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Posts tagged ‘Food Porn’

I left my heart in Lucullus, Hvar, Croatia.

On Thursday we took an early morning catamaran from Bol (Brac island) to Hvar town (Hvar island). It’s amazing how roasting the sun was at 9AM. We made it to Hvar, searched for our apartment for about an hour, only to find out that they double booked our room. They were nice enough to find us another room for the same price through one of their friends, so in the end it worked out.

We met up with Paul Bradbury of www.total-hvar.com after being put in contact by Cliff Rames (Wines of Croatia), and he gave us a few great suggestions of things to do in Hvar. Originally from England, Paul has been living on the island for 10 years, and has put some serious effort into making Hvar and all it entails more accessible for everyone. He gave us an amazing dinner suggestions, which I will now rave about.

Welcome to Lucullus.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. When we arrived, we were told that they were full, and that if we were lucky we could wait down the street with a glass of wine in case anyone didn’t show up. We expressed how excited we were to eat there, and that it was recommended by a friend, but we still ended up down the street, glass in hand. After about 25 minutes the hostess (Nina) came over and said she had a table waiting for us. She told the chef that there were two really excited guys outside, and apparently he managed to get us a table because he likes to see people being excited about food and wine (especially his).

One of [the many] cool things about Lucullus is that they have live music a few nights per week. By this I mean two older men playing something that resembled nylon string spanish guitars, walking freely about the dining room (which by the way, was inside, but with no roof).

We decided to order a few starters after hearing they had the best beef carpaccio. So naturally we ordered that, along with tuna tartare. Living up to the reviews, it was the best beef carpaccio I’ve ever had.

 

Our waiter/backup singer/surgical intern (more on this later) named Darijo enthusiastically described how they are the only restaurant to prepare their daily fish not by grilling, but by baking in a wood fire oven at 700 degrees. Of course we couldn’t pass this up. After devouring our carpaccio and tartare (not to mention half a bottle of posip), the head chef (Stipe) came out and set up our table and said, “we are preparing for the surgery.” I laughed, thinking it was some sort of joke. Here is what happened next.

This was the kicker. Very few restaurants can deliver such amazing food AND a sensational experience simultaneously. The staff were all singing along to the guitar playing dudes, and halfway through “the surgery” Darijo came out to wipe the sweat off Stipe’s head. And let me say, the turbot we had was the most flavorful fish I’ve ever tasted!

  

We stayed for a few more songs, finished our bottle, took a few shots of grappa with Darijo and Stipe, and had a café to finish it off. Many sing alongs also happened, including “La Bamba,” “Guantanamera,” and “Oye como va.” As far as overall dining experience goes, Lucullus and company really came through. All I can say is that Danny Meyer would be more than proud. Props to you Lucullus, you seriously killed it. And a momentous shout-out to all of our new friends: Darijo, Andreja, Nina, Stipe, and Mario [WTF, haha], thank you all for the best dining experience and just being wonderful people!

Bol – Rest, Relaxation, and allow me to say; Gastronomation!

From the moment we stepped off of the bus in Bol, a blanket of relaxation engulfed us for the couple of days that we had there!! We’re told it’s even more laid back in the winter (which makes sense), but even amidst tourist season the vibe here is very calm.. beach and waterfront strolls, umbrella laid patios if you need a place to escape the sun or occasional rain while having your coffee, beer/domestic wine of choice, or a delicious authentic Croatian meal!  Following in the path that we deem meant to follow on this trip, we were in for a treat as we basked in all of the above!!

Following our visit at Jako Vino and per recommendation of Jeri (fantastic wine master there!), we strategically chose to enjoy a delicious meal at Taverna Riva, what absolutely must be hands down and yes I’m going to go there.. the best restaurant in Bol!! So so good (and call us glutens but I say we just know how to enjoy ourselves) we had to eat there two nights in a row!! The first night we sat and enjoyed their Mussels in their olive oil, garlic, lemon, and what we think is parsley and chive sauce! Must try to recreate this myself one day! For dinner Sagan had the Shark Steak, so juicy and tender, have never had a bite of a shark before! I had the grilled squid, and thoroughly enjoyed every parcel of its entire body and face! This and a bottle of Posip and we were in happy place once again!

