Flight to Paris | General Food & Drink | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Flight to Paris 

Last Updated: 08/07/2013 6:03 pm

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At Brix, it’s impossible not to enjoy wine, what with more than 30 by-the-glass selections—a huge jump from the five or six typically found on most American menus—and no repeat varietals among the 16 red, nine white, three sparkling, and three dessert wines. (A varietal is a wine, chardonnay for instance, that bears the name of the grape it’s principally made from.) All are available by the bottle, with approximately 150 wines from around the world on the reserve list. All open wine is saved for three to four days maximum, and tasted daily for quality. A vacuum system removes air from open wine bottles, and they are kept chilled; reds are stored in a separate, temperature-controlled unit at the ideal 64 degrees.

Brix has always tended toward the boutique and lesser-known vintners, and has an agreement with distributors that none of their by-the-glass wines be sold the same way at other Berkshire restaurants. Twice a year, after a four- to six-week period of tasting about 500 new wines, the Brix list is revamped. “Patrick and I really like expanding our knowledge with varietals and grapes we don’t know much about,” Libby says. “But we have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.”

The Spencers offered an all-French list from October to May. “Most people struggle with French wines because they can’t read the label or even see the varietal on label,” Patrick says. “[French] wines are so beautiful, but they’re intimidating.” Following the remodeling, the list is now one-third Italian and two-thirds the rest of the world (including US wines), and includes Mirabile Nero D’avola, a red from Sicily; Altos Las Hormigas Malbec, a red from Argentina; Simonsig Chenin Blanc, a white from South Africa; and Gruet Blanc de Noir, a sparkling wine from New Mexico. Libby has even chosen several wines that are not to her personal taste but that she feels are exceptional examples of particular varietals that will appeal to Brix guests.

Informal and formal wine education is also part of the Brix strategy. The establishment has always offered weekly sampler tastings, or flights, of four reds or whites or two of each from its by-the-glass list. Brix is now introducing flights of wines not currently on the list, to introduce more diversity and better give patrons an overview of a particular varietal. In addition, Libby teaches five-week “Wine 101” courses in the fall and winter, focusing on approximately 60 wines from France, Italy, or Spain. The courses, which are limited to 24 participants and sell out quickly, are well-timed, since the Berkshire cultural scene slows to a crawl during the colder months. “People’s joy is in the food, the camaraderie, the learning. It’s really rewarding. For them, it’s five weeks in the winter they can look forward to,” Libby says. Patrick considers the courses an opportunity to create regional menus for the classes. “The concept,” he explains, “is that if you have a piece of cheese from the milk of a cow that ate grass in the Piedmont region, and then you have a glass of wine that was made from grapes that were grown in the soil of same region, there’s an integration. These things make sense together.”

Speaking of food, the expanded menu features familiar French dishes, some with a twist, all made to Patrick’s meticulous specifications. While Libby and Patrick disagree on the chicken-or-egg proposition of cooking for the wine list or choosing wines to complement the foods, Patrick states, “More than ever before, these wines were chosen around the new menu. There will always be whites and reds on the list that are more like cocktails—quaffable without food. But now there’s a more concerted effort to build the list around the menu.”

The quiche du jour, always a standout, showcases fresh, seasonal vegetables and creamy cheeses. Also back is the popular Brix Monsieur, with ham, Gruyère, and mornay sauce. These now share the menu with basics like the macaroni gratin and the escargots, as well as more adventurous selections such as the salade de filet de porc (pork tenderloin stuffed with figs and bleu cheese, over field greens, with a Pinot Noir reduction) and confit de canard (crispy duck leg served over grilled baby bok choy with a mustard cream sauce). Appetizers run from $4 to $20 and entrees from $12 to $27—prices on a par with the finer Berkshire venues.

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