Tag Archives: wine

The New French: Lafayette

Mesdames et Messieurs, the reviews are in: Lafayette you are juste magnifique!

 If there’s one culinary bite of wisdom I’ve managed to chew off over my relatively short life it’s one thing: Taste is place. What first drew me to food was travel, that is to say when I experienced that one dish could so deliciously convey a history, a people, and capture the spice of most importantly, a culture. Food is no other than the expression of a land and of a certain terroir. When we savour a slice of Camembert, we’re tasting the beauty of the pastureland, plains and rolling hills that the creamy cows of the île de France and shores of Normandy are grazing on. In a glass of a really good Burgundy pinot noir, it’s the Jurassic period limestone soil and thousand year old vines unique to one of the world’s most geographically distinct regions that our palettes are really sipping on. And the best authentic French food, is of course going to taste the best in none other than the land of France. So what’s the point of trying to find “authentic” french restaurants in another country? Isn’t it all going to be a sort of sad copy, a nostalgic crusade for all deprived francophones, in search of their own culinary golden age? Well this week, Noho’s infamous Lafayette showed two staunchy traditionalists the beauty of culinary translation and of the American-French restaurant variation.There’s no going back to France, but there is a way to appreciate the value of cultural interpretation, and what American chefs might add to the interpretation of French flavors. This week we’re here to celebrate one of our new favorite culinary breeds: le nouveau style, “American-French.”Cher Lafayette, you are a beautiful hybrid.



DSC_0419380 Lafayette St.


So here’s the deal, Lafayette reigns currently as one of NYC’s top French restaurants and we’re stamping it with our wholehearted francophone seal of approval. And not because you’ll find the most authentic French food there, but rather because it offers innovative, delicious spins on traditional regional french classic dishes. Now we’ll be honest, we’re not on the “Boulud” bandwagon these days. Instead we’re joining “team Lafayette” for their ability to produce delicious, creative spins on the best of French cuisine. It’s that creamy quail egg on their “New Orleans” tabasco aioli beef tartare that really revamps original flavors and makes the classics, well, fun again! The quail egg is not a culinary face lift, but rather an inspired addition. Just like that refreshing layer of sweet sauternes gelée on good ole chicken liver paté done right on a light brioche was then “razzle dazzled” into the modern age with balsamic dressed frisée.  And the best New York-Franco translation of the night that we’re recommending: Duck au Poivre, a riff on French steak au poivre (filet mignon cooked with peppercorns) but reinvented with a meaty, double stuffed Muscovy duck breast and topped with vibrant bursts of orange candied kumquat, radishes, and smoked bacon. No disrespect to Duck à l’Orange, but Lafayette’s unique kumquat announces a new burst of tart citrus flavor with an added raw crunch to pair perfectly with your duck cooked to a perfect pink. It was one subtle ingredient that didn’t renovate one of my favorite dishes, but rather re-translated a transition.


So why are we sending you on a date with duck at Lafayette next weekend? Quality, delicious dishes that fit a creative American-Franco fused menu. La service? Superbe. Lafayette’s waiters are well tasted and eager to talk you through their Holy Bible of a wine list. L’Atmosphere? It’s no comfy cave bistrot, but their art deco inspired interior and suspender strap wearin’ waiters will whisk you and your palette back to a time when dining was truly a celebration, an elegant affair, and a moment to shine your shoes for. A time when waiters still serve a “lady” first and will even delicately crack open your warm soufflé to pour in just the perfect amount of crème anglaise. Lafayette preserves the grace, tradition, and dedication to the craft of preparing and serving food in a way that embodies the very génie of the French Haute Cuisine. So come for cultural culinary innovation, but let yourself be transported back in time to a restaurant that preserves the very essence of Julia Child’s legacy.



Menu Must Haves:

Winter Paté, foie gras, red cabbage, apple cider

Escarole Salad, pomegranate, hazelnut, parmesan, truffle vinaigrette

Prime Beef Tartare “New Orleans,” tabasco aioli, quail egg

Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano

Duck au Poivre, organic grains, radish, smoked bacon

Petite Orange Soufflé with earl grey crème anglaise, mandarin salad

*And supposively we hear the pommes frites sont divine!


 French Check-In: An Afterthought from a Parisian Palette

What was your favorite Lafayette spin?

The French restaurant in NYC? Lafayette, definitely. And maybe because it’s not exactly a French restaurant serving very “typical” dishes that we don’t even really eat back at home.

The restaurant in NYC? Well, that’s a really tricky question obviously, but Lafayette could be in the top five, and considering that there are 16,251 restaurants in NYC (yes actual number), that’s something.

