Southern Wine

Kevin and I are headed to NOLA this weekend to watch some football and sample the delights of the city. He asked me to see if we could stop at a winery on our way there. I checked my map. Each dot represents a winery.

It appears that we will have plenty of choices depending on what route we take.

Good thing we don’t live in a wine producing region, eh? It appears that we will have 20 options in the deep south.. and more as we head north.

Laissez les bontemps rollez.

What’s your favorite southern winery?

Gretchen Neuman, Editor, September 13, 2011

A Perfect Combo

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

When push comes to shove, I am as much a foodie as I am a wino. A couple of weeks ago Kevin and I had a perfectly fine dinner out at McCormick & Schmick. It was a really crazy night there and we felt a bit neglected by the staff initially. Eventually we got appetizers and our dinner… Even some wine.

We enjoyed dinner. I thought that the wine list was a bit of a throw away, but we cherry picked it… and ended up with particularly excellent appetizers…

A de-constructed oysters Rockefeller… and the Lomi-Lomi salmon that was put together at our table. The advantage of this? Well, obviously, I get the recipe.

So, after Kevin and I had a disasterous experience cooking fish last weekened? (check my Twitter feed to see how bad it was) We decided that we needed to get back on the horse so to speak. I decided to reproduce (hopefully) the Lomi-Lomi salmon.

Lomi-Lomi SalmonFirst I diced some lovely fresh salmon that I picked up from my favorite fishmonger, Bill Dugan of The Fish Guy. If you live in Chicago and haven’t been there? Shame on you. This salmon was from the Faroe Islands which I will admit that I thought were Scottish, but in reality are Danish (not that I think that the fish care). The fish was beautiful bright color with pronounced layer of fat in the musculature. Beautiful. Of course, I am dicing it, along with a smallish yellow onion, chopped scallions, three of those beautifully ripe vine tomatoes also diced, salt, pepper, the juice of two limes, the zest of one, a tablespoon of soy sauce (I only had a dribble due to my sweet filles love of salty condiments, so I substituted a combination of fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Sometimes cooking is about imagination) finely chopped green chiles (I used serrano’s because they have an herbal brightness) and a drizzle of sesame oil. Toss these ingredients together.. let them marinate a couple of minutes and serve on crackers (or just go ahead and eat the stuff from spoons. Why? because it is perfect in this form in every single way). When we ordered this at the restaurant they gave us to small a portion of this. Last night? We might have gone a bit overboard as we indulged in two whole filets.. which means that this is all we ate.

Oh, the flavor was amazing.

But what to drink with it? Well, that evening at McCormick & Schmick we drank the Sokol Blosser Evolution 9. It was an amazingly complex blend of 9 varietals which beautifully matched the spicy asian flavors, though to me were a bit sweet.

This time? Domaine Chandon Brut. The crispness of the sparkling wine was absolutely perfect. In fact even better than the sweet touches from the Sokol Blosser.

This recipe? Well, it will be on high rotation as it was light, simple and ridiculously good. Maybe I will consider drinking something other than sparkling wine with it… but no time soon, that is for certain.

Dating the Wind

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Speaking of Desert Wind Vineyards, our next wine selection was from their winery. The Desert Wine 2008 Ruah was poured by Amber Fries. If you are confused by Ruah as I was, then I am pleased to tell you that Ruah means wind in Hebrew. This winery is different from the others that we have encountered at the conference in that it is a destination winery. In addition to the tours, tastings and special events that we have come to expect as part of winery, Desert Wind also has dining and accomodations. Each of the four rooms is distinctly decorated in a southwestern theme. The small restaurant, Mojave by Picazo is also southwestern in theme.

Desert Wind Winery
2258 Wine Country Rd.
Prosser, WA 99350

Canei Go Home Again?

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

While most kids in high school were trying to get someone to buy them beer, I was that weird kid drinking wine.

The wine I was drinking was about the same level of quality as their beer, but I didn’t care. I was drinking real wine. From Italy. It was imported. And it was advertised on the radio. In the Buffalo area, where I grew up the ads were voiced by Danny Neaverth a long-time Buffalo radio god.

The ads?

Canei?* Yes, You Can!

*(pronounced like Can I)

Oh it was Klassy! It even had a screw top making it super convenient for the teenaged Gretchen.

