Even if you’ve spent your Saturday picnicing with friends in sprawling Buttes-Chaumont park, munching periodically on Jambon de Paris and sliced Rosette de Lyon, pretty little chèvres rolled in shallots and pink pepporcorns or wrapped delicately in a grape leaf, baguette tradition, and cherry clafoutis, pâté dappled with vinegar cornichons, sticky, custardy mango, seasonal strawberries from Belgium, and blanched salad of Alsatian white and green asparagus as you sip gastronomic Bordeaux rosé and Corsican white cooled in the stream rushing by while gulping up rare heaps of pouring summer sun, you’re still going to be hungry for dinner come 10 PM.
To eat and drink in Paris: it’s almost an embarassment of riches. The light is starting to streak the sky with black pink and orange, twilight insects buzz busily hovering over slowly dampening grass, cigarettes crackle, the wine runs out – it’s time for red anyway. Decisions are always difficult when a warm giddy summer buzz renders you languid, lazy, and content. What to do? Meals in France are long and luxuriously casual: you owe it to yourself to think it through.
At Vin des Pyrenees on Rue Beautrellis in the Marais, across the street from the apartment building Jim Morrison lived and died in, you’ll find an rich southwestern specialties dished up by pretty, smiling, polyglot waitresses, their long wavy hair tied up in shabby chic head scarves. Convivial, cosmopolitan, and candlelit, this is a place where you can speak any language you like and no one will blink and eye. The cassoulet is righteous, and the Ravioles du Royan, tiny ravioli swimming in a cream broth that’s inconceivably light, stay on your mind for years to come. The perfect excuse to drink dark, tannic Madiran…
But then there’s that Saltimbocca alla Romana at Gli Angeli, a small Roman trattoria on Rue St. Gilles behind the Place des Vosges. The veal is pounded thin, and sauteed wrapped in proscuitto (Jambon San Daniele) and sage. It’s dished up next to a mound of house-made linguini and doused in white wine brown sauce. Their Fettucini in truffle cream with proscuitto is sinfully delicious and their Linguini alla Vongole can compete at the top. Happily, they serve Allegrini wines by the glass or by the bottle.
The evening’s descent into night brings with it a chill in the air – is it enough to justify the raclette at La Grolle de Montmartre? Tucked away at the foot of Sacré-Coeur within the maze of cobbled side streets, this red-walled Savoyard gem features a prix fixe of champions: 25€ gets you a raclette of your choice (reblochon is the best and most traditional) that comes with your own personal old-school raclette oven. This allows you to designate the level of melt to your liking. With it comes a plate of perfect charcuterie and boiled potatoes to pour it on, a giant bowl of green salad with dijon vinaigrette, and a carafe of brightly acidic white wine like Rousette de Savoie or Apremont to wash it down. Worth every calorie.
Suddenly a bloody hunk of beef pops into your ken – the Côte de Boeuf at Les Galopins in the Bastille. So hard to resist. At 42€ for 2 people you get pounds of gorgeous meat, plus hand cut frites, plus bearnaise sauce and mustard. With Croze-Hermitage it scratches the carvnivore itch like little else.
Or you can hit the streets in your ‘hood and wander into the first little place that catches your eye. Luckily for travelers, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Paris. Click the links for more food visuals…
It’s 7:30 PM on an overcast Thursday in the Paris’ 11th arrondissement. You’ve been walking the grey streets of the Right Bank all day, ducking in and out of galleries and boutiques in the Marais, snacking on Nutella banana crepes and tall fizzy bottles of Badoit, taking in the architecture and monuments of a city which is a museum unto itself. Dinner plans aren’t until 10 (which jibes with the 10:30 PM sunset in summer,) and just when you make up your mind to take your book to the dazzlingly green Buttes-Chaumont park and throw down in the grass for the long, slow build toward evening, the sky opens. Torrents of fat, cold drops slam down as you fumble for your umbrella and desperately look around for rescue. Luckily, shelter is never far from sight in Paris. Relieved, you alight on the covered terrace of a capacious brasserie at Metro Oberkampf (see pic).
Rain and labile weather are charming to those travelers accustomed to Paris and these downpours always provide a bit of excitement and a chance at an unforseen break, to watch people, write an email, or notes in a journal, and have an apéro. Now – you must task yourself with the wine list, which at Parisian cafés is neither long nor complex, but bears a bit of explanation all the same.
The whole point of brasserie or café wine is to drink something inexpensive and local. For reds you’re generally looking at a list of about five selections. Up to three of those could easily be cru Beaujolais: chilled Brouilly or Cotes de Brouilly, St. Amour, and normally a Morgon, always the most recent vintage. Take the Brouilly if you like a lighter Gamay quaffer, and the St. Amour or Morgon if your palate commands darker fruit and heavier mineral character. The other star ‘rouge’ of the café list is red from the Loire; carafes of Chinon or Bourgueil (both made of Cabernet Franc) abound as they are inexpensive, refreshing, and pair with most all typical brasserie fare, from Salade de Chevre to Steak Frites. If your palate prefers a briary black cherry, eucalyptus, and light leathery/animal flavors, take the red Loire, and make sure to ask for it “au frais.”
As for whites, you’re always looking at a Muscadet, which is a bracingly DRY white wine from around Nantes on the Atlantic Coast in the Loire. Not to be confused with Muscat, which can be vinified either sweet or dry, Muscadet is vinified from the Melon de Borgogne grape and profides ideal accompaniment to oysters, other ‘fruits de mer,’ as well as potato chips, which are always a good apéro snack. You’ll also see Tariquet, a winery in the South West of France (Cotes de Gascogne) that makes 11 different wines, both white and rosé, of blends of various local grapes (Ugni Blanc aka Trebbiano, Colombard, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon, Grenache, etc.) Tariquet whites are always refreshing, round, and fruity, and sell for about 2€80 the glass (can’t beat that). Finally you’ll see Vinho Verde, Portugal’s answer to the call for a light-bodied summer quaffer. Bottled with just a little carbonation, Vinho Verde taps out at about 10% alcohol and is easy to guzzle without catching too much of a buzz.
If beer is your thing, there is always the tryptic: Kronenbourg ’1664′, a French lager, Stella, a Belgian lager, and Leffe. If your choice is between Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brune, decide simply if you prefer Hogaarden or Newcastle, and the choice will make itself. You may get lucky and find German selections like Franziskaner or Ayinger, but it’s a bit more rare. There are also lighter beer drinks like Panachés and Monacos which are made combining beer with lemonade (Panaché) or lager with lemonade and grenadine (Monaco). These can be are a refreshing and slightly sweet alternative to beer or wine.
Want to drink like a Parisian without the cost of airfare? Try these:
And feel free to get in touch if you want to talk more about French wines of everyday – email@example.com
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dry rosé? For most, it’s the Cotes de Provence, illustrious south-of-France motherland of pale pink juice for summer. I too venerate the gorgeous landscape, fields of sunflowers and artichokes, gravelly hillsides, seaside towns, bouillabaisse, and guzzlable wines. But while we do have Provence to thank for leading the charge on dry rosé, it is by no means the alpha and the omega. Rosé is produced all over the world now, from Seattle to Sagaponack to Stellenbosch, and stylistically they are as varied as the lands from which they inspire.
There are two common ways to produce rosé: skin contact, and saignée.With the first method, black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically one to three days.The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain tannin and other compounds, thereby giving the juice structure. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the deeper the color and richer the texture of the rosé.
Rosé can also be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding. When a winemaker wishes to impart more tannin and color to his red wine, some of the pink juice from the must is be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the volume of the must is reduced, and thus more concentrated. The pink juice that’s removed is the Saignée that’s fermented separately to produce rosé.
Some of my favorite south of France selections this year are the MIP which is gossamer pink in color. Made of Cinsault with Syrah and Grenache, it’s medium bodied with plenty red fruit, orange zest and clean acidity. Another light-colored quaffer is the Grimaud Golfe de St. Tropez, which is Grenache with Cinsault & Carignan. Bright and herbal, this wine smacks of freshness, and has a pretty label.
As for Pink Sancerre, the Reverdy Terre de Maimbray (100% Pinot Noir) is delicate, with raspberry and cherry on the nose leading to a mouthful of chalky minerals on the palate. Over in the Pfalz in Germany, Von Buhl is also doing nice rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale salmon in color, is lightly effervescent on the palate with plenty of vim and vigor. If spritz tickles your fancy, try the watermelon-colored Ameztoi Basque Txakolina rosé made of indigenous Basque grapes Hondarribi Beltza & Hondarribi Zuri. It’s attractive color conceals an equally appealing bitterness on the finish that makes it super food friendly. The Chidaine Touraine is the oddball of the group – orangy in color, it’s made of Pinot and Loire indigenous grape Grolleau and has good grip.
