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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 215 (November 17, 2008)

Monday, November 10: Slowly, slowly the boxes are getting emptied but I still have no operating fax machine. Over to Doug Towers's house for a Winerytohome tasting with David Lawrason. Called Guy Rigby, the Director of Food and Beverage for The Four Seasons hotel chain, to ask his advice about a top chef with chocolate experience. He's put me on to their Los Angeles property. Dinner at Splendido with Sam, Esther and Jordan Sarick and Sam's friend Klaus Vogel, who has bought a winery in Baden. Klaus brought along four of his white wines for us to try – Weingut Burg Ravensburg Freiherr von Göler Riesling Trocken 2007, Husaarenkappe GG Riesling 2007, Grauburgunder 2007 and Löchle GG Weissburgunder 2007. All very well made and stylish wines with lots of extract.

Tuesday, November 11: Wrote my commentary for Tidings magazine on moving a wine cellar (and not listening to my own advice about keeping a systematic record of where your wines are located in the racks). A meeting with Arlene Willis to co-ordinate activities next years for Grapes for Humanity in the States and Canada. Then a coffee at Starbucks with Michelle Paris, who has bought a five-acre vineyard in Argentina and plans to make Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Pork with Road Thirteen Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from BC. Loads of bright fruit.

Wednesday, November 12: Lunch at the Novotel Hotel, where Tom Noitsis of Eurovintage is showing his Jeanjean Syrah Primeur 2008 from the Pays d'Oc. A meeting in Jingles over a bottle of Masi Campofiorin 2005 with Paul Kostoff and Pat Deemster to discuss the new website. For dinner poached salmon with a bottle of Road 13 Chardonnay 2007. Great match.

Thursday, November 13: Raining. Up early to walk Pinot before catching a flight to New York for the James Beard Foundation's Chinese banquet at the Edison Hotel. The cab into the city has a video screen in the back with short features and ads. It passed the time for the traffic-heavy journey to the Ameritania Hotel on West 54th near Broadway, right around the corner from The Stage Delicatessen. At 5:30 pm I meet my colleague Roger Dagorn, a Master Sommelier, in the lobby of the Edison Hotel to go over our participation in the three-day event, entitled "Dumplings and Dynasty – The Evolution of Modern Chinese Cuisine." Then upstairs for the reception prior to the banquet. They are serving a variety of Chinese hors d'oeuvres and the choice of wine is Oberon Sauvignon Blanc 2006 or Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier 2006. I opt for the sparkler. Run into my old friend Josh Wesson, who has selected the wines for tonight's banquet. I am seated next to Henry Wu, who is a lead sponsor for the whole conference as Metropolitan Hotels. Chef Patrick Lin, of Lai Wah Heen, has prepared one of the courses.

The meal opens with a box of six small dishes from Shanghai and Beijing – Honey Pine Nuts, Chilled Mongolian Lamb and Cantonese Curried Octopus prepared by Susanna Foo and Tea-Smoked Duck Breast, Cold Lobster in Jelly and Vegetable Marrow Ring filled with Balled Vegetables, prepared by Chef Lin. This is served with The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz NV (my least favourite wine style in the world, but at least this one is dry.)

Then there was a break in the proceedings for a live auction of ten items, including a whole pig roast for 50 people. From the hammer prices there was no recession in this room. The auction went on forever. The next course is Oven-Baked Black Cod Fillet with Spring Onions and Stir-Fried Crabmeat on Steamed Egg White topped with Caviar (served in the shell for 200 people) prepared by Chef Chen Jun. The wine, a rather insipid Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris 2007 and Anthony Road Wine Company Dry Riesling 2007.

The next dish (prepared by Susur Lee) is Oyster Consomme, Dumpling with Crab, White Fungus and Wolfberries, served with Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa Sherry (the best match of the night).

Next dish, Stir-Fried Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Preserved Black Beans in Vine Ripened Tomato and Roasted Spring Chicken Breast with Preserved Bean Curd, prepared by Chefs Chow Chung and Ken Tam, served with Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 and Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier 2006.

Next course: Steamed Glutinous Rice, Sautéed Matsutake Mushroom, Abalone, King Crab with Soya Glaze, by Chef Richard Chen, served with Höfer Freiberg DAC Grüner Veltliner 2005.

Then fortune cookies were passed around the room and in one was a message for a ticket for two to anywhere in the world that Delta Airlines flies. Roger Dagorn, sitting next to me, got the winning cookie (he tells me he plans to take his wife to Venice).

