15 Years of Compass Box with John Glaser

When I think of not only the best whisky companies in the business, but also the nicest and most genuine people within those companies, John Glaser will always come to mind near the top of that list. I've been doing this gig since 2009 (it will be six years as spirits buyer this November) and John Glaser has been a partner for K&L right there with me since the beginning. He's not only someone whose work I respect and whose whiskies I will always purchase with my own hard-earned money, he's a true friend—always available to help when I need it, and always there to answer a question should I have one. While I've spent eight years now in the wine and spirits business, John will celebrate fifteen years tomorrow as the head of Scotch whisky's most creative of curators: Compass Box. With the recent release of his Flaming Heart and "This is not a Luxury Whisky" editions to help celebrate this milestone (two of, if not the best two whiskies I've tasted this year), I thought now would be the perfect time to sit down with John and talk about some of the accomplishments he and his company have achieved over the last decade and a half. Tastes and trends are starting to change in the industry once again and Compass Box might be more prepared than any other company to embrace that new momentum. I spoke with John via the phone earlier this morning and this is what he had to say:

David: There’s a full circle movement that I think we’re both well aware of at the moment—in terms of whisky trends, fashion and popularity. It was originally a movement towards purity, away from blends towards single malts, then within the genre of single malts even more towards purity—like cask strength or single barrel selections. But once the purest possible expressions became either too expensive or perhaps a little suspect in terms of quality, the supply became a little less interesting—let’s say—so then those same people became open to revisiting the blends. But not in their former iteration, rather in a reinvented form. Like what you just released, for example: the Flaming Heart blended malt and the “Luxury Whisky” blended Scotch, both with complete breakdowns as to their components and their compositions, down to the exact percentage. Now that customers are more familiar than ever with the individual whiskies that go into blends, it seems they are also more comfortable with the idea of drinking them as a blend. It’s almost like we’ve spent the last few years educating consumers about the building blocks of whisky in order to give them a greater appreciation for the craft itself. I think people are finally coming back around to the idea of blended whisky.

John: I feel the same way, or else I wouldn’t have started this business (laughs). I knew it was going to take some time though.

David: Are you seeing increased sales at Compass Box?

John: Absolutely. We grow every year. We’re now at a very fortunate point, fifteen years into this—it will be fifteen years exactly tomorrow, actually—where because we’ve always been transparent, because we’ve always told people what we’re doing, what our recipes are, what our approach is, the way we think, everything, I think the result is that we’ve built up some loyalty and maybe some respect as well. The whiskies have always been pretty good and offered a pretty good value, I think. I was just talking about this earlier. I was in my office this afternoon with two guys, we were talking about what we do and I was saying that customers aren’t buying Compass Box Hedonism because they’re out shopping for grain whisky. They’re buying it because it’s a whisky from Compass Box and it just so happens that we use blending as a platform for creativity. That’s what Compass Box does. It’s not like they’re specifically buying a blend, they’re buying a name. 

David: When you sat down to plan out this year’s anniversary special editions, what were the concepts? Were you trying to do something with the whiskies you had on hand, or did you select the whiskies to fit the concepts themselves?

John: With the Flaming Heart, we had done this four times before. The whole idea with Flaming Heart is to combine French oak-aged malt whisky from the Clynelish distillery with smoky, peaty stuff. So you get the sweet and you get the smoke. But every time we do it I want to do it a little differently, so the recipe takes a slightly different approach each time. Last year, for example, we added a tiny little bit of sherry cask malt. This year there’s no sherry, but the smoky component is partially thirty year old malt whisky from the Caol Ila distillery, so that brings a lot of depth to the basic idea of sweet and smoke. That one’s pretty straightforward. With the “Luxury”,  what we wanted to do was start a conversation with the industry and acknowledge that—without pointing fingers—people ought to think before they drink some of this stuff. So we thought, “What’s the profile of a lot of these expensive whiskies?” Well, it’s sherry and smoke. It’s a popular one, a big seller, as you know. We looked for some old sherry cask-aged malts that had real depth, and some old smoky stuff. 

David: What did you think of the result? I thought it tasted expensive, if that was the goal in mind.

