A meal with Etienne Hugel The Holy Land 2012 – part 2

finishing wines…In the mean time our “sommelier” Yair, opened the two reds on offer:
Vosne- Romanee 1 Cru, Les Suchots Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot 2006
And the 2006 Charmes-Chambertin Tres Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru, Domaine Joseph Roty, these can breath for the time being…at least until the lamb is properly roasted…

vosne Romanee 2006
The Vosne Romanee from Domaine J. Confuron Cotetidot , is a highly suitable wine for the occasion since the Confuron family are an old winegrowers family, (since the seventeenth century), they even have a strain of Pinot Noir named after them – Pinot Confuron. The domaine has some Grands Crus vineyards and “our” Premier Cru vineyard of Les Suchots, certainly one of the very top domaines of the Côte de Nuits. The tradition of whole-bunch fermentation is still practiced, producing this extra deep scent of berries plums and ripe dark red fruits. One of the strengths of Confuron Cotetidot wines is their ability to age and develop, (hence the long decanting time). I guess our state of mind will allow them to be approachable in the medium term as well.
IMG_4985The 2006 Charmes-Chambertin, Très Vieilles-Vignes, Grand Cru, Joseph Roty, Côte de Nuits, is a deep red-ruby almost purple wine. filled with deep notes of black cherry, liquorice, flint , leather and wet soil. needed quite a long time to open, eventually exposing the sweet flavours of dark berries and spiced strawberry confiture reflecting the full ripeness of the 2006, yet still retaining enough acidity to keep the fruit freshness and balance for it’s anticipated longevity. (another bottle opened several years ahead of time…)

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Our wines are slowly evolving in their decanters and the leg of lamb properly rested, it’s juices evenly spread within, were “calling” us back to the table, Etienne following me back to the kitchen, as I steamed the tender spinach, cut the oven baked shimeji mushrooms off their stem, and the roast potatoes, all in their serving dishes and off to the table where our first red the Vosne Romane , Les Suchots 2006, was already poured to glasses,

munchers

Etienne insisted on the joint being carved at the table, not before he orchestrated several photos with the roasted joint still intact (as you can see),

 

he watched over me, as I carved the joint of meat, nice and juicy, steaming off the aroma of thyme, rosemary, mint, and a delicate touch of garlic, just as intended (it does not always come out like that, lucky again…)

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There was lot of everything to be had and we dug into it, perfectly paired with the wines. The one that followed, the: Charmes. Chambertin Grand Cru, Joseph Roty 2006, was equally well paired with the dish, and so we took our time, enjoying our main course commenting on the wines and food and Etienne’s stories of his “holy land” impressions, he really enjoyed visiting Jerusalem and the Galilee following historical footsteps of 3000 Years of human religious history, than recalling his recent visit to Beirut Lebanon, his joy of meeting old friends in Beirut, and I was envious, political boundaries forbid me from visiting Lebanon, the city I heard about from my father who studied there in the mid 1940’s describing in details the amazing pastry sweets, the cool Booza (a local ice cream with Mastic and Salep, which provides it with the ability to resist melting at the speed that other regular ice creams are affected by, thus withstanding the local heat of the summer) it has an elastic chewing gum quality (extra special touch on the tongue and palate, Devine!!) how would I know? They have a few places in Jaffa, Galilee and other Arab neighbourhood who still make them, with a varying degree of success. I read that In the Old City of Damascus, there is a shop called  Bakdash بكداش that is famous throughout the Arab world for its ice cream and gum Arabic, used to be a popular attraction for tourists, who knows if it still exists, after all we live in a turbulent neighbourhood…, I would like to think it is still there, after all places of tradition, know how, secret recipes and excellence should last forever (very much like Hugel family wines.)

Etienne was not talking specifically about his own wines, he spoke of all the wines upon their specific merit, which is commendable, after all we all know people who can’t stop talking about themselves or their own wine which tends to be tedious sometimes but not in this case.
IMG_4990We cleared the table off the empty main course dishes ready to receive our “cheese and biscuits”.
A very special wine accompanied our cheese Philippe Bornard -“Les Marnes” Cotes Du Jura 2005 a wine from the village of Pupillin near Arbois and the Swiss border, this is the “home” of “vin Jaune” also made from 100% Savagnin grape, It does not have the same deep dry sherry quality of proper vin jaune, as it is not left to oxidise under a film of yeast, known as the voile, on the wine’s surface for almost six years but rather undergoes a different cheese selectionprocess, at first the wine begins a long, slow maceration in fiberglass container, then moved to large older oak barrels for maturation, which lasts about one year. Wines are of two appellations: Côtes du Jura as is our wine, and Arbois-Pupillin, and reflect beautifully the terroir of the Jura. This is a wine that shows a masterful balance between aromatic richness and minerality. All the meticulous work and emotion of Philippe Bornard is revealed in this great wine. The vinification under the yeasts – “voile”, gives birth to a Savagnin that mixes roast hazelnut and walnut yeasty aromas with white fruit, superb bottle.Bullseye choice for the cheeses (Thanks Judy…)

 

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Halfway through Etienne could not resist the temptation of pouring the Nectar of the evening – Hugel & Fils Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles, 1976, an amazingly perfumed and aromatic wine, scent of botrytis engulfs you as you swirl the wine in the glass white peach mango and passion fruit juice, shooting out of the glass enchanting the palate with it’s smoothness, light fruity sweetness emitting the scent from within upwards sublime! (since 1976 the next vintage this wine was produced was 1988) What a delight that went so well with our cheese and dessert : Tart Tatin of Pears and Ginger, this is a take off on Marco Pierre white award winning dessert from the mid 1990’s with an added twist of ginger julienne and slivers to fit Alsacien grape verities, and it did .. at one stage Etienne “grabbed” the serving plate and “devoured” the tart from the large plate to everyones delight.

pear tatin

The incident that followed before coffee and petit fours were served, is private between us five and will remain between us four (now that Etienne has taken the secret to his grave, and we will all in turn…) all I can tell you about it is Etienne comment: Ai Yai Yai…!!!

The next morning after all the sweat, tears of laughter and blood of course…when everyone was gone I opened the Pink Box of delights, and what a sweet surprise!! it was a box of the best ever tiny Baklava pastries from Douaihy – Lebanese Sweets, full of goodies with a taste that still lingers on the tip of my tongue, excellence in mid eastern pastry making, my favourite sweet!! from the most excellent but “forbidden source” the city of Beirut, and my fathers stories all came into context, imagine just one hour north of the border!!! a place I would visit every weekend if only possible.
My friend Etienne is gone but not the memories of this warm night in May 2012, this was my first and last meeting with him in person we kept in touch and planned to meet later this year but alas it was not to be.
Farewell my dear friend, these fragile tastes and smells will endure, more persistent, more faithful, and will remain poised a long time, like our souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest.

Sweet rose, fair flower, untimely plucked, soon faded,
Plucked in the bud and faded in the spring.
Bright orient pearl, alack, too timely shaded.
Fair creature, killed too soon by death’s sharp sting,
Like a green plum that hangs upon a tree,
And falls through wind before the fall should be.
I weep for thee and yet no cause I have,
For why thou left’st me nothing in thy will. And yet thou left’st me more than I did crave, For why I crave`d nothing of thee still:
O yes, dear friend, I pardon crave of thee,
Thy discontent thou didst bequeath to me.

sonnet 10-"The passionate pilgrim" by W. Shakespeare (1599 edition)

A meal with Etienne Hugel – The Holy Land 2012 – part 1

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Two weeks ago, my friend Etienne Hugel passed away in a most sudden and unexpected manner, although there is no consolation for such a loss, the many good memories he left behind may console his friends and especially his family; his beloved wife Kaoru, his son Jean Frédéric his daughter Charlotte and the whole Hugel family.
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“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (1913)

This is one of those taste and smell memories…

It was mid May 2012 during one of our “Saturday lunch” gatherings with my friend Judy Chang , she said: “my friend Etienne Hugel a winer from Alsace is coming for a three day visit to Israel , how about you hosting an intimate dinner with Etienne?”.
It is not everyday that I get to host a real member from the Aristocracy of European winemakers: The Primum Familiae Vini –(in latin) or First Families of Wine, the eleven families that belong to this exclusive ‘club’, where the criteria for membership are: quality and continuous family ownership.

