Sunday, November 16, 2014

First-time visit to Atelier Crenn

For Rona's birthday, we ventured to the city to try a new (for us) gastronomic restaurant. We had watched French-native Chef Dominique Crenn battle on Food Network TV's "The Next Iron Chef" (2009) and "Iron Chef America" (2010, "the Yogurt battle" defeating Iron Chef Symon), and wanted to check out her mastery in person. We were able to book the 2-Michel-star restaurant Atelier Crenn three weeks in advance. At slightly over $200/person for a Chef's Menu, and $45/corkage, this is not inexpensive, but after experiencing the art of food that is Atelier Crenn, I think it's worth it. In addition to being absolutely delicious from both hedonistic and intellectual points of view, this was one of the most artistic gastronomic meals we have ever had, and that list includes a number of domestic and international Michelin-starred restaurants. The attention to visuals and especially the most amazing textures in the endless progression of the French-inspired dishes (each dish bite-size) was truly extraordinary. The place originally opened in January 2011 in the space previously occupied by PlumpJack Cafe on Fillmore St., was remodeled in the beginning of 2014. It is small, tasteful, cozy, and Chef Crenn personally coming out to greet guests was a nice touch.

The menu was presented as a poem, each line referring to a dish!

2006 Paul Pernot Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet grand cru white burgundy was drinking well. Rona loved it for her birthday. On the palate: dominant silky butteriness and lemon custard. Substantial density but not heavy or cloying. Distant nuances of dried apricot, smoke, sea salinity. Consistent profile with the same bottle I drank 2 years ago but this one was more silky and better. Very good and proper grand cru, though no fireworks - in my opinion lacking some excitement or kaleidoscopic breadth of a truly great grand cru. This was a great match to the exquisite food art cuisine, which emphasized lighter and oceany ingredients.

Savory dishes (in the order they were served)

Sweet dishes

Iron Chef slayer Chef Dominique Crenn and yours truly, Iron Chevsky.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Highlights of the 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries Tasting

Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries tasting is a great annual event in San Francisco each October that I make a point not to miss. Great venue (Metreon), sharp looking people, delectable food, and seriously good wines. Below are the highlights of the this year's 11th annual event. (The 2013 was documented here, 2012 here, 2011 here, 2010 here, and 2009 here).

Diamond Creek, with dear Boots Brounstein. As usual, Diamond Creek showed well - dark, cool, mountain fruit with good structure, one of my favorite Napa Valley wineries, recently highlighted on this blog.

Dominus, with Tod Mostero, who hosted me several years ago at the estate. This was the second time I tasted the 2011 Dominus, and my opinion improved. The wine has some grippy tannins and herbs, slightly leaner than usual, thanks to the 2011 vintage. I like how the slight austerity and a leaner body give it a Euro-inclined balance. I believe it will age well.

I ran into Burgundy's vunderkind of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne Romanee, Loius Michel Liger-Belair, in an elevator. He is making the most exciting reds in Burgundy right now, including the iconic La Romanee grand cru in Vosne Romanee. Louis-Michel is consulting with one of the Oregon wineries at the event - Chapter 24 Vineyards.

More memorable sights:
Bright earthy fruits in 2011. Chambertin had good stuffing.
Really enjoy the purity of Potel's "Roche de Bellene" wines.
The new Jura-based brand from the famous Guillaume d'Angerville of Volnay, first vintage.
I really liked these, both red and white, for their deep flavors and elegant medium bodies. Not quite as refined as Angerville's burgundies, but characterful, satisfying, food friendly, and well worth drinking IMO off-the-beaten-path.

Too "new world" for me. I much prefer Drouhin's burgundies.
Enjoy Moric blaufrankisch every year.
Wonderful smoky Austrian reds.
The 2010 "Ursules" rocks! Excellent QPR.

The iconic Penfolds Grange. Very refined. 
Beaucastel nailed it in 2011, both red and white.

Hard to choose between these two.
For me, the 2000 perhaps was tastier. But both are great!

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