Friday, January 31, 2014

Nothing Like New York (Part Deux)

The Guggenheim Museum
As day 2 of Kate and I's NYC quick holiday trip was upon us we planned out our day during a breakfast of fruit, yogurt and a latte from our hotel (The Franklin). After , we checked out and headed to The Guggenheim Museum , just a few blocks away.

The Guggenheim is wonderfully stylish building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and founded by American business man and art collector, Solomon R. Guggenheim. It is home to a constantly expanding collection of Impressionist, Post Impressionist, early Modern and Contemporary art. As we wound our way to the top we took in every nook and cranny of art work along the way....Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and Vuillard as well as the featured exhibition focusing on the work of Contemporary artist Christopher Wool. Wool is known for his large black stenciled letters on white canvases...somewhat provocative and thought provoking in nature. As we descended once again to the base of the rotunda we sighed with satisfaction, looking back up at the breathtaking view of the museum's glass dome. Happy and satiated spiritually we departed.

Off we were to our final, but highly anticipated destination of Eataly. What is Eataly you may ask? It
 is a high end Italian food market/hall comprised of restaurants, specialty markets and retail. Owners
of the New York location include such talents as Mario Batali, Lydia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich. As anticipated, Eataly was packed with people. We swam through the crowd and quickly decided we would venture to the top floor and have lunch at their roof top Birreria.

Birreria is a restaurant and brewery that includes Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head as one of the head brewers that has a delicious menu full of Italian food with Austrian and German influences. Kate and I ordered our beers... I the Chestnut Brown and Kate the Thyme Pale Ale. For our lunch we ordered a plate of Speck ( mouthwateringly delicious smoked Proscuitto ) and an Italian cheese plate ( Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, and Gorgonzola Dolce ) accompanied with Frangelico Honey ( 1 part Frangelico to 3 parts honey topped with roasted hazelnuts )..... heavenly!

After lunch we ventured back downstairs to the hall where we grabbed glasses of Franciacorta
( sparkling Italian wine made in the Champagne method ) as we shopped picking up imported Italian chocolates, teas, spices and amazingly fresh pastas. Being that December is truffle season we  selected some white truffle and ricotta stuffed pasta to go that was ethereal then we were off to the wine shop!

Eataly's wine shop was full of any Italian wine I have wanted and gave dreamed of... A wall of Franciacorta and sparkling wines ... they even had Batali's La Mozza Perazzi Morellino di Scansano ( delicious Sangiovese from coastal Tuscany ) in a magnum! Kate and I bought what we could carry and headed merrily to Grand Central station to catch our train back to the Berkshires.

Next trip that takes you to New York City I hope that you treat yourself to macarons from Laduree, roasted chestnuts at Rockefeller Center, Champagne at Corkbuzz and artisanal Italian meats and cheeses from Eataly.

Cheers and happy travels!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nothing Like New York (Part 1)

As the holidays have come to an end, I sit back and reflect on a quick but fantastic little December trip into New York City with my best friend, Kate. After a easy drive from the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts to Wassaic, NY we hopped a train and NYC bound were we! As I now live in San Diego I eagerly anticipated snowfall and snowfall we got indeed


As we exited Grand Central Station, snowflakes danced around us and we began our wintery walk. Our first stop was to a place dreams are made of... Laduree. Anyone who loves ( and obsesses ) over macarons knows about Laduree. They originated in Paris, make the best macarons in the world and now have their first stateside store on Madison Avenue. As we entered I (and I'd take the liberty to say that Kate too) were enamored with the beauty of the store, it was as if we were transported into a tasting salon in Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. There were multitudes of colored macarons shipped in from Paris almost daily, candles, teas and chocolates...color me a happy girl!

After Laduree we were off to check into The Franklin Hotel , our stylish little home away from home for the night on the Upper East Side. It's a charming little spot that offers European breakfast, an evening wine & artisnal cheese reception and 24 hour tea, latte and cappuccino. The Franklin is in a great location; just around the corner from Zabars, a delicious gourmet food and deli, truly an institution in New York and just a few blocks from The Guggenheim Museum.

The Franklin Hotel

Our evening packed with an ambitious agenda we were off to a chic wine bar called Uncorked Wine and Tapas first where we shared a bottle of  J.P. Chenet Sparkling Rose from France with Marissa Ain, the fabulous founder of Plate + Decanter , a Culinary + Wine Event Company. Next as it was the  holiday season we just had to get a look at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. We snacked on roasted chestnuts as we walked to the subway to meet up with our friend Thea at Corkbuzz Wine Bar & Studio, a place I had heard great things about. Corkbuzz was even better than I anticipated...we apparently arrived with impeccable timing as we were greeted with the question "So are you here to enjoy our Champagne Campaign?"  As a lover, or rather a slave to Champagne, I perked up and inquired further. Kate and I were informed that every night at 10pm-close Corkbuzz indulged their guests offering 50% off any and all Champagne. We were off and running!

Corkbuzz Wine Bar & Studio

NV Chartogne Taillet Rose Champagne
I ordered us a bottle from one of my favorite producers, a NV Chartogne Taillet Rose Champagne , a glorious Champagne that is impressively complex offering notes of rhubarb, red cherries, strawberries, ginger and brioche. Kate ordered the Lamb & Pappardelle Pasta dish while I selected  a side of Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and an order of housemade Duck Proscuitto...all of it magical with the Chartogne Taillet Rose.  After we wished our goodbyes to Thea, Kate and I hopped back on the subway to The Franklin where we grabbed a cup of Harney & Sons Tea and headed up to our room to rest up and plan for our next day's  New York City adventures...Part 2 to follow!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé!