PFV
The list of members is astonishing: Pol Roger from Champagne, Château Mouton Rothschild of Bordeaux, Maison Joseph Drouhin from Burgundy, Hugel et Fils from Alsace (second oldest in the group with 13 generations since 1639), Perrin et Fils from the Rhône Valley, Egon Müller from the Saar, Antinori, the oldest wine family of the list (26 generations) from Tuscany, Tenuta San Guido with their Sassicaia, Miguel Torres and Vega Sicilia from Spain and the Symington Port estates in the Douro.
A member of the Royal families of European wines at my house? will he be a pompous “prince” who is going to look down on us PLEBS (in ancient Rome: despised social class, commoners, low-born, undistinguished…), this guy will dwell for a few hours under my roof? but than, Why not? this is an opportunity and so I readily took the “challenge”, (being told by Judy he is a cool guy, a hippy of sorts, this is where I feel comfortable)
This is going to be a night of food and wine, it has to be special, extraordinary, This guy knows his food and wine, he dined everywhere and drank anything, he has good palate and nose, I can not surprise him, but I will do my best… after all, this is a meal for only 5 diners, (shame I have to work late that day and will have only an hour and a half before the guests arrive).
As it turned to be, it was a night of food, wine, Rock n’ roll, amitié (real friendship) and giving (but thats for later on…)
Planning the menu has to include 2 first dishes cooked on the spot , the main dish will have to be a roast (let the oven do the job for me while I’m busy prepping the first 2 dishes and the theme? Eclectic! things that go well with Alsacian, Hugel wines (which I bought in advance at “Derech Hayaiin“ , of Family Shaked, Hugel representatives in Israel (Importers) and the best chain of fine wine shops around the country (http://www.wineroute.co.il/?tree=english&item=0&theme=he-il.
So I have Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, and Gentil “Hugel”, which as they say: “brings together the suave spicy flavour of Gewürztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner”, all the above Hugel wines as my cooking wines, this pulled me to opt for dishes with a touch of the far east, a touch of the middle east (after all that’s where we are, and the guest is coming from a visit to Beirut, prior to his “Holy-Land” visit… all with a delicate french touch.

IMG_4972For first course: Giant crystal Shrimps rolled in Zucchini, fried in goose fat, in Champagne and Riesling shrimp sauce. This is a takeoff on Joël Robuchon’s dish with Langoustine in champagne sauce. this sauce is really alluring you could almost drink it on its own with all the shrimp and champagne aromas , sublime!

IMG_4960For the second course: I need a south east Asian touch to accompany my second cooking wine the Gewürztraminer, Fried Veal sweetbreads in a light gwurzt curry cream sauce on a bed of blanched wild Rocket. for the blanching I used a bottle of simmering Gentill Hugel wine .

IMG_4974For the main course : Mediterranean style Roast Leg of Lamb, served with Roasted potatoes, steamed Spinach in Olive oil, White and brown Oven steamed Shimeji Mushrooms (homage to Japan…)

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Than, A selection of french and local goats cheeses with green salad.

For dessert: Tart Tatin of Pears and Ginger served with dessert wine which turned to be to amazing 1976 Gewürztraminer Hugel “Sélection de Grains Nobles”, Nectar of the Gods …

IMG_4968I have just finished rolling my shrimps in “zucchini leaves” , and prepping our sweetbreads : blanch, peel and all… and most of the Mise en scène (after all cooking is a bit like movie making or a theatre production) and Mise en place, that our front door was open and in came my old friends Yair and Judy and a stormy guy in slightly sweaty T shirt (it was a hot day outside), his face lighted the room with joy (almost childish), his hands full with presents, offerings of fine wines and a mystery Pink box the content of which I will reveal later. With a rolling stones song at the background he immediately blended into the music and my greetings met his happiness and good will. A simple guy like me and you, not the aristocratic attitude I dreaded at first.
I immediately felt (I like this guy) and after a brief introduction we became the oldest best buddies ever…
the cristalThe kitchen is partially open plan and the dinner table was laid down, and with no further pause he “demanded” a Champagne Cooler Bucket full of Ice to put the 2004 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime Champagne, he had in his hand .
Cristal is a magnificent wine of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir, aged for six years!!! on the yeast and a further 8 month in the bottle without yeast. and the vintage 2004, Ai Yai Yai (as Etienne said several times that night…) We impatiently opened the wine after it got to our temperature of taste (not too cold). After the first sniff and sip the Cristal hallmarks are evident: “purity, precision and the unique harmony of flavours associated with the subtle power of our historic vines, located on the finest Champagne Grand Cru terroirs.” – as described by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s Cellar Master, an extraordinary champagne on all counts.
This wine has a lot of layered aromatic elegance of white peach, apricot, honeyed citrus blossoms and amazing minerality , grilled hazelnuts and creamy butter texture, very sensual and a great company to our first course, which got hailed around the table

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shrimp gonna fly(Though I know the Cristal did most of the job, raising the dish to a higher level, it went gloriously with our first dish of the evening and in the end Etienne did ask for the remaining sauce to be served to him as a soup, he loved every tiny bit of it and drank it to the last drop, a most amusing moment… as you can see below.

sauce as soup

IMG_4967My guests were asked to pass the time as I go prepare the next dish (sweetbreads), but Etienne insisted on a “tour” of my cellar (a small room with a few gems collected over the years, nothing like the cellars he is used to…), still not bad by local standards, I gave him the “Royal tour” and chose a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, to keep the champagne bit of the evening going on, which met immediately Etienne’s approval, the Krug Grande Cuvée NV Champagne, sat on ice to be cooled just slightly more, and the primum Vini represenative in the dinning room followed me to the kitchen, noticing my Lacanche stove he said (In his lovely french accent):” There’s one like this one, in the presidents private kitchen at the Élysée Palace” (the official residence of “Le Président de la République Française”), than immediately started to ask questions regarding our next dish, from a knowledgeable point of view, an interested observer willing to help, full of amazement almost like a child , discussing the how and why and the thought behind them. I guess I was a bit distracted and pulled the Arugula out of the “wine steaming” slightly ahead of time, the leaves were still a little too tough but it somehow went well enough with the curry cream sauce and the tender, butter fried sweetbreads,

ris d'agneau

Etienne helped me serve the dishes to the table (such a sweet guy), as we were eating sipping our wonderful Krug Etienne most graciously looked at me and said (again in his sweet french accent) : “are you trying to give french cooking a bad name?” commending my second dish with the utmost compliment (a polite expression of praise or admiration), chassagne 1993by now we were already drinking the powerful Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes 1er Cru Michel Colin Deleger 1993 , not the best vintage year for this wine, even worse after the two great champagnes but better than anticipated. Although my cellar stores great Bourgogne whites, we kept for the moment with the wines brought by the guests for the occasion. This is a leisurely dinner and we were not going to be deterred by a mediocre Wine here or there, and so we withdrew to the “drawing room” adjacent to the dining table for a smoke and a cheerful chat, while our joint of lamb was resting on a rack waiting to be carved soon.

