Sommelier Recaps His Favorite Eye-opening Wines of 2012

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With 2012 in the books, sommelier Jeremy Quinn (The Bluebird, Telegraph, Webster’s Wine Bar and Reno, Chicago) takes a look back on his most memorable wines of the past year. As shared on his wine blog, these wines are the ones that stood out for various reasons, each prompting a fresh way of thinking and introducing new perspective. (Pictured: Pyramid Valley 2010 Twin Valley Savagnin Rosé)

Top 10 “aha” wines of 2012

Jeremy Quinn, photo by Dean Berdusis

Jeremy Quinn: With more than its share of compelling wines, 2012 richly deserves to debut an annual “Top 10″ list! These are not necessarily my “most delicious” wines of the year, or even the “best” (how could one rate that?), but instead, the 10 wines (in no particular order) which opened up a whole new way of thinking, a fresh perspective on a region, style, flavor, or historical tradition; wines that light a spark of curiosity in one’s eyes, make them glisten with the pleasure of a new horizon, and elicit a grateful sigh (“aha!”) of humility. A “Top 10″ list as a paean to the truth that knowledge is not a finite commodity, and that wine will always elude our “mastery.”

Dominique Derain 2005 Voile Not? Chardonnay, Vin de France (Côte de Beaune, Burgundy)
Bottled from a single cask (acquired from Stephane Tissot in the Jura) in January 2011, after 5+ years underneath a veil of yeast. That’s right, a Jurassien/Jereziano “flor”-style wine from Burgundy! Remarkably elegant plushness, soft acidity, lush fruit, and a keen set of baking spices; only 200 bottles produced.

Theo Minges 2010 Froschkönig Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Pfalz, Germany
Left untouched to ferment with spontaneous yeast until February of the year after harvest, Minges’ Froschkönig (“Frog King”) Riesling is necessarily bottled with a different sweetness designation every year, providing a unique profile of the vintage. This wine flies in the face of the increasingly stringent regulation of German wines these days, and was so delicious I couldn’t help but wonder why more estates don’t take this route, with at least one of their bottlings …

Pyramid Valley 2010 Twin Valley Savagnin Rosé, Marlborough, New Zealand
Despite its dusky skin color, the incredibly rare Savagnin Rosé is classed as a white wine grape; of the aromatic Traminer family, it’s mostly known under the Klevener de Heiligenstein designation in the Bas-Rhin of Alsace, France. A few years ago, vineyard owners Peter and Anne Reed called Pyramid Valley’s supremely talented winemaker, Mike Weersing, to discuss their old-vine parcel of this varietal, and, excited at the chance, Mike crafted a gorgeous wine from this, or rather, let it craft itself, the only wine of its kind from Down Under, with native yeast in 500-liter puncheons.

Chartogne-Taillet NV Cuvée Heurtebise Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, Montagne de Reims, Champagne
Plenty of superlatives have been bestowed on Alexandre Chartogne, the current scion of this tiny family estate; I don’t need to add to them here. This Heurtebise is part of a new series of wines for him, focusing on single varietals and sites, and I can easily say that this is the coolest, clearest, most memorable 100% Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims.

Cave du Vieux-Moulin 2010 L’Amignonne Amigne Brut, Vétroz, Valais, Switzerland // Michel Gahier 2011 Zipounette Pétillant Naturel, Jura, France
Both of these wines made me sit up and exclaim “Whaat!?!” Who knew that Amigne could provide for such a complex SPARKLING wine, or that Gahier made a Trousseau-based Petillant Naturel rosé of such charm and quaffability?

La Cigarrera, Amontillado VOS (Viejo), Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain
From the “Sacrista,” or “sacred” family cellar, this comes from a tiny private collection of Cigarrera’s oldest sherries. Never sold before, it carries a complexity and persistence — the finish lasts a full 10 minutes and more — that raises the bar for gauging sherry quality.

