Oxford Kitchen

I've eaten at least twice---once tonight, and once or twice last June or so... at The Oxford Kitchen on Banbury Road in the heart of Summertown in North Oxford.  Extraordinarily good food.  Nice ambience and décor, stylish but relatively casual.  Exposed brick walls, large silk-screen Campbell's soup can print a nice humorous touch.  Set price menu is extraordinary value.  Hake with Jerusalem artichokes, parsley risotto and some kind of thin (like, microthin) veggie crisps just superb.  Nougatine with quince sorbet, thin (like, microthin) wafers tasting of burnt sugar, toasted almonds, and some crumbly stuff mind-blowingly good.  Pumpkin velouté starter good, not mind-blowing, but set off the wine I had very nicely.  At £18.50 for 2 courses, £15.50 for 2, it's one of the best foodie values I've encountered anywhere.   Wines are carefully chosen and if you have wine in restaurants you know how important that is.  2013 Boschendal Chenin Blanc, coastal region South Africa, £5/175ml is kind of the Chablis of Chenin Blancs---pretty dry, a bit of stereotypical apple flavor but mostly just tastes like really solid white wine a bit flinty-seeming maybe but that's probably just a bit of tannin, really long, flavorful finish no doubt stuck to the palate with a bit of that unobtrusive tannin, a smooth, just the slightest bit unctuous, and not at all hot (overalcoholic) mouthfeel.  To get a chardonnay of this quality, you'd be looking at good village-level white burgundy from the Côtes de Beaune or Nuits, like maybe a St.-Aubin at least (or maybe some particular thing, known to the cognoscenti but not to you unless from a restaurant like this...from a lesser appellation like Mercurey) at least, and 3-4x the price.  Ditto on the red side if you wanted a pinot noir as good as the Claro Reserva 2012 Pinot Noir from Chile ( also £5/175ml)... lush, a bit spicy and earthy, with generous berry flavors too but not a fruit or alcohol bomb, balanced.  These folks have done the work of tasting through dozens of ho-hum reasonably-priced wines to find the ones that deliver an experience that is usually (well, I don't usually spend that kind of money) much more expensive.  Talisker 10 year old, neat in a nice wide rocks glass with a bit of water to splash in, was a perfect finish.  Lively balance between peat and brighter more floral notes, filling the nose with perfume and crackling like fire on your tongue.

I had the tasting menu once last year, it too was superb.  Don't miss Oxford Kitchen if you're in town and can get up to Summertown for a meal.

2009 Domaine Arlaud Bourgogne "Roncevie"

I picked up a bottle of the Domaine Arlaud Bourgogne "Roncevie" at the Casa Sena wine shop in Santa Fe the other day. (Warm thanks to PJ there for the recommendation.) Tried it last night with dinner. Very fresh and pure-tasting Pinot Noir. Light to medium-bodied, but reasonably intense with what seems to me a very Burgundian makeup---fine but somewhat mouth-coating tannins, a slight bit of smokiness or caramel (from oak, probably) overlaying bright fruit, primarily strawberry or perhaps cherry-like flavors. Reasonably velvety and well-integrated, and getting a bit more intense over the course of the meal. Not extraordinarily complex, but delicious. As I recall this wasn't inexpensive (Burgundy, unfortunately, never is), but pretty impressive for the price. It has the rare and pleasing taste of a natural, minimally messed with, clean and alive wine. A find I'm very happy with. I might rate it 8.5 or 9 on a 10 point scale, but it's basically a perfect example of what it is---a delicious, not overweening red Bourgogne. It went very well with a dinner of Venetian style smothered cabbage (finely shredded and slow cooked with sauteed onion, garlic, and a little red wine vinegar) and a pasta sauced with collard and mustard greens, white beans, and tomatoes.

A look at the importer's (North Berkeley Wine's) website reveals some information about Domaine Arlaud, which is based in the great Côtes-de-Nuits wine town of Morey St.-Denis, and about the 2008 vintage of this wine. According to this, Roncevie is surrounded by vineyards designated Gevrey-Chambertin, which helps explain its quality.