The Bryant Family Vineyard, known for their extraordinary wines by collectors, has gathered top chefs from around the country to create dinner recipes with matching wines suggestions (by the grape) in their new cookbook, The Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook. See what Thomas Keller or Eric Ripert have to recommend for your next dinner party.
This beautifully boxed kit is designed to hone your olfactory awareness and develop the right vocabulary when describing wine. Nez du Vin contains tiny vials of the essences of fruits and flowers, and some odd items, like cut hay, roasted almonds, and leather. To reinforce learning, it’s best to test your knowledge with wine itself, remember, practice makes perfect! The 54 kit is a little on the pricey side, but might be a good excuse to form a wine group, so everyone can pitch in.
The Tasting Club is the handbook for throwing all types of tasting parties: wine, chocolate, cheese, even apples. Author Dina Cheney guides you every step of the way—to help you assemble ingredients, show you what to serve as accompaniments—with recipes and hints on how to educate your palate. What a great way to learn.
Become a wine expert in nine weeks with Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. Kevin Zraly has updated his best-selling book for its 25th anniversary edition. A fantastic gift for someone who is ready to learn about wine, and great reference book for the wine fanatic. Its straightforward manner is immediately engaging, as are the lists of fascinating facts throughout.
Derek and I managed to pull together a last minute party for Dietl, an art import company. This Mexican Chili Cheesecake with Mango Salsa topping was a huge hit, and made for a great entry into our half vegetarian offerings. Seen behind are the chocolate mousse profiteroles. I wish there were still some left. See more pics from the party food and decor here.
Stylishly transport a bottle of wine, and keep it cold, in this sophisticated felt carrier from Gräf & Lantz. Quiver is made of luxurious merino wool felt with vegetable-tanned leather adjustable belts. Other styles feature red, olive, and black felt, or you can go with the duo, which holds 2 bottles (for those who like to plan ahead).
R. W. Knudsen, known for their natural and organic juices, has come out with a line of pretty little cans of organic sparkling water infusions. My favorite, the cucumber, is a natural in cocktails. I have been adding about a third of a can to a mix of vodka, apple juice (or pineapple), and fresh lime juice—a great way to stretch the drink without adding calories, yet still providing a complexity of flavor. Sparkling Essence also comes Organic Lemon, Organic Blueberry and Organic Mint. Play around with your own mixes and tell me which one is your favorite...
No matter what you decide to give this season, think about re-usable gift wrapping. Living Ethos offers a line of bags, designed to last for years, so the bags can change hands again and again. They come in four sizes, and some very tasteful patterns. I like Deco Maze in black and white, or the Dottie Red, for holiday gifting without succumbing to the usual motifs.
Sci-fi lovers will get a kick out of this woody space ship. Station it on a sideboard, then put it to use for cradling fruit, candies or bread. Comes with either a metal base, resembling the legs of a space ship, or the wooden base, shown. The Museum of Robots has lots of other responsibly designed products.
A lot of guests means a lot of coats. This coat rack from Desu Design acts as a subtle work of art when not in use, but can accommodate up to 9 garments in a flash. Available in white with metallic color accents or for the true minimalist, in all aluminum.
Catching an exhibit at MOMA? Head to the cafeteria early, and you can beat the line, as my friend Maya and I did in late summer. The seasonal selection and service at Cafe 2 cafeteria was fantastic. We filled up on faro salad, arugula salad with prosciutto, goat cheese and figs and a trio of Bruschetta: eggplant and tomato; spicy broccoli rabe and citrus ricotta cheese; and lemon chick pea and artichokes. The visual appeal whet our senses for the Ron Arad exhibit, which was also divine.
At a recent Sherry and Tapas Tasting, I was reminded of how much I enjoy sherry. North Square’s sommelier, Raoul Segarra, shared his knowledge of this unique wine, with each of the six pairings emphasizing unique notes of every variety, whether a Fino, Amontillado, or Oloroso. Photo shows the sherries in order, which, of course, got sweeter and heavier as we progressed. I encourage you to head right over to the Washington Square Hotel and warm up with a glass yourself in their cozy surrounds. See more photos and details on the pairings here.