Salon 1985 Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil, Côte de Blancs, Champagne
This wine is a testament to what glorious surprises old Champagne can keep. I tasted it this December for the third time in seven years. At my first experience, it came across tightly wound and almost too intense for words; my second experience, a couple of years back, it felt totally washed-out, tired, and thin; this year, it could be said to have “bounced back”; it’s now very alive and vivid, with even petillance, springy acidity and an intriguing balance of fruit and spice.

Channing Daughters 2009 Meditazione White Table Wine, Long Island, New York
Though very much from the New World, this Muscat-driven field blend clearly harks back to wines from ancient days. Fermented together with the skins for 30 days, then aged for over a year in Slovenian oak and barrique, it’s an “orange wine” by all definitions; mahogany-colored in the glass, and deeply evocative and richly textured on the palate. Supremely versatile as a food pairing, it’s another one of those wines that makes one wonder, “Why don’t more people make wine this way?”

Cantine Francoli 1967 Spanna, Piedmont, Italy
This was another reminder that wines have a life of their own. 1967 was hailed by most as “the vintage of the decade” soon after release, similar to 1964. By others, it was rated “uninspiring.” I had no idea what to expect from this bottle (acquired from a private cellar), and was rewarded with a lean, medium-acid delight whose latent tarry beefiness and delicate yet firm tannin reminded me a bit of older Gevrey-Chambertin …

Casa de Mouraz 2010 Biotite Vinho Verde, Portugal
Vinho Verde is my standard go-to for cold, inexpensive summer refreshment and as a year-round oyster partner. I value it precisely for its unthinking simplicity, not necessarily for its expression of place. This bottling from Mouraz, however, conveys both a sense of place and a generous drinkability, and leads one to rethink what Vinho Verde can be. Biotite is a type of dark mica soil to which these vines are planted, and I would venture that the stone’s prismatic hardness contributes to the length and fineness of the finish, if only in the imagination …

Cheers to 2013!

compiled by Matt Kirouac

posted Jan 18th, 2013

Indecisive Wine Guests 101

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In the wine world, there are always guests who will be a little more difficult and make it tough to make recommendations for. Thankfully, Charlie Berg (Michael Mina Bourbon Steak DC, Washington, DC) created a handy guide to the different types of indecisive drinkers. 

The different types of wine guests

RIA: You’ve made several wine recommendations to your guest, but none of them seem to do the trick. What do you do? 

Charlie Berg: I keep getting back to wines they’ve had in the past that they know they like, or, if they’re not experienced enough to be able to recall and articulate a specific wine, I ask them an analogous question. “Do you like flavors that remind you of tropical fruits, or are you more partial to crisp flavors like grapefruit or green apple?” When you run into wine misunderstandings, it usually involves one of three different types of guests:

A). Mr. Doesn’t Know What He Wants, and Doesn’t Know How to Ask. This customer represents the base level of wine experience. It may be one of his first times trying a wine beyond the delimitations of the Boone’s Farm AOC, and he’s really not sure if he likes real wine at all. In this case I simply go back and figure out his basic flavor likes and dislikes as I described above, then give two or three recommendations. For this guy, I usually try to recommend wines I already have open by the glass, so he can sample a couple sans fear/pressure of having to buy.

B). Ms. Knows Exactly What She Wants, Doesn’t Know How to Ask. This is probably the easiest communication challenge to overcome if she describes the wine in clear terms. She has a specific wine in mind and the more we talk, the closer I am to zeroing in on the exact wine itself, or something very close. Time to look like a genius.

C). Dun, dun, dun, dunnnn … This is definitely the diciest one to deal with: Mrs. Knows Exactly What She Wants, Doesn’t Know How to Ask, BUT IS FIRMLY CONVINCED SHE DOES KNOW. This is tough because there’s almost no way to preempt the bad thing. Rajat Parr relates the time a lady came in, and after studying the wine list, declared she wanted a bottle of their best “Charlie.” So, Rajat brings her a bottle of 1986 Raveneau Les Clos, a stunning Grand Cru Chablis by a legendary producer. Upon tasting the wine, the Chablis aficionado said, “This isn’t Chablis. I don’t want it.” According to the narrative, Rajat apologized, took the bottle away, and ate the $200 price tag. The problem was she was looking for something bright and zippy, not realizing that great Chablis is complex, deep, honeyed, and mineral. I’ve experienced similar situations, it’s no fun, especially when your whole goal is to make people happy. It’s all about reading people.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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Cold Hard Truths for Young Cooks to Learn

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When it comes to naive young cooks, there is a lot they need to learn before diving head-first into kitchen work. For instance, how to apply for a job correctly. From organization to tasting skills, there are plenty of important lessons for burgeoning cooks to learn. 

