Welcome to “Kitchen Essentials,” a new series from Chowhound where chefs and bartenders from around the country invite viewers into their kitchens and bars, unveiling the five tools that are simply essential to their work.
Walk into Cote, a Korean steakhouse in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, and you’ll be greeted by scents of searing steaks and the hissing sounds of raw meat gracing the hot flames on every table. The steakhouse is unlike many of New York’s ubiquitous ones—the kinds overflowing with smart-suited servers carrying goblets of creamed spinach and hunks of just-pink meat. Instead, Cote blends Korean barbecue with the foundation of the American steakhouse, highlighting meat—and all accompanying accoutrements and sides—as the star.
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Here, guests are given the opportunity to grill their own meat (although a trained cook can do it for you, if you prefer). A grill is carved into each table, prepped to heat tender filet mignon, ribbons of strip steak, and marbled cuts of ribeye. Appetizers, like wedge salads, savory egg soufflés, and seasonal Korean side dishes, or banchan, can be split among diners.
But just as important as the food at Cote is the beverage program. At the helm of it all is Victoria James, a sommelier and author who leads the charge when it comes to curating Cote’s wine lists and providing guests with suggestions. Once hailed as the youngest American sommelier, Victoria now takes her deep knowledge of wine to the cellars of Cote.
Like any sommelier, Victoria understands that wine without its accompanying tools simply isn’t wine. Chowhound spent the day with Victoria as she unveiled the most important tools of her craft, and even teased some sommelier-approved tips for those who are just as obsessed with wine as she is.
Although there are a slew of corkscrews out there—many of which are heavy, expensive tools—Victoria maintains that the only real wine opener you need is a compact wine key, the kind that waiters often carry around. “They’re the most efficient,” Victoria says, “and you have less room for error, in terms of breaking corks.”Buy Now
A tastevin (literally “taste wine”) is something that historically sommeliers would wear around their neck, a small, convex dish that wine was poured into and tasted from. The idea originated when sommeliers would drop into the wine cellar and would catch wine straight out of the barrel with the tastevin. Buy Now
Decanters aren’t merely for show. In fact, they serve a few very important purposes when it comes to wine. Often in older bottles of wine there’s sediment, and decanting funnels out any grainy bits that are found in the bottom. Other times, a decanter is used to let a bottle open up and breathe. And the final reason would be to raise the temperature of the wine.Buy Now
Victoria recommends using a funnel with a strainer to trap large pieces of sediment that can sometimes plague wine. For bottles of wine with much smaller particles, Victoria will cut a square of cheesecloth and drape it over the funnel to catch as much sediment as possible.Buy Now
What is wine without its most precious vessel? At Cote, the bar is stacked with a range of glassware, from glasses designed for Burgundy and Bordeaux wines to all-purpose glasses that can be employed for a wealth of wine varietals. Buy Now
For more about Victoria, Cote, and wine, watch the sixth episode of “Kitchen Essentials.”
Header image by Chowhound.