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Assorted French wines I had before my travel to KFWE NYC and L.A.

After the tasting through the current portfolio of Les Vins IDS with Benjamin Uzan, we continued with other wines. I said then that I would revisit the wines that I and Elie Cohen had collected for this tasting, along with some wines that Ben Sitruk brought, that he sells on his site. I was once again joined by Elie Cohen, Ben Sitruk, and Elie Dayan, a few of the French kosher wine forum members.

To say that Victor wines are an enigma would be an understatement. They are the USA importer of some Taieb’s wines. Other Taieb wines are either imported by Royal Wine (Laurent Perrier) or Andrew Breskin’s Liquid Kosher for the Burgundies.

However, Victor Wines also makes their own wines and there are many of them. The distribution of their wines and the Taieb wines inside the USA is problematic and haphazard at best. Onlinekosherwine.com has started to sell a few. Other than that the ONLY place I have ever seen all the wines or even most of the wines in a single place is the Kosher Kingdom on Aventura BLVD in Miami/Aventura, Florida. Of course, that makes sense since Victor wine’s headquarters is in Hollywood, FL, not far from Miami or Aventura, Florida.

The family that runs Victor Wines has been the in meat and restaurant business for many years according to their website.

Ari Cohen bought a bunch of the wines, ones that were not available at the family’s restaurants. Then we bought the rest of the wines at the restaurant and we were ready to taste them. Overall, I was not impressed. The wineries where they make the wines are not that impressive but I am always looking for good news. Also, Ben brought in some wines, like the WONDERFUL 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon. Sadly, the 2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, the second label of Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, was dead. We also tasted the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau, which is another name for Grand Barrail that I tasted a few times with Nathan Grandjean.

Finally, we had dinner the next night and we brought tons of wines over and there were really only a few wines that were either interesting or new to me and those are also listed below.

Many thanks to Arie Cohen and Ben Sitruk for bringing a couple of wines to taste, including the Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon wines and the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau. Thanks to Jonathan Assayag for bringing a wine I have never tasted to the dinner, the 2005 Chateau Moncets, Lalande de Pomerol. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2015 Chateau Rollan de By, Medoc, 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, Haut-Medoc, 2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc, 2010 La Demoiselle D'Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau

2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc – Score: NA
Sadly this wine was dead

2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc – Score: 70
This wine is all over the place, just a pure mess, sad. The fruit and mouthfeel are black with hints of red notes, but besides that, the wine is really not that interesting at all. Sad. Read the rest of this entry

My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Snow days

Well, if you have taken the time to read my last post about my trip to Israel, you would think that life may be wet – but very much wonderful, well that was day 1! Thursday morning I awake, and the rumors were that it was going to snow in the afternoon. My sister said do not go out and my Rabbi even was worrying about it. Well, I woke up and it was still raining, but not a snowflake in sky, which I just guessed was an over worried sister. Well, at 7 AM it was pouring rain, by 7:30 AM there were snowflakes, and by 8 AM there was a real inch of snow on the ground, which means Jerusalem was shutting down, and my winery dreams for the day were over.

You see, in Jerusalem, a few inches of snow is like a foot of snow in New York! My nephew works for the police, and by 8 AM he was all suited up and ready to go. Schools were confused, and they were asking kids to come in any way! By 9 AM, all of Jerusalem had shutdown, the stores were not opening, and schools had come to their senses and told the kids to stay home!

At this point there were a few inches on the ground and it was not letting up! What started to dawn on me was my greatest nightmare, my brother was just landing at Ben Gurion airport and he was not going to make it into the city! You see, the big disconnect here was that only Jerusalem, the surrounding elevated areas (Psagot, Beit El, Ramat Ruziel, etc.) and the north were affected by this, everywhere else it was life as usual. Once again, only the higher elevations were cold enough to have snow! By Sunday, when we were able to drive down to Teperberg Winery (more on that in the next post), halfway down Highway 1 – there was no more snow! I really wonder if someone stood at a certain point on highway 1, could they have had snow on one hand and rain on the other? Yeah I am that nerdy!

According to Haaretz: Vehicles are seen stranded in snow at the entrance of Jerusalem on December 13, 2013 following a snowstorm.

Thankfully, my brother grabbed the only thing that was going north at that time, the rakevet (AKA train). When he tried to go to the taxis at the airport, they all said they were not going to Jerusalem, so the only option left was the train. By the time he got on the train, it was standing room only, he was totally shocked! By the time he made it to Jerusalem, by 3PM or so, the first round of snow was just starting to melt and subside and the roads were clearing up. If we had made a run for it earlier in the day, and we had gone to Ella Valley, our car would have been stuck down there – as the highway did not open up again till Sunday! Read the rest of this entry

Saved by the Dragon lady at the Sheraton Plaza, Jerusalem

This past weekend found us at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem.  As the weekend comes to a close, the phrase that keeps screaming in my head is — how far the mighty have fallen.  Ask people in the know about the Sheraton, and they will always start with Chef Shalom Kodesh and his staff of talented practitioners.  The story of his rise to fame was metered, but still quite impressive.  To push this selling point, his story and dreams are plastered all over the Sheraton hotel brochures.  One can only guess, that their hope is to ensure that their jet lagged customers are sure to read about their prized chef.   The brochures talk to his desire to stay hands on, and his interest in driving a stake into the heart of the myth, that kosher food cannot also be a culinary treat.  He seemed to have been successful at both of these for some time, but after this last weekend, we are left wondering if Kodesh has locked himself into his office or fallen asleep at the wheel.

