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Vina Croatia: A Croatian Wine Region Tour in Midtown

Croatia may be a country known for its gorgeous coastline and striking Game of Thrones–inspiring structures, but its vineyards and wineries, steeped in tradition and history are also a huge part of its charm and appeal. Its dramatically diverse regions from the Alps to the Danube provide a variety of wines that can please every type of oenophile. Recently, a dinner held by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce at Midtown’s Brasserie 8 ½ gave us a taste of what the Croatian wine region has to offer.

Ten flights of wines from light whites and a rosé to deep full-bodied reds were expertly paired with a citrus shrimp appetizer, a choice of filet mignon or a rack of lamb, and warm pear with maple ice cream.

The introductory wine came from the Istria region— where the cold of the Alps mixes with the warmth of the Mediterranean, producing interesting wines such as the 2016 Kozlovic Malvazija (not pictured). It is a dry golden white with notes of fruits and spices and a slight hint of saltiness – which poetically sums up the melding of the coast and the mountains.

The next wine we tasted is a must for every rosé lover. The Erdutski Rosé is made from the Pinot Black grapes of the Slavonia region and has a warm blush pink color. It’s a refreshing medium body selection with a hint of cherries.

Staying within the Slavonia region, our next white wine on the Croatian wine region tour, the Vezak Graševina was a fine example of Croatia’s principal grape variety, the Graševina. The color of this dry white echoes the colors of the golden fields that are characteristic of the Croatian valleys. Its flowery aroma mixed with a fruity bouquet with a slight mineral aftertaste will compliment a seafood meal or a white meat platter.

A different take on the Graševina came in the form of a 2016 Riesling from Vina Antonovic. This wine is an earthy blend of green apples and floral blossoms with a similar mineral taste (albeit a little sweeter than the last white); this seems to be the recognizable trait of the Slavonia region and the Croatian Danube.

 

To say that the next white wine was blessed with the sweetness of citrus, peach, and roses would not be a stretch. The Žlahtina sv. Lucija (not pictured), named for the church of St. Lucy on the island of Krk, is a golden mix of yellow-greenish hues that pair well with meat, fish, rice, and polenta dishes. It certainly enhanced the taste of our rack of lamb.

The Miraz Graševina has won multiple awards for its dry but creamy taste. The vineyard’s wine fermentation process includes extensive supervision and temperature control. Smooth and full-bodied with deeply aromatic notes, this white wine with an enchanting green-yellow hue goes well with just about everything from poultry, to seafood, and pasta dishes.

During the second half of dinner, we were introduced to some very fine red wines. First up was the award-winning Dingač Berba 2015 from Dalmatia — a region known not only for those firehouse dogs but also for the Plavac Mali grapes. The variety is grown in the sun-drenched slopes and coasts of Dalmatia and produces full-bodied reds. This black dry wine had a berry aroma with a hint of a chocolate aftertaste. It brought out the spices in our main course but can also be enjoyed with mature cheeses.

The next Croatian wine region red wine was another award-winning Plavac, the Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru. The grapes, organically grown in the picturesque slopes of the island of Hvar, come from 35 to 50-year-old vines. The wine is then aged in French barrique barrels for two years and 6-12 months in the bottle. It’s a dry red with hints of leather, pepper, chocolate, and prunes. Its earthy quality is best paired with steaks and lobsters or both for a delectable surf and turf option. Depending on how big of a company you are having or how much you can consume (no judgments), there is small, medium, and large bottles available.

The third red wine was the Ivan Dolac Barrique, named for the aforementioned French barrel it matures in, 1also hails from Hvar. It’s a dry robust wine with a berry and almost floral aroma. It’s smooth and easy on the palette and makes a nice compliment to any roast game or grilled fish.

The final Croatian wine region wine of the night was the Kabola Muškat Momjanski, a perfect ending to our Croatian wine introduction. It went well with our warm pear and maple ice cream dessert. It’s a refreshing and medium-bodied white with notes of peaches, rose, and honey with a slight mineral quality that gives it a lingering taste. This is our pick for an ideal summer wine.

You can tell a lot about a country by its wines. The wines were a spectacular representation of the different regions that make up such a fascinating country. From the Mediterranean to the Alps, each wine embodied a distinct characteristic specific to the climate and the area they came from. Based on what we’ve tasted, we’re ready to spend a lot of time in Croatia! Are you excited to visit the Croatian wine region?

Restaurant Review: Brasserie 8 1/2 at the Solow Building

Going into midtown is not really the thing to do for New Yorkers unless you work in the area. We usually try to avoid the area, however, with a wonderful restaurant like French Brasserie, Brasserie 8 1/2 at the Solow Building, avoiding this area is not an option. What’s cool about the location of Brasserie 8 1/2 restaurant, given all the craziness around midtown, is the fact that you can retreat to the centrally located, spacious, and well-decorated haven for a well-prepared quick lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch.

The main street location of Brasserie 8 1/2 is great because not only is it near trains and office buildings, it’s not in the midst of clustered tourist hubs. On a fairly warm day, we headed away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy New York City streets to experience their sophisticated French cuisine. As soon as you head downstairs, you’ve entered in its quiet and serene open environment to enjoy a great culinary experience, courtesy of Chef Franck Deletrain, and an attentive staff.

