the grub street diet

Wine Writer Bianca Bosker Wants to Go All Out With Dom Pérignon and J.G. Melon Burgers

At Dainobu. Photo: Liz Clayman

Through her best-selling book Cork Dork, journalist Bianca Bosker studied the world of wine, turning herself from an amateur drinker into a certified sommelier. In her day-to-day life, she takes a high-low approach to her drinking, opting for leftover Mondeuse Noire at home and 1996 Château d’Yquem during a party at Terroir. (Ah, the finer things.) Of course, it’s not all wine, and her eating this week included multiple rounds of Rôtisserie Georgette potatoes, pumpkin bread with whipped cream, and a whole lot of aged cheddar. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Thursday, November 2
I kick off every workday at the only place in the city I can confidently call myself a regular: a coffee cart on East 69th Street. I might be third in line, or turning the corner onto the block, but the minute I lock eyes with the two men in the stand, they start making my order, and I get a rush every time. Technically, it’s a medium coffee with milk, no sugar. To me, it’s proof I belong to the fabric of New York City.

While training as a sommelier, I ditched coffee in the hopes of improving my palate, but in the throes of writing Cork Dork, I took it up again. (Next to black-market Adderall, it seemed like the lesser of two evils.) I can’t write a sentence unless I’m eating, drinking, or chewing gum, and the coffee goes on my desk with the rest of my typing fuel. Today, it’s a pot of Ippodo’s genmaicha green tea, plus a fried egg on a Thomas’ English muffin, which I consider a perfect food.

For lunch, I venture out to Rôtisserie Georgette to meet Karen Page, author of Kitchen Creativity, to discuss an event we’re doing this weekend. I order a salad with roast chicken and a side of French fries to share with Karen, which I immediately regret. The potatoes are a revelation, and I want them all.

At home, I’m greeted by a surprise care package from two couples in Wisconsin I met on book tour: a six-pack of Milwaukee’s Best, ten blocks of cheddar, seven packages of sausage and salami, and a Packers jersey. I am almost moved to tears. Nothing says love like cheese.

Tonight, I’m at the New York Society Library reading and leading a wine tasting, and I’ve learned from experience to pad my stomach beforehand. I’m queasy with nerves, as always, but force down half a block of sharp white cheddar, neat.

As I am both hangry and near my apartment, I go home after, and dinner is a flight of cheddar aged 1, 3, 7, and 12 years. Plus some leftover Mondeuse Noire from the Savoie.

Friday, November 3
I complete my morning ritual: coffee, tea, and breakfast (yogurt with peanut butter and homemade granola). I’m about to dive into some research when I remember that I’ve committed myself to “experienc[ing] the future of food and drink” at the Food Loves Tech conference in Brooklyn’s Industry City. I have no good reason not to go. I should really get out more. So I go.

I sit through several panels covering everything from meal kits to supermarkets circa 2050, but when I hear a frozen-smoothie entrepreneur say, “We consider the freezer to be the platform,” then suggest that $8 smoothies could rescue people in food deserts, I decide that’s enough for one day.

I forage lunch from booths handing out samples of the food of the future, which in some cases seems suspiciously similar to the food of the past (see: frozen smoothies). I pass on the “edible selfie,” a cappuccino with my face printed on it (so much for flying cars), and gulp down oysters from an app-based oysters-on-demand delivery service. My salad course consists of state-of-the-art arugula dispensed two leaves at a time by several indistinguishable start-ups fighting industrial farming with microgreens. My entrée is an Impossible Burger, Silicon Valley’s take on a meatless burger, prepared by chefs from Saxon + Parole. It’s grayer and chewier than the real thing, but offers a self-righteousness you can’t get from ground beef. Dessert is Remedy Organics’ brown, sludgy shot of “functional wellness,” a combination of maca, ashwagandha, and activated shantivia (only one of those is made-up). One day, I will learn what an adaptogen is. Today is not that day.

Before heading to the Japan Society for a Noh performance conceived by Hiroshi Sugimoto, an artist I profiled earlier this year, my husband, Matt, and I stop for a bite at Aburiya Kinnosuke, a cozy izakaya.

