The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2017

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Page 89 of 124

october 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  89 Rolling Out the Red Carpet for MÁD The ambience at TOMGEORGE is an immersive lesson in textures and tones, not unlike MÁD Furmint itself. The restaurant's dramatic, tiered light fixtures and tall ceilings make the space seem downright cavernous, yet TOMGEORGE still manages to emit a sense of intimacy that's a deliberate departure from the industrial-influenced aesthetics dominating the downtown dining scene. Two geometric-patterned white walls catch shadows and reflect light in a way that's almost sculptural, while the bold, brightly-lit signage above the restaurant's entrance all but rolls out the red carpet for its patrons as they venture in to experience TOMGEORGE's fashionable fusion of Hungarian, Californian, and Italian cuisines. The proverbial red carpet has also been laid for MÁD, which, like TOMGEORGE, is what Lefkovics refers to as a "whole Hungarian handmade product": MÁD Furmint hails from Hungary's famed Tokaj wine region, while the original TOMGEORGE opened more than 15 years ago in Budapest and is one of the capital city's most popular restaurants. Lakat was working nearby to the flag- ship restaurant when Lefkovics and TOMGEORGE's other namesake owner, Tom Sztanó, approached him about joining their new venture in L.A. When Lakat left Hungary, MÁD was not yet on the market, and Furmint was still synonymous with the sweet Tokaj dessert wines familiar from his youth and his education as a sommelier. But when Balla, who serves as a brand builder and importer for Furmint in North America, stopped into TOMGEORGE with a bottle of MÁD in hand, that eye-opening first interaction proved enough for Lakat to book a trip back home to meet MÁD Winemaker István Szepsy, Jr. and see the Szent Tamás Winery where MÁD is produced firsthand. "I walked in, an unknown Furmint ambas- sador, I ordered the Budapest pizza, I brought the wine, and we tasted it together. Then, within a month, he came to Hungary, he visited the winery, he learned everything about it, and now he's the ambassador of Furmint in the restaurant—selling the story of the wine and transmitting the passion of the 18th-generation Hungarian winemaker and the team working on the wine's promotion," Balla recalls with a laugh. Showcasing the Versatility of MÁD Lakat understood that introducing MÁD Furmint, a wine virtually unknown to U.S. wine drinkers, to his clientele at TOMGEORGE might be rocky at first—though, of course, not nearly as rocky as the volcanic soils responsible for Furmint's signature minerality—but he only had to conjure memories of his experience at the winery to know MÁD aligned perfectly with TOMGEORGE's mission to "do something different, something special." "Because there's Hungarian influence on the menu and the wine list as well, we wanted to introduce this wine to the United States and let the people know we are producing very good wines in a small country," Lakat explains. "People who come in are always asking, who's the owner? And when I say [they're] two gentlemen from Hungary, they immediately ask what we have from Hungary . . . and they love to try [the Furmint]. We are proud to show something unique from Hungary that is consid- ered by the wine professional to be the new taste of the world." TOMGEORGE's menu features its fair share of memorable dishes, so it's serendipitous that the versatility of MÁD allows the wine to pair well with many types of food. Lakat recommends drinking it with light- leaning dishes that won't overpower the wine, like the restaurant's foie gras mousse, served with blackberry puree and almond brittle, or the ever-popular Budapest pizza with "Lecsó" ratatouille, mangalica sausage, sour cream, and chives. Zoltán Davis, meanwhile, says the roasted whole orata—cut butterfly- style and cooked in the restaurant's pizza oven, then served with stewed cherry tomatoes and basil oil—"is a really good match for the Furmint," as are the charred half chicken with corn-orange puree and the bone-in pork chop with bacon lardon and bacon-infused mashed potatoes. "The Furmint, it's more dry, more fit for almost every single type of food. It's more lightweight, with a little more copper reflection," Zoltán Davis adds. "The people who are tasting it, they've probably never tasted a wine like this before." Starting in October, TOMGEORGE will host "Happy Furmint Hours" daily from 3–7 p.m. through the end of the year with $5 glasses of any Furmint selection on its wine list. In addition to the MÁD, the restaurant serves an Oremus "Mandolás" Dry Furmint, and Lakat says they plan to add MÁD's 2014 Tokaji Late Harvest Wine to the list this fall as well. "The winery already has a few other versions of the Furmint," he adds, "So if they bring the portfolio here, then we're probably going to sell those wines as well." The happy hour also carries the ultimate endorsement: "We will not charge you for the Furmint if [you] don't like it," Balla says, as Zoltán Davis proclaims with a laugh, "We are trusting this wine that much!" Vinum Tokaj International President Attila Balla and TOMGEORGE Co-Owner George Lefkovics both hail from Hungary.

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