Our culinary journey at Brasserie 8 1/2 started off with a few delightful wines, including a lovely Sancerre (French wine), crisp Chardonnay, and a sublime rose. They were the perfect pre-starters to wake up our taste buds for the onslaught of decadent french flavors we foodies were about to indulge in.

APPETIZERS

White Asparagus with Chanterelles Mushrooms, Fromage Blanc Flan, & Smoked Duck

DAVID: This was a delicate dish with distinct deep flavors. The smoked duck was buttery tender and its richness balanced nicely with the subtle tartness of the asparagus. The Fromage blanc flan was creamy, light and airy and surprisingly held its own against the pleasant earthy weight of the Chanterelles mushrooms and the smooth comforting texture of the white beans. It was like an eclectic garden farm remix dish.

GLASGOW: Because of my allergy to mushrooms, sadly I couldn’t partake in this dish but the look of content and satisfaction on David’s face said all I needed to know.

Grilled Octopus with Sunchokes Mousseline, Fingerling Potatoes, Espelette Pepper

DAVID: This was a melt-in-your-mouth freshness with a delicateness that octopus must have in order to be perfectly balanced with the fragrant charring. The sauces paired with it were savory and sweet adding nice opposing dimensions to the lovely neutrality of the octopus. The fingerlings added a nice familiar balance to the mélange of flavors with just a touch of creaminess.

GLASGOW: Every bite of this multi-textured appetizer was so flavorful. Octopus tends to be a bit gamey and chewy, but this perfectly grilled delight. I love the slight touch of nuttiness and sweetness the Sunchokes added to the dish, and the slight char on the octopus did not take away from its “melt-in-your-mouth” consistency. The Fingerling Potatoes added a touch of a rustic feel to the overall dish.

MAIN COURSES

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes

DAVID: This dish was textural overload in a great way. The light crispy outer of the crab cakes fell perfectly into the soft sweet and tender inner. Take the sweet and briny notes and add them with tang and sharpness of the horseradish and pickled red onions for a refreshing tartar sauce remix that doesn’t overpower but adds a nicely artisanal element to this dish. The sea beans create a smooth edge to the briny properties of the dish. It was a lovely arrangement of accents for the crab cakes.

GLASGOW: Although I had one one bite of the crab cake (I was saving room for my own entree), the sweetness of the crabmeat will forever remain with me. Even now, my taste memory is remembering the perfectly crisp crust (not too crisp) and the light yet juicy interior. My favorite part? No sign of any oily or greasy residue was left on the tongue, just a mouthful of fresh, sweet crabmeat.

Grilled Lamb Chops

DAVID: This was a rustic yet refined dish that had familiar elements offered up in a refreshingly remixed way. The delicate coffee rub on the tender buttery chops lent the sharp vibrant and deep flavor of the coffee nicely to the gamey loveliness of the lamb. The grilling of the chop sealed the deal for a nice marriage of smoky flavors and aromatic textures. The fingerlings, tomatoes, and asparagus were pleasant and piquant and a good pairing with the organic nature of the grilled chop and the earthy rub that created an air of hearty elegance.

GLASGOW: I must say, the taste of this dish was not what I expected. The full dish includes Fingerling Potatoes, Green Asparagus, Coffee Rub, and Charred Tomato Relish. I was fully expecting to have the very distinct taste of coffee with every bite of this dish, but I was pleasantly surprised (I’m not really a fan of coffee but I was just going against my norm) to not even get a hint of coffee. The coffee rub actually gave the lamb chops a very rustic, earthy flavor, with the fingerling potatoes and charred heirloom tomatoes adding to its earthiness. Of course, the lamb chops themselves (which I got medium well) were perfectly charred and smoky. In a word – sublime!

DESSERTS

Warm Molten Chocolate Cake

DAVID: The softness of the cake is perfect and just airy enough to take on the smooth depth of the espresso ice-cream that created a rich creamy pleasantness when it hit the molten ebony center. The balance of bitter and sweet created a deep finish reminiscent of the espresso that often finishes a great meal.

GLASGOW: I always get chocolate deserts but wanted something different, so I passed on trying this dish but visually, it’s sinfully decadent, and David was very happy.

Bosc Pear Tartlette

DAVID: The tart is decadently sweet, creamy and smooth and a great compliment to the fragrant spicy cinnamon ice-cream and the nutty aromatic toasted slivers of almond. The indulgent pear and the woody accompaniments created quite a finish.

GLASGOW: An amazing and elevated take on the classic apple tartlette, this Bosc Pear Tartlette is a reward for your taste buds. It was heaven in every bite, not overly sweet, the crust not too crunchy or hard, and although we’re in full spring mode, I thoroughly enjoyed these fall flavors. The pairing of cinnamon ice cream and almond Frangipane with the pear gave the perfect nod to the fall season without being too heavy on the reference.

The stylish French Brasserie 8 1/2 is located at 9 W 57th St, just steps from Fifth Avenue. While satisfying and rewarding your palate on their sophisticated French cuisine, you will love the breathtaking original artwork by Léger, Matisse and others favored by the Louvre.

Brasserie 8 1/2 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato