Category: WINE

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!


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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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)


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.

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


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.



*”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)



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: ) (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 :

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  buy it for £165.00 (for a case of 12 bottles (if you are at the UK, and make it your summer wine)


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!!


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


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.


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.





Square Meal

Lunch @ Dinner by HB (Part II) – Main dishes

2_0מערות גידול יונים

 The origins and history of a meal – an Archeological excavation

IMG_0371We are sitting for lunch @ Dinner by Heston Blumenthal now already relaxed as we already had our starters, We ordered our champagne and wine for the meal, at the beginning, switching to the Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Frionnes 2009, after the “opening toast” took place, I like having 2 wines in 2 separate glasses on the table to “perform” my own personal pairing with the dishes served…  

The Saint-Aubin Les Frionnes 2009 is a very attractive and elegant wine from small lots Les Frionnes on the north side of Rue des Frionnes, just outside the St. Aubin village; (you can “travel” along the vineyard with Google maps street view search for: Rue des Frionnes‎ 21190 Saint-Aubin, France), it seems the grapes are soaking in the sun throughout the day facing the southern slopes. The Lamy family has been working in the vineyards around Saint Aubin since c.1640

The wine: Clean pale green colour. With notes of lemon zest and green apple peel, white flowers and traces of wet chalk. It has a light touch of wooden presence, it shows subtlety, delicacy and freshness as well as a nice aromatic persistence on the palate. An elegant wine, indeed with fine intensity and excellent freshness of citrus fruits on the long finish, very good balance, harmony and finesse, just right for our meal.

IMG_0421Udi “our” Vegetarian, opted for the – Braised Celery (c.1730) Parmesan, artichoke, walnuts & morels, was rich and tasty, it was perfectly laid down on the plate, I could not resist a tiny bite on the cucumber Jelly which was sublime.  (This dish was dug out from the book: The Complete Practical Cook;  A new system of the whole Art and Mastery of Cookery, by Charles Carter 1730practical cook book 1730, BTW it is misprinted on the menu as “Charly” Cook, yes C. Carter was a cook for the Duke of Argyle. The Earl of Pontefrac , and the Lord Cornwallis), the book has phrases like: “…and send it up, in its jelly…”,  as an instruction to the cook in the kitchen “Downstairs” serving food to the dining TABLE “Upstairs” (You can read another of Carters books free on

IMG_0415I seems that Daphne our Fish eater, was stuck in  (1830), the same year as her starter but… with a dish by a different cook: Maria Eliza Rundell, she ordered the Roast Turbot (c.1830), Leaf chicory & cockle Ketchup. (from the 1830: “A new system of Domestic cookery by M.E. Rundell (A Lady)”, an extremely popular cookbook of its time, mainly in the western colonies. (Later editions were edited and rewritten by Mrs. E Birch.)

M E RundelMushroom KetKetchup is a late 17th century (around 1690), Chinese mix of pickled fish and spices called : kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (Chinese for: “the brine of pickled fish or shellfish”), from there to Malaysia and by the Brits to the west with the 1830  Mushroom Ketchup by Geo Watkins. The secret of many cooks in VictorianHeinz ketchup_2 times. It tastes halfway between soy sauce and Worcestershire Sauce and with a light scent and flavour of mushrooms, all the way to Mr. H.J.Heinz very own American tomatoes Ketchup of 1876.

A fine dish with Turbot roasted exactly inside and out and Cichorium_intybuscockle in their brine, ((ketchup) and Cichorium intybus (chicory)steamed leaves, the cultivated chicory is better known as Belgian Endive (the endives we know are white because the cultivated plant is deprived completely from sunlight (grown in the dark  underground or indoors), the green leaves used in this dish are from the wild chicory plant and are more delicate in their bitter taste than the Belgian type and less flavorsome than the brown, ground, dried chicory root used as a coffee substitute during WW2.


Spike Ordered the Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) Smoked confit fennel & umbles, a reconstruction of a recipe by Hannah Woolley from The Queene-like closet or rich cabinet queens like clioset1670-1672. The book was intended for Downstairs staff in stately homes, but does not really include any recipe even close to served dish, maybe the spirit of Ms. Woolley is there, and gave our team of chef  inspiration that should do:

  Ladies, I do here present you (yet), that which sure will well content

    A Queen-like Closet rich and brave, (Such) not many Ladies have:

    Or Cabinet, in which doth set, Jems richer than in Karkanet;

    (They) only Eies and Fancies please, these keep your Bodies in good ease;

    They please the Taste, also the Eye; would I might be a stander by:

    Yet rather I would wish to eat, since ’bout them I my Brains do beat:

    And ’tis but reason you may say, if that I come within your way;

    I sit here sad while you are merry, eating Dainties, drinking Perry;

    But I’m content you should so feed, so I may have to serve my deed.

Hannah Wolley. (1670)

IMG_0419  IMG_0424

Yet again, unknowingly Lisa and I ordered the same dish: Spiced Pigeon (c.1780) Ale and Artichokes.

Neck of the woods (c.1555), Neck” had been used in English since around 1555 to describe a narrow strip of land, usually surrounded by water, based on its resemblance to the neck of an animal. But the Americans were the first to apply “neck” to a narrow stand of doveswoods, well in my neck of the woods pigeons are hard to get and I am a “sucker” for pigeons. Historically the practice of domesticating pigeon as livestock most likely came from the Middle East (my neck of the woods), squabs or pigeons have been consumed in the Middle East for centuries since around 350BC Hellenistic Period, in Ancient Egypt, Rome and then Medieval Europe. Doves are described as food in the Bible and were eaten by the Hebrews (that’s my guys…), still it iscolumbarium cave quite rare to find good size or tasty pigeons round here, even quails the very bird that kept our forefathers from starving in the desert during the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt to the promised Land of Israel is not available in shops anymore (The market forces of availability and demand brought the few farmers down…)   

ladysassistantfo00maso_0311Squab is a young domestic pigeon; it formerly applied to all dove and pigeon species, such as the Wood Pigeon, the Mourning Dove, and the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon (not by hunting practices may I add). More recently, squab meat comes almost entirely from domesticated pigeons.