This is turning to be a great fun occasion and we are only half way through, the rest of this meal, the wines, the food, in Part 2 and the promised surprise in the pink box to follow soon…

YOUR WINEGUIDE

fishmongers

Heirloom N8 a Crouch End Gem

Restaurant Heirloom – cooking with rare-breed meats
heritage vegetables & fruits

(an heirloom is an object, usually an antique possession of personal value, that has been passed down for generations through family members)

Crouch End, London N8, was not my dining destination for a proper, well cooked meal by any standard, as a matter of fact there was nothing to write home about the “food joints” of the neighborhood.
Crouch End claim to fame is a legend that Bob Dylan used to be spotted in Crouch End, when he came to record at The Church Studios on Crouch Hill. There’s a legend that he even dined at Banner’s restaurant (not my kind of place but probably the only eatery in the area at the time, after all a man’s got to eat…), there is even a plaque there that proudly commemorating his visit. This is good enough for me, I like Legends and I certainly love Dylan, my kinda poet my kinda music… but well before Bob’s visit, strolling Crouchy in the early 80’s, the neighborhood which was a bit desolate, I could not but hymn to myself :”how many roads must a man walk down before he can find… “ (a decent restaurant…), cheeky??…well I did not actually do it but it goes well with the theme innit? and if Bob is just another name here’s some other music stars to adorn the neighborhood: Dave Stewart, Radiohead, Elvis Costello Depeche Mode, and David Gray and lately U2.

Now, since my grand daughter Eliya, was born, about 20 months ago (she resides in Crouchy) I find myself walking the streets pushing her in her pushchair watching the wonder of a neighborhood awakening, in a triangle around the Crouch End Broadway’s clock tower, new dinning options appear like mushrooms after the rain, increasing in quality and diversity to meet a demand of young families who flock the hood.
The Clock tower, btw, was erected in 1895 in memory of a local politician, Henry Reader Williams (1822-97), who actually saved Highgate Wood (a 28 hectare area of ancient woodland) from urban development (bless his soul), Green Party of the 19th century!!
My daughter Daphne keeps me posted regarding new culinary venues in the area and about 20 months ago, I was told of a new restaurant serving British style modern food using mainly British traditional products; ‘Heirloom’. Here they serve Rare-breed meats and heritage (Heirloom) vegetables (these are as you know, old-time varieties, open-pollinated (not hybrid), that are saved and handed down through multiple generations of families, fruits and vegetables on the verge of extinction) Heirloom products are “homegrown” by the restaurant’s Produce Director / co-owner David Macintosh in his farm in Buckinghamshire, and some of the other fruits, vegetables, herbs & leaf, which form the major part of their daily changing menus, are collected from small farmers still growing oddities which can not be found in your local supermarkets.

Heirloom is a stylish looking rustic restaurant with wooden tables and a (not much used), nice wooden sturdy bar, I bet you that when it was envisaged, it was intended to be a focal point of the restaurant busy with drinkers having wine or beer with some of the nibbles on offer, alas, this is not so yet, (I love sitting on a robust Bar). Here at Heirloom, they are serving daily specially sourced products from Dexter beef, wild boar, or game birds: Pigeons, Guinea fowl, Partridges season’s grouse and wild ducks, odd traditional vegetables and hand picked wild mushrooms in season.
These guys take what they do seriously, no pretensions just good and honest cooking, very good products and a lot of imagination. It seems they don’t have set timing for cooking products so at times they will release (especially game poultry) a bit on the rare side… even on meats that can be served on the medium side… (A kitchen is all about pressure especially on days the place is fully booked so, I say, it’s OK to foul on the fowl, seriously!!!!). But Head Chef Liam Murray and The Chef Director Ian Macintosh (elder bro of Farmer David), are inventive and caring, and are very good at pairing products on the well presented plates. The Menu changes almost daily (not an easy task), It feels they enjoy and like what they do and with James Galton’s the general manager, Maitre D. and sommelier caring touch in looking after every guest they form a good solid team.As for drinks, their wine list is sensible, fairly priced ,and selected between producers mainly from Old world affordable wine producers from: France, Italy, and Spain that can still be priced fairly, reading their wine list makes me think maybe they should go for a wine tasting of wines from Portugal there’s a new generation of Portuguese winemakers especially from Dão and Douro region in Portugal, some of these wines pair perfectly with their style of cooking.

We opt for the less familiar to us: British craft beers and Ales, and what a delight, the beers of Saltaire, Harbour Brewing Co., Bath Ales and Wild Beer Co. are delightful, smooth, multilayered with aromas and flavours of apple, pear, and other notes of coffee toffee and bitter herbs.

    

I have visited there quite a few times, theres always something to please the palate and the mind, offering not your usual products with quite a few nice oddities as a daily surprise. Most cooked from fresh and some prepared in advance like home cured or

smoked meats or fish, all prepared on the premises to perfection, which for me is delightful. to have home cured goose ham, or Berkshire Venison or a wild Boar loin, Cornish Cod cooked to perfection, Cornish squid, or Devon Crab always with an array of samples on the side Violet artichoke, beetroot (they love beetroot here), Salsify, celeriac, fennel cooked in all fashions, an touches of wild mushrooms: Chanterells, girolles, and ceps.

             

 

 

 

 

 

this is not a starred restaurant this is a team of young chefs cooking good solid sensible food, adorned by good imagination and lots of love and care, after all what else do you need.

a collection of the fare on offer can be seen on their Instagram site:
https://www.instagram.com/heirloomn8/

Heirloom
35 Park Road, Crouch End, London, N8 8TE
Phone:+44 20 8348 3565
http://www.heirloomn8.co.uk

There’s also a local Fishmongers on Crouch End Hill (up the road from the clocktower) Walter Perkis & sons. For my taste they have a lot to offer, fresh monkfish Lobsters and Devon crabs at their best, they really know how to treat fish. The smoked salmon as other fish sold in the shop used to be smoked on premises in a traditional smoke house that is located in the rear the Crouch End Shop. This smoke house is a century old and in fact the oldest working fish smokehouse in London. If you don’t mind the occasional queue, (see on the right) you’re in for a treat.

17 The Broadway, London N8 8DU, United Kingdom
Phone:+44 20 8340 6281

http://www.walterpurkisandsons.com/

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The Fallacy of Restaurant Trends, Why can’t we just cook well?

