He'll launch a whisky-dinner pairing at all his New York restaurants April 23
Back in January Daniel Boulud decided to get into the whiskey business by collaborating with Dalmore distillers and launching The Dalmore Selected by Daniel Boulud.
Now, the whisky is finally hitting Boulud restaurants April 23, with a celebratory whisky and dinner pairing at all Daniel restaurants available for one day only.
According to the press release, "Each menu will each include a specialty cocktail created with Dalmore Scotch, a range of seasonal savor courses inspired by Scotland, followed by each restaurant’s signature whisky-infused dessert, paired with a glass of Boulud’s bespoke Dalmore expression."
Afterward, the whisky will be available at every Boulud restaurant, and the label is slated to hit retail stores this fall. At Daniel, the pairing will be $260 a plate; Café Boulud's is $115; DB Bistro Moderne is $90; Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud at $85; and DBGB at $75. The whisky itself, tasting notes say, is made of aged stocks from muscatel, madeira, and port wine casks.
Steak au Poivre
We've run at least a dozen different recipes for steak au poivre since our first one, in 1953 — and there's a reason why, even after we started adorning meat with chiles, salts, and dry rubs, we continue to return to this dish. Why? Because it's so darn good. And despite its somewhat macho image, this particular preparation tastes practically tony. (We found it a good excuse to use fine-quality peppercorns, such as Tellicherry or the smoky, meaty Talamanca del Caribe.)
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Neil Perry of Rockpool Bar & Grill is the big-name chefꂾhind Burger Project, which works with local suppliers. The patty is hand-made, 100% grass-fed beef. Try the American, with Cape Grim beef, cheese, pickles, onions, mustard, secret sauce & rose mayo or a simple cheeseburger.
Chosen by Scott Collins of MEATliquor, London
Butchers Diner, Melbourne
This 24-hour, hole-in-the wall joint with a counter and stools is a favorite with chefs who enjoy its unfussy food with high-quality ingredients. The hamburger is a 120-gram beef patty with tomato sauce, pickles & mayo in a milk bun.
Chosen by Ashley Palmer-Watts, formerly of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London
Butter is a hybrid sneaker, fried chicken and Champagne bar in Surry Hills. If that sounds an unlikely setup, it is the project of respected chef Julian Cincotta and the team from Thievery restaurant in Sydney. The OG Chicken Sandwich is not to be missed.
Chosen by Josh Niland of Saint Peter, Sydney
This is an outpost of a Sydney chain, with loud music, natural wines and an American vibe.ਏounders Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham favor local suppliers for their meat and wines, and big flavors. The cheeseburger is a must unless you𠆝 prefer the vegan menu.
Chosen by Andrew McConnell of Cutler & Co., Melbourne
Like Some Booze With Your Tea?
Go ahead, pour a cup. Our love affair with tea cocktails is just getting started.
I've never been much of a tea drinker. Like Tupac or Biggie, you kind of choose one or the other, and instead of tea, I chose coffee. But suddenly I'm drinking a lot of tea, as it's become a major cocktail ingredient.
Go to America's top bars, and you'll find at least one tea-based drink on the menu. In New York City's Lower East Side, Death + Company has Victim of Love, a cocktail featuring Summer Royale tea-infused brandy Brooklyn's Maison Premiere has the American Pharaoh made with oolong and Mace in the East Village offers two tea cocktails: the Pandan with rum and Aman black tea, and Grass with white tea-infused Shochu.
Where did these drinks come from? The birthplace of tea. In many Chinese bars and restaurants, green and red teas are served with whisky so they can be mixed into an easygoing drink, one that's refreshing yet boozy with a tinge of caffeine. Now America's fascination with boozy tea is about to become more prominent thanks to two 30-something entrepreneurs.
'Round Two Kind of Gals'
In 2013, "tea-drinking boozers" Maria Littlefield and Jennie Ripps launched Owl's Brew. Eager to join the mixology movement but tired of pre-Prohibition cocktails that were loaded with sugar and alcohol&mdash"We're round two kind of gals," says their site&mdashtheir fresh-brewed tea uses whole leaves that easily pair with spirits. They figured tea was easy to sip, full of flavor but not too sugary, and the perfect partner for pricy spirits&mdashunlike tonic and cranberry juice.
One early product of theirs was The Classic, an English Breakfast tea with lemon and lime juice that can be mixed with vodka, tequila, or even wheat beer. A massive hit, it put Owl's Brew in the kinds of stores people we hate like to shop at. But Littlefield and Ripps hadn't been blessed by the spirits world until now.
The Smoky Earl&mdashfresh-brewed Earl Gray and Lapsang tea with hints of honey and lemon&mdashis a different beast altogether. The scent is unpleasant (and might make you retch), but mixed with Famous Grouse's peated offering, The Black Grouse, the combo somehow works, the smoky scotch bringing out the tea's sweeter honey notes, sort of like a Rob Roy.
Despite being the most successful, Owl's Brew isn't the only company hoping to get you drunk on tea. Starbuck's tea brand, Teavana, has rolled out a line of mixer-friendly offerings, and San Diego's Malahat Spirits Co. has had big success with their limited Malahat Black Tea Rum, a delightful bottling of white rum, black tea, and molasses, which almost works as a cocktail. Portland's Townshend's Tea has begun to distill its fermented teas into a series of flavored liqueurs. (Incidentally, Bacardi claims to have invented the world's first "tea spirit" with "Tang," a green tea product that costs $250 and can only be purchased in China.)
Fortunately, you don't need $250 and an Air China ticket to join the tea and tippling revolution. Owl's Brew teas and a fifth of The Famous Grouse run around $40 and will keep you well-lubricated come tea time. Now if we could just find better-tasting crumpets.