John: I’ll be honest with you, we were trying to make something that we thought would get a big score from the whisky cognoscenti out there. Then line up that score with some of the scores of these other luxury whiskies—if you’re even able to find people who have tasted these bottles that cost four or five figures. In the world of wine there’s a high positive correlation between the wines that tend to be the most-coveted, the most collectable, and quality. There’s cause and correlation between that collectability and the scores—and you can use auction prices to determine this. Say what you want about wine scores, but super high scores tend to designate that the wines have a certain amount of character. It may not be my cup of tea, or your cup of tea, but—hey—I’d drink Petrus if I could. I don’t believe the same correlation exists in whisky today, where you have that same high positive correlation between the price of some of these whiskies and the degree of compelling character. At this point, however, it’s theoretical because I haven’t tasted nearly as many of these whiskies as you probably have. And as I pointed out earlier, a lot of people don’t ever taste these whiskies. 

David: So you were able to create a whisky that you hoped would spark a conversation, and here we are. You wanted to make people think about what goes into their whisky and ultimately what they’re paying for, but what do you hope that conversation does in terms of the other Compass Box selections? We should have a conversation about your standard release whiskies as well, as I think that conversation would go over much better today than it would have—say—in 2010. In terms of telling people what’s in your whiskies, I mean.

John: I’m actually going to do a tasting in San Francisco next week where we go through the whole Compass Box line up and in doing so I will include the recipe for each whisky and the wood types. We’ve very transparent about all of our whiskies, which I think is important in this age of NAS debate. We’ve always been this transparent. If more NAS producers were this transparent, the whiskies might be a little better. Not to say they’re all bad, but some of these you and I could look at and probably question.

David: I agree. But at the same time, if you made an absolutely incredible Compass Box blended malt whisky, but then said on the label that it was composed of Loch Lomand and Fettercairn, I don’t think anyone would be all that interested. In fact, I think it would legitimately hurt potential sales because of the perception of those distilleries. In some cases—speaking as a potential brand owner—I think you’ll do your product a disservice by telling people exactly what’s in it, even when your product is of a high quality. But, of course, when you can tell people you’re using twenty year old Clynelish and thirty year old Caol Ila, then absolutely tell them what’s in it!

John: Yeah. Although I’m confident enough now when we do our limited editions. We’re speaking to this very narrow section of the spirits drinking population around the world with these whiskies. It’s obscure for a lot of people in terms of what we’re doing. But I think if did come across a particularly great cask of whisky not known for greatness—if they exist—and we wanted to use it, we would tell people. We would just say: those of you who know the reputation of this whisky will be surprised. 

David: Right, we do the same thing, but I think you can only do that once you’ve reached the level of respect and trust that Compass Box has now reached. You can’t do that starting out and be successful. 

John: I suppose that’s true. You’ve gotta have a certain degree of respect and trust for the voice you’re listening to.

David: At this point, if you came out with a blend of Jura and old Bladnoch, or something, I would still buy it (laughs). I would listen to you. I trust your judgement. Speaking of components, however, let’s talk about where some of your other expressions are at today. What’s the breakdown of today’s Peat Monster, for example.

John: Today’s Peat Monster is based primarily on malt whisky distilled at Laphroaig. Then we use whisky from Ledaig and Ardmore distilleries as well. The Ardmore whisky has always been the secret ingredient in Peat Monster because it’s not as peaty as the others and it brings a malty character that binds the other whiskies together and rounds off the edges. What we’re doing now, where we’re going, is bringing whisky distilled at Caol Ila back into the recipe—slowly, gradually. When we look long term over the next ten years, we’re now able to get Caol Ila again—we weren’t for a number of years—and we’re laying it down. So I like the idea of malt whisky from the Laphroaig distillery, malt whisky from the Caol Ila distillery, and malt whisky from the Ardmore distillery, which comprises the original Peat Monster recipe. We’ll slowly move away from the Ledaig whisky. 

David: What about the Asyla?

John: Asyla is made of grain whisky from Cameronbridge, malt whisky from Teaninich, and just a touch of malt whisky from Glen Elgin—about 5%. Everything in there, all of the components, are aged in first fill American oak barrels. That’s the key to the style. 

David: Now will those three whiskies always make up the formula, or will you change them up as different stocks become available?

John: We’ve got a good line of sight on our supply over the next decade, so what we’ll slowly be doing over time—much like we talked about with the Peat Monster—is moving the Teaninich component over to malt whisky distilled at Linkwood, which was the original Asyla going back many years. When we couldn’t get first fill barrels, we evolved into the Teaninich. Now that we can get malt whisky from Linkwood distillery again and we’re laying it down into our barrels, it will slowly evolve back into Linkwood. No one ever really noticed when we moved it away from Linkwood though, and again—if we do it well—no one should notice when we move it back. 