I drank this wine as I moved into my college years (where it was actually not entirely too awful with the Thai food we ordered from Tipsuda (sadly, long gone!)

Why mention this?

Well, yesterday, while on a quest for a new hydrometer (people keep breaking them which I find annoying) and the liquor store that I visited to replace the broken equipment, there it was.  A bottle of Canei.  I haven’t seen a bottle of it in years.  It was calling me.  Like a siren’s song.

So we bought a bottle and brought it home and poured it while eating a Giordano’s Pizza (another 1985 pairing).

And like the siren’s song, the Canei dashed me on the rocks.

OMG.  It sucked.  SUCKED.No I Can't (stomach it anymore)
What was teenaged me thinking?  I don’t know.  I was 19.  I didn’t know any better and it was my introduction to buying wine.

Clearly, my taste buds have moved on.  And we ditched the Canei and opened a dry rosé instead.

So Canei go home again?  No, I can’t.

And I am guessing that the Ruinite and ice won’t be nice.

We Gather Together

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

With Thanksgiving looming before us this week (Please keep your Christmas references at bay, please… I can only handle one holiday at a time), many people are trying to decide what to have for the big feast.

Turkey is the obvious choice (though venison would be traditionally correct as well, as the local Wamponoag people brought five deer to the feast)

One thing that we can be sure of? Those people celebrating their first feast of thanksgiving in Plymouth (or Virginia) dined on local food. There was no Beajolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Vieux for that matter…

What seems totally appropriate?  Drinking local.  During the colonial period, the Pilgrims would have had beer from home grown barley, or cider from home grown apples or even wine from from native grapes (fox grapes named for their flavor… think Concord and tell me if you can avoid thinking of grape jelly!) or other local fruit.

So my plan?

To drink as much local wine as possible…  The thing holding me back?  Well… my parents are hosting our feast.. and Dad does have all of those wine clubs that he is a member of…  I will do my best to bring more wine than Lionstone International can send my father.

Dinner at Franciscan

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Fountain at FranciscanI love that mapNow, at this point you are probably thinking, ” How many more posts can Gretchen possibly get out of the activities of Saturday, July, 25th?” Yes, I have managed to wring four separate entries out of this one day. But I think you will agree that it was an action packed day. And yet, the day was not over.

We headed out on Bus #7 for Franciscan. We were greeted at the door by Jay Turnipseed, a newlywed and one of the winemakers at Franciscan offered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (I see a theme emerging, eh?). Over our glass of wine we chatted with Jay about his unusual last name (given to the family at Ellis Island though it was a literal translation of the family name in Germany), workplace romances (he met his wife when she worked in the lab at the winery) and wine. Soon we headed into dinner.

Franciscan Dinner menuAt each place setting were seven glasses and a menu.

The first course, a dungeness crab, endive and avocado salad with a creamy lemon vinaigrette was served with the 2006 Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage. This wine was made of 100% Chardonnay grapes and fermented with wild yeast and aged 18 months sur lie in new oak barrels. The texture of the wine matched the creaminess of the vinaigrette.

Wine DinnerThree Cheers for Chef Boris OlveraThe next course was grilled New York steak served with a red wine mushroom glaze (Which was so good that I wanted to lick my plate, but did not to stay Klassy.), served with “crushed” (I say mashed, but whatever) pancetta potatos. (Winos, er, wine lovers love bacon) The wines served with this were the 2005 Franciscan Magnificat which was a lovely Bordeaux-like blend, the 2006 Blackbird Illustration a Merlot-centric blend and the 2006 Blackbird Arise (all Merlot) (both of these are listed as “Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine”s which confuses me. what does that mean? The Illustration being a blend didn’t catch my attention, but the Arise is single varietal what makes it any more than any other wine?), the 2005 Bourassa Vineyard Reserve Symphony3, the 2006 Bourassa Reserve Petite Sirah and finally the 2005 Corison Cabernet. We were in heaven. Good food, great wine and superb conversation.

