Feast Yourself Thin: salad of peekeytoe crab, sea urchin and caviar

crab-urchin-caviarThis dish, inspired by David Bouley, is a pure expression of the sea.  The flavors of the crab, caviar and sea urchin are all distinctly maritime, yet all three are radically different.  For me, the slightly fatty quality of the avocado serves to tie them all together.  This is a great dish to make when both crabs and sea urchins are in season.  Be prepared to substitute blue crabs for peekeytoe and Maine sea urchins for those from the Pacific Northwest.

Serves 6

1 pint peekeytoe crab
2 ounces osetra caviar
6 fresh sea urchins
2 avocados
2 ruby grapefruits
2 – 3 limes, depending on size
Salt and pepper

Ask your fishmonger to cut the urchins in half, which will save you an awful lot of trouble.  The urchin roe is then fairly straightforward to remove.  Retain only the fawn-colored roe; I imagine you will not be anxious to keep anything else you find in there.  Season the crabmeat with lime juice, salt and pepper.  Peel the grapefruit with a paring knife and use a serrated knife to remove the segments.  Cut each segment in half, and add them along with the grapefruit juice to the seasoned crab.  Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh from the skin with a spoon.  Slice into relatively thin slices and reserve.

Use a four-inch pastry cutter as a mold, placing it in the middle of the plate.  Fill the cutter halfway with the seasoned crabmeat.  Lay one-sixth of the sea urchin on top, and cover with sliced avocado.  Spread as liberally as you dare with caviar and garnish with chives.

sagradoDouro Branco 2013, Sagrado

Portugal’s Douro Valley has been known for centuries for its fortified Port wine.  Justly renowned, it tends to eclipse the lighter wines of the regions.  This should not, however, prevent you from exploring them.  First to come to notice were the reds, produced from traditional Port varietals but unfortified, and the first real success story was Barca Vehla, which is still a reference standard.  For a time the light reds and whites were considered somewhat rustic, but in recent years there has been a complete quality revolution, and the region is now producing delightful wines from indigenous varietals.  This white is a blend based on Rabigato, with Gouveio, Viosinho and a splash of Côdega de Larinho.  Never heard of them?  Don’t worry, it’s delicious.  Although the wine showed itself rather reticent on the attack, it has a marvelously creamy texture and intriguing notes of herbs and spice and an almost mineral note that develop on the palate.



roulotAuxey-Duresses Blanc 2013, Domaine Roulot

Jean-Marc Roulot is extraordinarily gifted – not only a movie star, but also one of the established stars of among Burgundian winemakers.  His sensitivity and sure hand are evident in all his wines, which are characterized by racy acidity, a mineral tang, and a lush, silky feel on the palate.  Here he uses 60 year-old vines from the modest commune of Auxey-Duresses to craft a wine of finesse and elegance which belie the nature of the appellation.  There is a lovely lemony freshness touched with some gentle oak spice on the nose and a texture that is crisp yet not lacking substance along with a lingering finish.  A great match with this dish: too much oak or weight would probably overpower the delicate maritime flavors of the salad but this is super-elegant white burgundy with a splendid restraint.

Feast Yourself Thin: baked eggs with prosciutto and porcini

baked-eggsThis is an adaptation of a dish that I first ate for breakfast in Piemonte during truffle service.  The original was copiously laden with white truffles, and for those whose larder stretches that far, please feel free to substitute them here.  If not, you may also use the dried porcini, which give a very fine result.

Serves 6

  • 12 eggs
  • ¼ lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 6 tbsp. dried porcini
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Reconstitute the porcini by adding them to boiling salted water.  Allow them to tumble briefly in the boiling water, cover, remove from the heat and allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes, until soft.  Chop coarsely and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Oil a cookie sheet lightly and cook one slice of prosciutto per person while preparing the cocottes.  Bake until crisp, approximately ten minutes.  Remove and reserve.

Prepare six cocottes by lining the tops of each with a slice of prosciutto, and place a tablespoon each of the dried porcini and heavy cream in the bottom of each.  Break eggs, two by two, into a bowl without breaking the yolks.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper and slide into the cocottes.

