After a great night out at KFWE Tel Aviv it was time to leave the nest and fly to London. I am in touch with a few people in the London wine scene – some of them visit Israel often. Unfortunately, I rarely am in London and that’s a shame. I love it there! Downtown London is the closest thing to NYC in terms of vibrancy. Plus in terms of being able to communicate, for a boorish American like me being able to speak English just makes the whole experience more enjoyable and relaxed. The biggest plus to London though are the people! Most of my time outside of KFWE London itself was spent in or with people from Hendon. These are some of the most hospitable and sweet people you will find on the face of the earth!
As hospitable as the close-knit community of Hendon is, Rachel & Andrew Krausz take it to a different level. Each year before KFWE London, Rachel & Andrew host a food and wine evening. This has sort of grown into an event that hosts winemakers and wine-lovers who have flown in especially for KFWE as well as many of the local crew who get to eat Andrew’s food more regularly. Who is Andrew Krausz? Andrew is an aviation lawyer and an RAF Pilot (reserves). Being a pilot already makes him a cool guy in my book – but he is also the proprietor of Blue Smoke. According to it’s Facebook description, Blue Smoke is “the UK’s first and only authentic private kosher barbecue smokehouse striving to continually elevate the bar by sourcing the finest ingredients, mastering and developing the art of smoking and creating the very best produce, which showcases what kosher food can be, for the most discerning gourmands.” I had heard about Andrew’s cooking from friends and had seen his food porn on Facebook and Instagram, but this was going to be my first time experiencing his food – and an experience is exactly what it is. But before I get to that, I can’t go on without a few words about Rachel. Rachel opens her home to this chaos each year – 25 or so diners plus waiters, a kitchen taken over, etc – all with absolute grace and warmth. Having run RCC’s and wine evenings and visited others doing the same, I know it takes a special person to put up with all of this craziness. Rachel is that special person. And she does it with a smile. IN fact that is something which I noticed about the British crew – for the most part, both husband and wife are likely to take part in wine themed events. This is really unique as far as I can tell. In each other locale that I visit, there are at best one or two ladies who are mainstays. I am not sure if it is just the culture in England does not stigmatize drinking by women as much as in America or Israel within observant circles or what – but it’s nice to see!
Back to the evening – upon entering champagne was properly served – it was the Drappier Carte D’Or and it showed nicely. As guests arrived we all had a chance to introduce ourselves and mingle a bit before the main event. Here I was joined by many of those I would be spending the next couple of weeks with – and what a great start this turned out to be.
Each diner was seated and we began the meal. Each course was plated exactly and professionally – and each waiter placed the plates at the desired chef’s desired angle and orientation. I have never seen such attention to detail outside of a fine dining restaurant – and even there, outside of one or two – never at this level. The theme of the meal was “Cured” and each course had components that had gone through some sort of curing or bringing process. The first course was Home Cured Brandy infused Loch Duart Gravdalax with Sorrel & Micro Herb Salad, Pickled Beetroot, Avocado and Sennepssaus. Whenever I eat composed dishes i try to taste each component individually and then all together. The first thing I put in my mouth was one of the beets. While I have a potty mouth among friends , whenever I am out in the real world I usually control myself, but I blurted out a “Holy [email protected]#$!” when I tasted this tiny little vegetable. It packed in SO much flavor – I couldn’t control myself. It was pickled and slightly fermented over 4 months. I really have never tasted something so small with so much going on.When eating together with the Gavadllox – pure harmony with the cure on the beets complementing the cure of the salmon and the acid cutting through the richness. I will try to list the wines as I do for an RCC though my notes are not anywhere near as precise – the food really captured my attention.
Ya’acov Oryah, Or MeOfel (BdN), 2017 – There were 2 bottles that were passed around and unfortunately the bottle that was on our side of the table was oxidized – too bad as this wine is usually excellent.
The next course was Pan Fried Brill and Oven Roasted Wild Halibut with Teriyaki Chanterelles and a Ceviche of Brill & Mango Tartare on Roasti Potatoes topped with a Free-Range Egg Yolk. Again – an exercise in balance where each component and texture complemented the other .
Cantina Giuliano, Vermentino, 2017 – Really nice with good mineral and acid playing well with the fish and cutting through the richness of the egg yolk.
This was followed by Tomato and Tequila Gazpacho with Cardamom a Rasher of Crispy Lamb Bacon and Chocolate Coated Coffee Beans. I sort of stupidly gulped down the Gazpacho without trying to really eat it with the bacon or beans. this was likely a mistake – but really I loved each component separately. So I guess i can’t really cry about it. The Lamb Bacon was esspecially done well – it is hard to get Lamb Bacon to crisp well – but Andrew did a great job – and the smokey sweet flavor was just out of this world.
Ya’acov Oryah, Chenin Blanc, 2018 – This varietal Orange Wine was just bottled. Unfortunately this wine is not at all ready for prime timel. It needs time to develop the complex nose and mouthwatering profile that the 2017 has. It went into bottles just a few weeks ago and should not have been brought out to play yet. I mean it’s nice enough now, but it’s a real waste to be drinking it knowing what the wine will develop into.
At this point as the next dish was being prepared, we sampled a wine that that I am not totally objective about as I was involved in its conception
Ya’acov Oryah, SOB (Special Oryah Blend), 2017 – This was a private bottling that I was involved in organizing and which many of the UK folks had participated in. The wine is made of 5 varietals Grenache, Petite Syrah, Carignan, Pinot Noir & Syrah. Right now the wine is a lot of fun but is uber-young. Nice acidity balancing out the ripe fruit. I am looking forward to following it’s progress over the next couple of years.
For the next course, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask Finish Whisky Marinated Black Angus Rib-Eye Sous-Vide to reverse Sear on Hot Rock Salt Blocks with Watercress, a Smoked Garlic Bulb & Blood Orange Wedges and Roasted Tomatoes, Andrew included the diners in the preparation. The dish was bought out fully cooked (sous vide) but not seared. Each pair of diners had a block of salt that was heated in the oven placed between them and we then seared our steaks on the salt. While this method will not get you that heavy crust you might be looking for, it gave the meat an excellent flavor from the salt block and it really was super-cool.
We had this with the the super elegant 2009 Elvi Clos Mesorah and the super spectacular and just released 2014 Elvi Herenza Rioja Reserva. I just wrote a post about these having had them a couple of days before – so no need to rehash other than to say these winds are as crazy as the dish they were paired with – though I would give the win to the CM over the Reserva in this particular pairing. The Reserva was a special treat for the UK crowd as they are still on the 2010 vintage there so this was a cool preview.
The next wines we had were sort of free form with the next two courses, so I will list them all here.
Cantina Giuliano, A Mano, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016. Here was a wine that was out of it’s element. I mean it was sandwiched between the 2 ridiculous Elvi wines and 2 Crazy Cali Cabs. I need to retaste when i can give a fair assessment.
Ya’acov Oryah, Silent Hunter, 2017. I have written about this wine before, not much to add here – it’s excellent, though it was not really paired well with these dishes IMHO.
Napa Valley Reserve, 2013. This is a limited production wine made by the Napa Valley country club by it’s observant members for their consumption. You need to be a member or know someone who is to get access as the wine is not sold commercially. I was REALLY looking forward to it – but it had come off the plane that day and was not at all decanted so a mixture of bottle shock and it being CRAZY closed did not let it show well.
Herzog, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, Chalk Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997. 21 years old and still kicking. This bottle is not as nice as the last one I had – not sure if that is a function of age and it being slightly passed peak in general or just natural bottle variation that you see at this stage of a wine’s life where each bottle shows differently but still really nice and impressive for it’s age.
