Are we in the right era and in the right country?! France?!
I(along with many a French vigneron) thought that the silhouette of a pregnant woman holding a glass with the universal red slash mark across her bulging belly(see image below) on every wine bottle was extreme but now this? Very surprising!
Wine articles must carry health warning, French court decides
A French court has ruled that newspaper articles on wines should be subject to the same health and safety guidelines as alcohol advertising and display health warnings.
A Paris county court ruled that an editorial piece in Le Parisien newspaper entitled 'the triumph of Champagne' could be constituted as advertising even if page space had not been sold.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Are we in the right era and in the right country?! France?!
If you are patient person and can happily wait on the phone, happily wait in line, and happily wait for service, I would happily go to Bar Boulud right now. While the homemade artisanal charcuterie made by Sylvain Gasdon, disciple of Gilles Verot, is outstanding, there are still many kinks that still need to be ironed out here.
Bar Boulud officially opened on January 8, 2007, although a soft opening for friends and family had been in the works for weeks. The restaurant kicked off with an opening party reception a week ago, on January 3.
I typically give new restaurants a few months to settle before I check them out but since this was one of New York's most highly anticipated openings and already months delayed, I took my chances. Plus, I had been in France, away from my beloved city, for nearly four months. I missed checking out the newest, coolest restaurants. I had scheduled to meet my friend F, a brand manager for a well-respected international wine importer, at 6:30pm. The entrance is easy to miss as F walked by twice before finding Bar Boulud. I arrived a bit late as the 2/3 uptown train was delayed. There was a wait for both bars and since there was no assigned waiting area, it was bit awkward and uncomfortable. A minute after arriving, I greeted and complimented the blond bee-hived hostess on her stylish Issey Miyake Pleats Please dress and maybe the flattery worked, as we were whisked away to the 14 guest "tasting table in the round" located in the back of the restaurant within a minute. It was 6:50pm on Thursday evening and the restaurant was buzzing. Both bars were completely full and only five or so open tables remained.
When the water and menus arrived, I asked for another wine menu as I had high expectations for the list and I like having my own wine menu as much as I like having my own food menu(see menu and wine list). (The second wine menu never arrived.) F and I quickly decided to share the large charcuterie dégustation platter for $46 and a mesclun provençal salad with arugula, olives, fennel, tomato, radishes, fried artichokes, and white anchovies for $12. F wanted a red wine and I suggested either the Ogier VDP “La Rosine” or J. Palacios Bierzo “Petalos”. She was happy with either choice so I chose the 2005 Ogier, as I worked the 2007 harvest for them in Ampuis, France. I also eyed the 2005 Domaine de l'Arlot "Les Petits Plets". Les Petits Plets comes from the young vines of Monopole Clos des Forêts and is more approachable in its youth. But it was still much too young. Funny, as I had emailed today with Olivier Leriche, winemaker, about his upcoming visit to NY in the spring. I asked the busboy to relay to the server that we wanted our bottle of the Ogier as soon as possible. The server appeared five minutes later but with no wine in hand. He was ready to take our food order and asked if we were in a hurry or had theater plans. I replied, “No theater plans but yes, we are in a hurry as we are both very hungry and have a later appointment.” I repeated the wine order and waited. And waited. In the meanwhile, I took a look at our surroundings.
When we arrived, nine of the fourteen seats (or sixty-four percent), were seated with woman. There was only one male/female couple. As the evening progressed, only more women were seated within our circle. At one point, thirteen of the fourteen seats (or ninety-three percent) were seated with women! Maybe they had all read Josh Ozersky's post entitled, ”Will Bar Boulud's Tasting Table Be the New Oenophile Pickup Spot?”
To my right sat two thin woman. They had both ordered the Frisée lyonnaise salad with chicory, chicken liver, poached egg, lardons, and sourdough. When I politely inquired about their salads, one responded that she was on a diet and did not eat lardons and the other commented that the greens were excellent but that she found the lardons too salty. Neither tried the chicken liver as they both didn't like liver. I smiled politely and turned back to F. Who comments solely on the greens the first week at Bar Boulud?