SM  In a recent Square Meal restaurant news (published 19 January 2015), there was an item by Dominic Rowntree titled : 2015 restaurant trends: what the insiders say ? The post stated: “…2014 was the year that the London restaurant scene was awash with a barrage of burgers, ramen and lobsters…” I must say that the “barrage of burgers” IMG_0508produced (since late 2012) is the worst, over cooked, dry, only burnt well-done burgers I had ever had in my life, presumably due to a Ministry of Health/Food Standards Agency (FSA) directive: that burgers should be served only Medium well or over or we will all die from mad cows salmonella E. Coli and other diseases?? “At present the guidance from the FSA is that for burgers the meat should be cooked at 158F (70C) for two minutes,” and so all, over zealous chefs burn our burgers to oblivion as if they are priest at a temple incinerating the meat as an offering to the GODS. (The “decorated burger on the right is what is left for you to do when you get a burned sole covered in cheese instead of a real juicy burger) FIG-Fortune-Teller-HN2159 Dominic Rowntree goes on asking: “But what does the New Year hold? We asked some of London’s top chefs and industry experts what to expect from 2015 – and here’s what they predicted.” . Surprisingly all chefs participating in the “quiz” were able to answer this difficult question and … surprise surprise they all thought the trend will be …what they are serving now (more or less)… For instance Robin Gill told us he thinks “fermented ingredients are going to be a big trend this year – kimchi especially”.whole-cabbage-kimchi-590x466 Come on, give me a break Kimchi is a 2000 years old Korean way to preserve vegetables. Is it possible to say that fruit comfiture (confiture in french “confit” means “preserved”) is going to be trendy next year, OK you have been to Korea and was impressed by Kimchi, a side dish at best or an additive to a dish, the fact that Koreans eat it as a main dish does not qualify it as a main dish in a London restaurant!!! So how can a dish, which is at best is the Korean equivalent of say sophisticated Gherkins or any other spiced pickled vegetable, be considered as the best next thing???? Kimchi photo From: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/tongbaechu-kimchi slide_279361_2074409_freeOur next “delicacy” was “burnt kale”, I must admit that Kale is not my favorite veg. so burnt is fine by me, it is true it contains amazing nutritional qualities, but as a trend at a restaurant? Suggesting “simple and non-complicated classics” are making a comeback, is also problematic the fact they are classics means they’ve always been around and do not require a “COME BACK” The next best thing was the comment regarding “attention going to turn to a far healthier offering”?? Between us any food is already healthy, It keeps us alive innit? (or what is healthy for some is less healthy for others and vice versa) And just last month The US government’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption. Do we really know what is health and what is not regarding food and its affect on our health? I think not! The group’s finding that cholesterol in the diet need no longer be considered a “nutrient of concern” stands in contrast to the committee’s findings five years ago, the last time it convened. During those proceedings, as in previous years, the panel deemed the issue of excess cholesterol in the American diet a public health concern. The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease. The greater danger in this regard, these experts believe, lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter… (From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/) yellow empThe idea of moderation in the consumption of food was introduced by the third of the three ancient Chinese emperors began his rule in 2697 BCE. He was called: the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi is the best known of the three early rulers, and for a long time He was assumed to have written the Neijing: The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine, although the work is now believed to have been composed in the 3rd century BC. index This ancient book (be it 4700 yers old or 2350 years old already talks about moderation and balance in the food we eat: “Eat breakfast like an Emperor, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!” It is not difficult to balance the ill effect of all food including fatty offerings by balancing the ingredients within the dish, fatty foods have a warming affect on the stomach (which is warm to begin with) so greens served with fatty meats will balance the ill effect of the fat, or greens which have a cooling affect when served on their own will be thrown into boiling water for a few seconds to “break up” their cooling ill effect on the stomach. (or Blanching in western cooking terms) Blanching is a cooking process wherein a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a few seconds and finally plunged into iced water to stop the cooking process. José Pizarro agrees that healthier foods will come to the fore. In particular, he mentions that pulses will be big this year. “They are wonderfully cheap, img_5271versatile and super good for you. Back in Spain we use lentils, chickpeas and beans as the basis for most meals and they are no longer seen as a peasant staple.” All around the Mediterranean Pulses have been used as part of the diet/food for Thousands of years from before the Ancient Greeks to date (mainly as supplements or side dishes or part of the Mezze and not as a concept on it’s own). These are not a peasant staple, when prepared and spiced correctly and accompany the correctly while pairing ingredients, they indeed can be served to Kings, Aristocracy, Princes and Paupers alike. Between us, Food at a restaurant is not sustenance it is an event and as such it must be filled with fun, surprises, a celebration of tastes, colours, twists and indeed sinful. Such “Sins” that derive from luxurious or even “decadent” ingredients, the restaurant’s décor, exquisite wine, and eager company. we do not attend a restaurant every day, why can’t we have something special, out of the ordinary, almost regal, on our visit to a restaurantwhy can’t we be spoiled on the day with delicacies which are not on the “allowed list” good chefs serve balanced dishes anyway containing a variety of ingredients that end up together in a crescendo of tastes. IMG_0294  IMG_0400 IMG_0404   IMG_0415  IMG_0421 IMG_0545 IMG_0609 IMG_2040 It is therefor “free” from social “Trends” of the hour and relies solely on the artistry and imagination of the chef! “…see fewer gizmos and gadgets in the kitchen???” I say: use whatever is available for you to reach your goal : excellence in cooking.IMG_0997 This goes on and on with various ideas and no real cooking. How about: Please excite me with proper cooking this year when I walk into your restaurant, for me this will suffice.

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New Year’s Eve dinner – 2014

 

IMG_2026Another year have passed and I got ready for our yearly celebration, this year we had some cancelations and a dinner for 8 is not a difficult task.

IMG_2024For my own sake and the sake of my regular 3 invitees I had to come up with a menu not too difficult to execute and yet still grand and surprising as a dinner to celebrate the New Year should be.

The welcome dish required the prep of fresh potato Blinis, to go with the last Caspian Beluga Caviar in my fridge, which I saved for this occasion. A real treat on Crème fraîche with our welcome champagne: the wonderful Larmandier -Bernier Tradition Extra Brut 1er Cru NV.  The delicate Caviar on home made Blinis requires a true wine that bubbles, a champagne made with the LOVE, blood sweat and tears of Pierre Larmandier who manages to produce a champagne of this quality every year. It has it all: an elegant citrus fruit beauty, a true Brut. The Brut Tradition (80 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Pinot Noir) is a premier cru from Vertus, at the southern base of the Cote des Blancs It is extremely dry and very pure, a delicate latticeworkbetween the  minerals and citrus zest with a nice hint of yeasts. Or in the words of Jancis Robinson : Larmandier-Bernier, Tradition Extra Brut Premier Cru NV Champagne: Restrained nose that suggests great delicacy. Real race, spine, and structure. Very grown up champagne” 

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But I still needed a “surprise” to kick off the dinner which will go well with the sumptuous Champagne, an amuse bouche came in the form of a takeoff on an appetizer I had at Restaurant Story London Bridge in June 2013, there we had a sublime Crispy Cod skin, cod Roe and carrot tips, but cod skin is not readily available round my neck of the woods so I opted for Salmon skin “crackers”, dotted with vongole and home made chipotles mayonnaise served with a Shot glass of hot, Yuzo scented clear vongole stock/liquor. The “crackers” were crispy and their harsh salmon flavour was balanced well with the mayo and the light lemony stock, exactly the way I imagined it, it did take everyone by surprise!

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Our first course was Thai Pumpkin coconut cream and shrimps soup Topped with Mint Pea soup and a panko coated shrimp. A totally delightful combination of colours and contrasting texture on the palate of the crunch and cream, the intended touch on the palate was achieved to my utmost satisfaction.

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IMG_2052I planned to serve it with Saint Romain T&P Matrot 2007 (as written on the Dinners menu), but!!! with BOTH bottles corckey???, what are the chances this will occur from the same case??? My cellar “offered” 2 bottles of Simon Bize Bourgogne Blanc Les Champlains 2010, with it’s wonderful nose of green apples, with some peaches citrus and acacia and some tropical fruits blossoms was at the end a more suitable wine for this dish with it’s south east Asian touches.

 

Our Mid course was Risotto ai frutti di mare, a traditional style risotto, made only with shrimps, Langoustinesand Vongole without the shells. The risotto was cooked with shrimp heads and fish stock, and some of the vongole stock in butter white wine, garlic and parsley and a hint of chilly,the other half of the vongole stock was strained than refreshed with lemon and Yuzo and used for drinking with the salmon skin crackers. The Mascarpone gave it the final attractive creamy touch, which makes any risotto so alluring… I could not resist “decorating the dish with Langoustine heads. (tacky me)

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This dish went with the creamy still fresh Chassagne Montrachet- Les Caillerets 1er Cru, Domain Morrey Coffinet 2002 with its pear skin and lime scent and minerals on the palate a touch of butter brioche to complement the dish in a nice manner.