What is the most important lesson you feel cooks should learn for kitchen work?

Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis): Organization. Without it, you’re destined for failure.

Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse, Chicago): Taste everything!

Jared Van Camp (Nellcôte and Old Town Social, Chicago): Just like life, the only thing you know is that you don’t know shit. If you accept that, you can learn a lot.

Jason McLeod (Box Tree Restaurant, San Diego): Organization, respect, listen. Respect two ways: the ingredients, and if you have done your research, and have picked a great place to work, make sure you respect the leaders of the restaurant; there is a reason why they have had success.

Jill Barron (MANA food bar, Chicago): Be prepared and on time.

Geoff Rhyne (FIG, Charleston): Cleanliness, organization and discipline.

Phillip Foss (EL Ideas, Chicago): Be clean and organized.

Cary Taylor (The Southern, Chicago): How to work a LONG day on your feet and how to take s*** in stride. My generation is a bunch of pussies.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

 


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Susan Goss’ Freaky Friday as a Flower Gardener

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Imagine it’s Freaky Friday and restaurant pros switch lives with someone else; someone uninvolved in the restaurant world or at least working in a different sector. If this were to come true, Susan Goss (West Town Tavern, Chicago) tells us she would like to get her hands dirty growing flowers.

What would you be doing if you were not in your current job?

Susan Goss: If I weren’t in the restaurant business I would be doing something with gardening. Just flowers, not veg. I volunteer in community gardens and would love to someday use my gardening skills to create more green space in my community and help others realize the beauty that surrounds them.

I do not want to be a florist, in fact, I have pretty much stopped cutting flowers. I want to be a gardener. I get a real satisfaction from working in the soil, feeling the earth in my hands, settling seeds and plants into the ground and watching the miracle of sunshine, rain and time. I like the tending of the plants, the waiting, the watching, the fussing and the eventual extreme satisfaction of bloom time. My favorites are the old-fashioned, fragrant blossoms: peonies, shrub roses, snapdragons and daisies. I like overgrown, jumbled, trailing gardens. I think I am enthralled by flowers because they seem to exist solely for beauty. Truly, does a peony have to be so beautiful and smell so exquisite to attract the bee?

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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Restaurants Get Their Cure on With Potted Guinea Hen and More

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Many restaurants cure their own bacon, but nowadays chefs are going so much further, curing things like guinea hen, duck breast pastrami and ocean trout. One of the latest additions to the Big Jones (Chicago) menu is Colonial-style potted guinea hen, a dish that revisits an old preservation technique. We also check in with several other spots curing their own fare. 

Colonial-style potted guinea hen

Paul Fehribach (Big Jones): Over the course of the last few years as I’ve studied antiquarian cookbooks, mostly those from the South, I became keenly interested in the old preservation technique called “potting,” which seems to be an English-language and Anglo-traditional version of the French confit. I’ve been aching to do some different things with our charcuterie program for some time, so when Slagel Family Farm started offering guinea fowl, one of my favorite birds and an important food bird in the South before industrial chicken, I started to play with this preparation.

Usually the birds are salted and hung for a period to dry and concentrate the flavor in addition to adding some of that gamey funk old-timers are so fond of, then placed in a vessel and cooked slowly while being basted in their own juices and fat, and eventually pressed and topped with a layer of lard or butter for storage. These preparations could often keep for up to 60 days in the cellar, an important extension of the seasons into winter before the days of canning, freezers, and refrigeration. This is effectively a primitive form of canning.