David: This happens all the time at major blending houses, right? You used to work for one, so you know. They have to swap out formula components based on availability.

John: Absolutely, and they’re chopping and changing with many different parts. They have maybe twenty to thirty different components in their big brand blends, whereas we’re working with three or four. You just talked about the two recipes that have evolved the most over the years, whereas what we use to make the Oak Cross and Spice Tree—malt whiskies from the Dailuaine, Clynelish, and Teaninich distilleries—those have remained consistent over the years. Hedonism is another story because that’s about trying to find great grain whiskies from first-fill American oak barrels, which I’m sure you know from your travels through Scotland is becoming ever more difficult. Last year we started to put the batch number for every single batch of Hedonism—they’re about twelve to fifteen casks—on the label so that those couple hundred people around the world who are really interested can look up the details online and see the actual casks that went into every blend of Hedonism. While the recipe does change, grain whisky is easier to chop and change around than malt whisky because it’s lighter in character. What we’re looking for ultimately is the quality of the cask, rather than the distillery name, although Hedonism does tend to be sourced from the Cameronbridge distillery. Usually a significant portion of it. 

David: Since we were talking about consumer evolution and education, what do you think about the growing appreciation of grain whisky? There’s obviously a contingency of drinkers out there who think it’s lower in quality because of the way that it’s made. 

John: Well, it’s a perception problem. They might think it’s lower in quality because it’s lighter, but it’s just a purer, cleaner spirit because of the way that it’s distilled. Also the raw materials. But if you put grain whisky into quality cooperage, it can be a really lovely, sexy, delicious whisky. I think the fact that Diageo and William Grant have recently jumped into that game from a long-term perspective proves there’s a number of people out there who like grain whisky. Is it as interesting as malt whisky? No, it just doesn’t have the same complexity. But it’s for a different kind of person and a different way of drinking.

David: What you just said speaks to perhaps the main question we’re talking about as a whole, which is: when does the flavor of a whisky become more important than the way in which it’s made, or what it’s specifically made from? When does the information about something become less important than the quality? And when do you become confident enough as a consumer to trust your palate over the general public perception?

John: I think over the last fifteen years we’ve created quite a bit of cognitive dissonance in peoples’ minds. We present them our whiskies and we say: “we’re blenders.” And they say, “What? I only drink single malts. How can these be interesting to me?” But then they try it and the open-minded ones change their associations towards blending and Scotch whisky as a whole. To make a distinction, however, between catering to a particularly niche audience and the way I think about whisky, I’m trying to achieve something greater with our business. My ambition has always been to touch a lot of people. The mission of the business has been to share the joys of Scotch whisky with more people in the world. This is one of the world’s great drinks. Scotch whisky has not only an extraordinary breadth of style—grain whisky on one end to Ardbeg on the other—but it also has an extraordinary breadth of usage. There is an extraordinary number of ways in which you can enjoy it. You can drink it in a cocktail, or at a bar with ice and club soda. You can end a meal at a Michelin three-star restaurant by nosing and intellectualizing a super-compelling aged malt whisky. And you’ve got everything in between in terms of the ways to use it—and I love that about it. That’s part of the reason we do all the things we do. At the end of the day, the most important part of my business is getting more people to drink Great King Street.

David: The everyday Compass Box whisky.

John: That’s gonna take another ten years, though. To get there, however, I decided that we were going to take advantage of some of the other ways to enjoy Scotch whisky. If people like what we do, then they’ll tell people and that gives us credibility. And if Compass Box has credibility, then when Compass Box tells people to drink Great King Street—to try it in a Penicillin cocktail, or a classic Japanese-style Highball—then they just might listen. 

-David Driscoll


Getting Closer...

The liquid is in bottle. Did we tell you that only the first few hundred in-store customers get a free matching vinyl?

We should probably talk about that part soon.

