The Calling. A toast to Jim Nantz and Chef Zack Bruell

“Hello, friends” (in my best Jim Nantz voice) Such an iconic sports figure and such a charming personality.  The legendary CBS Sports broadcaster is joining forces with a legendary Cleveland chef, Zack Bruell, for an excellent summer pour…courtesy of The Calling.

zack and jim nantz

I had the honor and privilege to attend a luxurious event this week, a multi-stop wine tasting featuring the wine label from CBS Sports Commentator, Jim Nantz, and his partner, Peter Deutsch.

The free, public event, offered pours from The Calling, with a side car of back story from Nantz, Deutsch and Bruell, three pretty excellent story tellers.  We were first offered their Chardonnay, a beautifully balanced 100% Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.  Tasting notes include stone fruit, citrus, melon, toasted nuts and vanilla bean.  It was creamy, which to me, is rare with this variety.

Next we were poured an incredible Pinot Noir.  Probably the best I’ve had in memory.  100% Pinot grapes from the same region mentioned above.  I could taste cherry, and cranberry.  What a velvety wine! Price point around $35.

And finally, we were offered a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  It’s 89% Cab, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 100% DELISH!   It presented blackberry and plum tasting notes, with a hint of coffee and a lingering finish.

Fans of wine, Nantz, and Bruell could meet up with the trio at L’Albatros Brasserie, Table 45, Parallax or Alley Cat Oyster Bar, and hear about the goal of this new vintage: become the new great American premium wine brand. The big name broadcaster chose not to put his name on the bottle.  Instead he wanted the wine to stand on it’s own. He and Deutsch got together after a chance meeting at a restaurant in Connecticut right after Deutsch had just finished reading Nantz’s book about his father, Always By My Side.  Nantz had long wanted to get involved in the wine industry.  Both wanted to start an endeavor to honor their fathers.  Several years later, they have a brand their fathers would be proud of.

tour de bruell card

Nantz said he is competing to win.  In fact, he said he wasn’t even going to enter the arena unless he was going to win.  Sip for yourself and be the judge.  The Calling is the official wine of this year’s Tour de Bruell. (I got my first stamp this week!)  You can get it at all Zack Bruell’s restaurants and Heinens grocery stores.

 

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Chef’s Garden

Every chef I’ve ever met speaks about the importance of fresh ingredients and working with what’s in season.  What better way to control the quality of what you serve, than to grow it yourself?  

Unless you’re a regular, you probably would never know the volumes of produce grown behind one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland, L’Albatros Brasserie + Bar.  A tour of their garden left me hungry for a fresh summer salad and ashamed that I haven’t been taking better care of my own garden!

Chef de Cuisine, Temple Turner was gracious enough to show me around and walk me through what they’re growing, and what they make from their more than modest garden.

L'Albatros-greens

The staff works with a gardener, Lois, to plot out their plots and designate the best picking times for things like thyme and basil.  Turner says they are trying to get as many greens in the ground as they can fit.  They use things like Swiss chard and kale for salad specials.

L'Albatros-watercress-table2

Their two cascading watercress tables are just amazing.  They harvest from there every day for use in Watercress Cesar Salads and for garnish on nearly every other entree.

Chef-Temple-Turner

Fragrant concord grapes cover the back fencing.  Turner says they’ll use it in a sorbet, a compote for desserts or a sauce on a protein.  Same goes for the bright and bold currants.

L'Albatros-currants

About 20% of their produce during high season comes from their own garden, but they’d like it to be more.

FRISÉE AND BACON LARDONS WITH POACHED EGG

FRISÉE AND BACON LARDONS WITH POACHED EGG

“It provides some options when a picky table or diner asks to switch things up.  We pick out something from the garden as an alternative, harvest it and cook it on the spot…fresh from the garden,” the chef says.

Peppered throughout the plots are baby strawberry plants.  The fruit easily wilts almost immediately after you pick it.  So rather than incorporating them into dishes, they’ll offer them up to diners during garden tours.  Two or three times a night, guests are brought out into this little oasis after their meal, as a way to showcase what the restaurant does with the space.

L'Albatros-wildflowers

Even the flowers you’ll see decorating the bar, dining room and bathrooms come from this same garden

“It was tough to get it off the ground, and coordinate what they could harvest but once that was determined it got easier,” says Turner.

L'Albatros-watercress-salad

With limited space in the kitchen, trying to coordinate when to harvest and clean large volumes of their own produce in the kitchen is tricky.  But when you taste things like this watercress salad, made up on the fly in the L’Albatros kitchen, you’ll see it’s worth it.

Zack-Bruell-Oil-and-Vinegar