Category Archives: Events

Salon, part deux

This past Sunday was our second Salon.

Dave Martin, from the first season of Top Chef and Jason Littrell, from Death and Co., discuss "New American Classics".

I generally do not care to have cocktails with food.  Before, after, or on their own, absolutely, but the complex flavors and high alcohol content make cocktails a challenge when it comes to pairing with food.  Dave and Jason did a fine job of making me reconsider.

1st course: Salad of Roasted Beets with Candied Walnuts, Gorgonzola, Watercress and a Roasted Shallot and Brown Sugar Vinaigrette. 1st cocktail: The Drink with No Name; Courvoisier VS, ginger and cinnamon syrup, lemon, Old Fashioned bitters. The fresh ginger component of the cocktail was my favorite - it was spicy enough, without overpowering the other ingredients. The sweetness of the Cognac and cinnamon complemented the candied walnuts and the earthiness of the bitters was a great match to the beets.

2nd course: Dave's Sage and Applewood Bacon Mac with Irish Cheddar and Cream. 2nd cocktail: North Garden; Laphroaig Scotch, Laird's Bonded Applejack, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Demerara Syrup and Angostura Bitters. Two things to point out regarding this cocktail: it's pretty much all booze and the Islay Scotch imparts a good deal of peat smoke. After having a bite of one of the richest macaroni and cheese dishes I've ever had, I was happy to have such a strong and smoky cocktail. In fact, the mac made this cocktail taste like apple juice and enabled everyone at my table to lick their ramekins clean.

I didn’t get a great photo of course 3: Coca Cola Braised Boneless Lamb Shoulder with Sweet and Sassy Smokehouse Rub and Roasted Poblano Sauce.  3rd cocktail: Gold Rush; McKenzie Bourbon, honey syrup and lemon.  This dish had a lot going on – it was sweet, it was spicy, it was earthy and Jason was wise to pair it with a simple, refreshing cocktail.

Arguably the prettiest and most surprising cocktail of the afternoon was the La Vie en Rose: Nolet's Gin, St. Germain, Raspberry Syrup, Egg White and Cream. All of the acidity was supplied by the raspberry syrup and the combination of egg whites and frothed cream gave the cocktail a silky density. It smelled and tasted like a sweet old lady's perfume (in a good way).

La Vie en Rose's partner was Homemade Lemon and Vanilla Sponge Cake with Fresh Berries and Whipped Mascarpone. The dessert brought out the raspberries in the cocktail and was (thankfully) a light way to end the tasting.

See you on July 10, when we’ll be pairing Jim Meehan’s original cocktails with Aaron Meicht’s orginial compositions.

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Blogging Scholarship

Submit your food or beverage blog idea for a chance to win a scholarship to the Food Blogging Class with Steven Shaw (scholarship value is $695).

The class runs on Thursdays, 6:30pm – 8:45pm from May 19, 2011 to June 23, 2011. As a scholarship recipient, you will receive all instructional materials and be able to participate in all hands-on and practical exercises.

Email Arnish at and be sure to include:

Your Name:

Date Submitted:







Daytime Phone:

Your Blog Idea (in 200 words or fewer):

Good Luck!

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Distinctive White Wines of Alto Adige

…is the title of a seminar I attended today, and distinctive they were.

The panel being introduced. Mary Ewing-Mulligan (love her!) was the moderator and the panelists were winery directors, managers and marketing directors with fun names like Klaus and Wolfgang.

Some fun facts about Alto Adige:

*300 days of sunshine per year.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

*It’s the smallest region in Italy – 50% larger than New Jersey with 6% of the population of  New York City.

*20 grape varieties are planted.  Gewürztraminer, Schiava, and Lagrein are indigenous.  Current trends are leaning toward white production – 55%.

*It’s one of the oldest winemaking regions in all of Europe.  Even in 700 BC, winemaking was already thriving.

*The region has the highest percentage of DOC wines in Italy, as well as three times the Tre Bicchieri-rated wines (the highest rating from Gambero Rosso magazine) that Tuscany does.

We did two flights of 4 wines. Many of the wines were made by cooperatives, which are critical in this area, as the average vineyard holding is 2 1/2 acres.

1. Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio Punggl 2007.  Pinot Grigio is the wine that everybody loves to hate as well as the varietal consumed by housewives, but this was delicious: hazelnut, anise, citrus, green apple, with great acid structure, a round mouthfeel and loads of minerality.  Punggl, pronounced poon-gull, is old German dialect for hill.  A panelist accurately described this wine as having “one leg in Alsace and one leg in Italy”.

2. Franz Haas Cuvée Manna 2004.  This was an IGT Dolomiti wine instead of a DOC Alto Adige because of its unique blend: Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc.  Franz had the idea for this blend in 1988, after he and his party consumed 7 bottles of wine with a 7 course tasting menu at a local restaurant.  He wanted to come up with a wine that would work across multiple courses and the first vintage of Manna (named after his wife) debuted in 1995.  Golden, with red apple, herbs, and some interesting developing aromas, I could see how this complex wine would be versatile with many dishes.

3. San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio St. Valentin 2006.  A dry year in Alto Adige that produced concentrated berries.  This wine had incredible freshness even though it had seen 11 months in barrique (1/3 new) as well as lees aging.  Stone fruit, hazelnut, minerality and sweet spice were there, too.

4. Caldaro Sauvignon Blanc Castel Giovanelli 2007.  The Castel is for a castle built on the vineyard in the 19th century (which the panelist dubbed, “not old”).  This wine also had some barrel aging and lees contact, but maintained the bright grapefruit, tropical and grassy notes that we all love from Sauvignon Blanc.

5. Terlan Nova Domus Terlaner Riserva 2005. 60% Pinot Blanc, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc.  The Sauvignon was noticeable on the nose and the Pinot Blanc provided the intense minerality on the palate.  Pretty notes of pear and chamomile tea, too.  This vintage is a current release – the winery considers a 20 year old bottling “old”.

6. Alois Lageder Chardonnay Löwengang 2002.  Löwengang, pronounced loo-ven gang, means lion’s gate or passage, and refers to the 400 year old manor house on the property.  Chardonnay has over 150 years of history in this region, so they’ve had plenty of time to figure out the best terroir.  I initially wrote, “yum!” and followed up with: creamy, ripe apple and pear, white flowers, Burgundian elegance.

7. Peter Zemmer Gewürztraminer Reserve 2006.  Planted at altitudes of up to 1300 feet, this wine had classic Gewürz notes of perfume, rose and lychee, but was lighter on its feet.  Cool mountain winds in the afternoon extend the hang time of the grapes and increase their physiological ripeness.  It was so well-balanced, that no one noticed its residual sugar of 6.2 g/l.

8. Tramin Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer 2004.  At 15% abv, this was a powerful wine, with similar, yet more intense aromas than wine #7.  Gewürz has a rich history in this region and it is the most important varietal for Nussbaumer, whose 700 year history isn’t so shabby either.

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So Much Pretty

One week from today, my sister-in-law has a book coming out. 

You can pre-order it from Amazon.  You can read more about the book and about her on her website.

My favorite review for it so far is the LA Times:

“So Much Pretty” is harder to pin down, trickier in its aims and delivers a skillful, psychologically acute tale of how violence affects a small town, its tentacles enmeshed so deeply into the collective fabric that it takes the thoughts and actions of one intelligent adolescent to shake things up and force everyone to examine their duplicitous complacency. To say more about Hoffman’s constantly surprising story is to reveal too much, but the payoff is more than worth the slow-building suspense.”

Look for her in the NYT Book Review this Sunday, 3/13. We’ll all need a drink in anticipation of that, which leads me more to the point of this post. 

I’ve developed two cocktails for the release party we’re hosting for Cara at The Monday Room next week. 

So Much Pretty
1 1/2 oz. McKenzie Bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Carpano Antica Vermouth

Combine ingredients and shake with ice.  Serve up in a chilled glass with a cherry garnish.

Cara’s favorite cocktail is a Negroni (she hasn’t tried this one yet), and if you subbed gin for bourbon, that’s what you’d get. I wanted to use a spirit from upstate, since that’s where the story takes place. The drink has a girly color, which belies its non-girly flavor. Once you read the book, you’ll get why this last part makes sense.

