New York Stories 7: Beaujolais with Eric the Red

The final installment from my “dates with the City”…

Another highlight of my New York sojourn was my obligatory pilgrimage to The Ten Bells, my favorite wine bar in the U.S., where even the grouchiest among the grouchy wine bloggers would approve of owner Fifi’s selection of Natural Wines by the glass.

The weather had turned cold(er) and as Eric the Red noted on the Twitter, “at The Ten Bells. No place better on a chilly night, or any other.”

(You may remember how Eric got his name “the red” back in August 2008.)

Partly mocking the Beaujolais Nouveau marketing scam here in the U.S. and mostly celebrating how fantastic Beaujolais can be, for the last two years, Fifi has run a cru Beaujolais by-the-glass program concurrently with the advent of the consumerist collusion concocted by Georges Duboeuf in the 1970s. (Tracie P and I actually made the tail end of the festival last year.)

This year he offered 19 cru Beaujolais.

Eric and I tasted the Fleurie 09 Dubost Sans Souffre and the Morgon Descombes 07. Brilliantly savory and delicious…

Topics of conversations were wide and varied but I was thrilled to get a preview of Eric’s new book, “a manifesto and memoir,” in which he will dispel the notion that intellectualism is required to understand and enjoy wine. I’ll drink to that!

Talking about Eataly and the arc of the Italian food and wine renaissance, we remembered his 1993 review of Mario Batali’s Po on Cornelia St.

It took a little digging but I found it in the paper of record’s archive here.

“It turns out that the name Po refers neither to the Italian river nor to the Italian word for ‘little bit,’ but derives from a Polaroid photo taken of the site by a friend of the co-owners, Mario Batali and Steve Crane. The name, with its happy Italian resonances, stuck. The restaurant will, too.”

Mario’s father, said Eric, credits him with discovering the clogged one.

I had visited Eataly earlier in the day: how amazing to reflect on Batali’s legacy (like it or not) since 1993!

And I’d have to say that Eric the Red has done pretty well himself since then… Check out his article in today’s paper on tasting 2005 Barbaresco with Levi

New York Stories 3: Eataly with Michele Scicolone

Still not quite sure what to make of Eataly. But was thrilled to check it out with one of my favorite Italian food writers and authorities, our good friend Michele Scicolone, who took time out from her writing to stroll through the different pavilions with me.

The “Piazza.” I’m not the first or only one to note that it’s a “Disneyland of Italian gastronomy.”

I was really impressed by the salumeria slicing and packaging.

The trouble with truffles… They’re EXPENSIVE no matter where or how you slice ’em…

The “vegetable butcher” will trim your veggies for you.

Michele is so awesome. I can’t recommend her books highly enough.

More New York Stories to come…

Eataly and Vinitaly in New York

Above: Giovanni Mantovani (CEO VeronaFiere and Vinitaly), Oscar Farinetti (Italian retail, food, and wine tycoon, creator of Eataly), and Stevie Kim (senior adviser to Mr. Mantovani) yesterday at the opening of Bastianchi-Batali-Farinetti brainchild Eataly in New York.

Yesterday, mere moments after Mr. Franco Ziliani and I posted about the Italian agricultural minister’s claim that there is no crisis in the Italian wine industry, I spoke to Stevie Kim (above, right), senior adviser to Vinitaly’s CEO. She and her boss were attending the opening of the latest conquest in the ever-expanding Batali-Bastianich empire, Eataly, the “über-supermarket” conceived by retail tycoon Oscar Farinetti.

“As you know,” said Stevie, “production of Italian wines has increased dramatically in recent years and the Italian market is saturated. And so the international market has become more important for all producers.”

The Italian government, she told me, has asked her and her boss to “revamp” the Vinitaly road show, which has been coming to the U.S. for a decade (fyi Vinitaly is the top Italian wine industry annual trade fair, held each year in Verona in April). They plan to reconfigure the tasting this year, to be held at Eataly New York October 25, to accommodate trade and consumers.

“In the past, the presentation has been very fragmented. This year, we plan to restyle the tasting by transforming Eataly [New York] into Vinitaly,” said Stevie, who speaks impeccable Italian and has lived in Italy for more than 20 years. 50 producers will be attending this year’s road show, the maximum number Eataly New York can accommodate.

To Stevie I say, in bocca al lupo…

I’m not sure how I feel about Eataly (photo by Stevie). It seems to make more sense in New York than it does in Turin, where it started. It’s a sort of Disneyland for Italian food: a hyper-realistic food court, a recreation of an Italian food and wine street shopping scene. Surprisingly, in Piedmont, where “Italian food” is known simply as “food,” Eataly has been well received. At least, that’s my impression from talking to the Piedmontese. I’ve never visited Eataly, although Tracie P and I stopped once at the Eataly satellite on the road that leads from Alessandria to Asti.

There are Eataly franchises in Turin, Asti, Bologna, Milan, Tokyo, and now New York. Future expansion includes Genoa and Rome. Eataly enjoys the support of the SlowFood movement and its founder Carlo Petrini (however much the organization’s ethos would otherwise opposed globalization).

One thing you can say for certain about Eataly’s creator Mr. Farinetti: he’s no farniente!