This recipe presumably comes from The: Lady’s assistant, and complete lady's assistantsystem of cookery. By Charlotte Mason (c.1780). Read all about it online @ :

This lady (Mason), knows how to cook without a doubt and uses the finest of products to achieve her “creations” she relies upon French cooking tradition and uses the French definition when no English words are at her disposition. The pig looks and tastes so pinky, juicy and fresh due to a process they used initially at the Fat duck using an Enzyme Transglutaminase, this enzyme binds proteins together and shortens the cooking time required thus keeping our Pigeons breast all nice and juicy (in one word succulent). The reduction of Ale and pigeon stock is light and well seasoned (these tend to be slightly over salty most of the times BUT NOT HERE!!! There was a total consensus regarding the quality of the dish.

IMG_1308Now… the wines we had, you already read about. But I wanted to celebrate my 60th birthday with some “rare” wines I have collected through the years, to be opened on a special occasion, Like the Chateaux Mouton Rothchild 1970 (with the Mark Chagall Label), and a bottle of Anselme Selosse Substance Champagne, obviously I would not bring a wine to a restaurant without permission or a wine which is on their list of course, but when requesting that very permission at DINNER you get reply from the wrong people on the restaurant “Hierarchy”, these officials are bound by “restaurant policy” which would never in my mind get the chef’s or head sommelier approval they say NO (easy), I think that if the right people: HB or Ashley Palmer-Watts or the sommelier in charge they would say yes, after all as they write in their www site the idea of Dinner is: A formal meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.


Anyway (eat your heart out cause Lisa got me as a present form herself and Georgia (on my mind) a great wine bottle Chateaux Pavie 1970, somehow me paying a long debt on my side to Lisa was also “paid” in the shape of a Croft 1970 Port and I brought along (just in case the restaurant staff will show us the courtesy of good wishes and allow us to open Just one special bottle from my cellar Chateaux Mouton Rothchild also 1970 (3 great 1970’s on the table (well in a beg by the table on the floor), were left orphaned due to policy driven decisions, and me being too shy to ask), still if you ask me a bad decision but I am not the restaurant’s “policy maker” !!!!!!!! (I doubt if HB is even aware of the situation that even on special occasions with a wine which is NOT on the restaurant LIST which is a very nice and comprehensive wine list, (pity the internet version I was referred to is a short unsatisfactory list compared to the rich and diverse even easy to read list you get on the table), the restaurant stuff came out the losers as well because we always share good rare wine/s with other “understanding palates” (as this is our own personal joy). The wines we brought each other, the presents rouse our young sommelier’s envy, yet did not succumb to the “restaurant policy”…

We added Side dishes:  the amazing Mashed potatoes and the fresh Braised lettuce and peas again cooked to perfection JUST RIGHT!

ashley1Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, likes to cook and knows the A-Z of cooking and easily masters a kitchen of this quality but I was left with a feeling that he is “afraid” (maybe by choice), to cross the boundaries of tailored “Haute cuisine” cooking into the realm of FUN. I guess being a “hotel Restaurant” or “Restaurant in a Hotel” has an effect not only on the envelope but also on the content of the Restaurant as a whole itself. On paper the idea to excavate ancient recipes that go as far back as the 14th century up to the beginning of the 20th century, is not only a great idea but shows a sincere and deep interest in food which appeals to me. When one cooks a lot, he stops getting interested in the recipe as an instruction guide to and tries to get to the idea behind the recipes, the other aspects of food such as history, philosophy, sociology, and get into the realm of cookery as ART.IMG_0430

We sank in to the remaining morsels of food in each other’s plates watching the cavalry guard heading back to the stables enjoying each others company while waiting to our deserts on the next post.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
Phone: 0207.201.3833

(…To be concluded…)


Square Meal

Taste of wine, Flavour (Part 2)

Taste Compounds, Chemistry, Anatomy & physiology of the sense of Taste in Wine continues..

Taste compounds- tastants, have smaller molecules than those of odors and, unlike odors, must be water-soluble (hydrophilic) to cause sensation. Fortunately wine is liquid and the taste components in it are already dissolved in the product. Our oral cavity senses taste and touch.

afp20000115p427-f3                                                          gustatory-pathway-cortex-in-insula-facial-and-glossopharyngeal-nerve-in-medulla-oblongata

Some interpretations of the sense of touch, like: Austerity of tannins, or burning of overpowering Alcohol, oiliness of glycerin etc. that have texture (affecting the touch sensation) and other physical features such as temperature, all related to the sense of touch are many times confused with the actual sense of taste. While there may be many aroma nuances within the wine Aromas categories, as arranged on the Aroma wheel, there are only four tastes considered in wine: salty, sour, sweet and bitter.
(The section below, aided by: Taste: Compiled by Tim Jacob, Cardiff University, UK : )
photos 009Salty tastes, very seldom are present in wine because most vine rootstocks are known to restrict the uptake of salt (maybe in Jerez and some western Australian wines). But minerality can sometimes be mistaken as salty. Salty is the most common of tastes, these come from sodium chloride (table salt), sodium nitrite, sodium bicarbonate (as in baked foods), and sodium benzoate (in various beverages). Salt (sodium chloride (Na+ Cl-). Affect the taste receptors by Na+ ions entering the receptor cells via Na-channels. The entry of Na+ causes cell depolarization, transmitter release occurs and results in increased firing in the primary afferent nerve, thus salty sensation is interpreted in the brain. But as mentioned there are very few wines that are salty or give rise to real salty sensation.

