22 October 2013

yonne bike trip: alice et olivier de moor, courgis

Alice and Olivier de Moor were the main reason I'd long been keen to do a bike trip around Chablis.

Along with their neighbor in Courgis Thomas Pico, the de Moors represent a small but ascendant generation of Chablis producers whose non-interventionist, low-sulfur wines are steadily approaching the aesthetic heights of the regions' established greats. But even as their Chablis becomes more sought-after every year, the de Moors still operate like underdogs, continually refining their pioneering work with Aligoté and branching out into superb négociant projects.

In short, theirs is among the most exciting domaines I know of, an exemplary model for how to effectively make and market honest wine in a quasi-industrialised, marquee region. Alice also makes a mean gateau aux pommes.

18 October 2013

yonne bike trip: le bistrot des grands crus, chablis

Here's a hoary chestnut of dining wisdom: when choosing amongst countryside bistrots, one doesn't often go wrong sticking to those associated with Michelin-starred restaurants. In the best cases, one gets access to the mothership's wine list, while avoiding fusty lobster-themed dinners that begin and end with variations of costly eclair. The bistrot-offshoot, furthermore, is often where the locals actually dine.

No locals were in sight, though, when after our tasting with Vincent Dauvissat in Chablis, my friends and I eschewed the one-star cuisine of Michel Vignaud at L'Hostellerie des Clos for an early table at Le Bistrot des Grands Crus. Chablis in summertime might as well be Devon: it's positively crawling with elderly well-to-do Brits. If, like me, you have ever given serious thought to who on earth actually orders half-bottles, well, cased closed.

But that's beside the point. Le Bistrot des Grands Crus is straightfowardly true to its name: a place where average country fare provides a wonderful excuse to open bottles of serious Chablis in a comfy courtyard terrace.

14 October 2013

yonne bike trip: vincent dauvissat, chablis

It's poor form to be late to an appointment with any vigneron. But anyone familiar with unimpeachable greatness of Vincent Dauvissat's Chablis will understand why my friends and I were particularly concerned about arriving on time to meet the winemaker.

We had biked from Irancy that afternoon, taking an ill-considered route that led through steep, shadeless Saint-Bris onto a stretch of hellish highway (the D965) that we were unable to escape until exiting at Beine, a town west of Chablis distinguished by an artificial lake, the Etang de Beine. In Beine you see a blitz of proud signage for this artificial lake, but before you encounter it, you pass a really swampy mini-lake, which my friends and I incredulously took for the étang before arriving at the real thang. We had a good laugh about this and entertained the idea of joining some bathers at the étang until we realized we were in danger of arriving late to Chablis.

As it happened, we arrived chez Dauvissat a few minutes early. The family member who answered the door gestured to Vincent, who, evidently having just returned from work in the vines, appeared briefly in the doorway eating an apple, wearing denim short-shorts and a bandana. He made an apologetic gesture and disappeared, reappearing five minutes later dressed less like Axl Rose.

08 October 2013

authenticity unnecessary : buvette, 75009

By the time my friend Camille Fourmont opened her Buvette in the 11ème this past spring, rumours had already spread that American celebrity chef Jody Williams was planning to replicate her successful West Village wine bar of the same name in Paris. Fourmont had heard the news too, but she'd already made her own neon sign. There are tens of Café du Métros, a bevy of variations on Au Passage, even more than one Galopin in Paris - what's the problem with a few unrelated Buvettes?*

I can see why opening in Paris struck Williams as a savvy move. She made a late-career switch from Italian cuisine (as practiced at Tappo, Morandi, and Gottino in NYC) to French, and stands to benefit from the authenticity boost that an actual Paris outpost confers. Her Buvette also arrives at a recent high-water mark for Parisian acceptance of new-world-style small-plates wine bars. (The floodgates will soon give completely.)

What's more, replicating the NYC Buvette in Paris doesn't seem to have required Williams to tweak the original concept at all. The Paris Buvette feels eerily - at times hilariously - like a New York restaurant aiming to sell quasi-French small plates to Americans.