For the main course I must admit I planned Breast of duck in cream morilles sauce (Morilles à la Crème) but the duck skin was completely torn off the breasts and could not be served in style, luckily my dedicated butchers Nir & Avi Ofer (of the Delicious IMG_2034“Delichess butchers” in Tel-Aviv, without a doubt, the best butchers in town…) offered me instead some wonderfully marbled pieces of Wagyu beef (the last bits in the Land of fresh wagyu) which were cut to my specification to make my homage to a dish I had at Zuma London : Seared Wagyu Tataki Black Truffle Ponzu I decided to serve it as a duo one with the Morilles à la Crème the other scented in black truffle oil, and diced IMG_2494black truffles in a Japanese chilly salad oil, decorated with coluored seaweeds. The duo was served with Joel Robuchon style potato puree and a green salad of Salnova lettuce and Figs.

IMG_1308To celebrate the new year and ourselves, our main dish was served with the still fresh and deeply fragrant Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1970 , I doubt if I could pick a better wine to match this wonderful Wagyu dish whose success was mainly due to the excellent product (Thanks Nir)

Now the wine… every time you open a 40+ year old bottle the content is an enigma, will it be drinkable? Will it fulfill the promise of its ability to mature and still reflect the balance of fruit, freshness, secondary and tertiary aromas? Will it go the full monty? To be as grand as intended when served. Well my deciples this one did it was a young 43 years old wine with all the nuances : it had the fruit to keep it fresh some young black fruit not only cooked dried fruits figs, prunes, even dates, those were ample, but well balanced with the soft but still apparent tannins, and with them the full array of sweet spices cloves, cinnamon, coffee, depth of black truffles in a concert of well orchestrated flavours which gave the “concert” a well deserved crescendo. As it is now it will drink well on it’s 50th birthday, and I will report!

For desert we had my sister’s Dana special Cream Caramel (CC) which has become a ‘”tradition” for these dinners especiallyIMG_2499 served for Osnat a CC expert, who gave it two thumbs up for the extra burnt touch of the caramel. Served with a 1983 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes’ which was a bit of a disappointment, lacking all the great sauternes characters, but did not cloud the joy and enjoyment of the whole meal.

IMG_2501A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, my sous chef Amos, Head sommelier Yair, Varda as best gaffer, Osnat & Nir, Lala and Prof. Yahoo

and to my followers and incidental visitors alike.

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YOUR WINEGUIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Party

IMG_1995Perfection of any party or anniversary celebration is measured without a doubt by the quality of the invitees, and the products served to celebrate the event.

We had yet another anniversary, this one, we celebrated in a very “minor” fashion: Just us and one more guest a dear friend of old, 3 people enjoying a perfect company with some food and excellent wine to accompany the occasion.

A celebration always calls for Champagne and we opted for Roederer Cristal 2004 (55% Pinot Noir 45% Chardonnay), the one to suit our “humble” niblets :

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Royal Beluga Caviar on home made Potato Blinis,

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Best of Scottish smoked salmon and Crème fraîche,

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Pâté de Foie Gras with Black truffles, Fresh figs and homemade fig confiture and butter Brioche.

All of these, took us into a realm of delight and joy which could only be described by the ease and delight in which they were consumed.

Beluga_sturgeonAs the large black eggs of the Huso Huso (the  scientific name for the Beluga or European Sturgeon), kept popping between our teeth were washed down by the indexwonderful yet slightly young Cristal , with its light straw golden colour and delicate small bubbles with a whiff of freshly baked bread nose, and elegant perfumes of citrus, and fresh red apple. On the palate, high acidity intensifying the fresh fruits and a red grapefruit finish, Elegant fresh but young.  We spoiled ourselves with three of the world’s most prized and exclusive luxury foods and wine.

The niblets went quite a long way, much longer than the one bottle of Champagne and so we opted to leave aside some of the champagne for a final toast and IMG_2192opened a more mature white Bourgogne, a Meursault Les Chevalieres JeanPhilippe Fichet 1996, with it’s golden colour of deep yellow center with clear rims and complex nose, still lively with its distinctive minerally and notes of herbs and marmalade of citrus. At it’s 17th year of age it was still fresh with now with a complexity that evolved with time. The palate was fruity with flavours of tangerine, apricots and apples touches and a lovely nutty, touches with lemon marmalade and pear touches as well as herby vegetable characters. A really beautiful nose, Very intense and roasted nuts flavours with buttery toast notes. The high intensity nose offered rich almost tropical fruit scent.

As expected, the wine was quite ripe and rich in the mouth. However, it also showed nice acidity to keep it in balance and provide length. It had good complexity showing an evolution of almost a fine red wine in its complexity and structure.

Genuine caviar refers to Beluga (Huso huso), Osetra—with two Osetra varieties, Russian (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) and Persian Osetra (Acipenser persicus)—and Sevruga (Acipenser slellatus). All three types of sturgeon originate in the Caspian Sea. (from Wikipedia)

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The Caspian Sea’s Beluga sturgeon lives predominantly in the wild and only a small number can be caught from the Sea annually, making it an extremely rare product. (and that is exactly what was served to the joy of all present. (BTW some delicacies should be served and shared only within a small group of consumers 3 is perfect!!) …and that refers to our Caviar and the Champagne.

We finished the Party eating the “left overs” of our niblets with eggs and coffee for breakfast the next morning. Delightful!!!

Real Potato Blinis recipe: (from Chef Israel Aharoni)

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2 Large potatos cooked and smoothly pureed

3 eggs

1 cup (200grs) self raising flour

3-4 spoons of (sweet) whipping cream

salt and freshly ground pepper

a bit of ground nutmegIMG_2190

Butter for frying

Puree the potatos with some of the cream until smooth, add the rest of cream, flour, eggs, salt pepper and nutmeg to reach a smooth mixture if too thick add a bit of cream (it should resemble a pancake mix), butter your frying pan well make small rings  8cm diameter, fry on both sides till golden with brown spots, serve warm.

Fiori di Zucca – Zucchini Flowers from seed to plate

The Orange crowns of courgettes

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…and the pleasures of one of the most delicate of Italian dishes: Fiori di Zucca Friti.

What happens if you feel like serving stuffed Zucchini Flowers for you guests (My daughter Daphne and Udi), arriving for a visit from the UK to Tel-Aviv? and zucchini flowers are hard to impossible to get by? Here in the Mid EastKusa most zucchinis  are of the Lebanese summer squash type (Kusa in Arabic) which are often lighter green or even white, and are sold fully matured with no flower in sight, not as baby courgettes or courgette flowers.

seedsWell I guess you have to start at the local nursery, buy a bag of courgette seeds. These come in a large variety, and since I am not in Italy where these are sold in the market (in season, April – June) I have to go for the fastest growing period 2-3 weeks from sawing the seed till the huge Male flowers (mainly) grow with all their Orangey Yellow regal glow, so attractive to look at and large enough to stuff with ease with any stuffing of your choice, than fried in light tempura style batter and Bob’s your Uncle… (Bob’s your uncle’ is an exclamation that is used when ‘everything is working according to plan…’ with simple means of getting a successful result after following all instructions – English slang)

So at the nursery I chose The Best of British F1 Hybrid, which has the largest male flowers (easier to stuff) and fast to mature to their flowering state.Other variety to contemplate is Courgette Nano Verde di Milano (High yielding squash Flowers seeds).

 IMG_1524 IMG_1528   IMG_1563 So…Three weeks prior to the meal I saw the seeds in a small sawing pot and than move them into an outdoor large pot, where thereafter they seem to be growing by the minute (rather than the day) you could almost hear them growing into the summer sun and soon enough after two and a half weeks flower stems of green orange and yellow started to sprout, what a delightful sight… So bright yellow with a hue of dark orange, zucchini flowers are so alluring to look at, that you get your cooking ideas just as you look at them.

IMG_1567I did not expect all the 11 seeds to sprout or to get so many flowers off each plant, but there you go, all sprouted on time and yielded an enormous amount of flowers daily, for several weeks, which lasted us for, quit a few meals, Heaven!!!