Sour tastes come from acids citric acids in citrus fruits, malic acid in apples peach or pears, tartaric acid in wine and lactic acid inlemons milk products.Sour taste is acid which are protons: (H+). Some new evidence suggests that there is an acid-sensing channel. This channel is from the transient receptor potential channel (TRP) family and is a non-selective channel. The activity is gated by pH (H+ ion concentration). Apart from wine, acids are found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and foods products such as baked, soft drinks, sweets, jams, jellies, milk products, processed meats and even oils.
Raw_cane_sugar_DemeraraSweet tastes comes from sugars, primarily sucrose and others like, glucose, fructose or lactose There are special proteins in the taste receptor membrane that bind glucose and other carbohydrates like sucrose and fructose that activate intracellular messengers, that transmit impulses through the primary afferent nerve to the brain, sweetness is sensedquinnine

Bitter tastes come from alkaloids, such as contained in coffee and quinine (tonic water). Bitter substances bind to T2R receptors activating the G-protein and causing activation of PLC. The elevated Ca2+ causes transmitter release and this sends electrical messages of bitterness to the brain.
Although taste buds were noted to be of different sizes and shapes, depending upon their location, subsequent investigation proved that all of them contain the same kinds of taste receptor cells (papillae) that supply the sensations of taste. The entire top surface of the tongue can sense all of the various tastes.

taste_receptors4Taste receptor cells do not have an axon. Information is relayed to terminals of sensory fibers by transmitter. These fibers arise from the ganglion cells of the cranial nerves Vll (facial) – a branch called the Chorda Tympani and cranial nerve lX (glossopharyngeal).
We already established that taste is mainly smell (a combination we describe as Flavour). Without smell we cannot tell the difference between food or drink products. After all orange is sweet and sour with orange smell and melon is also sweet and sour but with melon smell etc. same goes with red or white wines.taste buds anatomy
When a tasty product enters the mouth, its chemicals are dissolved by the saliva, and the free-floating molecules enter the taste bud through a pore in its center. If the molecule binds to the tip of a receptor cell, it will excite that cell into issuing a series of chemical and electrical signals. For example, sweet and some bitter taste stimuli activate a chemical messenger known as Gustducin, from the G-family of proteins. That send the data relayed to the brain (to the gustatory cortex) and a sensation of “sweet” is interpreted in the brain/mouth.
Salty and sour molecules do not require the receptor tips. Na Ions enter the taste cells directly through special channels in their walls.

But the “taste of wine” is not governed solely by the 4 basic taste, Minerals Tannins and Alcohol are also important factors in what we call: “the taste of wine”. Sweetness and alcohol are round in their “touch” while acidity and tannins are harsh or sharp cornered, rigorous to the touch (austere). When the rounded and sharp edge components balance each other to a “new” completion, a wine can be described as balanced.

brix meterin BarrelSweetness In wine most the sugars turn to alcohol during fermentation. Wines may have some residual sugar, and according to the amount of sugar in Grams per litter wines may vary from Brut (totalt dry) to dry up to 4 g/l, medium dry up to 12 g/l, medium sweet up to 45 g/l, to swee more than 45 g/l. In the wine industry sugar is measure either by portable brix meters in the vineyard or others at the winery .Degrees Brix (°Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution. As the wine’s alcohol level depends on the sugar content (brix multiplied by 5.5= the future wine alcohol level). A measurement of the sugar content of grapes, must and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes’ ripeness (sugar level) at harvest. Most wine grapes are harvested at a level of between 22 and 25 Brix depending on the grape variety and winemaker preferences (apart from climate ripeness restrictions)
Acidity. Wines contain mainly tartaric acid (from the grapes); which gives the wine a fresh fruitwine phy touch on the palate and tongue, sort of a “crisp” feel, mainly felt on the sides of the tongue. Wines with insufficient acidity may taste dull or even jammy or “tired”. In white wines, which have less tannin than reds, acidity is important to the body and feel of the wine.
Bitterness in wine is elicited primarily by flavonoid phenols in red wines, which are bitter and astringent, and by ethanol. Monomeric flavonoid phenols are primarily bitter. The difference between red and white wine phenol monomers produces a significant difference in brain perception of bitterness. Ethanol enhances bitterness intensity and duration, whereas varying wine pH has little or no effect on the perceived bitterness. (from Bitterness in wine by Noble AC. Physiol Behav. 1994 Dec;56(6):1251-5)
grapeberry_diagram_and_flavorzonesTannins – bitterness in wine is mainly attributed to Tannins, are a family of natural organic compounds: flavonoid phenols that are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Aging wine in oak barrels transfers oak tannin into the juice which affects the touch and flavour. Tannins are also act as natural preservative to wine and introduce important antioxidants to our body. They take a major part in establishing wine structure and texture. The longer the grape skin contact with the fermenting wine, or in relation the crushing method of grapes, tannins concentration is affected especially in Red wine where it affects taste, touch sensation At times Tannins may feel a bit overpowering, that leaves our mouth dry. and the depth of colour. Tannic wines affect the touch sensation in the mouth and back of the throat. Tannins also contribute at times a bitter aftertaste.

Alcohol – Alcohol is another important component of the wine taste. It may contribute a burning sensation on the palate and throat when excessive, but It has a major role in achieving the overall balance of wine by softening the “edge” of over acidic or tannic wines. Alcohol affects the feel of “body” to wines. A wine with high alcoholic content will always feel full bodied.

