Thursday, July 25, 2013

Best Croissant in Paris

The jury has rendered its verdict. The ruling on the best croissant in Paris for 2013 has been announced by the foodie-centric Concours du Meilleur. I nearly wept with joy when I discovered that top honors went to 134 RdT, a boulangerie one block away from the apartment we’ve rented this September near the Place de Vosges in the Marais. (Last year this shop placed in the Top 10 for the Best Baguette in Paris!)

Here’s the decision, in order of ranking:

 • 134 RdT, 134 Rue de Turenne, 75003

 • Le Grenier à Pain des Abbessess, 38 Rue des Abbesses, 75018

 • Boulangerie L’Essentiel Mouffetard, 2 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 

 • Boulangerie des Belles Feuilles, 22 Rue de Belles Feuilles, 75016

 • Boulangerie Pichard, 88 Rue Cambronne, 75015

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Croatia—the Latest Foodie & Wine Mecca!

The world's largest white truffle was found in Croatia.
The gourmet scene in Croatia during the last decade has positioned the country as the leading high-end culinary destination in Eastern Europe…especially in its northern province of Istria which shares a border with Italy.  Here in Italian-influenced Istria, white & black truffles have catapulted the region to the newest foodie mecca.  Moreover, Istrian olive oils are winning top international awards, and Istria’s wines are receiving 90+ scores from Robert Parker. 

Moreover, Croatia embodies the Mediterranean Diet’s holy trinity of wine, fish & olive oil.   With more than a thousand of miles of seashore, its coastal cuisine has a distinctively Italian flavor thanks to centuries of occupation by the Venetians & Romans.  This strong influence from Italy is shown in their breads, curing of meats, cheeses, pastas, olive oils, as well as their wines.   Although our journey will be primarily along the dramatic coastline, we will venture inland on excursions where the gastronomy switches to reflect the years of Austrian, Hungarian & Turkish domination.  

If Croatia is on your bucket list, Wine-Knows will be featuring in September 2014 a tour that has been strategically planned to coincide with the grape harvest, as well as Croatia’s white & black truffle season.  It’s an absolutely magical time to visit the Mediterranean for any gourmand or oenophile.  Also, the month of September is idyllic for travelers seeking perfect weather…without the hordes of summer tourists.  For more information about Croatia, check it out:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bastille Day Wine & Food Picks

Francophiles take note…France’s national holiday to celebrate the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 (the start of the French Revolution and the end of the country’s monarchy) is tomorrow, July 14.  The group that is going to France with Wine-Knows this fall for the harvest tour, has flown in from all parts of the US to party.   Since anything French has to involve food and wine, here’s how we’re celebrating….

Ployez-Jacquemart Champagne Extra Brut NV (one of our favorite boutique producers) served with the following hors d’oeuvres:
  • Roasted almonds with herbs of Provence

  • Smoked salmon with crème fraiche, fresh herbs and a splash of cognac

  • Goose rillettes (similar to pâté  although more rustic).  The rillettes were purchased at the foie gras farm that the Wine-Knows group visited during the Bordeaux tour last fall & was brought home in my suitcase.
Picpoul de Pinet Domaine Felines Jourdan, 2011 (we have bought cases of this smashing white from the South of France…not only because the varietal is unknown in the US, but because we love the complexity of this wine).   It is being paired with:
  • Roquefort cheese tarte (j’adore this recipe…c’est magnifique)

Fredrick Magnien Premier Cru Chambolle-Musigny, Les Chatelets, 2001  & William Selyem Russian River Vineyard Pinot, 2001

  • Classic boeuf Bourguignon (beef cooked in Burgundy)

Chateau Suduiraut (Sauternes) 1990

  • Fruit tarrte with cardamom (our plum tree produces a beautiful fruit), raspberries and Chambord sauce

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kir---Burgundy's Iconic Aperitif

Thirty-five years ago I had my first Kir.  Actually, it was a Kir “Royale.”  I still remember the first sip, where I was, and with whom.  Kir and its blinged-out version made with Champagne (“Royale”)  is popular not only in Burgundy but in all parts of France.  Every Michelin star restaurant in the country offers both versions as an aperitif.  So what is a Kir?
The popular aperitif is named after Felix Kir, the former mayor of Burgundy’s largest city, Dijon.  The drink was invented in the late 1940’s in the post-war ravaged district.  The Germans had taken all of Burgundies treasured red wine.  Monsieur Kir decided to serve visiting dignitaries the simple local white wine (Aligoté) and mix it with the region’s crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).  It was a huge hit.

The French typically use a 5:1 ratio for the drink (5 parts wine to 1 part crème de cassis), however, I find this way too sweet.  For me, the best recipe is half of the cassis, or a 10:1 ratio.  Another way is to go by color.  The 10:1 is a pale pink.  If it’s medium or dark pink there’s too much cassis for me.  I always prefer my Kirs made with sparkling wine.  The same ratios and colors apply to the “Royale.”  For a real splurge, I love my Royale made with Chambord (French raspberry liqueur).

Coming with us this fall to Burgundy?  You can bet we’ll be drinking Kirs.

A votre santé!

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Zealand’s New “Darling” Varietal

Mention New Zealand wine and most think immediately of Sauvignon Blanc.  But, the Kiwis are making more and more Pinot Noir…and it’s becoming better and better.  The world is taking note.  Pinots from this part of the world are winning awards and accolades from the globe’s most important wine critics.

Pinot Noir is quickly advancing to become New Zealand’s new star.  The country has just hosted a huge Pinot conference-slash-love-fest in its capital of Wellington on the north island to celebrate the grape.  The event has become so popular that it’s now New Zealand’s largest wine event with approximately 500 attendees, many of whom are international dignitaries in the wine world.  Moreover, there’s a separate Pinot Noir Festival on New Zealand’s south island near Queenstown.

Currently there are over 10,000 acres of Pinot Noir planted in New Zealand.   The north island’s Martinborough wine district historically has been associated with the varietal’s highest quality, however, a recent blind tasting of Kiwi Pinots showed that five of the top ten wines came from the south island’s Central Otago region, just outside of Queenstown. 

How does a New Zealand Pinot differ from a Burgundy?  Typically, a New Zealand Pinot is more fruit-driven.  Many Pinot producers in New Zealand leave their fruit on the vine much longer than is either possible or acceptable in Burgundy’s vineyards.  This means the Kiwi version serves up heavier textures, more intense plum flavors, higher alcohol levels… but also lower acidity than its French counterpart.  Actually, the New Zealand version is more Syrah-like in structure---full bodied. That being said, New Zealand does offer a wide array of Pinots that are vibrant, yet restrained in character. You will also find Kiwi Pinots that are not overly manipulated, over-extracted or over-oaked. They have lovely fruit, naturally, given the climate. And, as the vines and the industry mature, they are developing more and more depth and complexity.

The Wine-Knows harvest tour to New Zealand in 2014 will visit all the important wine regions that are producing Pinot Noir.  Here are the top 5 blind-tasted Pinots, listed in order of their ranking as published in Cuisine Magazine (the Kiwi version of the USA’s Food & Wine):

1.     Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010

2.     Tatty Bogler Pinot Noir 2010

3.     Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2010

4.     Valli Bendigo Pinot Noir 2010

5.     Ceres Composition Pinot Noir 2010

If you’re coming with us in March 2014 to New Zealand, you will have the opportunity to taste most of  these.  If you can’t wait until then, search for them online at