Imported Whisky Trends At Bars And Restaurants
“To be sure, these are interesting times to be in the whisky business,” says Hart Johnson, beverage manager for Piper’s Pub, a Scotch/Irish restaurant in Pittsburgh. For 17 years, the pub’s focus has always been imported whiskies, with a collection of around 100 single-malt Scotches, about 20 Irish whiskeys and a sprinkling of Canadian.
But now, Johnson has been adding imported whiskies from England, India and Japan. “Customers want to try something new every time they stop in for a drink,” he says.
Although it may seem that consumers are focused on bourbon and rye, crossover is occurring toward imports. Thirsting for the new and novel, geeks and newbies alike are looking to farther shores for new experiences, driving interest in whiskies from all corners of the globe.
“I’ve been seeing some bourbon drinkers switching over to the smoother single malts,” says Tim Beadle, general manager of Small Batch–Whiskey and Fare. The St. Louis, MO-based establishment is part of the multiunit Baileys’ Restaurants group. Small Batch carries more than 120 whiskeys, about 20% of which are imports.
“Imported whiskies are trying to cater to American palates more than they used to, partly to counter the rise in popularity of bourbon.” — Krissy Harris, creative director at The Wren, a gastropub from the New York-based Bua Bar Group.
For crossover Scotches, Beadle points to Auchentoshan’s American Oak and Three Wood expressions. Lowland malts are triple distilled for a lighter taste, and these two whiskies are matured in bourbon barrels.
“Imported whiskies are trying to cater to American palates more than they used to, partly to counter the rise in popularity of bourbon,” says Krissy Harris, creative director at The Wren, a gastropub from the New York-based Bua Bar Group. Americans perceive Scotch as peaty, and many don’t care for that flavor, Harris says. She sees more Scotches aged in rye or bourbon barrels to appeal to the U.S. market and demonstrate the whisky’s versatility.
Overseas brands are also putting terms familiar to Americans on labels to get trial, she adds, pointing to Johnnie Walker Rye Cask, as an example. The Wren carries 50 to 70 whiskeys about half are imports. But sales still lean more toward bourbon and rye, Harris says.
“We are so close to bourbon country that it’s difficult to focus on imported whisky,” admits John Ford, owner/manager of The Littlefield, Cincinnati Bourbon Bar and Kitchen. The restaurant carries 90 whiskeys, 60 of which are bourbon. But Ford has been expanding the Scotch selection because of customer interest.
“We have a few Canadian whiskies, too, which the staff likes a lot and talks it up because the whisky is a great value,” says Ford, citing Pike Creek Whisky. “If we find a product we like, we won’t ignore it just because it’s not bourbon,” he notes.
Another market trend over the past few years is an increase in “non age statement” (NAS) whisky releases, chiefly malt Scotch, but also some Irish whiskeys. Increased sales have led to a depletion of older stocks of whisky. Some producers have chosen to forego the usual statement of spirits’ ages on the label in favor of limited or small-batch releases, often touting different wood treatments.
“We’ve seen age statements disappearing from Scotch labels,” notes Beadle at Small Batch. Instead, communications focus on the spirit’s ingredients and distillation and maturation methods.
He doesn’t see the NAS phenomenon as a bad thing. “Whiskey drinkers get excited about all the limited editions and new labels they are looking for new experiences.”
Johnson at Piper’s Pub also sees advantages to the NAS trend. “All the single-malt distilleries are hopping on that bandwagon, putting out a dozen different releases a year. When we started, there was just, you know, Glenlivet 12-year, 15, 18. It’s nice to see more variety on the backbar.”
Blended whiskies, which often don’t carry an age statement, are also seeing a bump in interest. “‘Old man’ Scotch is becoming cool again,” says Pete Vasconcellos, bar director at The Penrose, another gastropub from the Bua Bar Group. He’s seeing an uptick in Cutty Sark and other “less-hip” whiskies.
“Cutty Sark is doing a lot to reposition the brand as how to drink with your dad, or your grandpa. It falls right in line with what Miller Lite did, bringing back the retro bottle,” Vasconcellos says. Cutty Sark is “a solidly made blended Scotch: a little peat, not too much smoke, not too sweet, well balanced. It has great baking spice notes.”
Casa Fuente in Las Vegas, a cigar lounge inside The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, was the first drinking establishment in the North American market to own a private barrel of Asian whisky when it secured a barrel of Kavalan Taiwanese whisky last fall.
Whisky can be, and is, made in many parts of the world: France, Germany, Australia, Finland, Sweden and Wales—to name just a few. Currently in vogue are whiskies from Asia—Japan, India and Taiwan.
“Asian whiskies have been hitting the news hard these days,” says Beadle at Small Batch. He has a Taiwanese whisky but hasn’t seen much demand yet.
“There’s huge interest in Japanese whisky,” reports Harris. When The Wren opened Harris didn’t stock any Japanese malts until a group of twenty-somethings came in asking for them, she recalls. “Whisky drinkers tend to be experimental. For sure, the Millennial market is always looking for the next new thing, and that seems to be Asian now.”
Casa Fuente in Las Vegas invested in the category in a big way, buying by the barrel. The cigar lounge inside The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace became the first drinking establishment in the North American market to own a private barrel of Asian whisky when it secured a barrel of Kavalan Taiwanese whisky last fall.
“With Asian whiskies being one of the hottest categories in spirits right now, it seemed like the place to start,” says Michael Frey, proprietor of Casa Fuente.
Frey has had great success with Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel program. Since the Japanese distilleries didn’t have barrel programs yet, Max A. Solano, beverage program specialist, whiskey and spirits educator at distributor Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits of Nevada, reached out to Kavalan Distillery in Taiwan for Fuete.
“Our barrel is unique, balanced with a lot of depth. The whisky was matured in an oloroso sherry cask for over five years, it is complex with a rich sherry, fig and raisin nose,” says Frey.
The whisky is served neat, priced $29 for a 1-½ oz. pour $200 for the bottle. Casa Fuente carries 80 whiskeys, 38 from Scotland and 38 from the U.S. the rest are Irish and Canadian.
