Category Archives: Adventures

Adventures: Terroir, East Village – New York

I am deeply conflicted about Terroir, a wine bar with branches in both New York’s TriBeCa and East Village.

On the one hand I wish it were downstairs from my apartment, so I could visit whenever I pleased, to partake of excellent bar snacks and work my way through all 54 pages of the wine list.  On the other, I am glad it is a long flight away in a country I try and visit no more than once a year, lest I absent myself from my business and relationship in order to become a devotee of Paul Greico and his altar to wine, slowly draining any accessible funds along with each glass.  I am resolved however that Terroir could only exist in New York.

Terroir is a small, buzzy and instantly comfortable wine bar that you would probably not give more than a second glance if you weren’t looking for it, as we were.  In fact I was somewhat obsessed and lucky that my patient husband was good enough to indulge me.  It works as a place to drop in for a few drinks after work or a place to gather with wine nerds and enjoy rare and very special wines.  The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and you’ll sit at the bar or a communal table where you’ll strike up conversations with a variety of people who love wine.  I do not recall the specifics of what I drank – a slightly sparkling German Riesling to start, many other things afterwards…… the passionate staff are willing and competent accomplices in whatever exploration of the wine list you wish to make and it makes sense to put yourself into their hands.  We shared a ‘combo platter’ of charcuterie and cheese which is available in three sizes – methuselah, salmanazar and melchizedek.  Whatever size you get this is very good value and full of excellent wine friendly food.  The food is by Marco Canora, also chef at the very excellent Hearth restaurant, a few doors from Terroir where we later had easily the best dinner I’ve eaten in the US.  Again, the staff at Hearth was knowledgeable, passionate and accommodating of a request for some Australian wine, resulting in a Betts & Scholl 2002 Grenache from the Barossa Valley.  It may seem sacrilegious but sometimes after extended travel you wish for something familiar. 

We visited during Terroir’s ‘Summer of Riesling’, a celebration of Riesling where the only white wines available by the glass were Riesling.  A fantastic idea!

In case you think that Terroir is an elitist place for wine snobs, here are some gems from the menu and wine list:

“Cheese – The Other White Meat, Ask Any Belgian Monk”

Lyrics for ‘White Wine In a Box’ – a wine themed reworking of Justin Timberlake and SNL’s ‘Dick In A Box’ and ode to Lindsay Lohan rolled into one.

A full page missive calling for street fairs to be banned: “Because while street fairs generated $1.6 million for NYC last year, Street Fairs cost us $2.4 million in police overtime.  Because all the tube socks Street Fairs sell have holes in them.  Because a chicken kabob on 3rd Avenue and 22nd Street tastes exactly like 3rd Avenue and 22nd Street and that is not the terroir we are looking for.”

(in the middle of around a dozen pages devoted to rieslings) “Acid is our Friend!  Like a date with Lady Gaga.  Or an audience with Hugo Chavez.  Or a dance with Kathy Lee Gifford.  ………We are generally afraid of acidity in wine.  But damnit People of America…we desperately need acidity in our lives…to cleanse the streets of blowhard millionaires from Buffalo, to drown the stupidity of the 6th Congresswoman from Minnesota, to act as an enema against the overcrowded hallways of K Street.  We desperately need ACIDITY.”

From “The Architect of Wine Silence” on Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive  “A rare few can elevate wine to a level where one doesn’t even realise grapes or man was involved; only terroir can be experienced…….The architecture of these wines is profound.  Silence can be the only result when faced with such perfection.”

Greico’s immense passion is stamped all over Terroir, his opinions illuminate and expound the virtues of the myriad wines offered.  If you are in New York, forget Momofuku, forget Per Se, forget the rest and get your arse on a stool at the bar at Terroir. 

Note:  I am most distraught that the fabulously entertaining wine list is now a mere 35 pages and no longer includes political commentary about Obama, Greek economic woes and contains only about a third the total number of rants.  Importantly I think there is still just as many wines.  After my visit, I commented on Twitter to @TerroirNY that I had contemplated slipping a copy of the wine list into my hand bag – to which Greico replied with a link to the wine list and a suggestion that I should ‘Print wine list, make hand bag’.  The reality is Terroir’s wine list provides enough material to make luggage requiring several valets.

