Open Up Your Palate and Mind to the Pleasures of the Aperitif
By Francine Cohen
Starting a conversation with “I’m sorry…” is usually the domain of errant boyfriends and husbands, naughty children, and dirty politicians at press conferences. Now, add to that list, very fortunate (yet guilty) editors.
You must know, we mean it. We really are feeling a little guilty about spending an entire “Don’t Miss” column telling you about a product you’ll possibly never taste because it was produced in such a limited quantity that only 1,000 bottles total made it to the US.
But we can’t help it. Why? Because, even if you can’t find it at your favorite bar or track down one of the bottles still on liquor store shelves in NYC and CA you need to know about the existence of the deliciousness that is Jean De Lillet 2009; the vintage aperitif made from grapes ripened in what was a very good year in Bordeaux.
The juice, which was aged in French oak, offers up a lot of the wood on the nose, producing a slightly more bitter product than the traditional Lillet blanc. The extra aging process results in additional variances from its blanc cousin, such as a fuller and richer mouthfeel thanks to extra viscosity. The expected bittersweet and floral notes do come through on this golden hued Jean de Lillet 2009 just as they do on the blanc.
Tempting, right? We hope you’ll find it somewhere. If you can’t, at least you may want to understand why…Lillet’s brand ambassador, Amanda Boccato, comments on the limited supply limited and what to do if you can get some, “The grapes come from a single vineyard in the Sauterne region and with single vineyard growth there is a limited amount of grapes available for production. It is definitely a bottle you can put away for 15 years. Buy two. Put one away for 15 years and enjoy the other with someone you care about. If you can get your hands on them.
Unlike the other variations of the product I don’t recommend it on ice. Keep it chilled in a wine glass. 3-4 oz pour. You can get fancy and drop a star anise in it and that really opens up the flavor.”
The good news is that while 2009 was known to be a great year for Bordeaux it wasn’t the only good year for grapes in that region; so you have something to look forward to-there will be a 2010 vintage bottle available next year. And we hear the quantity will be greater than the just 1,000 bottles of the 2009 that were made available for the entire United States.
As a balm to your sadness (or maybe we’re just trying to make up for our guilt) we’d like to remind you that even if you can’t enjoy Jean de Lillet 2009 there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy Lillet and other aperitifs. Every day. And what’s a better day than today, National Aperitif Day, to start exploring the joys of aperitifs? Check out all these places around the country offering special aperitif cocktails.
The Broken Shaker – http://thefreehand.com/venues/the-broken-shaker/
Fontainebleau’s Bleau Bar – www.fontainebleau.com/web/nightlife/bleau_bar/
Taverna Aventine – www.aventinesf.com
Grand Café – www.grandcafe-sf.com
Café Des Amis – www.cafedesamissf.com
Cercle Rouge – www.cerclerougeresto.com
Want to celebrate the elegance of the aperitif hour at home? Open up your palate and pair your aperitifs with one of these recipes from Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Marinated Watermelon with Olives, Feta, and Basil
Pairs with Lillet Rouge
Serves: 4 canapés
4 each Red Seedless Watermelon, cut into 1″x1″ cubes
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
½ teaspoon Shallots, finely minced
½ teaspoon Chives, finely sliced
¼ cup Feta Cheese, Crumbled
1 teaspoon Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
½ teaspoon Basil, Finely Minced
1. In a small bowl, combine the watermelon, olive oil, balsamic, and shallots. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. In a separate small bowl, combine the chives, feta, olives, and basil. Top each watermelon cube with the mixture and serve on a skewer or at the end of a small fork.
Oyster on the Half Shell with Pickled Husk Cherry and Lillet Rosé Gelée
Pairs with Lillet Rosé
Serves: 4 canapés
½ cup White Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Granulated Sugar
¼ teaspoon Mustard Seeds
¼ teaspoon Cardamom
½ teaspoon Salt
½ cup Lillet Rosé
1 sheet Gelatin, Soaked in Ice water and Drained
4 each Husk Cherries (goose berries), cut in half
4 each Oysters, on the half shell, chilled
Fresh Ground Pepper
1. In a small sauce pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, cardamom, and salt. Add 3 turns of fresh cracked pepper. Bring to a boil and pour over the husk cherries and chill completely.
2. Bring the Lillet Rose to a boil and whisk in the gelatin. Strain the liquid and set in a small cup. Chill the mixture until a jelly is formed.
3. To serve, spoon a small amount of the jelly between each oyster and garnish with two halves of the pickled husk cherries.
White Gazpacho with Lillet Blanc
Pairs with Lillet Blanc
Serves: 10 canapés
½ teaspoon Shallots
½ cup Almonds
1 cup Green Apples, peeled
1 cup English Cucumbers
1 cup Green Grapes
1 slice White Bread, crusts removed
½ cup Lillet Blanc
1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Sparkling Water
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
1. In a blender, puree the shallots, almonds, apples, cucumber, bread, Lillet Blanc, sherry, and sparkling water. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
2. With the blender running, emulsify the olive oil into the mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and serve very chilled.