At The Littlefield, Ford invested in a case of Suntory’s Hibiki about six months ago. “Cincinnati is not always on the cutting edge of trends,” he says, but he decided to jump. He bought a case because he had heard that the expression would sell out.
“If a whisky is rare, customers get interested,” notes Ford. “And if I am the only one left with a bottle, I can price it accordingly.”
Gourmet kitchen, Lean Cuisine cook
Martine Bednarskis modest redesign included open shelving and light colors.
HIDDEN behind a downturn in the stock market, pain at the gas pump and historic home foreclosures, the high-end designer kitchen gleams on. The remodeling business may be off in parts of Southern California, and some consumers may be rethinking the need for $8,000 professional ranges, granite-topped islands and extra dishwashers, but in the words of Los Angeles interior designer Karen Haas: Clients still want “the best, the brightest, the latest.”
“They’re wanting these gadgety things,” says Cynthia Bennett of Cynthia Bennett & Associates in South Pasadena. “Wine refrigerators have become a staple, plus built-in coffee makers and speed ovens.”
Whether people are actually cooking more remains unclear, but the primacy of the kitchen as a public shrine seems, for the moment, secure. “I call them Lean Cuisine kitchens,” Haas says, referring to her suspicion that warming a frozen dinner might be the height of culinary expertise expended by some owners of $5,000 ranges -- not counting occasions when the equipment is turned over to caterers.
“No one’s going toward Kitchen-Aid and the regular GE,” says Susan Serra, a prominent New York designer whose clients spend on average between $150,000 and $200,000 on new kitchens that sport professional-grade equipment by the likes of SubZero and Fisher & Paykel. “I’ve been against these big appliances from Day One. . . . What people forget is what they really need.”
Mid-market manufacturers such as Kenmore and Frigidaire have introduced versions of the high-end ranges for a fraction of the cost. And in the opinion of Los Angeles kitchen remodeling contractor David Ceballos, they’re often just as good.
“You’re paying for the brand name,” he says of the others. But even people on a budget, Ceballos says, “still want that professional look.”
Overall appliance sales have flattened, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Assn. But Elaine Chaney, senior vice president for marketing and sales for Dacor, the pricey appliance manufacturer based in Diamond Bar, says its customers still want high style -- as long as it comes with intuitive technology that doesn’t require a degree from Caltech to operate.
“Lots of families depend on the high school senior to put a roast chicken in the oven for dinner because both parents are working,” Chaney says.
MANY OF the new computerized, dual-fuel, multiple-keypad ovens require much more than turning a knob. These hefty, restaurant-worthy stainless steel icons from Viking, Wolf and others make a statement and deliver charring power, but the question is: To what extent are they necessary for the average family’s menu -- even a gourmet menu?
“What’s really impressive is being able to sear a steak,” says Matthew Lee, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, describing what a 15,000-BTU gas burner can accomplish that most home stoves with 1,800 to 3,000 BTUs cannot. Yet Lee and his brother Ted, co-author of “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook,” deliberately make do with “a crappy four-burner Modern Chef” stove in a Manhattan apartment so as to better develop recipes for the average cook.
“If you poke your nose into the world of the been-there-done-that chef like Bobby Flay,” Matthew Lee says, “it’s not the size of the kitchen you’ll notice but its efficiency.”
As revealed in the how-to videos on www.danielnyc.com, the home kitchen of Daniel Boulud, the chef-owner of the top-rated restaurant Daniel in New York City, is relatively small, even cramped.
“Space is so dramatically wasted in many of these mansions on steroids,” says Katherine Austin, a member of the American Institute of Architects’ Housing and Custom Residential advisory group. “You can have high-end appliances in a small space.”
The endurance of the showroom-quality kitchen indicates that homeowners still regard this once-utilitarian part of the house to be an emblem of status, as significant to their self-image as the car they drive. Plus, real estate agents and (surprise) kitchen designers will tell you that a camera-ready kitchen is key to a home’s resale value.
Research data on consumer preferences released by the American Institute of Architects in February indicated “kitchens continue to be the dominant design area within the home, with dedicated computer work areas and cellphone and personal digital assistant recharging stations becoming an emerging trend.”
For those waiting for the kitchen to come back down to Earth, there was a glimmer of hope: The study noted a slight retreat from top-of-the-line appliances.
One factor that may speed the change in mind-set: the growing interest in green building and renovation, with an emphasis on energy efficiency, using renewable resources and generally eschewing the kind of excess that has been a hallmark of many recent remodels.
The AIA survey found that 49% of the respondents wanted renewable countertop materials like ceramic tile and IceStone (made from recycled glass), as opposed to quarried, irreplaceable stone like granite.
EVEN IF environmental concerns don’t sway them, some homeowners are dialing back their kitchen plans because of budget.
Bennett says she’s been getting more calls for “face-lifts” rather than complete overhauls. Given the uncertain economy, she says, “I think a lot of people are waiting to see what’s going to happen.”
Denys Barbas, a designer with California Kitchens in Burbank, expects changes to be minor, at least at first. “If anything, they’ll pull back on some of the niche items, like the $2,000 built-in coffee maker,” she says.
David Glasband, a longtime kitchen contractor based in the San Fernando Valley, is less sanguine, noting that his business is off 70% to 80% over the last six to nine months. “The ultra wealthy people are still buying their Vikings, but aside from them, the Valley has been impacted. Everybody’s scared and sitting on their money.”
Textile designer Martine Bednarski of Eagle Rock bought her otherwise elegant 1928 Spanish Colonial revival home near Occidental College a few years ago and was faced with “a dark and ugly” kitchen that she knew she had to renovate -- but on a budget. The space was limited and so was her wish list, but she had difficulty finding a contractor willing to entertain any job less than $50,000.
“I finally found someone in San Dimas who would do it,” Bednarski says.
