Dining Reviews

Birichino Winery’s Pinot Noir Served at the White House

Shadowbrook’s 2022 plans and that ‘Ingmar Bergman’ feeling of a new year

Alex Krause’s Birichino 2018 Pinot was served at the White House Thanksgiving dinner. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Congratulations to Birichino Winery and winemaker Alex Krause, whose excellent Saint Georges 2018 Pinot Noir was on the 2021 Thanksgiving Dinner menu—at the White House! Made from Central Coast grapes, this lovely wine floats on 13.5% alcohol. Elegant, balanced tannins, loaded with raspberry fruit notes. Krause admits to being stoked. “I’m especially grateful it’s at Joe and Jill’s table, rather than some other guy’s … It is a special honor and thrill to know that our wines have been served there. I had no idea this was happening. We only received notice after the fact, and I’m not sure how it was selected.” Krause revealed that before Birichino existed, he was “lucky enough to meet one of the people in charge of wine for the White House, and he was kind enough to give me a private tour of the White House, which was absolutely exhilarating.” Krause added that in terms of the honor’s PR value for the Birichino label, “I suppose it has some, but it’s mostly personal pride, and gratitude and a small measure of disbelief that our little Santa Cruz winery has been served at America’s Table, as they call it.” Look for the 2018 Pinot Noir—check the Church St. Tasting Room. It’s gorgeous with steelhead.

New Not-Normal

Ted Burke of the Shadowbrook has seen it all. And this is what he says about now: “It has been quite a struggle not only for restaurateurs but also for our staff. Being completely closed for eight months out of the 12 months of Covid-related regulations and lockdowns dug a big hole in our finances. Fortunately, 40+ years of operations build up sufficient reserves to get us through, but also dug a hole in a well-trained staff.  The third closure—which came like the others with little or no notice of shutdown—was understandably the tipping point for many who needed a reliable source of income for their rent obligations, car payments, student loans, etc.  So many not only left us but also left the restaurant industry, as it was deemed in this ‘new normal’ to be unstable and unreliable for their needs.” Burke also believes that outdoor dining during the winter months, “limits their options and their spending for our business and for staff.” So how is Shadowbrook planning for the new year? “Our answer is to take it day by day, be grateful for the blessings that come, and be prepared for the challenges that persist. I am hopeful that either the virus or the way that it is being dealt with will change for the better. The ‘new normal’ is not one that we hope stays fully in place.” Amen to that!

Cleaning Out, Stocking Up

January feels like an Ingmar Bergman film: crisp, chilly, and filled with regret over the acres of cookies, turkey, chile verde, pumpkin pie and other rich foods you might have recently consumed. If your house is anything like mine, it’s sticky with butter and sugar, and cries out for a deep, scrub-out-the-old, ring-in-the-new cleaning. Unappealing though it may be, nothing is as soul-gratifying as throwing out all the gummy jars of jam, the chutney darkened to the color and texture of tarmac, that container of olives that has taught itself to speak perfect Latvian, the antique yam turning purple in the bottom of the crisper. Once that’s done (ugh), you can scour and disinfect the shelves, wipe dry, and start over. Chez moi that means new containers of Cholula, tamari, sriracha, hot mango chutney, Tiptree orange marmalade (medium cut), prosciutto, Irish butter, Gerolsteiner mineral water, chunky peanut butter, dried apricots, parmesan reggiano, usw.

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