Dempsey & Carroll have been in New York City, printing with hand-engraved steel dies on tactile cotton paper since 1878. Procrastinators, if you have yet to send out your party invitations for the holiday, you are in luck. This Friday, the store on 1049 Lexington Avenue (betw 74th + 75th) is having a 25% off sale on all boxes of fill-in invitations. You will definitely be wowed once you are in the store by the level of craftmanship and classic and modern motifs to choose from. You also might pick up a few gift items for the sophisticates in your life, or create a custom calling card for yourself—which people have started doing again, though instead of just a name, they are adding their blog or website. See more of what I liked at the store here.
Beam Global Spirits & Wine pulled out all the stops at their recent tasting held in the penthouse in The Hotel On Rivington. Five themed bars were cranking out creative libations from Contemporary Cocktails, including the punch—served by a mystical, golden lady. I could go on and on, it was a fantastic night. See more pics, cocktail recipes and creative decorations by artist Christopher Young here.
There’s a new spot for pizza in town. Ultra thin, to boot. Trattoria Cinque is featuring them, along with Chef Mirco Grassini’s other Tuscan specialties. Head to Tribeca with a crowd, because you are going to want to try them all. We sampled the Lardo with Rosemary, seen here on the left, and the Margherita, right, to which the staff added some proscuitto for us. The Gorgonzola with Sliced Pears featured the most delicate blue cheese I have ever tasted. Not what you would expect. They even feature a couple of unique choices on the brunch menu: scrambled eggs, mozzarella and pancetta pizza or the Margherita pizza with fried eggs and bacon. See more pictures of the vast space and food here. The price is nice as well—order a pie and two Peronis and you pay $20, including tax.
Back in June, I attended the soft opening of Ward III in Tribeca and had a fabulous time. When Michael Neff served my favorite cocktail at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala I was reminded it was time to go back. Purposely, I went in the early eve, so I could get lots of personal attention from Michael and Kenneth McCoy (photo, left) who was at the helm. Author Kara Newman and I sampled from the cocktail menu, and were more than pleased with our choices (you can see more pics of the tasting here). Best of all, if you don’t see something you like on the list, you can refer to the “bespoke menu” (photo, right) which has lists of adjectives that you can use to describe the perfect cocktail which will be customized for you, on the spot. Check out Kara’s new book called “Spice and Ice” which is filled with her own selection of spicy cocktails.
Bruce Kreig, author of Hot Dog, enthusiastically tells the history of this American icon—from its humble German-immigrant origins to the development of signature toppings. Hosted at the Roger Smith Hotel, Chef Daniel Mowles put his gourmet touch onto the regional specialties we tried. Pictured left is the Coney Island hot dog, which had onions, yellow mustard, and chili on top. The secret ingredient in the chili was beef hearts, which, everyone agreed, made it indescribably delicious (see more pics from this event here). Tasting these hot dogs brought me back to the Fancy Food show in July, where I had some amazing samples from D’artagnan. All four of their varieties are excellent—duck, beef, pork and buffalo (photo, right). I highly recommend them for your next barbecue, as they are skinless, fully cooked, raised on an all-vegetable feed, without growth hormones, antibiotics or nitrates in the mix. Excellent with or without toppings.
Bruce Gore began fishing kindly in 1978, long before anyone was concerned about traceability or the effects of net fishing. At the same time each year, salmon are line-caught in way that is in tune with the sea and the nature of the salmon. Because the boat travels at the same speed the fish swims, swiftly pulled onto the boat and humanely killed, cleaned and frozen instantly, the fish never develops the lactic acid that would result from a struggle. You can really taste the difference. Tanuki Tavern, the new restaurant that replaced Ono at the Ganesevoort Hotel, is serving it up in little bites—hibachi-style, as sushi and in special rolls. You can also buy it retail at Dean and Deluca. For ordering information, visit the Triad Fisheries website, and ask owner Mark Tupper to give you a taste of superior salmon. See more pics of the tasting here.
