Posts Tagged ‘Aureole’


Whenever we visit San Francisco (which is pretty often), we always hit the Mission for tacos and burritos, shop ‘til we drop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, grab a quick crab lunch at Swan’s, and have at least one dinner at either of Shelley Lindgren’s restaurants, A16 ( http://www.a16sf.com) or SPQR (www.spqrsf.com).  This last visit we hit both – A16 for pizza just before we caught our plane back to NYC and SPQR for brunch with our delicious granddaughter, Canada.  You can see how much we loved our fried green tomato appetizer by the hugs Canada and I are giving each other – well, we do love each other, too.  SPQR was a special treat as the chef, Matthew Accarrino, is a young guy who began his career with my old buddy, Charlie Palmer, at Aureole in New York.  Just feels as though I have an extended family of cooks spreading great food all across the country.  When you visit San Francisco do put these restaurants on your must-go-to list – you will eat well and be welcomed with exceptional warmth and hospitality.


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For many years, people thought that I worked, exclusively, for Chef Charlie

Palmer as we did so many things together – books, product development, and sales and marketing.  Although Charlie wasn’t my only chef-buddy, he was my favorite and I came to think of him as another son.  We don’t see each other very often anymore – but when we do, we take up where we left off the last time we visited.

The other morning Steve and I said our hellos in the bar at Aureole (reservations@charliepalmer.com), his signature New York restaurant.  I can’t quite get used to the idea that it is no longer in the lovely townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where Charlie made his mark on modern American dining.  The new Aureole is much more expansive than the serene dining rooms of the original and is probably much more reflective of Charlie – these days the expansive, out-going entrepreneur than the toque-topped chef.

When I asked Charlie what he wanted to talk about that might find its way to this site, he said “wine dinners”.  For many, many years, Charlie has been known for his appreciation of wine and wine dinners so I wondered what new he would have to share with us.  And, it turned out that what he had to say was extremely interesting.

“I had always done wine dinners from a chef’s point of view.  But, since I moved to Sonoma, I began to think more of the significance of the wine as it paired with the food.  Traditionally, chefs would compose their menu and then go to the sommelier for wine suggestions to marry with the menu.  Now, I choose 4 to 6 wines and then work with their inherent flavors to discover the foods that will relate to them.”

“Then,” I inquired, “you are now more interested in showing the wine at its best, instead of simply having a pleasing accompaniment to the food?”  “Absolutely,” answered Charlie.  “Living in the heart of California wine country, I have learned more and more about wine – the history, the composition, the importance of terroir, the theory behind the making of a wine – I have experienced much about the subtleties of each type.”

I don’t know if Charlie remembered how much I love pinot noir but that is where our conversation led.  He is particularly taken with the wine savvy of winemaker Bob Cabral who has been doing extraordinary things at the Williams Selyem Winery with pinot noir.  Charlie was excited about the skill this winemaker shows in his handling of the fruit, especially the period of cold storage before pressing which seems to bring out defined characteristics missing from other pinots.

I knew that Charlie sponsors an annual Pigs and Pinot weekend (if you visit the hotel site you can learn all about this event) from his lovely boutique hotel in Sonoma, Hotel Healdsburg (www.hotelhealdsburg.com) so I asked if he had a special wine and food pairing that he would like to share with us.  Or if there were any generalizations that would help home cooks in selecting their pairings.

“Great wine and a great dish offer a wonderful dining experience, but a perfect pairing is magical – it brings both to a heightened level of pleasure.  In general, I would say that pinot noir and pork will always work; the up-front fruit and good acid (with younger wines) works extremely well with the fattiness of a rich piece of pork or with the saltiness and smoke of bacon or ham.  We created a magical combination recently beginning with pork belly which had been given a short cure in salt, rosemary, and a bit of pepper and then cooked sous vide.  It was finished on a plancha to give it a crisp, caramel finish.  Served with a little touch of red cabbage and a smidge of pinot noir vinegar and paired with a Rochioli pinot noir, we had made magic.  This doesn’t happen every day!”   And I add, that a chef like Charlie Palmer doesn’t happen every day, either!

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