Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Floating just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the island of Cozumel was first settled by the Mayans about 2,000 years ago. The San Gervasio archaeological site on the northern part of the island shows the Mayan presence long before European contact. The language and the folkways are largely gone, but the Mayan heritage lives on through the foodways. That's why chef Ismael Hernandez of Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com) decided to conclude my introduction to local cuisine with his adaptation of the traditional dish Pescado Tikin Xic. In this case, the “pescado” was the fresh mahi mahi that we also used for a delicious ceviche (see previous post)....Read More
Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

In all my years visiting Spain, I've stayed in a number of Barceló hotels. Founded in Mallorca in the 1930s, the group is now the third largest chain in Spain. They also have properties in another 20 or so countries. On a short winter break to Mexico, I finally experienced their international hospitality at Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com). The property is less than 20 years old, but it has a gracious, settled feel. Low-rise buildings in Colonial Mexican style sit in a natural preserve. Nobody blinks at iguanas lounging by the swimming pool or raccoon-like coatis hanging out near the bridge across a mangrove swamp to the white sand beach. Resort...Read More
Provençal rosé cries out for pissaladière

Provençal rosé cries out for pissaladière

Sometimes the wine demands a departure from the best-laid plans. With a pretty upscale version of Provençal rosé on hand, we racked our brains for flavors of the Provence countryside. But we couldn't bring ourselves to make a lavender pizza. So we did the next best thing. We adapted the classic flatbread snack of the Riviera to a pizza-like round topped with onions, black olives, and anchovies. It was a match made in heaven—or maybe in Nice. The wine: La Combe Rosé, Château Roquefeuille Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire The 250-acre estate of Château Roquefeuille sits in the heart of Provence at the south end of the Sainte-Victoire valley. A gorgeous pale pink, La Combe Rosé embodies a very different style than the Fleurs de Mer...Read More
Preview two bright wine pours for spring

Preview two bright wine pours for spring

Winemakers often go out on tour this time of year. In the northern hemisphere, they've just bottled and released their lighter wines. In the southern hemisphere, the harvest hasn't quite come in. We sat down with Florian Lacroux from Provence and Hamish Clark from New Zealand last week at Stephanie's on Newbury (stephaniesrestaurantgroup.com). They were making the rounds for the wine giant E. & J. Gallo (gallo.com). That company has taken its name off jug wines (Naked Grape, Barefoot Cellars, and Carlo Rossi make them instead) while producing fine varietals under the Gallo Family Vineyards, Gallo Family Estates, and Gallo Signature labels. But California can't make New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Provencal rosé. That's where Clark and Lacroux come in. Gallo imports one wine from...Read More
Small-town culinary greatness: Patty Queen’s Cottage

Small-town culinary greatness: Patty Queen’s Cottage

One of the pleasures of touring rural France, Italy, or Spain is discovering amazing country restaurants far from population centers. The U.S. has some places like that, too. But few of them can match the Cottage Restaurant & Cafe (427 Farmington Ave, Plainville, Conn.; 860-793-8888, cottagerestaurantandcafe.com) for staying power and consistently terrific food. Located at a nondescript crossroads in Plainville, Connecticut, a little southwest of Hartford, the Cottage should be celebrated as a Nutmeg State treasure. Full disclosure: We met Patty Queen at a 1996 book party celebrating the publication of Julie Stillman's Great Women Chefs (https://goo.gl/Rxutaq). Queen was among the youngest chefs featured. Ever since, we've been driving more than 100 miles to eat at the Cottage three or four times a year. We're...Read More
Brilliant Sancerre boosts saffron & roasted-squash pizza

Brilliant Sancerre boosts saffron & roasted-squash pizza

We have to admit that we prefer good Sancerre to the New World versions of Sauvignon Blanc—even the highly touted wines from New Zealand. The French take on the grape drinks well with cold-weather dishes. So when we pondered a pizza pairing for one of our favorite Sancerres, we remembered a hearty risotto. We often make a risotto with saffron and onion broth that is studded with bits of bacon, roasted butternut squash, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's perfect with a zingy Sauvignon Blanc. Surely those flavors could be adapted to a pizza. The Wine: Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre 2016 The pairing was perfect. This Sancerre is fermented cold with wild yeasts and ages on the lees about three months. The yeast notes from the...Read More
Drink Progressively at Harvest in Cambridge

Drink Progressively at Harvest in Cambridge

One of the pioneers of New American Cuisine, Harvest restaurant (44 Brattle St, Cambridge, Mass., 617-868-2255, harvestcambridge.com) continues its innovative ways with contemporary New England fare from chef Tyler Kinnett. “The Book and the Cook” dinner series highlights recipes from a new cookbook—usually with the author appearing to explain the food and the approach as well as to guide the Harvest staff in the kitchen. The series kicked off 2018 with Urban Grape's Drink Progressively, by Hadley and TJ Douglas with recipes by Gabriel Frasca, the accomplished executive chef of Straight Wharf (straightwharfrestaurant.com) on Nantucket. As you can see from the photo at top, all three showed up for a great dinner and book signing. This was an unusual event in the series, since the...Read More
Firing a steak with Argentina’s Francis Mallmann

Firing a steak with Argentina’s Francis Mallmann

Some of the best food writing these days appears in the pages of venerable old Esquire, where the late Jim Harrison set the tone the way Hunter S. Thompson defined the ethos of Rolling Stone in its heyday. I was reminded of that when I got an email tickler in my mailbox pointing me to an overblown but heartfelt profile of one of the greatest chefs I've ever met. The online article (please go read it before it's taken down) by Jeff Gordinier is entitled “Is Francis Mallmann the Most Interesting Chef in the World?” Well, yeah. One of the most memorable evenings of my life was the pre-opening opening of Mallmann's Siete Fuegos at the Vines Resort & Spa (Tunuyan, Mendoza, Argentina, +54 261...Read More
Trimbach Pinot Blanc sparkles with Alsatian flatbread

Trimbach Pinot Blanc sparkles with Alsatian flatbread

Wine preferences are a funny thing. Most wine drinkers name the grapes of Bordeaux and Burgundy as their favorites—irrespective of where they are grown. Few name Alsatian wines, yet we think they are the very model of magnificent cold-climate viticulture and winemaking. When we first met, we drank a slew of Rieslings, Gewürtztraminers, and Pinot Gris from many of the great names in Alsace. You could say we got to know each other over glasses of spicy, sophisticated, dry whites. So we were pleased to see a Trimbach Pinot Blanc in the mixed case from Esprit du Vin (edvwines.com). It was like running into an old friend. The Wine: Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2015 Pinot Blanc isn't usually the first grape that comes to mind in...Read More
Ogier Reine Jeanne spices up fennel and sausage

Ogier Reine Jeanne spices up fennel and sausage

As one of our California-born, Europe-based readers pointed out in response to our last pizza post, Americans often drink soda or beer with pizza. Europeans almost always drink wine. We're happy to choose the evening wine and then decide what to eat with it. Having a 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape on hand suggested a bold pizza. And since fennel is one of the dominant flavors of southern Rhône valley cuisine, we naturally gravitated to roasted fennel and a limited amount of Italian sausage with fennel seeds. The Wine: Ogier Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 As the photo above shows, the wine was the 2015 Antoine Ogier Cuvée Reine Jeanne, one of eight different versions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Ogier. It's named for Jeanne of Naples, the Countess of Provence who sold...Read More