Seriously, this place is everything you can look for when it comes to food: simplicity and quality. I had the Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano (by the way, cheapest dish on the menu, 22 dollars, does it get better than that… ?). It’s a dish I regularly have, from time to time, at home or out. It basically contains pasta and rabbit, that’s it. But this version of it was the real thing because the pasta was perfectly cooked, the rabbit was tender and flavorful. Simple comme bonjour.

PS: Oh, and don’t even get me started on the bread.

-Jeanne Bernard




Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)




Livin’ La Vita Dolce

Not as much a recipe as it is a lifestyle, good, fresh ingredients can carry you a long way.


Summer gets to you. Walking through the Farmer’s Market on a warm morning, seeing all of the brightly colored berries and glistening heirloom tomatoes, you begin to feel that you’re starring in your own food feel-good movie. The smells of ripe peaches lingers in the air and mingles with lush bunches of basil, mint, and lavender. The produce calls to you.

Wandering through the Union Square Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite summer passtimes, but I am always met with this dilemma. I feel that cooking these beautiful fruits, vegetables, and herbs would almost be sacrilege. They seem so perfect just as they are in the market–ready to eat. Cooking would almost taint them. Oftentimes cooking can dull the bright colors (I’m thinking of my experiences with eggplant and yum yum peppers), and it most definitely changes the flavors. Plus, with the summer heat, who even wants to turn on any sort of flame in the house, be it stove, oven, or broiler?

I was in the mood for simplicity. I was reminded of the movie Eat, Pray, Love. As much as I disliked that chick-flick, one phrase stuck with me: La Vita Dolce. Literally meaning “the sweet life,” the movie defined it as the ability to enjoy simplicity and the simple things. Although this can pertain to many things, the movie linked it directly to a scene in which the main character eats a simple lunch of asparagus, some charcuterie, and cheese.

Prepping for my weekly shopping, I kept this in mind. The resulting meal was simple in preparation and the taste was simply delicious. I had sweet salami and San Danielle Prosciutto with fresh cantaloupe and figs. The centerpiece of the meal was the simplest salad I have probably ever made: arugula with shaved parmesan, pepper, salt, oil, and balsamic vinegar. Of course, “La Vita Dolce” doesn’t have to consist of the same components. Just think fresh, colorful, summertime. And, without a doubt, it should be enjoyed with some good Italian wine.

Weekend Getaways: Aphrodisiac Tour!

Yes, it’s after Valentine’s day, but who says that you can’t enjoy aphrodisiacs all year long? The Alliance for Downtown New York will be leading a tour starting at 120 Broadway (Pine Street) on Saturday (2/19) starting at noon and going til 3 pm. The tour will store at food markets, restaurants, chocolatiers, and other such places and will feature foods like chocolate, wine, and oysters. The cost for the tour is $25.

The catch? You have to be 21+. For more info, visit www.downtownny.com/tours.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Matchbook Chardonnay 2009

It was late afternoon on a Friday at Good Housekeeping, and I was beginning to feel it. I was dragging, fact checking for a mixer story that was going up on the web soon. I received a call from Paul who works down the hall, telling me to go down to the Test Kitchen. Thankful to pull myself from the computer screen, I wandered over to the kitchen. There were a couple people gathered around the tasting table, but I didn’t see any food. There were plates and tasting spoons, but no food. Confused, I looked a little closer, only to realize that every plate had little dabs of red all over it.

Taking a seat, Sherry explained that we had to do a condiment testing for the June issue. We were going to be tasting 10 different ketchups, 15 different mustards, and 7 relishes. My stomach began to churn with just the thought of it. We had a little bread and plenty of water, but tasting and evaluating that many condiments is kind of a grueling task. Just when you thought you were done, Sherry would come over a replace your plate of mustard with another. Some condiments were down right repulsive, and one mustard really caught me off guard with a heavy dose of horseradish–not exactly my cup of tea. I was craving a hot dog, a burger, anything to complement all of the sauces. Instead, I ended up downing about 10 cups of water.

At the end of the tasting, I turned in my ballot, and I finally received some good news. Sherry told me that since I helped out, I got to pick something from a cart full of extra supplies. I spied wine bottles, and I quickly asked Sherry for a recommendation. She pointed me to a wide bottle of Matchbook Chardonnay 2009.

Now, I’m sure most of you know that I typically prefer white wines. This chardonnay hails from California, and it received the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Silver Medal. Unlike most Chardonnays, it wasn’t too heavy on the oak, and it was supposed to have a more pleasant and soothing taste. Everything seemed to indicate that I would like it–it was a white wine, from California, award-winning, and light.

Late in the night, I opened the bottle and poured a glass. It was a very light color and the smell was hinting at the apple orchard up in the mountains that my family used to visit. I took my first sip, and to put it lightly, I was not satisfied. The chardonnay was much too light. The dominant flavor was apple with touches of tropical fruit, but the other complexities that characterize chardonnays were not present. No notes of cinnamon, no hints of cream, and where was my favorite brown sugar flavor profile? Plus, at the end, the wine tended to have a strong bite in the back of the throat. What the wine lacked in flavor, it made up in sting. And that is not something I prefer in the slightest. Although I will give it this–it was a ton better than the ketchup, mustard, and relishes.

But remember, I am not the final authority. If you’re still interested in this California chardonnay, it retails for about $15.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Can Blau 2008

With the introduction of the Aspiring Beer Enthusiast, the Oenophile would like to counter the Chokolat with a bottle of Can Blau from Spain. With several flavor profiles, this wine introduces a bit of complexity. Luxurious, as a wine should be, it has more going on than simply chocolate.

Coming back from Argentina is such an unfortunate thing. It’s not because I’m going to miss the weather, or the location, or the vacation full of free time. No, I’m going to miss the drinking age. In Argentina, the legal drinking age is 18. However, this age limit is rarely enforced. My 16 year-old sister had no problem getting into the bars in Buenos Aires (but this may be due to the fact that she looks as old as me if not older). It’s so nice not to have to worry about being carded at liquor stores, ordering wine at a restaurant, purchasing liqueurs for cooking. I realized one thing though–once I reach the legal age of 21, I’m going to need to start budgeting for alcohol. Otherwise, my money will be slipping through my fingers. It’s not that I’m an alcoholic, not even close… It’s just that there are so many different types to try and so many different combinations.

All good things must come to an end. I returned to the States, and I returned to being underage. Luckily, I still have my friend over at Vino Fino. He happily welcomed me back, offering me two delicious samples for the day.

In Argentina, I finally began to cultivate a better appreciation for good red wines. At every meal, we were served mineral water and Malbec, the Argentine standard from Mendoza. I told my friend that I was interested in developing my new-found appreciation. I wanted a full-bodied, complicated red with lots of flavors. He pointed me to a bottle of Can Blau 2008 from the Montsant region of Spain. He likes to take credit for teaching me to appreciate reds. Why is it that reds are a sign of maturity when it comes to wine?

Anyways, I headed back to East Campus to share the bottle of red with my friends. Taking the bottle out of the bag, I realized that perhaps it wasn’t a growing wine maturity that informed my decision. The Can Blau bottle is truly stunning, an intricate cross pattern with metallic accents and a royal blue background. Pouring it into the glasses, light danced on the bottle. (I suppose just as I often judge books by their covers, I sometimes judge wines by their bottles.) The first striking feature of the wine is the color. It is a deep purple color, much less red than most red wines. Swirling the liquid in our glasses, the aroma was reminiscent of a forest after a morning rain. (Wow, that sounded pretentious… but it’s really true!) It was a thoroughly enjoyable smell, and it accompanied the cold winter day well.

The wine is composed of Mazuelo, Syrah, and Garnacha. Taking the first sip, flavors of blueberries, blackberries, and plums dominate the palate, flavors that can almost be described as thoroughly “purple.” The spicy cinnamon notes are then introduced by the Syrah. This gives way to accents of vanilla and a hint of cocoa. However, this sweetness is fleeting and the wine finishes with a mineral aftertaste, which is perfect for cleansing the palate for the subsequent sip. It is the perfect cycle with several layers of flavor interacting and forming a truly complex and delicious wine.

Vino Fino sells this bottle for $20 a bottle, well worth it for such a rich and elegant wine.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Indaba Chardonnay 2009

It’s a beautiful thing when wine just appears at your door. It’s a rare occasion, but just when we need it, wine can serendipitously and spontaneously show up.

This is what happened last Friday. I preparing to head into the trenches of finals. Starting tha evening, I was prepping for a big paper the following morning and I had three finals approaching in the coming week. I had just finished watching “The China Syndrome” for an in-depth analysis when my friend Hannah showed up at my door. But she wasn’t alone. She walked into my suite bearing gifts–2 bottles of wine and a 6-pack of beer. Merry Christmas to me!

Hannah and I are striving to gain wine literacy by the time we both turn 21 next year. Whenever I find an interesting wine or one that I think she would enjoy, I always make sure to stop by her place to share. However, I never expected to be repaid with such generosity. Hannah explained to me that all of the alcohol had been a gift. This seemed a little suspicious, but who was I to ask questions? We sat down, planning to watch “The China Syndrome” again for my class… That didn’t happen.