So as crazy as this meal was until now, Andrew then upped the ante with Smoked Lamb Breast and House Smoked Brisket on a Bed of Red Cabbage, Honey Glazed baby Carrots and Leeks with Crushed Hazelnuts and Apple chili Barbecue Sauce. Let me say – I have made some really nice Lamb Breast and have done some great BBQ’ sauces – THIS STUFF WAS INSANE. i could eat the bark off that lamb breast every day of the week and not get tired of it. Seriously awesome. It was served with some brisket – which at first I thought was extraneous until I dipped it in the Apple Chili BBQ Sauce. That made me wanna go back and eat some of the lamb both bark and regular with the sauce. Each was enhanced in different ways by this EXPLOSION of flavor. really the best BBQ sauce I have ever had. Hands down.
The last course before dessert was a Duo of Brined Smoked Duck Breast with Victoria Pineapple and Shredded Smoked Goose in a Cinnamon Apple, Roasted Shallots, Quince Cheese and Salted Edamame Beans with a Fiery Morello Cherry Sauce. So we started with those tiny beets that had been elevated into something spectacular – we ended off with the quince which Andrew had worked his magic on in creating – taking 6 months to get done! This stuff needs to be sold commercially!!!!!! Anyhow – as expected it paired great with the duck – with the breast preparation being the winner for me.
We then moved to dessert which was Rhubarb and Custard Tart, Sorbet and a Lemon Sugar Crepe. The dessert was really nice and again showcased Andrews’s ridiculous attention to even the most trivial component – in this case believe it or not, it was the Lemon Sugar Crepe which was super delicate and delicious.
Dessert was served with a pair of wines – one of which I have written about often and another which was bottled especially for this evening ad may not ever be seen again. Both are the 2008 Ya’acov Oryah Old Musketeer, the standard edition was bottled after being in barrels for 8 years. The special edition which I dubbed the Older Musketeer has spent an additional two years in barrel . As any reader knows I am a HUGE fan of the Old Musketeer – but I was really was skeptical that this wine could develop any more than it already has. WAS I WRONG!!! As good as the Musketeer is – and it is one of the best kosher dessert wines out there if not the best – the Older Musketeer is even better!!!!! The profile is also slightly different. I am always talking about the maple syrup that comes through loud and clear in there. While the maple syrup is still there it is no where near as intense. Here you get much more tropical fruit and floral notes with the maple and a really a nice nuttiness that has developed and totally deepens the already ridiculous profile.. There was only a single bottle of this that went around for the 25 or so people – and it was only extracted from the barrel for this dinner. I asked Ya’acov and he has no current plans on any imminent bottling – so this really might have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to taste this wine at this general stage.
I cannot thank Rachel and Andrew enough for having me as a guest at this spectacular dinner. Super Food, fun and people!
Before I get to the next post, just a quick recommendation. The next day we all had a morning to kill and a dinner to digest before heading to KFWE. Yossie suggested that we hit up a wine and spirits store named Hedonism. If you are a wine geek or a whisky geek – or both like me – this is the place for you. As most of the wine isn’t kosher, it’s more of a museum for me – but still super fun. The have a wall of almost every modern vintage of Château d’Yquem – plus a special cellar that has bottles going back to 1811. They have a room devoted to Sine Qua Non Winery who almost never reproduces the same wine twice plus other incredibly hard to find cult wineries. The =y also have some of the craziest rarest sctoch bottlings you will find with cases devoted to pretty much every whisky imaginable including my favorite scotch – Macallan. Pro-tip that I got from Yossie Horwitz – they will ship to you in the US and you will avoid VAT. On some of the really hard to find stuff this is definitely an option worth exploring. Anyhow I spent the morning there with Moises and David from Elvi, David, Yossie, Simon and Ya’acov and it was a blast. It was a great way to start the day before heading to the main event….
For the previous post in this series click here.
Next Up: KFWE London