charcuterie - David Rosengarten

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charcuterie - David Rosengarten
Rosengarten
The
VOL. III, ISSUE 3 • RELEASE DATE: JUNE 15, 2015
NEXT RELEASE DATE: SEPT. 15, 2015 • NEWSSTAND PRICE $15.95
Report
THE FOODS & WINES THAT MAKE ME SWOON
It’s Finally Coming Of Age:
French Charcuterie
in America!
PART ONE • page 4
PART TWO • page 14
ALSO IN
THIS ISSUE:
What’s Out There (product and company critiques)
All About the Eating (recipe, condiments, picnic)
LUSTY MONK:
Perhaps America’s Most
Thrilling Mustard!
Pg. 14
From the land of
lederhosen:
Icy Whites for
Summer Sipping
Pg. 20
FRANCE OR ITALY:
Which Country Is Winning
the Food War?
Pg. 26
ICE CREAMS THAT
MAKE YOU GASP:
Spoonable Velvet Heaven
from Georgia and Brooklyn
Pg. 38
and more...
DavidRosengarten.com
IT’S FINALLY COMING OF AGE:
French
Charcuterie
in America
d
e
s
u ca
t
i
y meri
a
w
Thebe in A
to
where we gathered ten different slices of heaven. Sacre bleu! I will never
forget the ennoblement of that platonic picnic in printemps by the pâtés
and terrines.
Thinking ahead to my American return, I vowed to have charcuterie at all
future picnics over on this side of le pond.
But all the desire in the world couldn’t solve this one little problem:
American charcuterie.
Over the last 45 years, America has caught up with France on so many
things…but charcuterie is one of those categories where the Americans
have SERIOUSLY lagged behind! (Some of the other lagging categories are
runny cheeses, freshness of oysters, treatment of organ meats…)
Of course, going back to 1970…charcuterie was positively AWFUL in the
U.S. Let’s say…we didn’t have any charcuterie! Most of what we thought
was “pâté” needed a can opener to eat. I’ll never forget the young actress
from the South, attending a theatre department party at Cornell in the mid‘70s that featured stuff on crackers…who gloated loudly at her rise in the
world: “I cain’t believe I’m eatin’ pâté!” What she was eating, of course, was
a chicken liver mousse from a can. But it said “pâté” on the label, it said
“pâté!”
The ‘70s did see random improvement here and there. The great French
chef Gaston Lenôtre opened a gourmet emporium near Bloomingdale’s in
NYC in the early ’70s, and I was so appreciative of the real-tasting pâté en
croûte that I was able to buy there. A few years later, in 1976, I dined at Le
Perroquet in Chicago, which was dazzling, simply dazzling, so French…
and included real terrine on the menu!
So I knew it was a possible dream.
But what was the problem? What was holding us back in the charcuterie
stakes?
I
fell in love with French charcuterie, hard, on my first visit to France, in
1970. I cannot describe the joy I have felt ever since in France walking
into the shop of a charcutier, or a boucherie (butcher shop), or a traiteur
(caterer). Inside the big glass case, there are often twenty different pâtés
or terrines, held in oval white molds, the last slice from each of them
leaving behind a big, pink-red, meaty center, each of the loaves with an
obviously distinct texture. I wish I had a Euro (or even a franc!…hey, I’ll
take a sou!) for every time in the past 40 years I’ve driven through a small
town in France, parked my car directly in front of the town’s charcutier,
walked into the shop, pointed, and said, “Est-ce que je peux acheter une
petite tranche de cela?”
“CAN I BUY A SMALL SLICE OF THAT ONE?”
Usually costs me a buck, and off I go, munching on happiness at the
steering wheel out of a piece of wrapping paper.
Then, of course, there was THE PICNIC. My daughters and I, with my
brother and sister-in-law, were traveling by car around the South of France
ten years ago or so. Spring. It was lunchtime, and we were a little restaurantweary…so, after noticing a beautiful spot by a stream, we decided to buy
the ingredients for a picnic, at multiple stores, inside the local town, as the
practice used to be. We had bread, cheese, wine, wonderful salads, fruits,
tout cela…but our best stop of all was at the shop of the local charcutier,
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 2
Let’s start with a definition of charcuterie.
To be fair…it is a somewhat wobbly category…definitely better as an
intuitive birthright (for a French-born person), than as a definition towards
which a non-French chef aspires!
But the word, which first appeared in 1858, has roots in the Middle French
two-word combo of chair, and cuite. Together, chair cuite, means “cooked
meat.”
Charcuterie can be from all kinds of meat…but the one meat that dominates
the scene…is pork. Intriguingly, the Cantonese word for pork is char.
OMG…I wonder if there’s any connection there???
As used today, “charcuterie” refers to meats that are readied for your
consumption in some type of manner. They can be ground and cooked in
a mold (most typically!), or turned into ready-to-eat sausage, or sliced and
set in aspic, or prepared in scores of other ways. Almost always the meat
has been cooked, or salted and held, or cured, or undergone some other
method of preservation. Almost always a piece of “charcuterie” is sold cold,
and eaten that way, or eaten at room temperature. (The definition edges are
a little fuzzy here…some might consider preserved duck a member of the
charcuterie family…but, typically, you’ll crisp the confit de canard in a hot
pan after you get it home from your charcutier).
The Italian analogue, salumi—though it focuses much more on ready-toeat sausages and cured hams of all kinds—has had no trouble reaching
popularity, and quality, in the U.S. Some good salumi is imported, and a lot
of good Italian-style salumi has been made here for decades. Why has the
Italian version flourished, while the French version—charcuterie—long
been a culinary sore spot in America?
dry, pebbly leftover. It becomes a bouncy, resilient, juicy-fatty, magically
held-together slice of carnivorous alchemy.
The first answer to this question, when you explore the comparison, is the
unique popularity of all things Italian in the U.S. Here, Italian food is
everyone’s home cookin’. A salami, coppacolla, mortadella hero is
everyone’s lunch. A country pâté sandwich? What are you, a weirdo?
Americans, on the other hand, tend to look suspiciously at this loaf bound
in thin slices of fat, then they check out the large chunks of fat inside…
then they just check out, heading for a celery stick. Well, I can’t criticize
others’ dietary habits…but pâté without a serious admixture of pork fat
ain’t pâté! No wonder pâté took so long to catch on here, in the irrational
land of fat-phobia!
Also, on the comparison front, is the fact that the products of Italian salumi
are easier for manufacturers to get right. Oh, sure, it takes considerable
skill to make a good Italian salami…but I’d say a good country pâté is even
more difficult to master.
Most important, people in the U.S. KNOW what good salami tastes like. We
all grew up with it. Who knows what a good country pâté tastes like, feels
like? It is terrine incognita for most Americans.
And this has always led to a cooking crisis. There are lots of young chefs who
have read about French charcuterie, and are eager to make their own pâtés
and terrines. But…they don’t have the tasting standard.
And there’s the rub. An American chef unfamiliar with the true taste of
France will make a cold meat loaf…and think it’s pâté! Until he gets to
France and wakes up to the true texture and flavor of, say, a country pâté…
he’ll go on making meat loaf and calling it pâté! The big problem with this
is that a slice of pâté is, basically, a slice of cold meat loaf. A very special
slice of cold meat loaf, but meat loaf nevertheless.
Now, one of the ways in which it does that is by piling on the fat, sometimes
as much fat as meat…a fact that may have been, and may still be, a turnoff for some Americans. The French eat so wisely: “Sure, pâté is fatty,”
they say. “So, I’ll have a thin slice of it once or twice a week.”
Then, there are two other problems that have held charcuterie back
in America…
One has to do with that pinkish-red color. As soon as Americans see it, they
start thinking about cancer…just when they should be thinking about dinner!
And, in fact, it is chemical wizardry that keeps charcuterie from turning
grey-brown. The most widely used sprinkle is “Prague Powder #1,”
consisting of 93.75% sodium chloride, and 6.25% sodium nitrite. Yes,
we’ve been warned about sodium nitrite…but the Prague Powder is used
at the ratio of 0.25 of the total meat mixture. That’s approximately 8
tablespoons of Prague Powder for 100 lbs. of meat. Now break it down
further…and discover that the amount of sodium nitrite used comes to
less than 1 1/2 teaspoons per hundred pounds of meat. I’ve eaten pink
hams, pink bologna, pink hot dogs for my whole life. With much love for
the gastro-medical-obsessives…I have more important things to worry
about in life! Moderation trumps everything!
The other problem that impedes charcuterie in America is also a health
problem, in a way: though you can package something called pâté in a
can—so many did, for decades!—real pâté is a fresh product, never
headed toward a can or a freezer. When a professional in France makes a
pâté, he lets it sit for 4-5 days in the refrigerator to “ripen” it. After that…
you start slicing and eating. This pâté will probably stay fresh for another
week or so. That’s it. It’s a small window for the American production
system, and a pain in the neck—so most distributors and retailers would
prefer to stick with Oscar Mayer, thank you.
Meat loaf
This invisible, but palpable, dividing line between meat loaf and pâté is
actually extremely critical in the art of charcuterie. “Nothing more than
cold meat loaf” is the criticism I’ve always had of American wannabe
pâtés. But a true pâté crosses that meat loaf line. It stops being a crumbly,
Except the inspired few. Except this inspired foodie generation coming
along right now, inspired by bosses and mentors who had never given up
the fight to get real charcuterie produced in America. I guess, among other
things, it has taken more trips to France by young American chefs, better
training in American schools (they have a very good charcuterie program
at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York), and, maybe,
more views of real charcuterie on television. Efforts of individual French
chefs have also helped a lot; the national bar was raised tremendously
when three-star chef Daniel Boulud decided to open a restaurant called
Bar Boulud seven years ago, near Lincoln Center in NYC, where the focus
is on charcuterie. Daniel even hired a famous charcuterie expert from
France to headman the effort. Not only are they making reliably wonderful,
authentic charcuterie at Bar Boulud, and its next-door retail outlet Épicerie
Boulud…but thousands of others who don’t travel to France are eating
through NY and having their imaginations rocked by the potential of
charcuterie that Boulud is showcasing!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 3
A QUICK GUIDE TO THE
BEST OF AMERICAN
CHARCUTERIE IN 2015
(My faves get five stars, second-tier gets four stars)
Pâtés and Terrines
This category is the heart of it for me, when I say “charcuterie.” Of course,
lots of things get incorrectly mixed together under the umbrella term “pâtés
and terrines”…so I’m going to give you the strict definition I like to use. And
it’s grounded in historical fact, which makes it easy to remember.
Daniel Boulud and one of his charcuterie creations
At long last, mes amis…charcuterie in America is on the rise!
I have another way of knowing that’s true. Ten years ago, for The
Rosengarten Report, we called in what was available across the country,
charcuterie-wise. The results were so poor, we never wrote a story about it.
Just gained a few unwelcome pounds, I guess…
But the game has changed, big time.
Now, before I gush further, I must tell you that charcuterie-buyers in their
homes are still hampered by antediluvian American laws concerning
interstate commerce. At The Rosengarten Report, we wanted to spread out
a super-wide net for gathering product, but young butchers and chefs
across the U.S. making great new charcuterie kept telling us that they
didn’t dare risk a violation of the FDA and USDA laws. Those august
agencies hath decreed that in order to ship meat across state lines, you
have to be a licensed, certified purveyor. Purveyor companies, like
D’Artagnan, have that status in spades—so we
had no trouble receiving great charcuterie
from big boys like that. But I’m on the
spoor of the little guys, too—the new
charcuterie heros, the butchers, the
chefs—who’d rather put their hands in a
meat slicer than ship off a package of duck terrine to a Rosengarten Report
reader in another state!
Since time immemorial, French cooks have been making something called
a “farce,” a mixture of ground meat with fat and seasonings. What did they
use for a container to hold the meat? At some point, the idea of wrapping it
in pastry—“pâte” (like “paste”)—arose. They would fashion little pies of
various shapes and bake them. Sometimes, the whole thing was further
contained by an oval, or rectangular mold (porcelain was a popular
material). Eventually, the ground meat concoction inside the pastry and
mold came to be known as “pâté.” Today, unless a chef says “pâté en
croûte” (pâté in crust) he or she normally skips the pastry. So…baked
ground meat inside a mold (usually oval or rectangular), is now called a
“pâté,” though there’s no pastry involved.
The terrine story is very similar, just no pastry ever involved. France has
long had large rectangular molds, originally made from earthenware, that
they call “terrines” (made from material from the “terre,” or earth). Same
story: chefs would fill the terrines with seasoned ground meat and fat, and
bake them. These meat loaves took their names from the cooking vessel;
they were called “terrines.” The word, with time, came to apply to the meat
that came out of the terrine. Today, you can cook a terrine IN a terrine, or
out of a terrine…but when we say “terrine” we mean the same thing as a
“pâté”—the only difference being that the terrine is more certain to have
come out of a rectangular mold. But don’t count on it. Oval-mold loaves are
often called “terrines” as well.
Pâtés and terrines? Today, they’re
usually the same thing…which is
to say, they’re usually whatever
chefs want them to be! A stricter
aesthetic
difference,
mostly
ignored today, has sort of floated
down the ages: pâté is smoother, and more likely to contain liver; terrine is
coarser, and more likely to contain non-meat things. But forget I just said
that. So many modern chefs are not minding their ps and ts, naming their
creations in any fashion they like (cantaloupe carpaccio, anyone?) Today,
pâté and terrine are the same thing, basically…it’s just that they came out
of different, very specific containers a long, long time ago.
JE SUIS
CHAR...CUTERIE!
That said…we wheedled. We cajoled. We played shipping consultant. And
what we have to show for it is an extraordinary array of charcuterie producers
who will be able to send mindblowing stuff directly to your door! We were
able to taste the work of about 25 charcuterie artisans…
My whole mindset has reversed. I LOVE cooking French dinners—but it
was doom & gloom for years as I contemplated getting a great charcuterie
course for my guests to start things off. Now? I am liberated! I can add that
dimension to my Gallickery!
A little later in this Report, I’ll give you the names and backgrounds of eight
deliciously reliable companies from whom you can order charcuterie. For
starters, however, I wanted you to see my Quick Guide to the Best of
American Charcuterie, just below. I have divided charcuterie into four
common categories, and faced off the entries…coming up with the best of
this and the best of that in America in charcuterie’s most common
categories.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 4
PLEASE NOTE: In this story, I am being very tight about my definition of
charcuterie. What’s most exciting to me is the explosion of good pâtés and
terrines in the U.S…so I have decided to focus on that side of charcuterie
(which, to me, is the most magical side, anyway). In the notes that follow…
there will be no hams, no cooked sausages, no smoked duck breasts,
etc…though you could arguably call them “charcuterie.”
Alors, Mesdames et Messieurs…
Here’s my line-up of the best…led by two producers in particular:
HHHHH
PÂTÉ GRAND MÈRE, ÉPICERIE BOULUD
Daniel Boulud’s pâtés and terrines, made in New York, are among the
greatest charcuterie being produced in America today…and this was my
fave of all! This grandma has a pink tone, with a subtle orange shading, and
fairly finely chopped meat. It explodes on your palate with a huge, almost
creamy texture—pure magic!—and the highest seasoning of any Boulud
pâté, including lots of black pepper. But what I really love about it is the
perfect ratio of liver (chicken livers were used) against pork. Oddly, your
palate gets so jacked by this
essentially humble pâté that
you think you’re sensing hints
of foie gras. Does Grandma
have a secret stash? It is so
good that gras or not almost
matters not! Just extraordinary.
HHHHH
RABBIT PÂTÉ,
HOUSEMADE,
FORMAGGIO
KITCHEN
Formaggio,
the
fabulous
gourmet storefront mecca in
Cambridge,
Massachusetts,
also has a crazy good hand with charcuterie. This is an aspic-coated affair
(light amber, with delicious savor), with a thin layer of prosciutto di Parma
under the aspic. Medium chunks of meat inside, pink-gray, with good
chunks of white fat as well, and some pistachios. VERY French tasting, with
its combo of uncured bacon, rabbit liver and pork liver. Lovely simultaneous
impression of creaminess and resilience, plus little chunks you can chew.
Excellent seasoning. Rabbit is a very subtle meat, so don’t look for rabbit
flavor—but the meat flavor in general wins the day.
HHHH
DUCK PÂTÉ, FORMAGGIO KITCHEN
Another score for Formaggio! A fairly dark-looking pâté (light purply-grey),
wrapped inside of outer strips of housemade pancetta. Very nicely ducky,
but a wine element is the first thing you smell; the pâté contains duck, pork,
pork fat, pork liver, red wine, brandy, and port. Fairly crumbly, with lots of
little white fat chunks. Tons of flavors, including liver at a nice level,
Christmas spices, and
something a little sweet
from the spirits. More
smooth than bouncyresilient, but lovely.
HHHH
PÂTÉ DE
CAMPAGNE,
ÉPICERIE
BOULUD
I purchased a whole mold
of this from Épicerie Boulud, with the dimensions of 4½-inches long,
3½-inches wide, 2-inches deep. The pâté is molded on top, in the center,
like a fat meatball, surrounded by shiny aspic. This is the kind of pâté I
would have been honored to grow up with in my house; like the best of
Boulud, it is insanely homey!
In fact, some might be
surprised at the lofty rating—
because it is very quietly
seasoned, has very little
spice, has no bells and
whistles. But the presence
of something like good,
homemade stock surrounds
it, letting the pure flavor of
pork come through, leading to
a rather comforting buttery
finish. Technically, it has a
pink-grey look, with lots of little white and pink flecks—not totally
amalgamated, but quite amalgamated. There are green flecks of parsley, as
well. Best of all: this is the real, resilient pâté bounce that I would urge any
young chef to understand. Unspectacularly spectacular!
HHHH
TERRINE LAPIN
À LA MOUTARDE,
ÉPICERIE BOULUD
And more Boulud! (Sorry, but
they vanquished the opposition
in this tasting!) This is such a
pretty terrine—with horizontal
shreds of white-pink rabbit
meat held together by lots of
bronze aspic, including about
a dozen small chunks of carrot
per slice. This terrine screams
FRANCE! Subtly meaty, beautiful
bounce from the aspic (they
use a vegetable gelatin for this
one), terrific crunch from the
vegetables—and tiny mustard
seeds, which are more for texture than flavor. Maman!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 5
8 TOP CRITERIA
FOR JUDGING PÂTÉS AND TERRINES
#1 THE MEAT LOAF FACTOR This is the big one for me. Real pâté has bounce, resiliency, and a firmness/tenderness that comes from
the perfect suspension of meat in fat. If a loaf doesn’t have it—if it’s pebbly, grainy, dry—it’s just leftover meat loaf.
#2 FAT CONTENT A classic pâté is loaded with fat. Traditionally, a terrine mold is lined with fat—very thin slices of fatback—before the ground
meat mixture, which itself has lots of fat, is placed in it. The fatback is then folded over the top to enclose the pâté in fat. In a good pâté, you can see the
fat that’s around it, and the fat that’s in it (often in large chunks inside the forcemeat). Without all that fat, things just ain’t the same. By the way, modern
pâté producers are lining their terrines with all kinds of things, which has become a key part of the criteria game. I don’t like it when they use regular old
bacon…but unsmoked bacon is a good option.
#3 SIZE OF CUT Some pâtés are composed of very finely ground, almost puréed meat. That can work. But that is also the condition of canned
pâté. Me, I prefer that my slice of pâté shows a mosaic of cuts: some finely-ground background, medium chunks of one color, larger chunks of another
color and, always, chunks of white fat.
#4 DEPTH OF MEAT FLAVOR
You can practically smell it as you approach a pâté: meat. And more meat. Pâté is an apotheosis of
meat. I don’t care what else it tastes like—but I want my pâté, flavor-wise, to have a heart of meat. Preferably pork!
#5 SEASONING AND SPICES An excellent pâté has enough salt. Some chefs err on this, because most sampling of the pâté mixture
occurs when the chef sautés a little clump in a pan…but…the colder a pâté gets, the more it needs salt! Then there’s the spicing. It is classic in France
to perk up a pâté with a mixture of spices, often referred to as quatre épices, four spices. Most chefs don’t reveal their signature blend of four, but these
mixtures often include pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger (there are a bunch of other options, too). For me, the spicing is done well when it’s subtle: you
can just barely taste that it’s there.
#6 THE LIVER FACTOR
Wide disagreement on this one, because not everyone loves liver. Though I’d agree that excellent pâté can be
made without liver, I’m a liver lover. That doesn’t mean I need a lot of liver—maybe 20-30% of the meat mixture is sufficient—but, to me, a good country
pâté without some lurking, gamy liver, is a country pâté that has lost its soul. Of course, liver freaks like me also appreciate a liver pâté, which is made
entirely with liver. Special occasions only.
