Wine and Dine with the Stars



At Bellavitae in New York, we enjoyed serving the many celebrities who dined with us.  As I wrote when we closed, “I’ve never been star struck, but it was always fun to have famous people in the restaurant, many of whom became regulars.”

Here in northern New Mexico, we dine with different kinds of stars – thousands of them twinkling above in the heavens.  At an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, the dry Southwest sky is virtually free of humidity, dust, and manmade pollutants, enabling brilliant stars to penetrate the velvet darkness above.

This summer, The Blonde Bear Tavern will be serving a gourmet dinner on a moonless night to celebrate the stars:  August 11th at 7:00 pm.   Joining us will be Geoff Goins and Night Sky Adventures, who will show us the night’s universe, in real time, with our own eyes.  After dessert, we’ll explore the night sky through one of the largest telescopes in New Mexico – with one of the best astronomy guides in the country.


The Menu

BBT-bearLogo2The prix fixe menu is Piedmont-inspired – an Italian region also known for its spectacular Alpine night skies.  And the dates correspond with Taos Ski Valley’s local chanterelle season – so if Mother Nature cooperates, these fabulous mushrooms will be a part of the menu.

Insalata di Lattuga con Pinoli e Parmigiano
Lettuce Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Parmigiano Shavings and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fagiano con Chanterelle e Funghi Selvatici
Pheasant with Taos Ski Valley Chanterelle and Wild Mushroom Sauce

Gnocchi alla Parigina
Parisian-style Gnocchi

Verdure di Stagione
Seasonal Vegetables

Composta di Frutti di Bosco con Gelato
Mixed Berries sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar with Vanilla Gelato

Price: $28.95 per person + tax and gratuity, beverages not included.
We will be offering several specially selected wines by the bottle and glass.


The Night Sky

Geoff promises a spectacular summer sky:

“Depending on the time of year, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s great red spot and moons are all plainly visible.  The polar ice caps, surface color variations and dust storms of Mars, the crescent phases, and beautiful cloud tops of Venus and the green disk of Uranus all show their beauty through the eyepiece.  The space walk feel of the surface of the Moon at over 300 power is simply breathtaking.”

He encourages questions and guests are welcome to bring their own binoculars and to share their experiences.

One interesting note:  The annual Perseids Meteor Shower – the most famous of all meteor showers – will be peaking around August 11th.  It never fails to provide an impressive display and, due to its summertime appearance, tends to provide the majority of meteors seen by non-astronomy enthusiasts.


Please Join Us!

Pardon the pun, but if the planets align on this date, we’re sure to have a magical evening.

Seating is limited and reservations are essential.  For more information or to make your reservation, call 575-737-6900.



Ricette Classiche: Brasato al Barolo

As autumn submits to winter, the frigid air outside suggests the perfect meal for a Sunday evening gathering – Brasato al Barolo.  Beef braises in the oven for hours, lazily simmering in red wine, and produces an aroma like no other.  It permeates the house with reminders of Piedmont, the magical alcove surrounded by an arc of the majestic snow-capped Alps.

Braising is a centuries-old but ingenious method of cooking that transforms a less desirable cut of meat into a succulent and flavorful delicacy that does wonders to warm the soul on a cold winter’s night.  In The French Laundry Cookbook, Thomas Keller says this about braising:

“When you’ve pulled your pot from the oven to regard your braise, to really see it, to smell it, you’ve connected yourself to generations and generations of people who have done the same thing for hundreds of years in exactly the same way.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Every major cuisine seems to have its method of braising meat in liquid; the French have Pièce de Boeuf Braisée / Boeuf à la Mode, in America we have Yankee Pot Roast, and in Italy it’s Brasato.  The Italian word is a derivative of brace, meaning “hot coals”.  In the past a heavy pot was buried in glowing coals where the meat would simmer for hours, with more embers placed upon the concave lid.

In Italy braising is used extensively – for a piece of meat or game, sometimes fish or fowl – the most common being beef.  It can be marinated beforehand, sometimes with herbs, spices, and/or vegetables.  Typically the meat is first browned (gilded) in fat or oil before simmering in liquid for three to five hours.  In Lombardy they add cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves.  In Liguria they use dried mushrooms, some ham, and a mixture of wine and beef broth – and sometimes they substitute pork for beef.  In Piedmont, the classic recipe is Brasato al Barolo [braise of Barolo wine].

What gives brasato its delicious flavor and tenderness are two components in the roast one doesn’t usually associate with quality meat:  fat and sinew (connective tissue).  When these parts of the roast are heated to 150° they begin to melt, losing their toughness and dissolve into the muscle fibers, creating a velvety texture and delicious earthy flavor – a process that dry heat is unable to effectively achieve.

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International Wine Challenge Announces 2010 Winners

One of the world’s most prestigious and influential independent wine competitions, the International Wine Challenge (IWC), unveiled the results of the 2010 Trophy and Great Value Wine Awards at the Lords Nursery Pavilion this summer.  Over 100 wines were awarded this year, along with 14 Great Value Wines judged for their style, availability and price.

World-class Italian wines included:

Champion Red Wine:  Castello Romitoro, Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG, Riserva, 2004

Great Value Champion, Sparkling:  Medici Ermete, Lambrusco Reggiano DOC, Concerto, 2009


Local trophies included:

Amarone Trophy:  Cantine Riondo, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Trionfo, 2006

Edmund Penning Rowsell Trophy, Bolgheri Trophy:  Grattamacco, Bolgheri Superiore DOC, L’Alberello, 2007

Italian Botrytis Trophy:  Moncaro Terre Cortesi, Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC, Tordiruta, 2006

Italian Red Trophy:  Castello Romitoro, Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG, Riserva, 2004

Italian Sweet Trophy:  Cavit, Vino Santo Trentino DOC, Aréle, 1998

Lambrusco Trophy:  Albinea Canali (Cantine Riunite & Civ), Lambrusco Emilia IGT, Ottocentonero, NV

Marche Red Trophy:  Vico Vicari, Lacrima di Morro D’Alba DOC, Lacrima Del Pozzo Buono, 2008

Soave Trophy:  Pieropan, Soave Classico DOC, La Rocca, 2007