Adventures: The Breslin, New York

On a trip to New York a few years back, a friend of a friend did his best to get us a table at The Spotted Pig, at the time something highly exciting for New York – a gastropub.  With April Bloomfield in the kitchen, at the time this was the hot ticket in Manhattan and the place was heaving.  Although it makes no sense to me, its relatively common for a hot restaurant in New York to have a no bookings policy.  One day soon I know a restaurateur is going to offer me a credible explanation for this, but it hasn’t happened yet. 

Our generous friend, a Kiwi living in upstate New Jersey and representing Australian and NZ lamb to Americans, grabbed us a round of pints at the bar, Speckled Hen if I remember correctly.   We casted around for diners about to depart, but the situation was bleak.  A Hollywood starlet and her group of at least 30 occupied half the dining area.  Heath Ledger was not in the building.  So we finished our pint and grabbed a few coasters and headed out on the street to regroup and put into operation our Plan B.  One of The Spotted Pig’s coasters is on my desk as I type. 

Not so fun fact – It was on the site of The Spotted Pig that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died.  It shares its location with The Whitehorse Tavern, also a favourite of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Anaïs Nin, Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac.  Funny how celebrity culture has overtaken creativity.  Anyhow, I digress.

Having been denied a visit to The Spotted Pig, I was a tiny bit excited to realise that April Bloomfield’s newest venture, The Breslin, was a short walk from our hotel when we were visiting New York a couple of months ago.  April has some great names under her belt having spent time at Chez Panisse and River Cafe before opening The Spotted Pig.  Her partner-in-crime Ken Friedman has excelled himself with the interior, which is a quirky yet well conceived English pub/club hybrid.  Think dark wood panelling, antler chandeliers, tin mirrors and oiled floorboards with a a nice collection of low brow art.  Located on the ground level of the achingly hip Ace Hotel in Chelsea, we were all set to have dinner and drinks there, but got rained in.  In any event, we had already spent most of the day eating and pretty much ruined our appetite.  So we ventured out into a steamy New York summer day for breakast the next morning determined to try out The Breslin. 

A sucker for cheese and a lover of a good Croque Monsieur we went with the Grilled 3 Cheese Sandwich with house smoked ham with an egg and a full English breakfast of house made pork sausage, fried egg, tomato, mushroom and bacon with a side of Home Fries just to keep with the overeating theme.  The ubiquitous Amercian breakfast staple of home fries was in fact potatoes roasted in duck fat with caramelised onions and a scattering of flat leaf parsely.  If only all hotel buffets shared this same definition of home fries!  The 3 Cheese Sandwich was as big as my head with sweet flaky pork goodness and excellent sourdough.  Clearly, Chef Bloomfield knows how to source the finest porky treats as the sausage and bacon were also amazing.  Despite being entirely full to the point of bursting, I couldn’t leave any of the ‘home fries’ behind.  Wow – so good.  I also enjoyed pretty much the best flat white I’ve ever had, anywhere. 

Special mention to the staffer who chooses the music.  Over the course of breakfast we were treated to Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’, an anonymous rendition of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ with some Hot Chip, Guns N’ Roses and Motown classics thrown in just to keep us guessing. 

It’s probably one of the more expensive ways to eat breakfast in New York and there were only a handful of diners when we visited at around 9:30am.  However, I heartily recommend it if you are visiting New York.  Dinner features a pigs foot dinner for two as well as a dry aged 28 day rib eye for two and a full ‘pudding’ menu with trifle, syllabub and buttermilk pie.  East Coast craft beers and hand pumped house beers are also a specialty.

Next visit I hope to make it to The Spotted Pig and get some more coasters.

