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FOOD & DRINK

OUR MONTHLY MENU OF TRENDS & TIDBITS
By D Magazine |

RESTAURANTS



Where’s Avner?

Chef Samuel seems to like moveable feasts.



DALLASITES CAN PLAY THEIR own culinary version of “Where’s Waldo?” by simply trying to guess where gifted though peripatetic chef Avner Samuel will turn up next. Since his first Dallas gig in 1981 running the kitchen at The Mansion. Avner has donned the aprons of at least six Dallas restaurants and one in England.

Here’s the trail: From his Dallas start at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in 1981, Avner moved to the Crescent Court Hotel in 1985, the Fairmont Hotel in 1987, the re-opening of the Churchill Hotel in England in 1990, the opening of Avner’s on McKinney in 1991, to Yellow in 1993, time off in 1994, the Melrose Hotel in 1995, opening the Joint on Cedar Springs in 1996, and now, back to Yellow.

Wherever Avner goes, controversy follows. He left the Melrose, according to him, after helping out during the holidays when the hotel was without an executive chef; other sources say he stormed out after a particularly volatile meeting. Another controversy: Avner says he created The Mansion’s much-acclaimed tortilla soup, totally redoing the previous recipe. But Dean Fearing, The Mansion’s current executive chef, says he revamped Avner’s recipe about eight years ago, replacing the chili powder with whole, dried ground-in-the-kitchen chiles.

Avner describes his menu at Yellow as “global eclectic,” which is a pretty fair description of the man himself, One thing stays consistent though: Av-ner’s cooking is solidly good.

-Suzanne Hough

ETIQUETTE

WORD TO COGNAC DRINKERS: DITCH THE SNIFTER!

Warning: The French are laugh-ing at us, according to Claire Coates, a Paris-based cognac spokeswoman. Yes, we brash, uncivilized upstarts are once again displaying our cultural ignorance.

Every time we savor a sip of cognac from a sifter or, even worse, light the wick on a snifter warmer, we’re once again demonstrating how gauche we Americans are. Quelle horreur, we’re using the wrong glasses!

Robert Orenstein, president of Dallas-based International Wine Accessories, says the correct glasses in which to serve cognac are tulip-shaped, designed thusly to concentrate the nuances of the bouquet and balance the fruit and acidity of the cognac. Orenstein has noticed an increase in the numbers of people ordering the tulip-shaped glasses from his catalog, so some are getting the anti-snifter message. He sells two types-one for young cognacs, one for aged cognacs. The latter has a slightly wider base and a narrower top, to more closely concentrate the fruit essence that dissipates with age.

“Nobody in Europe wants to use [snifters] anymore,” Orenstein says, confirming our worst fear: that all of civilized western Europe is laughing at us, along with the French. Oh, well-a votre santé! -S.H.

WINE

KORBEL’S NEW CHARDONNAY CHAMPAGNE SPARKLES

Since its peak in the mid-’80s, when Wail Street was gulping Dom Perignon like post-boom Dallasites were guzzling Maalox, champagne consumption in the United States has been flat Korbel, the top premium American Champagne producer, has largely beat the trend with clever promotions, TV advertising, limited-edition bottles and celebrity labels. Now Korbel’s trying to froth up this market segment with a “totally new” bottle of bubbles: Chardonnay Champagne.

But given that premium sparkling wines are already made primarily from chardonnay or pinot noir grapes, isn’t Korbel just attempting to capitalize on chardonnay’s market appeal? Yes, but it’s also put a little twist in the traditional champagne recipe by aging the base wine in oak barrels and inducing malolactic fermentation-the process that gives chardonnay its buttery, creamy flavor-before the bubble-producing secondary fermentation. The result is crisp and refreshing, with pronounced fruit and noticeably less prickliness than traditional sparklers-a great aperitif or pool quaffer ($12.99, available everywhere).

-Mark Stuertz