Cathy CorisonWine DinnerSitting next to me at dinner was none other than Cathy Corison, the winemaker of the Corison Cabernet that we were drinking. We talked about her approach to wine making (her grapes are grown organically), her background in wine (she went to Davis to get her degree in Enology, family (she is the mother of two teenagers) and social media (she, like most winemakers, hasn’t had a lot of time to absorb the impact of the new media). During the dinner, winemakers from the other wines that were poured came to the tables or spoke to the group about their wineries. Though I am indeed generalizing, I thought that their discussions of wine were pointedly very different than what I learned from Cathy. In her case, she views the wine that she produces to be an expression of their vineyards and her wines show that. They were far and away the best of the evening. Somehow, I didn’t get that same sense the other winemakers (who were all male). There seemed to be more machismo in their approaches to wine and that definitely translated into products. Is that a difference between male and female winemakers? I don’t know but I have begun to think about it more.

We ended our evening at Franciscan with coffee and cupcakes ready to attend the after party. Yes, you heard it. MORE WINE! and maybe a little absinthe.

A Memphis Encore

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Cinderella would be proud

Cinderella would be proud

It seemed strange that we had been on the road for 8 hours, been in 4 States and crossed the Mississippi twice to get to Memphis. When the clan finally pulled into town it was after 9:00pm. Everyone was tired. Everyone was hungry. That was the last thing that we all agreed upon. The girls wanted to stay at the hotel. Kevin and I wanted to go out. In the end, everyone got what they wanted. We stopped in the lobby of the hotel where there were frozen meals available and picked up microwaveable treats for the girls and Kevin and I headed out into the Memphian night.



The town was full of the smoky smell of BBQ and lively sounds of music. A horse drawn carriage that looked like it should come from Cinderella passed us by. Its LED lights of blues, greens and purples startled me. As we came out of our hotel we made our way to the corner and started down 2nd street. We walked down the street, passed open windowed bars with live music playing for the crowds and restaurants of all kinds. Sushi at Sekisui, Italian at Capriccio Grill, Seafood at Flying Fish, a Texas de Brazil churrascaria, even a Canadian themed place called The Kooky Canuck (I have NO idea what kind of food they served there, though I do assume they served beer. And lots of it.).

Silver Queen Corn Chowder

Silver Queen Corn Chowder

Kevin and I settled on Encore which was opened several years ago by the James Beard award winning Chef Jose Guitierrez. Still in our jeans and weary from the road, we (I) were (was) a bit concerned that we would be under dressed. But we appeared to be fine. Kevin ordered himself a Campari and Soda and me a Champagne cocktail that included Lillet Blanc (most excellent) and we began our meal.

Kevin started with the wild mushroom ravioli. It was served with a tomato fondu, basil and parmesean reggiano. The flavor of the mushroom filling was intense and included porcini. The pasta was delicate, clearly home made and the sauce a light accompiment. I started with the Silver Queen corn chowder with lobster and crab. It was rich with the flavor of the sweet white corn and topped with chunks of lobster and crab and crispy bacon.

Hopler Pinot Blanc

Hopler Pinot Blanc

With our main couses, we ordered a Hopler Pinot Blanc. This is an Austrian wine that was crisp and fresh with citrus and stood up to the sauces that dressed our meals. Kevin had the sea scallops that were stuffed with lobster claw meat and served over a bed of braised leeks, served with a lemongrass beurre blanc and garnished with chopped peanuts, cashews and ginger and a crispy wreath of shoestring potatoes. He loved it.

I had the grouper served over a warm lentil salad that included roasted mushrooms, potatoes, carrots as well as the puy lentils and dressed with a ginger citrus beurre blanc. The grouper was cooked perfectly. Crispy but tender and the salad included tiny bites of fresh ginger that surprised me every time I got a bit of them. The salad was so delicious that I could have skipped the fish entirely and still been happy.

Grouper with warm lentil salad

Grouper with warm lentil salad

For dessert, we split the bourbon vanilla ice cream which was delicious, while Kevin enjoyed a decaf irish coffee and I had the Grand Marnier flight which included one ounce pours of the regular, 100 year old and 150 year old versions of the liquer.

Ice Cream and Grand Marnier

Ice Cream and Grand Marnier

By the end of the meal we were a bit nervous that we had not heard from the usually nervous Sophie but glad that she and her sister had let us enjoy our meal. If you are ever in Memphis, it is well worth checking out.

Philadelphia Freedom with Vino Volo

Kevin Neuman
VinoVerve Contributor

Coasters from VinoVolo

Coasters from VinoVolo

No, I’m not talking about Founding Fathers or any such history. I’m talking about securing freedom from flight delays, boring food, and stale bars at Philadelphia International  (PHL). After wading through airport security (“Hey TSA agent, that’s my butt”), I stumbled upon a neat wine bar called Vino Volo. According to an internet search, these oases within airports have been around a few years and can be found in a handful of airports across the country with plans to expand. I can’t wait until they reach O’Hare.

I think the concept is fairly unique. Well, at least in airports. Vino Volo offers a tidy selection of wines available by the glass or in tasting flights based on themes like “Old World Reds.” I chose wines by the glass as a taste just doesn’t do it for me sometime. The picture accompanying this piece shopws the wines I had served on cool “coasters” describing the wine including varietal, winery and year. each “coaster” was accompanied by tasting notes, which according to the website is descibed thusly:

Our wine flavor comparison tool Vino Chart allows you, the wine lover, to easily understand wines based on their flavor profiles, and it doesn’t require you to spend years of academic wine studies to do it. Whether you’re a wine novice or wine pro, you can use the Vino Chart to think about differences between wines and decide which you prefer, and when.

Fruit and complexity. That’s it!

Vino Chart looks at wines based on how much FRUIT and non-fruit flavors or COMPLEXITY each wine has. That’s it.

Wines with richer, brighter, and more varied fruit flavors are higher up on the chart map, and wines with deeper and more-layered complexity are further to the right side of the chart. This wine chart works with both red and white wines.

Oh, and did I mention that they have a food menu that accompanies the wines quite nicely. I stuck with a plate of marinated olives. A perfect match to the variety of wines I had. I look forward to getting stuck in an airport again – as long as there’s a Vino Volo.

Report from San Francisco

By Don Holton ©
Contributing Writer

Albona Ristorante. You won’t find these dishes anywhere else in SF:

  • Pork loin stuffed with sauerkraut, prosciutto, apples, plums, served with red cabbage
  • Braised rabbit with onions, juniper berries, honey, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, served with soft polenta
  • Filets of fried sardines with glazed onions, marinated with red wine vinegar, raisins, pine nuts

What’s so rare about these and other offerings at Albona? They’re authentic dishes from the Istrian peninsula, now part of Croatia, a gateway to the Adriatic where its food is influenced by Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Italy.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Kuleto's, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Opened in 1988, Albona’s greatest virtue is its simplicity. There’s a single dining room, with about 10 tables (take your reservation seriously). Service is done by owners and family. The wine list is a 41-bottle mix of St. Francis whites and reds, California chardonnays and cabs, plus wines from areas close to Istiria –Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia, and Piemonte. All wines by the glass are under $10, a smart move in today’s economy.

The menu’s theme is one of quality ingredients, simply prepared. We started with Ortolana ($9), grilled slices of eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash over a bed of baby arugula in a light vinaigrette. Sounds easy, but that’s the idea. This is the kind of authentic, unadorned dish you’ll find at a seaside restaurant in the homeland, then reach for your pen to remember it later. I enjoyed the pork loin, tightly rolled around the kraut and ham, floating in thick brown gravy. Valerie chose the Strudel — pasta roll filled with prosciutto and Lappi cheese, baked in a casserole with breadcrumbs, béchamel and tomato cream sauce.

Albona is a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, but not part of it. From Powell St. take the cable car ($1.50), check the map and get off while clanking along Columbus Ave. at Francisco St. Walk the neighborhood two blocks east. Taxi back to Union Square, $10.

Albona is not high style, but a gentle family place that embraces its traditions, food and wine. Wine List: 16/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 20/20. The Feeling: a welcomed break from downtown, with proud owners, happy staff, a good value.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Hotel Villa Florence, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Kuleto’s. When planning a trip, I often call the hotel’s Concierge in advance and ask for local dining ideas, routinely dismissing any food option in the hotel itself. How foolish this time, for when we checked in the Hotel Villa Florence, a block off Union Square, we strolled to the Front Desk and looked left to see a packed house for lunch at Kuleto’s, the Italian restaurant, just off the lobby. A convention going on? No, this is not a hotel for big meetings. We were witnessing pure market demand for the imaginative Northern Italian cuisine at Kuleto’s, with the same phenomenon occurring each night for dinner, well past 9 pm.

