It’s So Groovy Now…

Things are finally coming together.  The paint is drying, the lights are hung and the kitchen is getting stocked.  We’re so close we can taste it and soon you’ll be able to taste it too.

Our New Dining Room

Our New Dining Room

It won’t be long – January 9th – and the doors will open.  We’re so excited to bring our fresh seafood into the heart of downtown Minneapolis.  Our same talented chefs, our same delicious menu and our same dedication to our guests move down Nicollet Ave just 7 short blocks.  You may notice some changes – a new color scheme, new booths and a fresh clean look.  All upgrades to make your dining experience memorable.

New Light Design

New Light Design

So come check us out and bring your appetite, because Executive Chef Robert Wohlfeil has the kitchen staff primed and ready to go.  We’ve stocked the kitchen with all of your fresh seasonal favorites.  January 9th can’t come soon enough.

New Kitchen Line

New Kitchen Line

Minneapolis Location Moving Soon

If you’re a regular commuter to downtown Minneapolis you may have already seen our new signage going up and construction in full swing.  Word is starting to spread and preparations are well at hand.  The move is on.

Although we have enjoyed over 13 years in the Hyatt Regency we have heard the beckoning of Minneapolis’s core and we are making the half mile move.  6th and Nicollet will be our new corner, NW corner to be exact.  Right on the way to the Dome or if you’re walking West, we’re right on the way to Target Field.

“We are thrilled about our upcoming move and look forward to sharing our new location with the community,” said Rick Kimmes, General Manager. “We are working hard to create an even better dining experience for our loyal patrons.”

Your dining experience will continue to feature ultra-fresh seafood and ultra-attentive service.  In addition there will be some new amenities added to the new location;  Outdoor dining, convenient skyway access and drive-up valet parking are just a few.

The excitement is building as our new space is remodeled, the new signage is being built and the staff is preparing for the January 2012 opening.  “I am excited to be serving our Ultra-Fresh Seafood in an Ultra-Fresh atmosphere!  Oceanaire‘s taking steps towards the future while maintaining the same faces and food that have made us successful for over 13 years,” remarked Jake Uttich, Executive Chef for Oceanaire Minneapolis.  We have always been known for bringing in new and interesting things to the Minneapolis-St. Paul market and the new restaurant will bring that energy with it!”

So stay tuned and check back here regularly.  We’ll be posting pics and showing the progress as we all await the brand new digs.

New and Improved Oceanaire Website!

That’s right, Oceanaire has just updated their website, with a great new look and feel.  All the great functionality is still there but in a new and updated look.  The daily menus will continue to let everyone know what’s in and Ultra-Fresh today as well as our extensive Wine and Special Events menu.  We update our menus daily, sometimes hourly, to keep you up to the minute with our menu changes.  Looking for a phone number for your favorite store, it’s there.  Looking for a email address so you can send us a note, it’s there.  Chef’s Bio’s, maps and directions, seating, dining hours, valet info – It’s All There!  So take a few minutes and check it out.  Bookmark your favorite site and check our menus daily.

Great BBQ Wines

Another great blog post brought to us by Taalib Hasan – Wine Director – The Oceanaire Seafood Room Atlanta

It is Independence Day weekend and all I can think about is the barbeque I am hosting at my house on Sunday.  So for the last four days all I have been able to think about is indoor seating vs. outdoor seating or maybe a little of both.  Do I keep it basic with hot dogs, burgers, sausages, and chicken?  Do I kick it up a few notches and do something adventurous like sausage stuffed and grilled calamari and whole leg of lamb?  And then of course there is the whole ordeal of choosing side dishes and deserts.  And let’s not even consider allergies.  Of course the most pressing issue is the beverage menu.

Backyard BBQ

I will have some wine drinkers, some spirit drinkers, and of course my cousin who refuses to drink anything but beer.  So, I will have to venture out of the wine section and into the beer coolers to buy some light pilsners and IPAs (incidentally the acidity and abundance of hops of IPAs are perfect for the summer).  Okay, the beer choices final.

So let’s get to the heart of the matter, the grape juice.  Barbeques are outdoor dining events filled with bold, smoky meats accompanied by sweet and often spicy sauces.  The food is comfortable, memorable, and messy generally no place for a wine glass.  That leaves us in a bit of a pickle we have to consider the environment which is often either a warm or hot day with smoke filled air.

First I want to review the don’ts.  If you are dining outside, do not serve sparkling wine it warms too quickly in the sun and the delicate nose of sparkling wines will not stand up to the hickory smoke in the air.  Not to mention, barbeques and champagne flutes generally equal broken glass.  I would recommend stemless wine glasses if you have them.  Big reds like cabernets and zinfandels fall into the “don’t” category because barbeques are all day events and generally outdoors on hot days.  Furthermore big tannic reds and hot days generally equal sweating and palate fatigue; meaning after the second glass you will not taste anything else and will probably need a large glass of water.  Also, any wines that are heavily reliant on their nose such as viognier and torrontes are not suited for smoke filled outdoor dining.