 

 

It was a happy place that we never wanted to leave, so badly that we couldn’t justify leaving Bol without trying their Veal cooked under the Bell! This is a slow cooked meal that takes usually a minimum of 12 hours to make, we got up early the next morning to order it for dinner that evening! Crazy right?? Cooked under the bell is literally the Potatoes, Vegetables, Veal and we had Lamb also, cooked slowly by embers under an iron bell. Talk about mouth watering!

After our meal we planned on just walking to the Tiki Hut place we found earlier that day for a good evening drink, only to find out it turned into a hopping coastal party! Complete with Saxophone dance club jam! Extremely fun and unique, here’s a video of Saxophone dude getting the crowd pumped up!

Next day we enjoyed the famous beach of Bol, Zlatni Rat. Equipped with Snorkeling gear and a napping towel there was little we could do wrong! From the delicious food and wine here in Bol to the extremely relaxing beaches, to the exciting nightlife, and the GELATO!, quote of the day is “Forget about it!”

 

Yes in case you were wondering.. the Veal and Lamb cooked under the Bell is out of this world! Meat peels right off the bone without a knife, the potatoes, squash and tomatoes soak up all the juices from the meat, and vice versa the meat from the vegetables! The waiter thought we were slightly out of our minds for ordering the mussels beforehand (since the Veal and Lamb under the bell is meant for what I believe is maybe twice our party), so we went ahead and ordered some delicious dessert afterwards.. you know.. to prove our point :)

 

 

We left Bol very relaxed, very full, and with a smile.

-Patrick

And the results are in: BIBICh Winery takes the cake!

I will be the first to admit I don’t know much about Croatian wines, which is why we decided to make a visit to BIBICh Winery in Plastovo, Croatia. Alen Bibich and his winery were featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Croatian Coast episode, and now I know why! We took a bus from Zadar to Skradin where we were picked up by Jime, the estate manager (he’s an awesome guy!). We had no idea what we were in for. We expected a barrel tasting, what we got was a full on wine and food pairing (Alen’s wife is an AMAZING chef!), complete with dessert wine, carab infused grappa, and a barrel tasting to finish. What’s more was Alen’s philosophy on spitting wine. It’s very simple: don’t. France and Italy, move your asses over and make some room for Croatia!

  

Round One: watermelon marinated in lemon, fresh feta, basil. Paired with debit, a very local varietal.

Round two: Ceviche, orange foam, orange sorbét, avocado. Paired with their G5 Riserva.

Round 3: Smoked trout and local cheese (similar to mascarpone, can’t remember the name!), trout roe, and sprouts. Paired with Lučica.

Round 4: Scallops, goat cheese, black sesame. Paired with something we can’t get in the US. Bummer!

Round 5: Grilled prawns with miniature popcorn (yea, right?!), and a curry-like seasoning.

Round 6: Juniper branch smoked yogurt, garlic foam, tomato flower. Paired with “Think Pink” rosé.

Round 7: White pepper asparagus cappuccino (from the cream), also paired with rosé.

Round 8: White fish, cuttlefish purée, caviar. Paired with G6 grenache.

Round 9: Quail terrine, foie gras, barrel foam (yeah!), black truffle, paired with Sangreal Merlot.

Round 10: Cooked “under the bell” (i.e. slow cooked, 12 hours min.) veal risotto, edible 24k gold.

Round 11: Baby veal (redundant?), pancetta, arugula.

Round 12: Tiramisu-like cream dessert, chocolate covered pop rocks and mint leaf. This was off the hook. Paired with a fortified-like (but not fortified!) dessert wine made from debit.

Round 13: Carab-infused grappa.

After 12 pairings (and remember, no spitting!) we were well on our way. Good thing we were taking the bus this time. I want to give a shout out and say a huge thank you to Cliff Rames of Wines of Croatia for setting us up with BIBICh, and to Joe Campanale for introducing me to Cliff. And especially thank you Alen, Vesna, Jime, and Niko for this awe-inspiring experience!

A Kick In the Glass!!

