While planning our monthly NYC weekend, I was very proud of myself for willing to look ahead (to our Southern France trip in May), as opposed to being hopelessly stuck in the past, in my beloved Italian cuisine. As a result, the eating itinerary combined a chic French Saturday with the casual Italian Sunday…thank God for the hard-working American spirit which makes it possible to eat at virtually any restaurant in the US on Sunday, – not so in Rome, for example!)I still remember the horrors of neglecting to make a lunch reservation on Sunday (our second day in Rome) for any of the few open worthwhile restaurants, and walking in the heat for hours around Fori and Circo Massimo, without a semblance of a plan… only to be saved by the unexpected appearance of Cristalli di Zucchero and their delicious miniature artisanal savory and sweet pastries (and fresh apricot and blood orange juices)…but I digress.
Jeff and I had fond memories of having tea and macarons at a premier pastry shop Maison Laduree in Paris,
and I was pleased to discover that their newest location opened in Manhattan (Upper East Side) just a couple of months ago. I cringed at the prospect of standing in line for an hour (or more realistically, at the prospect of Jeff refusing to stand in line for an hour, and therefore, at the prospect of not eating macarons on our short trip); but thankfully, it all worked out “for the best in the best of all possible worlds”. Some thirty minutes later, we were already tasting the fabulous macarons in lemon, pistachio, coffee, rose petal, orange blossom, and the ultimate treat, sea salt caramel.
Our evening plans involved a SoHo French-Vietnamese fusion place called Rouge et Blanc (which I kept calling “Rouge et Noir” throughout the night, till I figured out that I needed to think “rouge” and “blanc” wine, as opposed to Stendhal’s mysterious color scheme). I had heard of the place before, and had vague interest, but never acted upon it, till last week, my friend Alex told me that the food there was “exquisite”. Now, you have to understand that the highest epithet Alex typically uses to describe food is “decent” (by the way, he is a dedicated and experienced foodie) So, needless to say, when I heard that kind of language from him, five minutes later, I was already making the Open Table reservation for Saturday night dinner.
And it did not disappoint. Moreover, I was lavishing praise all night: the bone marrow & charred baby octopus and en papillote forest mushrooms small plates; fall vegetables in green curry with monkey bread; caramelized fois gras dessert were all pretty amazing, as well as the Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied 2006.
The interesting thing about the pairing is that typically, a Cab Franc would be too heavy for vegetables, especially given their method of preparation (Cab Franc and green curry???) But, at 12.5% alcohol, this low-yield Chinon is both rich and elegant & earthy. Also, the higher level of acidity of that particular cuvee makes that marriage even stronger. As for the food, the common theme for this chef seems to be subtlety and earthiness.
I was looking forward to sharing pictures of the dishes we ate (which I diligently took), but they turned out to be disappointing, due to my utter lack of skill and low lighting. The presentation of the bone marrow small plate was especially dramatic, with a very impressively sized bone across the plate, and the baby octopus piled on top of the bone marrow… I will leave you only with a somewhat interesting, if totally unrealistic, picture of our curried vegetables entrée: