the event. Do it TWO days earlier, or better, do nothing! Trust me, I can handle body odors on people, no problem, it annoys me, but I can handle it. However, when you fill an entire room and building with it, I am at a loss.

Now, back to food for a moment. There was nothing I wanted to eat. Now, I mean this in the nicest way! How can you overcook duck breast? Like gray colored duck breast – how do you do that? All the food was overcooked, even the foie gras was burnt – how??

Still, what makes London so great is that it is a growing foodie and wine group, with little to no foodie outlets. The wine scene is complicated. The importers for much of what I desire in life are still Royal wine, the issue is the pricing! If you think we have it bad here on some wines, you have no idea! The prices there are higher and then in pounds! So a 30 dollar bottle of wine here is around 35 pounds or so there, which in dollars comes to 45 dollars! Go to the wine shops, as I did, and it is clear that wine moves slowly. However, talk with people at the events and the foodies and wine moves, but it all depends upon where you are getting it from. Some shops move wines more than others. In the end, it is clear Herzog Winery Cellars wanted to make a statement, so all of their wines were here at London’s KFWE. in NYC, there were fewer to no Eagle’s Landing wines and not as many of the wines overall. The mindset there I guess was that NYC is a well-known commodity already and there is less need to promote the Herzog brand. Same for KFWE L.A., that too had few of the Eagle’s landing or Special Editions, but they were at the KFWE LA VIP room!

So, in a single sentence to wrap up KFWE London 2019, an elegant hall and presentation, solid wines served, ok crowd control, poor implementation of the venue, glasses were OK and could be improved, and the food needs help.

My many thanks to Royal and Royal Europe for hosting me and sharing all their wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Elvi Herenza Rioja Crianza – Score: 91 to 92 (Mevushal) (QPR Star)
The nose on this wine is sweet with lovely bright fruit, with rich black and red fruit, followed by raspberry and rich spice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is tart and bright, really lovely, with bracing acidity, with mouth coating tannin, followed by raspberry, cranberry, with dark cherry and rich green notes of foliage, crazy tart, and juicy strawberry, and lovely earth with juicy fruit. The finish is long and green and red with rich acidity, nice mineral, tobacco, mint, sweet dill, and lovely tart fruit, Bravo! Drink until 2021.

2017 Elvi Rioja, Semi – Score: 85 (Mevushal)
Nice and tart nose, slightly sweet with pomegranate, plum, with sweet cranberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is sweet, slightly cooked, with clear blackberry and black currants with sweet blue fruit and lovely sweet red berry, with nice sweet tannin, and spice. The finish is long and sweet with chocolate, sweet noted, and dark juicy and tart and sweet strawberry.

2016 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: 92
Nice fruity but well controlled wine with rich herbal and roasted herb notes, with mint, garrigue, and black fruit, followed by tar, and rich mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and black and layered with layers of blackberry, earth, with hints of blueberry, rich cassis, and nice concentration with great control, showing more herbal notes, with menthol galore, with searing rich and draping tannin, with nice acidity and balance and lovely pith. The finish is long, green, herbal, and earthy, with nice sweet fruit notes and good fruit focus, tobacco, and dark chocolate.nice! Drink until 2028.

2018 Domaine Netofa White – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR Superstar)
The nose on this wine is very very different, crazy how Chenin blanc can become this. With crazy redolence, crazy gooseberry, dry straw, with rich citrus, and lovely herbal and mineral galore. The mouth on this light bodied wine is lovely, with rich salinity, lovely grapefruit, rich pink and yellow fruit, with incredible acidity, showing lovely dry nectarines, and orange with orange blossom and honeysuckle. The finish is long, tart, and really fun with loads of slate and acid. Bravo!! Drink within a year.

2018 Domaine Netofa Rose, GSM – Score: 90
Lovely nose of strawberry, raspberry, and rich citrus. The mouth on this wine is nice with good acidity, though I would love to have more, with lovely fresh fruit, tart with hints of bitter notes, loads of mineral, saline, and great bite on the finish, with slate, rock and more raspberry and strawberry with grapefruit and citrus. Drink now.

