Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eating Israeli, Drinking Italian at Zahav

I enjoyed a fantastic meal at Zahav over the weekend. For the second time, the occasion and spirit of our meal wasn’t suited to photography, note taking or intense scrutiny, so a full-blown write-up will have to wait until a third visit. Suffice it to say that Chef Michael Solomonov and crew are turning out some really exciting food. The traditional Israeli menu at Zahav is divided into three basic sections: flatbreads and hummus, cold and hot mezze (think tapas with a Middle Eastern bent), and grilled skewers. If sharing the vegetarian salad assortment and an order of flatbread and hummus and then picking at least one dish per person from the cold mezze, hot mezze and skewer sections as suggested, you should expect to leave stuffed to the gills and immensely satisfied. Flatbreads, fresh from the brick oven and sprinkled with zatar; salty, zesty fried haloumi; wonderfully moist chicken skewers; and the rather decadent foie gras special were all standouts among a table full of food, with nary a disappointing dish in the mix. One senses that the food is made with love, from first course to last.

If you go and are interested in ordering wine, be sure to ask for “The Quarter” list. It includes everything from the rather brief regular list plus a handful of wines of additional interest that are recommended as pairings with the chef’s tasting menu, which is available only on Thursday evenings. Since ordering vino for the table fell to me, I was at least astute enough to remember what we drank.

Falanghina Irpinia, Terredora di Paolo 2007
Leading off with succulent orchard fruit aromas and ripe, sweet-fruited flavors, this was very satisfying as an aperitif. Its medium acidity and creamy yet fresh texture provided a decent range of versatility with our first courses, though a few of the pairings accentuated the bitter almond sensations that sparred with the Falanghina’s mineral characteristics. I’ve yet to explore any of this producer’s reds but I’ve enjoyed – when they’ve been in good shape – the whites from Terredora di Paolo on several occasions now. The winery was founded only fourteen years ago, when Walter Mastroberardino split from his family’s original business, Mastroberardino. Paolo is his son. The estate is very large but all indications suggest that the wines are worth watching.

Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, Sella e Mosca 2004
I passed up on a couple of tempting known entities – Moulin à Vent from Gerard Charvet and Alliet Chinon “Vieilles Vignes” – in favor of something a bit less comfortable. The Bekaa Valley red we ordered was out of stock, though, so I headed back to Italy. Since reading about it at Wicker Parker a few months back, I’d checked out Selle e Mosca’s Cannonau by the glass at a few places around town and found it, much as did WP, bright, juicy and surprisingly natural in its flavor profile, especially for what is a fairly mass-produced wine. This bottle was a disappointing departure from those tasting experiences. In a way, it delivered more of what I would have expected from hot climate, “reserve” Grenache. Leather, sur-mature red fruit and earth dominated the nose, while dusty tannins drove the texture. The more it aired, the more it began to smell and taste of Port and spiced wood. Serviceable with the food but lacking in general character and finesse. Not my cuppa on this occasion. Thankfully, it was the only dim bulb in an otherwise shining evening.


Joe Manekin said...

I have loved TdP's Fiano in past vintages. Even in '03, it was really well balanced and showed well after a few years. Their Aglianico is usually a fairly slick, but well-made and not overly oaked, little wine. Shows good acidity, lively fruit and lightness in the mouth - definitely a more fruit driven, lighter aglianico.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Terredora's whites. And I am pretty sure that when they did the split, Mastroberardino kept the winery and the brand name, but Terredora got the vineyards.. And they have great ones.

David McDuff said...

I've had similar experiences with all of Terredora's whites, Joe. In spite of the "slick," the rest of your description is still enough to keep me open to the Aglianico, which I haven't had the opportunity to try yet.

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. My understanding is exactly as you've described. I just didn't have the time to research it to be completely sure at the time of writing the post.


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