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Ask Sid: Wine shops in Paris?

October 17th, 2018
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where to buy wine in Paris

Question: Heading to Paris and would like a recommendation for a big wine shop with many selections. Your help please?

Answer: One of the delights of visiting Paris is popping into a diverse number of quite small wine shops in the 20 different arrondissements or districts all providing some unique wine selections. However one of the better ones to check out is Nicolas with many outlets usually with some wines on sale – especially Champagne. Department stores such as Bon Marche and Galeries Lafayette have extensive wine departments. Another must is the large Lavinia in the 1st A at 3 Boulevard de la Madeleine downstairs cellar with their excellent selections of older vintages of classic wines. They also have locations in Madrid & Geneve. They have a value priced exclusive at 19.90 euros like the elegant 2015 Pernand-Vergelesses from quality Burgundy producer Pavelot or even a vertical of Chateau Pichon-Lalande starting with the current vintage of 2015 (242 euros a bottle) back to more expensive older ones of 1988 (365), 1986 (575), 1985 (655) and 1981 (386).

Check out these suggested ideas and enjoy your wine shopping fun experiences in Paris.

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EATALY: Italian Marketplace Lesson in Gastronomy

October 15th, 2018

Your scribe last week was in Chicago and while attending Gourmet of the Year celebrations held by Society of Bacchus visited another of the ever expanding Eataly empire with now over 40 stores. Admire what the Founder Oscar Farinetti has done with his concept to spotlight high-quality ingredients in their extensive shopping marketplace and many restaurants. They appreciate the place, the produce and the stories behind everything they sell. You have to support the philosophy of “Eat, Shop and Learn” which really works for lovers of wine and food. Remember that first one opening in Turin Italy back in 2007 and the remarkable expansive New York space in Lower Manhattan (200 Fifth) starting in 2010 with now an added second World Trade Center location. Educational visits previously in LA & Boston and last year was impressed with the wide product selection at the Stockholm Sweden location and noted the wide selection of good value Fontanafredda wines an Alba winery in Piedmont in which Mr. Farinetti also has a major interest. Excited about Las Vegas and Toronto sites that are now in the works. More competition for Whole Foods and other specialty grocers. Looking forward to visiting the big Bologna one in 2019.

What I like a lot is the unique experience at each store using the help of different local suppliers of bakers, butchers, cheesemakers, farmers & fishers with some of their ingredients to include in the products for sale and the restaurant dishes there. It does encourage you to learn about especially quality food plus wines becoming more knowledgeable towards developing a better Slow Food lifestyle for yourself. Of course there are many choice Italian products such as Afeltra’s air dried extruded pasta and the opportunity to explore foods from different regions in Italy. The store layout usually includes some “Tasting Labs” where you can perhaps see how fresh mozzarella is made and everything from pasta making, salumi, olive oils, vinegars, bakery, to gelato. La Scuola the cooking school for Eataly has a range of cooking classes, tastings, and culinary events. They are fortunate to have the talented Chef Lidia Bastianich as the Dean of the school overseeing the programs and sometimes teaching.

Recommend on your next travels around the world that you check their website ( to see if they have a location where you are going. Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn more about wine and food!

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It’s not a place, it’s an experience! Looking back at The Pump Room

October 14th, 2018

pump room ambassador east hotel chicago restaurant history

By Joseph Temple

The year is 1946. The Second World War has finally ended and you’ve just arrived at Chicago’s Union Station in an elegant Pullman car. After hours of riding the rails, you’re hungry and looking to experience the very best that the Windy City has to offer. So where do you go? The answer is simple: you head to the city’s Gold Coast; more specifically, the Ambassador East Hotel where The Pump Room, Chicago’s finest restaurant is located.

You walk into this elegant establishment and the first thing you notice are the crystal chandeliers, the blue sapphire walls, and a sunken carpeted dining room filled with white leather booths. As you sit down in one of these booths soaking in all of this décor, a busboy dressed in a white turban begins pouring your cup of coffee.  Then, at the table next to you, king crab is about to be served—on flaming swords!! Waiting for your blini and caviar, everyone suddenly turns their heads to see who has just arrived. It’s Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, recently married and about to sit down at the famous Booth One!

Welcome to The Pump Room!

Named after an English restaurant sharing the same name, it first opened in 1938 by restaurateur Ernie Byfield in the Ambassador East Hotel (now the Ambassador Chicago hotel). Described not as a place, but as an experience, it has been referenced in Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” and featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film North by Northwest, easily becoming one of the most famous restaurants of the 1940s and 1950s. Offering an irresistible blend of both style and substance, its runaway success along with the repeal of Prohibition basically saved the Ambassador East, built in 1926, from the economic hardships of the Great Depression.


A key to the restaurant’s success was its location combined with unprecedented star power. Chicago, being the country’s biggest rail transit hub, was a frequent stop for passenger cars traveling between New York and Los Angeles. With many movie stars experiencing an up to three-hour layover, Byfield capitalized on this fact by offering limo service from Union Station to The Pump Room for any celebrity looking to dine out. As a result, the restaurant became a popular spot for a who’s who of Studio Era Hollywood: Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Judy Garland and many other A-listers all dined at The Pump Room.