The guineas are deboned and filled with fresh thyme, bay, garlic, and black pepper to cure on a little salt while the aspic is prepared. We roast the main part of the carcass for browning flavors, but maintain the wing tips, feet, and necks in a raw state to maximize gelatin content. The bones are then slowly infused to maintain a clear stock before being reduced into a thick, syrupy liquid that has enough gelatin to set; an aspic. This is cut with Madeira, a favorite wine of the Colonial period, and the guinea hens are removed from their cure and layered into terrines with their livers running through the center. They begin a long, slow bake at 200 degrees, continually being basted with the Madeira jelly, which penetrates the meat, increasing its moisture retention and helping it bind. After six hours, the temperature is raised just a bit to help with browning, and at the perfect chestnut color, the birds are removed from the heat and pressed. Once their shape is set, they are capped with duck fat and stored in the refrigerator. We’ve never had a chance to see how long these will keep because they sell out so quickly. We serve them with a housemade bourbon and brown sugar mustard, sweet pickled quince, and home-baked rye toast.

More restaurants get curing

Brauhaus Schmitz (Philadelphia): We do a lot of curing. We recently installed a 5′ x 7′ curing room that is temperature- and humidity-controlled by a digital thermostat. We cure salamis, hams, whole muscle meats, bacon, pork loins and more. All of our charcuterie is German-style, which sets it apart from the rest of the chefs and restaurants that cure meat. The seasonings are different and some of the stuff is cold-smoked before and after being hung to dry.

Browntrout (Chicago): Yes, we do our own bacon, sausages and dry-cured charcuterie.

The Greenhouse Tavern (Cleveland): All of the pork, and short ribs. After we break down the pigs, we cure everything from heads to belly to butts. It’s 3-1 salt to sugar. We also add some Korean chile flakes. This helps preserve the meat and adds a bunch of flavor.

Big Bowl (Chicago, Lincolnshire, Minneapolis, Reston and Schaumburg): Curing is a technique called upon when necessary, like bacon.

NAHA (Chicago): Our kitchen cures ocean trout and salmon to be used on appetizers or passed hors d’oeuvres.

Perennial Virant (Chicago): We do a lot of curing here at the restaurant. At least 85%-90% of our product is made here in-house. We have a great ongoing charcuterie program. We use the end products on our dinner menu as a charcuterie plate, components to dishes and in dishes for special events.

Telegraph (Chicago): We do a lot of in-house curing for our charcuterie plate. What we offer is constantly changing, but we cure things like duck breast pastrami and foie gras.

West Town Tavern (Chicago): We cure our own bacon and hot- and cold-smoke meat, vegetables and fish. We make our own sausages and rillettes for service. We might feature cold-smoked trout or salmon as an appetizer, use chunks of smoky bacon to add flavor to vegetables and grains, or serve house-smoked Moroccan lamb sausages as an entree. Processing meats for smoking and curing allows us to use bits and pieces from in-house butchering that might be overlooked and reminds us to choose cuts from the entire animal, not just the center cuts.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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25 Questions for Sunday Dinner Club Chef/Partner Joshua Kulp

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Despite starting out as a picky eater in his youth, and a proclivity for Double Stuf Oreos, Joshua Kulp (Sunday Dinner Club, Chicago) grew to develop a serious affinity for local, seasonal and responsibly raised food. That’s what he showcases with his business partner Christine Cikowski at Sunday Dinner Club and their forthcoming restaurant, Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Chicago). With an illustrious background that includes time teaching public school in The Bronx and attending language classes in Oaxaca, Kulp is a chef who brings many unique experiences and thoughts to the table. 

Get to know Joshua Kulp

RIA: What overall influence did food have in your childhood?
Joshua Kulp: I ate. A lot. But I was terrified of vegetables and quite picky about condiments (no pickles, mayo, mustard, tomato, no anything on anything). In spite of myself, my father was a great cook, and enjoyed grilling out back (especially in the snow), making pie, pizza dough, pasta, etc. He did most of the cooking around our house and I certainly admired that.