I can’t think of a more fun way to end the weekend than having a fantastic meal, good company and a food competition to watch. The Harrison in Tribeca, where Amanda Freitag is chef, has been hosting viewings of The Next Iron Chef, as Amanda advanced into the final four. Friends and fans gathered around to see this talented chef, and watch her reactions as she viewed the episodes she taped a few months back. Of course, while I was there I had to take advantage of not only being able to see the food, but to taste it. Top photo is the Shrimp Cake, which was a crunchy delight. To see more of what happened that night, click here.
A few months ago I went to a Spanish wine and food show and discovered a winemaker inspired by American techniques and attitudes with an extremely creative collection. Vintae Luxury Wine Specialists produces Matsu, which means “wait” in Japanese. The 2006 label is a dedication to the people who have devoted their lives to the land (photo, center, on the right is a trio of older labels). I thought these designs were as innovative as the wine. Also noteworthy is Castillo de Maetierra, an elite line of white wines from the Valles de Sadacia, usually known for Rioja. This region of Spain boasts low rainfall and humidity levels, thus imparting the most sunshine for the re-established Muscat à petits grains grapevines. When combined with Viura and Malvasia varieties, Libalis, part of the collection, thrills you with its fruity and well-balanced taste. On the left is Ribera de Queiles’s “6” —a blend of Temperanillo and Merlot, this wine is intensely dark, full-bodied, excellent. Save these wines for a special occasion, but don’t wait too long!
Finding yourself in the 90s on the east side, around 9:30, can be a challenge to find a place that’s buzzing. Sfoglia was packed, and other spots closing or on the wane. What to do? Luckily, we had the stamina to walk down Madison until we came across The Carlyle around 76th ! At 10 pm the place was electric and actually a perfect segue to our outing at the 92nd St Y—an interview with the irrepressible and brilliant Gore Vidal. The jazz mixed beautifully with the classic cocktail called the Tommy Rowles, named after the bartender who was there for 50 years, and featured: Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac, Ten Cane Rum, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and house-made tonic. It was one of those nights where you say “I love New York!” See more photos from The Carlyle here.
Next time you are in the east village, be sure to check out Summit, the new spot that opened where Baraza was. Mixologist and part-owner Greg Seider, who was recently responsible for creating the cocktails at Minetta Tavern, has put together a menu of classics and alchemist cocktails. He will also create one just for you, if you tell him what you are in the mood for, perhaps using herbs from the rooftop garden. Since we had just come from a Tres Generaciones event at LEVANTeast, we stayed with tequila. The cocktail: Ground to Glass (photo, right) had El Tesoro platinum tequila, red pepper, cucumber, jalapeno, basil infused agave, fresh lime, orange bitters. I like the fact that in the front lounge area where we were stationed, there is a functional bi-level glass cocktail table, which allow purses to be stored underneath, and drinks to sit atop. Good use of space. See more pics from our night out here.
This is a great method for preserving excess herbs that you’ve grown or bought. My dear friend, Maya, has been doing this for the past 5 seasons, allowing her to enjoy her garden spoils throughout the year. As a bonus, the herbs’ fresh-tasting flavors get more intense as time passes. She makes 3 varieties: an equal mixture of oregano, thyme, and sage; a basil batch; and a rosemary batch. Use them in salad dressings and marinades, and of course, when cooking. The rosemary is heavenly on steamed or roasted potatoes, the basil is a nice surprise in mashed potatoes or tasty on a green bean salad.
- Harvest herbs early or late in the day when they are cool, to avoid wilting
- Herbs must be thoroughly DRY before you begin, since it is water that causes spoilage. After washing, remove excess water with a paper towel, then spread herbs out for an hour or till all the water evaporates. (It may not be necessary to wash the herbs from your own garden, use your judgement)
- Strip the leaves, discard stems. Mince the herbs as finely as you can. This will release the most flavor into the oil. Maya likes using a ”mezza luna” knife (a curved Italian blade with a handle at each end that allows you to rock back and forth).
