Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ted Muehling Store

My dear friend Ted Muehling recently had a party at his store in downtown Manhattan to introduce the collection of glass he has designed for Lobmeyr of Vienna. Ted is a jewelry designer but in the past decade he has designed porcelain for Nymphenburg, glass for Steuben and bronze with E.R Butler.

Ted’s shop is like a gorgeous still life, and in the back of the store his studio is filled with all the things from the natural world that inspire him.

When Ted has a party I know I’m going to be in for a visual and gustatory feast. ( I have long had the fantasy of doing a dinner in his studio where the table is set using all of Ted’s designs.)
When I first walked to the party I spied a plate of deviled quail eggs. Do you know how much time it takes to peel dozens of a quail eggs? Well his staff does. I hear they couldn’t get the shells off the first batch and had to start all overagain with another batch. The results were divine, and I am going to copy them the first chance I get.

The quail eggs went perfectly with the drinks: Saint-Germain elderflower liqueur mixed with prosecco, and, of course, the Nigel Gruner Veltliner. I have to say that I usually don’t enjoy
drinking wine at a cocktail party but this Gruner is so crisp and refreshing it was perfect for the occasion.

Speck ham, asparagus, butter, mustard and
wonderful Gruyere cheese filled out the table. Simple and perfect. Ted used an exquisite terra cotta and porcelain bowl he had designed with Nympherburg for the ice and it was gorgeous.

The displays in the store were breathtaking, especially the table setting with drinking set No. 279--exquisite hand painted and etched glasses. Ted says he wanted to go back in time and use stemless glasses because, as he points out, water and wine flow equally well from a simple form.

To think that Ted is designing glasses for a company that has had the best designers going back for more than one hundred years is just thrilling.

I’m going to ask Ted if I can do the dinner party I have fantasized about in his studio.
I want to set a table and show off food and wine in beautiful dishes, glasses surrounded by objects of nature, and no one has a better setting for that than Ted.

Ted Muehling
27 Howard Street
NYC, NY. 10013
212.431 3825

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Gardens at Clifton Point

As I said in my earlier blog, my recent trip to California was undertaken to do research on organic farms for my farm project in upstate New York—(of course I had to do a little restaurant research as well). I’ve been a caterer, private chef, restaurateur, food and wine editor, and, after House & Garden closed, I decided that I would not jump back into any of those things, at least not right away. I decided that, along with my styling work, I wanted to do something new and something I could learn from. The perfect situation opened up--a friend upstate with lots of land and a strong desire to farm her land asked me if I wanted a blank canvas to create something.

So now I am officially an amateur farmer. I’m eager to do the kind of work that ties me to the seasons of the year, that allows for the growth of plants that will eventually be harvested and shared with others. I also am inspired by the fact that we have become a country of ethnic eaters. Yet, when I come back from a foreign country I often can not find that special tomato or pepper or flavor that makes that country’s food so distinctive. My idea for the garden is to grow things that will fill that niche and to experiment with heirloom vegetables. I am really liking the idea of birth, growth, and harvest.

I have started with a few beds as an experiment and I’ll see where they take me. The quality of the soil and seeds appeal to me the way the quality of ingredients appeal to me as a chef. So the first thing I want to know about is my soil which turns out to be quite poor on this farm. I am starting with raised beds and a few rows in a field.

I’m going to be blogging about this project during the coming months so you are getting in on the ground of it so to speak…

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New York, A Winedoggybag State

The other night after a long day’s work in Rhinebeck I called my friend Allen who lives nearby to join me for dinner at Gigi Trattoria, the only really good restaurant near us.

I was driving back to New York City that evening, and though I’m not one to skip a glass of wine with a meal I was reminded by Allen about which allows you to order a bottle, have a glass, have the restaurant seal the unfinished bottle with their cryovac machine (receipt of purchase enclosed in baggy) and go on your way..

In NY, everyone jumps in a taxi or a subway after dinner so the demand for taking an unfinished bottle home is probably not as high, but when you are in the country and you have to drive to get anywhere it’s very useful.

It’s important to me not to drive drunk but I also don’t want to be subjected to mediocre wine by the glass at a restaurant. I’d so much rather order a good bottle and have a glass and finish the rest at home. Honestly, it’s just the coolest idea, and it enabled me to enjoy a bottle of Angelo Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda at Gigi.