-David Driscoll


Sake Night Again

In anticipation of the new San Francisco store and its soon-to-be-amazing sake selection, I've been doing a lot of sake tasting this week. I'm continually amazed and astounded by how much sake is out there, how different each selection is from the next, how wonderfully it pairs with food, and how fast I'm able to drink it. I drank A LOT of sake last night (and most of it went down before I knew what happened). I still remember walking through Tokyo one morning and seeing that Japanese businessman in a full suit outside a sake bar, sleeping on the sidewalk with his briefcase for a pillow. It can happen that easily! You just need to lie down, wherever you are. I whipped up some ramen last night and got down with some interesting bottles. Here are a few new selections that are now available in the store:

I just like looking at the label for this one:

Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai Sake $27.99- I really enjoyed this one, mainly because it has so much going on in right off the bat. There's a crisp, yet round fruitiness right on the first sip, but then it moves into a nutty richness with an earthy note on the finish that you usually associated with fermented products. Whereas some sakes are light and fresh, others are heavy and earthy, this junmai has a little bit of everything. It's brewed by the Huchu Homare brewery in Ishioka, about an hour from Tokyo by train. The region is renowned for its soft, iron-free water.

Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Nama $27.99- The Shichi Hon Yari label celebrates the seven spearsmen who became legends at the battle of Shizugatake fought just outside the town of Kinomoto in 1583, where the Tomita brewery is located. What's cool about the Tomita brewery is that they use mineral water that runs from the nearby Ibuki mountains down to their village, and the water is so clean and pure that they don't have to filter it (I have actually drunk river water straight out of a mountain stream in Japan and can vouch for this incredibly purity). The junmai nama is quite earthy and robust on the palate with mushroom flavors and a tanginess from the yeast on the finish. I really, really enjoyed this.

Shichi Hon Yari Hiyaoroshi (Fall 2015 release) $32.99 - I only got a few bottles of this and most of it went home with the staff. It's a special seasonal release from Tomita made from Yamada Nishiki rice and bottled without filtration. It's quite robust, but with a creamier, rounder fruit-focused palate with stands in stark contrast to the earthiness of the standard junmai nama. YUM.

Chikurin "Karoyaka" Junmai Ginjo Sake $36.99- Those looking for an elegant sake, look no further. This is clean and pristine sake of the highest order. The Chikurin is made by Marumoto Brewery, which was founded in 1867 at the base of the Chikurin-ji Mountains, in Okayama-ken, one of Japan’s most prized agricultural regions. The Brewery was originally called Shimizu-ya, literally meaning “spring water store” because it was built in the site of a great water source. Again, you can taste how important the water is here because of how clean the sake is on the palate. Marumoto is also known as the "farmers' brewery" because they actually grow their own rice. Farm to bottle, baby.

Maboroshi Kurobako Junmai Daiginjo Sake $149.99- If you want to big a big-time sake baller, then you can roll out with the Maboroshi Kurobako junmai daiginjo sake with its big fancy box and serious sake flavor. It's made by the Nakao Sake Brewery located in Takehara, a historical city on the coast of the Island Sea in Japan's Hiroshima Prefecture. In the late 1940s, director Nakao Kiyomaro started a serious study of yeast culture to see which strains created the best flavors in sake. The most-celebrated of these was named "apple yeast" because it could be derived from the skin of an apple. After learning how to fully-implement the yeast into his starter mash, Nakao Kiyomaro debuted the Maboroshi Kurobako at the 1948 competition for new sake and took first prize. The sake is still faithfully recreated today and available for a high-price. It's worth it, though. This is utterly divine liquid. Pure, elegant, and clean on the palate, like the finest Champagne, but of course without bubbles and made from rice instead of grapes.

I finished my night with the Maboroshi and woke up in the guest room at around 2 AM, fully-clothed.

-David Driscoll


K&L's First Ever Mezcal Project Hits this Week

You might remember a series of blog posts I wrote this past May while traveling through Oaxaca, part of which focused on the Los Danzantes distillery and its principal distiller Karina Abad Rojas. I don't think I've ever gushed as much about any singular professional in this business as I did while hanging out with Karina. I've never been as impressed with any distiller anywhere as I was during my time with her. She's rather reserved and soft-spoken by nature, yet really she's a stoic and somewhat intimidating figure. I spent three days driving around Oaxaca with her, listening to her talk about the various species of agave—their flavors, their soils, their nuances—while also spending time with her around the distillery. Everyone defers to her. She'll taste quietly in the corner while the men discuss business, but really she's running the show. From just a few conversations with her over a period of a few days, it was clear that Karina knows more about agave botany and appropriate distillation chemistry than just about anyone. What was funny to me, however, was that while all the Mezcalero label releases (the partnership between Danzantes and Craft Spirits in California) have featured the work of numerous male distillers around Oaxaca, they had yet to adorn a bottle with Karina's handywork—even though it's clear to just about everyone (at least the people I spoke with) what a master she is.  