RIA: Is there a dish that most reminds you of childhood?
Kulp: Grilled chicken. My dad made it all the time. He’d bring barbecue sauces from all of his travels and we’d check them out on his chicken.

RIA: Did you move around a lot growing up, or did you generally stay in one place?
Kulp: Stayed in one place, Naperville, IL, until heading to Wisconsin for college, then NYC to teach 5th grade in the Bronx, then back to Chicago to cook and start a business.

RIA: What was your favorite treat from the ice cream truck?
Kulp: Mickey Mouse!

RIA: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Kulp: I wanted to be a transformational leader. I was very inspired by social/political movements and wanted to feel as though I were part of improving the world. Now, I have realized that buying a local kohlrabi and eating responsibly is pretty damn important.

RIA: What was your very first job?
Kulp: Babbage’s Software. I sold video games, and it was awesome. I wore a tie and got a 25% discount, which kind of meant nothing on my $4.25 an hour salary. I also was a delivery driver for Edwardo’s Pizza, which was fascinating in that you caught a tiny glimpse of so many different lives.

RIA: When in school, what besides cooking were your academic interests?
Kulp: Politics, education, literature, writing. I double-majored in political science and English/creative writing at UW-Madison before getting a master’s in teaching in NYC. Then I quit to become a chef. Good decision.

RIA: Got any childhood holdovers?
Kulp: Sour Patch Kids. And keep Double Stuf OREOS away from me!

RIA: What’s the most romantic meal you’ve ever cooked?
Kulp: Third date with my wife. I pulled out all the stops, but the main course has become a staple, just a simple braised chicken and Italian sausage. Ended with a maple-crème fraîche-chocolate tart.

RIA: If you had another career before this, what made you change?
Kulp: My first career was 5th grade public school teacher in the Bronx. This was perhaps the most challenging experience of my life. I loved my students and I loved teaching, but I could not deny my true passion for cooking and eating. I found myself missing cooking and working with food. And so, I decided to make a change and pursue cooking as a life.

RIA: When it comes to cookbooks, which ones hold a special place in your culinary heart?
Kulp: When I was teaching in The Bronx, I found myself racing home from school to cook my way though Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Marcella Hazan’s “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” and Tom Colicchio’s “Think Like a Chef.”

I have realized that buying a local kohlrabi and eating responsibly is pretty damn important.

~ Joshua Kulp, Sunday Dinner Club, Chicago

RIA: How many languages do you speak?
Kulp: Some Spanish, and Bar Mitzvah Hebrew. I can recite my haftarah, but I have no idea what I am saying.

RIA: What were your family Rosh Hashanah traditions growing up?
Kulp: I also had a great aunt who exceptionally crafted every Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah meal. She was a great cook and I always found myself drawn to checking out what she was doing in the kitchen.

RIA: What was your high school superlative?
Kulp: Most likely to be depantsed. Most likely to tell you to go see a therapist.

RIA: In your career, have you ever taken a side class for cooking or baking of any kind?
Kulp: The best “side class” I have taken was actually at a language school in Oaxaca. I went there for a couple of weeks in my early 20s to check out the food and take some Spanish classes. Well, before I knew it, my language instructor (who was an amazing cook) and I were spending our class time in the food markets and cooking elaborate meals for students at the school. Not only did I improve my Spanish, I am still making tlayudas, moles, and rajas!

RIA: Do you secretly wish the farm-to-table hysteria would just go away, since everyone should use fresh food anyway?
Kulp: Indeed, everyone should use fresh food and so I suppose I wish the celebrating of using quality ingredients would die down. However, one of the primary reasons we celebrate farm-to-table cooking is to connect with not only our food, but with those who are growing and producing it. We have become so detached from the human side of food production, and this has led to a commodification of the things we feed our bodies. There is simply no greater satisfaction than experiencing a food that is totally unique, not because it is some rare heirloom, but because it is the result of a specific place on the earth and of a specific grower’s methodology. Walk the Green City Market and eat a carrot from each farmer; no two are alike and that is something to get hysterical over.

