Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges: Where to Spend Your Refund

April showers bring May flowers or if you’re really lucky, the month itself brings a big fat tax refund. Since experiences bring more happiness than possessions, a big splurge dinner on the town seems like the perfect way to spend it. Here are some top picks Tax Day 2016 dining splurges to live and eat large if only for one night. please note that the most exclusive wines are available in extremely limited quantities, so it’s best to inquire ahead of time if you have your heart set on a particularly splurge-y selection.

Daniel, New York, New York
Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant on the Upper East Side just off of Central Park is the epitome of contemporary French extravagance. The seven-course tasting menu clocks in at $234 or $459 with wine pairings and includes signature dishes like velvety Minted Pea Soup with chicken mousse and Louisiana crayfish and garlic pennycress and can include courses of langoustines, beef, and quail with foie gras. The wine list has selections such as Chateau D’Yquem 1918 for $10,000 or Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2009 for $15,000. Or if you’re celebrating with similarly flush-with-cash friends, how about a magnum? You can’t go wrong with the Domaine Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Cros Parantoux”1995 for $20,000. Make a reservation at Daniel.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Providence, Los Angeles, California
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s 2-Michelin star paean to fine dining in the heart of Los Angeles features the chef’s menu, a 12-course tasting menu with sustainable seafood from the U.S. and beyond, as well as other delicacies like prized A5 wagyu beef. Decadent touches include ossetra caviar and white truffle and black truffle fondue. It’s $220 or $325 with wine pairings. But if you’re really looking to splash out, begin your evening with a bottle of 1998 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay Champagne for $3,500 and then move on to a bottle of 2012 La Tâche Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $4,000. Finish the evening with a bottle to remember in the way of a 1959 Staatsweingut Kloster Eberbach Riesling Auslese for $3,500. Make a reservation at Providence.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Saison, San Francisco, California
Chef Joshua Skenes and sommelier Mark Bright have crafted one of the most unique high-end dining environments at Saison, with its open floor plan encompassing the dining room, bar, lounge, and kitchen — effectively removing all walls. The goal is to bring diners into the chef’s world, in this case, a minimalist redesign of the California Electric Light Company building. Dishes have vague and poetic names such as Fire in the Sky Beet, Bone Marrow Roasted over Coals and Sea Urchin, Liquid Toast. The prix-fixe Discovery menu is a luxe $398 for about 16 courses with an additional $298 for wine pairings. But if you want to really max out the credit cards (assuming you can pay it off with your return dough), you might consider ordering the Domaine Georges Roumier ‘Bonnes-Mares’ Grand Cru 2009 for $15,408 or ending the experience on a truly sweet note with Château D’Yquem Premiere Cru Supérieur, Sauternes 1942 for $6,888. Make a reservation at Saison.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

StripSteak by Michael Mina, Miami, Florida
Located in the historic Fontainebleau hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami, StripSteak is swank and clubby with its wood tones and rich browns. Start your meal with rare golden osetra caviar service for $295, and then indulge in a beefy entrée like the 50-ounce Australian tomahawk for $150 or the Japanese Miyazaki prefecture A5 striploin for $32 per ounce. Then gild the lily with add-on extras like half a Maine lobster tail or seared foie gras. The restaurant prides itself on having one of the largest pre-embargo Cuban cigar collections in Miami, all dating back to 1962 and earlier with prices generally in the $100-200 range but topping out at $395 for a 6-inch Montecristo. To accompany your stogie, choose a tableside Japanese whisky ceremony or perhaps a glass of 25-year Macallan for $370. Make a reservation at StripSteak by Michael Mina.

Tax Day 2016 Dining Splurges

Grace, Chicago, Illinois
This Michelin three-star restaurant is also one of the biggest splurges in Chicago. Elegant and understated, chef Curtis Duffy’s Windy City gem is upscale without being fussy. The menu offers an 8-12 course tasting menu format at $235. The dishes are described in classic minimalist style such as Alaskan King Crab, sudachi, cucumber, lemon mint or Pig Tail, endive, cauliflower, oxalis. Many dishes have Asian accents and the vegetarian “flora” menu is as captivating as the “fauna” menu, which showcases seafood and protein. The wine list features saves and splurges among 1,400 selections. Teetotalers can splurge on bespoke teas that cost upwards of $20 each. Make a reservation at Grace.

