Archive for the 'dining' Category

Bargains on restaurant wine lists – NYC edition

bottlecellar When is a wine cheaper in a restaurant than at a store?

With restaurant markups commonly 300 or 400 percent you could be forgiven for answering, “never.” But right now, there’s a restaurant in NYC where the head sommelier is clearing out his inventory. Unfortunately, he’s already blown through most of the wines that cost him less than $300. But for all (both?) the high rollers out there, the wines that he bought for north of $300 and he has multiple bottles of, he’s happy to part with them for as little as $100 above his cost. As silly as it sounds, that means that a wine that costs $750 a bottle in a store might only cost $600 at the restaurant!

Consider another example. The sommelier told me that one patron wanted to spend $900 on the Domaine Romanee Conti, Grands Echezaux, 2005. But the sommelier asked him if he would like a better wine that’s drinking better now, the DRC, La Tache, 2006 for $750. The diner readily accepted. Fancy that, a downsell! (is that even a word?)

The price reductions are indicated not on the wine list, however. The somm told me that he gives them mainly to regulars or “people who seem nice.” So if you have an anniversary, marriage proposal, big birthday, or other celebratory event coming up no matter which fine restaurant you’re in, it might not hurt to indicate your (high) price point and ask if that’s the most exciting thing in that vein (cough**cough**price) on the wine list.

Unfortunately, the sommelier requested anonymity since he said that there is no across-the-board policy. But in other NYC deals, Veritas, the wine shrine on 20th St., is offering 25% off all wines on the list. And Bar Boulud is offering a “Pannier du jour,” wherein a magnum, jerobaum, imperial or Methusalem is hauled up from the cellar, uncorked and sold by the glass for between $19 and $29 a glass. It may sound like a lot but some recent selections have included the 04 Jadot Bonnes-Mares (3L) and the 1978 Ducru Beaucaillou (mag). Maybe if you get the last glass you could take the bottle home?

At the lower-priced value end, Perry Street, Jojo, and Vong each offers a red and a white bottle of wine for $20 at lunch time as well as a $5 wine by the glass.

Hit the comments with other deals you know about!

Wine, yes tanks

wine tanks

The NYT ran a story yesterday about wine served in restaurants from refillable tanks. It’s a win-win idea since it lowers the cost per glass of wine reduces wine’s carbon footprint with less packaging mass, similar to the bag-in-box idea I detailed in the Times last summer.

Let’s just hope the restaurants that do use the system pass on the lower costs to diners. Such is the case of those detailed in the story. Last spring, I also saw an affordable tank wine (“Mas vino,” pictured above) offered by the glass at Small Shed Flatbreads in Mill Valley. I didn’t try it because I was too busy trying a prosecco.

Wine for the Super Bowl: Tampa edition

Last year, supermodel Gisele Bundchen caused a stir by sipping wine during the Super Bowl. Some even thought this act caused the Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady, her beau, to crumble, bring the team down with him.

berns Fans of the Steelers and the Cardinals who make it to Tampa for this year’s Super Bowl on February 1 are, given the scant attention paid to wine at stadiums, likely to have few such vinuous distractions. But Tampa does have one wine destination worth flagging: Bern’s Steakhouse.

The restaurant has a legendary wine list with about 600,000 bottles that have been accumulated constantly since the restaurant opened in the 1950s. Some are housed in the 3,000+ square foot wine cellar in the restaurant but the bulk of the collection is stored in two temperature controlled warehouses off premises. Stars of the collection include an 1851 bottle of Gruaud Larose, some Madeiras from the 18th century, and large verticals of Bordeaux.

I’ve never been to the restaurant but I was talking with an NYC wine collector last year and he told me about weekends that he and his wife like to take in Tampa to visit Bern’s. They go with four to eight friends and make reservations for Friday and Saturday night. They have a lengthy meal on Friday, sleep in on Saturday, get manicures or play golf (they said there’s not a lot to do), then go back for a huge, long dinner on Saturday that can last ten hours at the table as they plunder the cellar. Whoa! Who knows if they are keeping this up hedonism in recessionary 2009 but it shows what damage wine lovers could do at the restaurant. A lot more than in the stadium, that’s for sure!

Related: “Eric Renaud Senior Sommelier” [WSJ.com]

This bottle sucks

babybottle Intrigued by the notion that an entire restaurant will be opening in Manhattan tonight with baby bottles for stemware, I decided to try this vessel out for myself. Since we have two lads, one of whom is baby bottle age, I had to go no farther than my own kitchen.

Filling it up with some red from last night, I took a sip of the wine before screwing on the lid. Still passable on day two. I screwed on the lid. I sucked.

Mrs. Vino: “Obscene!”

Me: “Frustrating!”

It was kind of like having a governor on your car that prevents it from going over 50 miles per hour. Or 5 miles per hour as the case may be since a mere drip escaped at a time.

I tried a fresh aromatic white. Sipped with the lid off, I got lots of nice aromas of tropical fruits etc. Once I screwed on the rubber nipple, those aromas were trapped! I felt like one of those subjects in the Cal Tech study. Yes, it’s a $100 wine! Whatever you tell me! Just give it to me in a glass!

Prediction: within a week, the restaurant will be offering normal stemware as well.

Regress with baby bottles at new fondue restaurant

babybottlewine Earlier this year we talked about those juice boxes for adults aka wine in Tetra Pak. Now you can regress even further, straight past sippy cups. Yes, via Diner’s Journal we learn that the new fondue restaurant, La Cave des Fondus (20 Prince Street in Nolita) will offer red and white wine (and beer) in baby bottles. Perhaps the only thing scarier is the fact that this restaurant comes from Paris. Yes, Paris! Check out the video to see how much they love it there!

So when will Riedel get into the baby bottle market?

Men and women treated differently in restaurants: right or wrong?

wineservice Frank Bruni, restaurant critic for the NYT who also moonlights as presidential debate analyst, has an expose in today’s paper about unequal treatment of men and women in restaurants. Is it chivalry or chauvinism, he wonders. To the tape:

Because men can generally put away more food and alcohol, “men spend more, women spend less,” said Steve Dublanica, author of the recent best seller “Waiter Rant.” In addition, he said: “Men eat and leave. Women eat and stick around.” So a server attending to women may have to wait longer “to turn the table over, get another group, get more tips.”

In a follow-up blog posting, Bruni added this tidbit too from a restaurant veteran: “When drunk,” she told me, “men fight, and women vomit.” (Except for Jermain Dupri who vomits in his girlfriend’s (Janet Jackson) lap after which she squealed and had her driver high-tail the Maybach outta there.)

Do you encounter different service at restaurants, particularly when it comes to wine service such as ordering and sampling the bottle? If so, is it supremely annoying or entirely appropriate?

Fictitious restaurant wins Wine Spectator Award of Excellence

awardofexcellence If you decided to get a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for you restaurant wine list, what would you need? The answer according to Robin Goldstein is $250 and Microsoft Word. Restaurant not actually required.

Goldstein, the author of The Wine Trials, has a posting up on a new web site describing how he invented a restaurant name, Osteria l’Intrepido, a riff on “fearless.” Then he typed up a menu (“a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes”), put together a wine list, and submitted both to Wine Spectator–along with the $250 fee. The list was approved and given an Award of Excellence (see screenshot).

Then Goldstein decided to add a twist. To the tape:

It’s troubling, of course, that a restaurant that doesn’t exist could win an Award of Excellence. But it’s also troubling that the award doesn’t seem to be particularly tied to the quality of the wine list, even by Wine Spectator’s own standards. Although the main wine list that I submitted was made up of fairly standard Italian-focused selections, Osteria L’Intrepido’s “reserve wine list” was largely chosen from among the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past 20 years.

Click through for the list complete with WS annotations and scores.

Reached by phone today, Goldstein said that he also presented this information at the annual meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists in Portland over the weekend.

“I didn’t have any empirical evidence of the quality of the restaurants other than my own impressions,” he said. “I wanted to see what the standards of the Awards of Excellence were. The results speak for themselves.” His experience will be part of an academic paper he is working on about standards for wine awards.

In 2003, Amanda Hesser explored the Wine Spectator restaurant awards in a piece in the Times entitled “A Wine Award That Seems Easy to Come By.” She concluded that the 3,573 restaurants that year grossed Wine Spectator $625,275. But the annual application fee then was $175 as opposed to the $250 that Goldstein and others paid for their application fee this year.

Wine list at The Modern has prices in euros

modernwinelist
In a further sign of how our currency is rapidly becoming the American peso, the wine list at The Modern restaurant on West 53rd Street (below MoMA) in Manhattan now lists the euro equivalent pricing.

During lunch there yesterday, I asked if they actually accepted euros for payment. They said it is for informational purposes only to help their European guests make the conversion. Must be a pretty picture for the Europeans! The only catch for them as they order their magnums is that the price on the menu does not include service and tax as is the norm in Europe, which could lead to a 25 percent upside surprise when the check comes.


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