fossil_in_handMinerals – Soil minerals travel into the grape with water. Grapes, must and wine contain dissolved non-organic salts. These salts are local soil minerals or metal elements, and occur naturally in grapes, minerals attach to berry surfaces as a result of vineyard treatment methods, and enter the wine during the wine making process. The concentration of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium and calcium can range from 200 to 2,000 mg/l in grape juice. Potassium is an important factor in defining wine pH and tartrate stability. Its concentration in wine ranges from 200-2000 mg/L High level of potassium in wine has great nutritional values. (from Minerals are often felt stronger in white wines grown on chalky soil, described in French as: goût de fossile (the taste of Fossils), sensed in Chablis and Bourgogne whites.
Change of taste in aging wines
Oxidation is the most important part of wine maturation. These changes include the change in colour of red to brick brown red duringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA aging, loss of primary flavour varietal character and the development of secondary and tertiary aromas. These changes appear in white and red wines, but they are more noticeable in white wine. The rate of oxidation depends on pH, temperature, concentration of dissolved oxygen, and the phenolic composition. Oxidation is faster in lower acidity and high temperature conditions, in the barrel and later in the bottle. Oxidation also depends on the phenolic composition of the wine.
Careful storage of aging wines, will help wines become smoother, rounder with well incorporated tannins, as through polymerization of phenolic compounds causing them to become less bitter and reduction in acidity which should not affect the fruitiness of the wine. Further polymerization of phenols, enlarges their molecular size causing them to precipitate and sink as sediments the bottle. This leads to a smoother wine with reduced astringency and a rounder taste. The rest is really down to your “taste” or “flavour” my tarte tatinvocabulary,coffe which in wine is governed by association: cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, tobacco, saddle soap, vanilla, toasted bread, tarte Tatin etc. are all picked from past exposure and association.
All of these and some more… contribute to what is called the TASTE OF WINE, and if you got all the way to here, You do deserve a wine that tastes good whatever that means, after all taste is a personal preference.

BBQ for Independence Day


malta fireworks 1

No one really knows when or why a tradition of celebrating Independence day around charcoal grills started. If you ask me it is a “borrowing” of the American modern 4th of July tradition (also) of unknown origin.
BBQ was not invented in America and no one knows who invented the barbecue. The word ‘Barbecue’ might come from the Taino Indian word ‘barbacoa’ meaning meat-smoking apparatus. ‘Barbecue‘ could have also originated from the French word “Barbe a queue” which means “whiskers-to-tail.” When all parts of an animal where used for preparing meat dishes on fire or smoke. (wiki)

Ancient man song by Daphne Sarnat from:

We have to go way back to prehistoric times to dig out the origin of slow cooking on fire Barbecue. Fire’s general use, according to paleontological and archaeolgical records, began only about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. But after cooking, many undesirable substances present in plants and vegetables are deactivated and starch and other nutrients in the plants become absorbable by the digestive tract. All of the major domesticated plant foods, such as wheat, barley, rice, millet, rye, and potatoes, require cooking before they are suitable for human consumption.
From: Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000 (p. 1571)
It is possible that men first ate meat that had been charred or cooked by virtue of being caught in a natural forest fire (a positive accident). They might have otherwise eaten raw meat, if necessary, but we can also imagine that our earliest digestive systems rebelled against eating raw meat.

photo(15)        carbobriq-incan   cowboycook
Nowadays, to barbecue means to slow-cook meat at a low temperature for a long time over wood or charcoal. In America, barbecue (or BBQ) originated in the late 1800’s during Western cattle drives. The cowboys were not allowed “perfect cuts” of meat, mainly brisket that required many hours of cooking to tenderize. As they sat after sunset around wood fires, meat and other foods were prepared on charcoals.
indians_cooking_fishThere is a romantic notion regarding “Cowboys and Indians” the open plains and the wild prairie, an Indian tribe cooking meat over fire after the hunt (smoking and drying the rest for future use), town folks eating huge steaks at the local restaurant as portrayed in the John Ford 1962 movie The Man Who LibertyValance2Shot Liberty Valance, including a fight over meat, with Ranse (James Stewart) waiting table, Liberty (Lee Marvin) making trouble, and Tom (John Wayne) booting Strother Martin, in an outrageous confrontation over a steak. I was always amazed by the sheer size of the “wild west” huge steak cuts.

photos 021

My old Weber grill has long lost its legs but still performs miracles for BBQ grilling all you need is a good bunch of red hot charcoal wood or charcoal briquettes and your prepared or marinated meat, fish, seafood, vegetables etc.

We had :

photo(14)                            photo(16)

* pork spare ribs prepped in advance finished on the grill

photos 013  photos 022   photos 024
Indonesian Sate Beef  (sate marinate and sauce)

Tandoori Lamb chops Tandoori Lamb chops in tandoori paste marinade (everyone’s favorite, though not in a tandoor)      photos 031photos 015  photos 030
Mediterranean style Lamb chops (garlic, thyme, mint, rosemary)

some Basmati rice for the south Asian fare, and grill roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes with salad as side dishes
The wines
photos 0292010 – Simon Bize Bourgogne Blanc Les Champlains
The 2010 les Champlains turned to be a great bottle of wine worth every penny of its relatively low cost. The great nose soars from the glass in a blaze of green apples, with some peaches and citrus blossoms, with a floral note of acacia blossoms. On the palate the wine is substantial and elegant, pure and full of fruit, good length keeping fresh all the time. Wait 10 minutes for the wine to settle down than a gush of green apple peel on the Nose with apple, pear, some tropical fruit. This is not a great wine by definition or pedigree although it comes from a single lot above Savigny les Beaune in Côte de Beaune, Bourgogne. It is an (AOC) with slightly less than 15 per cent chardonnay grapes with no Grand Cru vineyards within the appellation. Great value for money.
Simon Bize is a terrific producer continueing a family tradition since 1880 and making wines in a more meticulous manner around 60 years (early 1970’s)

Dugat Py, Gevrey Chambertin, Coeur du Roi 2003dugat py 2003
Dugat Py claim for fame comes from the American wine import industry as a true modern day Burgundian superstar. I know this is not my favorite wine making style in the Burgundy area, too much effort on colour, fruit and tannin concentration, Usually I personally prefer the less purple more light reddish translucent traditional elegant wines with a “true” Bourgognian touch, we had the Dugat Py, Gevrey Chambertin Coeur du Roi 2006 a few weeks ago and the wine was still too firm even too tight and failed to open to its full potential even after a long time (the rest of the case will have to wait in my cellar for at least another 5 years I am patient), Yet Dugat Py wine complement juict fatty BBQ meats more than extremely delicate and elegant Gevrey, and so it was chosen; A Dugat Py, Gevrey Chambertin, Coeur du Roi 2003, now at its 10th year (an enigma that has to be solved I also have a case of these…) On the first sniff I was relieved, the wine had some other undertones of the soul and soil of Bourgogne that overcame the strength and power the wine was intended to reflect. Great smell of cherries more than strawberries with lovely wet soil and mushroom scent, on the palate flavour is luscious fruit with pleasant fresh compost/hay or cabbage (on the pleasant side) traces, seasoned with thyme and mint overtone evolving so well. Full to medium body with a full feel and a very long palate, tannins still not round enough for my taste but I was impressed and content with the choice.

photos 044 photos 036
We thought we would not celebrate this year with a BBQ, as it happened we did, in a company of three, a grilled holiday lunch, cooked on charcoal with the moon smiling at us up in the afternoon sky, great wines and company, and my very own tarte Tatin  to end the meal.