#7 GARLIC
There’s no ingredient that ruins pâté as often as garlic. Sure, I love garlic, and want a little bit in many kinds of pâté. But it so often
happens, in American wannabe pâtés, that garlic is the overwhelming thing you taste. Bad. (I’m not sure why…but I so often see the combination of too
much garlic and meat loaf-like pâté. As Claudius says to Gertrude in Hamlet, “sorrows come not in single spies, but in battalions!”)
#8 ASPIC MANAGEMENT
And one more “Americanism” regarding pâté: many of my countrymen hate aspic, find its jiggle repulsive.
Maybe that’s why American chefs, when they do use aspic in pâté, often seem to use it badly, as if they haven’t had enough experience with it. In France,
aspic in pâté is classic. Often, a border of aspic surrounds a pâté in its mold. Other times, chunks of meat inside the pâté are held together by aspic.
Whatever its use in charcuterie, aspic should have a deep stock flavor, and be brilliantly clear from having been turned into a consommé first (with eggs
and eggshells as particle attractors) before chilling it into aspic. God, I admire a good classic aspic!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 6
MORE TOP PÂTéS AND TERRINES...
HHHHH
HHHH
TERRINE DE CANARD
AU FIGUE, ÉPICERIE
BOULUD
RABBIT AND PORK
CHEEK PÂTÉ,
SMOKING GOOSE
(DORMAN ST.
MEATERY)
And finally…the Midwest gets
into the act!…Indianapolis, in
fact, from the great butcher shop
Smoking Goose (Dorman St.
Meatery). The slice I got from them was square, about 4x4-inches; the
whole pâté had been wrapped in strips of uncured bacon. The look of the
slice was mild pink-brown, with bits of coarse chunks scattered
throughout. Again, a “rabbit” flavor is hard to detect in a pâté…but this
one has a lovely mainstream porky essence…even a little gamy, as if the
pork is slightly “off” (but in a good way!) And broad hints of liver. Intriguing
textures. As a whole, it’s crumbly and creamy, at the same time—with
hard little knots here and there. The meaty flavors carry you along…until,
towards the “finish,” a subtle riot (oxymoron?) of Christmas spices,
ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg breaks out.
PÂTÉS AND TERRINES
WITH FRUIT
Daniel scores again…with this
terrific terrine that features the best
marriage of fruit and meat among
all the fruity loaves we tasted! That
is so because not only are the big
pieces of fig sweet and figgy, but…
the fig flavor spreads out through
the whole terrine to make you
conscious of fig and duck in every
bite. And man, is this ducky—pink
forcemeat with lots of violent red
chunks, riding on a wave of delicious, creamy duck fat (also visible as
chunks). Wow, is this good!
HHHHH
COUNTRY PÂTÉ OF
PORK AND FIGS
WITH UNCURED
BACON, SMOKING
GOOSE (DORMAN ST.
MEATERY)
Back to Indianapolis! And this
pâté’s even better than the last
one! Also a square slice. High,
darkish pink, with a ton of white
fat chunks. A smooth cut, and
a smooth chew in the mouth. The excitement’s in the great flavors. There is
an awesome taste of aged pork—so aged, it almost leads to a slightly bitter
lagniappe. I love it! Seasoned just-so with salt. A complex but subtle spice
background, perfectly managed. And let’s not forget—chunks of fig that
pop sweetly in your mouth alongside of everything else!
HHHH
PÂTÉ DE CHEVREUIL
AUX ABRICOTS
ET NOISETTES,
FABRIQUE DÉLICES
I broke out this category because so many pâtés and terrines, in our
sampling, arrived with fruit: prunes, apricots, figs, etc. These products
are still basically pâtés and terrines…but it’s interesting that as America
gets more into this subject, the sweet element is on the rise. Once upon
a time in France, the combination of savory and sweet in the same dish
was considered a no-no (they would criticize dishes that were “salésucré,” or salty-sweet), but Americans have never had that problem!
And, even in France today, the old rules are coming down; it is now not
uncommon to see pâtés and terrines with a fruit component (even main
courses in restaurants with a fruit component!) It makes quite a difference
in the profile of a pâté or terrine. For one thing, I’d look for a crisp, dry
white wine with a savory pâté…and a lightly sweet wine (like Coteaux du
Layon) with a fruity pâté!
A very divisive pâté from
northern California…but I’m
obviously on the pro side! It’s
venison pâté, sure…but it
tastes very much like aged
venison, which is to say quite
gamy. The other controversial element was the chewy, knotty bits strewn
throughout the loaf we had; I found they added “reality,” in a good way, but
some found them literally difficult to chew. Quite dark in color, with lots of
pink flecks against the dark background. You can also see right away that
this pâté has a fall-apart, kinda shreddy character…one of the best combos
of tender and chewy in the tasting…really a romp of textures…and flavors!
In addition to the gamy thang, there’s an unmistakable air of Christmas
spice about it. Not to mention the sweet contribution of the apricots, and
the very nutty character of the wonderful-tasting whole hazelnuts. Love it or
hate it…it sure has a lot goin’ on!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 7
RILLETTES
HHHHH
PORK RILLETTES, FORMAGGIO KITCHEN
If you like your rillettes a little more subtle—but still so Gallic you should
doff your beret—this small, round jar from Cambridge, Massachusetts is
for you. With a rubber seal and a clip top, it looks very much like a
homemade thing. And that applies to the wonderful rillettes inside, as
well! Light pink and mildly shreddy, though a little more smooth than
some others. As with the Olympia rillettes, wonderfully porky and real
tasting. To me, it’s a little too subtle in seasoning, especially on the salt
side—but the lower salt brings out a kind of sweetness in the rillettes
that’s delicious. As I say—you may go for Oregon, you may go for
Massachusetts. Until you know…go for them both!!!
HHHH
DUCK RILLETTES, HUDSON VALLEY DUCK FARM
I
’ve always loved rillettes…but surprise, surprise…this turned out to be
one of the best charcuterie categories in America! Actually, it’s not that
much of a surprise…for rillettes take less technical proficiency to make
than pâtés or terrines do. The classic method (from the Loire Valley)
involves seasoning large cubes of pork, then cooking them slowly, in pork
fat to cover. The hot, liquid fat comes above the pork chunks in the pot, and
slowly bloop-bloops for 4-5 hours. The chunks come out of the pot, supertender, and, classically, are shredded with two forks. Then the shreds are
placed in a crock, and the warm pork fat is poured over all…again,
completely covering the pork. Chill time. A few days later, when the
protective blanket of fat is white and completely chilled…voilà!…you have
rillettes du porc. It is a fabulous way to start a country meal: serve it with
crusty bread, and a spreading knife…and start spreading, mon ami! (My
picture, in a kind of mock WANTED poster, used to hang on the wall of a
butcher shop in Tours…as if to say…“don’t let this bingeing American get
anywhere near your supplies of rillettes!”) ALL of the rillettes we sampled in
this tasting were at least very good…with three of them ranking as excellent.
Of course, we saw a range of the main ingredient (as you do in France
today, from duck to salmon)…but my heart belongs to oink-oink.
And then there’s New York! The country’s leading duck-raising foie gras
producer is also into duck confit, of course; confit-making is kind of a
natural by-product of foie gras raising. But Hudson Valley Duck Farm
takes it one step further: they turn their confit into duck rillettes! This
square, hard plastic tub (measuring 3½ x 3½ x 1½-inches deep,
weighing 8 ounces) will drive amateurs de canard wild. It just couldn’t
be duckier!
FOIE GRAS
HHHHH
PORK RILLETTES, OLYMPIA PROVISIONS
Olympia Provisions is a restaurant, a shop, and, behind them, a factory, in
Portland, Oregon. Using local Oregon pork…man, do they hit a home run
on rillettes! The small shreds feel very much like they’re fork separated…
but through some kind of charcuterie magic (probably spelled F-A-T) the
rillettes are firmly held together. I love the texture…and the flavor! Superporky, and super pork-fatty (you clearly taste both!). The seasoning is great,
along with a very present but just-right dimension of charcuterie spice.
Want to feel as if you’re in France? Get out your baguette, and you’re ready
to allez-y.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 8
There’s lots of confusion out there about foie gras, in so many ways. Let’s
pass up the moral confusion, for starters. In the middle of the night, I
think ALL meat-eating is barbaric (though I’m evidently not going to
change)—but why do people insist on picking on SOME kinds of meat,
and not others?
The confusion I have in mind is the association of foie gras with some of
the key charcuterie terms. The unschooled have so often heard the
phrases “pâté de foie gras” or “terrine de foie gras,” that when they hear
“pâté,” or “terrine”…they think it’s foie gras! Obviously, it’s usually not!
In fact, some on the other side of charcuterie experience would argue that
foie gras is NOT charcuterie…that it’s its own category.
I’m including foie gras in my charcuterie round-up because it’s so popular
now in the U.S., and has so many similarities to classic charcuterie (cold,
composed meat that you eat in slices!). And there’s another reason, too…
some of what we have is so good, I don’t want you to miss out!
So let’s wipe our memories clean of those shitty little cans containing “foie
gras,” that used to be the only game in town. This was the case when I was
growing up: there was simply no real foie gras available in America until the
1980s.
What’s real? Foie gras, obviously, is the fattened liver of a duck or a goose.
When taken out of the animal, it is quite large—a couple of pounds, and
has a weird, fleshy-pasty look. It doesn’t look like something raw. Many
Americans first experienced foie gras, in France, where more often than not
they had a sautéed version in a restaurant: slices of the raw liver are flashfried in a pan, creating foie gras chaud. The warm foie gras continues in
popularity in France, and is crazy popular here. But you couldn’t call it
“charcuterie.”
“Charcuterie” does apply to a pâté, or a terrine, made from fresh foie gras;
the raw pieces are combined in a mold, or cheesecloth, and cooked. They
meld together, are chilled, and served five days later (after resting), cold, as
terrine de foie gras. Believe it or not…this is the form of foie gras that is
most worshipped in France, especially at holiday time!
No one was force-feeding ducks or geese in the U.S. as of 1980 or so…so,
no foie gras in America. Importation of French-made terrines was both
forbidden, and crazily exorbitant to Americans who didn’t yet know the joy
of foie gras. But along came Michael Ginor, who started raising ducks for
foie gras in the Hudson Valley in the early 1980s. And along came Ariane
Daguin to distribute his foie gras through her new company, D’Artagnan.
She was the perfect player at the perfect moment: she grew up in Gascony,
one of the foie gras meccas of France, with a superstar-chef as a Dad.
The foie gras business has had its ups and downs in the U.S.; gastronomic
Puritans are always trying to get foie gras outlawed, and have had some
major successes (I’m delighted to point out that the PETA forces recently
lost in California, where a ban they’d helped impose was lifted in January
2015). But the big point is this: if you’re in the U.S. and you want a terrine
of foie gras these days, you can get it. No problem.
The only remaining problems are the bedeviling classifications. It’s not
always easy to know when you’re getting pure foie gras, because so many
foie gras products today have confusing names. If you’re not careful, you
may set out for foie gras…but end up with a mousse that has 1% foie gras
in it!
Torchon of foie gras
for us eaters…I don’t know yet. There are marvelous versions of each
readily available.
HHHHH
DUCK FOIE GRAS TORCHON, D’ARTAGNAN
I love this torchon best of all the foie gras products in our tasting, due to its
irregularities. There’s more deep yellow fat on one side than on the other.
There’s an unpredictable pattern of meat chunks inside the torchon: some
smooth spots, some chunky spots. Everything feels hand-made in this
beauty. Springy, resilient foie, that tastes like sweet meat in your mouth with
an insane buttery glow.
HHHHH
TORCHON MOULARD FOIE GRAS,
HUDSON VALLEY DUCK FARM
Michael Ginor (who may have grown the duck for D’Artagnan’s torchon
above), does just GREAT with his own ducks. Also irregular; when you cut
a round slice, most of the deep yellow fat is bunched up on one side. My
favorite feature in this torchon is a sense of “aliveness;” it pops when you
bite into it, in a way that the skin between your thumb and forefinger might
pop if you bit into it! Weird, but true. The longest finish of all the foie gras
samples I tasted.
My usual recommendation is: bite the bullet. Pay the big bucks for highend foie gras charcuterie that has no question marks, just dollar marks.
There are some being made today in America (see just below) that can go
web-to-web with the best of France.
HHHHH
And there’s only one classification detail you need to know in this rarefied
area of foie gras buying. It’s a dichotomy. You can buy your foie gras either
in a terrine—yup, that’s a rectangular mold, the same kind used for, say,
pork terrines—or you can buy a “torchon” of foie gras, which has become
increasingly popular. What’s a torchon? It translates as “tea towel.” The idea
is that the chef tightly wraps raw foie gras chunks, seasoned, in a tea towel;
the concoction should look like a cylinder. Chef gently poaches it, removes
it, lets it chill (again, several days)…and you’ve got a torchon de foie gras.
What’s better? Terrine or torchon? The latter is definitely easier for chefs. As
Ginor’s terrine is not as elegant or alive in feel as his torchon—it is a little
“chalkier” in texture—but it is the “duckiest” foie gras of all in our tasting.
Deep, deep duck flavor, with a wonderful foie-gras glow to it—which kind of
“evaporates” in your mouth after 3-5 seconds.
TERRINE OF MOULARD FOIE GRAS,
HUDSON VALLEY DUCK FARM
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 9
MY FAVORITE PRODUCERS OF
SHIPPABLE CHARUTERIE
IN THE U.S.
And, lastly…
We tasted our way through quite a few in this meaty marathon…but decided
on the following eight as our favorite, most consistent producers. They are
listed in alphabetical order:
D’Artagnan
280 Wilson Avenue, Newark, NJ 07105
(973) 465-1870 • Dartagnan.com
Orders@Dartagnan.com
Founded in 1984 by Ariane Daguin and George Faison (who now heads up
DeBragga & Spitler Meats). Ariane’s father was the chef-owner of Michelinstarred Hôtel de France in Auch, France. After moving to the US to study at
Columbia University, Ariane was presented (by Michael Ginor) with the opportunity to market the first domestically-produced foie gras. She grabbed it,
and the rest is history. A $75 million business today, with over 125 employees
(based in New Jersey), D’Artagnan supplies a staggering variety of meats to
restaurants and home customers. The company prides itself on using small
farms committed to free-range, sustainable and humane practices without
antibiotics and hormones.
We found D’Artagnan on a high quality plane through many different
products. In addition to the stand-outs above, I definitely liked their log of
Duck Foie Gras with 2% Truffles (a creamy, mousse-y thing); their Mousse
Basquaise (made with roasted bell peppers), their Pheasant Herbette (a pâté
with a wonderful France-like chew), and the Terrine Mousquetaire (a very
rich and moist terrine with aspic).
Épicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
(212) 595-9606 • EpicerieBoulud.com
Daniel Boulud is an empire-builder, for sure…but no part of his empire is
more imperial to me than a trio of establishments he has across from Lincoln
Center in New York. In 2010, Daniel Boulud opened Bar Boulud in that area,
with a focus on charcuterie—bringing over from France charcutier Aurélian
Dufour, protégé of French charcuterie legend Gilles Verot. Dufour makes all
of the charcuterie for Boulud’s restaurants—and for Épicerie Boulud, the
retail outlet they opened next to Bar Boulud. (M. Verot himself, by the way,
journeys over from Paris every few months to check in). All of the meats used
in the charcuterie are from small local farms, the pork being 100% Berkshire
(they use about 4-5,000 lbs. of pork every week). The samples I picked up
were what was available at the Épicerie Boulud counter on the day I visited;
the Pâté de Campagne is always available online as a part of their charcuterie
box. If you visit these two charcuterie meccas…you might want to visit Boulud
Sud as well, around the corner, which is my favorite of ALL Boulud restaurants.
What makes their pâtés and terrines so good is a real Mama hominess about
them, as if they’re all based on meat stocks that have been simmering for
hours in a country kitchen. Épicerie Boulud romped through the pâté and
terrine tasting described above. I was also ga-ga about their Pâté Grand Père
(with the deepest “stock” background of all), their Pâté en Croûte of Guinea
Hen and Veal (amazingly beautiful layered look), and their Fromage de Tête
(gorgeous big chunks of red cured pork, held together by a great aspic).
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 10
Fabrique Délices
1610 Delta Court, Unit #1, Hayward, CA 94544-7043
(510) 441-9500 • FabriqueDélices.com
Info@FabriqueDelices.com
This is a HUGE operation, French in origin, now based at a plant in
Hayward, California. Frankly, when I looked over the samples they sent us,
I wasn’t expecting too much, quality-wise. One indelible memory from the
whole tasting is confronting those huge, six-pound loaves of Fabrique
Délices pâtés and terrines on our tasting table. The sight made me think of
food service right away…and I’m sure they sell tons to restaurants, hotels
and institutions (they have over 150 products, and turn out 3,000 pounds
of charcuterie every day!). In the end, however, I got much more than I
bargained for quality-wise.
We tasted 11 different products from Fabrique Délices, most of them massive
10-inch long, 4-inch wide, 4-inch high pâtés. And though only one ended up
in our top 15 (starting on p. 5)…the consistency of all the rest was pretty
impressive. I guess you could say there is something ever-so-slightly industrial
about these pâtés—that’s why I preferred the venison one, I guess, with its
off-beat irregularities—but that would be a quibble. These are good pâtés,
certainly very French in character.
After the venison pâté, my next favorites were the Campagne Forestier (pork,
pork liver, mushrooms); the Pâté de Lapin (with nice chewy bits of pork
inside the rabbit pâté); and the Pâté de Faisan aux Figues, Pistaches et Porto
(a little more delicate AND more complex than the others)…all in a dead
heat, rating-wise. One thing that endeared me to all of them is the fat wrapper
used by Fabrique Délices—usually caul fat, which lends a lovely striated
look. I also liked Fabrique’s way with duck: a firm, earthy Duck & Pork
Galantine with Pistachios, and a fine Rillettes de Périgord, made with
shredded duck (this is the best of the three rillettes they make).
Formaggio Kitchen
244 Huron Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354-4750 • FormaggioKitchen.com
Info@FormaggioKitchen.com
Formaggio Kitchen, a stone’s throw from Harvard University, just may be the
best small gourmet grocery in America, with incredible strengths in every
category from cheese, to bread, to wine, to organic vegetables, to charcuterie,
and much more. It opened in 1978; the current owner is dynamic Ihsan
Gurdal, who took over in 1992. Charcuterie is a good demonstration of
Formaggio’s seriousness of purpose; charcutière Julie Biggs has been
making charcuterie there for over five years, sourcing much of her meat
through the great Savenor’s Market in Cambridge—back in the day, Julia
Childs’ favorite butcher. Julie loves working with local, grass-fed and
hormone-free meats: the pork and beef come from PT Farm in North
Haverhill, NH; and the duck comes from LaBelle Farms in Ferndale, NY. At
Formaggio, they speak of “the core” charcuterie recipes as one speaks of
holy relics in a church. Julie notes that the “core recipes” still form the base
of what they do…but she is given latitude to create. “I base my recipes,” she
says, “on the meat/salt/fat ratios of our original recipes and change the flavor
components according to my taste and the product I am looking to create.”
She has come to “own” some of my great favorites from Formaggio: the Pâté
de Campagne (very porky, with a browned fat flavor), the Rabbit Pâté
(described above), the Pork Rillettes (described above), the Pâté Forestier
(with its considerable black-chunk presence of wild local mushrooms), the
Duck Pâté (described above, and with heavy influence from a Julia Child
recipe), and the Tongue and Cheek Terrine (amazing combo of beef cheeks,
pork cheeks, pork fat, pork liver, guanciale and corned beef tongue). “The
tongue and cheek terrine recipe,” Julie says, “evolved from a combination of
a customer query about making a beef-based pâté, which I’d never thought
of doing, and finding a good use for pork cheeks (the little muscle attached
to the jowl) left over from making guanciale. I liked the idea of garnishing with
cubes of corned beef tongue, and so was born the tongue and cheek.”
Somehow, I’m certain she’s not being tongue-in-cheek as she describes it.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras/
Hudson Valley Duck Farm
80 Brooks Road, Ferndale, NY 12734
(845) 292-2500 • HudsonValleyFoieGras.com
Info@HudsonValleyFoieGras.com
They should make this farm a shrine. Opened in the early 1980s by the-nowgastro-famous Michael Ginor, and initially called Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the
enterprise was born to do something quite unusual in America: raise ducks
for foie gras! It had never been done on these shores before. Ginor’s partner,
Izzy Yanay, was aware of a new technique from Israel (a major foie grasproducing nation) to crossbreed a Muscovy male duck with a female Pekin:
object, the Moulard duck, now thought everywhere to be the biggest,
meatiest, best duck for foie gras (“It’s like a mule!” Ariane once told me.
“That’s why it’s called Moulard!”) At first, Ginor’s raw foie gras went to
D’Artagnan to sell, and to convert into foie gras terrine. Later, Ginor started
making his own foie gras products from the foie gras he raises. After having
become a potshot for PETA activists, Ginor recently re-named his farm and
production facility Hudson Valley Duck Farm. Today, it is situated on 200
acres in Ferndale, New York…and it could easily be argued that they are
America’s foie gras leaders. (Oops! A few more bodyguards needed!)