Adventures: Eulogy, Philadelphia

When I visit a new city my routine is to ask the bartender ‘whats the local beer?’.  Especially in the US, my most frequent international destination, its also an excellent way to avoid watery, flavourless mass-produced beers and get a little of the local flavour.  Bartenders know stuff you see.  So in preparation for a conference trip to Philadelphia, I’d asked my good mate and conference co-convenor that same question.  Not only did Bob introduce us to the Coopers of Philly – a perfectly respectable lager called Yuengling - he took us to Eulogy Belgian Tavern, a charmingly ramshackle place only a local could know about. 

We were lucky to get a table, perhaps the waiter noticed the excited glow on our faces as he whipped away a ‘reserved’ sign and led us to a chrome and formica table wedged next to the second bar on the upper level.  After welcoming us warmly and providing us with thick spiral bound beer lists/menus we were left awestruck to ponder our preference from a list of over 400 different beers.  Its still got me beat how they accommodate so many different beers in such a pocket hankerchief sized place, but they do.  Nothing was too much trouble and even our most obscure selections were available.

Philadelphia and the surrounding area have a strong German heritage, which perhaps explains the profusion of small breweries in the area.  We started out with some great US craft brewers such as Founders (Michigan), DogFish Head (Delaware) and Victory Brewing Company (Pennsylvania) along with some more widely known Belgian beers from Duvel and Chimay.  This gargantuan list was arranged alphabetically by brewery name with notes on style, location and alcohol volume.  Our waiter was extremely knowledgable and helped some of the less adventurous and more overwhelmed members of our party find something to suit their taste.  The beers arrived perfectly chilled, poured at the table into glassware to suit each selection.

So with a beer in hand, we turned our attention to the menu which offers an excellent range of dishes from the usual Belgian favourites of mussels and frites to innovative mains like lavender roasted chicken with roast vegetables, to a selection of burgers from US hotel standard to the gourmet.  Two of us ordered the house made sausage plate with pork, venison and wild boar and two of us ordered mussels and frites, available four ways.  After much vascilating I went with the lavender roasted chicken.  Good choice.  Mussels and frites were also fantastic.  The presentation of the meals wasn’t fancy, served on household sized flatware best suited to the cosy quarters, however it is clear the chefs know their stuff.  And they deftly deliver a beer friendly menu with something to suit everyone. 

My beer drinking highlight was the Hitachino Nest Classic IPA, brewed in Japan and matured in cedar sake casks with packaging to die for.  This was a really unusual beer.  The cedar flavours were noticeable but nicely balanced with creamy malt and and some spiciness.  It was a nice match for the fragrant lavender roasted chicken maryland. 

Due to our somewhat grueling conference schedule (seven days straight in a dimly lit room, death by powerpoint, with added jetlag anyone?) we didn’t get through anywhere near as much as the list of 400 as I would have liked.  If you are visiting Philly, and I highly recommend you do, then Eulogy should be on your ‘must dine’ list.   And for Aussies feeling homesick, you’ll find Coopers Sparkling Ale and Coopers Vintage Ale at a bargain $5 a glass.  The owners were excited to hear that craft brewing in Australia is producing some great brews and were keen for suggestions on what they could add to their list. 

A fantastic night, and gratitude to Bob Penland for introducing us to Eulogy.

Adventures: Lüke, New Orleans

As much as I loved the food in New Orleans, after a week of bad coffee I seized on the excellent french presse style caffeine fix offered at Lüke, located in a former historic Masonic temple in the heart of New Orleans CBD.  Self-described as ‘homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans’ this place is sophisticated yet full of homely and historical details. 

Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything you require in between, I loved our breakfast and I loved the coffee.  While utterly unlike coffee I drink at home in Brisbane, it had incredible body and none of the burnt notes the Americans usually favour.  It was decidedly French, and well suited to the fare. 

We sat at a table that gave us a great view of the kitchen, a well oiled machine with a couple of friendly chefs who signalled to us when they’d received our order and seemed proud that we took such an interest in what they were doing.  The kitchen also had one of the most incredible fire control systems I’ve ever seen – regulations in Louisiana must really be something else.