It wasn't all that surprising though. The agave spirits world is a very macho place, especially in a genre still dominated by heroic and masculine figures like Don Julio Gonzalez. When I sat with Karina in her office, however, I made it clear what I wanted were we to do something special together. "Quiero algo de ti, algo que has hecho," I told her. While Karina's work is always on display in the Los Danzantes mezcales (known now as Los Nahuales in the states), I wanted to showcase some of her more creative talents—her ability to blend the fierce flavors of wild agave—rather than just the espadin-distilled standards. I knew that Karina loved working with cuishe, the long and narrow wild agave species known for its bright and floral character when distilled. I suggested something fun that showcased her cuishe capabilities.

Five months later, the result of that sitdown meeting is in the bottle and on its way to K&L. A mezcal exclusive consisting of 58.5% sierrudo agave and 41.5% cuishe. The aromas of this blend are simply divine. There's a mild and sweet-fruited character on the nose, lightly-accented with white pepper and jalepeño. The palate is just as gentle with clean lines and a floral flutter, before the sweet and spicy symphony on the finish. Dare I say this mezcal has a feminine touch? Literally?

Coming soon.

-David Driscoll


D2D Interview: Alain Passard

I had my first Michelin three-star experience this past September when I visited L'Arpege in Paris. I was definitely a bit intimidated by the idea of eating there, and I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of formality. Would I say something stupid? Would I eat with the wrong fork? Would I ask for the wrong wine? As many of you know, my number one goal in writing this blog is to remove much of the pretense from the wine and spirits world, in the hope of making K&L customers more comfortable while shopping with us. I was pleasantly surprised and completely enthralled to find that Alain Passard, the world-famous chef in charge of L'Arpege, has a very similar philosophy regarding his restaurant. His own pleasure seems to derive completely from the pleasure he creates with his guests, and his number one concern as a chef is their comfort. I watched him walk into the restaurant carrying a bag of fresh vegetables, smile and chat with those of us waiting for a table, then head back to the kitchen to get started, bubbling with an energy and positivity that's normally tempered in such prestigious institutions. During the meal he would come out and ask us how we were doing, draping his arm across my shoulder from behind, and treating me as if I were an old friend from college. The entire dining room was instantly smitten.

For you Bay Area locals who may not be familiar with Passard, you only have to travel as far as the heralded Manresa in Los Gatos to feel the impact of his influence. In 2013, Manresa chef David Kinch cited Passard as the chef who had inspired him the most, saying: "He is the only chef I've ever met that I can unequivocally call a true artist." The son of musicians, you only have to look at the vibrant colors and the creative combinations on each of his plates to see Passard's artistic talents on display. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that Passard has been able to reinvent himself and continue to grow as a chef. In 2001, fifteen years after opening L'Arpege, he began serving a vegetable-themed menu that would go on to create a new focus in the kitchen. His enthusiasm for these seasonal dishes led to the creation of his own local gardens, which are now featured exclusively in Passard's cuisine. The change had no effect on L'Arpege's reputation, however. It maintained its three-star rating and today is still considered one of the twenty-five best restaurants in the world. For a man who's been cooking professionally since 1971, it's impressive to see that type of transition thirty years into a career. It's definitely a feat only a true artist is capable of doing.

While normally the subject of these interviews revolves around "drinking to drink," in the case of Passard I figured it could be "cooking to cook". His enthusiasm for what he does is absolutely contagious and I can easily say that not only was my meal at L'Arpege the best I've ever had, it was also the most enjoyable and friendly. The staff was amiable and caring, the mood was playful and joyous, and Passard himself was outgoing and accessible. It was almost more about the service than it was the food! I left inspired and enthused, so I knew I needed to sit down for an interview with this guy at some point. Unfortunately my French isn't quite where it needs to be yet, and while Passard speaks English well, he wanted to be completely sure he was using the right vocabulary for an occasion such as this, so we had Charlotte Pruvost from the L'Arpege staff sit in to help us translate.

In this edition of Drinking to Drink we discuss the difficulty of simplicity, remaining customer focused in the face of success, and how eating vegetables out of season can be a real turn off. Previous editions of the D2D series can be found by clicking here, or by visiting the archive in the right hand margin of the blog.

David: Upon arriving at L'Arpege I was taken aback by how unpretentious the vibe felt. I think people expect a three-star Michelin restaurant to be rigid and serious, but your place is the opposite: it's welcoming and relaxed. Was that by design, or is that just a natural extension of your personality?

