It was an unusual dining experience the other evening at Le Fond, the Michelin Guide-listed French bistro in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to say the least. How odd is it to sip Italian wine in a French restaurant, in Greenpoint?
Le Fond a tiny place with oak tables and simply decor and except for our party of 15 it was largely empty on a Wednesday evening. I was there as a guest of Fattoria Betti, a Tuscan wine producer seeking an importer and looking to impress the media. (The guests were bloggers, mostly interested in culture, not wine). The eatery was selected by the winery’s Italian PR firm and our menu had been scripted almost three months in advance. To be sure, the wines, except for a Sangiovese-based rose served with dessert, paired nicely with our food, though I was not exactly enamored by my host’s dining choices.
Our host was Guido Betti, owner of Fattoria Betti, a 500,000-bottle-a year winery in the Montalbano region of Tuscany, Italy, Betti has 26 hectares of red clay vineyard and sells half of its production to private label customers and outsiders. Last year’s production was impacted by lousy spring weather. Fattoria Betti’s wines are fermented in steel and concrete vats, the IGT wines aged a year in 900-liter tonneau. Fattoria Betti exports 60 percent of its production throughout Europe and China, but not the U.S> Betti is hoping to find a U.S. importer. “it;s the most important market in the world,” he told me.
The restaurant is known for its French comfort food and that, indeed, is what we had, prepared expertly by chef owner Jake Eberle, a Cordon Bleu alum. We started with 2017 Creto de Betti, an easy sipping, fruity, white blend of Chardonnay and Trebbiano, which was paired with Spring Vegetable Capriccio with mustard vinaigarette and egg. Pretty as a picture, the dish consisted of razor thin shavings of tomato, beets and zucchini showered with milled hardboiled egg. There was, sadly, not much to taste beyond the dressing, although the crusty dark bread and sweet, creamy butter helped fill things out.
Our second course, cavatelli with prosciutto, scallions, green lentils in a spinach emulsion (foam), was a delight. The pasta perfectly al dente and the sauce stood up to the winery’s high alcohol (14%), fruity, but earthy 2016 Chianti Montalbano, which had just the right acidity to offset the rich dish.
Our main, was braised lamb shoulder with artichoke barigoule (the vegetable was stewed in wine), all topped by a minted salsa verde. The lamb was tender, but lacked verve, despite the minty salsa. The wine with this course, 2016 Prunideo, was a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was inky, more elegant and more powerful than the Chianti, but still easy to drink and it out-showed the food on my plate.
The chef, however, shined with dessert, Chocolate Cremeux (custard) with poached strawberries and a dab of vanilla custard. It resembled a long finger of chocolate truffle, but was soft and creamy and it melted instantly inside my mouth. Alas, the winery’s 2017 Caprone rose, a pretty deep pink, was disappointingly blah.