I arrived in Manhattan on Sunday for Wine Spectator's New York Wine Experience, which kicks off later this week. I'm camped out at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, which recently has been reconfigured. Most of the traffic has been rerouted around the area and the sidewalk areas expanded into the street. There are now only a couple of one-way streets on the square, rather than the typical six lanes of gridlock, and cross traffic has been minimized. At times it looks and feels different on the ground, but it's still very much Times Square, lit up day and night, a city unto itself.
I caught up with my colleague Harvey Steiman and two friends Sunday night for
dinner at Kefi, a Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side. I was ready for both
food and wine after a long day and even longer flight watching the Saints get
by the Giants on the airline TV.
Kefi is a warm, rustic, casual spot and, after appetizers, I ordered the grilled octopus bean salad, which was tender and delicious, with a smoky edge, followed by grilled branzino, with potato, olive and tomato. It was also cooked to perfection.
The wine list, not surprisingly, proved more challenging, since I know little about Greek wines and even when sommeliers rave about their Greek wine lists my tastes often run contrary. But I know Greek wines are improving, as my colleague Kim Marcus, who reviews the wines and has visited the country, has reported in recent years.
We asked for the sommelier's advice, ordering what was recommended, but it turned out to be a simple white that none of us found exciting. The red, though, a 2006 Sknoras Synoro, was much more appealing. A blend of 40 percent Cabernet Franc, 40 percent Merlot and 20 percent Agiorgitiko, it was elegant and balanced. Aged in partially new French oak, the wine had an easygoing, fleshy appeal, with spice, berry, fresh earth and cedary notes that worked well with all the entrées on the table.
Yesterday for lunch, my colleague, assistant managing editor Cordelia Winton, and I ate at Pamplona, near our office on Park Avenue South. We split a couple of entrées, including an octopus salad (octopus is apparently big here now) and tried a modest 2008 Valle Perdido Patagonia Pinot Noir. It didn't taste anything like the Pinots I'm used to. Then again I later found out it is an inexpensive wine, retailing for $13, so while it didn't offer much Pinot character, it was pleasant enough.
Last night I dined with friends, a young couple from Napa who now reside in New York, and they took me to the Upper West Side outpost of the Mermaid Inn, close to Kefi.
This seafood restaurant has a decent wine list, but also a no corkage policy, which we took advantage of. We ordered some tasty entrées, a seared calamari-mushroom-frisee salad and fried clams, followed by a pan-roasted skate wing and salmon.
My friend Austin brought a wine from one of his friends in Napa, a 2008 Ziata Napa Sauvignon Blanc (about $23), made by Karen Cakebread. Very closed at first, it developed complex aromas of flowers, honeysuckle and lemon-lime zest and by the evening's end outperformed the 2006 Charmes-Chambertin from Domaine Odoul-Coquard, which has a tender, delicate framework and modest cherry and berry flavors, not quite as exciting as when it was reviewed earlier this year.
And tonight I'm out on a secret dining mission …
Mark Horowitz — Brooklyn, USA — October 21, 2009 12:29am ET
Jack Folbe — Huntington Woods, MI — October 22, 2009 10:38am ET
John Reeves — Texas — October 22, 2009 12:44pm ET
Josh Moser — Sunnyvale, CA — October 22, 2009 1:46pm ET
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