- Spoon herbs into small mason jars leaving about 1/2" from the top, then fill with olive oil (use cooking not extra virgin). Let the jars stand for an hour or so, topping them up as the oil is absorbed. There should be a 1/2" layer of just oil at the top, which will act very much like a wax seal.
- Label and refrigerate the jars. When using, spoon out what you need, and be sure to cover any exposed herbs with additional oil. Don't worry if you leave the jar out of the fridge and the oil liquefies, this will not cause spoilage, but do remember to put them back in the fridge when you are finished cooking. The photo on the right shows how it looks when it first comes out of the refrigerator.
At the newly opened SD26, there is a futuristic trend. They have ditched the traditional wine list and replaced it with a touch-screen device. It’s not only fun to play with to learn about the wines, it also works in real time, so that if a wine sells out, it will not appear on the list. This frees up a lot of time for the sommeliers, who can focus on discovering new wines instead of keeping track of inventory. I like the fact that the labels are displayed—like a face, I never forget a label but often forget the name. It’s great to see a paperless solution! They didn’t stop there. At the entry to the restaurant is a slick-looking wine bar, where you can sip some interesting by-the-glass choices as you gaze out onto picturesque Madison Square Park. The diplay which houses the wine, also prevents the wines from oxidizing, resulting in just-opened taste every time. I predict this will become a popular spot for wine enthusiasts and novices alike. See more photos from my visit here.
I just found out Benicio del Toro and I have something in common—we both own art by Joseph Heidecker. Joseph re-interprets iconic photos and transforms furniture into a visual treat that’s full of surprises. His art has a deliciously, quirky sense of humor. My piece (photo, top) makes me smile on a daily basis. Come and see his latest—the show opens this Thursday, September 10, from 6:00 to 9:00 at Johnson Trading Gallery, located at 490 Greenwich Street, between Spring and Canal. Hope to see you there!
At a recent soiree, when offered a whiskey cocktail, I had a few guests decline. I let them have their glass of Prosecco without argument. A little later I began my seduction with “just a sip.” Before you knew it, the whole party had made a unanimous vote for Irish Whiskey. Michael Collins Irish Whiskey comes in a Single Malt variety (smokier) and a Blend (smoother). I thought the Blend worked absolutely perfectly in this cocktail, which I doctored for the gathering. To make it party-friendly, I made the juice mix earlier in the day, and had my supply refrigerated, which I poured out as needed into a pretty glass pitcher. To create the cocktail, each glass got ice, a little or a lot of the whiskey (to taste) and filled with juice to the top, then stirred with a glass stirrer. See more photos from the party here.
Here is the juice mix, take a wine glass and measure the following:
1.25 parts Sauvignon Blanc wine
1.5 parts Lakewood Organic Pure Apple Juice
.5 part of Ceres Passion Fruit Juice
the juice from one big organic lemon
1 part Lakewood Organic Lemonade
2 big squirts of Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Honey
Expand this recipe to accomodate the number of guests. Refrigerate till ready to use. You can substitute Prosecco for the Sauvignon Blanc, which we did when we ran out of the wine. For garnish, add a thin slice of golden delicious apple, whose yellow color and pear-ish taste makes the perfect accompaniment.
Industrialized farming’s profit-driven methods of breeding are starting to produce genetic weaklings. There is a flip side to this. Meet Jeannette Beranger of American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, who made a fascinating and enlightening presentation at Astor Center on August 17. The topic: Bringing Heritage Breeds Back to the Farm and Table. Preserving these ancient and hearty strains is of the upmost importance, and not only as a way to keep the big breeders on track. Jeanette shared her hands-on knowledge of these historic breeds’ personalities, habits and preferences, and showed how raising these animals as part of a system of give-and-take with the environment is loaded with benefits. Geese make great security guards, chickens take care of pest problems, horses and oxen pull plows, and with sheep and cows you need never worry about grass cutting.