Another little tip: on Wednesday’s Gigi offers 30 percent off on a bottle night, so that’s all the more reason to go for the bottle not just the glass.

I’m not sure every restaurant in New York has the wine doggy bag system in place, but they should. I admit, it is rare for me to leave a NYC restaurant before a bottle is empty, but there are times even when a taxi is nearby that I might want to carry out and carry on later. Wouldn’t you?

Gigi Trattoria
6422 Montgomery street ( Route 9)
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Yountville, Ca.

It’s an odd place. The draw is the French Laundry, of course, and also the wine country. I went there for years as Food and Wine Editor of House & Garden and I always felt wonderful upon arriving. The air is gorgeous, and I had this sense that an important adventure was about to take place. Something has changed for me. That quality of specialness is gone. At least I missed it on a recent visit.

My first misgiving came when I saw the sign above Thomas Keller’s newest restaurant, Ad Hoc: “ temporary relief from hunger”. Are you kidding me?? Has anyone in Yountville ever truly experienced hunger? It seems a poor joke in a world where there is so much real hunger. I was traveling with Amanda and we both thought that, barring an actual benefit for hunger relief, this was a joke in pretty poor taste.

We ate at Keller’s Bouchon. Good food, good ingredients but nothing earth shattering except for the bread, epi rolls which were baked next door at Bouchon Bakery. Amanda and I polished off two servings without blinking. I did love seeing Keller’s garden across from the French Laundry with its meticulous design as tidy and pristine as Thomas himself. Their vegetables looked perfect and on there way to Thomas’s kitchen to be used in the most imaginative and profound ways.

I should say this in defense of Yountville: It’s great that so much business can be generated and so many jobs created for this community out of wine and food. But what about establishing some sustainable restaurants?? Also, I was really sad to find that Gordon's, the best and really the only, great breakfast place, has closed.

Well, maybe I’ll return next year and find that the magic is back too. I wonder.

Friday, May 2, 2008


The other night I was waiting for Jay at Adour, Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant at the St Regis. Since it was Jay I was meeting, I wasn’t too surprised to see him saunter in with the great Ducasse himself who naturally wanted to be on hand for a glass of champagne with the great McInerney. The occasion of our dinner was to celebrate Jay’s getting a private wine locker at Adour. So cool, so Jay! We chatted for a bit and it turned out that M. Ducasse was in town for a few days to open another version of Benoit, the Paris restaurant I loved and wrote about last fall. Was I the last to know? Yes, indeed I was. Ah, Benoit! The food, the room, the service, perfect French. And when a French restaurant is perfect, it is genius.

So Alain has brought Benoit to the space previously occupied by La Cote Basque and may open more Benoits in other cities. I got so distracted by the prospects of several baby Benoits that I will have to blog Adour later. Anyway, I need to go again before I can write about it with confidence.

If you know anything about Alain, you know he is obsessed with collecting and shopping. Apparently he bought an Offcinie, a 19th century apothecary that specialized in herbal therapy in Bordeaux and has had it transported to New York and installed upstairs in Benoit as a private dining room. He invited me to take a tour of the new place the next day.

Naturally I went and while we were walking around several people came in to say how happy they were to have something open up in the old La Cote Basque space. So am I. La Cote Basque was one of those restaurants that felt like an essential institution I couldn’t afford to go to but whenever I had the chance to be taken I loved it. The paintings on the wall, the banquets, all so grand. It’s true that the patina wore off and the food went down, but I have only the fondest memories of it in its day.

One of things that caught my eye at the new Benoit were the decanters at the bar. I loved their shape. When I asked about them Alain told me that he’d bought out the complete stock of a German glass factory that made decanters for perfume. Beautiful.
I was telling Alain how much I loved the Savarin at Benoit in Paris, ( similar to a baba au rhum dessert but made in one mold, not individual molds like a baba ). In fact it became an obsession of mine, and I read every recipe I could get my hands on, bought the mold and have been making them ever since. Alain said the two desserts I had to try at Benoit in NY were the Baba Rhum and the Mille-Feuille which he said is perhaps the best he has ever tasted. With a recommendation like that, you bet I will.

They are serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. I’m going to give them a few weeks or so before I go to eat there, but I can tell you if the food is as good as Paris I will be a regular, and that is saying a lot for someone who lives downtown.
60 West 55th street
New York City, NY 10019