“The problem [at The Ten Bells] is not the list,” wrote one natural wine advocate on my Facebook yesterday. While my bartender was not very helpful when I visited this week, I did drink this groovy, crunchy, organic, and undisgorged Prosecco. I liked it a lot.
Over on my Facebook, a lot of people commented on my post about a disappointing experience that I had this week at The Ten Bells.
Most agreed that The Ten Bells isn’t what it used to be. And many natural wine advocates encouraged me to revisit it. One guy told me to kill myself (for real; I blocked him).
In the wake of all the comments and the many wine professionals who bemoaned the service but praised the list there, I wanted to share a story from my own experiences there over the years.
The Ten Bells opened the last year I lived in New York, 2007. And I immediately became a fan. And even after I left New York (after living there for ten years), The Ten Bells became my number-one go-to when visiting. I loved the place. I loved the ex-owner Fifi. I loved the anti-Beaujolais nouveau festival. I loved the pâté (which was superb with the Beaujolais). I went there for business, I went there for pleasure.
One time when I visited, I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender if he had any Maule Garganega, which I had drunk there before.
He said that no, he didn’t have any at the moment.
“I’m so bummed!” I told him. “I was so looking forward to pairing some oysters with that wine. I love it so much.”
He looked me in the eye.
“Anyone who loves Maule and oysters so much needs to have some,” he said smiling broadly.
“I actually have one bottle of Maule. Let me get it for you.”
And he didn’t charge me for the oysters or the wine.
Not long after that, back in California (where I was trying to figure out what the next chapter of my life would be; this was before I met Tracie P), a good friend and natural wine lover asked me for New York City recommendations.
I told him to go to The Ten Bells and order Maule and oysters.
When he returned to California, he told me that not only had he sat down at the bar and ordered Maule and oysters, but the bartender had refused to charge him.
My friend recounted that “the guy at the bar said, ‘Anyone who loves Maule and oysters so much needs to have some. It’s on me.'”
It’s unbelievable. But it’s 100 percent true. I swear.
I don’t know that bartender’s name but I can see him in my mind’s eye.
And I will revisit The Ten Bells when I come back to the city this fall.
In other news…
Those are cherrystone clams with black beans at Fuleen Seafood in Chinatown, where I had dinner with some of my best friends in the wine trade last night.
What a great dinner! That’s the duck below.
As much as I loved the pasta at I Trulli and the burger at the bar at Keens Steakhouse, last night’s was the best meal of the trip.
Now it’s time to get my butt back to Texas where there are three ladies that I need to squeeze tightly, tightly, tightly…