                         my tarte tatin


Drinking with friends – A sort of “WAKE”


First Shaul Evron, a great connoisseur of Champagnes and Bourgogne wines died (quite suddenly) and if that was not enough than in a most abrupt manner, in fact over night! From here to nowonly a few months after “we” all “promised” to keep the legacy going, Yoezer (Shauls restaurant) and my favorite local bistro closed down. A short notice that said it all appeared on the Yoezer Internet site: : We were, and now No More, apologies for the abrupt farewell. Thanking all who loved us for almost 18 years, but now we all must GO…” The Yoezer team. Feb. 20th 2013.

shaul-dana-meirzon-walla-sbYou may find it hard to believe (at least I did) that the dissolving Yoezer in its last few hours was rampaged and looted by evil forces of debtors who took anything in sight including of course private wines belonging to customers some of which substantial wines and most of which were privately owned and collected by Shaul throughout the years.

On the 30th day of the surprise closure of Yoezer 20th March 2013, (as is customary in the Jewish tradition) we arranged a meeting to commemorate our “loss” but unlike the somber Jewish tradition this was intended and indeed was, a celebration, a party rather than a mourning gather very much like an Irish “wake”.(a “wake” for the dead derives from the word “watch” or “guard” and is contrary to the thought that people at a wake are waiting in case the deceased should “wake up.”)

The popular 19th century song “The Night Paddy Murphy Died” by Newfoundlander balladeer Johnny Burke is a humorous send-up of the drinking associated with an Irish wake, Here the “Great Big Sea” version:[press play for song]

Oh the night that Paddy Murphy died, is a night I’ll never forget

Some of the boys got loaded drunk, and they ain’t got sober yet;

As long as a bottle was passed around every man was feelin’ gay

O’Leary came with the bagpipes, some music for to play


That’s how they showed their respect for Paddy Murphy

That’s how they showed their honour and their pride;

They said it was a sin and shame and they winked at one another

And every drink in the place was full the night Pat Murphy died

SAMSUNGSome might say this is a sad occasion how can you celebrate but we thought that it calls for a get together over some glasses of good in fact, excellent wines with friends Ben Tidhar , the legendary Yoezer’s chef, and Shlomit Herling , sommelier and Restaurant manager for almost all of it’ s days the “main pillars” of the bistro, Yair Varda and myself (of the restaurant’s devoted followers) at the Chamara bar of Raphael restaurant in Tel-Aviv, a most becoming venue for our needs: eat drink and smoke (legally).

selsse oisters

We started with a toast on the most delicious and rare Champagne Brut Jacques Selosse Rosé NV accompanied withJ Selosse rose gold in bot fresh oysters which complemented one another perfectly, Yair said: “a rare gem to announce a very promising night. Can’t be put better, and so I sipped on this complex 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. Oger Chardonnay blended with a small percentage of Ambonnay Pinot Noir, expressing in a simple yet hard to Anselmachieve manner Anselme Selosse’s unique style that sets what he does apart from all other champagne producers. What a joy! And the colour a golden peach blush in a bottle. Pitty the Chamara light is so dim but this is the way of most wine bars.  A highly appropriate offering from Yair’s collection.

Champagne Selosse Rosé NV Selosse Rose is not just great Champagne; it is a great wine by all counts. You dip into the very essence a great wine can lead you to. It is a sparkling Bourgogne great, revealing new aspects of complexity and freshness with every sip this is not a wine, it is an essence of Oger and Ambonnay soil the taste of the earth and it’s minerality…(this one is at least 10 years in storage) I guess It is beyond the need to verbally describe further, you’re either lucky to taste it or you can just envy me (I guess most of you are envious)

We left some of the Rose aside for our farewell toast and opened the next offering this is from the Yoezer salvaged collection:

auxy dur  auxy 2000             auxey lable

Domaine d’Auvenay Auxey Duresses Blanc Les Boutonniers  2000

A wine from the private Domain of Madam Lalou Bize Leroy, considered as one of the most elegant Bourgogne whites, with amazing complexity or as Yair summed it up: Ocean in a bottle! and how well it complemented the Oysters or vice versa. It also accompanied the “blue crab open ravioli” and the fresh shrimp pasta both of which was excellent.

For the Lamb chops and a bite of the Foie Gras we opened the:

Grivot nuitDomaine Jean Grivot , Nuits Saint Georges Les Roncieres, 2002

Thank god Parker Jr. started it out by giving it a relatively low score 88 (another miss scored wine) and that after stating it was: “fresh wine of outstanding depth… ” never mind all that after all wine is a matter of personal preferences at least in my case.

My offering for the “party” was a Shaul’s favorite Berthaut’s EPOISSES de Bourgogne.

We could not depart before the Rosé nectar laid yet again upon our tongue and palate, sending us home with it’s long finish, elated. good food, great company, Great wines, what else should we aspire to from a reunion? (I was content)

If Shaul would have participated in this gathering I assume the 3 above bottles consumed (by 5 of us) would prove insufficient in quantity but this is an example to the saying that less is more. Three perfect bottles are more than enough for one perfect get together.

happy gather

And as the Irish song goes: “That’s how we showed our respect for Shaul and Yoezer, That’s how we showed our honour and our pride”

There are still some salvaged bottles, about 15 such wine bottles which were saved by the devoted Shlomit and Ben, into an old Sassicaia wooden wine box that always laid (empty) on the bar top shelve. Those are left for now (with Ben) I guess Shaul would say they are resting in the right hands. I think I should propose to keep them in my cellar (better storage conditions) for future meetings, each and everyone a celebration of Shaul and Yoezer taste that lingers on in my memories.