Tax Day 2016 Dining SplurgesContinue Reading

Farm to Glass: Why Sommeliers + Wine Directors Love Grower Champagne (and You Will, Too)

Grower Champagne

Small is big. These days it seems you can’t shake a stick — reclaimed from the fallen branch of your backyard tree — without hitting a thoughtfully crafted, local product. Online marketplaces like Etsy allow artists and artisans to create and sell their wares in limited batches. In the U.S., microbreweries are popping up at record rates while drinkers are eschewing macrobrewery offerings for the more uncommon beers in their own neighborhoods. At local farmers markets, we talk with the folks who grow our favorite apple, and we’re on a first-name basis with the cow that produces our milk. (Kidding about that last one, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, right?)

The same is happening in France’s Champagne region. Grape growers, many who once sold the entirety of their grapes to large Champagne houses (think Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot, among others) are now keeping all or a portion of their harvest to create their own wholly interesting, beautifully complex sparkling wines. Referred to as “grower Champagne,” it’s not a new practice, but it’s one that has gained popularity in recent years as consumers actively seek out a more artisanal product. There’s no need to wait for New Year’s Eve or your next big life milestone to raise a glass. Sommeliers and wine directors from some of the country’s top restaurants tell us: there’s so much to celebrate about grower Champagne.

Edouard Bourgeois, Sommelier, Ca Boulud, New York, New York
“When I started at Café Boulud, the wine list didn’t differentiate between grower Champagne and Champagne from houses. Being from this region of France, I felt it was important to promote the Champagne growers by showcasing them in their own category. (The difference between the two is simple, by the way: grower Champagnes are made by a producer who grows their own grapes and vinifies them into Champagne. They control the process from A to Z. On the other hand, Champagne houses are producers who own their land but buy grapes to feed their production.) I am constantly searching for the obscure, hidden gem wines to feature on my list, and there are many in Champagne with great personalities and a real sense of terroir.” Make a reservation at Café Boulud.

Grower Champagne

Alicia Kemper, General Manager and Wine Director, fundamental LA, Los Angeles, California
“I chose to include grower Champagne because I appreciate the pureness and thoughtfulness of the wine. These winemakers could easily sell their grapes to the big houses for more money, but instead, they choose to make something extremely complicated that could all be compromised due to unfortunate weather. Champagne from the big houses often lacks in many ways, whereas most grower Champagnes over-deliver, not only in taste but in quality and terroir as well.

My favorite grape in Champagne in Pinot Meunier. A lot of people would disagree, however, when it is done right, it is out of this world! I have one Pinot Meunier dominant wine on my list: Christophe Mignon (who comes from a long line of farmers in Le-Mesnil and makes wine that is super fresh, minerally, and has amazing texture).

Aside from the Mignon and Meunier, the Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus is just next-level delicious. It is from a single vineyard and doesn’t have a drop of dosage, so the terroir really shines through. After being left on its lees for nearly a year, it undergoes battonage, which gives it richness and that oh-so-lovely texture.

In terms of pairings, I love pairing Champagne with something fried or weighty — especially burgers. A lot of times people are like ‘Whaaaat?’ but then they taste them together, and often, their minds are blown.” Make a reservation at fundamental LA.

Grower Champagne

Jackson Rohrbaugh, Assistant Wine Director, Canlis, Seattle, Washington
“We love grower Champagne at Canlis because there is a closer connection between the personality of the grower and the wine in the glass. Single vineyard wines take this concept to its fullest expression. The Jérôme Prévost La Closerie “Fac-Simile,” a Pinot Meunier rosé from the village of Gueux, is one of our most treasured bottles. It provides a refreshing, fruitful palate cleanse alongside chef Brady Williams’s Barley Porridge with geoduck and green strawberry.” Make a reservation at Canlis.

Grower Champagne

Melanie Kaman, Director of Wine & Beverage, Addison, San Diego, California
“For grower Champagne, what I have found is the products are more organic, they’re anywhere from a third to half the price of the large Maisons, and they’re a lot better quality. They’re smaller production, they’re really well made, and you’re supporting local. Even if it’s not local California or local New York, you’re supporting a family of growers, not a conglomerate. You’re getting these beautiful, finely crafted, small-production Champagnes for a lower price, and, in my opinion, a better quality than some of the large houses.

We have a beautiful tasting menu with 10 or 12 courses, and we feature a dish in a caviar tin; it’s a smoked salmon rillette, and it’s topped with golden Osetra caviar from Galilee Farms in Israel, served with a warm brioche toast on the side. I always pair it with Champagne. One of my favorites recently has been Paul Bara, their Brut Rosé, and then I also really like the 2007 Gaston Chiquet Brut.” Make a reservation at Addison.

