Chewing The Fat
There aren't a lot of fleshy foodstuffs we like better than a tangy slice of slithery prosciutto, paper-thin and marbled white with delicate fat. Fat's the trick: it is an amazing thing, the very soul of flavor (for carnivores, at least) and, as any ham junkie will tell you, prosciutto is perhaps the pinnacle of fat. Fat perfected, and perfectly integrated with the dusky pink flesh that is its natural counterpart.
But hell if we know how to butcher an entire leg of prosciutto, to translate that aged limb of pork into the tender leaflets that we so ardently crave. Thus, non-procrastinatory Soup to Nuts has reserved Thursday, Aug. 3, from 1-4 p.m. at Grace's Marketplace, when Raffael Tinti of Carpegna Prosciutto will whip out his special prosciutto blade and conduct a demonstration on how to carve the splendid product. No more too-thick, clumsily hacked prosciutto for us. He'll also explain why prosciutto is so daggone good, and, furthermore, why Carpegna prosciutto tasks better than everybody else's. Mind you, we won't walk away from the seminar with a whole leg of prosciutto?we'll need to call Urbani Truffles & Caviar (800-281-2330, www.urbani.com) for that?but if Tinti's knifework stokes our appetite, we can load up on the sliced product and nosh our way back to far grimmer environs than the Upper East Side.
Grace's Marketplace is at 1237 3rd Ave. (71st St.), 737-0600.
We don't know how you feel about going into the wine business, but take Soup to Nuts' advice and don't. Remember, bored aspirants to winemaker cool, that viticulture is essentially farming. That's right, peasant labor. Worse, labor that's entirely dependent on such fickle intangibles as soil and weather and the obsessive avoidance of destructive pests and the vagaries of migrant coolies. Hoeing and tilling and pruning and... Christ, hard-ass work, all under the interminable scald of a merciless sun. Your back breaks. Your hands bend and blister. And then, after an anxiety-ridden growing season, you harvest the grapes and...you haven't even got any wine yet! So there it is, and if you still aren't discouraged, allow us to point out that, according to recent reports, Gristina Vineyards, out on the North Fork of Long Island, is up for sale. Asking price: $5.5 million. Acreage: 87. We've been to Gristina before and sampled some of their wines and figure that, if you're planning to set your sights on becoming the Robert Mondavi of the East, Gristina might be the vineyard to purchase. Compared with what properties go for in Napa, $5.5 is chump change. Plus, Gristina has produced one of the most unusual?and, we think, encouraging?wines to come out of the North Fork: 1997's Cabernet Franc ($20). Now wait, isn't the North Fork supposed to specialize in merlot when it comes to red wine? Sure, but to be honest, most of the affordable merlot we tried out there has been?to be charitable?a work in progress. True, there are a few boutique merlots, but we still think the region has had better luck with chardonnay. But then along came Gristina's cabernet franc, and we took notice. Cabernet franc is most often found as a blending grape in Bordeaux, but some California producers have found success with it as a stand-alone. Gristina's was remarkable in that it showcased a whole cluster of red-wine qualities that are not often enjoyed in American vintages. The color is a deep, blood-ruby, the aroma that of wet grass. Sound weird? That's nothing compared to the flavors, which are fruity at first, but shift rapidly toward the herbal and the vegetal. Then comes the really freaky stuff: a blood-and-iron finish.
We've experienced this style of red before, in offbeat French bottlings, but this was the first time discovering it in a New World wine. And from Long Island, no less. Okay, so you aren't going to want to drink the oenophilic equivalent of a vampire's quaff with everything. But let us ponder: What would flavors of blood and iron naturally companion? A big fat grilled steak. Unlike cabernet sauvignon, which can sometimes seem a tad highblown for a husky hunk of seared steer, Gristina's cabernet franc is unambiguous about what it likes. Sinew. Sanguine fibers. A basic chew. Here's what you call a red like this: medieval. Interestingly, the alcohol level is relatively low, only 12 percent. Calls to the winery suggest that there's very little of the '97 vintage left, and it looks as if the '98 won't be out until after the summer. So, if you're out that way, get some.
Gristina Vineyards is at Rte. 25, Main Rd., Cutchogue, 631-734-7089.
Contributor: Matthew DeBord. E-mail tips and comments to [email@example.com](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) or fax to 244-9864.