RIA: How immersed are you in molecular gastronomy?
Kulp: I’ve made some of David Chang’s slow-poached eggs; 45 minutes at 140 degrees. They were awesome. Other than that, we don’t make our molecular gastronomy too obvious. While we don’t overtly use many of the trends, I think it is of the utmost importance to be aware of the science of cooking, Harold McGee-style. In our kitchen, we are often found talking about cooking science and searching for answers online or in cookbooks.

RIA: What current trend leaves you scratching your head?
Kulp: Slow-cooking in a plastic bag seems intuitively wrong to me.

RIA: Ever serve dinner on a farm?
Kulp: I love cooking on a farm. We’ve done dinners at Angelic Organics and Prairie Fruits Farm. There is something truly magical about the immediacy of cooking on a farm.

RIA: To what extent do you do at home the things you do at work?
Kulp: I cook at home often. I might not be quite as elaborate at home, but I love pasta at Sunday Dinner and I love it at home. I also like to test out new ideas at home. My wife is my best critic.

RIA: How much do you tip when you are comped a meal?
Kulp: A lot! We usually try and figure out what the tip would have been without the comps and then go up from there, sometimes, short of a $1,000 tab, we just double what the normal tip would have been.

RIA: Have you ever felt chef-struck?
Kulp: Having had a life-altering meal at Gramercy Tavern circa the year 2000, and also finding much inspiration in his book, “Think Like a Chef,” I was pretty “chef-struck” sitting two rows behind Tom Colicchio in the Rose Garden at the White House for Michelle Obama’s “Chef’s Move to School” gathering. I find Tom Colicchio to be a true craftsman, who places enormous value on just a few crucial things: great ingredients, great technique, and proper seasoning. His restaurant Craft was a revolution, because instead of trying to find the next killer combination of ingredients, he was serving pan-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms with a little thyme or perfect potato gnocchi with a pat of butter. Simple, straightforward, and inspiring.

RIA: Say you were not a chef. What would you be, and why?
Kulp: I’d likely be working in the tech/gadget industry, I love my gadgets. Or I’d be working in politics. I love my Obama. Or I’d be working in food in another way. I’ve always thought traveling the world looking for good ingredients would be a great job. Or I’d start a blog writing about food writers:)

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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The Potation Handbook Combats Hangovers With Corpse Revivers

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NAHA (Chicago) bartender Steve Carrow‘s ”Potation Handbook” is a unique collection of handwritten cocktail recipes and lore. The handbook is filled with material he jotted down over the years, rich with info on glassware, seasonal ingredients, ice and much more. With so much to explore in the handbook, we’re narrowing in on one cocktail at a time, showcasing Carrow’s knowledge and technique for the drink. Next up, Corpse Revivers #s 1 and 2.

Hair of the dog theory

“Hair of the dog” is a colloquial expression in the English language predominantly used to refer to alcohol that is consumed with the aim of lessening the effects of a hangover.

The expression originally referred to a method of treatment of a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound.

Hangovers are described as the first stage of alcohol withdrawal, which is then alleviated with further alcohol intake.

The name “Corpse Reviver” refers to a drink that is meant to bring one back from the dead based on the above theory.

Corpse Reviver #1

Carrow:

In a build glass, combine:
2 oz. Applejack
1 oz. Cognac
1/2 oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into a coupe glass. No garnish.

Corpse Reviver #2

Carrow:

In a build glass, combine:
1 oz. London Dry gin
3/4 oz. Combier
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
Shake with ice and double strain into a coupe glass that has been rinsed with Green Chartreuse. Garnish with a lemon twist.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

posted Jan 17th, 2013

Offal is a Fifth Quarter, but It’s No Fifth Wheel

At The Greenhouse Tavern (Cleveland), “the fifth quarter” is a rotating menu special that enables the chefs to use all of the ins and out of animals, while doing somthing different every day. From pig tongue to chicken livers and beef heart, no animal part goes to waste as the chefs get crafty. Among a sea of specials, these are some of the recent “fifth quarters” that have stood out.