It was seventeen minutes later and our wine had still not arrived. I looked at our glasses. They had spots and were dirty but at this point, I didn't want do anything that might further compound the delay. I flagged down a manager and asked if he could please help expedite our wine order. He said,”Yes.” And then we waited. And waited. After twenty-seven minutes, I got up and found another manager, who gave me the same, “Yes.” Thirty-two minutes later, and forty-two minutes after sitting down, the La Rosine finally arrived. I empathized with Frank Bruni’s long phone wait but we had a worse outcome, at least he was able to hang up the phone.
The sommelier serving the wine told us that he had recently come over from Felidia and explained that they were still working on the process of procuring the wine. But thirty-two minutes to get my first drink from a wine bar?! Luckily, the wine was sound. It smelled of white pepper and bacon fat and was unmistakeably an Ogier Northern Rhone syrah. Although Ogier is best known for his Côte-Rôties, this baby Côte-Rôtie is sexy and delicious and shows bright, mineral-laced fruit and drinks well early. La Rosine, a proprietary name, comes from the granite slopes adjacent to Cote Rotie’s southern extreme at Tupin-et-Semons, between Ampuis and Condrieu. The wines are classified as Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes and represent an excellent value.
I was underwhelmed at the initial wine list but there is a disclaimer that,”We will be greatly expanding our wine storage capacity. Consequently, the current wine selection is limited but will continue to grow.” What about, "These will be great-value, approachable wines, but there will also be great collector's wines too," as Daniel Johnnes promised in Food and Wine? I saw the great-value, approachable wines but where were the trophy wines like Sassacaia and Petrus, whose names adorned the surrounding walls in the wine stain art created by both Daniel Boulud and artist Vik Muniz?
I read the following posts on egullet yesterday:
they're overt about the wine list being preliminary and it seemed like the sommelier was offering additional selections by the glass that weren't printed...
so I imagine with time that will be fleshed out.
Oh, I imagine that too. I just thought it was a peculiar thing for a wine bar not to have figured out in time for opening.
The by the glass(btg) list is limited. There are three champagne and sparkling wines, five whites, five reds, and three sweet wines. The first sparkling wine was an interesting choice: a $10 J.P. Brun FRV100 Beaujolais, made entirely with gamay grapes. FRV100 is a play on words. Polaner, Brun's distributor, shares the key:
The phonetic pronunciation of FRV 100 in English is EFF ARE VEE HUNDRED.
In French, it is EFF ERR VAY SON – in other words EFFERVESCENT!
A notable omission on the list was a RIESLING. Riesling would have been perfect with the charcuterie. Also absent was a Rosé champagne by the bottle although there was one btg. I was thrown by the Peillot, Altesse de Montagnieu, 2006 Bugey. Peillot has a reputation for making beautiful wines and it would have been interesting to try the grape Altesse(Roussette). Most of the wines on the list are not varietally labeled and this could be daunting for a neophyte that can not readily refer to a nearby sommelier.
Like other restaurants in the city (with the more obvious Bastianich wines at the Bastianich restaurants/stores and the less obvious De Rham wines at I Trulli/Centovini/Vino) there are a handful of Daniel Johnnes Wines on the wine list. Of twenty-one producers in his book, I found seven names (or three-three percent) on the wine list. This makes sense from both a familiarity and margin standpoint. Note: I personally like the imported wines of Daniel Johnnes but am not a fan of either the Bastianich(although he is a very nice man) or De Rham wines.
Wine storage units are scheduled to be built downstairs and heavy hitters can store wines at the one of the upcoming 36-bottle units for a mere $15,000 annual fee. My friend S bid on one of the storage units at La Paulee de New York 2007.