2018 Domaine Netofa Rose, Latour Rosado – Score: 91
The nose on this wine is tart and really fun with juicy and tart raspberry with citrus galore, showing bright gooseberry and slate. The mouth on this wine is elegant, balanced and lovely, with great saline and lovely limoncello, ripe and juicy strawberry, with dried quince, lovely lime, and citrus that lingers long with slate, rock, orange blossom. Lovely!

2017 Herzog Chardonnay, Lineage – Score: 90 to 91 (Mevushal) (QPR)
This is a simple, well-made Chardonnay wine, one showing lovely oak, great balance, and nice fruit. The mouth and nose are creamy, but not an over the top Califonia Chardonnay. Well balanced and quite fun. Bravo! Drink soon! (I was not a fan of the 2016 or earlier vintages, but this one was nice).

2016 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Reserve (Mevushal) (QPR Star) – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is seriously sick, pure mineral redolence, with intense notes of graphite, dark chocolate, and really fun dark and red fruit. The nose and mouth are sweet, but so was the 2014 superstar, give this time and it will calm down. The mouth on this full bodied wine is great, it is a slight step back from the 2014 vintage, but far better than the 2015 vintage, with crazy mineral, graphite, and lovely blackberry and dark cherry, with rich cassis, and lovely blue fruit that hides behind a curtain of rich fruit, draping tannin, and crazy dark fruit, backed by great roasted herb, spices, cloves, cinnamon, with mint and lovely attack and weight with foliage galore and screaming tannin and acid. The finish is long, green, and richly herbal, with crazy tannin, tobacco, and more chocolate. Wow!! Drink from 2020 until 2028. Bravo!!

2016 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Special Edition (Mevushal) (QPR Star) – Score: 94 to 95
If the Alexander Valley is a mineral bomb, this is even more mineral if that is possible. The nose starts off with crazy notes of intense graphite, crazy pencil shavings, with lovely black fruit galore, anise, and tar. The mouth on this full bodied wine is a step up from the Alexander Valley, with rich elegance, screaming tannin, yet plush and rich, with blackberry, cassis, earth, mouth draping and elegant tannin, with rich saline, pencil shavings, with sheer elegance, showing less oak than the Alexander, more mineral, with great balance, followed by crazy blackberry, with more loam, mineral, earth, and elegance. The finish is long, green, sweet dill, tobacco, foliage, and well-balanced fruit. Bravo!! Drink from 2022 until 2031.

Posted on February 19, 2019, in Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Restaurant Review, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. David: Curious as to why the long detailed post on a private dinner that the vast majority of your readers have no access to?

  2. My comments were more about Blue Smoke – which makes great food, and does so every week! The dinner was an example of what one can get from them. The overall post was mostly about London for London readers. Both the KFWE London and the Blue Smoke are London specific ideals, that may well not make sense for all. The wine notes are more valuable for all.

  3. Firstly I wish to thank you for your time and effort writing such extensive articles about Kosher topics.
    I however find it strange that you spend 1000 words describing an intimate dinner with all its trimmings but only a few negative lines about just 2 dishes at KFWE London. In fact there where dishes galore from Sushi to Duck Pancakes and from Saltbeef to Spareribs to comment about. Perhaps all were sub-par, but you certainly could tell if tried. From what I gather, you had access to the VIP room and savoured the Foie Gras which was made freshly On demand. I can’t imagine you being too shy to ask for Rare. Unfortunately most of our people harass our chef to overcook the meat. Good forbid it’s rare. But, hey these are our people’s old culinary habits. Ultimately we served 800 people uninterrupted from 18:30 to 21:45 – I hope not all experienced the food as over cooked or subpar.

    • I was actually quite impressed by the efficiency of the organization, but all I stated was that the food I tried in VIP was not up to the standards I expect from VIP, let alone London. The food elsewhere, in the general admission, did not make much of an impression, sorry.

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