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The ‘Grand Cru Jew’ pours fine wine at Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in the West Village

(New York Jewish Week) — Imagine an Upper West Side seder like any other: adults praying, haggadahs dappled with brisket juice, matzah ball soup a little too salty. Only that’s not a Manischewitz bottle on the table. That’s a magnum of Cru Beaujolais.

For this type of epicurean refinement, it helps to have someone in your family like Dean Fuerth, better known to his Instagram followers as the “Grand Cru Jew.” Though his nickname, derived from the highest designation for Burgundy wines, conjures up images of a “Seinfeld”-ian C-plot, Fuerth, 35, is a serious sommelier with extensive training in French fine dining. Since 2017, he has served as the beverage director for the Sushi Nakazawa empire, helming one of the most robust rare sake lists in the city, if not the world.

Fuerth’s handle comes from his time working as a young wine trainee at the Manhattan restaurant Bouley, where a senior sommelier set up challenges to sell unconventional bottles. One night, Fuerth ended up overselling his goal by about $4,000. “Oui, Grand Cru Jew,” Fuerth says the sommelier enthused — and the nickname stuck.

“It comes up in public,” Fuerth said of his moniker, with pride. “Especially in the wine community.”

Fuerth describes his family as falling into the “liberal Jew category” from the Upper West Side, attending synagogue on the High Holidays. “I have a very strong sense of family identity, personal identity,” he told the New York Jewish Week.

Fuerth was not predestined to become a sommelier — his family hardly consists of wine snobs. Via a phone interview, he tells the story of his aunt, who, at a seder in 2009, opened a bottle of Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. The following year, Fuerth noticed she was pouring the same vintage — she had re-corked last year’s bottle. Fuerth could only laugh.

“I’m now the culinary director for the family,” said Fuerth, half-joking.

In a family of lawyers, pursuing a fine dining career was unheard of; what’s more, sommelier isn’t a traditional Jewish profession. As wine writer Alice Feiring said last year: “It’s hard to tell your parents ‘I’m not going to medical school or law school, I’m going to be a wine waiter.’”

In the mid-aughts, Fuerth was pursuing a degree in film at Hunter College, but he dropped out after a year to become a production assistant on shows like “Law and Order” and “30 Rock.” To pay his bills, he took a job as a barback and busboy at the Upper West Side restaurant Bella Blu, a job he readily admits — with typical service industry candor — he wasn’t particularly good at. But he was able to handle bottles, a skill that gave him some currency in the wine world.

In 2010, he was off to a higher-paying gig as a server at Bar Boulud, the Burgundy wine bar at Lincoln Center run by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. Under the auspices of the beverage director Michael Madrigale, Fuerth opened new bottles every night, giving him a crash course in the catalog of French wines. Fuerth still has an encyclopedic knowledge of this time: He recounts the exact bottle — a 1999 Cornas August Clape from the Rhone Valley — that kickstarted his ambitions.

“I was having my mind blown by how complex and deep and soulful wine can be,” he said. “Having a curiosity and a passion opened up this whole world.”

That understanding of terroir, how microclimates can impart flavor, intoxicated him. He closed out his film industry chapter for good and embarked upon what he called “French military” fine dining training. The culture privileges conformity over creativity — but Fuerth didn’t conform.

“Dean had that pirate mentality,” said Madrigale. “He’s like a New  Yorker, straight up. When he gets it in his mind he wants to do something, he does it.”

Madrigale remembers a time when Fuerth, as a server, had sold enough wine to entitle him to a free meal at the upscale restaurant. He chose the decadent duck confit. “He was going to sit down and eat in the dining room, while other people are waiting for him to serve them,” Madrigale said, still astounded by Fuerth’s chutzpah. “I think even Daniel [Boulud] said, ‘Well he’s doing really well, let him do it.”’

Madrigale became a mentor to Fuerth, who began his formal wine training and accompanied Madrigale on a trip to Bordeaux. After Bar Boulud, Fuerth traversed through a Zagat list of the city’s Michelin-starred French fine dining outposts as a self-described wine “mercenary.” He landed one of his first sommelier gigs in 2014 at Bouley, the now-closed French joint from Chef David Bouley in Tribeca. His first beverage director gig came the following year at Betony, in Midtown.

“I was able to open up some of the craziest, most expensive bottles,” he said of his time at Bouley. “And I got my butt kicked.”

He arrived at Sushi Nakazawa first as a fan-boy diner. Nakazawa opened in the West Village in 2013 as a 10-seat omakase spot that was immediately lauded as one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city. Pete Wells, in his initial 4-star review for the New York Times, heralded Daisuke Nakazawa’s cookery: “The moment-to-moment joys of eating one mouthful of sushi after another can merge into a blur of fish bliss.”

He approached them for a job, and in 2017, became their beverage director. Fuerth was thrown into a new role: sake expert. “It’s a completely different animal,” Fuerth said of the rice alcohol; his French wine training proved non-transferrable.

How did the Grand Cru Jew fare? “It was a steep and harsh learning curve,” he admits. Fuerth began looking for low acid, richer grapes like Condrieu to compare with sake.

Buying sakes also proved opaque. The echelon of sake producers Fuerth was working with required a certain level of trust among buyers due to their microscopic scale. Take, for example, Dassai’s “Beyond the Beyond” Junmai Daiginjō. A known producer of high-end sake, Dassai started a contest in 2019 among Japanese farmers cultivating the very specific Yamada-Nishiki grain. After machine analysis and DNA testing, the company chose to buy just one plot of land for this sake. They made 23 bottles and sent just four to America. Nakazawa is selling their bottle for $19,000.

“Sake should be consumed at the right environment, at the right temperature and tell the story of what makes it special,” he said.

Fuerth has certaintly caught up: Just last week, World of Fine Wine selected Sushi Nakazawa as the best sake list in North America.

Now six years in, Fuerth’s conception of wine pairings has evolved, too. He matches high-ticket Burgundy and Champagne with new age bottles from places like Hungary and Quebec, all with a Japanese palate in mind. He has overseen Nakazawa’s expansion to Washington, D.C., as well as a pop-up in Aspen, Colorado, and will be continuing onto a new location in Los Angeles.

It’s not unusual for diners at Nakazawa to spend four figures on a bottle. Is it mind-blowing to regularly sell bottles the price of a used car? “I’m a little numb to it at this point,” Fuerth said.

It’s all a far cry from the Cupcake wine Fuerth’s aunt served at the seder years ago (although Fuerth admits to drinking Manischewitz at synagogue).

The day after our conversation, Fuerth was set to depart New York for Bordeaux, as part of a trip organized by a wine distributor to some of the most storied, cloistered chateaus of the region. There they would open decades-old bottles that had never left the vineyard.

“It never gets old,” Fuerth said. “I feel like a kid again.”


The post The ‘Grand Cru Jew’ pours fine wine at Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in the West Village appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

The post Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

The post Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

The post Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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