So Much Pretty, 0% abv
4 oz. ginger beer (I like Fentimans, though I think we’re using Ithaca for the party, for additional upstate-appropriateness)
½ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. star anise simple syrup (made this at home, more on this later)

Shake with ice, strain into rocks glass over ice and garnish with candied/crystalized ginger.

When asked in an interview if she could only eat one thing for the rest of her life, Cara replied crystalized ginger, so that explains version 0% abv.

Looking forward to toasting So Much Pretty with a So Much Pretty!

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Blending at Brooklyn Winery

On Monday night we attended the JBF Greens event, “Blending at Brooklyn Winery“. 

I hadn’t been out to Brooklyn Winery yet, which just opened last fall.  The space was impressive; shiny new tanks, a temperature-controlled barrel aging room, a pretty bar and great nooks and crannies on two levels for having a party (they took over a nightclub).  My favorite part, other than all of the winemaking equipment of course, was the (free!) photo booth in the bar.

Conor, the winemaker, is on the far right and Brian, the CEO is on his left. Conor is from the West Coast and most recently worked at Crushpad. Brian's background is in social media. Jonny Cigar, a member of The Noble Rot, the duo that led our blending experiment is to Brian's left. Before getting down to business, we got a tour of the facility.

The winery is bringing in grapes from the Finger Lakes, the North Fork, various locations in California, and from Chile. The first bottlings (some whites and some rose) will be ready in May. The grapes arrive so fresh, thanks to refrigerated trucks and a blanket of nitrogen, that Conor is able to do some native fermentation.

After the tour, we were broken into 4 groups, and instructed to create several meritage blends.  Meritage rhymes with heritage and pays homage to Bordeaux-style blends.  Each team was given commercial bottlings of the 5 Bordeaux varietals, pipettes, and beakers.  The idea was to create as many blends as time would allow and then to submit your best blend for Brian, Conor and The Noble Rot crew to judge.

This chart was in our handout:

The group, measuring and blending.

Each team had a "sucker". When you admit to being a biochem major in college, you get the pipette.

Noah and I were on rival teams. I would've taken more photos, but I was shoo-ed away from his end of the table by his teammates who claimed I was distracting him.

I’m proud to announce that my team won top prize (glory), while Noah’s team came in second place.  Our winning blend was 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc.

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Salon pics

A big thank you to Anne, Ethan, and Marcella and her team for putting together a fantastic event this past Sunday!

I remembered to take a picture before diving in.

This was the line-up:

1st pairing
consider bardwell farm
west pawlet, vt
raw cows’ milk

mellow corn
heaven hill distilleries
bardstown, ky

 2nd  pairing
cabot clothbound cheddar
aged by jasper hill farm
greensboro, vt
pasteurized cows’ milk

hudson four grain bourbon
tuthilltown spirits
gardiner, ny

3rd   pairing
pleasant ridge 16mo.
uplands cheese co.
dodgeville, wi
raw cows’ milk

us * 1: unblended american whiskey
michter’s american whiskey co.
bardstown, ky 

 4th  pairing
jasper hill farm
greensboro, vt
raw cows’ milk

mckenzie rye whiskey
finger lakes distilling
burdett, ny

5th   pairing
bayley hazen blue
jasper hill farm
greensboro, vt
raw cows’ milk

templeton rye
templeton rye spirits
templeton, ia 

6th    pairing
shaker blue
old chatham sheepherding co.
chatham, ny
raw sheeps’ milk

death’s door white whiskey
death’s door distillery
madison, wi

Ethan and Anne doing their thing. Anne told us about the 22,000 sq ft cheese-aging cave in VT, how cheddar is made (did you know cheddar is both a noun and a verb?) and how those blue-green veins get into the center of a big wheel of cheese. Ethan compared the harmony of wine and cheese pairing to the grace that Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire shared, while noting that pairing cheese with whiskey was more akin to the "grace" that Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield shared.

Happy guests Tim, Michael, John and Alice

Some take-aways:

*When you pair Winnemere with McKenzie rye, the finish is similar to an atomic fireball (in a good way).