Hello again blog!!!! it’s me Patrick, kinda miss you actually, excuse me for taking a napcation on you.. I’ve been slacking on the wine week blogging because I’m in crash course learning mode this week, and Sagan is just a hair better at describing wines and the regions that they come from than I am!! just a hair though :) haha

to be completely honest, I am now thinking that I haven’t actually tasted real wine up until the beginning of wine week!! but that can’t be entirely true can it?? definitely haven’t tried many of the extremely delicious juice we’ve been having all over this wonder countryside we’ve been touring!! Bourgogne, as I’m learning is extremely complex and depending on the grape, the climate, the elevation, THE TERROIR!, the slope, and the way the wine is made, you have seemingly endless possibilities of different tasting juice to work with!

On this particular appointment on this exact fine morning, we were to travel to Domaine Chantal Lescure in Nuit-Saint-Georges, a delicious sector of the northern part of Bourgogne (or Burgundy as it is known in the States).  François Chavériat (different François from trip master), the manager there was extremely busy as we are learning about this time of year everywhere in the wine world here, but he was very gracious to take time to show us around anyways, and on a wine tasting extravaganza!! we tasted what seemed like every wine they make, starting with the 2011 vintages that were still in the barrels!! (Volnay, Pommard, and Vosne Romanée) to name a few.. and then onto the bottled versions, ending with a Grand Cru! incredible experience!! and very much educational thank you François!

 

Next stop was Beaune, France!! yet again a beautiful drive through France, I swear I have hundreds of videos filmed through the windshield as we’re driving, I know they’re not going to be nearly as fantastic to watch later, but if I can remember somewhat how gorgeous it is/was, WIN!! Our hotel in Beaune was amazing and in a great spot!! right above a grocery store called Casino (funny to me idk). and down the road from a laundromat (Laverie in France), which was much needed!!! absolutely imperative when you’re on your last pair of your know whatsits. anyways, Laundry out of the way, and just in time for…. drumroll please….. (budabudabudabudablllllldp)

MAISON CHAMPY! an appointment at the oldest negociant in Bourgogne!! started in 1720! we actually saw a bottle of wine that was made in 1858!! Sagan snapped a picture of it, check it out! definitely the oldest bottle of wine I’ve ever seen!! The extremely kind lady showing us around (Emilie) said that it is priceless, but wouldn’t be very good to taste anymore :) awwww shucks! Maison Champy also had beautiful cavelike cellars that they stored their barrels in. Pictures again are below! There was a sweet secret passage like door that led to their tasting room (complete with dining room that sounds like has to-die-for food and wine sessions!!) whew! Including a picture of the wines that we tasted here, wish I could install a scratch and taste function on your monitor!!! maybe one day…

 

we were WIPED OUT after our tasting at Maison Champy – seriously, this wine tour thing is not always easy!! :) nearly crashed back at our hotel before our much anticipated dinner later that evening at Ma Cuisine!, but a map of Beaune just so happened to become glanced at by Touree Sagan and 10 minutes later we were off, on our way to find bicycles so we could travel the Veloroute la Voie des Vignes!!!!

a crazy wicked awesome bike route (22km) from Beaune to Santenay through the vineyards!! Sagan’s camera battery was nearly dead (hadn’t stopped to charge for days!), but we did the best we could with the flip videos to document our findings!!!!

I’ll never forget this bike ride!! WELL worth skipping the pre-dinner nap for!!!!! Stopped in Pulligny-Montrachet for a delicious glass of their 1er Cru (didn’t actually finish the entire route.. ehem dinner reservations!). The stop however, was a palate massage!

 

Dinner at Ma Cuisine was a one of a kind experience!!!! we decided to FRIGGIN GO FOR IT and order a bottle of the 2005 Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru!! I can’t remember how many times I literally told my glass that I was in love with it!!! haha! I could drink this wine all night long! Went along perfectly with everything we had for dinner: duck liver salad, pork terrine, veal kidney, and the saumon du chef (KAPOW!), eppoises cheese plate and caramel créme and you can kiss me goodnight!!! finished the last savored sip of wine upon the last spoonful of dessert, let me finish with one of those cafés and it was all I could do to noodle leg it back to the hotel to crash with clothes on and contacts in!!!!!! (so stimulated I had to sleep!)