Another benefit offered to all these celebs was being seated at Booth One, the best booth in the house equipped with a mounted rotary phone and a perfect view.  During the heyday of continental style fine dining, where dishes were served from rolling carts and/or prepared tableside, The Pump Room, with its lavish décor and flaming swords became so famous that it was chosen by American Airlines to create the first menu for dinner service from Chicago to London.

Sadly, the restaurant went into a period of decline starting in the 1960s. Although not as big as it was in the mid-century, many celebrities still chose to dine there. One, however, due to a strict dress code was denied service. That person—artist Phil Collins even made it the title of his 1985 best-selling album No Jacket Required. Closing its doors for the final time in 2017, The Pump Room will always be remembered as a restaurant synonymous with Chicago. As actor Paul Newman once said: “That was the place then.”


Bizzarri, Amy. Discovering Vintage Chicago: A Guide to The City’s Timeless Shops, Bars, Delis & More. Lanahm: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Block, Daniel R. & Rosing, Howard B. Chicago: A Food Biography. Lanahm: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Corcoran, Michael & Bernstein, Arnie. Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100+ Years of Chicago and the Movies. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013.
Kupcinet, Irv. Kup’s Chicago: A Many-Facted and Affectionate Portrait of Chicago. New Orleans: Garrett County Press, 2012.
Levy, Shawn. Paul Newman: A Life. Hachette: Aurum Press, 2010.
Maruzzi, Peter. Classic Dining: Discovering Americas’ Finest Mid-Century Restaurants. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2012.

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Ask Sid: Are the oak barrels used for aging the same in Bordeaux & Burgundy?

October 10th, 2018
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Question: Are the oak barrels used for aging the same in Bordeaux & Burgundy?

Answer: Almost but not quite. Bordeaux casks are usually longer and narrower shaped holding 225 litres while Burgundy usually are slightly fatter and shorter holding 228 litres. Curiously both places say each one produces 300 bottles of wine. Size is a difference but the oak comes from different French forests as well with the main ones selected from Allier, Bertrange, Jupilles, Limousin, Nevers, Troncais, and Vosges. The tightness of the grain of the oak and the amount of toasting is another variable in both regions.

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Domaine Chandon De Briailles in Savigny-Les-Beaune

October 8th, 2018

Domaine Chandon De Briailles in Savigny-Les-Beaune

Followers and friends will know your scribe has a real fondness for red Savigny-Les-Beaune. It was one of my first Burgundy revelations when tasting back in the early seventies with Yves Doudet several old bottles from his moldy cold cellars of Doudet-Naudin. Soon followed many bottles from various vintages of SLB La Lavieres Bouchard Pere (2005 drinking so well now) and SLB Les Guettes Louis Jadot (2005 magnums are still sleeping). Also have enjoyed offerings from Simon Bize, Guyon, Camus-Bruchon, and more recently takented Benjamin Leroux. My all time favourite wine from this region certainly has been SLB La Dominode from Domaine Pavelot (2005, 2009, and 2010 all outstanding vintages show the really amazing quality for price potential that is possible there). What value indeed!

Another one to add to my current top list is Domaine Chandon De Briailles which I have tasted previously and knew from an earlier visit. However my update tour this month really confirmed and reinforced this opinion. Owned by the same family since 1834 it is now in the capable hands of the 7th generation brother and sister team of Claude & Francois de Nicolay. The 8th generation is already on the way with one presently studying as a sommelier and the other in theology – hopefully a good blessing for their 40 hectares of vineyards. They have SLB Villages, 5 premiers crus with 2 in SLB (“Aux Fournaux” & “Les Lavieres”), 2 in Pernand-Vergelesses (“Les Vergelesses” & “Ile des Vergelesses”), and Aloxe-Corton “Les Valozieres” and 5 Corton grands crus of Blanc, Corton-Charlemagne, Les Marechaudes, Les Bressandes, and Clos du Roi. Their vines and wines are grown organically and biodynamically since 2005 with Ecocert & Demeter certification from 2011. They respect the environment in all ways including culivating by horse to avoid compacting the soil and helping it to get oxygen. They have no sulphur in the vineyards plus are already trying to get rid of copper using pioneering methods of Michel Lafarge in Volnay of 20% yogurt milk & 80% water and even oil of orange. Congrats.

Premier Cru in open concrete is efficient with even temperatures while wooden vats for Grand Cru helps tannin management in their cellars dating back to the 14th century. They don’t like stainless steel and even are experimenting with some amphoras downstairs. Lots of barrel sampling of their encouraging 2017 vintage after hail in 2012 & 2013, half a crop in 2014 & 2015, and April 27 frost in 2016. Even using some oak barrels from Chateau Palmer in Margaux Bordeaux. Fun comparing two bottled 2012 red Cortons as they should be with Marechaudes softer rounder approachable earlier than Bressandes bigger spicy minerals. Even interest in her 2017 Pernand Vergelesses Blanc (good earlier decision by their mother borne out that the top part of vineyard with sandy white chalky soils would make a good white) now ready for bottling and 2015 Corton Blanc (fatter with more pineapple benefiting from early picking in hotter year) but 2016 half the crop with more fresh vibrancy. Encouraged to learn that about 20 SLB producers get together every Thursday to share & compare friendly farming notes and continue to raise their group quality overall. Well done.

Recommend you try some current vintages of Savigny-Les-Beaune which continue to be some of the best value wines coming out of Burgundy.

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