Instead of moving the washer and dryer to the basement (which would mean more steps), she decided to mask them with waist-level curtains, and got a hardwood floor that matched the rest of the house, a marble countertop, new light-colored cabinets, a free-standing pantry and open shelving.
She settled for a standard Tappan range and bought one expensive appliance: a compact Miele refrigerator that she wanted to look good because of its stand-alone placement next to an entry.
“I didn’t compromise much at all,” Bednarski says, giving up only a custom cabinet she originally wanted for the dishwasher.
The result is a handsome and practical kitchen that might not be large enough to make a caterer happy but that suits her needs as a single mom who, in fact, does a lot of cooking. “I don’t think I would do it now,” she says, “because I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
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A New Tribeca Restaurant From Keith McNally’s Longtime Star Chefs
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL | Chefs Lee Hanson (left) and Riad Nasr look through design plans for their new restaurant, Frenchette, which will open in New York this fall.
WE HAVE TO HIT this one out of the park,” says chef Lee Hanson of Frenchette, the Tribeca brasserie he will open in September with his longtime kitchen collaborator and friend Riad Nasr. The chefs have reason to feel pressure. Hanson, 50, and Nasr, 53, have been largely absent from New York kitchens for the past four years—and this restaurant will be the first they have ever owned outright.
The chefs’ track record suggests a familiarity with rising to the occasion: For over 15 years, they ran the kitchens at New York restaurateur Keith McNally’s hot spots Balthazar, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, Pastis and Minetta Tavern. Then in 2013, Hanson and Nasr parted ways with McNally to pursue the plan they had hatched decades ago, as young cooks at chef Daniel Boulud’s fine-dining flagship, Daniel, in the early ’90s.
Hanson and Nasr worked at Daniel just after its debut. It was a frantic and demanding environment that “terrified a lot of cooks,” Hanson says, “but we’d always give each other knowing looks.” In their scant free time, the chefs, who both consider New York home, would watch hockey and drink at dive bars.
In 1996, they left Daniel in close succession and began looking for a space downtown. “Then,” Nasr says, “we realized we had no money, no charisma, no nothing.” Later that year, a friend mentioned to Nasr that McNally—already known for The Odeon and several other hits—needed a chef for a space on the corner of Spring and Crosby she asked if she could give the restaurateur his number. “I didn’t think much of it, but he called me and invited me in for a tasting,” Nasr says. It was only after McNally offered him the job that Nasr revealed the catch: “I told him, ‘That’s great, but I’ve got a partner, and you should meet him.’ ”
The rest of the Balthazar story, as the chefs tell it, is one of two workhorses thrust into an environment where every night waiters would run to alert the kitchen about diners like Anna Wintour and Bianca Jagger. “We divorced ourselves from ego and created the best version of that restaurant we possibly could,” says Nasr. “We didn’t have time to ogle.” They told themselves they’d stick with McNally for a few years to build up their credibility. “But the guy just kept opening up restaurants!” Hanson says. Their run with the restaurateur culminated, in 2009, with Minetta Tavern, the first McNally project where Hanson and Nasr were also part owners. The Greenwich Village steakhouse earned a three-star rave from the New York Times and cemented the chefs’ reputations as bone marrow and burger savants. They describe the split four years later as amicable. “It got to the point where we were like, What about that thing we wanted to do?” Hanson says. McNally, for his part, offers: “Riad and Lee are fantastic chefs and some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with.”
North Carolina Liquor Stores?
I know this is DCwhiskey, but I'm headed over to the Outer Banks next week. I'm wondering if anyone knew if their liquor stores were more expansive in terms of finding items that are harder to get in the DC area. Figured Iɽ try to take advantage since I'll already be down there.
I’ve found the liquor stores in the obx to be lacking . Mostly standard bourbons. BYOB
I had a feeling, thanks for the intel. Was hoping they would have more of a selection so I could bring some home.
They are pretty disappointing in my experience. I live in Virginia Beach and travel to the OBX often. The selection in VB is better than OBX.
Thanks! My backup plan was hitting up a ABC store in VB or Richmond that had something interesting I can't get nearby.
Old Forrester Rye is on sale in NC stores the month of July for $20. I also got EC full proof for $60. Asheville area.
I moved to the the Triangle last fall from Alexandria. Supply in North Carolina is extremely lacking. Prices are a tad higher but mostly on par.
I go down to the Carolina Beaches near Wilmington a lot and stop in some of the rural stores on my way. I've had some really good finds in these stores. I suggest mapping out what's on your way. If you're going via HWY 64, you pass through some areas definitely worth checking out. If you're going down 17 you're limited to whats in OBX and my guess is not much. But I haven't been in 14 years.
Due to supply issues, heavily trafficked stores are picked clean when shipments come in for most of the rare stuff.
Best case, you might find something like EHT small batch, Blanton's or EC BP. Absolute best case. Anything rarer is lotteried in Urban areas or shelled out to preferred customers in rural areas.
Daniel Boulud's Whisky Hitting Restaurants, Retail Stores - Recipes
Average Price: $150
Buffalo Trace Kosher provides a truly kosher spirit that also fully delivers on the palate. The juice is made from the same wheated bourbon recipe as Buffalo Trace’s Weller and Pappy lines. The difference is that the mash is loaded from fully cleaned stills and pipes into kosher barrels (that means the barrels were specially made and purchased under the watchful eye of a rabbi from the Chicago Rabbinical Council).
The whiskey then ages for seven years at Buffalo Trace before blending, proofing, and bottling.
There’s a familiar note of Red Hots and vanilla cream on the nose, with a hint of semi-dried florals. The palate mellows out the cinnamon towards a woody and dry bark as the florals deepen towards summer wildflowers as a touch of plums and berries arrive, adding sweetness and brightness. The end holds onto that dry bark, as a hint of anise pops late with a slight vanilla cream tobacco touching off the medium-length fade.