These breeds have naturally evolved to be resistant to disease, are suited to their environments and offer a purer food source. See the website for details about the animals, and which ones desperately need saving. Chefs (and diners!), you can support this organization by becoming a member, or by becoming familiar, and ordering, your local breeds. The newly launched classified section on the website, can connect you to sources or you can call Jeannette at 919-542-5704 x103.
I live a few blocks away from Casa Mono. When I first moved into the Gramercy area 4 years ago, I spotted the restaurant and thought it was beyond charming—a perfect spot on Irving, lots of windows, cozy interior. Unfortunately, its not one of those places you can just walk into, so I visit at off-times, usually late at night. Recently, when a chef visiting NYC asked me for places to go, I did not hesitate to suggest it. Late afternoon on Sunday, we met for some wine and tapas (see photo), some pulpo, some croquettes. Esteban chose a great wine. We each had 2 glasses. When we decided to split a third, before taking off, something odd happened. We were asked to leave, i.e. go next door if we weren’t going to order more food. The restaurant was practically empty. Casa Mono, why so mean? I want to love you, but don’t feel the love in return. Correct me if I am wrong, but weren’t tapas created as little side dishes to wine?
I recently had to have an extended working meeting in the meatpacking district, so thought The Standard Hotel might be a nice place to situate myself and a colleague. We stationed ourselves in The Living Room, which overlooks the outdoor tables, and were pleasantly hosted by the staff over the course of the afternoon. It truly made for a productive meeting, as there were provisions for laptops and, to boot, a nice selection of food and wonderful mojito sans alcohol. When I eyed The Standard Grill, which is the restaurant adjoining the space, I fell in love with the nostalgic, clubby design, and promplty made a reservation for that Friday night. Photo above shows the bar area and the substantial chilled lobster salad. To see more photos of the dinner at The Standard Grill click here.
I am usually attracted to anything round or dotted, something about circles excites me. So naturally, when I saw these carafes, I immediately wanted to know more. Design House Stockholm offers these blown-glass pieces which can be used as a pitcher with stopper, a wine decanter, or a vase. When the stopper is not in use, it can still act as part of the design, only securely stationed underneath. The stopper actually has one flat surface, so that it will not roll. See the website for more designer tabletop items—there are a few more things on there that would come in handy, like the lacquered Gourmet Tray, which rotates, or the Bono Bowls, whose stark white look is accented with thin black lines.
My trainer, Steve Zullo, of Sal Anthony's Movement Salon, turned me on to this. One of the bonuses in working out in a former German Rathskeller, is that Steve and I repeatedly discuss dieting tips and eating to train. If you love coconut, as I do, you must get yourself a pack of this gum. The taste is really super—just like you are eating a coconut, and mellows without the rubbery end-taste. We agreed that it’s a great way to address sugar cravings, and take care of your teeth at the same time. See the adorable Trident website for amusing videos, and facts on whitening.
Apotheke’s Orson Salicetti is developing cocktails with the a mind of a chef. His culinary influence stems from his youth in Venezuela, where he began working in his mother’s restaurant at the age of 15. With his trained palette, ingredients like cherry tomato infused gin, and adding a slice of bell pepper as garnish make perfect sense. His latest experiment, a house-made Vermouth, was inspired by apprenticeships in small towns in France and Italy, whose residents would heat wine with local botanicals, fruits and herbs, creating distinctive local tastes. Also in the works is a citrus-oregano infused Mezcal. I got to have a taste of the works-in-progress. In the photo above, Orson makes a dramatic display of heating a glass of Absinthe, which, I am here to say, went down smoothly and appealingly. This is what I call good medicine. See more photos of the cocktails and Apotheke here. If you’ve got a surplus of cherry tomatoes, try this recipe:
INFUSED GIN by Orson Salicetti
1/2 bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin
30 cherry tomatoes, pierced with a skewer
36 basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
Put gin into a pitcher, add tomatoes, basil and peppercorns. Pour mixture into a glass vessel and seal. Allow to soak overnight. When mixing in cocktails, muddle approximately 6 cherry tomatoes per serving, before adding other ingredients, to get all the rich flavors.