 By the way, my Salvaged wines (the 2 bottles from the case that I claimed as mine… were brought to the occasion, both too young to drink and will improve immensely, in my humble cellar, with time, were:

salvaged  chapelle Ponsot 2004      krug 1996

Chapelle Chambertin  2004 Domaine Jean-Marie (Laurent) Ponsot, Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France.

Krug Champagne Brut 1996

The Chapelle-Chambertin 2004 comes from a 0.7 hectares lot of 18 year-old vines, whose first bottling was in 1970. The vines are relatively young, and produce a wine of structure that needs some bottle age, by “order” of the domain and we will comply!

IMG_0207Krug Champagne Brut 1996 an almost perfect wine (I had it once before) and will not tempt to open it for quitw some time the seductive roasted almond and hazelnuts yeasty flavour with peach and apricot notes never leaning to the sweet side, remaining brut and fresh with multilayered aromas, engulf you after a 20 minutes breathing in the glass (use a large flute!) than you will be very close to perfection which is what this wine will achieve in due course.

I will leave you with the last verse of the wake song The Night Pat Murphy Died.

 Irish bagpipers

Oh the night that Paddy Murphy died, is a night I’ll never forget

Some of the boys got loaded drunk and they ain’t been sober yet;

As long as a bottle was passed around every man was feelin’ gay

O’Leary came with the bagpipes, some music for to play

Till next,

Sweet dreams…


Hands off, my 330,000,000 wine bottles!!!

I beg to differ, Aged wines? Yes please!

Thoughts on Matt Kramer’s recent essay:  Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore? (Subtitled: Wines have changed and so have our palates).

matt_kramer2On January 8, 2013 Matt Kramer; an American wine critic since 1976 and a regular contributor to Wine Spectator Magazine, who has been described as “perhaps the most un-American of all America’s wine writers” “HAD AN ENLIGHTENMENT “, an insight to the true nature of reality. (As far as I know, He is not a practicing Buddhist)

He rushed to write an article titled: Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore? Wines have changed and so have our palates. This was posted in his column drinking out loud in the wine Spectator web site, read it on:

winespectator  , It goes:

IMG_3220“My greatest wine dream, was a wine cellar, so full that I could easily forget about whole cases of wine for years at a time, the better to let them age to a fantasized perfection. That dream came true… I was motivated, obsessed even, by a vision of what might be called futuristic beauty. How soaringly beautiful it would be in 15 or 20 years! I wasn’t wrong—then. But I wouldn’t be right for today. What’s changed? Surely me of course.(He says), I’ve had decades of wine drinking to discover that my fantasized wine beauty only rarely became a reality. But I had to find that out for myself. And I’m glad I did…. In recent years it’s become obvious that an ever greater number of wines that once absolutely required extended aging no longer do”

Really?  And if so, I am quite sure that if only one odd GREAT wine on his “list of grandeur”, it was still worth it. I bet you that this is the only wine he really remembers most, a memory that focuses on the finest, minute detail of taste, flavor, aroma and even appearance, from all the other hundreds even thousands of wines he had since 1976. After all, he had all the great wines of the 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s of the 20th century to sample and enjoy. He continues in saying: “Simply put, most of today’s fine wines—not all, mind you—will reach a point of diminishing returns on aging after as few as five years of additional cellaring after release. Stretch that to a full 10 years of additional aging and I daresay you will have embraced fully 99 percent of all the world’s wines, never mind how renowned or expensive”.

aged wines

I agree that less than 1 percent of world wines are really Great, but how many bottles of wine is 1%? Well, in 2011 248 million hectoliters of wine were produced, 1 hectoliter = 100 liters, that is 24 trillion 800 million liters of wine, more than 33 trillion bottles, one percent of which is 330 million great bottles! each year!  That is a lot of great wines (if 1% is an accurate measure according to Kramer). Between us 1% of excellence in anything is reasonable, when counting the number of wine writers or any other group of professionals who really know what they are talking about (1% would be just right). When excellence is the sought after, high quality of 1% is a very good starting point, and ultimately this is not such a small quantity. Allow me to beg to differ yet again, on the “5-10 years at the most will improve by aging” maybe this is the best American wines can get to (I am no expert on American wines so I will take Mr. Kramer’s word for it. Is it the trends in new world winemaking methods that initiated Kramer’s Enlightenment? Is it an American way of always looking at their own as a reference for the best of the rest? or maybe it is the odd, rather new “varietal taste” that had led to this horrific conclusion?

He continues: “Well, what about them old great Old world wines (he lists French, Italian from great wine regions). Yes, all of those wines and still others, such as German and Alsatian Rieslings, Napa Valley Cabernets and Hungarian Tokajis, reward aging. But let me tell you something: With only a handful of ultra traditionalist exceptions, the modern versions of even these wines don’t require anywhere near as much aging as their forebears.”

And I beg to differ again, after all these “ultra traditionalist exceptions”, are the reference wines for all “great wines” of the present and future, the summit all those “modern versions” strive to achieve, copy, imitate, taste like, feel like, affect our senses like… of course, most imitations are “groupies” of the real thing. They may succeed in each and every aspect of excellence separately but Alas fail to stand out as a complete product, lacking the overall balance that separates between the many: good, very good, excellent and EXTRAORDINARY wines.

“… it’s that fine wines have universally changed, sometimes radically so. And our tastes have changed, too… Modern wine offers us a fuller, richer, more rewarding view sooner. Think of an old oil painting carefully and respectfully cleaned of an obscuring varnish, allowing both color and texture to leap out almost three-dimensionally, and you’ve got it.

