“Wine thief with nose for the best reaps huge haul at The French Laundry” – SFGate
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a grouse;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While memories of chanterelles danced in the diners’ heads;
The shrine to fine dining was closed for a remodel
All the foie gras put away, corks firmly in bottles. Read more…
“The IMW is little more than an elitist club, accessible by invitation only, designed to keep the riff-raff and rabble out.”
Such is one nugget in a trenchant opinion column on the Institute of Masters of Wine that appears on Harpers.co.uk. Be sure to check out the comments.
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What to do when demand for restaurant reservations exceeds the supply? Some restaurants, such as the innovative Alinea and sister restaurant Next, adjust the menu prices higher to coincide with peak demand times (check out this Big Data blog from Nick Kakonas of Alinea). For others, there reservation scalpers have emerged, much to the disdain of restaurateurs. A third way of creating a secondary market for reservations has emerged where diners pay surcharges for peak dining times and start-ups share share those demand charges with restaurants.
One SF restaurant owner says he rebuffs all such approaches as “borderline offensive.” [SF Gate]
I am intrigued by these sites but, while they may work for certain people, if one restaurant were full, I’d simply try another. What do you think about the value of these apps/sites?
New York City has the most top wine lists in the world according to a new ranking from the World of Fine Wine. London is second, San Francisco third, and Chicago fourth according to the British publication, which rolled out the annual awards for best wine lists for the first time this year.
Instead of taking the measure of a wine list’s length, the panel of experts looked at quality. Here’s how Neil Beckett, the magazine’s editor put it in a press release, “As we were judging, we had in mind the wise words of our fellow judge Francis Percival about the difference between ‘a great wine list and a mere list with great wines on it’.” More about the wine list judging methods can be found on the WFW site. It is not immediately clear if the restaurants had to pay a fee in the nomination process. And it’s not clear if value/markups played a role in the deliberations.
In all, 224 restaurants achieved the top grade, a three-star rating. The list of New York’s 36 restaurants follows after the jump. Read more…
A few weeks ago, Wylie Dufresne announced that he had been forced to close his pioneering restaurant WD-50 on the Lower East Side as of 11/30. The reason is that the building will be razed and a new apartment building will go on the site; and said he hoped to reopen elsewhere soon. Then Rouge Tomate announced they will be leaving their spacious locale next to Barney’s as of August 9, citing rent. They will be relocating to an unspecified location “downtown” later this year.
Now, the monstrous Rentmageddon sweeping the NYC restaurants has claimed another scalp: Union Square Cafe. The iconic restaurant that opened 30 years ago on East 16th street and contributed to revitalizing the Union Square has fallen victim to rising rents and will close at the end of next year. USQ also hopes to move to a new location, though one has not been announced. Julia Moskin has a good, if sad, story on the trend in the NYT that is today’s must-read. She says that USQ paid $8/sf or $48,000/yr back when it opened; now the rent may be as high as $650,000 as international retailers, banks, and pharmacies have driven up rents. She also mentions that Marco Canora and partners at Hearth restaurant have been hit with a 65% increase in rent–this year.
Moskin asks Danny Meyer, whose other restaurants include Gramercy Tavern and The Modern as well as Shake Shack, why he doesn’t just pay for a renovation and the increased rent out of his own pocket? Because it doesn’t make financial sense, he says, making the analogy that it would be like doing a million-dollar renovation on a studio apartment.
In twisting the knife for fine dining, the landlord is quoted as saying that he thinks a Shake Shack would do well in the space.
When I was in Chicago a few months ago, I met up with Alpana Singh at her new restaurant, The Boarding House. Alpna has reinvented herself, stepping down as host of “Check, please!” and from a corporate job at Lettuce Entertain You to open her own restaurant. Stretched vertically over three public floors, the main floor bar area at The Boarding House serves wine and pizzas made to pair with wines under the arttistic installation of 9,000+ wineglasses (only takes about 36 person hours to clean!). Although I didn’t eat there, I checked the availability of a table for two in the vaulted dining room: they were booking 10 weeks out. I think that officially makes it a hot spot.
She told me about how she got into wine, what she’s doing to resolve the dearth of sommelier jobs, wither Chicago wine is restaurant-driven or shop-driven, and which wines make people say “wow.” Oh, and which is the greatest country in the world to be in as a wine consumer. Check out my interview with her over on wine-searcher.com.
My wife and I recently had a couple of friends over who, somewhat to our surprise, were not drinking any alcohol that evening. This can happen since a whole family might be taking antibiotics, or maybe you didn’t know the people as well as you thought. Whatever the reason, the issue of guests who abstain, especially if it is unexpected, does raise a question of etiquette for wine enthusiasts: should you also abstain?
In our case, we asked if they would mind and then went ahead and indulged in some Ar. Pe Pe, a 2009 Nebbiolo from the vertiginous slopes of Valtellina (find this wine). I poured the wine in the kitchen, brought the glasses to where we were sitting and, although it was drinking well, spared them my wine snob’s impression of yammering on about the wine.
Since we may all be entertaining more at this time of year, what are your strategies if you have found yourself in this situation? Would you be more likely to join friends in abstaining in a restaurant because of complications in splitting the bill?
After visiting a Philly BYOB, Robert Parker once let an apparent deep-seated contempt for sommeliers flow free, dubbing them defenders of “vinofreakism.”
Perhaps trying to atone for his equivalent to a Howard Dean howl, Parker posted to his web site that he enjoyed his recent meal to A16, a pizza specialist in San Francisco with a long list of wines from Campania and the Mezzogiorno more generally. Even though he admits that after seeing the wine list he wished for a lifeline phone call to his Italian critic Galloni, Parker says the sommelier, Emily, was “very knowledgeable about the wines.”
So which wines did he then have? A Champagne and two 2007 Chateauneufs (one in magnum) that aren’t on the wine list. Oh, and perhaps the best-known wine from Campania, a Montevetrano, which he said was extremely closed. Chew on that…
Shelley Lindgren, wine director and one of the owners, wrote in her book A16: Food + Wine that a wine list based on Southern Italian wines was a tough sell when she opened the restaurant. But soon enough, she writes, “we had a dining room full of curious customers interested in expanding their wine horizons.”
The latest tumblr to break out is Rich Kids of Instagram. If you’re on the fence about whether to repeal the estate tax at the highest levels, just surf on over to the site. Wine features quite prominently in the douchebaggery, such as the photo of a girl clad in a polo shirt, pouring Dom Perignon off a dock into the open mouth of a boy in the water while someone does a naked swan dive in the background.
And there’s this bill for 16 people who consumed 90,000 euros worth of wine at dinner in St. Tropez. (Dom Perignon again! If you’re spending an unconscionable amount on wine, there has to be some DRC in the mix, right?!?). This is a glaring example of how wine can boost a check at a restaurant in a way that beer or cocktails (or food though the caviar is certainly doing its best) never could. Do they tip on that? Well, in Europe, service is included in the bill. And, in this case, so is about $20,000 of VAT.