Our first taste at Kuleto’s was at breakfast the next day. Egg Benedict? Warm eggs, proscuitto on muffins with real-thing hollandaise. Check. Lunch the next day after a morning appointment: creamy risotto with spicy shrimp, crusty bread bathed in olive oil, and a small salad. Check again.

The hotel lobby and Kuleto’s share a classical interior (one part was a small theater years ago, someone said), with high ceilings, columns, separated by glass panels and tall drapes. We highly recommend the hotel (modest-sized rooms, but all renovated, many under $190 and worth it).

On our last day, our return flight departure to Chicago was delayed to 6 pm, so we looked at each other and stepped directly to a comfy booth at Kuleto’s. Lunch at 2:30, winding down, and now, in slow motion with time on our hands, we shared a huge bowl of fresh-made raviolis stuffed with smoked salmon, covered with an elegant white sauce, garnished with orange zest. Heaven, pure heaven, with a Syrah/Merlot, “Suyrage” from Mara, California. By 4 pm, we were set up for a mellow ride on the BART to the airport.

Wine List: 18/20. Food: 20/20. Service: 19/20. The Feeling: Milanese actually, with brainpower, creativity, and talent in the kitchen. One of the top hotel restaurants in our 40 country travels.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved.

Golden Gate Bridge, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved.

Biking the Bridge: Terror on a Sunny Afternoon

How does riding a bike on the Golden Gate Bridge relate to wine? Be patient. Alone for the day, I rented a bicycle at Fisherman’s Wharf, intent to ride four miles west to the Golden Gate, where cyclists are permitted on the west walkway of the bridge for a ride across to Sausalito. It was a sunny day, 65 degrees — a superb scene riding along the shore through Crissy Field and the huge Presidio park, birds soaring, kayakers out beyond the breakwater, joggers, skaters, kite flyers, you name it.

It took me a full hour to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, where a path takes you under the south end of the bridge and circles back up a hill to the roadbed. But look out! The bike lane is a superhighway of Lance Armstrongs blasting down the incline toward you. Either you get in the flow one direction or another or just get out of the way. With a low railing, a 500-foot drop to the sharks below, and an east wind building, I cruised up for several hundred yards then came back to the sidelines and a safe place. Seriously, I thought I was going over the edge. Maybe next time.

My return to the Wharf was a 1 1/2 hour glide, culminating at Alioto’s bar for a bowl of clam chowder and a glass of wine. There’s the wine.

For a day in the park, visit:

Four Restaurants, Four Wine Lists, and Cheating Death on the Golden Gate Bridge … on a Bike

By Don Holton ©
Contributing Writer

Flying to San Francisco brings the most pleasant anticipation: you sense that – if you’ve planned things right – unique food and wine experiences may await you.

So it was with our recent trip there. No Napa/Sonoma wine cruising. This time, the city only. We stayed near Union Square for five days and struck it rich in and around this commercial and tourist part of town.

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Our restaurant finds were Jardiniere, Gitane, Albona Ristorante, and an Italian surprise in our hotel, Kuleto’s.

Jardiniere (French/American). A 10-minute taxi ride just west of the Civic Center lands you at the classical front of a landmark building. Inside, a spectacular bar with a two-story oval atrium rises to the main dining room on the second floor. The wine list: a diverse mix of Old World and New, organized by Wine Director Eugenio Jardim. Strong French representation: red and whites from Burgundy and Bordeaux, six Chablis, 14 choices from Meursault and Corton. Wines from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and up and down the West Coast. The list hits a satisfying note: six “Villages” wines, obviously Jardim’s picks for taste and affordability, including Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne “Les Setilles” 2005 for $65. And down the list, look, there they were — my measure of a thoughtful Euro carte – 14 choices from Alsace and Germany, two categories often ignored by unfounded fears of “sweetness.”

The food? Excellent. My wife, Valerie, and I shared a mixed greens and citrus salad (these days, restaurants rarely deny a request to “split”, except a snobby waiter last week in Scottsdale; times are tough, reservations easy, don’t you find?), then lamp chops, filet mignon, both very nice. Dessert: Banana Cream Pie – good to very good, but needs more cream filling. Choose from an a la carte menu or a tasting menu at $125. Check out the new Monday night fixed price menu for $45, including wine pairings; given the quality here, a real value.