This is a yearly release that drops just before Passover. The MSRP is much lower on this one ($40) but expect to find it for at least double that locally in Kentucky and much more the further you get from Buffalo Trace’s warehouses and that Passover drop date. All of that being said, this is a great specialty whiskey that stands up to any bottle in this price range.
Cream of Kentucky 11.5 Year Old
Average Price: $160
This whiskey is part of the bespoke sourced line from bourbon legend Jim Rutledge. Rutledge spent 21 years as the head distiller over at Four Roses, building the worldwide renown that the brand is now known for today. Rutledge is currently sourcing the best barrels he can find to create this throwback brand of whiskey — whose labels used be to painted by Norman Rockwell back in the day.
You feel the deep bourbon heritage from the nose through the finish as classic notes of oily vanilla husks, soft cedar, and rich toffee draw you in. The taste holds onto the toffee and vanilla but also veers into sweet cherry with a rush of spice, which is almost like a Cherry Dr. Pepper in the best possible way. A note of bitterness comes in late via a dark chocolate vibe (especially with a drop or two of water) while the silken sip quickly (almost too quickly) fades, leaving you with warm and woody spices.
This is actually priced at $150 MSRP, so the hype machine hasn’t taken over the pricing … yet. Still, this is a classic bourbon that hits iconic notes from the style, making it a good bottle to really dial in those flavors on your palate. For us, the fade is a bit fast on the finish but, for some, that’s exactly what they want.
Knob Creek 2001
Average Price: $160
This bourbon is all about heritage. Back in 2001, Fred Noe took the reigns of Jim Beam from his legendary father, Booker Noe. As part of that transition, Booker Noe warehoused a final group of barrels for his son to finish and release to celebrate his ascendence to Master Distiller. The juice was aged for 14 long years and then released in three distinct batches (we’re reviewing the first batch), all at 100 proof.
There’s a subtle nod to Jim Beam’s cherry up top that’s more like a Haribo Cherry gummi with a hint of cinnamon cutting through the sweetness next to doses of creamy vanilla, rich toffee, and dry cedar boxes. The palate amps up the spice with notes of black pepper and powdery cinnamon as the cherry veers into dark red and ripe territory next to a slight tobacco chewiness and buzz on the tongue. That tobacco chew dries out near the finish, leading back to the cedar and vanilla as the sip slowly fades.
This hard-to-find bottle is one of those expressions that is very clear on its taste and feel. It’s classic bourbon that feels like it gets better with every sip you take. The other two batches will hit varying levels of choco-bitterness and vanilla pudding depths alongside those standard cherry/vanilla/toffee/woody notes, but Batch 1 really does feel like the most refined and classic bourbon of the three.
Kentucky Owl Confiscated
Average Price: $175
Kentucky Owl is another resurrection brand by Master Blender Dixon Dedman, the great-great-grandson of the shingle’s original founder. Yes, this is sourced juice from an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky, meaning we don’t know a whole lot of what’s in the bottle, but that leaves the family story and the taste of the whiskey as our only touchstones. And on those two levels, this expression excels.
The sip draws you in with a slight rye note of anise and maybe even licorice next to old cellar oak, vanilla cream, and a touch of ripe cherry. The taste warms on the tongue with dark spices, more of that old oak, and a touch of raw leather. The end is long and touches back on those spices, building a real buzzing on your senses, and hitting back towards that oak and leather, with just a hint of cherry tobacco.
This is another bottle that’s going to vary pretty wildly in prices. We’ve seen it for hundreds of dollars at places like Costco on the West Coast. Is it worth the $125 MSRP? It’s absolutely interesting and much sought after.
Still… we’d say it’s more of a palate-expanding stepping stone to high-end bourbon than the mountaintop.
Bardstown The Prisoner
Average Price: $180
Bardstown is one of the premier blenderies of American whiskey. This special release from 2020 takes sourced nine-year-old Tennessee bourbon and finishes the juice in red wine barrels from California’s Prisoner Wine Company for 18 months. The bourbon is then cut with that soft Tennessee water and bottled at 100 proof.
There’s a sense of blackberries, blueberries, and black cherries swimming in thin vanilla and honey cream with a hint of eggnog spices lurking in the background. The sip dries out a bit with a dark vinous edge, leading towards a spicy cherry pie with a crumbly and buttery crust dusted in brown sugar. The end dries out even more with a slight pine panel woodiness and a final whisper of those berries and eggnog spices on a slow fade.
We’re big fans of Bardstown around here. So it should come as no surprise that we’d recommend tracking down one of these very limited release bottles. This bottle really feels like you’re getting every cent of that $125 MSRP, with the refinement and beauty of the whiskey in the bottle.
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Average Price: $185
This much-lauded Texas bourbon is the highwater mark of what great whiskey from Texas can be. The juice is aged in Ozark oak for four years and then finished in oak from Minnesota for another year, all under that blazing West Texas sunshine. The bourbon is then small-batched, proofed with Texas spring water, and bottled at a healthy 115 proof.
You’re greeted with a real sense of a corn-syrup-laced pecan pie next to hazelnut bespeckled cinnamon rolls and creamy milk chocolate. That chocolate drives the taste towards a mint-chocolate ice cream vibe (heavy on the chocolate part) with small dashes of holiday spices, hard toffee candies, worn leather, and a flourish of cedar boxes full of dried tobacco leaves. The end circles back around to all that sweet and chocolatey creaminess with a final slice of pecan pie on a slow fade.
This is one of those bottles that just … delivers. Yes, it wins all the major awards and comes with a ton of hype. But, goddamnit, it’s f*cking delicious. It’s so tasty and truly easy-drinking that we wish it was affordable enough to be an everyday dram.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival
Average Price: $185
The Master’s Keep series is the mountaintop of Wild Turkey and, we’d argue, great Kentucky bourbon in general. The juice is a nod to Jimmy Russell releasing a sherry-cask finished bourbon back in 2000 (yes, sherry cask finishing has been around that long in bourbon). The ripple that makes this bottle special is that those sherry barrels are barrels that held sherry for 20 years.