I toted around at least two dozen sake flash cards while studying for my certified-sommelier exam, and looking at the list, I’m appalled by how much I’ve forgotten. We choose the Kan Nihonkai Hiyaoroshi Junmai, a sake only released in the fall.

I’m disappointed by the lack of bonjiri, a.k.a. “chicken tail.” (It sells out nightly at their sister restaurant, Yakitori Totto — the best chicken ass in the city, to my taste.) Chicken butt is forgotten when our grilled eringi mushrooms arrive. They are perfectly cooked — soft, yet toothsome — with the richest umami flavor I’ve ever experienced. Matt rolls his eyes at this, but it’s true. Even he can’t help getting a little poetic about our final dish: steamed rice infused with matsutake mushrooms. It smells like campfire smoke in a damp Pacific Northwest forest, and brings back memories of school camping trips. I stick my nose into my bowl and inhale.

The Noh play works up an appetite, and we duck into Dainobu on the walk home. As always, I’m completely overstimulated by the packaging: dancing chocolate mushrooms; serial killer–ish, pink face masks; Day-Glo cartoon pandas grinning over pretzels. It’s like Lisa Frank and Hieronymus Bosch dreamed up a deli. I want everything, but settle for sesame mochi.

Saturday, November 4
My husband and I start the day with our typical lie: We are going to go for a run. What we really mean: We are going to run to Tal Bagel. Our standard order is an egg-and-cheese on a sesame bagel, but thanks to a recent breakthrough, we have discovered the magic of an egg-and-cheese on a bialy. I leave him in line and go pick up a book, The Gas We Pass, for a friend’s newborn.

At noon, I head to Rôtisserie Georgette for my 12:30 p.m. book talk with Karen, which was in fact my 12 p.m. book talk with Karen. I arrive sweaty and out of breath, but the eponymous Georgette Farkas knows how to calm me down and hands over a flute of Piper-Heidsieck. Karen and I interview each other, for which Georgette rewards us with a spread of roasted radicchio, farro with spinach purée, her signature rotisserie chicken, potatoes (my god those potatoes), and an M. Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône.

En route to the East Village for a dinner party, I pick up a magnum of Beaujolais from Flatiron Wines — specifically, Yann Bertrand’s “CHAOS SUPREME,” which feels like the right theme for a Saturday night.

The buzzer for my friend’s apartment reads “FUNKHOUSE.” An auspicious start. Our host, Malte, runs a spirits company, the Eighty Six Co., so naturally, we begin the evening with cocktails. To kick things off, he prepares dry Martinis. Margaritas follow. Then, he introduces us to daiquiris — real, true daiquiris, made with rum, fresh lime juice, and sugar. We are instantly ready for refills, and learn that making a daiquiri is the ultimate test of a bartender’s mettle.

By now, the night is off and running. We open the magnum, finish it, and soon, are back to daiquiris, and I’m learning Swedish while attempting to lock my friend in a closet that has no door. Somewhere in there, we devour an arugula salad with roasted cauliflower, roasted salmon with a saffron sauce, squid-ink pasta from Little Italy, and a homemade blueberry cobbler. And potentially another round of daiquiris.

Sunday, November 5
I’m up at 7 a.m. to do an interview for story research, trek out to Brooklyn, and then immediately turn around because there’s been a miscommunication. Back home, I change into sweatpants, down a fried egg on a bialy, and guzzle detox tea.

I would be happy to burrow under a duvet while avoiding the rain and marathoners, but Matt decides we should not be wastes of life and drags me to the grocery store. Lunch is a Maison Kayser baguette with ham, cornichons, and of course, two types of award-winning Wisconsin cheddar. We bake our first-ever loaf of pumpkin bread, and go rogue on the recipe, adding copious amounts of grated ginger.

