I think the best way to describe chef Marc Murphy is approachable. At least that’s how I felt when I met him the other day. Of course, as one of the judges on Food Network’s "Chopped," any of the contestants that he may have “chopped” off the show, might not agree with me.
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As executive chef and owner of all the Benchmarc restaurants, which includes Landmarc and Ditch Plains in New York City, Murphy and his long-time business partner director David Lombardo, who serves as the wine and beverage director of Benchmarc Restaurants, have decided that approachable is the way to go.
Which is a bit surprising considering Murphy worked with some of the greatest chefs of our time in fabulous places like Milan, Paris, Villefranche, Washington, D.C., Rome and Genoa.
But even with this extensive background, he decided that “approachable” was better for business.
So when Marc opened his first restaurant Landmarc in the Tribeca section of Manhattan nearly a decade ago, not only did he want to cater to families, but he created a killer wine list with extremely low markups.
The restaurant was a hit with the wine crowd.
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And Murphy thinks his low prices have taken some of the seriousness out of drinking wine. People are willing to try new things if they don’t have to mortgage their house to do so. It also helps to keep diners coming back.
In addition, Lombardo says they started capitalizing on the “half-bottle” craze.
A half bottle of wine is about 2.5 glasses, and until recently, you couldn’t really get good wines in a half bottle. But thankfully, things have changed. Lombardo says they now serve more than 100 different wines in half bottles -- perfect if you’re running out to dinner with the kids and don’t want to buy a whole bottle of wine or if you just want to try something new.
Again, all very approachable.
Questions for Our Wine Pro
What is your death row wine?
I tend to be partial to French wines, but for my death row wine I would choose the 1997 Ridge Monte Bello from California. It's close to a classic French Bordeaux and I recently tasted it and - WOW - a total game changer for me.
What region produces the best wine?
I'm not sure I can pick just one. One of the most amazing things about wine, and wine regions, is that there are so many fantastic ones out there. If I had to choose, I would say Italian whites and reds form Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone in France.
What is the best wine and food pairing you’ve ever had?
Another tough choice! I'm fortunate to say I have had many, but recently it was sharing a Pol Roger Champagne with Joe's Stone Crab crab claws from Florida. The natural sweet and salty meat was a wonderful pairing with the tingly acid and hints of honey in the back ground of this classic sparkling.
What will the U.S. wine industry look like in 10 years?
I think more restaurants will be offering wines on tap, and more wineries will be producing wines in half bottles. Also, you will see an even stronger presence from South America.
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