All three Hudson Duck Farm products we tasted got into our Quick Guide
above.
Olympia Provisions
107 SE Washington St, Portland, OR 97214
Meat Department (503) 894-8275 • OlympiaProvisions.com
Info@OlympicProvisions.com
This is a Portland, Oregon charcuterie shop and restaurant—with a factory
(30,000 square feet!), and a curing facility (the first USDA-approved curing
facility in Oregon) to back it all up. Their “salumist” (I love the name! Feels
like Portlandia!) is Elias Cairo. He spent five years apprenticing in
Switzerland under Chef Annegret Schlumpf, and oversees all production at
the factory. The products we sampled have been made at the restaurant for
about five years, but became available to the public (including crosscountry internet order) three years ago. All of their pork comes from Carlton
Farms, a co-op in Carlton, Oregon.
In addition to the rillettes we enthroned above, the Pork Pistachio Pâté has
the right chewy-springy moves (tastes a little less artisanal than the rillettes),
and the creamy Pork Liver Mousse is not only for liver freaks…the liver
dwells side-by-side with very apparent and very delicious pork fat.
NOTE: Don’t be confused! Some of this company’s products, and branding,
say “Olympic” not “Olympia.”There’s a simple reason why: they USED to be
called Olympic, but changed the company name to Olympia in 2014 after
receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the International Olympic
Committee!
Rougié
1661 Rue Marcoux Marieville, QC J3M 1E8 CANADA
(450) 460-2107 #222 • Rougie.us
Rougié is something of an enigma to me. Begun as a gourmet shop in
Périgord, France in 1875, the company went global in the 1950s. Before
the current foie gras and charcuterie boom, there were times when all I
could count on for decent products of this type in America was Rougié. So
I have a very positive association with the name “Rougié”…and insisted, of
course, that we do a wide sampling of their products in our preparation for
this story.
And now the bad news: they didn’t do very well. On the pâté and terrine
side, their products were some of the worst we tasted: grainy, cat food-like.
The fresh foie gras should have been better; the company is in Marieville,
Quebec, and sources its foie gras from Palmex Farms, a well-regarded
Quebeçoise operation, and flash-freezes its foie gras products so that when
it’s defrosted, it theoretically has a “fresher” quality than others. It doesn’t.
With great excitement, I sampled their Duck Foie Gras Terrine, and their
Duck Foie Gras Torchon—finding each to be chalky in texture (something
like halvah!), and less profound in flavor than the products of either Hudson
Valley Duck Farm or D’Artagnan.
Could they be “going through” something right now? I’m going to hope so.
That’s why I’ve included them in this list. I’m gambling that someday soon
Rougié will be restored to the position of high quality I knew it to have for so
many decades. Let’s keep an open mind and keep sampling.
Smoking Goose
407 North Dorman Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 638-6328 • SmokingGoose.com
Here’s a perfect example of the new generation of charcutiers. Goose the
Market was founded in Indianapolis in 2007 by chef Chris Eley and his
wife, Mollie, both Indiana natives. The two were high school sweethearts
who moved to Chicago post-college, where Chris cooked in various
restaurants and discovered that “protein is his passion.” They enjoyed the
“corner butcher” shops in Chicago, and thought about opening their own…
back in Indianapolis, of course. The Goose uses old-world traditional
methods with an Indiana twist, and meat “from healthy animals raised on
independent farms in Indiana.” Chris has a relationship with every
partnering farm they use. The Eleys promise a fully traceable product, right
down to the farm, and receive whole animals for butchering. Smoking
Goose is their wholesale charcuterie arm, a large, USDA-certified production
facility, which they opened in 2011.
Two of Smoking Goose’s products made our top list of 15 charcuterie items
(see their products on p. 7). Falling just short—but still excellent—is their
All-Natural Smoked Elk Pâté with Uncured Bacon (quite dark and garlicky).
NOTE: We all owe a debt of gratitude to the company called Trois Petits
Cochons, which was founded in Greenwich Village in 1975—during the
dark, antediluvian days of tinned pâté in the U.S. “Three Little Pigs” really
wanted to change the pâté climate, and really did; their products were
among the very first widely available fresh pâtés and terrines that seemed
like what you might get in France. We tasted their contemporary line, of
course—and though the company is making a fine Pâté Grand-Mère (with
pork, chicken liver and Armagnac), in the aggregate they couldn’t crack
our list of the top 8 producers now available to American consumers. This
doesn’t speak against Trois Petits Cochons…it speaks for the incredible
talent in America that is coming down the charcuterie pike!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 11
charcuterie hullabaloo:
BOULUD, BOULUD,
AND MORE BOULUD!
The French-born, New York-based chef Daniel Boulud kept coming up
magnifique in my charcuterie research!
I’m not surprised…because this is exactly the kind of thing I’ve learned to
adore from Daniel Boulud! May I be honest? Though Daniel’s reputation is
for big-deal, creative, three-star kind of food...and though his main
restaurant, Daniel, is currently a three-star Michelin…
I’ve always felt much more strongly about Daniel’s cuisine bourgeoise!
He’s a farm boy from near Lyon, steeped in the wonderful real-food
traditions of that great eatin’ region. As he developed his craft in NYC—
particularly in the kitchen that made him famous, Le Cirque—he realized
that in the 1980s what gets a chef on the radar is the creative stuff. He
knew that Tripe Lyonnaise is not gonna fly like Nage of Kaffir Lime and
Peekytoe Crab (a crustacean name he co-invented with Maine seafood
specialist Rod Mitchell). So, sadly, in his showcase restaurant he went
almost completely with inventiveness, and mostly ignored the food that ran
through his veins. Sadly, I say, because the other three-star guys…Ripert,
Keller, Ducasse, etc…had a better grip on All That’s New. I longed for
Boulud’s treasured grip on All That’s Classic. I’m quite sure that the
Michelin inspectors agreed with me:
when the Red Guide to New York was
first published, Daniel was not among the
three-star restaurants. Was his Peekytoe
Crab a little peaked?
Aaron Bludorn, Executive Chef of Café Boulud in New York City
3) spreads his influence to other chefs in Daniel’s realm (see the info
about Café Boulud below)
Oh my gosh, are we lucky (and Épicerie Boulud ships all over the country!
See the write-ups earlier in this article about pâtés from Épicerie Boulud!)
But we’re lucky in another way, as well.
As I was researching this story, I kept hearing reports that the best pâté of
all, in New York City, is at another Boulud satellite: Café Boulud, which is
the original space on East 76th Street that Daniel occupied after leaving Le
Cirque in 1993 (the three-star Daniel is
now housed in the Mayfair Hotel—which
was the address of the original Le Cirque,
where Daniel first came to fame!)
it is abundantly clear that
Aaron Bludorn
is a master of charcuterie...
In recent years, Daniel…who is nothing if
not restless, resourceful, and smart…
found ways to retain his precious temple of invention (Restaurant Daniel
has now had three stars for a few years)…while putting his more traditional
impulses into other venues. As I said…smart.
Seven years ago, in 2008, Daniel made the smartest move of all. He
decided to open a restaurant dedicated to something very near and dear to
his boyhood heart: charcuterie! Bar Boulud, across from Lincoln Center on
the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is America’s temple of charcuterie! At
the time of opening, Boulud got into cahoots with one of France’s greatest
charcuterie artists, Gilles Verot—who still visits Bar Boulud for a check-up
every few months (no…wait…HE checks up THEM!). But from the
beginning, Verot installed his talented protegé there, Aurélien Dufour, who:
So I got me to lunch at Café Boulud
recently, where I met Executive Chef
Aaron Bludorn—a talented, affable Seattle native, with a passion for
charcuterie! My first question, before I tasted, was: “Is the Verot/Dufour
team behind the pâtés at Café Boulud?”
“No,” said Bludorn. “I have worked with them, I have learned from them.
But what you get at Café Boulud is completely different. It is unique.”
So this extra feather in Daniel’s cap has yet another color!
Fair enough. But how is the charcuterie at Café Boulud different?
“Well,” Bludorn said, “I love pâté de campagne as much as the next
Francophile. But given our clientele at Café Boulud”—a very tony gathering
of wealthy Upper East Side folks—“we try to make charcuterie that’s more
refined, more elegant.”
1) makes all the charcuterie for Bar Boulud
His description is PERFECT:
2) makes all the charcuterie for Daniel’s great nearby retail shop, Épicerie
Boulud
I proceeded to taste these four different Bludorn-made pâtés and talk them
over with the chef.
The dazzling array of Bludorn’s charcuterie
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 12
• The one that gets all the buzz is the Guinea Hen Terrine—which has an
interesting back story as well, representing an attempt by Bludorn to
“create a showcase” for guinea hens raised at a Catskills farm called
Mauer’s Mountain Farms, owned by farmer/entrepreneur Peter Mauer....I
personally love guinea hen—deeper than chicken, but not earthy like
pigeon—so my papillae were on full alert.
The farce is similar to the farce of the Guinea Hen Terrine—except, of
course, it’s made from pheasant, and it includes pistachios. AND…it
appears in FIVE different layers! Separating those layers are three layers of
pheasant breast, and two layers of foie gras. Additionally, the wrapping
used to keep the fat in is not lardo, or fatback…it’s bacon! “This gives it
more of an American attitude,” says Bludorn, with an American attitude.
To cut to the chase: the Guinea Hen
Terrine at Café Boulud (very different
from the Guinea Hen Terrine at Épicerie
Boulud) is excellent! EXCELLENT!
Worth the fuss. But it is so refined, that
I might not call it my favorite slab in
Manhattan. Make no mistake: it is in
the running! Especially if you like foie
gras and refinement.
I like the terrine mucho. Again, it has the gentle textural refinement of the
guinea hen terrine…but with all of the layering it’s more of a textural ride.
Downside: it’s not quite as intense in flavor as the Guinea Hen Terrine.
What we have here is a tiered affair.
At top and bottom of the slice are layers
The Guinea Hen Terrine at
of guinea hen breast. Next to each
Café Boulud
breast strip, as you travel to the center
of the slice, is a thick layer of farce, the heart of this pâté; the farce is a
purée of guinea hen thighs and guinea hen liver, flavored with chanterelle
mushrooms, shallots and Madeira. There is cured fat in there as well; “I like
cured fat in a farce…it gives it a better structure,” says Bludorn. At the
center of the slice is one wide band of seasoned foie gras. And the whole is
wrapped in…not fatback…but lardo.
It quivers. It seduces. It is like perfectly cooked calf’s brains, or an île
flottante, or Robuchon’s mashed potatoes: it floats across your mouth. It
couldn’t be more refined. Could it be less refined? For my taste…perhaps.
The farce is remarkably smooth, and
the foie gras is ethereal…but I
preferred my bites of it when they
included the guinea hen breast strips
at top and bottom. These give the
texture a little oomph, a little resiliency,
a grounding here on Earth.
Roulade of Guinea Hen at Café Boulud
Pheasant Terrine with Pistachios at
Café Boulud
• Next, I tried a variation on this pâté
called Roulade of Guinea Hen: it has
the same ingredients, but it’s rolled…
and instead of being cooked in an
oven, it’s surrounded by cheesecloth
and poached, like a torchon. It too was
excellent…though I’d have to say that
the torchon method (which so many
chefs are using) seemed to leach a
little flavor out of the guinea hen
mixture.
• Lastly, Bludorn showed me the most refined creation of all: his sumptuous
Foie Gras Terrine. This ain’t your basic foie-gras-in-a-mold-and-let it melt
affair. That would be too simple!
For starters, Bludorn soaks raw pieces of
foie gras in a combination of milk, white
Port and Sauternes. The pieces are
lightly poached, then manipulated into a
stainless steel cake mold so that five
layers are formed in the terrine: three of
foie gras, plus two separating layers of
rhubarb-hibiscus gelée (made with agar).
It’s rather amazing how tidy it all is, how
much the foie gras holds its shape.
Reasons? “We use foie gras raised in
Quebec,” Bludorn told me, “that doesn’t
leach out a lot of fat.” I’m used to tender
foie gras terrine…but this baby is really Foie Gras Terrine at Café Boulud
tender. I’m sure there are many wellheeled diners who prefer it like that. I like
my foie gras terrine to bite back a little (to force-feed on me!); if you gently
bite the little flap of skin between your thumb and your forefinger (but not
all the way through!), you get some sense of the resiliency I like in foie gras
terrine.
Well, no matter how many foie gras angels are dancing on the head of this
pin…it is abundantly clear that Aaron Bludorn is a master of charcuterie…
and that Daniel Boulud has yet another charcuterie triumph in his midst!
A thing I learned from Aaron, above all…is the potential for creativity in
charcuterie-making. The guy is so excited about all the different things he
can do…and he works so hard to bring them to brilliant realization. Making
a meat loaf, I admit, has some degree of creativity to it—but Aaron is a good
argument for charcuterie creativity as among the master strokes of French
cuisine.
I’m telling you all of this, obviously, so that you can hie thee hither and get
a taste of this brilliance, when you’re in New York. Ah…but not so fast.
Each of the terrines described above has its own moment in the sun. Here’s
the weather forecast:
• Turning to pâté #3:
GUINEA HEN TERRINE: This has been on the menu (on-and-off) for two
years, with a few tweaks along the way. It’ll be back in Fall 2015.
Bludorn was wondering, he told me:
“How can I make my Guinea Hen
Terrine more complicated?”
ROULADE OF GUINEA HEN: Has occasionally appeared over the last two
years in place of the Guinea Hen Terrine. “May be back as a special,” says
Bludorn.
That’s just what he did with his
Pheasant Terrine with Pistachios. In
effect…this is a ten-layer cake.
PHEASANT TERRINE: A staple of the Winter menu. Not on the menu right
now…but will be back in Winter 2016.
FOIE GRAS TERRINE: A staple of the Spring and Summer menu. On the
menu right now, in fact.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 13
MUSTARD, ANYONE?
Medium-yellow, almost like a split-pea purée with greenish overtones.
Thick but runny. Strongly flavored: salty, tangy, considerable heat in finish.
Lacks a little “mustardy middle,” but tastes a lot like you’re in France.
#2 also without doubt...was from Trader Joe’s. They call it Dijon Mustard
with White Wine, and proclaim on the front label that it’s a “Product of
Dijon, France.” It is a correctly-colored medium-dark yellow mustard, with
just a hint of visual bump in it. It has the big-time horseradish-bite of real
Dijon mustard, without going over the top. Near-perfect seasoning of salt
and vinegar, no sweetness at all (some of the “Dijons” had a sweet American
taste to them!) Very, very good!
A REALLY BIG BRAND stepped up as #3 in the tasting, but the Maille Dijon
Originale is many steps down from the other two. I’m including it because
it is recognizably Dijon mustard...but with a rather bland, commercial taste.
A few other Dijons were tolerable, though nowhere near as good as the top three:
The Dijon Mustard from Laurent du Clos is another Dijon that tastes like
Dijon, but, aside from the vinegariness, lacks punch. The Silver Palate
Dijon Mustard, though correct, also suffers from commercial blandness.
Lastly, Sir Kensington’s Mustard (which says “Dijon” in small letters) is a
trendy New York brand, formulated (like their famous ketchup) to look
upscale and appeal to yuppies; it is a little richer in texture than the other
“Dijons,” and a tad sweeter, but doesn’t deliver the real Dijon flavor.
W
hether to take mustard or not with your charcuterie…depends on
what kind of charcuterie you’re eating! Typically, at bistros in
France, slices of pâté and terrine are served with a crock of
smooth, Dijon mustard on the side…and a few cornichons. For me, the
more livery the content of the pâté or terrine, the more I enjoy the
accompanying tang of mustard. In non-bistro circumstances, when I’m
making a sandwich at home of pâté or terrine—on a good baguette,
please!—a smear of mustard is pretty standard for me.
This article was an excellent opportunity for us at The Rosengarten Report
to throw out a mustard research net, attempting to find the best smooth
Dijon mustard in the U.S. to go with our charcuterie. But a big surprise
awaited us: in smooth Dijon, there wasn’t too much available beyond the
well-known big brands! After a careful search, we were able to turn up
about a dozen Dijon mustards…or, at least, mustards that said “Dijon” on
the label. Unfortunately, few of them had the real taste of a real Dijon
mustard—which is quintessentially mustardy, not too sour, quite hot, and,
ideally, with a touch of a flavor that seems “eggy.”
Here are the best Dijons we tasted:
My favorite jar by far was from a
pretty big French brand, Edmond
Fallot, based in Beaune—but of their
many types available in the U.S.,
make sure to get the one labeled
Moutarde de Dijon (the Fallot with
the “Moutarde de Bourgogne”
designation is not nearly as good).
#1 DIJON: EDMOND FALLOT,
BURGUNDY MUSTARD
(MOUTARDE DE BOURGOGNE,
IGP) Fallot.com
(Made in Beaune with mustard
seeds from Burgundy, and wine from
Burgundy)
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 14
I would not go anywhere near the Dijon mustards from Musette, Westbrae
Natural, Tree of Life Organic, Annie’s Natural, or Uncle Roy’s Better than
Dijon Mustard!
Then came the second surprise: the category of whole grain mustard is
exploding with possibilities! It seems as if nearly everyone with a creative
mustard thought is reserving it for the bumpy, seedy mustard variation. This
type of mustard has never been my favorite—it has always seemed too sour,
and not with the “eggy” heart of a good Dijon—but then came the next
surpirse:
I was enamored of some new-fangled whole grain mustards!!!
Here are the best whole-grain mustards
we tasted:
#1 WHOLE GRAIN; LUSTY MONK, ORIGINAL SIN MUSTARD,
FRESH-GROUND (Asheville, North Carolina) LustyMonk.com
#1, without doubt, is one of the greatest mustards I have ever tasted…
made in Asheville, North Carolina, of all places! The company is called
Lusty Monk, and the label that flipped me
out is called “Original Sin Mustard, Fresh
Ground.” This one mustard is like an allstar team of everything I love about
mustard. It has the sophisticated flavor of
great Dijon, the tangy acid and seductive
bumps of stone ground mustard, the
nostalgic hint of Gulden’s (my boyhood
mustard), plus…heat! Lots of delicious
heat!
Lusty Monk makes a few other mustards
as well, which I also loved…but I wouldn’t
recommend them as charcuterie
mustards (try their Honey Mustard, and
their Chipotle Mustard for other uses).
And here are ten other whole grain mustards that
worked up my enthusiasm...in descending order of
enthusiasm:
CORNICHONS
BEAVER DUSSELDORF MUSTARD, GERMANSTYLE, SPICY HOT (Hillsboro, Oregon)
BeavertonFoods.com
Deep mustard flavor, just a touch of whole grains,
very sour and very hot. An amazing hot dog mustard.
TRADER JOE’S WHOLE GRAIN DIJON MUSTARD
(Dijon, France) TraderJoes.com
And Trader Joe’s scores again! But the score’s a little
lower this time. My favorite aspect is the way the
many seeds, or grains, seem suspended in a kind of
sauce. A lovely overall texture. It’s not quite as sour as many whole grains,
and has a lovely horseradish-y back note, reminiscent of smooth Dijon
mustard. But one note brings it down…or maybe up, if you like this note!
There is a subtle extra taste in here that I can only describe as “curry-like.”
It works for me; will it work for you?
MOUTARDE DE MEAUX, POMMERY (France) Moutarde-de-Meaux.com
The brand that virtually introduced stone ground mustard to the U.S.
decades ago, in its familiar stone crock. Seems less bumpy today than
others…but the taste is very good: vinegary, earthy, mustard-y.
TIN MUSTARD (Brooklyn, New York) TinMustard.com
Mild classic stone ground taste…but…the most amazing crunch-in-yourmouth texture EVER!
THE TABLE HOUSE MUSTARD (Columbus, Ohio) TheTableColumbus.com
Really sophisticated stuff from a delightful restaurant. Great texture, great
pop. A little sweet. Most impressive is the extreme root vegetable taste: raw
horseradish? raw turnip?
INGLEHOFFER, DIJON STONE GROUND MUSTARD
(Germany) BeavertonFoods.com
A big German brand, with a confusing designation! It’s
more like stone-ground than it is like Dijon. Wild beet-y,
or corned beef-y kind of German taste. Quite sour, and
quite delicious.
GOLDEN GRAIN MAPLE WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD,
GREEN MOUNTAIN MUSTARD (Richmond, Vermont)
BuyMustard.com
Excellent crunch…and I really like the way the sweetness cuts the sourness.
THE MUSTARD FACTORY, FRENCH STYLE WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD
(Naples, Florida) The-Mustard-Factory.com
This one should have very wide appeal…because the sourness is cut with
just the right amount of sweetness, because the pop is quite pronounced,
and because once you get past the texture of the grains you’re into a
sensual, slightly mucilaginous ooze.