Alain: I really like the fact our guests feel at home when they come to restaurant Arpège. In Paris, we are one of only three or four chefs to own our restaurant, our guests come to meet the chef like a friend. Haute cuisine can be served in a simple place, without gold leaf on the walls. The client can focus more on the plate! Luxury is more obvious in the palace hotels. I like when the tables are close together, it encourages discussion and creates a nice atmosphere. Clients can share their experience and it becomes a place of encounter. 

David: I love that you actually come out and greet each table personally, taking the time to visit with each guest. That was one of the highlights of our meal. Do you do that during every single shift? 

Alain: Absolutely! It is a way for me to thank our guests. I like to know who is in the restaurant, where do the guests come from, and if they are satisfied. It is important for me to listen to the needs of my clients so I can correct the situation if something is not to their taste! 

David: I think that type of customer-focused hospitality surprises people coming from someone as accomplished as yourself. The fact that, despite your renowned status as a chef, you're there to serve the needs of the guest. It's a lost sense of humility in today's food and wine world, I think. In 1996, you earned three stars for L'Arpege, but in 2001 you introduced a new vegetable-based menu that focused entirely on your own hand-grown produce. Where did the inspiration for that come from? 

Alain: As you may know, I love painting and I've been making collages for almost twenty years. The inspiration comes from colors. They've made me a much more creative person

David: What was the response from your clients and customers when you began making vegetables your focus? Were people surprised? 

Alain: Curious people stayed, the others left! 

David: It really is that simple, isn't it? I think one of my favorite aspects of our meal was how simply the food was presented and how easy it was to appreciate. I love it when experts in any field can take something that seems high-brow and intimidating, and turn it into something approachable and fun. What are your feelings about the presentation of food and what are your intentions when serving it?

Alain: Easiest things are often the most difficult. This is my philosophy. I like simple things, and to own a garden makes things simpler. It brings you back to the earth and you learn to respect the seasons. While others are trying to cook four seasons at the same time, I only cook one!

David: What turns you off when you go out to eat? What inspires you personally as someone who appreciates food?

Alain: Restaurants where you can eat tomatoes all year round, or asparagus, peas, and strawberries at Christmas really turn me off. What inspires me is grace.

David: Everyone always assumes that I drink whiskey or high-end wine on a nightly basis, but after most shifts what I want is a cold beer. Is there a chef version of that, where maybe you go home after the end of a long day and crave a frozen, microwavable meal? What do you like to eat when you dine casually?

Alain: There is no chef version of that for me, I don't think. I feel so lucky to have my own gardens. I eat fresh and natural vegetables from my kitchen gardens every day regardless of the occasion.

David: What's it like having a restaurant on the Top 25 list for the world? Do you find that customers sometimes have expectations that are out of whack with reality as a result?

Alain: Not really. When our guests enter the restaurant Arpège, they probably have been to a lot of other three-star restaurants, so it is normal they have an opinion on what they eat. It is like going to a concert when you love music, you’ll have an opinion about what you hear. As I said, it is important for me to listen to my guests. When they talk to me of temperatures or seasoning of a dish for instance, I can give their feedback to the kitchen and adjust my dish. Only failure serves to make us stronger, not success. 

David: L'Arpege has an incredible wine list, and—as we talked about when I was there—I was stunned to find Edmond Vatan Sancerre. What do you look for when putting together a wine list for your restaurant? 

Alain: I try to focus on winemakers who share with me the same spirit and values. A natural wine, often a white wine, as vegetables pair very well with white wine. Chenin and Riesling grapes are the best match for vegetables!

David: I'm so happy to hear you say that. I drink white wine almost every day and, to me, it's the most complex and food friendly drink in the world, yet most people think red is where the action is. You seem to really enjoy what you do, which is always a good sign for any business. While we were waiting to get in, I remember you telling a guy on the street to come inside so you could cook for him. What is it that pleases you the most about cooking? 

Alain: You could ask the same question to a saxophonist and the answer would probably be the same. It is beautiful to play with your senses. It helps to be precise! Work with your hands, taste what you are cooking, smell the flavor, arrange a nice dish on a plate, make it an art form, listen to the flame sing, it is wonderful!

David: If you were on your death bed and you could only have one last meal before moving on into the afterlife, what would that meal be? 

Alain: I would fast!

-David Driscoll