 

 

 

anyways, that wraps up what must be dubbed THE PEAK of wine week here in France!!!! I couldn’t imagine a better way to possibly end the day we had! Beaune, France, bon voyage for now.. and I mean for now cause I/We are without a doubt going to be coming back!!

Til then I/We will be missing you!

Patrick

Chassagne Montrachet 2005 1er Cru

Hedonism: the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence

Today. Was. Rough. Whew.

We started the morning (7:40AM) driving to Chablis to visit my favorite Chablis producer, Samuel Billaud. We had directions, but there was no sign, we were just told that “it’s a big wooden door next to a fire post.” We found it, no problem actually. Samuel was the only one there, and we learned that he actually does all of the work himself. It is a pretty small production, and he is very passionate about the quality of his wines and cautious about growing too big too fast, so it makes sense that he does it all.

He gave us a somewhat lengthy history, dating back to the late 1800s with his great-grandfather. We then tasted 5 of his wines, starting with the Chablis, then the premier crus, and then finally a barrel tasting of the 2011 “Les Clos” grand cru (still being made, hence the barrel tasting).

  

Samuel was a super cool guy, which is what one would expect after tasting his amazing wines. After we left his winery, we drove around Chablis (it’s super tiny) for a bit and took some photos of the hill of grand crus. This is where all of the grand crus vineyards are located.

Then we left Chablis to make our lunch reservation at Maison Paillot in a little tiny town called Noyers Sur-Serein. THIS WAS BY FAR, THE. BEST. LUNCH. I’VE. EVER. HAD. IN. MY. ENTIRE. LIFE. (AGAIN: BEST LUNCH EVER). To cut to the chase, 3 courses, aperatifs, bottle of local pinot. Charcuterie/Terrines, fish terrine, onglet de boeuf, cod fillet, local cheese plate, and the best chocolate cake that I’ve ever tasted (there was something crunchy in the middle!).

   

Needless to say, we left extremely satisfied. Next stop: Vézelay.

The basilica there was built in the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Wiki, “Bernard of Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade at Vézelay in 1146. In 1189, the Frankish and English factions of the Third Crusade met at Vézelay before officially departing for the Holy Land.” CLICK HERE FOR A 360 PANORAMA FROM THE TERRACE.

   

We left Vézelay around 5:30 and headed to Beaune. We wanted to check into our hotel in time to make it to our dinner reservation at Part des Anges. This worked out great because it happened to be about 4 minutes walking distance from where we are staying.

Though today is officially day 3 of wine week, I’m renaming it to “go broke fast because we spent all of our money on mind-blowing tasting menus day.” Could you blame us?! Here is meal two of today: escargot, sesame salmon (raw) salad, lamb confit pastry pie, local mushroom risotto, tiramisu, and of course, more cheese et café.

     

Tomorrow morning (10AM) we have an appointment in Nuit-Saint-Georges with Chantal Lescure, which is only about a 25 minute drive from Beaune. Then we have another appointment at 3PM at Maison Champy, which is in Beaune. Tomorrow night we have a reservation at Ma Cuisine, a place I’ve been wanting to eat at for a while. Stay tuned!

-sagan

Hasta Luego Madrid.

I’ll say it one more time. I LOVE Madrid. Leaving yesterday was bittersweet. I entertained the idea of just staying there for the next 5 weeks, but of course that’s not the point of this trip. In Madrid we spent most of our time eating and drinking (I see a theme here). We went to a couple of my favorite tapas bars, El Lateral (located in Plaza de St. Ana), and Tempranillo (on Calle de Cava Baja, in La Latina). Lateral is so good, we ended up going back the same day, and once again the day before we left. The weather was beautiful, and they have outdoor patio seating in the plaza. There are usually musicians (i.e. old men with accordions) or some other sort of entertainment going on, so it’s really relaxing and peaceful. Here are some photos from Lateral.

Tempranillo was one of the first wine bars I went to when I moved to Madrid in 2009. It turned out to be one of my favorites, and going back was sort of nostalgic. Their tapas menu hasn’t changed much (if it works then why change it?), and the vino is always amazing (and cheap at less than 3€/glass!). Here is some smoked salmon with fried plantans, foie gras, and asparagus and eggs!