ANTONIA’S OLD FASHIONED MUSTARD (The Netherlands)
FormaggioKitchen.com
Pasty, creamy texture, quite sour, a little bitter, with a fascinating root
vegetable/potato flavor.
As for the other classic pâté accompaniment…the little pickles called
“cornichons” in France…your choices in the U.S. are not so wide. Do
not expect to walk into a gourmet shop and see what you’d see in a
charcuterie in France…a tray of house-made cornichons! But we do
have a few very good imports from France, albeit in jars packed a while
ago. The main thing to keep in mind is that the proper cornichons to
serve with charcuterie are very, very sour…not at all sweet! There is
some confusion in the marketplace…because some jars of
cornichons refer to themselves also as “gherkins.” Yikes! What a knot!
Technically, a “gherkin” refers to a small cucumber variety, often used
for pickling. Technically, a pickle called a “gherkin” doesn’t have to be
sweet. However…in common American usage…a “gherkin” is usually
a very sweet little pickle. Cornichons in France ain’t sweet at all! That’s
it. Just sayin’. You want to do it the French way? Make sure your
cornichons next to your pâté are intensely sour and not at all sweet.
Edmond Fallot, CORNICHONS EXTRA-FINS
(EXTRA FINE GHERKINS)
Very liquid-y in jar, lots of pearl-onion
companions. Very pickly-smelling and
tasting. Green-garden kind of smell.
Light-ish
green.
Mostly
short
(1¾-inches) and thin. Beautiful, lively
crunch—unusually so for a brined
product. Acidity brings you right up to the
acid threshold, then relieves quickly. No
sweetness, despite the “gherkin”
designation. Exactly what I expect on a
plate in France.
TRADER JOE’S CORNICHONS
Liquid-y in jar, with lots of pickling seeds in bottom of jar. Washed-out
looking small pickles (1¾-inches). Very sexy chew, though: because
they’re small, the compact kind of crunch surprises you. Very French.
Perfect acidity.
ROLAND EXTRA FINE CORNICHONS
Also very liquid-y in jar, with lots of pickling seeds floating. Olive-green.
A little longer (about 2-inches) and fatter. More of a Vlasic’s dill pickle
kind of smell. Crunchy, but not as crunchy as Fallot. This is the version
for American tastes, though again without sweetness: very Vlasic. I like
the sprightly acidity level.
BORNIER WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD, MOUTARDE À L’ANCIENNE
(France) Moutard.com
This makes the list because it is exactly what you expect from stone ground
mustard: sour, bumpy. Taste, unfortunately, is nothing beyond conventional.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 15
Faites-le Vous-Même!
THE BEST PâTé OF ALL IS AT HOME...
WITH THE RIGHT RECIPE AND TECHNIQUE!
Making the Country Pâté:
The 15 Most
Important Factors
1. The amount of fat
A perfectly made pâté…made by ME at home...waiting to be unwrapped and unmolded
P
âté-making has been an obsession for me, ever since that first bite of
rosy, orgasmic, meaty, inscrutable terrine in Paris in 1970. I stood
there at twilight on the Rue Mouffetard, at a porky-smelling old-world
charcuterie shop, French accordions playing “La Vie en Rose” in the
soundtrack of my mind, a rustic slice in my hand, mouth agape, puzzling it
out: “How…did they…do this???”
I’d had a lot of meaty treats in my mostly Italian-American New York life…
but this? I’d never had this! And I knew then and there I’d have to plumb its
secrets, find out why it so triumphantly crosses the alchemical line from
quotidian meat loaf to “golden” pâté…and, most of all, amaze my friends
by making this sucker at home. Because at that time…something like this
was just NOT available in the U.S.
Fast forward 45 years.
During these nearly five decades, a lot of terrine molds have soaked in my
sink in hot water to get the pork fat out! But…labor intensive as that is…the
one thing I’ve found, above all, that presto-change-o turns meat loaf into
pâté…is fat!!!
But it has to be the right kind of fat…actually, right kinds of fat…in the right
proportions, included in the right way, cooked correctly to bring it to its
porcine peak. So if you’re phat-fobic (I like to write “phat-fobic” for these
benighted souls, just to show how backwards their fear is)…move on to the
next page. Warning: there is nothing LEAN about this recipe!
Now, I’ve made all kinds of pâtés over the years. There are so many styles
I love. But I guess if I had to pick one style, as I did for this recipe inclusion…
it would be the most basic of all, the good old-fashioned country pâté. The
ingredients are usually pork, pork fat, liver, garlic, spices and brandy. The
color is pink and the texture is mildly coarse…certainly not smooth!
But beyond that seeming simplicity lies a ton of complication! Picking the
ingredients is simple enough…but then you have to go on to the scores of
nitty-gritty issues that spell authentic or ersatz, successful or manqué.
You’ll see all the things that matter right in the recipe below…but, first, I
wanted to point out to you 15 of the most important issues/decisions in
making a good country pâté:
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 16
This is probably the greatest difference
between “American meat loaf” and
French pâté: the French are not afraid
to lay on the fat. I think a good pâté
should be at the leanest 3:1 in its
meat-to-fat ratio. In whatever way
you’re chopping the pork…you should
chop a good deal of fat right along with
it. (See chopping discussion below) So
if you have 3 pounds of meat, I’d
recommend at least 1 pound of pure
fat. And make sure you buy tender fat
that melts easily! (NOTE: The recipe
below contains fat at a higher fat ratio than 3:1 meat-to-fat. That’s the way
I roll! But feel free to adjust the fat slightly downward if you’re offended by
the ratio. 4:1 meat-to-fat will still yield a pretty good pâté!)
2. Fatback lining
Once you get over the amount of fat in a good pâté…then you have to add
more fat around the pâté! The entire loaf should be covered with wide strips
of fat, encasing the meat within! Why? One of the key realities of pâtémaking is that the fat in the meat mixture wants to melt, of course, while the
pâté is in the oven. That’s one of the reasons pâté made by unskilled pâtémakers is a failure—all the fat has
leaked out! When you remove a
poorly-made pâté from the oven, the
loaf may be floating in a pool of
released fat! One of the key strategies
for preventing this disaster—for
keeping the fat IN the pâté—is to wrap
the loaf in slices of fat! They act as a
wall to prevent fat leakage. There are
numerous options for this prophylactic
fat; in our tasting of pâté producers for
this article, we found lots of producers
Slices of fatback in a pâté mold, getting
using bacon (which I think adds an
ready to receive the filling
untraditional flavor), some producers
using other types of sliceable pork fat. But there is no doubt about it, for
me: the best fat of all for wrapping your pâté is the traditional fat used for
this function. It is called fatback, the subcutaneous fat found just under the
skin all along the pig’s back, and adds the mildest of pork fat flavors. It can
be sliced in perfect, thin, wide slices…ideal for overlapping slightly as you
line your pâté mold before putting the meat mixture in the mold:
The only problem with fatback is…it ain’t available at your supermarket! It
is a good idea to do a little searching among quality butchers in your
neighborhood to see who has it, and is willing to make paper-thin slices for
you. If there’s a French or Italian aura hovering above the butcher shop,
your odds go up!
3. Luting
This fabulous, old-fashioned technique is another way to reinforce the
“wall,” preventing fat leakage. It’s quite simple: after you put the lid on your
mold, there’ll be a small crack all around the rectangle (or oval). Your job:
épices is still widely used. Of course, every charcutier in France has his or
her own blend of four spices, so there is considerable variety out there.
Furthermore, it ain’t necessary to stick to “four”; some quatre épices blends
may have five spices, or six…or even more! Sacre bleu! Traditionally, white
pepper played a very large role in the blend, sometime accounting for 50%
of the mixture. I like mine less peppery, more “spicy” (as you’ll see in the
recipe below). Quatre épices has many uses in French cooking…but it is
absolutely essential for livening up the flavor of charcuterie.
plug it up, so fat doesn’t leak out! And the
plugging material is simply an elementary
dough made from flour and water! You
just dump a cup, or a few cups (depending
on how many terrines you’re preparing) of
all-purpose flour into a large bowl. Start
adding water, and mixing with your
fingers. Scrape down and mix further, as
necessary. No kneading needed, no
seasoning, no yeast. Just bring the flour
and water together into a mostly dry, firm
paste that looks like bread dough. Further
instructions below in the recipe.
4. The mixture: liver?
8. The mixture: brandy
The luting paste in action
When you create the meat mixture that will become your pâté, you face a
fundamental question: liver or no liver? To me, the liver is de rigueur for a
country pâté. Even if you’re not a liver-lover, my guess is that you’ll prefer
the pâté that has the extra earthiness of liver in the meat mixture. In the
recipe below, there’s a good shot of liver–adding earthiness, and a little liver
flavor. If you want less of that, replace some of the liver with pork; if you
want more of it, replace some of the pork with liver. One more good tip: an
elegant liver like calf’s liver is preferable to a cheaper liver–like pork liver.
5. The mixture: chopping?
This is another one of those pâté secrets:
meat loaf is made from meat that has
gone through a meat grinder, pâté
comes from meat cut in more interesting
ways. There are many ways to approach
the chopping…but I insist, unless you’re
trying to make a very smooth terrine,
that at least part of the meat must be
chopped by hand, along with chunks of
fat. This hand-chopped meat will give
the pâté a coarser, more interesting
Hand-chopping part of the meat and fat texture. But the ultimate goal is variety…
with two cleavers in a rapid rat-a-tat-tat
so, as well, I like to chop some of the
motion.
meat and fat to fineness in a food processor, or in a powerful Vitamix. To
this portion of meat that goes into the machine, I like to add all the liver as
well. NOTE: The chopping proportions I’ve used for the recipe below (half
hand, half machine) are not writ in stone. The details of the chop are part
of the art; use your imagination and experiment with different ways to do it!)
6. The mixture: marinating
Whether you have liver in the mixture or not, you will definitely want to
marinate the chopped meats; this brings an incredible extra depth of flavor
to the pâté. I like to marinate meat and fat together (NOT the fatback!) in a
large, well-covered bowl, refrigerated, for at least 4 days. 5 days is even
better! Less than 4 days deprives you of extra flavor.
7. The mixture: quatre épices
Though the inspiration for this spice blend may have been Middle Eastern,
quatre épices (four spices) is a staple of the French kitchen. Once upon a
time, chefs were more inclined to keeping the “exotic” stuff blended
together in one jar: the spices of India became “curry powder,” and the
spices of the Mid-East became “quatre épices” (usually including white
pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and powdered ginger). Intriguingly, despite the
modern tendency to reach for the component spices themselves, quatre
It is traditional to splash a little brandy into the meat mixture while it’s
marinating. I’m very happy with the amount I used in the recipe below: it
gives the pâté a little extra depth…without the pâté ending up tasting like
spirits. You can use more, if you like, but I wouldn’t advise it. The real issue,
however, is the quality of the brandy! In this recipe, I decided to splurge on
my splash: I used Remy Martin XO Cognac (happily, the recipe doesn’t call
for much!) I insist that the upgraded brandy made a difference in the final
flavor—adding complexity that surprised the hell out of me!
9. The mixture: garlic
Here’s another opportunity for subtlety! One of the problems I often see with
American-made pâté is…too much garlic. It’s as if someone in the Yank
kitchen said, “Yeah…let’s make this really European!”…which has the
effect of not making it taste European at all! Just a little bit of garlic (fresh,
of course!) goes a long way in a pâté. And be sure to pick out the garlic
pieces after the meat is done marinating!
10. The mixture: salt
After you’ve chopped the meat, and gotten it ready for placing in the mold…I
advise sautéeing a little bit in a pan to check on salt content. All the classic
rules about salting meat that’s going to end up being served cold apply here:
meat that’s hot tastes saltier than meat that’s cold. So, if your sautéed taste
seems just salty enough…that’s not gonna cut the mustard later! You should
add more salt, until a sautéed bit tastes quite salty. But everyone, of course,
has his or her own salt level. I included the amount I salt that I like in the pâté
recipe below…but please test and find your own level.
11. The mixture: Prague Powder #1
Maybe it’s not a secret…but the addition of Prague Powder #1 is a superimportant element that will make your pâté look like a professional pâté.
And prevent botulism. It is known as a “curing salt” meaning you add it to
meat products, like pâté, and voilà!…your meat ends up with a pleasing
pink color. Think of the color of boiled ham; it was Prague Powder #1, a
combination of sodium nitrate and salt, that caused that. Without the pink,
your ham…and your pâté…would be grey. There is also Prague Powder #2,
which contains some sodium nitrate as well; #2 is used for meats that take
a longer time to “cure,” and are not cooked—such as dry sausage (like
those Italian boys hanging in the salumeria). The two powders are not
interchangeable; for pâté, which of course is cooked, you want Prague
Powder #1. You can easily find it on the Internet, from specialty food
purveyors such as The Meadow (AttheMeadow.com). Sometimes, Prague
Powder #1 carries a brand name, Sel Rose, such as the powder I purchased
for the pâté recipe below; I got mine from the great Manhattan spice
purveyor, Kalustyan’s (Kalustyans.com).
12. Oven temperature
This is A KEY to great pâté. You must cook the thing at a low temperature…
which will help keep the fat IN the meat. My suggestion in the recipe below
is 300°F…but if you want to experiment with 275°F, for a slightly longer
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 17
time, that might work too. Please use
an oven thermometer to make sure
you’ve got this right!
sides of your pâté mold much more even—which means the bottom of the
mold won’t cook more quickly than the mid-level of the mold. Don’t be
skeptical: it works like a charm in making a fat-retentive pâté!
13. The bain-marie
14. Weighting the pâté
I used a few controls in developing the
recipe below; in one of my main tests,
I cooked some pâtés in a bain-marie,
and some without a bain-marie. The
bain-marie pâtés were decidedly
better, with more even fat retention!
The concept is simple: when you cook
The mold sits in a pan with
with a bain-marie (Mary’s bath), you
water...a bain-marie!
pour water into the roasting pan that
contains your pâté mold. The water should come up two-thirds of the way
along the sides of the pâté mold. This keeps the temperature along the
David Rosengarten’s
Classic Pâté de Campagne
When your pâté is done cooking, and you’ve let it cool a bit…you should
remove the luting paste, remove the lid of the terrine, and place a heavy
weight on top of the pâté. Depending on your pâté mold, or terrine, it may
be tricky to find a weight that fits perfectly—but it’s worth the trouble (start
searching for your solution long before you’ve cooked the pâté!) An evenly
placed weight will compress the pâté desirably, and keep all the fat (which
has turned liquid during cooking) into the pâté itself.
15. “Ripening” the pâté
I love this concept: the pâté “ripens” in the refrigerator. But wacky as it
sounds, it’s true: if you wait four or five days to cut into your pâté, you will
be rewarded with a much deeper-tasting pâté.
Et maintenant, mes amis…the recipe!
I like to make my pâtés in small, rectangular, porcelain terrines with a lid. The size of each terrine—each one holds about 2 cups
of pâté mixture—helps control the fat retention and cooking. Larger molds are of course quite possible, even typical—and you
should feel free to convert this recipe into one for larger molds, and therefore larger pâtés—but I have this small terrine thing down
to a science, and I’m sticking with it! If you’d like to purchase terrines similar to the ones that I have, you can acquire them here
(http://bit.ly/1J9Mtem)
Spice mixture:
1 whole clove
¼ tsp whole allspice
¼ tsp white peppercorns
¼ tsp black peppercorns
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1.
Meat mixture (enough for three 2-cup terrines):
2 lbs pork chunks, about ½", all gristle cut away
¾ lbs soft pork fat, also in ½” cubes
1 large clove garlic, smashed into a few pieces
1
8 cup Cognac
¾ tsp spice mixture (see above)
2 bay leaves
2½ tsp salt
Place the clove, allspice, white and black
peppercorns in the grinding container of a spice
grinder. Process until a powder is formed. Add
the ground cinnamon to the grinding container,
along with the grated nutmeg. Whir spices for
another 10 seconds to blend. Reserve.
2.
Place the pork chunks in a large mixing bowl,
along with the soft fat chunks and toss together.
Top with smashed garlic pieces, Cognac, the
spice mixture, and the bay leaves. Mix very well
with your hands. Cover well with plastic wrap,
and refrigerate for 5 days. Toss 2-3 times during
the 5-day marination period.
3.
When ready to prepare pâté (5 days later),
remove garlic chunks and bay leaves. Discard.
Add salt and Prague Powder #1 to meat mixture.
Toss very well to combine.
4.
Remove half of the meat and fat mixture, and
place on cutting board. With two heavy cleavers
(one in each hand), start chopping the meat in
rapid-fire fashion, one cleaver after another.
Within 10-15 minutes, the pile of meat and fat
should be reduced to a coarse chop.
5.
6.
Place the other half of the meat and fat mixture
in a food processor or Vitamix. Add the liver in
medium chunks. Process until a consistency is
reached that’s somewhere between a slightly
coarse grind and a smooth grind. (Don’t worry
about making a mistake! These are the artistic
decisions that go into pâté-making! Your next
batch will benefit from your experience!)
On the counter, combine the hand-chopped
meat and the machine-chopped meat. This is the
time to taste for seasoning. Put a small amount in
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 18
¾ tsp Prague Powder #1
½ lb calf’s liver
Terrine details:
1 lb fatback cut with a slicing machine
(probably by your butcher) into broad,
paper-thin slices
2 cups flour
water
a hot pan, cook it just through, and see if you
think there’s enough salt. If it tastes just
enough…you’ll probably need to add a little
more!
7.
Pre-heat oven to 300°F.
8.
Prepare the three terrine molds. Lay slices of the
fatback in such a way that they sit on the bottom
of the molds while going up the sides and
hanging over the edges of the mold by about 3”
on each side. As you lay them in, it’s best to
overlap them slightly. Remember, you’re trying to
make a fat “case” around the meat that has no
cracks in it for fat leakage.
9.
When the terrines are ready, fill up each terrine
with one-third of the meat. The meat should
come near the top in each terrine. Tamp the
meat down lightly, so that each terrine has a
smooth top to it.
10. Now it’s time to fold over the hanging fatback. On
every side, fold the hanging fatback back over
the terrine, doing your best to completely enclose
it in fat. Press the seams together with your
fingers; the warmth of your fingers will make the
fat coalesce.
11. Time to get luting. Place flour in a large bowl, and
slowly add water until a slightly sticky bread-like
dough is formed. Remove a third of the dough,
and roll it out into a “snake.” Place the terrine lid
over the meat on the terrine, then arrange the
luting paste all around the terrine, covering up
the thin cracks where terrine lid meets terrine
wall. It is important that the dough be moist
enough to stick, that you extend the luting paste
about ½” down the outer side of the wall, and
David Rosengarten’s Classic
Pâté de Campagne
that you obsessively keep pressing the luting
paste into the porcelain, so it sticks. Repeat two
times.
12. When the oven is at 300°F, place the terrines in a
large roasting pan. Fill the pan two-thirds of the
way up the sides of the terrine with warm water.
Place pan with terrines in the oven (middle oven
rack is good), and bake until a meat thermometer
reads 160°F (you can slip the thermometer in
through the luting paste). This should take about
an hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven
when done, and remove terrines from the pan.
Let them cool for a few minutes.
13. Crack the luting paste on all sides of the terrines,
and discard. Lift off the lids. Place your weighting
arrangement on top of the meat (it can be heavy
cans, but something more form-fitted would be
better). Place weighted terrines in the refrigerator,
and hold for five days.
14. When ready to serve, remove cold terrines from
refrigerator. You can either leave them in the
terrines, serving slices out of the terrine…or…you
can remove the whole pâté from each terrine,
and slice it for presentation outside the terrine.
(ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’ve taken the
terrine out of the mold, you do have the option of
removing the fatback around it. I myself prefer to
serve it with a fatback border all around—but it’s
your call.)
15. The traditional presentation of this pâté is with
Dijon mustard, cornichons, and crusty bread.
16. WINE NOTE: Chilled, tingly whites from the Loire
are great with charcuterie! But lightly chilled
young Beaujolais would also do the trick.
Laissez les
pique-niques rouler!
Well, yeah. Remember that picnic in France I told you about way back on
p. 1? That’s the thing…whenever I think of charcuterie, I always think of
that very picnic! The glory!
In fact, charcuterie (nostalgia or not) is a wonderful anchor for any picnic! I
know…when it comes to charcuterie, you may be thinking fancy plates,
and silverware, and crystal stemware, and tout
çela…but I urge you to break set, and think
informal outdoor gatherings when you think
charcuterie! Charcuterie (except at places like
Café Boulud)…is rustic food!
For one thing, charcuterie is highly transportable.
If you’re bringing meat for sandwiches, you will
of course be bringing pre-sliced meat; a ham is
not an easy thing to cut into proper slices at a
picnic, table or no. But a pâté is so easy to
custom cut on the spot; a small board and a
knife are all you need.
