From the warm rhythms of Trinidad, the Spicebox Supperclub took a journey to a very different place– the cultures of Eastern Europe. This was to celebrate the heritage of our hosts, Dave and Rani, whose heritage trace to many parts of Eastern Europe. Rani’s ancestry includes Croatian, Lithuanian and Polish and Dave’s, Ukrainian Jew and Polish/Belarusian Jew.
For this Supperclub, we went all out, to also dress in the style of our theme. It was interesting to discover that “Eastern European dress” did not mean the black and wine velvet that Heather and Linda imagined. Rather, flowing white cotton blouses and skirts elaborately embroidered in colorful patterns appear to be traditional, including headdresses for the advanced. Somehow, the women managed to carry it off. Rani made a great find at a local thrift shop, accentuated by an apron from her daughter’s collection. Diana borrowed a convincing headdress from her daughter, purchased from a grandparent’s trip to Eastern Europe. And Heather and Linda both managed to assemble Eastern European outfits from their everyday wardrobes (not sure what that says!).
The men were less embroidered, with Peter, the Island Boy, excepted. In face, somber hues of charcoal and black seemed to be the unspoken theme, and appropriately dour for Eastern European history.
And the food was fresh and inventive, yet true to theme. Here’s an overview of the menu:
Spicebox Supperclub Dinner #4, May 3, 2014
Hosts: Rani and Dave
Executive Chef: Dave
Pastry Chefs: Heather and Nalin
Sweet Challah served with salt
Zwack Unicum Liqueur
Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur
Unicum Plum Cobbler
Eastern European “Salade nicoise”
Coronica Malvasia 2012 (Istria, Northern Croatia)
2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos (Hungary)
Chicken and wild mushroom blintzes
2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló (Hungary)
Sarma (Croatian cabbage rolls) with olive oil mashed potatoes
Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011 (Austria)
Pickled turnips and beets
Dill pickles (cukes)
Apricot filled dumplings
Chocolate Beet Cake
Oranges in rosemary syrup with crushed pistachios
Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007 (Tokaj, Hungary)
2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (Tokaj, Hungary)
And here’s a bit from Sommelier Peter, who delved deeply into the history of Eastern European wines:
Coronica Malvasia 2012
Coronica was established in 1992 by Moreno Coronica after the fall of communist Yugoslavia. Today he lives in his family home with his wife children and father who still prefers to speak in Italian. He is dismissive of wines that boast of flavors foreign to Istria, like tropical fruits, as for the ‘market’. To quote Moreno, “wine must taste like wine”.
He professes a faith in the terroir of Istria and its indigenous varieties and strives to develop his own ability to interpret them.
Moreno Coronica’s Malvazija is considered a benchmark example of this indigenous version. It represents almost 75% of his entire production. Peppery citrus, sea shells and bright without being overshadowed by acid alone. In lieu of Garrigue, Croatians champion ‘Freškina’ (sent of the sea) – imagine the sun beating down on rocks covered in seaweed. Malvasia Istriana, one of Friuli’s favorite grapes, is named for the rust-colored soil of Istria in northern Croatia, where it originates. Like many of its Italian cousins, Coronica Malvasia 2012 smells of Meyer lemons and the sweet-scented acacia that blankets the countryside.
2009 J&J Eger Eged-Hegy Kékfrankos
J and J Eger Wine Company is the product of an unexpected partnership between Canadian born Hungarian and Master Sommelier John Szabo and physician and Eger native and winemaker Dr. János Stumpf. Ultimately it was their shared fascination with the cool North Hungarian terroir of Eger and the exotic mineral rich reds, made from the local variety Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch). Their tiny 500 case production, more a professionally attended to hobby than a production is based around prime parcels of vineyards located on the steepest most exposed hill overlooking the town of Eger. The soil here is almost completely limestone overlaid with a thin layer of clay.
The 2009 is a revelatory balancing act between acid and gripping pungency. Harmonious, layered, and age worthy, the wines of J&J Eger Wine Company have the potential to be legendary. Still very much in its youth, it is a deep garnet hued wine with a perfume that leaps from the glass. Complex aromas of cranberry sandalwood and rose hips contrast its not so subtle minerality. Though grown in limestone it smells of granite. Rich without being overripe, the structured and savory almost herbal nature of the variety and its fresh acidity make this wine versatile for the table as well. Pair with herbed pheasant, lamb, pungent creamy cheeses and whole grain based dishes like barley or faro. For the authentic experience try Dr. Stumpf’s recommendation of wild venison sausage.
The 2007 was Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine “It drinks like a Rhône syrah in terms of the depth of fruit; but it feels more like Burgundy – it has that sort of texture and acidity. One of the most successful pairings we’ve ever done with it is a 16-hour sous vide belly crisped in skillet. It’s good with duck, too; some people even drink it with fish.” —Santos Uy, somm/owner Papilles and Mignon, Los Angeles”
2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark Somló
Juhfark (Sheep’s tail) is a distinctive, almost extinct white grape variety found almost exclusively in Somló. The clusters are long, tightly packed and curve a little at the end hence the Sheep’s tail moniker. Naturally very high in acidity, it’s also fairly neutral on its own and instead absorbs and communicates the volcanic terroir rather than pronounced fruit flavors. However, after a few years in bottle this wine really comes alive. According to Bay Area restaurateur Jeff Berlin, “it’s the ultimate yin and yang wine in that it is at once rich, opulent and elegant but has such prominent veins of volcanic ash and minerality running through it at the same time. Super sexy, both masculine and feminine, like a Caligulan feast in a glass.” Although Béla recommends drinking it with roasted wild fowl, Middle Eastern flavors like green olives, roasted red pepper and Za’atar are all amazing flavor combinations.
90 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine for the 2009 vintage: “At 84 years old, Fekete Bela still tends his ten acres of vineyard in Somló by himself, lending some credence to the old Hungarian belief that Juhfark has health-giving properties. His version is as sharp and mineral as a Fino Sherry, with a wooly lanolin-like texture padding the searing acidity. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it would make short work of grilled bluefish.”
Want to learn to pronounce it like a native? Here’s a short video clip from one of Peter’s residents:
Umathum Zweigelt Classic 2011
Zweigelt is a dark-skinned grape that has, since its development in 1922, become Austria‘s most widely planted red-wine variety. This high-yielding vine is now grown in almost every Austrian wine region from Bergland in the west to Burgenland in the east. Following its success in Austria, the variety is now becoming popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Small-scale plantings have also been trialed further afield, in Canada, Japan and England. A crossing of Saint-Laurent with Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt was developed by Dr Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Zweigelt, the viticulturist after whom it is named. Farmed biodyamically, the juice ferments on its native yeasts and it finally aged in large neutal oak casks for about eight months.
FROM THE WINEMAKER: “Grown in mineral rich, stony soil in the country surrounding the village of Frauenkirchen, a very warm and dry soil adds a mineral taste. The resulting wine is dark red with purple rim, peppery and fruity aromas in the nose, on the palate cherries and spicy notes with impressions of chocolate, fine, mild and full-bodied finish.”
TRY WITH: Spicy dishes and game.
Tinon Dry Szamorodni 2007
Although born in the sweet wine appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont in France, Samuel Tinon has chosen Tokaj as the best place to grow wine and raise his three children. He’s also quick to remind us all that Tokaj was the favored drink and muse for Leo Tolstoï, Pablo Néruda, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Diderot, and Voltaire, so he’s already in good company. As the first Frenchman to settle in Tokaj in the modern privatization era, he’s also convinced that Tokaj possesses all the same greatness as Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy.
Originally called Ordinárium (ordinary wine) in the 1600’s, Főbor (prime wine) after that, and later, due to the immense popularity in the Polish market, Szamorodni (as comes off the vine) became the official name (itself a Polish word) in the early 1800’s. In short, this refers to healthy, shriveled and botrytized grapes all being harvested and fermented together. However, dry Szamorodni goes a few steps further by adding Claspodorium cellare (a special mold that covers the entire cellar) and a native yeast veil (flor) that protects the wine in barrel.
93 Points Wine & Spirits Magazine: “Samuel Tinon grew up in Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, a sweet wine appellation in Bordeaux, and came to Tokaj in 1991, to work at Oremus. He ended up buying a house and two hectares of 90-year-old vines in Olaszliszka, and started producing his own wines in 2000. Tinon looks to the old tradition of aging wine under a veil of yeast for his Szamorodni and ages it long enough for evaporation to drop the alcohol to less than 15 percent. It smells like an Amontillado Sherry, all nuts, button mushrooms and salt; it feels succulent with crisp green fruit, fresh radish and a scent that recalls a moist, chalky underground cellar. As easy to drink as a Fino with fried things and grilled vegetables, this will last for months in the fridge after opening, ready to incite an appetite.”
Sommelier favorite from Eastern Europe Wine & Spirits Magazine Pascaline Lepeltier pours this at Rouge Tomate in NYC is pouring it with her tasting menu—”to go with a porcini farrotto with some Anson Mills farro piccolo, a little bit of parmesan and a white asparagus espuma—you also have a little bit of white and green asparagus, and some roasted porcini.”
2008 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos
Better known for its paprika than its wine, Hungary is nonetheless one of Eastern Europe’s most significant wine-producing countries. Exerjo, Furmint, Hárslevelü and Mezesfeher are just some of the indigenous (and unpronounceable!) varieties most widely planted. And Tokaji is Hungary’s biggest success story. Made since the sixteenth century, Tokaji is an extremely sweet wine that was adored by the Russian Tsars. It is made in a manner similar to Sherry, and is reputed to be the longest lived, non-fortified wine in existence (a few hundred years is not unheard of).
93 points Wine Spectator: A ripe, lush sweetie, with bright acidity backing notes of golden raisin, dried apricot and pineapple that linger through the spicy finish. Drink now through 2024. 2,500 cases made. –NW (6/ 2013)