We host Matt’s parents for dinner. For hors d’oeuvres, we offer four kinds of cheese and two gold-medal-winning salamis, plus a Grower Champagne (so hot right now) from Aubry Fils. I’m a big believer that instead of saving wine for special occasions, we should let wine make occasions special — like a random Sunday night in November. This bottle, Aubry Fils’s 2008 Le Nombre d’Or Campanae Veteres Vites, is indeed special. It smells like the sea. We progress to a Becker German Pinot Noir — think the earthiness and zing of Burgundy, without going into debt — served with a roast chicken from Fleishers, a replica of last night’s cauliflower salad, and cavatelli from Eataly with butter and garlic. I make whipped cream to go with our pumpkin bread, whipping together heavy cream, yogurt, espresso, and maple syrup. Another perfect food. It’s been a good week.

Monday, November 6
Tea (Earl Grey), coffee (weak), and breakfast (toast with ham, cornichons, and melted cheddar). I throw the leftover chicken into a pot with vegetables and let it simmer while I work.

For lunch and stomach-padding ahead of an afternoon wine tasting, I eat leftover pasta and cheddar cheese. (Does anyone want any cheese? Please?) Soon after, I head to Raw Wine, billed as a celebration of wines with a “humanlike, or living, presence” — a.k.a. natural wines.

While making the rounds, I meet producers whose wines I lugged around as a cellar rat and listen to others insist that “what Master Sommeliers consider ‘flawed’ really isn’t ‘flawed.’” My tasting notes contain an above-average number of references to “a dirty diaper” and “burnt hair,” but other wines are magnificent. Batic has a field blend that I’d wear as a perfume. Movia’s Pinot Noir puts a smile on my face. I want seconds of everything Abe Schoener of Scholium Project pours into my glass.

I devour a Bee Sting pizza from Roberta’s en route to the subway, and arrive at Terroir for a book event benefiting chef José Andrés’s efforts in Puerto Rico, organized by the inimitable force of nature that is Paul Grieco. Paul has promoted the night by teasing a “biblical journey” complete with a “German slate rock-climbing wall,” and I have no clue what to expect.

The reality is even wilder. Let me state it here for the record: Paul Grieco knows how to throw a fucking party. Paul has lined up surprise guests — Morgan Harris of Aureole and Dana Gaiser, two of my wine spirit guides — and a bonkers collection of wines. I’m pouring 1990 Chenin Blanc from Vouvray beside Chenin Blanc from Mexico while running a blind tasting — one of three blind tastings, actually, that Paul’s set up. We’ve got Riesling on Riesling on Riesling, a smell station for people to “listen to your nose,” Lebanese wine, Savagnin from the Jura, four types of Pinot, the vino of Sicily, and So. Much. More. Excess is next to godliness. We’re draining bottles, strangers are making friends, and we are blowing the lid off the place. Paul leaps onto the bar and brings Morgan, Dana, and me up with him to grill us. Then comes his surprise: 1996 Château d’Yquem for all. The king of wines. Rock and fucking roll, as El Grieco would say. I had my book party at Terroir, and after tonight, I think I need to throw it again.

I leave well after 1 a.m. I caught glimpses of chips and sliders being passed around, but never managed to intercept them, and I am beyond starving. I find a granola bar in my bag and devour it. At home, more cheese.

Tuesday, November 7
I complete my morning ritual, with effort: tea, coffee, toast with almond butter, sliced banana, and sesame seeds.

I power through the morning with several clementines, then baby myself at lunch with our homemade chicken soup and wontons my father-in-law left us. Half of our remaining pumpkin bread disappears.

It’s pouring rain by dinnertime, but a friend has come uptown to vote (brava!), and we make last-minute plans to meet at J.G. Melon. She is, predictably, running an hour late. And yet I don’t mind waiting: I enjoy watching Bobby, an institution himself, greet, juggle, and humor his guests.

At last, my friend arrives. As you must when at J.G. Melon, I order a burger. When she orders a grilled cheese, I almost walk out. We find common ground discussing an item on the menu we’ve both been eyeing for years: Wedged between supermarket Chardonnay and Bud Lite, there’s the cash-only burger joint’s $225 bottle of Dom Pérignon. It’s a splurge that makes no sense. Over our glasses of beer and Coke, we each set a goal, resolving that if and when we meet them, we’ll finally go all out on Dom and burgers.

Wine Writer Bianca Bosker’s Grub Street Diet