Thursday, December 16, 2010

This writing thing can be fun...

It can also be work.  It can even, on rare occasions, be remunerative.

Not much, but some.

Recently scored a few new venues in which to write I wanted to share.

First, after my several articles as the Portland Spirits Examiner for, they have now appointed me the National French Wine Examiner for same internet magazine.

My new "beat" covers...well, pretty much anything I want to write about regarding French wines!

That's a pretty big territory to cover, I think you'll admit. Shouldn't be boring--at least to me, anyway.  Can't speak for the people that have to read what I scribble/type.

If you'd like to read the first couple of article you can go here.

And in future, you can go to the upper right side of this page and click on the link to the National French Wine Examiner.

The first article is regarding Pierre Lurton's announcement today featuring Yquem By The Glass at some fantastic French and Monte Carlo restaurants.  Think of Yquem By The Glass at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris:  if that doesn't sound exciting, then you're not very much of a gastronome!

I'm also in process of penning a lead article for a liquor magazine on bitters and bitter liqueurs.  More about that anon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Channeling James Joyce in the rain, or Metrovino Musings in PDX

We found ourselves in the Pearl District of Portland during a dark and dreary rush hour---at 4:00pm already as dark as Hades and made worse with the steady cold rain---and decided to do discretion over valor by running over to Metrovino for a sip and a nosh.

Kyle Webster, formerly behind the stick at Noble Rot and prime bartender for the House Spirits RPM Wednesdays (another favorite event sure to brighten up an otherwise mediocre middle of the week), had moved to Metrovino to run the bar program there, and we'd been intending to drop in and see what he had done.

Kyle Webster at Eat: An Oyster Bar for House RPM Wednesday

It was the same clean and classy place it had always been, with a pleasant mixture of stainless super modern and quiet muted tones, all elegant and Euro-chic.  It's still a wine-centric place too, with the obvious emphasis on the impressive Enomatic dispenser machines that line the wall behind the bar to support the aggressive program of wines-by-the-glass and wine flights.

My wife immediately opted for a white wine and Kyle, who is as adept with the wine list as the cocktail list, suggested the Marcel Deiss Pinot Blanc Bergheim 2009---which turned out to be just the thing.

Deiss can certainly be controversial, and his philosophy of winemaking often polarizes people for muting terroir; on the other hand, he's capable of making some damn fine wines, as exampled by this lovely smaragd-like Pinot Blanc (fat, silky, but totally dry and about as fragrant as Pinot Blanc can be expected to be).

I was there to check out Kyle's bartender chops, of course, so after we sparred for a while and I dawdled through the cocktail list, we settled on a "James Joyce", a mix of Jameson Irish, sweet vermouth, Cointreau, and fresh squeezed lime juice, served up.

Since it was a distinctly fine Dublinish day outside, this drink was a perfect warmer of cockles, whatever they are.  I'd like to think Mr. Joyce had the benefit of the whiskey part of being Irish, and suspect he did with his obvious but not always immediately coherent loquacity.

The James Joyce @ Metrovino

The clean, crisp line of the Irish whiskey showed through nicely; the thankfully restrained Cointreau hit just the right balance and addition of flavor and the sweet vermouth and fresh lime juice equaled things out for a light, refreshing whiskey drink that avoided the sweetness of bourbon or the smokiness of scotch.

I spotted one of my favorite 'go to' wines on the list, a Prager Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 2008, and of course had to try it; meanwhile, my red wine loving wife was ready for something deeply colored and deeply flavored, and I suggested the Buty Syrah 'Rediviva of the Stones 2007, a massive, tightly structured, intense Syrah from Wall Walla AVA that manages to avoid any sense of gobbiness.  (And not coincidentally, in my opinion one of the top Syrahs in America.)

Both the Prager and the Buty were gorgeously perfumed, albeit in totally different ways, and the subsequent shared sipping was quite an aromafest.  Fortunately, we had anticipated this by ordering a bruschetta appetizer and a cheese dish.

The Bruschetta was not only beautiful to behold, it was equally gorgeous to devour, and just the thing to step up to the wine.

On a slab of char-grilled Ken's Artisan Bread (a local favorite), the chef arranged a tangy herbed goat cheese and topped it with avocado, cucumber and a Provencal-styled black olive tapenade.

The contrast of the silky avocado and the bright, crunchy cucumber was an unexpected delight with the celery-crunch green of the Gruner, and the tapenade reached out to the Buty Syrah like they were long-separated family fondly reuniting.

As we were chasing the last few pitiful crumbs of bread from the bruschetta, the cheese plate made its timely entrance.

We had chosen the Bermuda Triangle, from the same people that make the glorious Humboldt Fog, a dense, nicely aged goat's milk cheese with a funky rind.

It was garnished with toast crisps (not enough), walnuts, a balsamic fig reduction, and a single gigantic candied fig.  The Triangle was so deliciously pungent with its just-short-of-old-gym-socks microbacterial funkiness, it needed the Buty Syrah to step up and have a serious discussion with it.  It did.

Conversely, the Syrah was wound so tight, the cheese convinced it to open up a bit more and reveal that tart raspberry core, so the conversation worked out well for all concerned.

If I had to make one criticism of the dish, I'd question the overt sugar-syrup intensity of the candied fig as too much; stick with the balsamic fig reduction, but substitute a dried Mission fig instead of candied, I'd say.

Then Metrovino provided a pleasant surprise with a courtesy followup of cheese to get us through the remainder of the wine.

Our server presented us with a plate of Adelle, a local cow and sheep milk combo cheese from the Ancient Heritage Cheese Company in Scio, Oregon, garnished with perfectly toasted pistachios (harder than you think), slices of truffle, and nicely spiced pears.

The cheese was remarkable, semi-solid in the middle with some creaming going on at the edges and a soft, chewy rind still holding it together.  And this time the juicy spice of the pears was a perfect compliment to the cheese and pistachios and truffle, with all the elements playing off each other for in a sort of harmony through contrast.

All in all, a pleasant interlude out of the traffic and weather and into the warmth and hospitality.  Metrovino is a perfect place to go for that shank of the day happy hour.  But it's a great destination for dinner too.  The small plates, the wines, and the spirits merely whetted our appetites to get back and experience more.