But sometimes you want something with a little more muscle. If you need something to match the ribs, burgers, or tuna steaks on the grill but don’t want to bring a red and think a white is too flimsy, Mulderbosch rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is a sure thing. It’s dark red hue is sexy like a rosato cerasuolo, and it’s rich with pomegranite and eucalyptus on the palate and lavender on the nose. Another rosé of heft is Le Roc Fronton Saignée, which is made of peppery Negrette. It’s good with BBQ and pizza. The wines are inexpensive, which is always a good thing for afternoon parties, since chances are you’re going to need more that one or two bottles.
The Cotes to Provence will always be the spiritual home of rosé, as well as a powerhouse in production (80% of their output is the pink stuff), and you can generally count on it for a satisfying glass if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe and you need something to sate your thirst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you love the diversity of rose as I do, try something different. I guarantee it will delight.
Recently, my wife and I moved to Tarzana and have been scouring the neighborhood looking for delicious restaurants that don’t break the bank. We visited several that were quite the fail and then we found our current favorite. I present to you: Vino Wine & Tapas Room. Located on Ventura in Encino, this small, comfortable eatery whips up delicious fare.
We have been to Vino several times now and they have many different dishes and wines. Although their wine list has a nice array from different regions around the world, we usually pay corkage. We took my grandparents recently and had a wonderful time at a semi-private table near the back. I brought one of my favorite rosé Champagnes, Billiot, and it paired wonderfully with many of the tapas. Billiot is a grower champagne with grapes from Ambonnay. All Grand Cru juice, the value is outstanding. Pairing with the Billiot, we had Manchego, a thick slice of the cheese on a croqueta smothered with a sweet tomato vinaigrette. We also had Albondigas, a sirloin meatball on top of savory mashed taters. I love how rosé Champagne (or any rosé for that matter) pairs with so many different foods and can even cross over and pair with meats. The Billiot rosé is beautiful and offers a nose of dough, cinnamon, orange zest, and berries like raspberry and cherry. Full creamy bubbles and delicious lip-smacking acidity constitute the palate.
My favorite “big” small bite is the New Zealand Lamb Chop. I love pairing lamb with Syrah, and one of my favorite Syrahs is JL Chave Crozes-Hermitage from the Northern Rhone valley. It pairs magically with lamb. Soft tannins with tart raspberry flavors, all meshed together with fresh cracked black pepper, this is a classic French Syrah. Syrah is fast becoming one of my favorite varietals. It’s very versatile with food and I simply relish the peppery flavors. The chops are prepared with, what do ya know, pepper and herbs encrusted with a wine reduction sauce on top.
The ambience is terrific and on most weekends, they have live saxophone crooning at the front of the restaurant. The chairs are very comfortable and the service is super friendly. I like to describe the lighting as happy and dark. All wine is served in Riedel stemware (specifically, Vinum Extreme). For a less personal experience, there is always at least a small crowd at the bar where energetic conversations abound. I highly recommend checking Vino out, but make sure you come by and pick up a couple bottles from me, custom matched for your food.
Summer solstice weekend was the only time of year I could bring myself to go to Chicago, a city widely known to have the worst weather in the country. With the exception of the tempest that kicked off just as I touched down, whipping winds and sideways rain for 20 violent minutes, the weather is soft, skies flooded with blue and buttery light, and deciduous greenery dancing on currants of cool air. After a shower in River North, we hop into a cab and speed to the spot Anthony Bourdain calls “the holy trinity of pork rinds, oysters, and beer” – The Publican on the Fulton St. Meat Market. The 2009 Michel Delhommeau Cuvee St. Vincent Muscadet Sur Lie satisfies the Fire River and Moon Shoal oysters we’re slurping, while NV Renardat-Fache Cerdon Rosé of Gamay and Poulsard gives wings to our crunchy handmade pork rinds dusted with powdered cheddar and cayenne. Flesh-lovers unite.
But we are still hungry. We stroll next door. To our delight, we find on the menu a burger, which turns out to be a dripping hunk of ground sirloin smothered in salty Fontina cheese and served between two slices of fried green tomato. The “Erotoburger” went seamlessly with a 2008 Seguret Cotes du Rhone. At once spicy, balanced, and indulgent.
Morning: Gooey French Toast and bellinis at Toast in Lincoln Park. Then we head on foot, through parks of orange daylilies and pines, through the zoo, to the cerulean, lapping, lake-like-an-ocean, where more friends meet us for a picnic. Out of the basket I’d been lugging I pull the 2010 Masianco Pinot Grigio/Verduzzo, a funky Veronese white that’s wicked inexpensive and guzzleable. Also, a crisp, limey screw topped 2010 Man Chenin Blanc (I LOVE screwtops,) and a pop top 2008 Winter dry Riesling liter bottle. The wines are cold. The sun nails us to the grass, lovingly. We watch people on bikes enjoying the rare perfection of the weather, pretty girls in bathing suits splashing, seagulls hovering. I don’t understand this lake. I lie back and watch light scatter through undulating maple leaves.
Up and at ‘em. Hotfoot it to Wicker Park to dive into the crowds at Big Star. Queso Fundito with Poblanos + pitchers of salty margarita and Schlitz + dirty jokes = joyful friends. A cab brings us back to the flat in River North to shower before late night dance party at Danny’s in Bucktown.
My final afternoon in Chicago yields the holy grail: the Chicago-Style hot dog. At a friend’s in Lakeview we steam the beef dogs and toast the poppy seed bun. Chop green tomatoes, pickle spears, and onion. From the fridge we take pickled sport peppers, piccalilli (neon green relish) and yellow mustard. Finish off with a dash of celery salt. Swallow in three bites washing it down with the 2010 Tablas Creek dry rosé which tastes like red chili pepper jam. Complete Chicago. I may not ever need to go back.
It started at about 11:30 AM on Sunday morning. At the generosity of a close friend, I caught a red eye for one night and two days of drinking wine and running around sultry, sticky New York City. The air in July clings to you like a sweater.
If only every day in Manhattan were Sunday morning! Empty streets give the feeling that the city belongs to you, not the reverse. After a coffee at Cafe Select, I tapped on a friend’s door on St. Marks and 1st. Crackly buzzer, indecipherable words, perspiration dripping down the back of my knees on the 5 floor walk up. He had prepared a feast. Home made jalapeno poppers, baked eggs with Irish Cheddar, roasted potatoes, imported truffle Dijon, homemade Romesco sauce, and French press coffee from freshly ground beans. The Pièce de Resistance: Breakfast Riesling. 2007 Prager Klaus Smaragd. Austria at its fullest, richest, and fattest. Pure delight.
We hit the streets. In Thompson Square Park we looked at hipbones and forearms, New Yorkers scantily clad. At Goat Town we polished off a glass of Olga Raffault Chinon Rosé, darker, like a cerasuolo, and jalapeno-y. So cold and quenching against the heat. Then to a big competitor retailer for market research. But we ended up buying the Andrea Calek ‘Blonde’ – funky, spritzy, Chardonnay & Viognier blend from the Ardèche. Back at the flat we sacked out with AC and the cidery Blonde watching Women’s World Cup final till another friend came through to sweep me back out along the streets.
Down to another retailer in the South Street Seaport where a friend was giving out free shots of Aquavit. After 2 anisy blasts to the gullet, I bought the Reverdy Sancerre Rosé 2010 and the Domaine de Bagnol Cassis Rosé 2010 as gifts (which would eventually get opened by me, in intoxication). In summer in New York, it’s too hot to drink anything but rosé and clean white. Well…maybe not. We drifted to The Randolph to see a friend bartending. He hugged me, dipped me, and poured an icy cucumber mint gimlet down my throat. Then a White Port & soda. Other friends arrived. It came together out of nowhere. It’s easy to make a call, reluctantly ditch your AC, and head out into the streets. We sat at café tables on the sidewalk on smelly Broome Street and smoked.
Back at the loft on Wooster Street we tried to recover ourselves for a long dinner at L’Artusi. But the rosés got opened anyhow. Once we arrived at the spot on W. 10th street, a friend who works there poured us glasses of the Lini 910 Lambrusco Bianco , which we had with scallop crudo and a salad of anchovy and vinegary chicories. With the La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallee d’Aoste came delicate Hamachi tartare, then spaghetti with parmesan and green chilis and crispy sweetbreads with sunchokes. We stumbled sated back out onto the sweaty streets.
Sleep? Not much. The second day was a lot of walking. 60 blocks to be exact, after half a hangover cheeseburger at Burger and Barrel on Houston St. And… I missed my flight back to LA. Sacked out on the couch back at the loft dripping in perspiration, I woke every hour or so, until finally my friends got home from the bar around 4:30 AM. My (new) flight was at 7 AM so the timing was perfect. As I was presented with a glass of breakfast rosé, a Vin de Pays de Mediterranée called ‘Vrac’, it dawned on me that though it was early morning for me, it was still last night for them. I sipped the icy pink juice, and made myself a ham sandwich.