Our wine choice: from a list deep in California blends, pinots and cabs (up to Screaming Eagle, 2004, $1800), we sought a name unknown to Sam’s or Binny’s. The winner: Kathryn Kennedy Meritage “Lateral,” Santa Cruz, 2005, a smooth cab/merlot blend that’s just the kind of small lot discovery you hope for – light, layered, different. Sorry, their ’06 is sold out at the vineyard, making our dinner all the more special. Look for their next release. Wine List: 19/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 19/20. The Feeling: organized, a clear zeal for the grape, food worthy.

Image courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Gitane (Franco/Iberian, etc). How could you resist a restaurant that describes itself as: “modern, funky, and artistically bold … drawing inspiration from Spain, France, and Portugal … exotic tastes and sensations with sherries, cavas, madieras, hand-crafted cocktails and small-estate wines … interior decors from Mr. Important Design (really), vibes from Euro-themed 50s, Hippie-Driven 60s and Big Bling 70s … artwork from Turkey and the UK, Goya-esque photography.”

Well, of course, you’ve got to try such a place! And it’s only a few blocks walk east of Union Square, downhill on Sutter and a left on Claude Lane (trust me, this is an alley with its own street sign). But maybe SF is a place where you can sit at one of four outside tables, under heat lamps and an awning — in an alley — and think it’s cool. But inside? There’s the cool. The place feels like an exotic private club. Warm greeting, nice people, small dark entry area, but peek around the corner – a colorful, hip, but low-keyed bar scene, high ceilings, giant bulbous chandeliers, two-story high draperies, soft lights, tapestries. Best yet, walking by, and no one looks over his or her shoulder to check you out. But maybe you want that.

Most at the bar are dining “a la placemat.” The bar is full, but it’s … quiet. A smooth and orderly beat going on here, at least at 8 o’clock.

Our table, like most, was up the stairs. Breathless at the top, ah, this is cool too: weathered brick walls, covered with glass, bricks flooded with light (shining up from lights in the floorboards, whoa), a moody/mysterious room, enameled black tables, effective use of mirrors to enlarge the space, red/orange light shades. But where are we? This could be that hidden gem down the hill from the Alhambra or somewhere in the back streets of Alfama. Cue the Fado and the handkerchiefs.

Ever had a Pimm’s Cup? It’s a cocktail for old guys like me. I used to knock them down in London just to feel that Park Lane thing, but there it was on Gitane’s drink menu, bringing back memories of Robert Morley in “Halfway Up A Tree” at the Strand. I ordered one, and the result was a soft sweetness, mildly herbal, refreshing — Pimm’s Cup No. 1, with assorted berries and ginger beer on the rocks. Could have had one of 20 sherries or other inventive cocktails from the list, but we went to the wines.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Gitane, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

The list is straightforward, 31 whites on the left – Spain, Portugal and France. On the right, 34 reds from those three countries. Great balance all around, tilted toward Spain – Riojas, Alicante, Priorate from Castilla y Leon, North-Central, Catalonia, and one from Mallorca. From Portugal, Vinho Verde, the national jug wine, and some familiar friends from France – Corbieres (Domaine St. Eugenie, Languedoc), and Coteaux du Languedoc, Mas Julien. One in four wines is available by the glass, some in half-bottle carafes. Not a huge list, but one that forms a clear link with the restaurant’s theme and cuisine. I also like how Gitane chose French wines produced from regions that nestle close on the map to the Pyrennes.

OMG, given all this, what must the food be like? The menu has three parts: appetizers (did not say tapas), entrees and sides. We liked Piquillo ($13), peppers stuffed with fresh crab salad. Bastilla is one dish that competently showcases the restaurant’s diverse cultural intent — a sweet and savory pastry with duck, chicken, raisins, almonds, Moroccan spices and orange gastrique. A pop-in-your-mouth winner.

My half-order of Ribs ($12, $23 full) featured natural pork, soy glazed, with parsnip puree and Brussels sprouts (please cook a little longer to release the bitterness or douse them with balsamic vinegar). Rich molasses-type sauce on the ribs, very meaty. Valerie’s Sea Bass ($23) was not distinguished, but it was her fault, as she was influenced by the asparagus.

We recommend Gitane, a great concept, its multi-national theme creatively integrated, from wine, to spirits, to food and décor. Wine List: 17/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 18/20. The Feeling: fun, funky in a friendly and textured environment, with memorable spicy hits.

Next up… more food and terror!