by: B.A. Nilsson
Bask in Amontillado
popularity of sherry continues to wane, but the adventurous
oenophile can find plenty of palate- and pocket-pleasing variety
in this overlooked libation
So there I was in London, a high-school junior on a theater
tour, in a pub with some classmates. One of them, Rebecca,
had been my co-star in a just-finished Blithe Spirit,
playing Ruth, my wife, whom I was supposed to kiss during
the first scene.
When I learned that she would be playing the role, my knees
weakened because I found her one of the most gorgeous and
desirable young women in the school. I enjoyed elaborate fantasies
that consisted of nothing but working into an oscular frenzy
with me. Now it was demanded of me, and there she stood with
dewy, pouting lips, waiting.
I trembled. I froze. I looked at her oh-so-beautiful face
and I became an inert mass of outsized protoplasm. “For God’s
sake!” the director shouted. “Just kiss her!” And everybody
in the rehearsal hall dissolved into laughter.
It was eventually decided that I should kiss her on the back
of the neck, which was a less painful (and far less pleasurable)
compromise. Yet I felt that she silently understood my dilemma
and realized my passion.
And there I was in a foreign land, sitting beside her, freed
from the legal confines of the States, watching my classmates
order drinks of sickly sweetness and an occasional vodka martini.
And she asked me to order her something.
sherries,” I told the barmaid. “Amontillado.” The amber fluid
was served in a small wine glass, unlike anything else our
table was drinking. We raised our glasses and toasted one
another. Rebecca sipped and made a face. “Ewww!” she cried.
“This is awful! What is it?”
It’s probably your finest wine bargain, yet it’s tragically
unhip. During the past year, I’ve been conducting an informal,
unscientific poll, asking for it at many of the restaurants
I’ve recently visited. Too often, the bartender or server
looks at me as if I’d just asked for Moxie or mare’s sweat.
A glass of good sherry is an unbelievably wonderful way to
begin a meal, to post-prandially relax, to savor the complex
flavors of some of the world’s oldest wine grapes. Yet it
has turned into some kind of secret. If people think of it
at all, they probably associate it with effete English detectives
sipping it at the outset of some Masterpiece Theatre
Sherry is a fortified wine from Spain’s Jerez region, on the
country’s southern coast, which dates its viticulture back
to the Phoenecian occupation of 1100 B.C. thanks to the writings
of first-century Greek geographer Strabo. And sherry still
flourished when the Moors occupied Spain for several centuries.
The British craze for the wine took off during the reign of
Henry I, who traded English wool for his favorite drink. According
to legend, Shakespeare and his pal Ben Jonson used to put
away a few bottles of the stuff whenever they visited the
Boar’s Head Tavern together.
Sherry is based on the Palomino grape, which makes a lousy
wine but excellent sherry. The product appears in three major
Fino, the driest, forms a thick yeast layer in the barrel
that keeps the wine away from oxygen. Like all sherry, it’s
mixed with brandy, then goes through the Solera system, in
which wine from different vintages are blended to give the
result a consistent flavor. This year’s bottling, in other
words, will be just as good as what you sampled five or 20
years ago. Fino is always served chilled and has a fairly
short life. As Craig Camp, wine and spirits editor of egullet.com
puts it, “When you see an open bottle of unchilled Fino on
the back of the bar, run away as fast as you can.” Amontillado,
a cask of which figured in a famous Poe story, is an aged
Fino with some late-in-its-processing oxidization.
Oloroso gets the oxygen Fino doesn’t, and develops a darker
color even as it maintains an impressive dryness and a lot
(comparatively) of alcohol. A fine Oloroso is worth whatever
you spend on it; happily, you don’t have to spend much.
Cream sherry, the most familiar variety, is an Oloroso blended
with a sweet wine like Pedro Ximénez, a grape that’s ripened
into sugar-rich raisins before being picked and processed.
Although it works best as a dessert wine, many people think
this is all there is to sherry, and thus miss out on the complex
range of flavor available at a relatively low cost.
have regulars who buy sherry,” says Todd Yutzler, manager
of Delaware Plaza Wine and Liquor. “They keep it going. The
old-timers still like Harvey’s Bristol Cream, but I’ve found
that people who like Bordeaux and big California cabs like
dry sherry.” Yutzler keeps a sherry selection on hand, but
finds it hard to maintain a variety what with the ever-shrinking
people aren’t willing to check out the unknown,” he says.
“I remember when Harvey’s went on a big push to make their
product appear hip and to try to attract a younger generation,
but after a year they canned it.”
The versatility of a good Fino is such that it’s an ideal
companion to a variety of foods, from spicy meats to vinegary
sushi. And it’s at its most classic as an aperitif, served
fresh and well chilled.
I don’t recall the condition of the Amontillado served to
Rebecca and me in that London pub. Her reaction took me so
much by surprise. “I thought it was going to be some kind
of a cherry drink!” And so it was that she went out
dancing with a vodka-martini type, leaving me to console myself
with this undervalued wine. I even drank hers.
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..