That’s an extremely rare barrel in a world where sherry rarely ages more than three-ish years.
You’re beckoned into this sip through a nose full of marzipan, heavy with rose water, next to sultanas, orange oils, wet cedar, and a hint of spicy stewed red cherry. The taste delivers on those promises by amping up the spices into Christmas cake territory while adding in a rich and creamy vanilla pudding and a dash of pineapple and apricot. That apricot dries out while the fade slowly walks you back through those Christmas spices, almond, and stewed cherry.
This is the perfect end-of-the-year bottle. One, it’s holds a deep wintry/holiday season vibe to its core. Two, the price is going to range close to $200 (or more), making this a great candidate for a celebratory time of year.
Jefferson’s Presidential Select 16 Year
Average Price: $190
Jefferson’s is another stellar American whiskey blendery and distillery. This very limited release (only 10,000 bottles were made) is a unique double-barreled whiskey. The juice first spends ten years maturing in new oak, as per bourbon’s rules. Then the whiskey is transferred to a brand new oak barrel for a second maturation of six more years. In the end, the younger notes of the second barreling create a richer sense of “bourbon” in the final product, instead of sherry or port or rum, etc.
It’s a double bourboned bourbon, so to speak.
“Bourbon” is what you’re greeted with as notes of rich and creamy vanilla mingle with buttery toffee, wet oak, caramel-covered pears, and a matrix of holiday spices. The palate really delivers on all of that, while refining nicely as the spices lean into a cinnamon candy and the vanilla turns into a thick custard with a caramel glaze. That sweetness and silkiness impart a velvet mouthfeel that spikes with notes of spice, wet yet buzzy tobacco, and a mild sense of those pears.
This bottle feels like a real collector’s item that’ll be hard to keep in the vault since it’s so damn tasty and easy to drink. This dram with a single rock really shines as a great, all-around high-end bourbon that lives up to the price in every way.
Weller Aged 12 Years
Average Price: $199
Weller 12 is lovingly referred to as the “Poorman’s Pappy,” with good reason. Both whiskeys are made by Buffalo Trace with the same wheated bourbon mash bill. Of course, the barrels are treated differently when it comes to where they are stored and why. But we’re still talking about a very similar product at the end of the day.
Once which also tends to be a bit more accessible, at least for now.
This opens with a sense of vanilla pods coming to life in a hot pan next to light orange oil-infused marzipan, a touch of sweet corn, and a whisper of musty oak. The palate holds onto the orange and almond as it dries out towards a cedar box and vanilla tobacco chew with a mild sense of dry spices. The end is long-ish and touches on the wood, orange oils, spice, and nuttiness, leaving you warmed with that classic Kentucky Hug.
This is a bottle that gets a decent amount of hype (enough to make it cost far more than its MSRP, but not ridiculously so). For us, it’s an amazing choice for mixing up high-end whiskey cocktails like a fine Manhattan or Sazerac. Of course, it’s a solid sipper too, best with ice, especially when winter comes back around.
Michter’s 10 Year
Average Price: $199
The triumph of Michter’s coming to Kentucky (from Pennsylvania) is writ large in this bottle of fine bourbon. The juice is now contract-distilled according to Master Distiller Pam Heilmann and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson’s precise instructions and watchful eyes (though, they’re distilling their own juice now in Kentucky).
This expression is a ten-year-old single barrel drop that hits the highest marks when talking about what bourbon is and can be.
There’s a maple syrup sweetness with spicy tobacco, creamy vanilla, and burnt toffee next to leathery oak. The taste hints at a charred bitterness (burnt espresso bean?) next to a touch of caramel-meets-fruit that meanders back through that tobacco, leather, vanilla, and maple. The end is soft but surprisingly short while touching on the sweeter notes of maple and vanilla and leaving the spice, tobacco, and oak behind.
This really does feel like the ultimate expression of bourbon as a style. There’s a sense that you’re drinking something wholly unique to the American whiskey experience while also getting a sip that stuns in its refinement and excellence as a whiskey in general. While a rock certainly helps this sip along, it’s delicate enough to drink neat and will wow with every sip.
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Meet Daniel Boulud in DubaiChef Daniel Boulud at Brasserie Boulud in Dubai
I first interviewed chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud in the Cayman Islands for Ritz-Carlton’s annual Cayman Cookout beach bash in 2014. Digging out my interviews for FooDiva and, separately, for The National, I wrote back then:
“Out of the ten world-class chefs I meet at Cayman Cookout, Daniel Boulud ranks top, leading the talented pack. Interviewing him in the hotel bar, he’s a listener. Funny. Highly interesting and interested. Curious. And that French accent is a charm.”
Fast forward over six years, he was in Dubai last week to open Brasserie Boulud at the new Las Vegas-esque Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk in the Wafi complex. A 90-minute interview later, and those statements still ring true. To top it all off, at 65 now, he’s not aged one bit, despite having to navigate a global crisis threatening to ruin his three-decade-old empire spanning 17 restaurants in North America and Singapore, as well as catering and private dining ventures. Owning the building that houses his flagship two-Michelin star Daniel restaurant has helped manage the rent obligations across his other establishments.
So voilà, here’s a rather long, yet insightful read into this Lyon-born monsieur, including what he makes of Dubai’s maturing homegrown restaurant scene.
When I interviewed you in the Cayman Islands back in 2014, you mentioned potentially bringing your Mediterranean-North African concept Boulud Sud to Dubai. Why did you change your mind and settle for your now-closed Las Vegas brand – Brasserie Boulud? First, because the Group Accor and Sofitel approached us and said, “You know we have a brasserie project here in Dubai, and we would like Daniel to come and take this.” So they already had in mind to create a brasserie, and we came about a year ago. The structure and the framing was already in place, and we tweaked a few things, but we didn’t want to just reinvent things. We felt that it had a very good direction and a good setting. I already had Brasserie Boulud for five years at the Wynn in Las Vegas which was amazingly successful over the five year contract. So I haven’t done Brasserie Boulud for a while.
