VINE CUTTINGS September 2004
News and Notes from the World of Wine
For the first time since 2000, California's Wine Institute has measured the wine industry's economic impact on the state's economy, and it's bigger than anyone thought.
— Steve Heimoff
The port city of Genova, in northern Italy, has dedicated a weeks'-long festival to the 70-75 percent of the earth's surface we know hardly anything about. Sapore di Mare ("Taste from the Sea") kicked off at the beginning of June with fish cook-offs, wine and seafood pairing events and seminars dedicated to fishing practices and the protection of Mediterranean species and their natural habits.
Moreover, the occasion was designed for those who wanted to dig into the tastiest treats of the Mediterranean Sea: branzino (sea perch), calamari (squid), dentice (a vertically flat fish similar to bream), merluzzo (codfish), orata (bream), pesce spada (swordfish), rombo (flounder-like sea fish), sardine (sardines), scorfano (scorpion fish used in soups), sogliola (prized horizontal fish), spigola (sea bass), tonno (tuna) and triglie (red mullet).
Thousands of bottles of Italian white wine such as Greco di Tufo, Vermentino and Pinot Grigio were uncorked for the occasion. But what caught the imagination of sea-loving gourmands was the attention paid by local restaurateurs during the event to "near-extinct" seafood recipes. Long preparation times and an over-fished Mediterranean waters make some dishes near impossible to find on Italian menus. A case in point is the following incredibly intricate vegetable and fish extravaganza from the region of
Liguria: Capon Magro (4 servings)
Ingredients: Olive oil
Finely chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
2 tb pine nuts
1 round loaf of bread
1/2 chopped onion
1 bay leaf
4 tb red wine vinegar
1/2 lbs long green beans
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 trimmed hearts of small artichokes
2 lbs fresh cod fillets
4 anchovy fillets
handful green olives
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice off dome of bread loaf and remove inside to create a bowl of bread crust. Put in oven and bake until hard. Separately, take the bread innards and soak in vinegar.
Heat onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and vinegar with about 2 cups of water until boil. Add codfish, cook for about five minutes and remove from heat. Blanch beans, carrots, celery and artichokes and set aside. Squirt lemon juice and dribble olive oil on top. Boil beets and peeled potatoes for about ten minutes and set aside.
Steam crayfish and lobster and allow to cool.
To make the sauce, remove pits from olives and place into blender. Add capers, garlic, anchovies, eggs, chopped parsley, pine nuts, vinegar-soaked bread innards and about 1/2 cup olive oil and blend until thick and creamy.
To assemble the dish: Layer about one third of the beans and vegetables at the bottom of the bread "bowl" and top with mashed cod fish. Top with the sauce and add another layer of vegetables, mashed codfish, sauce, and the final layer of vegetables. Top everything with the lobster and crayfish and dabbles of sauce and lemon juice.
Capon Magro is traditionally served on holidays such as Christmas and Easter and the word magro, or "thin," is a play on words for what is really a very filling dish. The above recipe was given by chef Alessandro Zane of the Ristorante Toe Drue (Sestri Ponente, via Carlo Corsi 44/r, Genova, tel: + 39 010 6500100).
All dressed up and no place to go? Not so with these 19th century-garbed Champagne fanatics, in New Orleans June 23 for "Charles-Camille Heidsieck: His Life in Antebellum Louisiana." Inspired by the Champagne giant's midcentury stint in The Big Easy, the party was one of many nationwide fêtes celebrating what would have been James Beard's 100th birthday (and, as long as we're talking birthdays, the 182nd birthday of Charles-Camille Heidsieck). Seven New Orleans chefs, including host Chef Erik Venéy of Muriel's Jackson Square, put together a 7-course feast for just over 160 participants. Why so intimate a gathering? Ladies' "hoop skirts restricted the number of guests we could fit in the dining rooms," explained Charles Heidsieck brand manager Christian Holthausen.
Charles-Camille "himself" and Heidsieck chef de caves Regis Camus led an entourage of horse-drawn carriages from The Omni Royal Orleans through Vieux Carré in time for dinner, and some of Heidsieck's best vintages, at Muriel's. Proceeds from the event will benefit the James Beard Foundation.
Pictured, center, is Regis Camus, chef de caves of Champagne Charles Heidsieck; at far left is "Champagne Charlie" himself. Charles Heidsieck marketing and public relations staff, left to right: Ali Schwartz, Joanna Sucharski, Christian Holthausen and Alexandra Rendall.
— D. T.
FOR MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM THE WORLD OF WINE, SEE THIS MONTH'S ISSUE OF WINE ENTHUSIAST