HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK. HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK.

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Escape May Not Be in the Cards

Escape May Not Be in the Cards

Divella Blanc de BlancsNeil Young Dead Man

by Saman Hosseini, AKA thebaguettehunter

I come back to Neil Young’s soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man again and again, when feeling at times embittered, numb, and defeated, lost somewhere in between, yearning for a tranquil escape from quarantine. Neil Young’s continuous solo variations on a guitar, overlaid with recordings of a foaming up & backrush along a shoreline, and once interrupted by a solemn accordion interlude. Neil Young’s guitar invokes the dessert, while the accordion feels more alpine. Altogether atmospheric yet placeless.

Enter Alessandra Divella’s Blanc de Blancs, zero/zero Franciacorta, made from Chardonnay grown on limestone and clay soils from the 2015 harvest, fermented by indigenous yeast in cement tanks and rested in barrique before tirage and bottling, aged 32 months on the lees, and disgorged in January 2019. Racy and saline, yet generous, with a steady bead, and savory autolytic notes. Really a triumph; a wine I would enjoy alongside my favorite grower Champagnes. There is a tarnished beauty to this wine that matches Neil Young’s weathered and reverberant guitar, its salinity and bubbles recall the shoreline, and its mouthwatering acidity seems to penetrate through one’s murky headspace to revive the senses.

Escape may not be in the cards, but maybe find a shaded spot in the park, bring a freshly baked sourdough boule and a hunk of well ripened Tallegio; all the better with this Blanc de Blancs.

- Saman Housseini

WINE I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Divella Blanc de Blancsfor its tarnished beauty and reviving effervescence
LISTENING TO: Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack, in a murky headspace from heatwave temperatures, yearning for a tranquil escape from quarantine

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Mr. Baguette Makes an Egg Salad

Mr. Baguette Makes an Egg Salad

I was in the mood for Coronation Chicken Salad sandwiches for some reason, but I made do with what I had in the fridge and some sourdough from the freezer, and came up with curried egg salad tartines.

INGREDIENTS
Scallions (if not ramps or other coveted spring alliums), reserve some green tips for garnish
Crab Apple Mostarda (Casa Forcella from Lombardy, highly recommended, or sub mango chutney)
Radishes, diced
Large eggs
Unsalted butter
Madras Curry powder (or Vadouvan)
Labneh (or full fat Fage, Skyr, etc.)
Sourdough bread slices

PREPARATION No measurements needed, trust your instincts. Smash and char scallions in a dry cast iron skillet, add a bit of oil just at the end to blacken, then mince. Stir mostarda thoroughly into labneh. Dice radishes. Cook eggs in boiling water for seven minutes, then shock in an ice bath until cooled; yolk should be jammy and not runny. Toast bread. Bloom curry powder in hot melted butter, add eggs (cut in half), minced scallion, diced radish, and fold together with a fork until well combined.

Schmear toast with mostarda-labneh mixture then top with scoops of egg salad, garnish with sliced scallion.

WINE PAIRING Domaine La Loue Chardonnay 2015. This is among the few sleeper Jura whites remaining, made by Catherine Hannoun, a film producer (worked on brilliant Mondovino documentary on globalization in wine in the late 20th century) who after guidance from her friend Manu Houillon (of Domaine Overnoy) began a micro-domain of her own in the Jura.

This Chardonnay comes from parcels of gray marl in Pupillin, fermented in steel tanks then raised in neutral barrels for over a year. Open this bottle a good hour in advance of serving; there are notes of honey and buttered pastry, followed by golden apple and preserved lemon, with a chiseled mineral and savory finish. An impeccably fresh and precise wine that plays well off the pungent fruit of the mostarda and creamy/chalky labneh, along with the richly spiced and buttered egg salad.

- Saman Hosseini

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Quarantine szn\holding pattern. Can’t look to the future. I'm leaning into platitudes. I’m letting go.

Quarantine szn\holding pattern. Can’t look to the future. I'm leaning into platitudes. I’m letting go.

Quarantine szn\holding pattern. Can’t look to the future. I'm leaning into platitudes. I’m letting go. 
Yeah, I'm losing my edge.
To all the kids in Tokyo and Copenhagen.
I'm losing my edge to the farmers market foragers in jumpsuits and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered nineties.
I was there at the first La Dive Bouteille in Saumur.
I was there when Frank Cornelissen set up his clay amphorae.
I told him, "Don't do it that way. You'll never make a dime."
I was the first guy pouring wine in Mason jars to the tech staffers.
I was the first guy playing Mulatu Astatke to the finance bros.
I played it at Four Horsemen.
Everybody thought I was crazy.
I was there in Jules’ cellar with the Gang of Four.
I was at the first #rieslingstudy at Roberta’s.
I hear you're buying cow horns and valerian flowers and are throwing your egg whites out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a sans-soufre piquette.

I hear that your winery has sold your oak barrels and bought concrete eggs.
I hear that your wine project has sold your concrete eggs and bought qvevri.
I used to work at Passage de la Fleur.
I had everything before anyone.
We all know.
I was there.
I've never been wrong.
But I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better graphics and more clout.
And they're actually really, really nice.