Growing Guide (from the Sutton directions on the pack)

Soil preparation: Zucchini likes well-drained, fertile soil that’s been amended with lots of compost, give your plants a lot of room to spread out and grow. Plant them well apart in rows. (That I did not do) 

Planting: Plant seed outdoors when the soil temperature has reached 15°C (60°F), not to worry we are in the Middle East the average outside temperature is around 30°C and over. 

Watering: Zucchini like consistently moist soil. To prevent problems with disease, always water from below. 

Fiori di Zucca are irresistible when you shop at farmer’s markets around Italy. My favorite way is to deep-fry them stuffed with goat cheese stuffing in a very light beer batter.

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Choose freshly flowers picked early in the morning (these ones are tightly closed and bug bug-free). Do not rinse them and let them open with their stems in a water pot like any ordinary flowers if the petals do not spread out separate the petals gently with your finger. Male flowers only have a stems, no squash attached, female flowers with baby zucchini attached are delicious as the baby zucchini need very little cooking to become tender and 4 minutes frying is just right.
If you store them for a later time Zucchini flowers should be refrigerated and tightly sealed, they will keep as fresh for about 24 hours.
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One of the pleasures of summer in Italy are fried stuffed zucchini flowers, thin, crisp fiori stuffed with melted Mozzarella cheese sometimes “spiced” with anchovies or various cheeses, or spread over a pizza.

Always use the blossoms as soon as possible after picking, as they will start to wilt after a day.

The Beer Batter:

1 egg wisked

some flour to thicken the batter

 salt to taste

3-4 table spoon of beer to achieve consistency (light)

Whisk a bit of flour with one egg until thick, than add beer slowly (it foams at first, and dilutes the batter fairly quickly so add flour if needed to thicken the batter) to a consistency of light cream. Dip the flowers in the batter, give them a twirl to get rid of any excess batter, and deep fry them in hot oil constantly turning until they turn golden about two to four minutes.

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The stuffing:

The aim is to achieve a solid thick enough stuffing that can be rolled to small sausage  (right photo)

Grated left over dry goats cheeses

1 ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese cut to small cubes

2 spoons of fresh goats cheese

1 egg

freshly cut oregano or thyme

Anchovy fillets, cut into small squares (optional)  

20 large Zucchini blossoms

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the egg add some 2-3 tablespoons of flour and the salt. Add the beer and whisk just until blended.

IMG_1617Combine the cheeses; egg and herbs the anchovies to a thick consistency easy to role and stuff each blossom tighten the tip s of the petals together to prevent overflow into the cooking oil.

In a deep frying pan, pour enough oil to a depth of 5-7cm. heat the oil until a bit of the batter sizzles when dropped in.IMG_1699
4-5 at a time, dip the flowers into the batter dish, carefully turning to coat each flower completely. Lift out and let the excess drip off. Slip the battered flowers into the hot oil and fry until crisp and golden on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the fried blossoms to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Serve immediately.

Fiori di zucca are so delicate and delicious you could / should be “creative” with your stuffing of choice. Stuffing with mozzarella will melt inside the fried blossom and ooze out as you bite on it, what else could you want.

 

For the same meal I have also prepared:

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*”Conserved” white Tuna following an old Italian tradition of preserving cooked fish in brine covered by olive oil, salt and herbs called conservata.

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*A salad of roasted Endive, Arugula, white peach, Figs and Roquefort.

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*Carpaccio of fresh scallops in Yuzu, Lime, Black Caviar and Nasturtium flowers.

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*”Sashimi” of white Tuna in Yuzu, chili oil and wasabi sesame.

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 Tomato Salad with Tulum cheese    and  oven roast eggplants with chili and garlic

The wines:

This is the midst of summer

Refreshing Champagne, and light white wines are in Order and so we had:

IMG_1706 E. Barnaut Grand Reserve, NV Grand cru Champagne (from Bouzy) that was sublime and perfect with the scallops and “Sashimi” a real gem of a perfectly dry but fruity (citrus) champagne, with over 60% Pinot Noir you can actually feel the “traces” of strawberries and cherries on the nose and palate from this little known small champagne house. IMG_1717

We proceeded with a sip of the wonderful Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV Champagne (from Ambonnay), which was equally refreshing still more complex with glorious golden colour, with nice touches of toasted brioch, roasted hazel nuts, peach and apple peel. Delicate bobbles and well balanced; this is turning into a summer feast…

 

The 2012 Cloudy Bay which in theory was the perfect wine for the occasion but turned to be on the floral side, with very little sauvignon blanc characteristics and leaning too much to the sweet side lacking the expected IMG_1594crispiness.

Don’t despair we don’t have to pop into a far away wine shop or even the local corner shop to find a good replacement for this “disappointment” just a few steps down to the basement and into the cellar where we gamble on an eleven years old Sancere: 2002 Domaine Roger Champault IMG_1766Sancerre Le Clos du Roy, Loire, France. Another go on a Sauvignon Blanc, this time left us surprised, after all this wine is over 10 years of age but the distinctively smoky, gunflint character of Loire Sauvignon Blanc from this area is so well defined here, this is a classic Sancerre palate that is described by Loire locales as: “pierre a fusil” – The aromas and flavour of Gun flint which define this wine (some say the pronounced minerality reminds the taste of the fossil stone, though the spelling should go like “pierre a fossil”, well in any case it had these qualities I guess I am drawn to wine through these oddities of odd flavours, its usual brilliant pale gold turned to deep gold and it felt more ripe than the crisp side,  citrus aromas were felt with enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and appealing. The wine is round and by now lacking the sharp edges of youth, yet if felt fresh on the palate with a nice long finish. I guess that this wine was described as: “almost unripe” when tasted (by others at 2003), actually helped it to survive and our “patience” paid off a decade later.

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 Today is Jewish New Year’s Eve. So Happy New Year to all (of all persuasions)

SHANA – TOVAIMG_1695

Your WINEGUIDE

A matter of the HEART

This one is for my DEAR friend Bo
cheer up Buddy we’re all with you

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a small preview of the already SOLD OUT new Platinum disk My daughter Daphne arranged and Udi her Husband orchestrated, recorded and mixed with the participation of my friends and Family  especially for me 60th Birthday

cd sleeve forever young

press link to view CD sleeve and press play to hear songs

FOREVER YOUNG – BOB DYLAN SUNG BY SPIKE DENTON (HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUDDY)

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD SUNG BY MY DAD DR. ARYE SARNAT (89 YEARS OF AGE)

SOMETHING – THE BEATLES SUNG BY MY DAUGHTER ABIGAIL SARNAT

STAND BY ME – Ben E. King SUNG BY MY SISTERS IRIT & DANA

WHY WORRY – DIRE STRAITS SUNG BY MY DAUGHTER DAPHNE SARNAT

WHEN I’M 64 – THE BEATLES SUNG BY MY WIFE VARDA

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE – by Monty Python SUNG BY EVERYONE & AY

Allow me to raise a glass of

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tokaji essen 1953
CHEERS BUDDY

GOD BLESS

LOVE

AMIR and the GANG

Zuma London and the spirit of Guy Bourdin

bourdin FISH

An Invitation to ZUMA

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My 60th birthday is imminent, (again?, no it’s the same one fron June 11th 2013) & one of the emails reads:

When r u 60?…Can Shelly and I take U, Daphne and Udi to Zuma one eve?

…OK, Table already booked. Kobi.

I must confess I have not been to Zuma since it opened (with a Buzzzzzz) at 2002, it just kept slipping through my restaurant visits in London.