We’d ordered a Croque Madame – sweet grilled ham, emmental and white corn bread sandwich with an organic fried egg on top, served with hand cut frites.  There must have been slices of ham piled on an inch thick.  Along with this, the New Orlean version of a ‘Man Meal’, a traditional Southern breakfast of two fried eggs, twice smoked bacon, biscuit and creamed white corn grits.  I’d happily return at least a dozen more times to work through the amazing breakfast and brunch menu which features buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, buttermilk pancakes with berry cane syrup, omelet with local crab meat, asparagus, fromage blanc and fries.

Lunch and dinner at Lüke look similarly grand, and dinner is served from 4pm to 11pm each day.  That’s right – 11pm.  Featuring the best local oysters, clams, crawfish, crab and ceviche as well as lobsters, shrimp and Prince Edward Island mussels at the raw bar and a sophisticated a la carte menu, next time I’m in New Orleans I’ll be making a dinner reservation at Lüke.

Some excellent photos of the dining room at Lüke and the food can be found on their website.  I was rather too caffeinated to hold the camera straight!

Adventures: Cochon Butcher, New Orleans

Cochon New Orleans

Growing up in an area with a rich European migrant heritage, I took for granted the availability of tasty smallgoods.  Finding these salty, meaty treats in Brisbane is somewhat more difficult.

Maybe this is why I fell so hard for Cochon Butcher.  Even though it was around the corner from our hotel in the warehouse district, being busy with conference commitments sadly meant we didn’t try it out right away.  This is a neighbourhood place, the kind of come as you are venue I’d love to see near me.  Located discretely next to Cochon Restaurant, Butcher is a deli come bar come cafe highlighting Donald Link’s cajun background and hence all things from the pig.  ‘Food and sWine’ is the way the concept is neatly described on the menu.   I love it and think of it often.

At its core, Butcher specialises in high quality cuts of fresh meats, cured meats, salumi and sausages made on the premises.  You can drop in and have the Butcher staff package these up to take home or arrange charcutirie platters, dips and amazing Cajun party treats or pull up a stool and enjoy fine wines and food.  You’ll find everything from steak and foie gras to Cajun specialties like Boudin, Andouille and Tasso.

House made salami and sausage at Butcher @ Cochon
Cajun and other delicacies at Butcher @ Cochon

 Once we discovered Butcher we couldn’t stay away.  It think we visited 4 times in 3 days, working our way through the concise but delicious eat in menu.  There’s bar snacks, amazing breakfasts, lunches and a well stocked bar.  We tried the Cochon Muffaletta and a Pulled Pork Sandwich with  potato salad at lunch both of which were served with pickled okra and amazing housemade potato chips.

Cochon the restaurant proper is certainly on the the itinerary for a future visit to New Orleans.  They even have Elderton wines from the Barossa on their list!

Cochon Muffaletta at Butcher @ Cochon
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Butcher @ Cochon

Voodoo BBQ is also worth checking out if you’re visiting New Orleans.  Authentic southern BBQ and amazing Mango Crystal and Mojo sauces, lovely with pulled pork and a frosty Abita ale.

Adventures: Grand Isle, New Orleans

BBQ Shrimp with French Bread at Grand Isle Restaurant, New Orleans

Q:   What’s the worst thing about Amercia?

A:   It’s full of Amerians.

And you might think full of nasty, fatty, processed foods.  In parts yes, but there is also some fabulously good eating too.  New Orleans for example is a VERY good city for eatin’.  A melting pot of french, afro-carribean and other influences its a fantastic city full of fabulous music and food.  We visited for a week in July 2009 and I’m looking forward to visiting again one day soon.

Forcing ourself into the timezone, we checked into our hotel in the Warehouse/Cultural District, not too far from the Superdome and set off towards the centre of the city to sample the local cuisine.