Losing My Edge by Saman Hosseini

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PORK DAN DAN NOODLE

PORK DAN DAN NOODLE

Sichuan nourishment for pandemic quarantine. This recipe, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, is effective at getting the fundamental flavors from off the shelf pantry items, without taking the deep dive of cooking your own mother sauces. Refer to Chinese Cooking Demystified to witness absolute mastery. The small handful of Chinese pantry items you’ll need will probably still cost less than a container of cashew milk and cold pressed juice; well worth the investment.

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces ground pork
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
fresh ground white pepper (preferred, but black pepper is ok)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons tahini or peanut butter
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock (or use the pasta water if you must)
1 tablespoon neutral oil (preferably sunflower or peanut, canola is gross)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated about 1 tablespoon
6 medium cloves garlic, grated (use Microplane) about 2 tablespoons
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or aleppokorean chili flake for milder/fruitier heat if desired)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tsp prepared Chiu Chow chili oil or homemade Sichuan chili oil (or more neutral oil)
16 ounces linguini (bronze die cut please)
3 or 4 scallions, green and white parts separated, sliced thin.

optional
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted in small dry skillet until fragrant, then pounded fine in a mortar and pestle (be vigilant with removing any seeds from the peppercorn husks)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in small dry skillet until fragrant

PROCEDURE

  1. Combine pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, shaoxing wine, scallion whites in a small bowl, season generously with cracked white pepper, stir well with a fork and set aside while preparing other ingredients. Whisk together oyster sauce, remaining soy sauce, tahini/peanut butter, vinegar, and more cracked pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in chicken stock and set aside.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot over high heat. Cook pasta very al-dente, then strain in a colander. Once fairly dry, return to the stock pot, toss with Chiu Chow/chili oil until strands are loose and well separated.
  3. Heat 12-inch skillet over high heat until hot. Add neutral oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add pork and cook, scraping along pan bottom and breaking up pork into small pieces with wide metal or wooden spatula, until pork is in small well-browned bits, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and red pepper; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter/chicken stock mixture; bring to boil, whisking to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.
  4. While sauce simmers, portion noodles among individual bowls, ladle a portion of sauce over noodles, sprinkle with scallions, sesame seeds and/or ground Sichuan peppercorn.

WINE PAIRING
Good, racy Mosel Riesling, like the 2017 Stein Palmberg Trocken; the numbing tingle of sichuan peppercorn with the electric minerality of the Riesling feels so right. If you’re drinking a feinherb or sweeter, later harvest style, go strong on the chilis. Or for those raised in old wood fuder, more toasted sesame and scallion would highlight their earthy musk. A Riesling with skin contact and more barnyard-y aromas might warrant a boost of shaoxing wine. Lean into high acid with more grease when oiling the noodles. Drink all the Riesing and adjust accordingly.

- Saman Housseini 

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M. Baguette Goes To The Bayou

M. Baguette Goes To The Bayou

Our staff loves to travel and we always get the pleasure of hearing about where they ate and drank. Most recently, Saman (AKA Baguette Hunter)...

This is the end of March, Jazzfest and Mardi Gras are over, the temperature hovers around 70, with an unexpected breeze at times; the delirious reveling hoards have moved on, and the swampy hurricane season has not yet arrived; maybe the perfect time to escape the Acela corridor for a long weekend in New Orleans. 

Consider staying in the Marigny for some calm, about a 10 minutes walk from the French Quarter. You can start every morning at Who Dat’s for strong coffee, White Russians, and stupid good brunch, served on the patio (the owner will set up more tables in front of his home next door if need be). Ashtrays at each table, no need to ask. The corn cakes rancheros and fried catfish bene are a must. The Elysian Bar, occupying the former 150 year old Saints Peter & Paul church rectory, possesses the elegance that Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware aspire to but never attain. The bar itself gets more tiki/art-nouveau, and opens to the courtyard; drink the Mai Tai there, made with Smith + Cross and El Dorado 5 year.

Passing through the French Quarter, you might stop at Touchet’s for a bathroom break, found in the carpeted basement that looks and smells just like grandma’s, and catch up on the PGA tour on one of the flat screens. Gayle, the charming proprietor, mixes a refreshing Pimm’s cup. She's working for a below ground pool someday, she says.

Didn’t pack proper clothes for Commander’s Palace et al. and wasn’t looking for latest Keith McNally/Sean Brock derivative restaurant but Marjie’s Grill slaps. Gulf jumbos tossed in lemongrass/sambal butter, “not too oily” ember roasted gulf fish, tom som salad, with a bottle of Viña Tondonia Blanco was worthy of a deathbed meal.

Back in Marigny, Mimi’s serves 'tapas’ and combos until very late. Order the Trust Me Tapa and see what happens. We got a giant delicious bowl of hot & sour soup, made with lots of smoked brisket, egg noodles, and shitake mushrooms. Maybe Kajun’s Pub for 24-hour karaoke after that.