Madrid, you were amazing. You did it once again. See you soon enough! Hasta luego.

-sagan

La Rioja!

I’ve been wanting to visit Rioja since I drank my first bottle, purchased from Solo Vino Wine Shop in Saint Paul, MN, when I was 19. This trip almost happened by chance, as we were planning on taking the Renfe Train from Madrid to San Sebastian. The Renfe website is notoriously difficult, and we weren’t able to purchase the tickets we needed. Instead of taking a long boring bus, we decided to rent a little Fiat Panda (see photo) and drive to San Sebastian. At this point we had no idea how good of an idea that was going to be. The drive was about 5.5 hours total, and was probably the most beautiful drive I’ve been on. The scenery was breath-taking, as we drove through and under (repeat: through and UNDER) mountains.

La Rioja sits a little over halfway between Madrid and San Sebastian, centered around the town of Logroño. Within Rioja are my two favorite Spanish producers (Lopez de Heredia and Bodegas Muga), located in the little town of Haro, which is about a 30 minute drive from Logroño. So naturally, there was no way in hell I was going to just drive by without stopping, so swung by Lopez hoping to get a tour. Of course this was wishful thinking, as you usually need prior appointments. So we set one up for Thursday morning on our way back to Madrid from San Sebastian.

 

The visit was almost 2 hours long and consisted of a history lesson, tour of the winery and underground cellars, and tasting. Their main cellar was 140 meters long, filled with barrels and barrels of vino. We also got to see the cellar for their gran reservas, which was much smaller, but amazing. All of the bottles were covered in mold/dirt/etc., some dating back to the 1942 vintage. We also learned that out of the 135 years of winemaking, gran reservas have only been made in 25 vintages.

  

Lopez de Heredia is extremely traditional in their approach to making wine. Our tour guide kept making jokes, often saying “high tech” when referring to thick stone walls, electricity, or opening the doors to let in the cool air to cool the fermentation vats. They recycle just about everything too. They use the vines to filter the wine as it comes out of fermentation vats, which then get dried out and are used by local restaurants to smoke and grill meats (more on this later), the grape must is sold and used to make grape spirits like brandy, and then the must is returned to the vineyards for use as fertilizer. Another interesting fact, Lopez uses egg whites to refine their wine and this is done by hand for their gran reservas (8-10 eggs/barrel). They are also the only producer in Rioja (maybe in all of Spain?) that makes ALL of their own barrels. They have two full-time coopers that can make a barrel in 8-10 hours (see photos). This was SO impressive.

  

The tour ended with a tasting of a white (2003 Viña Gravonia) and a red (2001 Viña Tondonia). I won’t go into tasting notes, they were both just delicious. We asked our tour guide where we should eat in Rioja (we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, except for a few nuts and two glasses of vino) and she gave us a local spot that she would go to if she were to have visitors and wanted to show them what the local cuisine is. She drew us a map on a sticky, and we set off to find this place. After a bit, we were wondering if it was wishful thinking, as we had to take a detour due to construction. We ended up driving down a windy, gravel back road through vineyard after vineyard. Finally, at the very end, there it was. Asador Jose Mari. Upon walking in, we were stopped by an old man, and I asked if they were open yet. He said it was too early, and thenI showed him the hand-drawn map we had. He was thrilled that the bodega sent us to HIS restaurant. He pointed to the name on the map, then pointed to himself and said “Yo!” We shook hands and he told us they weren’t open yet because the bread wasn’t finished. He said it’d be 15 minutes so he took us on a 15 minute tour of the pueblo (mini city) behind the restaurant. He spoke mostly basque, so it was really difficult for me to understand most of what he was saying, but he was great at hand gestures. Then we got to eat. Here are some photos. Rioja style patatas, lamb grilled over those vines used to filter wine, and duck confit. Not pictured was the dessert (I guess we were too excited to eat it, didn’t realize we didn’t take a picture until it was gone), but it was fried milk with cinnamon. So far, this was the best food we’ve had the entire trip.

  

All of that for 41.50€. Mind officially blown. The 6€ bottle of 2011 Ramirez de la Piscina we had was great, especially because we drove right by Ramirez on our way to finding this restaurant!

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