Place the cocottes into a baking pan, and place the baking pan into the oven, pouring boiling water halfway up the side of the cocottes.  Cook for fifteen minutes.  At the end of fifteen minutes, begin to check the cooking by gently shaking the baking pan.  Remove from the oven when the white is set but while the yolk is still soft.  Top with the crispy prosciutto and serve. 


preusesChablis Montée de Tonnerre 2001, Raveneau

This Chablis is an extremely luxurious choice for this dish, but a very successful one.  The spicy, citrus-hued complexity speaks to the rich, earthy character of the porcini, while the crisp acidity is a perfect foil for the salty prosciutto.  Montée de Tonnerre is a premier cru Chablis, but it is arguably the closest to the grands crus.  It is also a specialty of Domaine François Raveneau, widely considered the premier producer of Chablis.  The wines are expensive, but certainly worth the investment for the true lover of white burgundy.  The texture of the Raveneau’s Montée de Tonnerre is invariably rich, and the finish is extremely long.  This is a pretty decadent wine, but while serving this dish at a formal dinner there would be few better choices.




baumardsSavennières “Clos du Papillon” 2001, Domaine des Baumard

Savennières is produced from the Chenin Blanc grape in the Loire Valley near the city of Anjou. The best examples can age for decades and develop a sweet-savory complexity that melds honey, ripe peaches, and an earthy note that is often described as “lanolin”, or even sheep-like.  It is, however, an exquisite sheepy-ness.  Baumard is generally considered the most skilled and classic producers of Savennières, and this cuvee is produced from a south-facing site on the Loire River that ripen the grapes to perfection.  Although there is a lush element to the nose, the wine is normally still dry on the palate, with just a hint of sugar to balance the bracing acidity of the Chenin Blanc grape.  A very ripe vintage such as the 1997 that I recently enjoyed will have just a bit more sweetness which will be an interesting  counterpoint to the salty ham.

MW Fortified Wine Tasting 2016


Like the heady aromas of the wines on offer, an almost palpable air of discovery permeated the inaugural MW Fortified Wine Tasting, held in the shadow of the Flatiron Building in New York on October 26th.  Wine professionals and serious collectors traveled from around the country to taste over 130 different fortified wines.  The walk-around, self-serve format and the well-managed flow of tasters throughout both two-hour sessions allowed serious reflection of the rich array of wines.  Jerez was particularly well-represented, but Port, Madeira, the Roussillon, and Australia all showed exceptional wines.

Organized alphabetically by producer within established categories, the tasting began with Manzanilla and ended with the rich wines from Rutherglen and elsewhere in Australia.  On the Manzanilla table, the bright, salty freshness of the traditional Manzanillas like the Solear from Barbadillo and Lustau’s Papirusa were crisply refreshing, while the silky, softer texture of the Manzanilla Pasadas such as the Pastrana from Hidalgo and the “La Kika” bottling from Bodegas Yuste seduced in a more understated manner.

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Current Champagne Coups de Cœur

krug-caskanselme-selosse jean-hervet-chicquet









In order of preference

Champagne Krug, Reims

In my view, the best there is, from the “regular“ Grande Cuvée to the vintage to the Clos du Mesnil. The Rosé is a bit more expensive than it should be, and the Clos d’Ambonnay is much more expensive than it should be, yet this is hands down the very top.

Champagne Jacques Selosse, Avize

Probably the most skillful and innovative récoltant-manipulant working today; not inexpensive but worth it, especially if someone else is paying.

Champagne Salon, Le Mesnil sur Oger

Salon is a top classic collectible, steely and very fine, but takes a long time to come around.

Champagne Bollinger, Aÿ

One of the greats; Vieilles Vignes Françaises is the top cuvée, yet the RD is also superb and the Grande Année vintage is a solid value.

Dom Pérignon, Épernay

The inimitable classic and one of the best champagnes for aging, full stop.

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1996 Champagne Horizontal

Hailed as one of the great vintages of the 20th century, the 1996 is simultaneously lively and intense, with a creamy texture and a concentration of fruit. Notes of brioche and limestone or slate-like minerality are common, while a fresh zing of lemon, pomelo and grapefruit imparts a touch of youthfulness.

LP Nov-Dec 15 '96 Horizontal