A pilgrimage to Willie Mae’s for fried chicken, rice, and beans is mandatory. Arrive just after 2pm on a weekday for no lines. 

Snag a table late weekday afternoon at Bacchanal, bring a deck of cards to pass the time before sunset, and by then the floral sheen on the Tempier Bandol Blanc has faded to show more mineral clarity. The Bouchard Val de Vilaine does not disappoint, but order some bravos potatoes at least for nourishment. Many are eager to make Bacchanal happen in their own respective cities, but the old trees that canopy the yard, the buzz of crickets at nightfall, and the calibre of their musicians cannot be bought. 

We never found Bourbon Street. I got beignets from the Cafe du Monde airport kiosk before departure. 

- Saman Housseini

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Chicken & Burgundy

Chicken & Burgundy

Poulet Vallée d’Auge: a low fuss Normand braised chicken, tailor made for cold winter nights and white Burgundy. Basically pan roasted and braised chicken with apples, cider, and calvados, with mushrooms, plenty of butter, and creme fraiche. I loosely followed the recipe from Bon Appetit, but I can’t be bothered with ‘sprigs of thyme’ these days.

2014 Simon Bize - Les Perrières, made from Chardonnay planted in the 60s, on a cool northwest facing hillside, northwest of Savigny. Fermentation in barrel lasts upwards of 6 weeks, then it's further aged 6-12 months on fine lees. There’s an unapologetic old-school demeanor to this wine. Not so much salty and flinty as it is densely packed, possessing both apple pastry (basted with Calvados as in the patisseries of Normandy) and fresh Golden Delicious apple fruit. The barrel regimen here extracted all the complex, resinous, and mineral qualities of fresh varnished wood without the cloying vanillin opulence of less talented producers. All well integrated and finishing with tension after years of bottle age.

This Chardonnay is especially poised to marry the cream, maillard, and apple flavors of this chicken, all while leaving the palate refreshed.

- Saman Hosseini

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Roast Chicken and Savagnin

Roast Chicken and Savagnin

Fall has returned. Perhaps too early for coq au vin, rindsgoulash and the like, but the ideal moment for roast chicken and alpine whites of some opulence and maturity.

2016 Domaine des Marnes Blanches Les Molates Savagnin - offers more stone fruits brightened with citrus and well integrated oak, finishing savory. Tensioned and mineral with poise and depth throughout.

2012 Dominique Lucas Vin de Allobroges Savagnin - hazier and more tawny in hue, with gamey aromas. Think wool sweater and duck fat, with honey and tangerine oil on the palate. A heady and powerful expression of Savagnin that feels at home with this hearty preparation for a Fall night dinner.

About that dinner: I take a spatchcocked chicken, salt it overnight in the fridge allowing time for the salt to penetrate and for the skin to crisp up, then saute chopped bacon, garlic, waxy potatoes, and caraway seeds with a pile of savoy cabbage until wilted, all in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan, placing the salted chicken on top, then roast until the breast is done, and the potatoes and cabbage are all braised in chicken and bacon drippings. Finish with some vinegar to balance the fat. Wash down with Savagnin.

- Saman Hosseini (aka Baguette Hunter)

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“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of.”

“No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of.”

The other week, my friend opened a culty sans soufre Chenin that wasn’t showing very well. He swore he’d opened the same bottle a few weeks prior and that it was stunning. But around the table we agreed this bottle was ratchet.

Yes, that can be part of the deal with drinking wines that are not industrial and manipulated. The stakes are a bit lower when it comes to modest glou glou. But we shouldn’t be surprised when #hypebeast natural wines, with prices looking like classified growth Bordeaux, are at times fragile. And, if we’re being honest, are not always more compelling than the glou glou.

In the 90s, Robert Parker rose to unprecedented influence in the American wine market. Wineries all over the world started manipulating their wines to conform to his palette, so they all started tasting the same (as Alice Feiring and many others have written about). The “natural wine movement” has been the inevitable, opposing pendulum swing; a necessary market correction, which by now has probably reached its grunge in late 92 VOGUE moment.

Much of the press on this movement has fixated on the lack of defined terms and standards but that line of interrogation is flawed. Making concessions to the technocrats obsessed with empirical measurements and certifications empowers them to decree the “acceptable” interventions in farming and the cellar. That leads to formulaic, ideological winemaking, leaving no room for interpretation or adaptation to regional climate and varietal character. Is evaluating a wine based on the parts per million of added S02 any less ludicrous than Robert Parker’s 100 point rating system? What happens if wines, made from vastly different grapes and regions, start to taste “wild” and “funky” in all the same ways and that becomes the defining characteristic of these wines? Does 0/0 = 100 points?

There was no social media in Parker’s day but today’s wine journalists may prove just as influential, incentivizing natural winemakers to stylize their wines to conform. A healthy skepticism of influence and uniformity is always in order.
(*I put together some visual aids on this phenomenon, see here)


- Saman Housseini

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