Is it similar to the Las Vegas concept? It has similarities and yet it’s a different time. There is some DNA and strong influence from Boulud Sud, but also from Cafe Boulud which is now 23 years old – where we always had four menus. And I think, coming here with Brasserie Boulud, it will give me a chance to pull from Boulud Sud, Café Boulud, DB Bistro and still stay in the DNA of Daniel Boulud – but some dishes will vary with flavours that are a little more Asian, sometimes Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean, or sometimes very French.
Why this hotel? I know Sofitel from the founder of Sofitel and Accor Group, the family, and the CEO also. And being associated with a French company here, we are very happy with that.
How many times are you set to visit Dubai in your contract? I cannot sign a contract imposing me how many times, how many days – but we are committed as a group, either myself, or my corporate chef, or the director operations, or the CEO to visit. Also we maintain a close relationship we have weekly meetings we are in constant communication with the chef, with the managers, with the performance. But like all my other restaurants, I regularly visit, and with Singapore, it’s a perfect hub to be able to bounce here and there at the same time.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing in a Covid world? The biggest challenge is to not have been able to reopen all our businesses yet. In Washington DC, we have not reopened. In New York, I’ve only opened half of my business. The catering company is still closed. Half of my retail store, Épicerie Boulud, is open. DB Bistro is closed. Cafe Boulud is closed. But I moved Cafe Boulud to Blantyre, a beautiful Relais & Châteaux property three hours north of New York. We did a pop-up there for the summer because they didn’t have the music festival. It was really well received, so much so, we are staying there for longer.
I wanted to save my talent, and bring them back. They were unemployed making a quarter of their salary. We also had the help of the government, but that came very early and it didn’t give us the chance to open the business until very late. They gave us 24 weeks to use this support, but we could barely use half, because we didn’t have enough operational time. So it was good, but not perfect. Now we have about 60 per cent of our staff which is not much, but the ratio of staff to revenue is very different now. We’re trying to figure out a balance. I feel safe going through winter if we don’t have a shutdown.
You re-opened your flagship two-star Daniel though? Yes, but I didn’t re-open Daniel as Daniel. We re-opened first with a sidewalk café and take-out. Every weekend we sent trucks with boxes to the Hamptons full for the whole weekend. You could feed eight people for three days with boxes, different menus and just a little bit of finishing. Then when they gave the authorisation to open inside, we raised some money with sponsors and with help from designer friends and Hermès, we created a stage inside Daniel to transform the restaurant into Boulud Sur Mer. We brought the South of France to New York, with all the flavours of Provence and the Mediterranean – and the feel of this garden room inside Daniel was quite transforming. We’re still at 25 per cent capacity, so we’re going to continue with it. Now that it’s getting colder in New York, we have built bungalows outside which was a real structure because we have insulation, flooring, fabrics, heaters. A crazy production! But we tried to stay positive and creative, and are still financially stable. We try not to blow away money for nothing.
How else have you had to adapt? Any silver linings? Five days before New York imposed a shutdown, we made a decision to shut the business because we had a Covid case who came to the restaurant and hit the headlines. I felt so scared for our staff and for everyone. I talked to Eric [Ripert of Le Bernardin] that day and he said, “I think I’m going to close too”. Then we decided both to shut our business. It was a little scary, crazy, and from there, within two weeks, we created a foundation for our staff. ‘Hand in Hand’ by Daniel Boulud – and we managed to raise more than half a million dollars to give back to the staff. And we’re still paying back the insurance and if anyone needs support, we still have money to give them.
I also have a new partner for a business next year called Le Pavillon, and that’s at One Vanderbilt – a new tower in the heart of Manhattan – opening in March next year. This new partner has a big real estate company in New York and he felt that many of his food tenants were not able to reopen their restaurants. Usually it’s the other way around, you beg the real estate to either help you with your lease – yet here he said he’s going to pay them to reopen their business. So we created a foundation called Food First Foundation and he seeded that with one million dollars. We started to have restaurants making meals. That was about three to four weeks after the pandemic started and since then I have been making meals. We have given about half a million meals to New Yorkers to date, and I think I’ve done myself about a quarter of that to CityMeals-On-Wheels [Daniel’s longterm community initiative] mostly and to Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen.
And to come here and open. Of course, everybody is like “Wow. You’re in Dubai? You’re opening a new restaurant!” I’m like, yeah well some parts of the world are hopeful. And I think the silver lining is to have been able to bring and save quite a lot of talent.
We have also joined Goldbelly – a national distribution of foods – so you can order a bouillabaisse or braised short ribs ready cooked to eat right away or freeze. You can live in the middle of Texas or Minnesota and have Daniel Boulud on your table. I never had so much cardboard in my restaurants. There’s enough business to keep people occupied and I think that’s the goal. Will it grow to become a profitable business one day? Maybe. But we did it out of necessity, and we might eventually do it as a business.
What’s the future of fine dining and Michelin/ World’s 50 Best restaurants? Does it have a future? People don’t feel they can engage in a 12-course meal yet, because I think fine dining has been disrupted. So everyone needs to find his groove, but one thing you can’t take away is the talent, the creativity, the ambition, the energy, the will to do better, to keep being relevant. Fine dining is the greatest school in our industry. And I think that has to continue. The customer with the privilege to indulge once in a while, will come back. In New York, a couple of friends have re-opened their fine dining, even Eric re-opened at Le Bernardin without changing the concept much – and people are very happy to come back.