Friday night my friend and I found ourselves staring at a menu with three options for appetizer and for the entree as well.  We thought to ourselves, bummer we will only get to taste two of the three entrees and appetizers.  Unfortunately, we quickly realized we were totally overreaching.  Appetizers started with salmon, gefilte fish, and roasted vegetable medley.  We both chose the salmon option and in hindsight that was the worst option available.  The salmon arrived covered in an acidic and acrid tasting tomato sauce.  Even after clearing away the sauce (which in and of itself proved complicated) it did not help to improve the flavor.  It was really a shame, because the salmon itself was cooked almost perfectly.  The flesh was flaky with a slight hint of pink in the center.  We did try the other two appetizers at the buffet on Saturday and the gefilte fish was really nice with a slight firmness that gave way to the fork.  The flavor was all white fish and seasoned just right.  Unfortunately, the vegetable medley was a disaster.  It was almost a microcosm of all the dishes served this past weekend.  Barely seasoned, plain, without imagination, and drowned in oil.  The vegetables were barely roasted, with just a few char marks on some yellow roasted peppers that graced the serving platter, along with eggplants, and some other unrecognizable vegetable.  Sadly, there was no imagination or execution, to say the least.

If the appetizers were a pale excuse for a four star hotel, than the entrees were an abomination.  I chose the roasted duck (in a belated homage to Thanksgiving), while my friend chose the roulade and Cornish hen.  The last option was roast chicken with four spices.  Before our entrees appeared, I ordered a bottle of Galil Cabernet 2006.  I do not have tasting notes on this wine, but it was a nice wine with strong notes of cassis, raspberry, and spice.  My duck arrived shortly and I could tell immediately that this was not going to be my night.  The duck seemed to be impersonating a chunk of fibrous shoe leather.  The duck was overcooked, while miraculously maintaining a flabby skin, nowhere near a crispy skin.  This was a clear case of a poorly managed dinner service, and worse, a duck reheating gone very bad.  The roulade was actually edible with a mushroom and squash filling.  However, the Cornish hen did not luck into the same treatment.  Instead it looked like a smaller version of the bird that I had on my plate.  The hen was overcooked and again lacked any flavor.  The evening was such a disaster that when the waiter came by to ply us with desert, we just left, which as you will see soon, was yet another mistake to tack onto the evening.

Sleeping on a virtually empty stomach was fine as we looked forward to the legendary Saturday Brunch.  However, we are jumping ahead of ourselves.  The morning started with a classical Israeli buffet of fresh vegetables, cheese, and small pastries called rougala.  The vegetables were nothing special, but the vegetable salads and cheese were enjoyable.

After we went for a walk and a quick siesta, we entered the ballroom with high anticipations of the feast that awaited us.  I started with the fish and vegetable medley that I passed on the previous evening.  After the partial success, I went to the hot tables to take in some cholent, and roast beef.  Well, that is where I realized that there was something wrong in the hotel.  The cholent looked like someone took some canned beans, canned potatoes, and overcooked and tasteless chuck meat and threw them into a pot to serve everyone.  To add insult to injury, the roast was equally as poor as the cholent meat, really a sad showing for such an acclaimed culinary establishment.  The other options were turkey (which was overcooked and tasteless), and a kugel that we passed on from sight alone.

So there we were seated on the side wall, taking in the entire spectacle that is a buffet run, even one as poor as this one.  There are people who come to the buffet to see their friends and family.  Then there are the folks who come to be seen.  But within the din of humanity, there seemed to be a pattern that was repeating.  Every so often a male chef dressed in white, would appear and switch some serving dish from the buffet table, with a fresh pan.  Their testosterone filled stance and pace could not overcome their infrequent appearance, and so they just got lost within the buffet scene humanity.  However, out of nowhere something clicked, there was a pattern that repeated far more often and screamed for attention.  After closer analysis, we saw that there was a woman with a chef’s frock that carried food, and an impressive head chef tude.  She turned out to be the pastry chef.  With the entrees being a total flop, I figured I would try out some desert.  Now I am not a huge cake or cookie guy, but with nothing else going well, I gave it a shot.

I approached the pastry chef, and ask her what she would recommend.  She pointed to a platter of what seemed like strawberry infused gelatin with strawberry and raspberry sauce artfully placed on the plate.  With slight trepidation, I took a slice of the recommended desert, and I took a brownie to cover my bases.  I turned to thank her for her advice, and I was rewarded with a scathing and contempt filled reaction; “If that is what you were going to take, why did you bother to ask me for my advice”.  Upon returning to the table and detailing the incident to my friend, he aptly named her the Dragon lady.  As we continued to watch the proceedings, we noticed that if her contempt was overshadowed by anything, it would be her fastidiousness.  She constantly could be seen hovering and fussing over her creations.  As the buffet crowd chopped and mangled her beloved pastries with countless cutting implements, she could be seen clearing away broken and mutilated pastry parts.  As more and more of the smorgasbord minions cut away at her divinations, she could be seen trailing the destructive forces, making the unsightly beautiful again.

It was a doubly impressive tour de force.  First the cakes were quite enjoyable.  There was no heavy creamed, over caramelized and over sugared creations.  Instead, where the entrees and appetizers were mostly listless, over dramatized, and under seasoned, these pastries were balanced and heady delicacies.  They touched on imagination and pulled on heart strings, while keeping you grounded in dessert land.  Finally, there was a table with food worthy of the acclaim; sadly it was not from the acclaimed chef.  Who knows, maybe Kodesh saw something in this self confident and capable pastry chef, to unleash her into the testosterone filled battleground and to allow her to make a mark on this otherwise dismal weekend.  Long live the dragon lady, and with hope that is the winged creation, to turn the hotel from an ugly duckling into a lovely phoenix.  So the next time you visit the hotel for dinner, keep your eyes out for the self confident female chef, as she may be last bastion of hope in this once stronghold of culinary accomplishment.

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