While you’re cutting bread for open-faced sandwiches…if you wanna be
really French…you must bring cheese as well! Me, I would bring whole
discs of something runny. A Camembert. An Époisses. Comme ça. They
transport well, because they’re perfectly contained within their rinds until
you have at ‘em on the grass! Then, if they’re round, you cut out triangular
slices from center to rind (I call it “the pizza principle”), and smear ‘em
across your cut bread. Voilà.
INVITED TO
THE PICNIC
If you’re thinking sandwiches, you’re likely to
bring pre-made sandwiches, wrapped in foil or
some such. And, as an on-the-record fan of
the soggy condition of tuna-salad-on-white
several hours after it’s made, I can’t knock premade sandwiches. BUT…slicing a pâté on the
spot, and laying a few slices on top of a just-cut
crusty baguette…that brings you up to a
French kind of quality level in what you’re
eating, pique-nique or not.
Do make sure you’ve got the right bread.
Authentic French baguettes are not so easy to
find—but go for a just-baked bread from a
good bakery, with lots of rustic crust on the
outside, and an inside (called “the crumb”)
that’s not all the way towards cottony-light, nor
all the way towards dense. It should be chewy,
but not too chewy, with big air holes scattered
throughout.
I’d make sure to cut it so that you have pretty
large open slices—about the size of one good
pâté slice. So if you have a round baguette…do
not cut it into thin rounds! Cut it the other way,
into pieces that are say, 5-inches long, with
crust on one side and “the crumb” on the
other. You can make closed sandwiches, or…
what I would do…make open-faced pâté
sandwiches, with a good slather of mustard
(and a little butter smeared on the bread wouldn’t hurt either!)
In fact, these open-faced sandwiches could be the organizing principle of
your picnic. Bring a few pâtés, if possible…as well as other kinds of
charcuterie. Ooooh! Ooooh! I have a PERFECT idea: rillettes! Bring a jar of
rillettes and a spreading knife and you are so good to go!
Along about now you’re looking for vegetables. You
could, of course, bring some tomatoes, or lettuce,
to top your open-faced pâté sandwiches…but that
wouldn’t be very French. You get your vegetables
on the side in a French picnic! Carried to the site in
plastic containers, then spooned onto your paper
or plastic plates, and consumed with forks.
Here are some of the vegetable sides we had at
that nostalgic picnic in France, all purchased at the
local traiteur…but they are some of my favorite
room temp French dishes anyway, and not one of
‘em is hard to make:
Céleri-Rave Rémoulade. A French classic: julienne
of blanched celery root, in a well-seasoned
mayonnaise.
String Beans with a Mustardy Vinaigrette. Make the
dressing thick and yellow, and toss in some very
finely chopped shallots!
Ratatouille. Sure, bring the movie too…but most
important, bring this great Provençal mix-up
of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, olive
oil, etc.
French Potato Salad. NOT the mayonnaise-y kind.
The secret of this one is just a light vinaigrette, lots
of chopped parsley…plus a little chicken stock
mixed into the potato slices while they’re still warm.
Sweet-and-Sour Cooked Red Cabbage Salad with
Apple Slices. For the sake of the wine, don’t go too
sweet; the component I really like here is good red
wine vinegar.
And for dessert? This time of year? Ya wanna be
Français? Strawberries, of course! Just plain
strawberries, popped in your mouth! After MY
picnic stream-side in France, we had the classic
French strawberry variety Gariguette, which we
picked up at a roadside stand. I don’t think you’ll
find Gariguettes in the U.S…but in June we are
busting out all over with great local strawberries!
And I would advise making this purchase at your favorite farmers’ market!
Et comme vin? Charcuterie is so easy to match! Let’s make it simple. If you
can keep the wine chilled, go with a light, super-crisp Loire white. If you
can’t…go with the youngest Beaujolais you can find. But even though it’s
red…do keep it as chill as you can! n
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 19
WINE FOR FOOD
Veneto? Check.
Friuli? Check.
Alto Adige? Uh…
Poor Alto Adige rarely brings the same check.
I’m not sure why this is exactly. Quality doesn’t
always count in the American popularity game;
sometimes other factors are at play.
Alto Adige has its confusions, and that may be
the speed bump right there. It belongs to a
province called Trentino-Alto Adige…though the
winemaking in the Trentino part is different from
the winemaking in the Alto Adige part. I contend
that another hyphen is the culprit in holding
back the great wines of Emilia-Romagna from
American popularity! Emilia and Romagna
are two very different regions, really—but the
clumping together by law makes for confusion.
Alto Adige Whites from
Northern Italy:
Electric
Wines that
will Rock
your Summer!
S
ome months ago, when I was in the midst
of selecting a great summer wine story for
this June 15, 2015 issue of The
Rosengarten Report, a tasting invitation came
my way. It was from the consorzio that strives to
make the world aware of wines from Alto Adige,
the most northerly region in Italy—and the
consorzio was planning a massive tasting of Alto
Adige wines in NY.
I got very interested in that tasting very fast!
(That’s why you’re reading this right now.)
They didn’t have to sell me. I’d been to Alto Adige
several times, and I was a fan from visit one…
when they had me at lederhosen! In fact, I’d go
so far as to say that Alto Adige whites are my
favorite white wines in Italy!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 20
At the tasting, which included some Masters of
Wine among the journalists, one of my MW
friends was on the same page: “I LOVE Alto
Adige whites! My favorite Italian region for
whites!” Not an uncommon opinion among those
who know Italian whites.
But that was the moment, of course, when we
started bemoaning the Alto Adige Gap. No, I’m
not talking about a land mass. I’m talking about
the fact that hardly anyone in the U.S. drinks Alto
Adige wines. I would even speculate that most
wine drinkers—not the geeks, of course—have
never even heard of Alto Adige wines!
Tuscany? Check.
Piemonte? Check.
Again…Tuscany? Easy. One name to deal with.
Piemonte? Same thing.
But then you get to Trentino-Alto Adige. Three
words, one hyphen. And TWO of those words
(Alto Adige) apply to the wine region we’re
discussing.
Yikes!
FURTHERMORE…Alto Adige has an alternate
name, which is used quite often…Südtirol! This
ramps up the confusion still further. I like this
name, actually…it means “South Tyrol”…
indicating that this area is the snow-capped,
southern part of the Tyrolean Alps…also known
as the Dolomites!!!…which separate modern Italy
from Austria. Jeez! Even the mountains have two
names!
Then we get to the next confusion: OF COURSE
the alternate name (Südtirol) is German…
because this Italian region is loaded with
Austrians, Germans, and German language.
(History…Austro-Hungarian until after WWI…
don’t ask.)
Now, not only do you have to deal with Teutonic
titling…but you also have to deal with two
sensibilities…a dialectic that comes out in the
wine!
Basta. At this point, I’m going to start solving
problems, rather than making them.
I personally call the area Alto Adige. I always call
it simply Alto Adige. I don’t care about the
languages, the provincial divisions, nada. This
whole area may be referred to as Alto Adige, and
that is what I do, confidently.
Try it. It’s easy: AL-toe AD-dee-zhay.
The next part is easy too. No matter if the
winemaker comes from an Austrian family, or an
Italian family, he or she reaps the same benefits
from this extraordinary winemaking place: this is
high-altitude wine, mountain wine, fabulous for
white grapes that need to retain acidity! Alto
Adige is cold, as wine regions go. Splendido!
Approximately 60% of the region’s wine is white.
That’s easy to remember too. And that’s our
focus today.
Now, it’s true that you will find numerous grape
varieties in Alto Adige that seem to reflect the
winemaking traditions of France and Italy…and
you will also find numerous grape varieties that
seem to reflect the winemaking traditions of
Austria and Germany. However, whether the
grape is Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling…train
yourself to think of it in the Alto Adige way…
which is to say crisp, racy, lower-alcohol white
wines from the north!
There were lots of different white-wine grape
varieties at the recent tasting I attended. To make
things a little easier, I’ve posted my notes below
by grape variety. And…I’m opening up the notes
with the varieties that have Franco-Italian
influence…leading up to the varieties that lean
Austrian/German.
Keep in mind, please, that the excitement at this
tasting was the wines of 2014—a difficult year for
the vineyardists, but one that yielded laser-beam
Alto Adige
wines, with electric acidity. This is what I love!
However…not all of the 2014s have arrived on
these shores. So…for each wine in the story…
I’m giving you full contact info on the importer,
and urging you to get in touch so you may
discover when, and how, to get your Alto Adiges.
I hope it’s soon…because summer is upon us!
And 2014 Alto Adige is what I’ll be drinking with
my food this summer!
THE ALTO ADIGE
VARIETIES WITH
A FRANCO-ITALIAN
LEANING
Pinot Grigio
When you say “white wine”…what could be more
Italian than Pinot Grigio, the marketing sensation
of the last 25 years? Unfortunately, I’m allergic to
the popular northeast Italy Pinot Grigios that wipe
up in the American market (allergic aesthetically,
that is): why would you want to drink overpriced,
underwhelming, boring wine? I’m not against the
varietal itself; it is the same varietal that’s behind
Pinot Gris in Alsace, which can be spectacular.
But the Alto Adige Pinot Grigios are not like the
fat Alsatian ones; instead, they are like crisper,
finer versions of the popular Friuli ones. Only
better. And the winemakers are trying to cash in;
understanding the Friuli marketing miracle, they
have made Pinot Grigio the most planted white
grape in Alto Adige! I’m not thrilled about them,
but I thought you should know they’re out there.
85B
2014 Pinot Grigio,
Muri-Gries ($14.99)
Light look, with touch of green. Subtle flowers
and fruit. Light body, but resolves with good
acid—which lingers, persistently. Imported by
Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, NY,
914.244.0404
85C
2014 Pinot Grigio, Abbazia di
Novacella ($19.99)
Medium-straw nose with subtle-but-simple fruit.
Good acid on palate. Along mid-palate, you feel
a nice thickening of concentration that won’t get
terribly in the way of the food. Imported by
Michael Skurnik Wines, New York, NY,
212.273.9463
Pinot Bianco
Pinot Bianco is the same grape as Pinot Blanc…
which, historically, is a spontaneous mutation of
dark Pinot, or Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc is grown
widely in Alsace, and Pinot Bianco occupies
10% of the white wine vineyard space in Alto
Adige. In both places, wine connoisseurs expect
the same thing: an easy-going white that, at its
best, can have some echoes of white Burgundy.
Typically, I find the Pinot Biancos of Alto Adige a
little spikier than Alsace Pinot Blancs, with a little
more acid, and, sometimes, more layered flavors.
88B
2012 Pinot Bianco, Eichhorn,
Manincor ($31.95)
There is some kind of mojo at this winery,
Manincor, which is turning out wines with a kind
of white Burgundy polish to them. The grapes for
this wine were grown on a special volcanic soil, in
the Eichhorn vineyard. Light yellow in the glass.
Wonderful earth-and-mineral nose. Good acid,
good balance, lovely concentration. This is what
Pinot Bianco does when it gets serious. Imported
by Angels’ Share Wines, Brooklyn, NY,
718.407.4121
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 21
DAVID’S WINE RATING SYSTEM
We have discovered that wines rated highly in
most wine rating systems are not consistently
compatible with food. We have also observed
that poorly rated wines, despite their deficiencies, can come alive when served with food. An
enormous, tannic red for example, might merit
95 out of 100, but it will be difficult to find a food
that goes well with this wine. A light, acidic white
might merit only 75 out of 100, but the wine will
go well with, and even be improved by, many different dishes. We believe that a combined wine
& food rating is the only sensible solution to this
rating dilemma.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale:
95-100 extraordinary
90-94 exceptional
85-89 excellent
80-84 very good
75-79 good
70-74 fair
60-69 flawed or boring
50-59 seriously flawed
The best wines (those rated 90 or above) do not
necessarily go best with food. So, each wine also
receives a food rating, based on an A-B-C-D-F
scale, to show how flexible the wine is with food:
A: An exceptionally flexible wine, that will
go well with most dishes.
B: A
flexible wine, that will go well with many
dishes.
87B
Light, with glints of green. Gains interest from
lovely, mysterious waft on the nose: India nut?
cashew? Lovely, elegant fruit on palate, but not
showy. Perfect summer wine with a wide range
of summer foods. Imported by Liberty Wines,
Syosset, NY, 516.921.9005
C: An even bet for food; exercise some caution.
D: A difficult wine for food.
F: An exceptionally difficult wine for food.
We then combine the wine rating and the
food rating.
For example:
A rich red wine that receives 95D: A wine of
exceptional interest, but a difficult wine for food.
You can count on it to go poorly with many of
the dishes that you would expect to marry well
with rich reds (e.g. roasts, steaks, game in dark
sauces, spicy stews, etc.).
A light white wine that receives a 75A: An average wine, but an exceptionally flexible wine that
you can count on to go well with most dishes
that you would expect to marry well with light
white wines (e.g. raw shellfish, simple fish
preparations, salads, etc.).
Every wine has its ideal food mate somewhere.
A wine rated D or even F will go beautifully with
something—just don’t expect it to go beautifully
with many things.
The food rating is a measure of widespread
adaptability for foods that you might reasonably
expect to go with this kind of wine.
Note: Food ratings may change with time. A
tough, young Bordeaux may be a D today and a
B in five years. A simple white may lose its bright
fruit with time and go from a B to D. We’ll keep
you posted.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 22
2014 Pinot Bianco, Plötzner,
St. Pauls Winery ($17)
87B
2014 Pinot Bianco, Vial, Kellerei
Kaltern Caldaro ($23)
Extremely light color, touch of green. Lovely fruit
on nose (pineapple hints), and some floral notes.
Good, lemony acid grabs you right away.
Recognizably Pinot Blanc, but a little more
complex than many. Imported by Omniwines
Distributing Co., Flushing, NY, 800.348.6664
86B
2014 Pinot Bianco, Vorberg,
Cantina Terlano ($41.99)
Wonderful quality in the nose: it’s
breathing, it’s living, it’s tender! Hard
to nail specific aromatics, but elements
of flowers, fruit and spice are now and
then present. Do you know those
nicely made, young fruity whites
that are spoiled by being too fruity?
You don’t have that problem here.
Imported by Banville Wine
Merchants, New York, NY,
212.268.0906
85B
2013 Pinot Bianco, Prey,
Castel Sallegg ($21.99)
Light in the glass, touch of straw. Lovely wetrocks nose, along with some flowers and hay.
Nice round mouth, with good acid to make it
elegant. Imported by Weygandt Metzler
Importing, Unionville. PA, 610.486.0700
Sauvignon
Blanc
There’s a Sauvignon Blanc war in the world
today. Forty years ago, its “home” region was
clear to all: the Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc,
forty years ago, usually meant either Sancerre
(from the Loire Valley), or Pouilly-Fumé (from the
Loire Valley). Then the challenges began, in the
1980s. And one challenger actually emerged
victorious: the Marlborough region of New
Zealand, which today produces more Sauvignon
Blanc than any other region in the world.
Marlborough style was clearly different: riper,
fruitier, with a different kind of varietal character.
If Sancerre was “herbal,” Marlborough Sauvignon
Blanc pushed it…to “canned asparagus,” to
what I like to call “sweaty T-shirt in the gym
locker.” I tell you all this, because…if you’re a
Sauvignon Blanc drinker…I’d like you to consider
the wonderful ones made in 2013 in Alto Adige!
They’re “compromise” wines, in a way: you can
find the “sweaty” character that comes with riper
fruit, but the wines retain the greater elegance of
Loire-style Sauvignon Blanc. There’s not much of
it out there; only 1.34% of Alto Adige white-wine
vineyards are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. A
delicious quirk to know about!
90B
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Kofl,
Kurtatsch-Cortaccia ($24.99)
Almost a luminous green in the glass. I LOVE the
sweaty side of Sauvignon in here, complex and
interesting…since it’s joined by rural hay-like
smells and a mineral dimension. Quite
concentrated in feel, but remains an elegant sip.
Good winemaking. Imported by Empire Wine
Collection, Brooklyn, NY, 718.439.7777
89C
2013 Sauvignon Blanc,
Mantele, Nals Margreid ($32.99)
Not quite as dimensional as the wine above, but
also a great Sauvignon Blanc. Nals Margreid
makes large wines, and this one is in that fold.
Huge sweaty nose and, for me, a stroll in the
woods on a fall day comes to mind. A lovely job
of combining racy and filled-in. There is a touch
of residual sugar, but abundant acid puts out that
fire. Would be good for many foods…but watch
the RS factor; totally un-sweet foods will only
emphasize the residual sugar. Imported by
Massanois, Scarsdale, NY, 888.242.1342
85B
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Lahn,
St. Michael-Eppan ($21.35)
Not so classically SB on nose; there’s a touch of
it, but it hides behind fruit, and emerges as a
touch of gunflint, reminiscent of Pouilly-Fumé.
Medium-bodied, and not without mouth-watering
acidity; but the latter, somehow, never gives the
wine the “cut” it should. In other words: NOT an
oyster wine! Dry and pleasing, though, good for
picnics. Imported by Martin Scott Wines, New
York, NY, 516.327.0808
Mixes of
Above Grape
Varieties
Some producers in Alto Adige like to blend grape
varieties in a single wine; there’s no tradition
mitigating against it, and the raw material is so
seductive! So why not? I discovered that one
blend in particular is very popular: 60% Pinot
Bianco, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon
Blanc. Interestingly, every wine I tasted that was
made from this blend was excellent! And I was
tasting these wines from a number of vintages
(though I did not get to taste any with real age).
But…for this summer…
90C
2012 Nova Domus, Cantina
Terlano ($48.99)
Certainly one of the finest, most well-made wines
in the tasting—though not exactly my style.
Medium yellow look. Gorgeous young Burgundy
nose: full of ripe gourd, melon, some tertiary
tones reflecting its age. This is big, voluptuous
wine. Acid is a little low, which worries me at the
table. I respect it a great deal, though I don’t love
it. If you’re a big-wine person…this’ll be one of
your happier Alto Adige choices. Imported by
Banville Wine Merchants, New York, NY,
212.268.0906
89A
2013 Réserve della Contessa,
Manincor ($19.99)
Electric-looking straw-green. Subtle, gorgeous
nose: a little green fruit, some minerals and
earth, touch of hay. Medium-body, but sleek—
thanks to excellent acid. Clean as a whistle—
could even go with oysters. Great wine. The
numeric score would be higher if there were
more complexity on offer. Imported by Angels’
Share Wines, Brooklyn, NY, 718.407.4121
87B
2014 Terlaner, Cantina Terlano
($18.99)
Light-ish green. Similar nose to the one just
above—but, being younger, this wine is freshersmelling, and almost leaping from the glass. It
comes down for me in points due to its touch of
residual sugar…but with the right dish (maybe a
touch of sugar in the dish) the acid of this wine
will save the day. Imported by Banville Wine
Merchants, New York, NY, 212.268.0906
86C
2012 Manna, Franz Haas
($42.99)
Idiosyncratic wine—different from the
other blends. This one is 50% Riesling,
20% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon
Blanc and 10% Traminer. So you get
a kind of Franco-Germanic duality
here. At first, the round goes to
Franco;
the
Chardonnay
predominates early. Light strawyellow. Very reminiscent of Macon
on the nose, but a bit more rustic.
A little minerally, but—here come
the Germans, and the Traminer—
with low-level notes of spice in the
background, and a touch of
bitterness in the finish. Good acid. Whatever it
is—I like it as an easy-drinkin’ wine. Good for
picnics. Imported by Empson USA, Alexandria,
VA, 703.684.0900
THE ALTO ADIGE
VARIETIES WITH
AN AUSTROGERMANIC
LEANING
Müller
Thurgau
Though this grape variety does not have the
highest reputation among wine geeks, it may be
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 23
my favorite variety in Alto Adige for white wine
you can count on for food! See all the A’s below!
Müller Thurgau was created in Switzerland in the
19th century (it’s a cross-breed), in an attempt to
develop a grape that has the complexity of
Riesling, but the ability to ripen earlier. It became
wildly popular in Germany, peaking in the 1970s,
when it became Germany’s most widely planted
grape…and it enjoys moderate popularity in Alto
Adige.
88A
2014 Müller Thurgau, Cantina
Andriano ($20.99)
Very light straw with hint of green. Lovely general
fruit, but with definite Germanic peach/apricot
shading. Fascinating timeline of textures. Almost
sparkling-looking in the glass. Then it becomes
rich wine at first taste, before a mid-palate
drop—leaving a hole that can be perfectly filled
in by food! Dry, good acidity—really all you could
want in a picnic wine! Imported by Banville Wine
Merchants, New York, NY, 212.268.0906
88A
2014 Müller Thurgau,
Muri-Gries ($16.75)
Lovely combo nose: Riesling fruit,
Sauvignon Blanc-kind of herbs, all
very subtle…though the herbs do
come out more on the very lightbodied, tingly acidic palate. Dry.
Great food wine for light white wine
dishes. Imported by Polaner
Selections, Mount Kisco, NY,
914.244.0404
88A
2014 Müller Thurgau,
Kurtatsch-Cortaccia
($19.35)
Extremely light look, with touch of green.
Gorgeous Riesling-like nose, on the ripe-fruitconcentration side. Lovely palate too…which is
dry, light, gossamer, elegant, with good acid.
Another killer picnic wine. Imported by Empire
Wine Collection, Brooklyn, NY, 718.439.7777
86B
2013 Müller Thurgau, Kellerei
Kaltern Caldaro ($19.50)
Seductive floral nose, a little honey and mineral.
Not entirely dry, but good acid helps. A touch
less alive than the others. Good with speck, or
Alto Adige smoked ham! Imported by Omniwines
Distributing Co., Flushing, NY, 800.348.6664
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 24
Kerner
And this grape…may be my favorite Alto Adige
grape of all for flavor profile alone! It was
developed in Germany in the late 1920s, another
“cross,” like Müller Thurgau, that was created to
make life a little easier for grapegrowers. Its
popularity in Germany peaked in the 1990s,
when it was the third most widely planted German
grape (after Riesling and Müller Thurgau). It’s
not widely planted in Alto Adige—only 1.72% of
Alto Adige white grapes are Kerner—but I would
swear its popularity is growing. I hear lots of
hipster somms today pointing towards Alto Adige
Kerner. Its selling point? A wild, unpredictable set
of flavors that range from peaches and apricots
to basil and anise (see below!)
91B
2013 Kerner, Praepositus,
Abbazia di Novacella ($28.49)
The nose grabs you right away: not just floral, but
a very deep, penetrating vein of it. This quality
carries on to the palate, which has fabulous
concentration, grapes to the core…with peach
and apricot emerging through a long finish.
There is a touch of residual sugar, but it’s so
masterfully wrapped around thrilling acidity that I
don’t think it’ll cause food problems (not an
oyster wine, though!). Imported by Michael
Skurnik Wines, New York, NY, 212.273.9463
90C
2013 Kerner, Nals Margreid
($21.99)
Light look, but touch of yellow-orange. Wild nose:
fruity, yes, but hints of many things…such as
basil and anise. I love the restrained medium
body, and the excellent acidity. You can feel the
fineness of the winemaking in the rare
concentration of the wine. May be a little forceful
for some foods: find medium-bodied food,
perhaps with a touch of sweetness (I’m thinkin’
Indonesian chicken satays). Imported by
Massanois, Scarsdale, NY, 888.242.1342
89C
2014 Kerner Abbazia di
Novacella ($20.35)
Pretty Germanic fruit on nose, pear and melon.
All the good things about Kerner: exotic flavors,
good concentration, good acid. And like other
Kerners, you can find a little residual sugar…
which you just have to deal with dish by dish.
Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, New York,
NY, 212.273.9463
85C
2013 Kerner, Carned, Kellerei
Kaltern Caldaro ($27)
Light straw in the glass. A lovely combo on the
nose: aging (it smells like Riesling aging into
minerality) plus very ripe fruit. A bit schizophrenic,
but interesting and delicious. The Kerner
“residual sugar problem” kicks in here. I’m sure
about this wine as a stand-alone sipper; go
cautiously with food. Imported by Omniwines
Distributing Co., Flushing, NY, 800.348.6664
Riesling
Maybe it’s that Riesling is not so popular in
southern Austria, just over the border…but only
1.24% of the vineyard area in Alto Adige is
planted to Riesling. Accordingly, I didn’t see too
much at my tasting. But
one of the few I tasted
was DYNAMITE! I’m
hoping for more in the
future!
2013
Riesling,
Rohracker,
Peter Zemmer
($16.95)
91A
Straw-colored,
reflecting a year of
age. And though it’s
only a little over
a year old…it is
already developing
lovely Riesling minerals
and petrol…against a
hazy, honeybee kind of
background. Intriguing and
delicious. Crisp, fairly complex,
great acid! This is a winner! Imported
by HB Wine Merchants, New York, NY,
917.402.0456
Grüner
Veltliner
With the nearness of Austria, the
presence of Grüner Veltliner in Alto
Adige could be assumed, I assume.
However, though it’s around—the
numbers are tiny, only .5% of all
grapes planted! I suspect most
of the plantings are new, arising with the
international somm’s interest in Grüner Veltliner
(now known, hiply, as GruVee). Will there be
more? Don’t know. I personally found the Alto
Adige GruVee good, but not ultra-compelling.
86C
2012 Grüner Veltliner,
Praepositus, Abbazia di
Novacella ($28)
A relationship on the nose to Austrian Grüner
Veltliner: a touch of white pepper, but seems to
be missing the lime-and-pea qualities I also
associate with the variety. In Austria, there are
three (unspoken) tiers of GruVee production: I
would place this one just in the second tier,
because of its decent concentration. Not crisp
enough to be a great food wine. Imported by
Michael Skurnik Wines, New York, NY,
212.273.9463
85B
2012 Grüner Veltliner, Eichberg,
Tenuta Klaus Lentsch ($28)
Here comes the green pea, along with a touch of
mineral. Again, not complex, but decent
concentration. Better acid than the first, so the
food rating goes up. Imported by SOILAIR
Selections, New York, NY, 212.626.6669
Gewürztraminer
Most people associate this German-sounding
grape variety (translated as “be-spiced
Traminer”) with Germany, or Alsace; in fact, the
grape originally emerged right here, in the Alto
Adige town of Tramin, currently in Italy! There are
many producers of Gewürztraminer in the region
(Gewürz is one of the most commonly planted
varieties here, taking up almost 11% of the
white-wine vineyard space). Makes sense…
because the wine has a very Austro-German
character to it. In general, however, I think the
“be-spiced” part of the name—wherever the
Gewürz is grown—makes little sense; to me,
Gewürztraminer wine always exudes roses and
lychees, but not spice. Nevertheless, wellmeaning sommeliers all over the world continue
to push Gewürztraminer with “spicy” food! This
pairing obsession makes even less sense—
particularly because Gewürz wines tend to be a
little bitter, and a little high in alcohol (both tricky
wine elements for spicy food). Happily, in Alto
Adige, you get a little relief from the harsh Gewürz
verities. Yes, varietal character is true and
focused…but there’s a greater elegance in these
Gewürzes than, say, in most Alsatian Gewürzes.
STILL IN ALL…I didn’t find much that I think will
serve broadly at table (many of the Gewürzes I
tasted got “D” ratings) two wines appealed to me
for different reasons:
85C
2014 Gewürztraminer, Cantina
Andriano ($24.99)
Light-ish color for Gewürz, touch of yellow. Subtle
Gewürz nose, nice lychee. Round feel in the
mouth, dry, and a little blunt—but less blunt than
usual, with a little more acid than usual. A fairly
workable Gewürz, good for creamy dishes that
have Gewürz in the sauce (Chicken in A Creamy
Gewürztraminer Sauce). Could work with some
picnic items. Serve very cold. Imported by
Banville Wine Merchants, New York, NY,
212.268.0906
89C
2013 Gewürztraminer, Vigna
Kolbenhof, Tenuta J. Hofstätter
($50)
This one stands apart, because of the residual
sugar: it is not very sweet, but it is mildly sweet.
Spot-on classic Gewürz nose, with an emphasis
on dried roses. The typical Gewürz bitterness is
also improved by the sweetness; the wine ends
up elegant, even gentle. Good sipper, but,
mostly…this is a great cheese wine, especially
for runny, smelly cheeses! Imported by T. Edward
Wines, New York, NY, 212.233.1504
AND ONE EXTRA
VARIETY THAT
IS PURELY
INDIGENOUS
Lagrein Rosé
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE some of the red
varieties in Alto Adige! But I decided to devote
this tasting, and this story, to lovely summer
whites. Now, because one of my favorite red wine
grapes in the region is Lagrein…and because
there’s lots of Lagrein rosé being made…I figured
the following notes definitely have a place in this
chilled wine-for-summer story!
88B
2014 Lagrein Kreizer, St. Pauls
Winery ($19.50)
Great rosé! Pale pink with a touch of orange.
Gorgeous pear and red berry flavors, really lively.
It’s a touch off-dry, but the acid is in such perfect
balance you might not notice any sweetness. A
great refreshment, and a great wine for grilled
fish, chicken, pork. Imported by
Liberty
Wines,
Syosset,
NY,
516.921.9005
86B
2014 Lagrein Rosé,
Cantina Terlano
($21.99)
Pale pink, like pale cranberry juice.
Zesty, acidic, refreshing, intriguing
touch of structure lingers; this factor
will play well against charred meats.
Imported by Banville Wine Merchants,
New York, NY, 212.268.0906
88B
2014 Lagrein
Riserva Burgum Novum,
Castelfeder ($45)
I usually like the youngest possible rosé—but
occasionally they become interesting with age.
So it is with this Castelfeder: an earthy-funky
aroma is present, reminiscent of aging Pinot Noir
rosés. Mostly dry, very lively on the palate.
Imported by Bacchanal Wine Imports, Port
Chester, NY, 646.207.0115 n
wines in this tasting
2013 Riesling, Rohracker, Peter
Zemmer 91A
2013 Kerner, Praepositus, Abbazia
di Novacella 91B
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Kofl,
Kurtatsch-Cortaccia 90B
2012 Nova Domus, Cantina
Terlano 90C
2013 Kerner, Nals Margreid 90C
2013 Réserve della Contessa,
Manincor 89A
2014 Kerner Abbazia di Novacella
89C
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Mantele,
Nals Margreid 89C
2013 Gewürztraminer, Vigna
Kolbenhof, Tenuta J.
Hofstätter 89C
2014 Müller Thurgau, Cantina
Andriano 88A
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 25
THE ROSENGARTEN RANT
Every issue David Rosengarten will rant about something
that gets his goat, sticks in his craw, forms a lump in his
throat, gets up his butt, or simply sits like a painful
pebble underneath his sock on the bottom of his blue
jogging sneaker. NOTE: In his rants, Rosengarten pledges
to limit the clichés wherever possible, and present his
sober thoughts on a contemporary food or wine issue of
great importance.
DINING IN FRANCE
AND
ITALY
Plus ça Change, Plus Ce N’EST PAS La MÊME CHOSE!
To us lifer food-and-travel writers…and to other
lucky ones who have spent an inordinate amount
of time travelling through France and Italy…a debate suggests itself trip after trip, year after year.
The same debate, toujours the same. And we are
only too happy to step up to the podium and
shout, so great is our passion.
“Where does one eat better: France or Italy?”
I started my European eating career in France,
in 1970 (see p. 2 for my epiphany over the first
bite of charcuterie). I was a student and, every
day after the morning class was over, a bunch of
us would go to a new cheap bistro to
check out another onion soup.
One was better than the
next. January. The last
days of Les Halles.
Bubbling
crocks.
Over-crusted flavorful
cheese. Burnished
onions of the gods
deep within. Civilization was spreading
out before me, and the
universe was clearly in
cahoots. (ka-OOO?)
One night during that initial
stay I had escargots for the first
time at a randomly chosen little restaurant near the Comédie Française. I could not
speak. The ’69 Beaujolais Nouveau brought the
verbosity back…just in time for the coq au vin,
then the tarte tatin. But what ensued was not exactly like speaking…more like squealing, I’d say.
Mouth mirth of the highest order.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 26
And it went on for years. I’d go back to France
constantly and no matter where I stopped, no
matter what part of the country I was in, these
guys had it goin’ on. Of course they did: they
LIVED for it. I always felt they had some sort of
national conspiracy: sure, Jean-Yves could
charge more for his cheese and lower the quality,
bagging extra francs per year. But if he did…and
if everybody went all Kant around him and did
the same…what on Earth would he buy with his
extra francs? Mediocre cheese? The horror! Better to leave it as it is!
I’ll never forget the lunch I had in the center of
France, circa 1988. Around
noon, my rental
car
puttered
out
“Là,” he bellowed. “C’est le mien!” He was telling
me the shop that’s now behind us is his…which
was all of a sudden disconcerting. But I barely
had time to construct the polite version of “SO
WHERE THE FUCK ARE WE GOING, GASTON????”…when he pointed off in the distance
ahead. “Là,” he said, in his laconic fashion. “Le
restaurant est là!”
“What restaurant?” I thought to myself. “Aaaah…
maybe…” No, not maybe. It was definitely!
“Alors,” Gaston said, as he roared into the parking lot of a big old country place, my car in tow.
“Vous mangez là. Très bon.” And then
he told me he’d be back in 2 ½
hours.
“Do you think the repair
will take 2 ½ hours?” I
asked.
“Absolutely not,” he
said en Français.
“But monsieur, you
need at least 2 ½
hours to have lunch!”
And off he sped.
right
near a toll
booth on the Autoroute (how convenient!)…and
the toll booth attendant was kind enough to call
me a repair guy with a tow truck. He arrived in
ten minutes, took a look, then quickly had my car
on his grappling hook. I hopped in the cab of his
truck with him. After driving for five minutes, he
pointed out his repair shop as we whizzed past it.
As I was seated at my table, the patron brought a
very welcoming sight: a few terrines, large, groaning with pink charcuterie. A rustic knife accompanied, and they told
me, “C’est à volonté”…which are the magic words
for “All you can eat!” Oh boy…did I eat, on great
fluffy, crusty bread…and they were still smiling
when they came to ask about “le plat principal.” I
took one of the braises they had on offer…veal as
I recall…and it was magnificent, real 1927 kind of
food, with the hand of maman. And the exuberant
local wine. And the deep, cultured butter. And the
flaky fruit tarts.
What car?
It was in those two decades, the 1970s and
1980s, that I developed the opinion that no
country on earth offers better dining than France.
Planned meals, or drop-in meals.
With Italy, it all evolved in a different fashion.
Italian-American food was the manna of my
childhood, so…when I finally got to the Delicious
Boot in the early 1980s…I was salivating even
before the plane touched down in Rome.
I was well aware that the food I was likely to eat
in Italy would be very unlike the Little Italy food I
knew so well and loved. Of course that was the
case. And of course it was all delicious none the
less. I was particularly struck by the on-hometurf differences from things I knew in New York.
Like pizza, for example. Above all…like pasta!
Wow! The pasta itself was so emphasized! The
sauces so light and secondary! The communal
hand with pasta was lovely, everywhere.
But then the problem arose. As I zoomed around
Italy, doing the drop-ins I did so often
in France…I did not find the
same quality level everywhere.
Sure, of course, certo…
there were lots of highlights. Salumi. Salads.
Seafood near the coasts.
But not always! All too often, in the 1980s and
1990s, I’d walk into a
fine-looking
prospect
somewhere in deep Italy…
and find casual mediocrity.
People who cared…but didn’t care
that much.
and expensive food to zinc-topped bars in Paris
where you get a cheap chunk of Aubrac steak
along with your pommes frites.
And then…the world changed. If I’ve got your
attention so far, please be prepared for what lies
ahead:
RECANTATION!!!
The backlash started a few years ago.
In August 2003, a cover story appeared in the
Sunday New York Times Magazine,
written by restaurant critic Arthur
Lubow, that caused plenty of
buzz in the culinary world. It
claimed that France was
no longer the center of inspiration for chefs around
the world; it boldly stated
that Spain is now the global gastronomic center (with
such attention-getting chefs
as Ferran Adria at El Bulli leading the charge). I was pretty hostile to the story at the time—mostly because I felt that this kind of creative, whiz-bang
food does not define a country, gastronomically. I felt that Lubow was
missing the best food in Spain
(traditional with a quality upgrade)…as well as the best
food in France…which, to
me, was still best of all.
Finally, things reached the breaking point, for
me, during my two most recent trips to France:
early 2014, and early 2015. It’s hard to condemn
a whole country, everywhere…but I do travel
widely, and sample frequently, when I’m there.
And I do have to say, running the risk of Scroogedom…crap! I see it now! The food is simply not at
the same high level I used to experience so widely in France! Oh lord yes, there is glory still in
many wonderful restaurants…but food on average, across the board (as if such a
thing were measurable)…has got
to be in decline.
Wow.
“The End
of France!”
Provocative,
eh?
And
that’s
where all the
debates began
with my fellow
journalists...
In my mind…they weren’t caring as much as
those fanatics in France were caring. And that’s
where all the debates began with my fellow journalists. It seemed like half of them agreed with
me about the blinding superiority of France. But
there was always that other half…who thought
we Frenchies were crazy! “Too heavy in France,”
they’d say. “Too uptight. Not the same joy at all.”
Wow. It was as if what they called France, and I
called France…were two different countries!
And, to make sure you understand…the judgments I made were based on French meals all
up and down the food chain, everything from
three-star restaurants with dazzlingly beautiful
becoming more ouvert with every new trip.
I was holding the line…
but perhaps a seed had
been planted in my mind?
Then, in 2009, a columnist
for Slate named Michael Steinberger, who had spent a good deal
of time in France writing about wine, authored a book called “Au Revoir To All That:
Food, Wine, and the End of France.” Wow. The
End of France! Provocative, eh?
I remember going to the book party in New York,
and meeting the affable author…but I still
couldn’t believe what I was reading.
In the book, he says things like “Twenty-five
years ago, it was hard to have a bad meal in
France; now, in some towns and villages, it is a
challenge to find even a decent piece of bread.”
Once again, my shield went up—but this time,
only part of the way. This time, in 2009, I had
already had my foundations rocked by a few
lousy experiences in France. And my mind was
A simple, random example
from my last trip…to Burgundy. Burgundy! What
name inspires more anticipation? But I went to six
restaurants on this visit…
and had mostly dreary food.
One
experience
really
stabbed my heart. A wine negociant took me to his favorite little
country restaurant in the Côte de
Beaune on a Friday night at 9pm. Oh man, were
the stars lining up! A menu filled with traditional
Burgundy dishes, a room filled with Burgundians!
Not to mention a cozy little wood fire for grilling
meat. When I explained to the owner that I wanted
the most Burgundian dish he could muster, he
recommended, with great excitement, the escarboeuf. What the heck is that? “It’s a dish made with
beef, snails and red wine,” he said. “What could
be more Burgundy than that?” Well, lots of folks
had ordered it, so away I went…into a tough piece
of uninteresting meat, snails that tasted canned,
and a total effect even more bizarre than it sounded. That restaurant owner? I hate to say it…but
suddenly he looked like a fake Frenchman to me.
Finally bold enough to begin mentioning this sort
of thing to my dear gastronomic friends in
France, I discovered something interesting. The
friends over 40, much as it hurt them to talk
about it, largely agreed. The friends under 40…
usually had no idea what I was talking about!
In fact, I hold the generational shift to be one of
the culprits in this dastardly arc.
Why this is so, I don’t know (I shall speculate
presently)…but I think the transition from the
last generation in France to the current one, culinarily speaking, has been unusually rough. I’m
not talking about chefs. I’m talking about regular
people, parents and children.
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 27
I still meet lots of oldsters in France who show
amazing passion for food and wine. I had dinner
in January with a 60-ish wine-industry guy who
couldn’t stop talking about food, about the food
he’s conserving, about his local sources for ingredients, about his last dinner party. He had
passion about everything one could consume.
This was the France I knew and loved. But when
I asked him about his kids and their passion for
food…not so much. I hear the same story over
and over again.
“naturalness” and “simplicity” of Italian food at
its best is really pushing Italy to the forefront.
ways to “enter” the meal. The ingredients and
preps vary widely.
If you choose to compare the highest-rated restaurants in France to the highest-rated restaurants in Italy—35-hour work week or no—I’m
sure that France still comes out on top. That kind
of cuisine was made for French kitchens. It came
from French kitchens. When the Italians tried to
make their own version of French three-star creative food—say, in the 1980s—it seemed pretty
silly. It never stood up. It doesn’t today.
Organizational rung #2 of the menu in France:
you’ll often see a list of fish dishes, priced higher.
No category name, again. But right after that
comes a list of meat dishes, priced like the fish
dishes: tacitly these two groups form “les plats
principaux”—and most diners take either a fish
main course, or a meat main course.
Did you know that the world’s #2 country in
McDonald’s sales…is France?
But what strikes me today in Italy is how easy it is
to get something delicious at almost every restaurant meal. I rejected this observation thirty years
ago, because that wonderful something was usually pasta. The rest didn’t measure up. And it was
so easy in France to find so many wonderful
things in restaurants throughout the country.
That’s why they always won my comparisons.
Something…is happening. Is it the fast-food influence? Is it the American influence? Lots of
Americans who have never been to France think
that the French don’t like Americans. On any
level this is nonsense. But…culturally, especially…when you look at the nexus of music, films,
TV, jeans, the new burger craze…France is anything but anti-American.
Unfortunately, France, in this sense, is antiFrench. Or at least against the France I knew
where kids became their parents, and diligently
kept serious food at the center of their lives.
Another element makes the situation even
worse…and that’s economics. Most of my
thoughtful, older French friends agree: restaurants simply cannot afford the obsessive level of
yore anymore…whether it’s starred Michelin restaurants, or simple bistros.
Why not?