The fifth quarter roundup

Beef heart puttanesca

Pig tongue and Swiss chard gratin

Winter game bolognese with calamarata pasta, breadcrumbs and Parmesan

Chicken liver parfait with grilled bread and zucchini-shallot kimchi

Carne Salata with Maldon sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, roasted ground walnuts

Beef heart tartare

70-day aged rack of ribs with pomegranate barbecue sauce

More on the whole-animal philosophy at The Greenhouse Tavern

RIA: What are the unique challenges for whole-animal use in a restaurant?
The Greenhouse Tavern: The biggest challenge with whole animal is finding a use for everything. Not using everything you get, including the offal, is where you stand to lose money. On the other hand, it is great to give the cooks different things to work with and watch their creativity.

RIA: Are customers today more receptive to whole-animal butchery?
The Greenhouse Tavern: We believe so. We have hosted a few whole-animal butcher classes and have had a great turnout.

RIA: What is one animal you’ve never received whole, but would like to?
The Greenhouse Tavern: I would love to be able to do a whole cow, but the sheer size is what makes it impossible.

RIA: Approximately how many animals of which types do you get in per year?
The Greenhouse Tavern: We use two to three whole pigs a week, so about 130 a year. We are currently using one whole goat a week, and once the lambs are of age, probably two a week. We use one main butcher, Djay’s, and source other stuff from reputable farmers.

RIA: What kinds of special equipment or storage do you use for whole-animal butchery?
The Greenhouse Tavern: Cure is the most important. Next would be the cryovacer.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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The Very Best in Cheese Shops and Cheesemongers

cheese shop
Cheese lovers are always prepared to hunt down the best cheese shops and find out as much as they can about their cheesemongers. With this in mind for National Cheese Lover’s Day (January 20), we checked in with restaurant pros to see where their favorite cheese shops are and what they want to know about their cheesemongers. 

Favorite cheese shops

Pastoral is a revered cheese shop in Chicago

In Chicago, Pastoral stands out as a favorite cheese shop for restaurant pros. Daniela Ortiz (Brooklyn) likes the store on North Broadway, packed with beautiful cheeses, meats and sandwiches, such as the duck confit sandwich with Fromager d’Affinois and Dijon mustard. Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago) is a frequenter of Passtoral, and loves that he can score L. Mawby bubbly while he’s there.

Since Chrissy Camba is the chef of Bar Pastoral (Chicago), it goes without saying that she has long been a fan of the Pastoral shops. She hails cheesemonger Lisa Futterman as “the bomb” and now incorporates cheese into much that she does in the kitchen.

For his cheese fix, Rob Levitt (The Butcher & Larder, Chicago) heads to Marion Street Cheese Market (Oak Park). After stocking up on cheese, he likes sitting down for a nice meal.

Better Cheddar stands out in Kansas City for chefs such as Celina Tio (JULIAN, Kansas City) and Howard Hanna (The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Manifesto, Kansas City). Hanna also raves about Green Dirt Farm, farmstead producers of sheep’s milk cheeses, sold directly to local restaurants.

In Cleveland, Brian Reilly (Noodlecat, Cleveland) satiates his cheese cravings at The Cheese Shop inside the venerable West Side Market, and in Charleston, Geoff Rhyne (FIG) cites Avondale Wine & Cheese as one of his favorite specialty food stores.

When Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA, Chicago) is in the Louisville area, she makes sure to cross the river and visit Capriole Farm for some goat cheese.

Things to know about your cheesemonger

Melissa Trimmer (Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago): Three things everyone should know about their cheesemonger? I think that is really subjective. There are places in town like Pastoral with talent like Lisa Futterman, who are just killing it. You know by simply walking into the place what kind of dedication to cheese they have. At the same time, you could also go into certain high-end grocery stores and see some (notice I say some, NOT all or even close to) similar selections that have been treated poorly (over-ripened, squashed, poorly maintained). It’s the second type of place that I want to know: 1). Where in the heck did you presume to “learn” about cheese? 2). Do you think you are doing the public a favor by carrying high-end cheeses that have pretty much been ruined (and acting snotty about it)? 3). What are you doing to continue your cheese education? Snarky answer, I know, but come on folks, respect for ingredients!