You’ve clearly adapted very well with Daniel. Do you think you’re going to incorporate some of these changes when you re-launch your tasting menus? When might that be? Of course. I think next year. I want to do a refresh with the restaurant. The restaurant is 23 years old – and we went through two different designs. This new life will define the direction I want to take, but it will still be fine dining for sure. Fine dining will never die. There are so many young people who appreciate so much the sense of accessible luxury. Because I think unless you are outrageously expensive, fine dining can be as affordable as going to a Cipriani or a Zuma. The stigma of fine dining being expensive or passé or out of place is totally wrong. I think people need to nurture themselves with excellence and creativity and the energy pulled out of fine dining restaurants. Maybe the menu and team might be a little smaller, the performance might be a little less than it used to be in terms of volume or revenue, but the commitment will remain the same. And everyone has to find this new balance with the economics. We have to guess for the future and try to move on as we go. That’s the biggest challenge.
How did you feel losing your third star in 2015? Were you expecting it? Was it fair? And what did you do about it?No, I was not expecting it. Restaurant Daniel has been a restaurant that has always strived in excellence. New York has the big five – Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Daniel. Jean-Georges and I are maybe the biggest and most entrepreneurial, compared to the others. Maybe some of the decisions that we made for our business were not compatible with Michelin. We cook for New Yorkers, not just tourists. And I feel that maybe that was a bigger challenge, because I needed to prove my excellence and my consistency and my commitment to my customers, rather than to Michelin. It has served my business safely well it has served my customer well it has served my staff well it has served me well and maybe it didn’t serve Michelin perfectly. But that’s okay. And when I lost the star it didn’t matter to any for the business. It hurt me and my staff more, but at the same time I told my staff, I said, “Listen it’s not the end of the world. And we’re going to be the best two star New York has seen, and we will always push the three on their hedge.” And I think we have always done that. The same customer will come to New York for a few days and they’re going to go to Le Bernardin, they’re going to go to Daniel, they’re going to go to Jean-Georges, they’re going to go to EMP, and they can compare. I leave it to them.
So it’s better to be a good two star, than a bad three star? Yeah, exactly. Not ‘bad’, but…[he smiles].
What do you think of Dubai’s restaurant scene? Of course there are a lot of franchises. There are also some good local chefs. I think there’s room for evolving talent for independents, and that will continue. I think it’s important to know how to adapt. I think in Dubai they want to feel like life is a party and let’s go and have fun. I think that’s good, and I believe in that. But I think fine dining has always played a role here and will continue. I think it might not be the majority of what the city wants to be, neither what the city needs, but I see the lineup of talent coming next year from independent to big restaurant groups. It’s good to be a part of this. I compare Dubai with Singapore in a way – very cosmopolitan, a lot of expats, but a lot of locals, and different types of locals, so here of course I have to adapt the cuisine to not use any wine in the cooking.
Are you looking to expand elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia perhaps? Yes, absolutely. I have some friends there that are doing some projects and I would like to have a little bit more opportunity, but first we will start with this one and not spread ourselves too fast, too thin. And certainly Asia as well. Singapore has been quite amazing [for us].
You’re an investor in Spyce, a robotic restaurant in Boston. Do you think, given the increased Covid health and safety protocols, robotics are the next step for fast-casual restaurants? I have been with those kids for five years, as an investor and as a partner in the business. They are opening a new location at Harvard Square with version two of the robot which is really incredible. If the first robot was doing let’s say 25 steps in the making of your meal, this new robotic kitchen does about 75 steps. It has the potential to serve 600 meals an hour. And, surprisingly, tastes good. It does everything, including seared meats. It’s extremely complex, but extremely efficient. And in this world of Covid, in this world of safety, it is fabulous.
You’re both a chef and a restaurateur. Do you think the tradition of a maître d’ is dying? How does it sit in terms of importance with the chef? I don’t think a maître d’ will ever die, despite technology and online bookings. They have such an important role in making sure that every customer has a customised experience to maintain the high quality of service. It’s important for a customer to know they will be taken care of properly and personally. Yes the chef is the marketing guru behind his restaurant, but in the old days the maître d’ [with his little black book] was the marketing guru, and I think there’s still a big role to play with that. I talk to my maître d’ every day in New York and ask him what’s happening, where are you seating these guests, what are you doing for these other guests. So don’t worry – fine dining, maître d’s, sommeliers – it’s all going to stay.
Some fun questions to end. How would you like to be remembered? I haven’t built a legacy yet.
Surely you have? Okay. Perhaps over these forty years in America with the thousands of young chefs and young professionals. I certainly gave them an opportunity to become who they are. As an example, yesterday I was at Burj Al Arab and I went to the new restaurant Sal with Jumeirah’s vice president of food & beverage, Dominique Romeo, who used to work for me 20 years ago. He met his wife working with me, and yesterday I met his two daughters they’re 14 and 12. I have so many children who came out of relationships between people working together in the restaurant. Coming from different parts of the world and meeting at the restaurant and becoming couples and having children and families.
The school of Daniel? Yes. I want to be remembered as the school of Daniel. Because there will be many people to testify about the education and the impact we have. I want to continue to help young people in this business. Being an inspiration is very important.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the world? Apart from yours of course. It’s in France – Troisgros. Michel, César and Léo Troisgros. I know the house for almost 50 years and what has always fascinated me is this amazing renewal of their tradition and yet constant innovation. There’s a sense of family unity and creativity and honesty that fascinates me. They’re good friends but they are also great inspiration. They never change and it doesn’t matter when I go there, whether it’s 30 or 20 years ago or today, I still feel that it’s a renewed experience by being so different and yet so much.
Have they had to adapt with Covid? They moved their restaurant from the city to the countryside into an estate and it has really changed the mood of the experience. They’re always witty and they really have mastered the art of doing so much with so little. Sometimes they will do a dish like saumon à l’oseille which was created in the late 60s/ early 70s. The dish was composed of three things – salmon, sorrel and cream sauce. One of the world’s most legendary dishes. Often they will make a dish out of two things and make it in a composition that is unforgettable. Troisgros has always amazed me and will keep amazing me.