IMG_0560Now Kobi is my legendary “culinary tours” partner at restaurants all over Europe since the late 1980’s, we used to travel all over France in search of the culinary wizards of their times, and found them, tours that left us with everlasting memories. He is a great cook, and an amazing judge of good cooking, and good food, be it haute cuisine or simple street food, a lover of tastes, delicate cooking, a master of light touches that make food IMG_0528great. (I must say I have learned a lot from him regarding approach to cooking). Shelly his wife (on the other hand), she is a great friend of mine and the true celeb of our group tonight. She is the “teacher /mentor & right hand” of the talented and shy Alber Elbaz, the chief fashion designer of the house of Lanvin, we are talking the top of Haute Couture. (Have a look at Alber Elbaz on truth and fashion Video) it is a fascinating piece on anything but fashion on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5BUFFpZC5s ) (I like this guy).

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Elbaz studied fashion at Shenkar College (Ramat Gan) near Tel-Aviv. His teacher was Shelly Verthine, who remained Elbaz’s close friend and creative collaborator. “Shelly was my teacher and is still my teacher,” he says of shelly who remains an integral to his work and is often seen by his side. “The mythological teacher who brings things out of you”

Shelly is also the Author of several top notch fashion books / Albums             Bourdin

Alber Elbaz, Lanvin– by Shelly Verthime and Pascal Dangin (2012)

Guy Bourdin– by Charlotte Cotton, Shelly Verthime and Collectif (2004)

Guy Bourdin: In Between– by Shelly Verthime and Charlie Scheips (2010)

by Nicolle Meyer and Shelly Verthime (2006), check them out they are fascinating. She is also the curator of the Guy Bourdin V&A exhibition and since then in many major museums all over the world, as I said a real celeb! A video of the 2012 show can be seen at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0SFLvsYULs

IMG_0518But she is shy, always away from the limelight, I once asked her how come she is always wearing simple plain clothes with all the Haute Couture availabilities around her and so she honoured me with an “appearance” for my birthday…

As planned we all meet at Zuma as arranged, for my last night of fun Birthday weekend in London, my Home away from Home.

Around 11 years ago a German chef – Chef Rainer Becker, and his Indian business partner opened a super trendy & Modern Japanese restaurant – Zuma. Rainer Becker spent six years in Tokyo where he studied the secrets of Japanese cuisine. Was he in search of the secrets of Japanese cuisine? or its place in Japanese culture maybe? what I would call  “The Tao of Japanese cuisine” (– Dô. or the term Tao means “The Way”, “path” or “principle”). Did he find Enlightenment? Or rather the principles that fuse the esthetics and basic principles of Japanese cuisine with modern western culinary demands, a “needs” for Japanese food with a modern twist to fit contemporary tastes of modern restaurant goers. (As a matter of fact Zuma is now established as a global brand, with openings in Hong Kong, Dubai & Istanbul).

Zuma is about fashion, see and be seen, glamour, and celebrity, but above all it is committed to top notch cooking which they call: contemporary 220px-Cyochin2Japanese food. Zuma of London’s Knightsbridge, offers something different, a sophisticated twist on the traditional Japanese izakaya tradition of informal eating and drinking.

Traditionally Izakaya (居酒屋) is a type of Japanese drinking establishment, which also serves food to accompany the drinks. A places for after-work drinking, very much like a Spanish Tapas Bar. Here at Zuma they claim that: “The ethos behind zuma is to deliver an authentic flavour of the east while respecting the traditions of the past”

 Indeed the menu presents the diner with a wide variety of traditional Japanese products, condiments and cooking methods all with the addition of some European additions like black truffles (in many of the dishes) and other “borrowed” trendy ingredients make up an alluring menu (the kind you want to say: ”one of each please”.

IMG_0534We ordered our wine although the Sake list looks impressive. (my understanding is limited on the Sake front, so I aimed wine wise at the general taste of the guests around the table and came up with a winner:

Moreau-Naudet, Forets, Chablis Premier Cru, 2010, (at £69 one of the best “deal” of the whites wine list)

This is a fruity, voluptuous wine with abundant citrus notes of lemon, lemon rind, sea salt, (that go well with the ample usage of Yuzu and sea weeds in Zuma’s dishes), a touch of floral scent of wild flowers and wet chalk touch. It’s beauty is in the balance between all the flavour elements. It comes from a small lot within the Montmains vineyard, which Stéphane calls:  “…one of the greatest terroirs of Chablis.” Stéphane Moreau is though young is a very experienced winemaker and the wine reflects his deep understanding of Chablis winemaking expressing his new ideas into the final product.

The wine is available at https://www.justerinis.com/fine-wines/wine-details/burgundy/domaine-moreau-naudet/chablis-la-forest-1er-cru-2010-20498  buy it for £165.00 (for a case of 12 bottles (if you are at the UK, and make it your summer wine)

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We started with the most amazing fresh, smooth and silky Home made  tofu served chilled with condiments, not only it is beautiful to look at, but has a great consistency and touch on the palate, personally “spiced” by each of  us with a choice of spices laid around the wooden square dish fresh grated ginger, wasabi, sesame and a fruit confiture, perfect!!

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Another totally vegetarian dish arrived on the table Seaweed salad apple wafu vinaigrette & toasted pumpkin seeds, delicious and colourful, bring them on…

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Than came the Thinly sliced seabass with Yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe, very delicate, evenly spiced citrus meets the ocean, the truffle oil, quite unsuitable for these delicate touches of flavours.

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The assorted Vegetable and The tiger prawn Tampura’s were slightly different in their butter coating and were both oil free crisp and fresh.

IMG_0606The Crispy fried squid with green chili and lime where prepared to perfection, lightly breaded with a nice rough sandpaper texture on the palate, aIMG_0609 real nibbler.

 The vegeterians around the table were offered the Fried tofu with mizuma, gobo and pickled baby carrots, fried similarly to the calamari.

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While I was getting the amazing Freshly seared Wagyu sirloin Tataki with Black truffle ponzu

IMG_0597  IMG_0603The Wagyu was perfectly marbled lightly seared on all sides with the center left raw with enough heat to start affecting the fatty “marbles” adorned by a generous amount of thinly sliced “fresh” black truffle which was loosing its scent by now (June) but the ponzu was a perfect dip for the dish adding a lemony zest to the final flavour.  Ponzu (ポン酢) is made by simmering mirin, rice vinegar, tuna katsuobushi flakes and seaweed (kombu) over medium heat. The liquid is then cooled, strained to remove the flakes, and finally the juice of Japanese citrus fruits: yuzu, sudachi, daidai, kabosu, or lemon is added.

By now everyone was quite satisfied but I could not resist the amazing Wagyou cut of the day and decided to order the Wagyu beef (sirloin) served with tahhon aioli and chilli daikon ponzu. A real delight straight from the robata grill a real BBQ delicacy, apart from being perfectly prepped, there is no doubt the uncooked produced played a major role in the success of the dish. Excellent!!! 

With the eye of a painter and the freIMG_0622edom of a photographer, Guy Bourdin created images full of fascinating stories, compositions, and colors. UsingIMG_0635 fashion and fashion photography as his vehicle, he explored the realms between the absurd and the sublime, taking cues from the theater and Surrealism. He broke conventions of commercial photography with a relentless perfectionism and sharp humor. Some of these qualities were served to us on the dishes during our meal at Zuma and these are some of the qualities I expect from a meal, my dear friends and family added the extra bits for a great completion of a very FINE supper.