Happy Birthday USA

That is enough of the pessimism.  There are many exceptional wines that are great beverages for barbeques.  On the lighter end of the spectrum there are Alsatian whites.  Alsace is a wine growing region on the eastern extreme of France that boarders Germany.  The better known grapes of Alsace are riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc, and pinot gris.  Incidentally, pinot gris is genetically identical to pinot grigio.  Often these wines are off-dry, meaning they have residual sugar and sweetness but are not overwhelmingly sweet.  Of these grapes, one particularly stands out in my mind; gewürztraminer.  This grape produces an off-dry wine, packed with flavors of lychee, citrus zest, and spicy notes such as green and pink peppercorns.  This complexity of flavors, particularly the balance of sweet and spicy notes lends itself perfectly to a well balanced barbeque sauce and smoked meat.  Gewürztraminer presents a refreshing experience on a hot summer day because of the counter balance of sweetness up front and the crisp acidity on the finish.  I would recommend gewürztraminers from Trimbach and Hugel.

If you are looking for something with a little more body to it, then dry rosé is the next logical choice.  Rosés are simply wines made from red wine grapes that are not left in contact with the grape skins as long as red wines.  These wines are best young, do not age well, and are served cold.  When describing these wines the pivotal adjective is dry; these are dry wines they are not sweet like white zinfandel although they do share the same appearance.  The grapes of rosés vary.  I recommend cabernet rosé for barbeques because of the rich, ripe fruit flavors it carries.  There are a lot of red berry notes including strawberry, no real tannic structure to weigh down your palate, and yet it has the body to stand up to slow roasted meats.  Isabel Mondavi and Hendry produce great cabernet rosés.

Pinot Noir

Then there is perhaps the most food versatile wine of them all, pinot noir.  It seems everyone has a favorite pinot noir these days.  So I would recommend grabbing that old faithful pinot noir you love so much and chilling it till it is cool to the touch.  You will find it does very well in a barbeque setting as well.

I know more than likely most of you will still stick to beer and margaritas for your barbeques.  I hope I have made a good case for at least one bottle of wine to include in the  mix.

White Anchovy Salad

Another excellent Podcast from Oceanaire Orlando’s Executive Chef – Garey Hiles:

Demystifying a Wine List

By Richard Edwards

Recently while dining with some self proclaimed winos and sampling a rather fruity pinot, I mentioned how much I enjoy that particular varietal, but there are so many different styles to choose from it can be difficult to find the flavor profile I most prefer.  This sparked a conversation about how wine lists, which should help diners choose the right bottle, can be very irritating to read and sometimes impossible to decipher.  Sadly restaurant wine lists are frequently riddled with poor descriptors, abbreviations that only a Sommelier could interpret, no clear order, excessive pricing and to top it all off–service staff charged with selling who really don’t care if their guests get the right wine or who know less about the list than those sitting around the table.

After we all ranted about frustrating experiences, the conversation took a productive turn as we began the process of determining how best to approach any wine list.  Everyone agreed there are few key factors that help start the decision making process including:

  • Do I want a glass or bottle?
  • What kind of varietal? (merlot, cabernet, pinot gris, chardonnay, etc)
  • What is the price?
  • Do I have familiarity of producer?
  • How does it pair with my meal?
  • Is the wine a perceived value?

So how do we take these factors and leverage them with any wine list?

Get over your apprehension. Don’t be intimated by the many different shapes and forms of the average restaurant wine list.  Just like a menu, there is no set industry standard that all restaurants abide by.  You may find a house bottle list, house glass list, captains list, boxed sets, one pagers which are laminated or stained or 50 page binders separated by varietal that would take your entire meal to get through. Remember whatever it looks like, it’s just a wine list.

Take back control. Don’t kid yourself, no matter how casual or fine of an establishment—restaurants use lists to do one thing:  sell you wine.  By keeping this fact in mind the process of choosing wine becomes less intimidating because you know that wine lists are the attempt by restaurants to encourage you to purchase—and that makes you in control. How are you in control? Because you already know what you want even before even reviewing the list.

Figure out what you like. By knowing what types or even flavors you enjoy before you come to any restaurant to buy wine immediately gives you the upper hand.  This does not mean that you know exactly what bottle you want. Rather, it narrows the selection process and gives you focus.  Get in the practice of taking notes when drinking a wine that you like. Write down the name, grape type, vineyard, vintage and anything else that appears important to you (If it’s French, just write down everything you see because the French label wine where it is from not so much what grape it is).  Keep in mind that there are many useful applications for mobile devices that can assist you with wine selection such as, Hello Vino and Wine Ratings Guide. By figuring out your preferences first, you can pick up any list and look for that wine type, which will lead you automatically in the right direction.