                        340px-Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)      sphinx

Well, I think the beauty of an old painting is in the craftsmanship rather than it’s cleanliness. Please do not clean or fix Michelangelo’s or Da Vinci’s work, don’t fix the Sphinx’s broken nose and don’t tell me that modern wines can even be compared with the good old traditional wines of the old world made by hundreds of beacon bearers around the world, if that’s the wines you like fine just don’t tell me “our (my) palate have changed”

The bottom line: Today’s wines are far more drinkable, far more gratifying, far more rewarding when drunk younger than their counterparts of 20 years ago.Can they age as long? Yes, I think they can. But that’s not the issue. Rather, the key question is: Do they need to? I think not. Only a very small handful of even the best wines truly require more than five years aging—10 years tops—in a cool space.

I find most “modern wines” harsh, over alcoholic, lacking in Elegance, Finesse and Balance, still they are designed to fit a general taste those so called modern winemakers “brainwashed” their consumers to like, basically they are sales orientated and I expect respected wine critics not to fall in the same trap which is a PR stunt directed at wine novices rather than “wine experts”.    

Of course there are wines today that stubbornly withhold their favors, such as Vintage Port and those few white wines that do not go through malolactic fermentation, such as Trimbach Rieslings, Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay or the white Burgundies of Maison Louis Jadot.

How can you put in one sentence Wine Houses that make very few wines mostly single vineyards (Trimbach make only 4 different wines) to Maison Louis Jadot (with all due respect) that produces approximately 150 different wines each year many of which from the general area?

…I am now convinced that today’s wine lover is well advised to buy fine wines, cellar them in a cool space for five years—10 years, tops—and then drink them in secure confidence that the great majority of their full-dimensional goodness is available to you. After that, it’s all just fantasy—and the very real likelihood of an increasingly diminishing return on your already delayed gratification.

Kramer describes in one of his books how he began his career as a wine writer in 1976, then a food writer of a weekly paper, in a meeting with his publisher. As the advertising department had altered the food page contents to include a “wine of the week” column, to the advertisers’ approval, Kramer was told that he would write this new column. Kramer resisted, saying, “But I don’t know anything about wine”, but the publisher replied, “That’s all right. Neither does anyone else”. Kramer went on to become a respected wine writer yet I hope his publisher did not convince him, because I for one do know quite a few who know A LOT about wine! Most of who have a gift of extra sensitive sense of taste and smell and flavour, I envy them from time to time and know that they do poses a gift that make them better judges of overall quality of wine in a broader sense than I would ever achieve.

jancis-robinsonKramer once criticized wine critics in his New York Sun column, pointing to “almost desperate attempt by some of today’s wine tasting potentates to bolster their credibility by suggesting a physical superiority”. Kramer summarized that, “suggesting a linkage of taste buds to wine judgment is like confusing eyesight with insight”.  Robinson later addressed the issue in an article that suggested Kramer may not have read Robinson’s own account before publishing his column, stressing that to suggest physical superiority “was the last thing [she] was attempting” (from Wikipedia)

Since Jancis Robinson cannot suggest physical superiority herself, let me say that without a doubt she and a few others I know do poses it, they should not be ashamed with the gift they possess, it is a blessing, Kramer and I can only be envious!  Some people poses better sensibility in various sense organs you must admit you heard of people with absolute pitch, perfect pitch when it comes to the sense of hearing/sound, some people have a perfect sense of smell or taste and when combined with knowledge be it perfumes or wine or food, they are better judges! Their vocabulary is richer!

Thank God for wine writers like Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator, if only more and more people will be convinced in this assertive fallacy, more well aged and sublime wines will be left for us wine lovers (of excellent aged wines whose palates have not changed overnight) at more sensible prices. I for one, promise not to “touch” wines from their list, as long as they leave my 1% of suitable wines to enter the “aged wines” list alone. All the wines in my “top ever wine list” that I remember with pleasure and longing, are wines of well over 15 years of “aging”.

 Wine is a live commodity, it keeps changing in time and the ones that change for the better are worth all the patience and endurance, they are the hope of every winemaker, the completion of his aspirations and his expression as an artist of wine making and not simply a maker of wine.

Kramer by the way is the guy who wrote: “How to Really Taste Wine, The six most important words in wine tasting” He very sensibly lists: Complexity, Texture, Midpalate Density, Proportion, Finesse and Balance as his “six pillars of wine tasting wisdom”…quite a good reading (and writing) , I do not know what came over him recently but when one has many followers/readers, they should be careful with the effect of the written word on the less informed.

I beg to differ is: a polite way of saying that you disagree with something that someone has said (from the free dictionary dot com) and so my friends, allow me to BEG TO DIFFER! (I hope Mr. Kramer will take it in the polite way it is intended), I agree to disagree!



New Year’s Eve Dinner 2012-2013

Another Year passed by and preparations for this almost “traditional” gathering at our house,  to celebrate the passing of one year with the hopes for the new year to come with “spoils” of food and wine are gathering momentum.

220px-StonehengeSunrise1980sLast year’s dinner party/meal was recorded as one of my first posts on May 8th 2012: , since then, I passed on my gastronomical memories and some culinary activities, some happy a few sad moments, all through the grapevine of wine and food encounters.

 As the year passed towards the winter solstice, (the Southern solstice), which is the official first day of winter, on which the Sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon in the Northern mayan calenderHemisphere, (the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky), usually occurring on December 21 to 22 each year.

This year, is no ordinary December 21st It was feared as a day of doom, according to the Mayan calander. The Mayan doomsday’, predicting the “end of the world”, a date when disasters of cataclysmic proportions were expected with fear by misinformed esoteric legend enthusiasts. In spite of the fact that real Mayan experts say and always said that the Mayan tradition as appeared on scrolls and engraved on stones, never actually predicted the end of the world on this date. The truth regarding the date, according to renowned Maya scholar Professor David Stuart, is that the day is indeed meaningful — but not in the mayan scrollway people thought. The “end of the world Mayan prophecy” was totally misunderstood by “scientists” who visited Mayan temple sites and misread the inscriptions to make up stories about the Maya, but they did not read the signs correctly. When so called experts write about a prophecy in the name of the Maya, and say that the world will end in December 21st 2012. They made the Mayan elders angry! “The world will not end. It will be transformed to the new era”, says Mayan elder and priest Carlos Barrios. Indeed no major or unusual disaster was recorded around the “doomed date” , apart maybe from a culinary mini disaster on Dec. 30th around midnight when I attempted to test my pre dinner trial of Foie Gras Cromesquis, a dish I never tried before, I must say I have followed (almost to the letter…) chef Marc Meneau’s recipe.