Every year as November comes around I eagerly anticipate not 1 but 2 Thursdays during the month. Naturally, one is Thanksgiving Day. The other? It falls every year on the 3rd Thursday in November and it's Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

What is Beaujolais Nouveau Day you ask? It's a day in France that celebrates the end of the harvest. It is celebrated with the release of the fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau wine. Worldwide "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" (The new Beaujolais has arrived!) is proclaimed. Over 60 million bottles depart Paris and begin their journey to distribution world wide.

This youthful and vibrant wine is made from the gamay grape in Beaujolais (located in Burgundy) and is bottled only 6-8 weeks after harvest. The resulting wine offers notes of strawberries, red currants, raspberries, figs, pears and a hint of holiday spice. Ideally it is served with a slight chill (55 degrees Fahrenheit). It's a wine that is not meant for aging and is intended for immediate enjoyment making it the perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving!

Aside from Turkey, other fantastic pairings for this easy drinking wine are traditional French recipes such as a bistro style frisee salad with a fried egg and bacon,  Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, or even pâté. Grilled cheese or a burger if you prefer a simpler pairing that is just as satisfying!

In addition to it being a fun wine, the labels and packaging are always bright and lively. Need a festive hostess gift? Beaujolais Nouveau with a tantalizing slice of Fleur Verte cheese makes a perfect offering!

Get out there, grab yourself a bottle or 2 of Beaujolais Nouveau this year on November 21! Sante!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Warm Wine Country Charm

My wine and culinary adventures through Greece continue, next stop is Domaine Spiropoulos (organically certified) in Mantineia in the Peloponnese (a large peninsula in Southern Greece).

As my companions and I approached the winery we were warmly greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Spiropoulos and invited in to explore and taste. Inside a tasting of wines from producers all over Mantineia was set up (further mention of other wineries in upcoming posts) . Although wines from the Moschofilero grape are grown all over Greece, it really shines here in Mantineia as we discovered throughout the tasting. Wines made from Moschofilero are most often perfumed and floral on the nose with hints of rose petals and rose water and crisp acidity with notes of spice on the palate.

I am always on the hunt for sparkling wine when/where ever I travel so I was quite pleased when I discovered that Domaine Spiropoulos does indeed make sparkling wine. First to try was their Ode Panos Brut, a 100% Moschofilero dry sparkling wine that had the beautiful notes of rose petals, green apples and ended with a creamy finish. Their Ode Panos Brut Rose sparkling that is made with 90% Moschofilero and 10% Agiorgitiko was next to try. The Rose also had the aromas of rose petals but with addition of red apple and on the palate there was a lovely touch of blood orange as well. I was quite pleased, both lovely sparkling wines!

As we finished the tasting Mrs. Spiropoulos invited us downstairs where she had prepared an authentically local lunch for us. She was so excited to share the dishes with us and the history and details of the recipes. Of all the dishes we had I was very excited to learn about Kagiana (pronounced Kayana). Kagiana is an egg dish and Mrs. Spiropoulos' version was with a simple tomato sauce made first by cooking down tomatoes. onion, a little garlic and oregano. Then fold in a few whisked eggs, after a minute or so some feta and finish with salt and pepper. It was so warm and comforting and was delicious with the Ode Panos Brut!

My other favorite dish was just what I had been waiting for...simply done...grilled lamb chops with just salt, pepper, oregano and a squeeze of lemon. I poured myself some Ode Panos Brut Rose to try with it and for the next 5-10 minutes had a beautiful symphony of flavors...sip, lamb chop bite, sip, lamb get the idea!
Upon the meal's conclusion we gratefully, but sadly departed. All thinking the same thing, how lucky we were to share the day with such a proud, passionate and warm family that sincerely loves to share their wine and culture with others! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Santorini; Assyrtiko's Heavenly Home

View from the Esperas Hotel, Oia

Recently I was fortunate enough to be awarded a trip to Greece (thanks to the Court of Master Sommeliers). Our first stop was two days on the island of Santorini. We stayed in the small town of Oia at the Esperas Hotel,  perched on a cliff with unrivaled views of the Agean Sea. I am still dreaming of this heavenly, breathtaking island!

While on Santorini I explored the unique wine making techniques for Assyrtiko, the island's darling white wine varietal. Due to the island's severe Meltimi winds the Assyrtiko vines are trained into a "bird's nest" or "basket shape" known as Stefani training. This technique protects the grapes not only from the scorching sun, the wind but also from the chance of being pelted with the native volcanic rock and sandy soil.

Mr. Paris Sigalas of Domaine Sigalas exposing the underbelly of Stefani trained Assyrtiko vines

Although grown in other areas in Greece, Assyrtiko from Santorini is my favorite. Especially in Santorini... it's a racy, brisk white wine brimming with mineralty with just a hint of salinity. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, founder and winemaker for Gaia Wines has said about Assyrtiko; " It's a white wine you should propose as a red." After many meals in Santorini myself I agree with Yiannis, Assyrtiko from Santorini has the body and acidity to stand up to red meats (lamb!) just as well as it's ability to pair magically with white and shell fish. Cheers to that or as they say in Greece...Yamas!

Freshly caught Seabring at the Sunset Taverna in Oia

Although many of these wines are not available in the States yet...hold tight! I foresee Greek wines, especially Assyrtiko from Santorini as a rising star in the American market for it's beauty, versatility and honest tariff.

From my travels here are my favorite Assyrtikos/Producers from Santorini. Should you see them, do yourself a favor and give them a try:

Domaine Sigalas: A classic and mouthwatering Assyrtiko, bring on the oysters!
Gaia: Yiannis' Wild Ferment Assyrtiko was one of my absolute favorite wines of the trip...complexity astounds!
Hatzidakis : Masterful wines with impressive age-ability!