Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Holidays are for Nights Like This...

   Such a busy time the end of year holidays are, yet there is much joy to share in. This year we squeaked in a night out with some of our best friends at one of Philadelphia's best BYO's, Radicchio. It's hard to put into words how much fun this place is so luckily I have some pics to prove it, courtesy of our dear friend Sherry of Kobo Services.

The wine lineup of course was a big part of it. There's a Malbec from Alamos; A Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Boisson, which I have already written up on this blog; A Spanna from Vallana; and a couple of cherries from my cellar, a '07 Maison Bouachon Chateauneuf du Pape and a '97 Super Tuscan called Il Merlotto, a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend.

We started with some carpaccio with argula and shaved parmesan and some wonderful grilled baby artichokes with shrimp. The carpaccio was all melt in your mouth sweetness and the baby artichokes were cooked perfectly and drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil, the grilling adding a smokiness to the full bore flavor of the chokes. The shrimp did seem to be an unnecessary add on.

The star of the show at Radicchio however, is always the grilled octopus. I have never had such a tender plate of octopus, with the grill flavor bringing out the best of this often ignored delicacy.
Follow that with house made rigatoni with mussels and clams in a beautiful garlicky white sauce, and it starts getting hard to pack it all in.

A 2008 Gilbert Picq Chablis imported by one of my favorites, Polaner Selections, was the perfect wine for this course. I'm a big fan of this entry level Chablis, whose unoaked Chardonnay flavor, bracing acidity and distinct aromas of pear, apple and wet stones are perfect accompaniments for seafood. The '08s are wonderfully minerally in a way that the '09s are not, it being a riper, fruitier vintage. This example cost me $17.99.

I have to go off about the Spanna also. As a Nebbiolo fan, the most important red grape of Piedmont, there are few good examples of Nebbiolo based wines in the everyday category. Barbaresco and Barolo, the two most important wines made from that noble grape, are expensive and in need of extended aging to really show their best. This Spanna from the Colline Novarese zone and produced by one of the venerable old names, Vallana, is an incredible bargain at $13.99. It's soaring aromatics feature bitter cherry, liquorice and violets along with notes of saddle leather. It's flavors are equally large and mouth filling with the cherry and liquorice flavors standing out above all. It finishes lightly tannic and long. I wish more folks would take a chance on wines like this when they pop up in stores. They are so different yet so special. "Sir, put down the Cabernet and step away from the rack"

We also had a couple of entrees that were good but almost beside the point after all the appys. The Halibut was delicious but a thin hangar steak with mushrooms was overcooked and bland. Still, Radicchio is a must destination if you find yourself hungry and in Philadelphia. Oh yeah, the desserts are great also. Cheers and I hope everyone has a great 2012.

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