We started out with the bottle of white, since Hannah and I both prefer white. It was a bottle of Indaba Chardonnay from South Africa, my first from this region. Just for entertainment’s sake, we read the back label. “Citrus and tropical fruit aromas… mouth-filling flavors of apple, pear, honey, and pineapple. A gentle kiss of oak.” We scoffed at this elaborate description as poured our glasses, but as we tasted the wine, we were astounded. Not only did the wine smell delicious, but it did in fact taste of apple, pear, and honey–in that order! Neither of us tasted the final piece of pineapple, but the fact that the three separate flavors of apple, pear, and honey were distinguishable in the wine made up for this fact. The wine was sweet and creamy, and we quickly poured ourselves another glass.

The chardonnay was the highlight of the night. The beer from the Brooklyn Brewery (we each had two) was satisfying, but we returned again to the white. The red, a mixture of Merlot and Malbec from Argentina (the label was Falling Star), was absolutely terrible. Even the scent was repulsive, and the taste was so jumbled that we once again turned to the white to cleanse our palates. By the end, we had each indulged with 2 glasses of white, 1 red, and 2 bottles of beer. Who said anything about finals?

At only $10 a bottle, the Indaba Chardonnay is more than worth it.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Musar Jeune 2008

Heading to Rachelle’s annual Latkethon, I felt that it would only be appropriate to bring a special regional wine for the event, so I stopped in at Vino Fino right before the party.

Inside, I asked the owner if he had anything from Israel. (I had never heard of Israeli wines, but it was worth a shot.) Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything from Israel, but he had some wines from Lebanon. Good enough right? I told him that a red would be most appropriate. I figured that potatoes and heavy foods would be best with the red.

My eyes were drawn to a bottle of Musar Jeune, a mixture of Cinsault, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. According to the back of the bottle, the wine hails from “Lebanon’s legendary Chateau Musar”  of the Bekaa Valley. Chateau Musar was established in 1930 by Gaston Hochar–now 80 years later, his two sons, Serge and Ronald run the vineyard near the Mediterranean.

Once at the party, I uncorked the wine. Looking at the cork, I read “labor omnia vincit”–Latin for “hard work conquers all.” This reminded me of finals briefly, so I quickly poured myself a glass. I didn’t want to think about work–I just wanted a good time. Luckily, the Musar Jeune delivered. With a very fruity flavor of cherries and blueberries, it was easy to start. Personally, I was convinced that it had an aftertaste of chocolate or cocoa nibs. (However, no one else seemed to agree with me.) According to other online reviews, it may have an aftertaste of anise. The wine has no burn, but goes down smoothly like a dessert. It also has a very pleasant scent–the summer berries are called to mind again.

Although I’m not completely sure that this wine went well with the latkes, it was thoroughly enjoyable. However, with a heftier price tag, this wine should probably be saved for special occasions or for special friends.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Vina Isabella

It’s Monday, and I broke one of my biggest wine rules. Never drink wine–or any alcoholic beverage–on a weeknight. Period.

But tonight was bound to be an exception. It’s the first night back from Thanksgiving break, and Winter break is three weeks away. My trip to Argentina looms in the not-to-far future. Plus, someone asked me to test a chicken recipe that called for 3/4 C of white wine.

So what was I to do with the rest of the bottle? Drink it of course! Of course, this wasn’t done completely on purpose. I headed into Vino Fino early in the evening and asked for a cheap white wine, preferably from Spain. The owner’s son handed me Vina Isabella. The bottle only cost $10–the cheapest of the wines available. Back in my suite, I commenced the recipe testing process. I figured it would be inappropriate NOT to have a glass of wine in hand whilst cooking, so I poured myself a glass.

The initial taste of the Spanish wine is sharp. The tip of the tongue tingles, almost as if the wine is carbonated. As the wine washes over the rest of the palate, green apples are immediately called to mind. The wine is also very dry, reminiscent of a sherry. (I suppose that’s why this wine is best for cooking.) Finally, the wine reached the back of the throat. Unlike the more expensive wines, this one had a slight burn, but it was not unpleasant.

After my initial glass, I continued to imbibe. All of a sudden, I realized that the bottle was almost empty and I was feeling a bit tipsy. Whoops. I went to visit a friend across campus about an hour later–I managed to run into only 1 wall on the way there, pretty good for me.

Over all, the wine is best for the chicken recipe I made tonight (or other cooking uses). It was enjoyable for a light accompaniment to the meal, but it was not the best wine. However, for the price, it may be worth another shot.

