November 2008

This controversy was pretty much dead in the water as soon as it hit the internet, but what I find interesting about President Bush serving a $500 bottle of wine to his G20 guests, 1978-front-replaceis not how expensive the wine is, but how much better he could have done than the Schaefer 2003 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. I understand that they have to stick to American wines at the White House (although that wasn’t the rule until the Johnson administration), which drastically limits the opportunities for truly good wine. But if I were the cellar master I think I might choose a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1970s, like the Chateau Montelena from 1978, being sold for a mere $150. 

I’m curious about the White House cellar in general. I found this article which interviews the White House “usher,” a man in charge of the wine cellar named Daniel Shanks, who was hired by the Clintons and has worked there ever since. His view seems to be that state dinners are too short and chaotic to serve an understated aged wine, and instead he prefers something with “youth and vigor” to pack a punch and make an impression. It sounds like the Clintons made a bad choice!

Interestingly, the Clintons were the ones to shift the White House cuisine from French food to American, and hired a man named Walter Schieb to be the chef overseeing this transition.


I recently attended a tasting of Terry Theise’s grower Champagnes held at Ame Restaurant in San Francisco. I especially enjoyed Chartogne-Taillet, Goutourbe, and Vilmart, but all the wines I tasted were excellent. If you’d like to read Terry’s champagne catalog from this year, you can find it here. Although I enjoyed the tasting immensely, I’m not inspired to recreate the experience on this blog.  However, detailed accounts can be found here, here and here.

Laurent Champs of Vilmart holding court with his admirers:


Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée 1997:


This week my husband made a delicious meal of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. He used Richard Olney’s recipe from Simple French Food and our new earthenware pot. earthenwarechickenThe olive oily broth and roasted garlic smeared onto the baguette were as delicious as the juicy and delicious chicken itself. We had the 2005 Filliatreau “La Grand Vignolle” Saumur-Champigny with the meal and I found the pairing to be perfect. The food really made the wine come alive (we hadn’t been particularly enjoying it as an aperitif before we sat down to the table). It smelled of earth and funk and rose-scented make-up (something I often pick up in Cab Franc from the Loire), and each sip was so refreshing.

There is something about Cabernet Franc and chicken…or is it Loire reds and chicken? In New York we had a habit of picking up a rotisserie chicken from Choice Market in Clinton Hill and eating it with Sancerre Rouge or Loire Gamay. Something about how chicken is sort of light, but still complex tasting, and how Loire reds are light, but aromatically complex make such a pairing a successful one!

Olney’s cookbook is a bit daunting for my kitchen stylings (e.g. easy, simple), but my husband has great success with it. It is included in the current issue of Art of Eating’s list of indispensable cookbooks. We are looking forward to working with more of the books on the list, starting with Guiliano Bugialli’s book of Neopolitan cookery! Arthur Schwartz‘s Naples at Table is akin to a bible in our house…almost every dish has become comfort food favorite, so it will be interesting to see how Bugialli competes with the Food Maven!

…but change has come to Amercia!