Grower Champagne

Thomas Pastuszak, Wine Director, The Nomad, New York, New York
“Grower Champagne continues to be one of the most exciting categories of wine in the world: we’re talking about producers in the Champagne region who farm their family-owned land conscientiously and meticulously, grow incredible grapes from noble terroirs, and create their own, unique expressions of their villages through the wines they are making. It’s now taken on a site-specific excitement that wine lovers only used to be able to find in places like Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, or the Mosel, and these Champagnes are some of the most incredible food wines, whether to start the meal or to finish it. At NoMad, we regularly recommend drinking a variety of styles and producers throughout our guests’ meal: the grower Champagne category lets us do that and create some amazing pairings with chef Humm’s cuisine.” Make a reservation at The NoMad.

Grower ChampagneContinue Reading

In the Mood: What to Drink While You Dine on Valentine’s Day

At Cinghiale-Enoteca, owner/sommelier Tony Foreman + his staff invite wine drinkers to sign the special bottles they’ve ordered. There are thousands displayed.

Step away from the Chardonnay. Put down the pinot noir. Think outside the bourbon. That is an order. Seriously, though, you’ve carefully thought through Valentine’s Day dinner, picking an amazing restaurant with the perfect menu for you and your date; don’t stop there. You can make the 14th extra special with an unforgettable beverage experience that is anything but everyday. Eric Arnold, a wine and spirits expert and author of First Big Crush: The Down and Dirty on Making Great Wine Down Under, a book about a novice’s winemaking experiences in New Zealand, shared his four must-try picks to sip this Saturday.

Amaro
“The spirit that was once the afterthought downed by tired waitstaff and line cooks in Italian restaurants has suddenly become hip – and it was long overdue. Sort of a lighter, more nuanced version of herbal liqueurs such as Fernet-Branca, Amaro is slightly sweet but ever so alluring. Usually consumed after dinner, but certainly appropriate before the appetizers, Amaro never fails to bring a smile to a first-timer’s face.”

Vintage Champagne
“It’s perfectly normal if you’ve sipped a glass of Yellow Label Veuve, Moët, or Mumm and wondered what all the fuss is about. Vintage Champagne – all the grapes were picked in the same season, and a year is visible on the label – is an entirely different experience, especially if the bottle is upwards of a decade old. Vintage Champagne sometimes is a little lighter on the effervescence, but all those extra years of cellar aging make the wine richer in texture, fuller in flavor, and multidimensional in character. These are also the bubblies you can drink right through an entire meal, as these Champagnes tend to pair better with a wider range of foods.”

Continue Reading

Trendspotting: Foraging for Food; Mixology with Meals; Pigs; Pop Rocks; Pop-Up Restaurants; Sharks; Sustainable Restaurants, and More

In food-related news from the blogosphere and your favorite food sections…

* Forget singing for your supper; it’s all about searching for it these days, thanks to a renewed interest in foraged ingredients. I don’t mind the practice, but this word is beginning to crop up on menus everywhere and it’s driving me a bit batty. [Nation’s Restaurant News] [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz wants to ban the use of salt in food prep at restaurants in New York State. In other words, he wants to ruin all the restaurant food in New York State. [Nation’s Restaurant News]

* Are Pop Rocks the new truffles? Probably not, but some restaurants in New York (Klee, Kefi, and Fishtail by David Burke) are embracing this clamorous candy and other 7-11 delights as ingredients in high-end dishes. [New York Post]

* I did not know that: Eggs aren’t dairy. Whew! I recently did a cleanse that excluded dairy, but I adore eggs so it was sheer (and, in hindsight, unnecessary) torture. Thanks to Carolina Santos-Neve and Epicurious for clearing this up.  [The Epi-Log]

* It’s not easy to not eat meat, but Chow’s Roxanne Webber has some insights as to how vegetarian and vegan chefs make their meat-free dishes so delicious. [Chow]

* First craft beers, now cocktails are being paired with food at fine restaurants. Can wine get a break? [The Atlantic] [Washington Post]

* Pop-up restaurants are, well, popping up all over New York, much to diners’ great joy. [Los Angeles Times]

* Restaurateurs are embracing sustainability in ways big and small, from building materials to menu items. [Los Angeles Times]

* Shark is not sustainable, in case you were wondering. [The Atlantic]

* In news sure to shake Miss Piggy to her stilettos, whole-pig restaurants are all the rage in Southern California. [Los Angeles Times]

* Despite their appetite for whole pigs, diners want to get healthier. [Nation’s Restaurant News]

* Diners also want to eat outdoors, especially in New York. [The New York Times]

* Food is my religion, and restaurants are my houses of worship. Thankfully, I am not alone. [The Grist]