*The surprise pairing hit was #6:  white whiskey and strong blue – who would have thought? 

*I need to get a bottle of Mellow Corn and Michter’s #1 for my house.

Looking forward to the next Salon in 60 days!

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Sunday Salons

Chanterelle, Karen and David Waltuck’s beautiful TriBeCa restaurant, hosted a series of Sunday Salons a few years back.  They were some of the best food-related events I had ever been to.   

An exploration of food and art, the topics ranged from blues and beer to poetry and cocktails to Champagne and caviar (this was an especially decadent one).  With the sad closing of Chanterelle in the fall of 2009, we at L’Ecole have decided to carry on their tradition.

Our first event is (early) on Oscar Sunday, 2/27.  From our website:

The Next Salon: Whiskey & Cheese
Anne Saxelby and Ethan Kelley
Sunday, February 27, 4:00-6:00pm 

The pairing of cheese and wine is well-charted territory. Our guests speak to a more contemporary question: can American whiskey pair with artisanal cheese?  

Anne Saxelby opened Saxelby Cheesemongers in 2006. Located in NYC’s Lower East Side in the Essex Market, the shop offers a premier selection of domestic artisanal cheeses and hosts regular tasting events.       Ethan Kelley is a spirits educator with over 17 years experience behind the bar. He’s created menus for notable bars and restaurants, including The Brandy Library where he was formerly the beverage director.

Prep work for our upcoming event. Hope to see you there!

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USQ Martini Bowl

From the website of Union Square Wine & Spirits:

Event Date: Saturday, February 05, 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Description of tasting:
Join USQ to kick off Superbowl weekend with one our most spirited tastings of the year! Martini Bowl 2011 is set to erupt with over one dozen selections offered in classic and seasonal martinis!  Whether you like them dry, extra dry, dirty, or totally twisted, cocktail connoisseurs are encouraged to stop by The Salon for an afternoon of imbibing pleasure!  Attendees may look forward to Swedish stylings from Martini Bowl 2010 champion Karlsson’s Gold Vodka and Heavy Water Vodka, a juniper-fueled UK Invasion from the #1 contender for the 2011 title Bulldog Gin and Hendrick’s Gin, as well as righteous elixirs from Uluvka Vodka, DH Krahn Gin and Double Cross Vodka!  This year’s Bowl features a full roster of New York State spirits as well!  Supporters of local libations will be pleased to sip and savor Finger Lakes Distillery’s Seneca Drums Gin and Vintner’s Wild Berry Vodka, Westchester’s own Comb Vodka and Comb 9 New York Gin, Long Island’s LiV Potato VodkaBreuckelen Gin, and the Hudson Valley’s Core Apple Vodka

Here’s what we’ll be serving:

Come join us for a tipple this weekend!

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Greenmarket Mixology for Holiday Cocktails

If you’re free in NYC tonight, Union Square wines is presenting, Slow Food U: Greenmarket Mixology for Holiday Cocktails with Allen Katz from 6-8 pm. 

From USQ’s website:

Holidays are a time for good cheer… and good cocktails.  Local, legendary, “slow” mixologist, Allen Katz, promises, “the best damned holiday drinks you ever tasted.”  Join Allen as he mixes up seasonal, Greenmarket inspired holiday libations featuring some familiar, and some not so familiar, spirits and local, seasonal ingredients.  You will learn technique, and a few secrets, while enjoying a festive flight of unique holiday libations you CAN prepare at home to enjoy with friends and family.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the programs and activities of not-for-profit Slow Food NYC, including the Urban Harvest programs of good food education for NYC kids.

I happen to know that at least two of the ingredients involved tonight are McKenzie Rye and Finger Lakes Distilling Cassis.  You need tickets for this event and you can get them here.

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Sommelier smackdown

I just learned I’ll be competing at the 1st annual Sommelier Smackdown at the 5th annual International Chefs Congress, sponsored by StarChefs.  A multi-day, “on-the-fly” food and wine pairing contest with the chance to win a trip to Italy.  Oh.  Heck.  Yes.


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