Susan Goss (West Town Tavern, Chicago): I try to visit the facility where the cheese is held. Many cheeses continue to age at the wholesaler’s and it is imperative that they are held at the right temp and humidity. The cheesemonger must enjoy eating cheese. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you love the product, you are not going to take care of it and you are not going to be able to tell me how to care for it. The wholesaler must have a good reputation with the dairies. Once again, it seems like a no-brainer, but unless the dairies know you will take care of their cheeses, you won’t get the good stuff!

Chrissy Camba: 1). Their name. 2). How passionate they are about cheese. You can tell instantly if the person selling you cheese knows what they’re talking about or not, especially if you are knowledgeable about cheese. 3). What cheeses they think you would really enjoy :D It’s always good to trust your cheesemonger and let them introduce all different cheeses to you :) Mind you, these are things that I want to know about my cheesemonger.

Rob Levitt: Knowing your cheesemonger is as important as knowing your farmer. Do they know where the cheeses are coming from? Are they well-versed in all different styles? I like to use local ingredients, so if I’m doing a dish that traditionally has Gruyère, what can they suggest? Can you rely on the cheesemonger to bring you cheeses that are ripe enough to serve but will hold up for a few nights, or are you at their mercy? Are they buying direct from cheesemakers or are they buying from a warehouse and filling orders, trying to get you to buy the stuff they are getting good deals on?

Carrie Nahabedian: Integrity, love of cheese, a good palate, knowledge of the cheese they are selling, a great relationship with the cheesemaker. A good cheese purveyor needs them all.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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Cheese-loving Chefs Unite for Cheese Lover’s Day

cheese
With National Cheese Lover’s Day coming up on January 20, chefs (and presumably everyone with taste buds) has got cheese on the mind. Two of the most difficult questions to ask a cheese-lover are “What is your favorite cheese?” and “Do you prefer a cheese plate or a dessert?” We had the audacity to ask chefs both questions. 

Chefs talk favorite cheeses

Juliana, Old Kentucky Tomme, at Capriole Farm (Photo courtesy of Capriole Farm)

Christine Cikowski (Sunday Dinner Club, Chicago): All cheese.

Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA, Chicago): Just one???? I love Burrata, Julianna from Capriole Farm and bandaged cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy. And of course Armenian string cheese.

Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis): Dunbarton blue cheddar from Wisconsin.

Chrissy Camba (Bar Pastoral, Chicago): Oh my … what a terrible question; it’s like asking me to tell you which of my two bunnies is my favorite.

Jill Barron (MANA food bar, Chicago): Too many cheeses to choose from.

Cary Taylor (The Southern, Chicago): Manchego.

Sarah Stegner (Prairie Grass Cafe, Chicago): My favorite cheese is goat cheese. The fresher the better. I love the cheese from Capriole Farm that Judith Schad makes. One time I went and visited her. The first thing we did together was sit on the porch of her farmhouse and eat fresh goat cheese with a glass of red wine. The experience and warm friendship mingled together with some of the world’s best goat cheese made for a lasting impression.

Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago): Garrotxa, a cave-aged Spanish goat cheese.

Cheese course vs. dessert

Melissa Trimmer (Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago): What a loaded question, considering my profession. To that end, I will simply say this: I enjoy both cheese and dessert with gusto!

Craig Harzewski (NAHA): I enjoy both at the end of my meals. I like a little sweet bite and then follow it up with cheese. I usually go for a bit of a fruity dessert, then I like a goat cheese with honey and nuts. I have been finding myself snacking on Sofia, an ashed goat cheese from Capriole Farm. All of this and I still have room for mignardises (chocolates!).

Patrick Fahy (Sixteen, Chicago): I prefer both! And then extra dessert.

Sandra Holl (Floriole Cafe & Bakery, Chicago): I don’t want to choose between cheese and dessert. If I can’t physically eat both, I choose dessert. It’s research; part of the job.

compiled by Matt Kirouac

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