Every year, round about November, when the restaurant hits the busiest, craziest, most 24-7 part of the season, I start thinking about my summer vacation. I think, I'll rent a house on a nice quiet lake somewhere. I'll sit still for two weeks and do absolutely nothing. Maybe I'll catch a fish. In November, that seems like heaven. But when we start doing the actual planning in March—when we get out the maps, that is—it's all over for the house, the fish, the sitting still. Rent a house on a lake? I think. When I could be driving through southern Bulgaria, tasting local beer? Fuggedaboutit!
That's what happened this year. November: let's rent a house on an isolated upstate lake six hours from anywhere. March: well, we've never been to the Baltic region … It's been three weeks of White Nights, local vodkas, and entire cities full of tall blonde people. Here are some of the culinary highlights from our summer adventures.
We started in London, where business came before pleasure—or—well—maybe with pleasure? I met my partner, Marlon Abela, at The Greenhouse, one of his three London restaurants. This was my fifth meal at The Greenhouse, and it was definitely my favorite. The food was amazing from beginning to end: I thought I made a kick-ass brioche, but Antoine killed me with an à la minute version he makes with this unbelievable butter from Normandy. (We had great butter everywhere we went, with flavor you just can’t seem to get in the US). And then there were the libations. We got a little crazy: Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne La Grande Dame 1998, Sancerre Le Chêne St. Etienne Henri Bourgeois 2002, Meursault-Charmes Comte Lafon 1997, Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red 1996, Harlan Estate 1996. The grand finale? A Château d’Arche 1906. At 2 AM we called it a night. That's my kind of business dinner!
I've been wanting to eat at Zafferano for quite a while—ever since, that is, Jancis Robinson's husband Nicholas Lander used A Voce and Zafferano as his basis for comparison in a piece he wrote for the Financial Times on the cost of dining out in London and New York. His meal at A Voce was maybe not our best moment: he had the unfortunate experience of dining with us on the Wednesday night after the Wednesday morning when we received our three-star New York Times review. He ended up in a table next to the bar, swamped by the kind of crowd that turns up looking for walk-in reservations the day your three-star Times review comes out. Plus I was nursing a crazy hangover from the celebratory night before (we started as soon as the review posted online), which had ended the morning after with breakfast at Cafeteria in Chelsea with the crazy club crowd and some waffles. Needless to say, the crew and I weren’t exactly at the top of our game on Wednesday night. So … anyway, Zafferano came off sounding pretty damn good compared to me—even discounting our own comparative performance—so my wife Gwen and I headed through the rain to the Belgravia neighborhood on our second night in London. The experience was pretty great. Everyone we met was wonderful to us, and the alta cucina-style food was first rate. Early on in the meal, we found ourselves drinking one of my favorite Italian whites—the Fiore D’Uva from Marisa Cuomo—and feasting on fresh ovoli mushrooms, impossible to get in the US, and perfectly prepared. We were very, very happy.
To be continued ...
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — July 18, 2007 10:43am ET
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