                   Cromesquis Jelly                           crosmesquis1                                          the Jelly looked good, with a great scent of black truffles, I have used my “knowledgeable contacts” and received complete instructions including secret hints from the grand masters but alas the final result was a total disaster. I doubt very much that the Mayan doomsday/disaster prophecy which was written sometimes between 2000 BC to AD 250, was in fact intended for my attempt in making Cromesquis?!  This is part of my planned first course of: triptych of Foie Gras that was chucked out (on time may I add) to the bin. I had enough time for a slight change in menu in preparations to my New Years Eve Dinner. The first course of Foie Gras suffered yet another blow when for the first time ever! My terrine of Foie Gras and pears in Calvados fell apart it did not hold together upon slicing, it will have to be reassembled in a different manner tomorrow the day of the meal.

IMG_0808                 IMG_5641                 IMG_5663

Mousse of Foie Gras, Figs & Quince.

And so my triptych became a Solo Mousse of Foie Gras Figs & squares of preserved Quince, very much like the Musical Quartet of “Pepper-land” elders (in the Beatles Yellow Submarine movie) diminishing to a Solo upon the Bleu Meanies attack, but “young fred” fled to the rescue to bring HELP, this time in the shape of a bottle of Chateau Suduiraud 1988 Sauternes, that accompanied a Mousse concocted from the Foie Gras pieces, shallots, Croft 1970 Vintage Port a touch of cream de cassis and Armagnac XO  (after discarding the pears…), before it set I filled up some fig halves with a scoop of mousse the rest was left to set in a terrine dish for later, a sigh of relief which allowed me to get on with the rest of the meal.

calamari in black   IMG_5646   IMG_5647   IMG_5665

Calamari in Black cappuccino, thyme Grissini sticks.

This is one a takeoff on Massimiliano Alajmo’s (The youngest 3 Michelin star Italian chef) “Cuttlefish in the black Cappuccino”, here as (Calamari in Sepia topped with potato cream soup).

Basically it is cubes of calamari fried and cooked in wine Vegetable broth and some cuttlefish ink at the bottom of the glass, topped by a hot cream of potato soup, and garnished on top.

LARMANDIER TRADThe dish was accompanied by the precise yet down to earth champagne Larmandier-Bernier Tradition 1er Cru NV Champagne, the perfect wine for this salty inky dish it has finesse yet rustic enough to deal with the strong taste of sepia, it is a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir with some reserved wines added. The dosage is minimal (5g/l ) allowing the ‘terroir’ to show off as pure and crisp as can be around the 1er Cru village of Vertus.on the Côte des Blancs. This wine accompanied the next dish of our meal as well.

   IMG_5651 IMG_5654   IMG_5650

souffle 2

Soufflé de Langoustine Sauce Nantua.

It came out light and airy with a delicate touch of Langoustine in the concentrated Sauce Nantua, and a morsel of langouste tail occasionally. The sauce was prepared from the Langoust heads and claws plus some local blue crabs and a bottle of Alsatian Riesling, tomatoes and stock vegetables. All “blitzed” in a food processor, sieved and reduced, than thickened with some Roux as a thickening agent for the sauce, and the base of the Soufflé half the liquids were the reduced sauce the other half milk…

We played it by the book:” the guests did wait for the soufflé, as the soufflé can’t wait for the guests.” LEOVILE L CEnjoying every bite, without a doubt this was my favorite dish of the meal, a success!

We opened a bottle of Grand Vin de Leoville du Marquis de Las Casses 1983 and allowed it to breath in the glasses. It was delightful from the moment I gave it the first sniff and well into the cheese. It still retains its purplish  youthful hue, after all the wine is 30 years old and still drinking so 150px-Chateau_Leoville_Las_Cases_Entrancewell, with all the fruit and acidity combined with rounded pleasant tannins in a glorious balance, to finish with aromas of freshly ground coffee adorned by scents of cigar box and violets.

Being a prominent winery in Saint-Julien, where the wines are full bodied and powerful but elegant. The list of the best properties around includes Chateau Léoville Barton, Ducru Beaucaillou, Gruaud Larose, Léoville Poyferré, Gloria and Talbot a very decent list and we are blessed by Chateau Leoville Las Casses. (Thank you my Dear Marquis). It was servrd with our main course:

Stuffed Saddle of Lamb, mushrooms and spinach. 

IMG_5627  IMG_5634 IMG_5661 IMG_5675

Gordon Ramsay style with minor changes related to taste (I prefer mint and thyme with lamb), the Lamb type and customs of the local butchers. I guess it would have been a bit on the dry side if the belly fat part was not incorporated in the cut. The stuffing held extremely well the next day to make a great cold sandwich.

IMG_5687                              IMG_5697                      warres 94

Cheese and Port

Warre’s Vintage Port 1994

IMG_5683Desert – cream caramel.

Osnat and I would like to Thank you, Dana (my young sister, for making yet again a Cream Caramel to perfection, smooth, seductive without a hint of the downfall of many caramel creams (tasting like scrambled eggs.

Coffee and Petit Fours

Petit Fours, by Vivian Landesberg, who labored to produce amazing Pistachio Financiers and her famous vanilla roasted pecan nuts bites. Thanks Vivian.

Many thanks to my friend Nir Mamon who assigned himself (in his words), as a Sous Chef and turned to be an invaluable (Extremely useful; indispensable) part, in keeping the meal a success, on track, on time throughout.

Wishing you a Very Happy New Year from the Very Holy Land.