What I Ate on My Summer Vacation
What do restaurant critics eat on their summer vacations? Well, none of your damn business—I’m off the clock. But, just because I like you (each and every one of you), I’ll let you in on my secret. When I sneak off to my hemp ‘n’ dred beach community of Truro, Massachusetts, every year, I cook way more than I eat out. Come August, you’ll find me barefoot, braining lobsters on the picnic table before slapping them on the grill, and sipping drinks as I shuck Wellfleet oysters until my fingers are bloody.
But enough about me. Here’s what a couple of other guys were up to:
Peter X. Kelly Of Xaviar’s Restaurant Group
“In August, my wife Rica, my son Dylan and I traveled to Italy where we ate very well in Florence, Greve, Montepuliciano, Siena, et cetera. In Greve, I particularly loved the awesome wine [Vitichio Vineyards with my dear friends the Landinis] and the pork products at Forlini Macelleria.
“But the most memorable dish I had was at a little butcher shop in Pansano, about ten minutes north of Greve. Dario Cecchini has a butcher shop called Antica Macceleria Cicchini. When you enter, you are immediately offered a glass of Chianti and an array of salumi is set out with good Tuscan bread. Dario, the butcher, welcomes all, sometimes while singing Led Zeppelin tunes. In addition to the bread and salumi there is a large ceramic bowl of ‘burro del Chianti. This is a whipped spread of fresh pork fat with a little vinegar, rosemary, and garlic. It is spread on bread and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper…amazing!
“But where is the restaurant? If you ask for the restaurant, you will be led through a semi-secret sliding electric door and up a steep set of stairs to a nondescript rectangular room that is set for communal dining. This restaurant serves only meat [remember—this is primarily a butcher shop]. I had heard rumors of a dish that Dario was making famous, that dish was ‘tonno del Chianti.’ Tonno is the Italian word for tuna, but tonno del Chianti is made with pork by a butcher. Dario takes pork thighs, which are normally used for prosciutto, and he boils them in white wine and herbs for many, many hours. He then slices or shreds the meat, which is fork-tender, and drizzles it with great olive oil, sliced red onion, and fresh cracked black pepper. The finished dish does, indeed, resemble well-prepared chunky tuna salad, but the taste is so deep and unctuous, it is very hard to describe. Few dishes in my lifetime have seemed so unique yet so simple and, of course, so memorable.”
David Starkey of Sweet Grass Grill
“I have to say my summer was great and filled with a lot of great dinners of very memorable fresh fish. But the most memorable was back in July when I got my passport in hand and headed down to Brooklyn to meet a friend for dinner. I had read great things about a place called Gwynette Street, so I was dying to try it. The chef there, Justin Hilbert, is off-the-charts talented, in my opinion. The restaurant sits inconspicuously on a nondescript street in the middle of a nowhere section of Brooklyn. We were the first to arrive, so the place was quiet and we had it all to ourselves.
“Everything about the food, from the whiskey bread they bake right behind the bar leading up to the last course, was just phenomenal. I love a meal where everything just keeps getting better and better with every bite. Usually there are highs and lows, but, here, it was just one ascending peak after peak. They told me they like to really turn it on at the end and, boy, do they. So, to cut to the chase, it was the dessert that was the most memorable and ended up just blowing me away. The fact that I am not usually a dessert person [like ’em, just usually too full to enjoy ‘em] makes this even more astounding. I would drive down there again just to eat the dessert. I had the one called simply ‘Raspberry.’ It contains a raspberry panna cotta, meringue cookies made from beets, and a raspberry and shiso granita. Do I even need to tell you how amazing these textures and flavors were together? You gotta go.'”
Todd Anderson and the Wines of Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards at Crabtree’s Kittle House
September 13, 7pm
Four courses with wines, including tax and gratuity, $110 per person.
From Glenn Vogt of the Kittle House, “Many of you have been asking when we would be hosting our next winemaker dinner and we are very happy to announce that it will be next Thursday evening, September 13, at 7 pm. And we are even happier to announce that we will be welcoming back to the KH the one and only Mr. Todd Anderson, iconoclast and winemaker extraordinaire of the wonderful Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley.
“The year was 1990 and we were beginning our quest to have one of the greatest restaurant wine cellars in the world. We were busy collecting the wines from the legendary wineries from all around the world, the most famous names from the most famous places: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, DRC, Leflaive, Ramonet, Conterno, Mascarello, Soldera, Vega Sicilia, Penfold’s, Mondavi, Beringer—the list goes on and on, and we were on a mission to get them all. But we also wanted to be on the cutting edge of what was new and exciting in the world of wine. We wanted to discover the hot new wine before anyone else and be the first to offer the latest and the greatest, to be the only ones to get a little bit of the little bit that was available of something new and awesome and that no one else had heard of yet. This became our thing, our wine cellar motivation, and it still drives the KH wine program today. And this is how we met Todd Anderson.
“It was late one night and I was sitting upstairs in the office doing some work on the wine list and waiting for the cleaning crew to finish up in the kitchen, when I picked up the Wine Spectator magazine that had come in the mail that day. On the cover was a story about California’s top new Cabernets and the newest ‘wineries to watch’ in Napa Valley. There was a picture of four or five newly released Cabernets from Napa Valley and I recognized all of them—except for one that I had never heard of: Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Estate Reserve. I grabbed the phone, dialed the operator, asked for the number for Napa Valley information, called it, and asked for Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. I left a message on their answering machine [it was 1 am here, 10 pm there] explaining who we [the Kittle House] were and what [the wine list] we were doing and wanted to know how we could get some wine from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards.
“The next day, I got a phone call from a man named Todd Anderson of Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. Todd was very excited to hear from a restaurant in New York, as he had just signed up with a distributor here and was looking forward to getting his wines into the market. He told me all about the winery and the wines, and about his family and how it was truly a family operation. We spoke for a long time and, by the end of the call, I felt like we were old friends. Over the years that followed, we got to know Todd’s parents, Gus and Phyllis, quite well, as they would always make a point to come to the Kittle House, have dinner, and stay a night in the inn when they were visiting New York. Gus would pour us the newest wines from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards and we would talk about them and wine long into the night. The wines were fantastic and we bought them every year (the unforgettable 1990 Cabernet Reserve was a dead ringer for Chateau Margaux!). We had a vertical listing of every vintage of the Cabernet Reserve dating back to 1988 for a very long time, and a long list of the delicious Meritage called Eloge as well. We have sold through some of the vintages over the years, but still have a pretty nice list of both. We became good friends with the Anderson family and think back on those days, in the beginning, fondly and often.
“Today, the Anderson/Kittle House tradition continues as Todd stops by to pay us a visit whenever he comes to New York and, even better than that, joins us in hosting an annual Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards wine-tasting dinner. On Thursday, September 13, we will taste all of the newest releases from Todd alongside a four-course dinner prepared by Execuitve Chef Marc Lippman and his culinary team. Four courses, wines, tax, and gratuity, all for $110 per person—an amazing price for a very special evening as we continue the KH tradition and warmly welcome back the super-talented and wildly entertaining winemaker and our good friend, Todd Anderson. The wines and menu are in the process of being finalized. For reservations, please call (914) 666-8044.”
HotPlate: Salty, Yummy Capricciosa Pie at Tarry Lodge
This “capricious” pie is actually quite studied. It’s a perfectly balanced pizza of mild prosciutto cotto (akin to baked ham) sparked by briny artichokes and funky Crimini mushrooms. Bready char, pork, and sparkling salt happily compete for palate attention. Folks, it’ll be tough to share this pie.