Determine how much you want to pay. By understanding your preferences and giving yourself a budget, you are ready to make a decision.  Another good next step before making a final selection on your own is consulting your server with those two criteria, type and price.  I usually hit it like this, “I am looking for something which tastes like the 2007 Stag’s Leap Winery Petite Syrah.  France or California are fine, and I only want to spend around $60.00.”  They may have suggestions or offer you some hidden gem that’s not even on the list.  Occasionally your server will attempt to up-sell you and if they do, stand your ground and stay focused.

But just remember, the wine list is there to inform you, entice you and sell you—nothing more.  Do your due diligence and you can conquer every wine list that you encounter and end up with a glass of wine that suits your preferences.

Richard Edwards

VP Operations

The Grapes of Rhone

The Exciting Grapes of the Northern Rhone

another fine contribution by Taalib Hasan, Wine Director, The Oceanaire Atlanta

My high school biology teacher taught me that variety is the spice of life.  This sentiment is certainly true of wine.  As much as I enjoy chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet; sometimes I just get tired of them.  I suppose that would be a good opportunity to enjoy either a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail, but this is a wine blog and I love wine.  So when beverage boredom strikes, I reach for either a viognier or syrah, which are Rhone wines.  Not all Rhone wines are from the Rhone Valley, but my favorites are.

The Rhone Valley is located in southeastern France and is home to some the world’s most interesting and complex wines.  These wines have long been the favorites of winemakers and sommeliers for years.  Unfortunately this love affair seems to be centered on the wine industry and not the public at large, with a few exceptions.  Hopefully, this blog will either change minds or at least provoke curiosity.  The complexities of these wines are derived from the multitude of grapes grown in the Rhone Valley.  There are twenty two to be exact both red and white.  Viognier and syrah are the most recognized of those grapes.

The Rhone Valley can be divided into the northern Rhone and the southern Rhone.   They are then further divided into Appelation d’Origine Controlees (AOCs), which are legally designated wine growing region as determined by the French government.   All AOCs have a defined geographic area and designated grapes that are grown in that area.  I will focus on the northern Rhone and a few of its famous AOCs where syrah and viognier are prominent.

The first AOC is the smallest, Chateau Grillet, which encompasses one vineyard that only grows viognier.  The viognier of Chateau Grillet is commonly known as the benchmark that all viogniers are measured against.  It is a full bodied white that has the perfect balance of a floral nose; a mid palate of orange blossom, honeysuckle, and melons; and a long consistent finish held together with by just enough acid and minerality.  Unfortunately, Chateau Grillet is very expensive and very rare.  Condrieu is the AOC surrounding Chateau Grillet and it too specializes in viognier albeit on a much larger scale.  Condrieu is the best substitution and is readily available and moderately priced.  Most importantly it has a similar flavor profile.  Viognier pairs well with salads and spicy foods.  I personally love viognier with Thai cuisine.

The next acclaimed AOC is Hermitage; which produces one white, marsanne, and one red, syrah.  The syrah of Hermitage is much more celebrated than the marsanne.  This particular syrah is known for its ability to age (generally at least ten years) and bold flavors such as: stewed fruits, pepper, and other savory spices.  Hermitage can be difficult to procure and expensive at times.  However there is an alternative; Crozes-Hermitage, which is the larger AOC that surrounds Hermitage.  Crozes-Hermitage produces wines comparable to Hermitage using the same varietals, but they are readily available and moderately priced.  You will also find one hundred percent syrah produced in St. Joseph located in the northwestern part of the Rhone Valley.  This version of syrah is fruitier, lighter, and is not as tannic as Hermitage and generally has about an eight year life span.

The final AOC that I will discuss in the northern Rhone is Cote Rotie.  Cote Rotie represents the culmination of the northern Rhone’s most sought after varietals, syrah and viognier.  The winemakers of Cote Rotie have long figured out the best way to produce syrah.  They simply add a little viognier to the mix, generally no more than five percent of the total volume.   The effect is a big, powerful, and tannic wine is softened and presents a rounder mouth feel.  On the nose this blend presents candied fruit, anise, and a little herbaciousness; on the palate you will find rich red fruit accented by both spice box notes and spicy pepper; which leads to a long involved finish that recounts the flavors of the palate accompanied by acid and minerality.   Syrahs are perfect accompaniments for lamb, venison, duck, and beef.  They also pair well with spicier preparations of poultry and fish.

So the next time beverage boredom strikes, I implore you to give one these wines a shot.  Remember variety is the spice of life, and the spicy finishes of northern Rhone syrahs are certain to liven up your day.

Till Next Time,

Taalib Hasan

Wine Director

Oceanaire Seafood Room Atlanta