Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Restaurant News

Dining Planner: It's Beaujolais nouveau time, plus two new openings

CHEERS: Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

Today: Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

Like clockwork, on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais nouveau arrives. And just as reliably, the snarking begins. The Beaujolais nouveau craze, which may have reached its frenzied acme in the 1980s, has long been considered more marketing razzle-dazzle than substance. There are boat races, helicopter airlifts and a host of more romantic conveyances each year to disseminate nearly 70 million bottles of deep-purple wine across the globe (much of it tippled in Japan, the United States and Germany). It's not an age-old phenomenon — until World War II, it was a wine only for local consumption.

Made entirely of from the thin-skinned gamay grape from two appellations south of France's Burgundy region, the year's youngest wines are made via a process called carbonic maceration. Whole grapes are tossed into a tank and the process starts right there, each grape fermenting in its own skin. Because the grapes aren't crushed, tannins are minimized and fruit flavors maximized, the upshot being a light-bodied, fresh and fruity wine with flavors often described as strawberry, bubblegum, kirsch and banana.

According to Pete Celli, the wine buyer for Pasadena Liquors & Fine Wines, interest has dropped off a bit in recent years.

"Ten years ago we stocked 60 to 70 cases and now we're down to about 20. It's lost its cachet a little bit."

Still, the truth is that this fruity quaff pairs nicely with Thanksgiving fare. So grab a couple bottles, but if you want to get a sense for this year's offerings, there are a few Tampa Bay opportunities (in Beaujolais, on the other hand, there are nearly 150 full-throttle festivals and such).

Café Largo does a Beaujolais nouveau wine dinner every year. This year's is $64.50 and includes endless BN ($49.50 without wine) and a specially paired menu that includes choices of coq au vin, salmon and cassoulet. It's available tonight through Saturday. 12551 Indian Rocks Road, Largo; (727) 596-6282.

American Spirits Fine Wine & Liquor hosts Gobble Til You Wobble on Friday, 6 to 8 p.m. For $10, you can sample wines to served with your holiday feast including pinot noir, Beaujolais cru, grenache, shiraz, riesling, rose and Chablis. The event benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 280 Third St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 895-8700.

Pasadena Liquors & Fine Wines hosts their annual tasting on Friday showcasing the young wines (and other Thanksgiving appropriate bottlings like the more sophisticated Beaujolais cru). For $15, visitors taste an array of wines paired with hors d'oeuvres. 1100 Pasadena Ave. S, South Pasadena; (727) 347-9607.

OPENING THIS WEEK: GREY SALT

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa welcomes New York celebrity chef Marc Murphy and the opening of his Grey Salt, a Mediterranean restaurant that takes the place of the Green Room. It opens to the public today, following Wednesday evening's media preview.

Murphy has been a regular judge on Food Network's Chopped, with frequent appearances on other hit series such as Guy's Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. His debut cookbook, Season With Authority, was released in April.

But it is his work as the head of Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy, with hot New York destinations such as Landmarc in Tribeca, Landmarc at the Time Warner Center and Kingside at the Viceroy New York, that excited the Hard Rock team.

The 250-seat restaurant was designed by TBD Design with a restrained palette of warm, neutral materials accented by rosemary planters, preserved lemons, spice jars, olive oil, wine and firewood for the grills. Murphy's menu, overseen by executive chef Chris Hine, will showcase sunny Mediterranean dishes such as grilled gulf shrimp spiedini with charred lemon and scallion or spicy lamb and tzatziki grilled flatbread, supported by an international selection of wines focusing on the Mediterranean region served by the quartino, half and full bottles.

TOM+CHEE

Cincinnati-based restaurant Tom+Chee opens its first Tampa Bay area location on Friday. The 80-seat, 2,600-square-foot restaurant is located at 6802 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Specializing in tomato soup and grilled cheese, Tom+Chee is known for its quirky takes on comfort food classics (even better: with no fryers, freezers or microwaves). From the vegetarian Hippy+Chee to the offbeat Grilled Cheese Donut, Tom+Chee offers more than grilled cheese sandwiches, plus fresh salads, three versions of tomato soup, and an array of specials. The chain currently has 170 stores under contract in 20 states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Colorado and Georgia. tomandchee.com.

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