The Aspiring Oenophile: Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir

Walking into Vino Fino on a rainy Thursday night, I was exhausted and cold… and I still had tons of work to do. The perfect consolation? Wine, as always.

The owner greeted me at the door–he’s starting to recognize me, since I’ve been visiting every Thursday night. Immediately upon my arrival, he gave me a sample of his latest wines, but I told him that I was looking for something very specific: Argentinian Wines.

Why Argentina? Well, I have always heard that wines from this country are excellent–however, the real reason is that I will be traveling with family and friends down to Buenos Aires for Christmas. I don’t want to show up and know nothing of their wines! Plus, my friends are proud wine connoisseurs, while I, on the other hand, know next to nothing about wines.

Upon further explanation of my predicament to the owner, he led me to the wall of red wines (a side of the store that I have always avoided). He knows that I don’t really like red wines too much, but he told me that I wouldn’t be able to understand Argentinian wines until I had a proper red wine. I gave in and bought his first recommendation: Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir 2009. The bottle read “Mendoza.” Mendoza is several miles west of my winter destination, but I figured it was close enough to start my education. I took my purchase home, excited to try my first Argentinian wine.

The opportunity didn’t come until 2 days later. On Thursday and Friday, I was much too busy to uncork a bottle of wine. Plus, it didn’t seem right to enjoy a pinot noir by myself. Pinot noir is often described as the “most romantic” of wines, even as “sex in a glass.” How could I possibly drink this alone? Since I didn’t want to open the glass without the company of at least a couple friends, it wasn’t until the evening of the Harry and the Potters concert that I finally got to try the pinot noir. After 7 pm, most of the work for the catering event was finished, and everyone who had volunteered to cater was exhausted. I invited everyone to crash at my place for 2 hours before we came back to clean at 9 pm. Once we arrived in EC, I brought out the bottle of red, much to everyone’s delight. There is no better way to bond with new members than sharing a bottle of wine.

Discussing the wine, we agreed that it had hints of stone fruits: cherry, plum. It was very light, not heavy at all. It also did not have the typical acidity of most red wines. (Apparently the owner at Vino Fino knew me well enough to start me off with a relatively weak red wine.) However, the wine was perfect for taking the edge off of the catering crew. We returned to the kitchen relaxed (but not at all drunk).

At $12 dollars, the Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir is a perfect introduction to the world of red wines and a great way to unwind with friends. It would pair well with many of our upcoming holiday foods such as turkey and roast chicken.

The Aspiring Oenophile

It is not rare in college to go to a party where people are eagerly guzzling beer (Coors Light) and cheap two-buck chuck. Mixed drinks typically consist of vodka, tequila, or rum, and they might have one or two mixers. Vodka Cranberries and Screwdrivers are much too popular, and it appears as if students lack a knowledge of drinks.

Although I have not yet hit 21, I have had my fair share of Vodka Cranberries. However, after a particular incident that involved a long night and several friends coming to my aid, I swore off all cheaply made drinks and decided to renounce my college drinking ways. I began my search for good wines and legitimate cocktails. (I even got several apps on my phone to help me out!) Now, my goal is to have a legitimate (although maybe not extensive) knowlegde of wine and drink by the time I reach that magical legal drinking age. I want to be able to look at the wine menu without having that deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. I want to be able to know what it means when descriptions say that a wine is “fruity with hints of caramel and undertones of oak.” Is this pretentious? Maybe, but I feel that it is a necessary component of being a true foodie.

Most recently, I bought a bottle of Muscat Ottonel 1997 which hails from Hungary from Vino Fino (A store which apparently doesn’t card. Lucky me!). The owner of Vino Fino informed me that the company that produced this wine is going out of business, and he seemed genuinely disappointed in this fact. He told me it was one of his favorite muscat varieties.

At $22 a bottle, the Muscat Ottonel is most definitely worth it! It is a dessert wine, but since I am just starting with my wine education, I lean towards the sweeter wines, mostly buying whites. The wine has a deep caramel color and it is notably heavy on the palate, almost syrupy. With undertones of tropical fruits and citrus, I was happy to indulge in this wine both before and after the meal. It lacks the acidity of many wines, and it also does not have the same effect on your body as other wines. I’m a terrible light-weight, yet I was able to drink 3 glasses without feeling anything.

This wine is enjoyable on its own, but I also used it to macerate some strawberries for a dessert. I have also seen recipes call for it in milkshakes and high-end cakes. It pairs well with gorgonzola and aged cheddar as well as creamy desserts. It also complements fruit perfectly. Being a dessert person, I could not be more happy to have found this wine.