Dessert by Chefs Terence Chan and Ken Tam is Chilled Coconut Milk and Bird's Nest Jelly in Icewine-Poached Pear and Egg White Tartlet, served with Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti 2007.

It is midnight when I get back to the hotel. My room is next to the ice cube machine and at 3:30 am I am startled from sleep by what sounds like the Titanic hitting the iceberg. The same thing happens at 5:30 am. Who needs ice at 5:30 am?!

Friday, November 14: I make my way by subway to NYU on University Place at 8:30 am to register for the all-day conference, which takes place around the corner at the Cantor Film Centre. We are given tickets for a lunch at the Rick Shaw Dumpling House kitty-corner to the hall. The conference opens with an address by Joanna Waley-Cohen called "A Table Through the Ages: Cuisine and the Politics of Banqueting in Chinese History." A riveting story. She tells us about the importance of the knife in Chinese cuisine – there are 200 different ways of cutting. This is followed by a series of panel discussions: "The Politics of Food In China," "Chinese Cuisine or Cuisines? Regional Variations in Culinary China," "Cooking and Eating in Context: Street Food, Home Food, Restaurant Food and Banquet Food." Then lunch. In the afternoon, "Chinese Food In America: Immigration, Distribution, Class and Cuisine." (We learn that there are 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the US, more than the combined total of McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's).

Jennifer 8 Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, gives a hilarious slide show on the search for the origins of the fortune cookie. She takes US fortune cookies to China and nobody knows what they are. "What is this?" they ask her as she films them. "There's a piece of paper inside!" Then, "The Food and Medicine Connection" and "Liquid Culture – Chinese Tea, Wine & Spirits of the Ancestors and A Modern Approach to Pairing Food with Wine" (by Roger Dagorn).

I missed the last seminar ("Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China" by Naomi Duguid and Jim Oseland), as Roger and I had to go to Astor Wines to select five wines for our presentation tomorrow on matching Chinese food and wine. Back to the hotel to change and then back downtown to the James Beard House for the dinner prepared by Chef Margaret Kuo. I make the classic New York tourist mistake of going to 167 12th West instead of 167 12th Street East but still get there on time. At the reception various hors d'oeuvres are handed around – Shanghai Steamed Soup Bun, Peppercorn Duck Liver, YiKouSu (mini scallion puff), and Tangy Filet Mignon Tidbits, with Mount Langi Ghiran Riesling 2006 and HouHouShu Sparkling Sake (the first time I have tried it; a little sweet but very tasty).

The dinner menu:

Traditional Double Happiness Banquet Starter: Five Aroma Beef & Jumbo Shrimp with Garlic Sauce, with Mount Langi Ghiran Pinot Gris 2006

Mandarin Noodles with Minced Seafood, with Kosta Browne Rosé of Pinot Noir 2007

Grilled Cold Water Lobster Tail with Lee Kum Ke XO Sauce, with Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006

Leg of Lamb Stew with Shanghai Radish Bun Mildly Spiced with Szechuan Chili Pepper, with Yarra Yerring Pinot Noir 2006

Fresh Lily Bulb, White Cloud Ear and Goji Berry Chilled Sweet Soup, with Pacific Rim Wallula Vineyard Riesling

Saturday, November 15: Dropped in to the Carnegie Delicatessen for a Corned Beef sandwich. The last time I did this it cost $7.95. Now it's $14.95. The place is packed at 11 am. Subway down to the Astor Centre, where the wine and food tasting is taking place. It's a great tasting room. Chef Patrick Lin prepares a steamed sea bass with a julienne of carrots, leeks, courgette, celery, ginger and soya sauce with a hot oil glaze, which we taste with a variety of wines. The wines for the tasting: Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray Sec 2006, St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2007, Cuilleron Roussanne 2007, Cousin-Leduc Anjou "Pur Breton" 2006 and Rock Point Pinot Noir 2007. Then Patrick sautés sea bass with ginger, garlic and onion with asparagus and red pepper.

After the tasting I take a taxi to JFK. Booking in, they take away two bottles of soya sauce that I had been given in the goodie bags last night. Then my 7:55 pm flight is delayed to 9:41 pm. The attendant on the desk tells me it may be cancelled because of fog and is the last flight out tonight. Since Delta does not provide hotel accommodation for weather cancellation I'll have to spend the night at the airport. I eat the other half of my Carnegie Deli corn beef sandwich. Every time I look at the departures board the time of boarding is advanced: 9:41 pm, 10, 10:10, 10:25, 10:35, 10:30, 10:50, 11 pm. Eventually we board at 11:10 and take off at 11:30.




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