Following Hurricane Katrina, this neighbourhood has emerged as a great example of urban renewal with warehouses converted to apartments with ground floor restaurants, shops and offices.  There’s no master plan to it so its a great area to wander around and discover.  Despite misconceptions its also a safe area at night.

We settled on Grand Isle Restaurant, a charming seafood restaurant in a new development a few blocks from our hotel.  Designed to replicate a New Orleans ‘Fish Camp’ the decor features a beautiful collection of black and white vintage photos, gorgeous Pecky cypress lined walls,  and an old style wrap around mahogany bar.   Comfortable surroundings to relax in after a long flight.

‘Grand Isle Restaurant will take you back to the days when cold beer, 10 cent oysters and air conditioning were advertised on the windows.’

Our knowledgable waiter was happy to guide us through the menu which featured typical old style fish camp favourites like oysters, onion rings, jumbo lump shrimp cakes, turtle stew, gumbo and po boys.  We were feeling game and encouraged by a couple of glasses of suprisingly crisp and drinkable Californian chardonnay we ordered onion rings, crawfish étouffée, BBQ shimp and a seafood tasting plate.

The onion rings were amazing – thick, juicy with crispy light batter and expertly fried.  The seafood plate was a nice way to try out the local catch and was the first of several kilos of catfish we were feed throughout the week.  The joys of conference food for 5000+ delegates!

I was intrigued by crawfish étouffée before we went to New Orleans and I still am.  A Creole dish that typically includes onions, green capsicum and celery sauteed in butter (known in Creole cooking as the ‘holy trinity’) plus garlic, cayenne pepper and of course crawfish, its finished with a dark roux and winds up something like a simple version of gumbo and is served with rice.  Perhaps the flavour combination was too far from the familiar or my digestion wasn’t up to the strong taste of crawfish after the long flight but it really wasn’t for me.

The BBQ Shrimp with French Bread compensated entirely.  The simple description and $13.50 price tag were  misleading.  This was spectacular, rich yet perfectly balanced with lovely slices of crusty baguette to mop the sauces.  With every bite I puzzled at the combination of flavours, not quite able to put my finger on the ingredients.  It haunted me for a several months until I wrote to the Grand Isle and requested the recipe.  I’ve yet to try and replicate it at home but with a few small tweaks for localisation it does look achievable.  Here’s the recipe and lovely email I received from the general manger Jeff Hof.  I’ve not yet whittled down the recipe to a domestic quantity but this will give you an idea of how they do it.  The bay leaves, worcestershire and hot sauce provide the unusual flavours I’d been unable to identify.

“Hi Keira,

Please find the attached recipe that you requested. Thank you very much for the wonderful comments and we hope to see you for the next Microsoft convention. Your company has been very kind and supportive of our city during our time of need and we greatly appreciate it.

The attached recipe is a base that you must make first.  In the recipe we use Abita Amber which is a local beer. You can use any Amber beer and it will be the same provided the beer is not a bitter style. After the base is made, season the shrimp with salt and pepper and put into a hot sauté pan. Ladle in enough base to cover the shrimp. Bring the base to a low boil as quick as possible and fully cook the shrimp. Reduce heat to low and add in some whole, unsalted butter to bind the base and thicken it slightly. Squeeze a wedge of lemon in it and serve immediately.”

BBQ Shrimp Base

1 gallon Abita Amber

1 quart white wine

½ gallon mirepoix

½ gallon Crystal hot sauce

½ gallon Worcestershire sauce

10 Bay leaves

2 gallon shrimp stock

2 cups oil, Canola

1 cup garlic cloves

2 cups chopped Rosemary

Zest and juice of 25 lemons

1 quart Heavy whipping cream


Place Abita, wine, mirepoix, hot sauce, Worcestershire and bay leaves in a stockpot and reduce by half.  Add shrimp stock, reduce by half.  Strain.  Brown garlic cloves in oil.  Add rosemary, garlic, cream, lemon juice and zest  to liquid.

Warehouse District, New Orleans

Lots more fabulous eating in New Orleans followed our visit to Grand Isle and I’m looking forward to sharing some highlights with you.