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SAYONARA

YOUR WINEGUIDE

Square Meal

Lunch @ Dinner by HB (part III) – Desserts

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The chronicles of British cuisine in a meal

As we ordered our starters and main dishes we were advised that one of the desserts takes a long time to prepare The Tipsy Cake (c.1810) requires 3 “visits” to the oven and takes about 40 minutes to make/bake obviously we ordered one (to be on the safe side) that was a great mistake cause even 2 orders would have been devoured by our small group, a real gem to which we will return in details later…

OUR DESSERTS
We ordered The Taffety Tart (c.1660) just to compare with the exquisite one we had at The Fat Duck, both of course from the: 1610 A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell. The recipes for Taffety taffety bookTarts, which usually contained apples is a spectacularly fragrant version – the apple pulp scented and flavoured with orange, quince, rose-water, and violets, This recipe was first published in print in ” The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary” 1724 goes like this: “Mix a quarter of a Pack of Fine Flour, with a quarter of a Pint of Yeast, and as much hot Liquor as will make it into a stiff Paste, with two Pound of butter, the Yolks of twelve Eggs, and half a Pound of fine Sugar; make it up into small Balls, and then roll it out into thick Plates; wash round their Brims with Milk: Boil Pippins soft, peel them and scrape the Pulp from the Cores, mingle the Pulp with fine Sugar, a little Marmalade of Quinces, the Scrapings of candied Orange-peel, and Rose-water: Make up your Tarts, dry them in a warm Place, bake them, scrape Sugar, and sprinkle Essence of Violets or Roses over them, and serve them up”. I’ve read thousands of recipes and cooked from them, but the above C.1724 instructions, will amount to nothing that looks or tastes like a tart.

IMG_1054   IMG_0445

The HB FAT DUCK version saves the day very elegantly as you see on the Fat Duck version(on the left) , but less so, or in fact as… just another tart in the Dinner version (on the right).

newsystemBrown Bread Ice Cream (c. 1830) Salted better caramel, pear & malted yeast syrup, from the 1830 A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Aliza Rundell.IMG_0452
For the Brown Bread Ice as written in the above book (on page 201): “Grate as fine as possible, stale brown bread, soak a small proportion in cream for 2-3 Hours, sweeten and ice it”. Short and simple innit? Well It makes Iced cream but not Ice Cream as we know it, so the idea of powdered “stale brown bread” is incorporated in a classic creamy ice cream decorated with salted butter caramel which is also a “filling” for the base pastry also in the “brown bread” realm including cubes of “bread” soaked in caramel syrup than toasted to achieve crunchiness, intermittently with cubes of poached pears. The barley malt extract syrup, provides a combination of enzymatic activity, sweetness and appealing crust color to baked good, used extensively in brown bread making
I must say that Maria Rundell’s Ice cream recipes such as the one quoted here do not come even near the ice creams of another author appearing on the menu, for a dessert we did not have The Boemian Cake fancy Ices(c.1890) by “THE QUEEN OF ICE”, Mrs. Agnes Bertha Marshall (1855 – 1905). This lady was a celebrity cook of Victorian time, she always adopted new technology and technique. Apart from having her very own ice cream maker the Marshall’s Patent Freezer, she is also icecream makercredited with the invention of the ice cream edible cone, mentioned in her 1888 book of cookery. Agnes B. Marshall wrote four books: The Book of Ices 1885, Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery 1888, Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes 1891 & Fancy Ices 1894. These are considered to be some of the finest books of their type ever written, especially those on ices, of which Mrs. Marshall was crowned Queen. Her recipes are clear, accurate, and well illustrated.

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We could not resist our waiter’s recommendation: Quaking Pudding (c.1660) Pear, perry, caramel & lime, from: The Accomplished Cooke by Robert May, 1660, or in its full name THE Accompliſht Robert mayCook, or “THE ART & MYSTERY OF COOKERY. Wherein the whole ART is revealed in a more easie and perfect Method, than hath been publiſht in any language, who am I to dispute that…?
The recipe on Robert May’s Accomplished Cook 1660, is a classic 17th century English recipe. This one by Robert May is a basic cream custard with bread steamed in a mould and which should shake or quake when served, which it does right before our eyes.
Making a Quaking Pudding: Slice the crumbs of a penny manchet*, and infuse it three or four hours in a pint of scalding hot cream, covering it close, then break the bread with a spoon very small, and put to it eight eggs, and put only four whites, beat them together very well, and season it with sugar, rose-water, and grated nutmeg: if you think it too stiff, put in some cold cream and beat them well together; then wet the bag or napkin and flour it, put in the pudding, tie it hard, and boil it half an hour, then dish it and put to it butter, rose-water, and sugar, and serve it up to the table. (Copyright © celtnet) For the full recipe link to:

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/stuart/fetch-recipe.php?rid=stu-may-make-quaking-pudding

*Penny Manchet, is a wheaten yeast bread of very good quality, or a small flat circular loaf of same. It was a20120812-218397-EnglishPerry bread that was small enough to be held in the hand. Perry is an alcoholic drink made from fermented pears. Perry has been common for centuries in England, particularly in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and in parts of south Wales.
This is really an exquisite dessert. Dinner’s version containing Vanilla as well as the “obligatory” freshly grated nutmeg with the light Jus of pears, perry, lime and caramel, from the poached pears not only quaking all the way to our table and on it (aided by all concerned) but smoothly lining our palates and down our throats… delicious.
englishcookeryb00bookgoog_0002Back to the Tipsy Cake (c.1810) from: The English Cookery book by J H Walsh which can be read on: http://archive.org/stream/englishcookeryb00bookgoog#page/n0/mode/2up

The tipsy cake is a soft succulent brioche is served in a mini cast iron J H WalshStaub pot, soaked in a sweet alcoholic sauce – “a drunken cake” here it is accompanied by a small strip of roast pineapple, slowly sweating on a spit roasted (to perfection) on the large Rotisier.
Brioche is a pastry or a highly enriched bread of French origin, with high egg and butter content that give it a rich and tender crumb. It is “light and slightly puffy, more or less substantial, according to the proportion of butter and eggs. It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust. Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie- baked product made from a yeast-leavened dough in the same way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry due to the extra addition of eggs, lots of butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy or sweet wine) and sugar.

IMG_0453            spit roast
The combination of butter and caramelizing sugar at the base of the cast iron dish creates a runny delicious liquid toffee which is “sucked in” by the baking fluffy brioche making it addictive beyond imagination, in fact I crave for more as I am writing right now, the combination with the roasted pineapple is perfect adding tropical touch and flavour to the dish.
I must add that my fruity and fresh 1987 Château D’ Yquem, that was “not welcomed” at Dinner, but IMG_1336consumed with joy on my “official” Birthday Dinner at Catit Restaurant Tel Aviv, would have been PERFECT with all our deserts especially the Tipsy cake and spit roast pineapple which is an Yquem on a plate.
Dinner is a restaurant that presents with pride a chronological history of best of British food throughout recorded history (in print) from the 14th century to date.
eliza-smithHB: “around about two hundred years ago Britain had gastronomy as good as anywhere else in Europe, we only take our inspiration from periods and time it’s not replicating it not at all, it’s an inspiration by association at times just a spice mix or a way the dish is served, we are updating and upgrading the ingredients nowadays you would not be able to eat like all round rancid milk or oxidized & sour wine available in the 17th-18th centuries”.
At Dinner they are using refined oils rather than Pigs lard for cooking, other contemporary products and techniques to achieve reminiscences of a glorious culinary past, in contemporary dishes. If you do not search for the origins of each dish (not only a mention of their sources of origin as they are meticuloGREEC284usly entered on the menu), the idea gets lost somehow, very much like looking at relics from the past in an archaeological dig which without any deeper explanation of what you are looking at look like just another bunch of “broken stones”. I guess most people including me loose the essence of the “exercise” and just have yet “another meal”, ratherGREEC003 than appreciate the amount of thought and effort that is entered into each and every dish, and that’s a bit of a shame, that might not be easily rectified after all people come to Dine here and dine we did, in style and meticulous perfection in dishes execution, that with the right company, what else could I wish for on my 60th Birthday (month). Yes celebrations went on (and on) some of which you will be part of in the coming posts.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
Phone: 0207 2013833

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