FNO 2011: Jeffrey Steingarten Talks Malbec and Tomato Sandwiches

Thu, September 8, 2011OC
FNO 2011: Jeffrey Steingarten Talks Malbec and Tomato Sandwiches
by GILLIAN TOZER | Open Ceremony New News.

090711-jeff2[1]I managed to sneak in a quick chat with author, Vogue food critic and Iron Chef judge Jeffrey Steingarten, on the eve of his OC FNO appearance. Among all the other mercado festivities, Mr Steingarten will host a wine tasting and discuss Laura Catena’s publication, ‘VINO ARGENTINO.’ Laura is the daughter of Nicolas Catena, Argentina’s most celebrated winemaker. See you all at the mercado!

How and when did you first come across Laura Catena’s book, Vino Argentino?
Well it was about two years ago, when Laura was in New York. We sat next to each other at a lunch. I almost never attend lunches, but I wanted to learn more about Argentinean wines, and I knew how important her family is to Argentinean wines, so I accepted the invitation. I had a wonderful time with her and learned a lot (there’s so much to learn) about her family’s wines in contrast to those of other parts of the world.

What is it about Argentinean wine that makes it distinctive it from others?

It’s not easy to describe (I’m not a wine expert, first of all). But Argentinean wines are certainly on the rise. Their red wines are the most famous, and their white wines are good as well.

Argentina has several wine producing regions. Mendoza, the one which Laura’s family is from, is the best one. There’s very little rainfall there, which concentrates the flavor. It also means that there’s less wine coming out of it, which makes it more expensive to produce. The main Argentinean red grape is actually French, and its dark, spicy character distinguishes it from others. Other distinct flavors come from Malbec grapes, which taste like spiced fruit and are full of flavor.

You’re stranded on a lonely, tropical island, what are your 5 food necessities?
1. I would have to have an endless supply of young coconuts, past the green stage, for coconut water.
2. Coffee
3. Cheese
4. Red wine, scotch or whiskey
5. Fish
And 6! Bread (that I bake myself).

You’ve had a horrible day, what do you make yourself for dinner?
The answer would change seasonally. In the summer, I’d have to say fruit – we’ve had two months of nearly perfect cherries, my favorite, and white nectarines. There’s almost nothing better to eat, except for cheese! So this summer when I’ve come home, I’ve always had a lot of fruit in the fridge or on the table, getting ripe, and that’s enough for me. During the springtime and fall I love omelets, but the one really delicious thing is tomato sandwiches on white bread. Which consists of toasted bread, like crostini, sprinkled with olive oil, salted and sliced tomatoes, more olive oil with salt and pepper. You don’t need anything with it except for water, or maybe wine. In the winter, if I don’t have time to cook, there used to be Chinese restaurants in my area that would satisfy me, but there are very few now. Probably because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in China. The best Chinese cuisine, might possibly be Szechuan.

Come see Jeffrey conduct an Argentinean wine tasting at our FNO mercado, tonight at the Ace Hotel!