Well, rising costs in general, of course…but the
real villain, according to most of my French
friends, is the shift in France from the 40-hour
work week to the 35-hour work week. Five hours
of work that once was affordable for every restaurant in France…has now become five hours
of paid overtime! Many restaurants are finding
another way to accomplish what workers would
have accomplished in those five hours: they’re
buying ready-made foods! Imagine all the slicing, dicing, chopping and vigilance that once
went into a fabulous meat stock at a great restaurant. Well, some still do it…but many just buy
a cheap version of the meat stock! And so it goes
with so many pre-cooked items in the modern
French kitchen.
Another country to which I’ve traveled a great
deal in the last few years…is Italy. And, international economics being what they are, I’m
sure there’s lots of cost-cutting as well in
Italian kitchens. However, here is where the
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 28
Now? I am so happy to dine in Italy—and I don’t
care about all the main courses and pastries that
don’t measure up. Whether I’m in the far north,
or the center, or the south, on the west coast, or
on the east coast—I know there are incredible
bowls of pasta (in endless regional permutations)
waiting for me everywhere. Think about it. France
does not have a single kind of dish that gets
splendid treatment from chefs everywhere in
France. The variety of French menus—their nonfocus on one kind of dish—is precisely what
made dining in France wonderful. But now? Now
that so many restaurants have slipped in quality?
To further bolster my “centrality of pasta” argument—I’d ask you to look at a range of French
menus from all across the country, and all economic levels in restaurants. Organizational styles
vary…but menus in France usually lead off with
a group of less expensive, smaller dishes. These
usually don’t have a heading,
but the French understand them
as
“entrées,”
Let’s jump to Italy and see where we are in the
meal organization—and in Italy, the NAME of the
course is often printed on the menu.
First, we have “antipasti”…which translates as
“things before the meal.” Then, we have the second course—which, of course, in the impeccable
Italian logic, is known as “Primi,” or “First
Things.” (But we already had…never mind. Eat
your pasta). Primi are described as “farinaceous
dishes,” and are almost always pasta. That’s my
point. In France, they’re floundering around for
logical order in the meal—whereas in Italy, every
diner knows he or she is heading to Mother Pasta in the middle of the meal. It’s almost religious.
Then, for the third course, Italians turn to the
section marked “Secondi,” or “Second Things,”
of course. You can have any type of fish or meat
you want—but you will not get away with skipping “Primi!” Pasta must be respected!
In part because of this…I finally decided I’d rather dine in Italy, on any given night. There. I said
it. I finally said it. You could also call it the Triumph of Pasta…mixed in with the fact that pasta
never gets tiring, that you could eat two bowls on
Monday and still look forward to more on Tuesday.
It is something that Italian cooks simply know
how to do. There’s no risk. It’s in their souls. The
ingredients are often simple. There’s great product available everywhere in packages, for
Chrissakes—dried pasta! Italian
cooks seem to know by instinct how to boil, for
how long, how to
drain, how to
mix with
h o w
much
sauce in a pan to combine. All the little things that
screw up pasta all over the world—these little
things usually go perfectly in Italy. Even when
chefs have to work harder—as they do in creating
their own fresh pasta—the powerful native instinct
still seems to take over.
In the last year—the year that brought me dreary
food in Burgundy, in the Loire, in Paris—I have
had brilliant pasta at all kinds of restaurants in
Rome, in Sicily, in Tuscany, in Abruzzo, in EmiliaRomagna. I’d never before thought that this one
culinary miracle could lift the whole country to
such heights—but, given how astonishingly reliable it is, it does. It does.
Of course, I will never abandon my beloved
France. I still go there all the time, go to restaurants there all the time, nervously waiting to see if
the sensibility of the kitchen (no matter what the
age) is over 40-ish or under 40-ish. I urge you to
do the same. But I also urge you to seek out in
general the incredible things that once made
France “France.” They’re all in some kind of flux
right now, of course. Your job, like mine, is to figure out “Where did this commodity come from?
Where is it going? What is its moment today?”
Towards that end, i’d like to spotlight five favorite
foods in france…and discuss the factors in them
that might help you find 1960s-style brilliance
here in 2015.
which seems not to have waned (thank heavens!). The production of great oysters “takes a
village”—the whole society conspiring to get
‘em from oyster bed to oyster stand in a lightning flash (even when they have to travel hundreds of miles). Perhaps it’s because the younger generation finds the oyster a “light, clean,
low-calorie health food”—God, I hope it’s more
than that—but the young’uns haven’t left the
village yet, which keeps the village thriving.
Which means excellent oysters for all. The difference between oysters in France and oysters
in the U.S.? When they come out of the water in
France, they go into crates with large openings
that let the oysters breathe—but the shelves of
the crates are banded together by wire, and
packed in seaweed, lest the oysters get TOO
much oxygen. The care! The fanaticism! Oysterhandling is much more haphazard here, and it
shows. Maybe 20% of the oysters I consume in
the U.S are fully fresh and juicy; I’d put that
number at 95% in France. Astonishing. I hope
this lasts long enough for everyone of you to
taste the “French oyster difference.”
Vive la difference!
starting getting less of a mom-and-pop treatment, more of a CEO-and-CFO treatment. But
“the bread rebellion” was one of the early pushbacks. Those passionate about their ficelle—
the long, thin bread that is the mortar of French
life—not only complained, but formed effective
organizations to fight. One, called Banette, is
kind of a franchise operation. The central people supply the right flour, yeast, training, etc…
and the franchisees, if they follow the rules and
bake great bread, can hang medieval-looking
signs out their storefront windows that proclaim
“Banette.” It’s a good thing to look for. But I’d
say that mind-blowing bread in general is having a comeback; just do a visual inspection of
the boulangers to find the stuff that’s crusty,
crenellated, filled with wonderful lacy air holes.
Big deal restaurants often bake their own bread
too (mostly rolls, or single-serving breads)…
and these rarely disappoint.
CHARCUTERIE
BREAD
Then you can drive across the border for some
Spaghetti alle Vongole Veraci:
OYSTERS
The world’s most succulent simple food is still
protected by the French passion for oysters,
Bread has taken it on the chin in France (can I
use that metaphor?) The French themselves are
habitually complaining that “bread is not what it
used to be.” About 30 years ago, they had tremendous reason to complain. Inner-village
shops of all kinds (like boulangeries, where
bread was baked on the premises, overnight)
started yielding to “super-marchés,” and “hyper-marchés,” just outside of town, where le
shopping mall was developing. All comestibles
Here’s the subject I obsessively track in America
in this issue, starting on p. 1. But now let’s turn
briefly to the modern state of charcuterie in
France. Yes. Yes, it’s possible still to have your
mind blown by it. It’s just that once upon a time I
was continually running into great, homemade
pâté at restaurants and charcuteries; now, I
question continually where my meat loaf came
from. Often, I’m happily surprised these days; I
have the sense that a younger generation of
chefs is taking ever-more pride in charcuteriemaking than chefs did 20 years ago. Great. And
if you get to the classics, fuhgedaboudit, still: one
taste of Foie Gras Terrine at Auberge de l’Ill in
Alsace will blow your mind for a lifetime. But this
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 29
too is France in the modern era: I walked into a
bistro in Orange a few years ago, ordered pâté…
and got dog food out of a can! (Not literally!…but
it was canned pâté…and not de foie gras).
ORGAN MEATS
moving on to the big cities. Well, as I said…that
was 20 years ago. Today, Generation X and Y
have good memories of childhood in Paris; “la
France Profonde” is something they’d more likely see in a Gerard Depardieu movie. But the silver lining in the cloud: lovers of “les abats” are
vocal and active. All kinds of societies exist to
improve organ meats…and you can sometimes
track the foods they’ve influenced at stores and
restaurants. One of my favorite things to eat in
France is the amazing andouillette, a tripe-andintestine sausage stuffed inside intestine. It is a
sad story in general, because industrial andouillette has taken over, which is a travesty. But the
real, old-fashioned andouillete, a kaleidoscope of
whorls and curls inside the sausage, is monitored by the A.A.A.A.A.—the Association Amicale des Amateurs d’Andouillette Authentique.
When you see that diploma displayed in a restaurant that serves andouillettes—you’re probably
on to a good one!
CHEESE
I’m sure I care about this more than most Americans do…but eating in France for me has always
been in part defined by eating “les abats” (the
things that come from “l’abattoir,”or the slaughterhouse). Generally, the word “les abats” covers
organ meats. Today, you can find ‘em—Lyon is a
particularly good place for “les abats”—but, to
my eye (which I prefer you NOT eat), restaurant
menus across the country are carrying fewer and
fewer organ meats. Why? Because I don’t think
“the young people” care for them. I was writing
an article about organ meats in France for the
New York Times 20 years ago, and I interviewed
the managing daughter (in her 30s, I recall) at
Pharamond, the Paris restaurant known so well
for its tripe. As we concluded our talk, I asked
her how often she eats tripe. “Nev-AIR!” she shot
back. She made the sound you might make
when bugs crawl down your shirt, recovered,
then said stoically “I do not like tripe.” One sociologist explained to me that Americans hate organ meats because they represent the lousy food
their just-arrived family had to eat in their teeming tenement in the bad old days; to the French,
on the other hand, “les abats” represent the
good old days on the farm, in “la France profonde,” when everyone lived a truer life before
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 30
afraid; I’ve dined out with many a young adult
who has declined the cheese, often with a rub of
the stomach that says something like “after all that
food? No way!” Cheese is perceived by many in
the younger generations as too rich, too heavy—a
real problem for those going to the gym every day.
Now, why should I care what young French people
are eating? Because cheese is another one of
those items that “takes a village.” The reason that
so many restaurants over the years could serve
20-30 cheeses that were each “á point,” at the
perfect degree of ripeness…was because they’d
sell out of them within a day or two! You can’t keep
“perfect” cheese longer than that. So if customers
aren’t buying the cheese—there will be less of it at
restaurants and shops.
This particularly disturbs me, because the type
of cheese I love most of all is the most difficult to
preserve: soft, runny cow’s milk cheese (which I
consider to bestow uniqueness on France). A
few years ago I was on a mission in Alsace to find
Münster cheese that was coulant, or runny. I
couldn’t find one runny one in Paris. I went to
Strasbourg…same thing. I went to farmers up in
the Vosges Mountains…same thing. They’re all
aiming to produce and ripen the cheese in such
a way that “perfect ripeness” means an ever-soslightly creamy chunk in the center…not a lava
flow of voluptuous dairy, which would have to be
discarded after a few days if not consumed.
As if all this weren’t bad enough…cheese producers have the EU breathing down their necks
these days. Inspections often lead to government
requests for new equipment, which lead to bills
that might put your business in jeopardy. There is
a whole sector in French cheese known as the
affineurs—the cheese people who buy young
cheese from dairies, then age it until it’s just
ready to sell. This is the class I worry about the
most; once we lose the small, artisanal affineur…
we’ve lost everything.
I’m afraid my basic premise applies to cheese as
well, the once-glorious cheese of France. If you’re
lucky, and smart, you can still find glorious cheese
here—but cheese in general in France, across the
board (so to speak), ain’t what it used to be.
There has definitely been a generational change
affecting cheese. Once upon a time, taking a little
cheese after the main course and before the dessert was simply what you did. No longer, I’m
As I said, and say again with a sigh: plus ça
change, plus ce n’est pas la même chose! n
FORK ON THE ROAD
FOR YOUR DINING PLEASURE IN SUMMER 2015
NOTICE, NOTICE, NOTICE
THE NOR’EASTER EATS!!!
(A Guide to the Easy Treasures of
Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania...)
on the places you want to visit to get certain foods. Lastly, if I’ve had a
relationship for many years with a restaurant serving killer versions of
specific local foods—I will take a crab pick to my brain and tell you
everything I know.
Let’s start with everybody’s local food in America:
Hamburgers
S
ure, your friend is going to Paris this summer for pastries and
Bastille day. And your next-door neighbor’s going to Buenos Aires
for parrillada and the opera season. And your very gastronomic
boss is going to take in every morsel of Hong Kong for two weeks of
summer vacation on a dim sum cart.
Good, all good, I say. There’s lots to eat out there!
But there’s lots of spectacular stuff to eat around here where I live, as
well. I know this, not simply because I eat it…but because I often lead
foreigners around to some of our most wonderful gastro-booty in America,
the stuff usually ignored by our home-grown snobs. When the Europeans,
for example, get their first taste of a BLT—good bread, lightly toasted,
dripping with a juicy conspiracy that’s liased by Hellmann’s mayo and
impossibly summery tomatoes, stiffened by stand-it-up crisp bacon, and
crunched out by farm lettuce—they FREAK!
In that spirit, I’d like to introduce them…and re-introduce you!…to the
delicious things we eat in my neck of the woods, the Northeast, down to
the Chesapeake Bay…at our regional best. In some cases, in the
discussion below, I have only very general ideas for you…but ideas that
will pay off on your plate. In some cases, it gets a lot more local, with tips
Yup, the Northeast doesn’t own this one. But some say the hamburger
was born at Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut (they say they were
the first restaurant to serve burgers!). I say it’s practically impossible today
to pick a BEST burger, due to a plethora of great burgers everywhere.
However, should you be in New York City on your Northeast Binge, should
you have taken in an early show, and should you be cravin’ burger at
10pm—the planets line up. My favorite burger in the world is the Black
Label Burger at Minetta Tavern near Washington Square Park in Greenwich
Village; it is “curated” by butcher/rock star Pat LaFrieda, and the secret is
the inclusion of the kind of aged beef that usually goes into a great steak
at a New York steak house.
Amazing flavor. Beyond
beyond. And I’m suggesting
post-10pm…because this
is practically an impossible
res earlier in the evening.
But on many a night a
drop-in between 10 and
11pm will net you a table, a
burger, and true happiness. The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern, NYC
Hotdogs
Again, no denizen of the Northeast would be mad enough to claim either
hamburgers or hot dogs as “Northeast food”; for Chrissakes, the presence
alone of Chicago hot dogs some 700 miles to the West (particularly as
served at Superdawg, in Wheeling, Illinois) should be enough of a deterrent
to talk like that! But for the bingein’ New York City traveler, I’ve got an
important cheap hot dog recommendation. One of the virtues of the saladloaded Chicago hot dog is the beefy, garlicky dog that underlies it all
(usually from a company called Vienna Beef). New York has no Vienna
Beef factory—but Jewish people LOVE their garlicky, beefy dogs, New
York City is a Jewish mecca, ergo, this place is the WORLD CAPITAL of
beefy, garlicky dogs. Only one problem: economics being what they are,
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 31
the size of these things
has usually shrunk to
intolerable skinniness. I
used to love me a
cheap Papaya King dog
at East 86th Street and
3rd Avenue on the
Upper East Side, back
when they had some
plump. So here’s the
A fat hot dog
discovery of the year:
they sell a “LARGE” dog for just a few bucks more—a Papaya King dog
on Viagra, remindin’ you of how it used to be! It is fantastic! But you’re not
quite home yet. Usually when you order it…they’ve got a few hangin’ out
on the griddle…for way too long! They dry out, these puppies! Nicely ask
if they’d mind cooking you a fresh “large” dog…and you’ll soon be thinkin’
thoughts like: “How many more fresh large dogs should I order while I’m
here? How many other meals should I put off eating?”
any longer) are both in the oh-so-hip East Village: Root & Bone (with lots
of other delicious Southern things), AND Birds & Bubbles (with a mindblowing Champagne list that goes with your bird!)
Philly Cheesesteak
Leaving New York City, we move into some Northeast treats that are more
place-specific. One of the great sandwiches in the whole country of
course, is the Philly Cheesesteak; amazingly, I’ve never had one outside
of Philadelphia that measures up to the ones in Philly. So if you like the
dish…it behooves you to get your bottom round to Philly! But…not all
Fried Chicken
And again, this is no screed claiming that the Northeast has the best fried
chicken in the country. Ridiculous! But I’m looking out for the funky diner
seeking maximal thrills and minimal outlay on his or her Northeast gastrobash. Because New York City, in particular, has some smokin’ fried
chicken going on these days; it has become a new mini-capital of Fried
Chicken. Just two notes for you here. You’d be nuts to miss the revered
Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in
West Harlem (it’s had different names before, but this is the name now…
and Charles, a South Carolina sharecropper’s son, but, more importantly,
Received God of Chicken Magic, is still there). Just one caveat: a lot of the
amazing chicken today goes on a pretty amazing buffet—see if you can
make a deal with Charles to arrive just as the chicken’s coming out of the
cast iron pan! Note #2 is about the more contemporary fried chicken
scene…and what a scene it is! Both Hipster Manhattan and Hipster
Brooklyn are exploding with crunchy thighs and legs, wings and breasts
(the latter being my least favorite part). My two favorite so far in the postColonel stakes (that’s for hipsters who don’t go to Colonel Sanders KFC
A tray of crispy fried chicken
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 32
Philly Cheesesteak on the griddle at Mama’s Pizzeria
Philly Cheesesteaks are created equal. The great plus that many have
going for them is the bread, often baked at Amoroso’s, which is sandwichperfect, like the Leidenheimer’s po-boy bread in New Orleans: lightly
crackly-crunchy on the outside, pillow-light on the inside. But there are
many variables beyond the bread, and that’s where most places fall down.
Of the big “Names,” I’m very fond of Pat’s, which serves up a duly greasy
bomb of rib-eye steak nicely griddled in slices, ideal in its proportions.
The other “Names” cheesesteak temples are good too. But when I want
Philly Cheesesteak perfection, I go seven miles outside of Philadelphia
proper, along the Schuylkill River, on the Main Line, to a little town with a
Welsh name: Bala Cynwd (BA-la KIN-wood). There, at Mama’s Pizzeria
(which obviously serves a lot of other stuff)), is the apotheosis of Philly
Cheesesteak: perfect fluffy bread, perfect melty cheese, and the tenderest,
beefiest, butteriest pieces of beef in the Cheesesteak universe. BTW…
when you’re eating Philly Cheesesteak anywhere, remember: this is
nothing like a steak! The tasting dynamic is more like a hamburger: so put
on the ketchup, the fried onions, and think a few notches down the
carnivore’s scale.
Other Philly Sandwiches
Lots of non-Philadelphians don’t know this…but Philly ain’t a onesandwich town! In fact, I would say Philadelphia is in serious competition
with New Orleans for “best sandwich city in America!” Most of the
influence on Philly sandwiches is Italian-American, so think of all the
“heros” you know and seek ‘em out here (where they’re called “hoagies.”)
Certainly, the hoagies with piled-up meat are among the best anywhere…
particularly when served on Italian bread from Sarcone’s Bakery, a dense
crunchy-chewy loaf that is practically the opposite of the fluffy loaf
Amoroso’s makes for Philly Cheesesteak! Go to a top Italian-American
sandwich shop, like Rocco’s, and you practically can’t go wrong.
And there’s another side to Italian-esque Philly Sandwiches: hot ones, as
in warm ones. There’s a truckstop kinda place called Tony Luke’s that has
gotten wildly popular, particularly for its magnificent Pork and Broccoli
Rabe Sandwich; I must add that I haven’t been in ten years, so, what with
Tony Luke’s rise to fame, I can’t guarantee upkeep. But I have been
recently to the Reading Terminal Market, an old-fashioned clatter of stores
and wares that I love. And when you’re there, you can encounter
mouthwatering Hot Roast Pork Sandwiches—particularly the one at the
Tommy DiNic’s Roast Pork stand. Ask for it “loaded”—with roasted green
peppers and “aged” provolone cheese. If you want the middle of the
bread taken out, ask for “an operation.” And one of the best parts of their
sandwich is the hot pan juices that go on it; if you really like your sandwich
dripping (I do!), make sure to ask for it “wet.”
Intriguingly, the Philly sandwich hegemony spreads far and wide in this
part of the world. One of the most amusing extensions is right by the strip
in that failed Las-Vegas-by-the-sea, the almost hysterically tacky Atlantic
City, Philly’s playground. But sometimes tacky is fun! Particularly when
there’s a legendary sandwich shop called “White House,” the walls of
which are lined with signed photos from historic sandwich fans like Frank
Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and, of course, The King (you know which king,
thank ya very much). My king here, during hangover Sunday, is some
version of a long eggs-and-pepper hoagie on great Italian bread. But by
noon, I’m ready for their Italian cold cut sandwiches…every globule the
match of Philly’s own.
Crabs
A pile-up of spicy, steamed crabs at Costas Inn in Baltimore
Is there a better spot in America, for something truly American, than the
Chesapeake Bay…brimming with blue crabs, “the beautiful swimmer,”
the crab that though it may not be the biggest in the world, is, to me, the
sweetest and most delicious? There are a ton of crab specialties in
Baltimore, which I shall discuss presently. But the table baseline has to be
set with a pile of spiced-and-steamed live crabs—the terminus of many a
Baltimore run I’ve taken with European friends who had to have “one”
true American specialty. Sure, like Philly Cheesesteak, you can find
substitutes outside the area—but unless you go to the Chesapeake Bay
you cannot find the real deal, brother!
Save yourself a lot of trouble. If it’s supreme quality you’re after, you don’t
have to obsess about the guides to crab houses, you don’t have to try a
dozen crab houses over a week to find the best, you don’t have to spend
your money at THE famous one downtown. You simply contact my friends
Pete and Nick Triantafilos, whose family opened Costas Inn in a Baltimore
suburb in 1971. It is a big-bar, big-community place (right in spirit, the
community is more firemen than advertising execs), and it is the site of
the most consistently delicious steamed crabs in Baltimore. I don’t say
that lightly! The brothers are masters of sourcing (crabs are more local in
late summer/early fall, but always call Pete and Nick ahead to ask for the
biggest crabs they can find). Lots of crab houses use prepared spice
blends (like Old Bay)…but Costas prepares its own. And the steaming—
always to perfection, always just done to glorious lumpy-flaky, without
being overdone. It’s an art.
Costas Inn offers other crabby things as well, but I like to stick with the
steamed crabs…and beer! To take in the crab alternatives, you should
pay a visit downtown to Baltimore’s Lexington Market. Believe it or not—it
has been in operation since 1782 on the same sprawling site, and is the
world’s largest and longest continually running indoor market. To me, it
feels like the 1940s—I wasn’t in that decade, but I could practically taste
it as a kid in the next decade. Don’t fail to walk around and sample—but
the legendary headliner is Faidley’s Seafood, which some say is now a
little pricy and a little tired. It has always been THE place for crazy crabpacked crab cakes in Baltimore…which were still damned good on my
recent visit. If you’re ready to ask for a lump crab cake cooked on the
spot—I say GO! And if you’re there in late spring, even early summer, take
a shot at a fried soft-shell crab sandwich at Faidley’s. On the right day, it
can be as magnificent as it’s supposed to be…what with the local
ingredient that almost no one else in the world can call “local!”
Italian hoagie at the White House, Atlantic City
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 33
The legendary Clam Box of Ipswich, MA
Fried Clams
Many non-New-England Americans are unaware that two entirely different clams co-exist peacefully in Northeastern waters. The clams we eat as raw
clams are also known as “hard-shell clams.” Pefect for their purpose. But there’s also the “soft-shell clam.” Yes!...you can actually punch a hole through
the thin, brittle shell of the soft-shell clam with your thumb.
And why is this important? Because the creature that dwells inside has a completely different character! There’s a visual difference, for starters: the
soft-shell clam has a dark protuberance outside, often known as “the pisser.” It leads to a slightly chewy rim inside that goes around the belly, which
is the heart of things: the bellies are tender even when cooked, impossibly sweet. Soft-shell clams are used for “steamers,” one of the great New England
treats (if you’ve ever had “steamers” made with a hard-shell clam, say in eastern Ohio or Tucson, Arizona…just wipe your memory slate CLEAN
and start again!!!).
But the royalest treatment of all for soft-shell clams is…fried clams! All around the towns of Ipswich and Essex, Massachusetts (next-door to each other,
about 30 miles north of Boston) are frying establishments devoted to
you-know-what. Drive up for lunch on a summer weekend…and bring
War and Peace to read while you’re in line!
I’ve tried ‘em all, multiple times…and I gotta say the choice is a difficult
one! But over the years my allegiance has gone to the Clam Box of
Ipswich, in a wonderfully funky shack that has a roof looking like a
takeout box of fried clams! The difference? Consistency. What comes
out of the besieged Clam Box kitchen, for me, has always been highly
reliable: golden (the same perfect shade), crisp (there’s lots of “crunch”
guarding the “tender” within), beautifully seasoned. And…there’s
something a little more, I dunno…ELEGANT about a Clam Box fried
clam.
You will have a choice when ordering, as you do at all the fried-clam
places. You can order “Strip Clams” for $15.25 a plate—the perfectly
delicious rim that surrounds the belly. But if you’re feeling flush, you
really should upgrade to the plate known as “Native Clams”—which, at
$24.95, gets you into the belly of the beast. Sensational.
Fried Clams
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 34
It goes down in one mouthful, and, depending on your hot-stuff quantity
control, has the power to make your eyes bulge out of your head. But bulge
or no…I guarantee you’ll be prepping your second one presently (maybe
with less Tabasco and horseradish!)
NOTE: I think I could eat a littleneck all by its lonesome, just the clam. But
a big cherrystone, tout seul, would truly be difficult, even for a clam-lover
like me. This is where the condiment ritual REALLY comes in handy!
Really fresh raw clams on the half shell
Raw Clams
Once you’re on the East Coast—all the way from the Chesapeake Bay up
to New England—it’s time to start thinking about raw clams, the original
sashimi (original for me, anyway!) You’re lucky! The Northeast, without a
doubt, is the best place in the world to eat raw clams. Briny, fresh, resilient,
loaded with oceanic savor. But my favorite place on one day usually doesn’t
repeat as my favorite place a few weeks later, or next year—so I’m just
going to give you some general advice on eating raw clams.
First of all: location, location, location. New England is best, but anything
near the Atlantic that specializes in raw seafood—like a raw bar!—could be
good. What you want is a rapid turnover of raw clams at the restaurant, so
yours will be spanking fresh. Don’t even think about ordering raw clams
that are 15th on an appetizer list at a diner near the sea.
Second: size. Lots of controversy about this one. People who “kinda” like
raw clams, or “wanna” like raw clams…usually order the smallest ones,
called “littlenecks.” Clams are intense, and littlenecks are easier to get
down. They are the most popular and the most expensive (crazy that you
have to spend more money to get less clam!) At the opposite end of the
spectrum are “cherrystones”—whompin’ big boys, sometimes 3-inches
across on the half shell (even bigger clams, called quahogs, are not usually
served raw). A guy like my Dad would only eat cherrystones, questioning
the sanity of the littleneck-eaters. Well, you gotta love your clam to go
cherrystone! A nice compromise is the clam size called “topnecks”—inbetween, and usually acceptable to all.
Lastly: dressing. Let me start by saying that I never put ANYTHING on
oysters, which are subtle. Chablis is the condiment for oysters. Done. But
when it comes to clams, I break out of my purist hole and recognize that
some strong, sympathetic flavors are actually GOOD with the strong flavors
of a raw clam. Here’s what I do:
Lobster Rolls
Yup, it’s a cult…it seems everywhere, these days. And, yes, you can expect
the best ones near and in lobster country…so put this regional treat on
your list for the Northeast. But I don’t want to tell you a bunch of stuff you
already know. I want to tell you all about my main lobster roll discovery (no
pun intended)…which changed my lobster roll life forever!
Sure, the classic lobster roll, as practiced so brilliantly in Maine, is cold
lobster chunks, tossed with mayo, sometimes a little celery and seasoning,
placed on a hot, griddled bun with a strange configuration (the bun is split
down THE TOP at the bakery, to create more exterior crumb which griddles
better in butter!).
Just a few years back, I discovered that another kind of lobster roll is made,
and is popular—especially along the southern coast of Connecticut (which,
like the rest of New England, is also a happy hunting ground for lobstermen).
The history’s a little fuzzy…but as you survey the lit, you’ll probably come
to the conclusion that the first lobster roll was actually a warm one, with hot
butter drizzled over it! The first hard record of it is at a place in Milford,
Connecticut named Perry’s, where such a dish was concocted for a regular
customer in the 1920s. Further records indicate that the contemporaneously
triumphant cold-and-mayonnaise-y lobster roll…was probably not even
invented until the 1960s at a place on eastern Long Island!
I gotta say…the warm roll, with the winning combo of hot butter on hot
lobster…just like eating a steamed lobster!…is now my favorite. It’s gaining
popularity, and you will find quirky places all over New England these days
that offer it. But if you really wanna go for it, as I did a few years ago…yes!
A drive along coastal Southern Connecticut is the ticket.
Some of the places I like are Lobster Shack in Branford, Bill’s Seafood in
Westbrook, and…most of all…Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New
London. This one features the best and sweetest lobster of all, with a
beautifully griddled bun touched with the right amount of butter. If it’s not
the right amount for you, you can order “extra butter” at 25¢ the container!
A big lobster roll criterion is the “fall-together”—and this one, without
doubt, falls together best of all.
1. I inspect the clam on the half shell, to make sure the shuckin’ guy
has left lots of natural “clam juice” on top
(and if I see him washing a clam I’ll call the local police!)
2. I put a dab of “cocktail sauce” (basically ketchup and prepared
horseradish) at the center of the clam.
3. I put more prepared horseradish on top of the dab.
4. I administer a few drops of Tabasco around the exposed clam flesh.
5. And I do the same with one more ingredient: lemon juice, squeezed
right out of the lemon.
Buttery lobster roll at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in New London, CT
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 35
Whole Steamed LobsteR
Lastly, if you’re spending any time in New England at all in summer, and if you’re a lobster-lover…it is REQUIRED…repeat, it is REQUIRED!…that you get to
one of those spectacular places in Maine where you can sit right by the sea, from which your lobster has been pulled…and subsequently steamed in a shed
on the premises. Often steamed in sea water!!! I know a passel of ‘em…but in recent years Five Islands Lobster Co., just north of Georgetown, Maine has
solidified its position as “my fave.”
It may have something to do with its relative convenience; Five Islands is in southern Maine, not too far from gateway city Portland.
Naaah. It has more to do with its gorgeous location, on a spit of land, surrounded by seagulls and water, staring straight ahead at…yes…five (count ‘em!
five!) romantic islands.
But, truth be told, what it has most to do with is the lobster.
Most Maine lobster eaten all over the world was caught some time ago…could be months!…and kept in holding tanks…which are good neither for the
lobsters nor the taste of the lobsters.
At Five Islands, after you select your lobster size, they fish your lobster(s) out of THEIR tanks…which are holding lobsters likely caught that day, 200 feet
away! Ah, the difference. Sweet, succulent, crustacean-intense. Even the tails (which are rapidly becoming my least favorite part) have a wonderful chew.
BYOB…really racy, dry, cut-through German Riesling, I would suggest!
I’ve worked through a number of apps and sides there, all of them earning a pat on the back,
none of them earning special merit. But I would suggest saving a little room for Annabelle’s local
ice cream, served out of its own shack on the premises!
SPECIAL VIDEO NOTE Lastly, I’ve got a special treat for you. In September 2013…when a
concatenation of sponsors, journalists and interests fell together like magic…I was able to host
a small group of writers and tradespeople on a weekend private-jet tour of The Gastronomic
Northeast. We hit four major eatin’ spots inside of 33 hours; the video to the right documents
that journey…and all four of the spots in the video are included above in this article! Enjoy! n
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 36
The Barnstorm Video: http://bit.ly/1F2GrOX
My favorite lobster-eating moment in the world: Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown, Maine, at sunset
My favorite lobster-eating moment in the world: Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown, Maine, at sunset
Louis’ Lunch
261 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 562-5507
LouisLunch.com
Birds & Bubbles
100B Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002
(646) 368-9240
BirdsandBubbles.com
Minetta Tavern
113 Macdougal Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 475-3850
MinettaTavernNY.com
Pat’s King of Steaks
1237 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 468-1546
PatsKingofSteaks.com
Papaya King
176 East 86th Street
New York, NY 10028
(212) 369-0648
PapayaKing.com
Mama’s Pizzeria
426 Belmont Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 664-4757
Charles’ Country Pan Fried
Chicken
2841 Frederick Douglass Blvd
New York, NY 10039
(212) 281-1800
Root & Bone
200 East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10009
(646) 682-7076
RootnBone.com
Rocco’s Sausages and Philly
Cheese Steaks
Castor & Aramingo Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Tony Luke’s
39 East Oregon Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 551-5725
TonyLukes.com
DiNic’s Roast Pork
Reading Terminal Market
1136 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-6175
TommyDiNics.com
White House Sub Shop
2301 Arctic Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
(609) 345-1564
WhiteHouseSubShop.net
Costas Inn
4100 North Point Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21222
(410) 477-1975
CostasInn.com
Faidley’s Seafood
Lexington Market
203 North Paca Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 727-4898
FaidleysCrabcakes.com
Clam Box of Ipswich
246 High Street
Ipswich, MA 01938
(978) 356-9707
IpswichMA.com/clambox
Lobster Shack
7 Indian Neck Avenue
Branford, CT 06405
(203) 483-8414
LobsterShackCT.com
Bill’s Seafood
548 Boston Post Road
Westbrook, CT 06498
(860) 399-7224
BillsSeafood.com
Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock
80 Hamilton Street
New London, CT 06320
(860) 439-1741
CaptScotts.com
Five Islands Lobster Co.
1447 Five Islands Road
Georgetown, ME 04548
(207) 371-2990
FiveIslandsLobster.com
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 37
TASTING EXTRA
A SPECTACULAR TIME FOR
AMERICAN BEER AND ICE CREAM...
AND WE’VE GOT
THE ICE CREAMS
TO PROVE IT!
R
ecently, wearing my
historian’s hat (why
do I end up wearing a
hat whenever I’m drinking
beer?)…I realized that two
of America’s most successful
modern foodie products…
have taken similar paths to
success!
Both beer and ice cream
go way back in American
history. But…once upon a
time, each of them was
thoroughly
local.
The
colonists may have been drinking tea from India…but the beer was made
nearby. Had to have been. Why? Tea ships…refrigerated kegs don’t!
Ice cream, obviously, doesn’t ship either—the melty factor—so ice cream
too had to come from local providers.
Then something interesting happened in America: capitalism led to
expansion! Fancy that! Both the breweries and the ice cream makers
figured out how to get their products in shippable containers, and how to
get those containers in good shape to the various markets.
When I was growing up, there was no local beer. There was no local ice
cream. There was only Budweiser et al. at the supermarket, and the same
goes for Breyers.
Then the microbrewery movement struck. Inspired by what the English had
been doing with “craft” beers in the 1970s, a number of small American
brewers in the 1980s began producing beer intended for local consumption.
It was a deliberate throwback to the way beer “used to be” in America. And
not long after that, the artisanal ice cream makers arrived on the scene to
help create the dairy equivalent of this early “locavore” activity.
The paths remained intertwined, up until today. As we all know,
“microbreweries” soon learned that you can ship local microbrew beer…
and that there is a market for it! Samuel Adams was the trailblazer there.
But, though the ice cream brands are not as well known…the little ice
cream guys finally learned as well how to get their product beyond the
local markets.
The ice cream game, in fact, is particularly vital right now; there’s a
tremendous amount of local-to-national activity going on today, in 2015,
in ice cream! For beer, a lot of the upsizing took place a decade ago, For
ice cream...the moment is NOW!
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 38
I recently had the good fortune to taste some ice creams
created by two of the most important artisanal, local-to-national
ice cream makers. I scream about this ice cream—because you can get
it too, and scream yourself! What follows are two companies
and eight ice creams all of them rousingly wonderful!
BLUE
MARBLE ICE CREAM
Wouldn’t you just know that one of the ONLY certified organic ice creams
in the land comes from artisanal Brooklyn? Blue Marble Ice Cream was
founded in 2007, by Jennie Dundas and Alexis Gallivan, two friends who
were supremely disappointed by the borough’s ice cream options.
Brooklyn had a dearth of great scoop shops back then, though now there
seems to be one on every corner. You could argue that Blue Marble started
it all! With its emphasis on high-level sourcing, and politically correct
causes, Blue Marble has become the perfect poster child for hipster
Brooklyn. Soon after forming the company, Jennie and Alexis started Blue
Marble Dreams, a nonprofit that helped open an ice cream shop in
Rwanda, and another soon to open in Haiti. The company still operates
two spots in Brooklyn—both filled with classic and seasonal flavors—but
their ice creams have begun popping up everywhere from Manhattan to
L.A., including at 35,000 feet (they are the exclusive ice cream and
sorbet-makers for JetBlue’s Mint Service.) For me, the aesthetic profile of
this great stuff is: smooth, subtle ice cream, velvety and suave, not
particularly sweet.
Organic Vanilla
Quiet but just right. Reminds
me of the vanilla flavor I used to
love as a kid. It says Madagascar,
but it doesn’t have that in-yourface shaving lotion quality. A
long, long dairy glow that makes
your esophagus smile.
Organic Cookies & Cream
Forget all that crush-in crap
that’s out there. Yes, this one
has big, dark swaths of soft
cookie
blended
in,
but
with the subtlest of touches—
landing on your palate as the ultimate nostalgic cookies-with-milk experience transmogrified into ice cream right now. And the “milk” part—which,
here, is actually cream to my knowledge, the heart-warming taste of
cream itself has never been on such grandiose display in an ice cream!
Whole Foods-exclusive line BLVD. The operative aesthetic, to me, is:
chunky powerhouses, so velvety they’re almost “too” rich (but not for me),
quite sweet.
Organic Sea Salt Caramel
I’m not sure how “classic” this is…but the front labels also ticks off the
main ingredients, namely “jammy cherries, amaranth cookies, and
candied almonds.” This incredibly loaded concoction ends up resembling
some kind of maniac’s cherry vanilla…a maniac with good taste! The
cherries are whole, the cookie chunks are big, and there’s an Italianfestival warmth running through it. Quite sweet.
Gorgeous, almost orangey-brown, with a super gloss. Such a gorgeous,
balanced, seductive product. My fave of the quartet. Deep Sugar Daddy
taste, but most definitely a grown-up Sugar Daddy—with a wild, deep
caramel flavor that verges on the finest butterscotch.
Classic Tortoni
Pistachio Honey Ricotta
Wow! I’m guessing this is like
no Pistachio Ice Cream
you’ve ever had. A light tancream color, with a subtle
green undertone. Loaded
with pistachio nuts (no
shells!), and therefore much
nuttier than any Pistachio Ice
Cream you’ve ever had. But I
like the other parts even
better: a wonderful mouthglowing creaminess (the
richness comes from the
ricotta, I’m sure), and a lovely
honey-tinged sweetness.
Jittery Joe’s Coffee & Chocolate
Organic Chocolate
A partner to the vanilla—in that the KID taste is powerful!
Real nostalgia for me. This is the kind of New-Wave chocolate
ice cream that doesn’t go after mimicking the 72% bar. Instead, it
wants to be the apotheosis of what kids love about chocolate…which
is to say chocolate pudding! But pudding of the gods…along
with a sophisticated streak of chocolate sorbet flavors.
I love the way the label says “MADE WITH JOE,” in a coffee-stained circle.
But it is important for you to know what’s in here. You cannot present it as
“chocolate” ice cream: not chocolate-y enough. You also can’t present it
as “coffee” ice cream: not coffee enough. It must be taken as what it is: a
beautiful, high-wire balance of the two flavors. With its roasty-tasting
swirls, I think it leans toward its coffeeness—but you get a lovely,
chocolate-light hit in the rest of it. The most astonishing thing is the rich,
rich texture—like a super-creamy latte with chocolate blended in.
Aztec Chocolate & Caramel
Blue Marble Ice Cream is available at numerous stores east of the
Rockies; for a list of retailers, visit BlueMarbleIceCream.com/find/
retailers. They also ship anywhere in the lower 48 via FoodyDirect.com.
HIGH ROAD CRAFT ICE CREAM
Keith Schroeder took the other way in starting his ice cream company:
instead of bringing it to the masses, he brought it to the chefs! Atlantabased High Road, founded in 2010, filled the need for restaurants who
wanted great (and sometimes unusually-flavored) ice cream without
having to make it themselves, a need he knew all too well as a former
savory chef himself. What Keith does differently is changing the formula
for each and every ice cream, not just adding flavors or mix-ins to
a standard base. And by getting his cream from small dairies around the
South, Keith helps keep the money in the region. In 2013, Keith decided
to stop making his creations exclusive for Atlanta’s chefs, and began
selling his pints in a number of stores in the South and East Coast.
Now, you can find High Road most anywhere, including as the
Oh…my…God (Aztec or not). This is one of the most out-there, most
“they-went-for-it!” ice creams I’ve ever tasted. Obviously based on the
flavors of Mexican chocolate—cinnamon, chilies—this bursting-throughthe-container ice cream adds caramel to the classic blend for good
measure. I’ll tell you right now: you will either hate or love it. The haters
usually feel that an ice cream has no business being THIS chile-laden.
Dude…this stuff is hot! Really HOT! You don’t feel it at first, but the latetaste heat that erupts on your palate lasts for minutes. The cinnamon is
also intense. The lovers say “it is outrageous that they packed so much
flavor in here!” They also packed in almonds, almonds, almonds at every
crunchy turn…and a wild smoky finish that I’m willing to believe is Aztec.
Me? I’m a lover. I strongly recommend you figure out where YOU stand!
High Road Craft ice cream is available at high-end retailers. To find a
location near you, email Info@HighRoadCraft.com.
Oh yeah...it’s a spectacular time for American ice cream…but, this being
the start of summer…it’s a spectacular time to eat it, too!!! n
DavidRosengarten.com | June 15, 2015 | 39
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