Be sure to tune into a new reality show on PBS. Yes, even PBS cannot resist the temptations of pushing participants to their limits. This show will feature 12 contestants, who all share a passion for wine and winemaking, and compete to win the chance to create their very own wine label. Check out the website for details. Season One begins in September 2009. You just missed casting for Season Two, so you have time to hone your skills and knowledge and go for a spot on Season Three. See more photos from the launch party at Rayuela here.
When my British friends Andrew and Rupert decided to open a B+B in Castro Marim, Portugal, I knew it would be something special. I had the opportunity to live with them while working for a publisher in London a few years back. To say I was pampered by Rupert’s hospitality and cooking and Andrew’s magnificent company and dry sense of humor, is just the tip of the iceberg. Between their gardening skills and culinary feats, I can attest you will be wowed, and will have vacationed properly. For more proof, see the write up in today’s Times Online UK Edition and be sure to visit Andrew John Roberts Facebook page for an ongoing, intimate look at their garden and life in the Algarve.
Get ready for actual August weather, arm yourself with a Sweet Breeze. I suggest you substitute this cocktail for your next Margarita—it’s just as refreshing and loaded with low-cal summer fruits and sweetended with agave nectar, which works perfectly with tequila. The Tres Generaciones Reposado Tequila is also great for sipping on its own. A stimulating peppery blast then mellows pleasantly on the tongue. Stay cool...see more pics from the tequila tasting here.
1 diced strawberry
1 segment ruby red grapefruit, remove skin
2 large basil leaves
1.5 oz Tres G Reposado
.5 oz Agave Nectar
2 oz fresh lemon sour mix
juice from half a lime
Muddle the strawberry, grapefruit and basil. Add rest of ingredients, shake, strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with skewered grapefruit segment wrapped in a basil leaf.
I am all for multiple usage—reversible clothing can actually make me giddy. Or that time a balsamic vinegar bottle made the perfect vase for my bathroom. Here’s a candle that does more than the average. Intoxicated Zodiac starts out as a soy candle, and when finished, can be used as a glass to house a cocktail based on your astrological sign. For me, an Aquarian, they suggest The Flowering Quince: vodka or gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and quince jam. Recipes are based on Nicholas Culpeper’s medieval astrology that categorized herbs, flowers, and fruits into Zodiac signs. If you want to know more about this radical botanist from the 1600s, you can see his entire book online.
Who could predict that there would be such delicious perks in these unpredictable times. As New York restaurants are extending their “restaurant week” menus to a month, there seem to be bargains everywhere. Last Friday, me and the gang checked out Veritas’s bar menu, whose elaborate entrees are under $20. You absolutely can’t go wrong. Photo shows the Seas Bass with a chorizo crust, with peppers, onions and tomatoes below, and a lemongrass emulsion. I will have to find out how they made that chorizo crust, as it added an intensely smoky, spicy touch with each bite. See more photos from our night here.
If you are hankering for a selection of delicious bread and the most amazing olive oil, head over to Aldea in the Flatiron district. It’s beautiful bright yellow color adds to the dipping splendor, and announces its delicate taste. Our server told us that everyone was asking about it, and slipped us the name: Arte Oliva from Spain.
I remember being amused at this wallpaper at the ICFF in 2008. Here it is in action in The Raines Law Room, a new speakeasy in the Flatiron district, NYC. In case you didn’t know, in 1896 Raines Law disallowed selling alcohol in pubs on Sundays, but made exceptions for hotels. You only needed to have 10 guest rooms and serve sandwiches. As a result, saloons began adding rooms above their space. So the law meant to discourage drinking did not, and opened the doors to prostitution. Atelier Blink, a Belgian design studio, came up with the patterns. “Oh, Shocking,” also appears on bedding and pyjamas, “Rendez-vous” is the wallpaper. See more pics of The Raines Law Room here.