As I mentioned above we ordered the large charcuterie dégustation platter that included eight different charcuterie items. I have listed my favorites in ascending order:
1. Fromage de Tête “Gilles Verot” (head cheese terrine)
F did not try the head cheese but my favorite was Gilles Verot's bestselling Fromage de Tête: an intense yet airy terrine made from pig's head. It was perfectly balanced and the ratio of savory meat to the flavorful gelatin was spot on. I was surprised that my second favorite item was not pork-based but beef-based. Charcuterie is not only limited to pork. F though that the the Compote de Joue de Boeuf tasted a bit like beef carpaccio. I thought it was interesting and very good; it had all the flavor of beef but with the texture of a terrine. F expected more sliced meats but of the two available, we were served only the La Quercia Prosciutto from Iowa. I was surprised to have a domestic dry-cured ham but it was delicious! La Quercia has a fast growing reputation for producing some of the best domestic prosciutto and I was not disappointed. It was lighter, softer and more moist than I expected but it was killer, rating third in the tasting. It might go against the genre of Bar Boulud but I would love see the newly legalized Spanish pato negra here. Pata negra de bellota is the best cured pork product that I ever had the pleasure to consume. And, since I am on my wish list for BB, I would also like to add a foie gras pâté. Overall, each charcuterie dish exhibited a lightness but subtle intensity of flavor. Undeniably, each was a high quality product.
We were also served seasoned vegetables like the carrots with coriander, celery-apple rémoulade, and mushrooms au beaujolais to accompany our charcuterie but for the $5 price tag each, I wouldn't order the tiny servings again if they were a la carte.
The mesclun provençal salad with arugula, olives, fennel, tomato, radishes, fried artichokes, and white anchovies was de-li-cious. Spicy, fresh, crunchy, savory, and sweet, I especially enjoyed the fried artichokes on top. The restaurant also boasts a bistro menu but we did not have a chance to try any dishes other than the mentioned.
The bread and butter were outstanding. We were served two types of bread and they are both made in-house by Daniel. The flavor and texture were perfect and despite the delays, suffered none of the oxidative hazards that can make bread quickly stale or tough. I was so happy with the Echire Butter AOC. Make sure to taste the butter when you visit. It is the best tasting widely available butter that I have found and you'll find it at a lot of high end restaurants in New York. I am not a butter person but I love this artisan French butter; it has a beautiful flavor but retains a light texture and has a silky mouthfeel. Although you can easily find this butter at better supermarkets in France it is rarely seen here as 85% of the production is kept within France.
The mustard was fairly standard. There were two types of mustard: a dijon and whole grain mustard. It tasted like Maille but when I asked the server, he told me, “ Denalle”. Maybe I heard him incorrectly. I think having quality cornichons would have heightened the flavor experience. The current cornichons are medicore.
I didn't try any of the cheeses but list included the usual suspects for a high end restaurant and are supplied by Murray's. Four desserts plus ice creams were listed but I barely had any room left for more food. I had a bite of the tart mocha but it was too rich for my tastes after ravaging the charcuterie.
The space is contemporary and has a hip vibe. They have done a nice job morphing what was previously a deli. Wine themes abound in the restaurant from the internationally themed wine art, limestone floors, oak tables, and with private dining rooms names like Vigneron, Sommelier, and Caviste. The restaurant and its wine list are supposed to be a tribute to both Burgundy and Rhône. Thus, what I didn't understand was Thomas Schlesser's “backlit gravel wall recalling the terroir of the vineyard”. Whose terroir was being represented?
When I think of Burgundy, I think limestone and clay.
When I think of the Rhône I think of granite, limestone, sand, and galets.
When I think of Bordeaux, specifically the Medóc, Pomerol, or Western St. Emilion, I think gravel.
Soil is the very thing that sets wines apart. I didn't understand the choice of gravel. AND interestingly, I did not see one Bordeaux wine on the list. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, and Lirac have do some gravel. And, yes, many old world cellars fill gravel on the floor of their cellars to keep the humidity high. But surrounding the first floor with gravel as a tribute to terroir? Wrong wine region.
Bar Boulud passed my BBB test so I'll be back.
Opentable.com is a good way of getting a reservation as I had luck when I tried. Alternatively, walking in could work well as the crowds arrive in intervals, and we noticed a theater crowd lull shortly after our arrival. Take-out will be a good idea for summer Central Park picnics or romantic winter take-in, but it is not yet available.
Despite the hiccups in service, I liked Bar Boulud and have already booked my next meal there in two weeks to celebrate my sister's birthday. It will be interesting to see and share the many changes. Hopefully, I won't have to wait. And wait.
New York, NY 10023
Bar Boulud website
3, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs
Tel: 01 45 48 83 32
7, rue Lecourbe
Tel: 01 47 34 01 03