34 hours in New York, eating and drinking well, part 1

Olmsted, Brooklyn

After exploring the Finger Lakes and Long Island wine regions, Christina Rasmussen and I had just a short time in the city of New York before heading back to the UK. I hadn’t been to New York since 1998, and this was Christina’s first visit. We arrived in New York at 7 pm Friday and departed 5 am Sunday. By my reckoning that’s 34 hours in the city. Our goal? To eat and drink well, exploring some of the top wine spots, with a little beer thrown in too. It was a fabulous hectic mess of a time and I can’t wait to get back.

Olmsted in Brooklyn was Friday night’s first stop. This is a 50-cover neighbourhood restaurant in Prospect Heights, from chef/owner Greg Baxtrom. It’s a lovely space with an open kitchen and a relaxed but trendy feel. Arriving early, we had a drink outside in the bar/garden area, where some of the produce used in the kitchen is grown. Comically, the couple sharing the table with us were offered the comped fizz that was meant for us, which caused no end of confusion. [Explanation: we were comped because a friend from a serious London restaurant had made the booking, and the Olmsted staff thought we worked with said restaurant, another cause for hilarity.]

Olmsted is described as a neighbourhood restaurant, but it’s becoming quite famous, simply because the cooking is excellent (inventive and utterly delicious), and it’s very modestly priced considering how good it is. The wine list is compact and not-too-predictable, and we chose something a bit unusual: the first time I’ve tried a wine from Saale-Unstrut, the most northerly of Germany’s wine regions.

Herre Fray Lüttmer Frühburgunder 2015 Saale-Unstrut, Germany
This is from the most northerly wine region in Germany, at 51 degrees latitude, southwest of Berlin. Just 75 cases of this wine are made, from half a hectare. I’m very interested in Frühburgunder (also knows as Pinot Noir Precocé), which makes really nice wines in the Ahr Valley, and this example is lovely, too. It’s fresh and bright with raspberry and cherry fruit, and a slight pithy edge. This has a cool-climate feel to it with subtle pepper hints and good acidity. 92/100

We dined well on small plates, watching the busy kitchen working hard. One of the signature dishes here is watermelon sushi, and this lived up to its reputation. So, Olmsted? A hit, and I’d be back in a flash.

The Ten Bells

We’d started early, so it wasn’t too late to go somewhere else. Next stop was The Ten Bells, which describes itself as a tapas and natural wine bar. What’s not to like?

This was bustling on a Friday night, but we found some space and spent ages browsing the wine list. It’s a great wine list, and in the end we opted for something rare and unicorny.

Jean-Pierre Rietsch Pas à Pas Savagnin Rosé NV Alsace
From the Heiligenstein village, this is made in a solera system. In 2011 Jean-Pierre Rietsch had a fermentation of this rare variety that stuck at 15 g/l sugar, so the next year he refreshed it with new wine, and has kept on refreshing it since. It’s then periodically bottled with no added sulphites. Some oxidative apple notes together with textured pear fruit, a hint of raisin, and lovely grainy structure. Has a bit of saltiness with grainy, supple, sappy structure, as well as lemon, pear and spice on the finish. Such complexity. 94/100 ($74 on the list) (There’s a great write-up on Rietsch here at Wine Terroirs).

Ten Bells was dark, atmospheric and utterly charming. Another hit. (To be continued…)

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