5 Beautiful Bottles of Booze for Your Home Bar

With spring here, no doubt you need a bar refresh with interesting, light libations. Here are a few bottles we love for your home bar this spring:

 

 

Gray Whale Gin 

This consciously crafted spirit is the perfect gin for any occasion.  Made with six sustainably sourced botanicals that can be found along the gray whale’s 12,000-mile migration path, Gray Whale Gin gives back through a partnership with Oceana- the world’s largest organization for ocean conservation. Corn-based and Gluten-free,  it’s like sipping California sunshine in a glass.

 

 

 

iichiko shochu

Japanese spirit iichiko shochu has released a beautiful, limited-edition bottle inspired by cherry blossom season. The light, rich flavor comes from the use of exceptionally soft, iron-free water that is naturally filtered through 1,000 feet of volcanic rock and emits a pleasant nose of white peach, golden plum, and sea breeze.  Traditionally enjoyed with food, iichiko can also be served either on the rocks or in cocktail form, like a chu-hi (or shochu highball), mixed with soda and fruit juice. Only 600 units of the limited edition are available on Drizly, Reserve Bar, and select stores nationwide.

 

Kástra Elión
This beautiful, simplistic bottle embodies the spirit of the Greek islands with premium vodka. Handcrafted in Greece, the olives are hand-picked from the Nafpaktos region of Greece and mixed with mineral-rich spring water from the Crystalline Rock in Mount Taygetus (the highest peak in Southern Greece, creating a flavor profile with subtle notes of olives, pepper, and a buttery finish.

 

 

Equiano Rum 

 

Expand your rum horizons with the addition of award-winning Equiano Rum, the world’s first African and Caribbean rum. The premium aged rum is a limited batch blend from one of the best-emerging distilleries in the world, Gray’s in Mauritius, and the world-renowned Barbadian distillery – Foursquare. 100% natural rum, with no spices, no additives, and no added sugar, this unique spirit also gives back 5% of global company profits to ground-level freedom and equality projects annually.

 

 

 

 

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea® Rye Whiskey

Every home bar needs a whiskey, and the newest addition to the Jefferson’s Ocean family is a rye that has been aged at sea.  The liquid is a fully mature rye whiskey that was double-barreled (75% in char 3 barrels and 25% in toasted barrels) and then placed on ships to travel around the world as part of the unique finishing technique for which the Ocean series is known. With the barrel combinations, find hints of marshmallow and toffee on both the nose and palate, accented by leather and tobacco with a long, lingering finish of spices and cinnamon. $79.99

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

Four Mother’s Day Brunch Spots in NYC

Treat mom to the very best this year, with brunch at her favorite restaurant. From uptown chic to downtown cool, we have all of our favorites:

 

For the Brooklyn Foodie: 

Aldama | 91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn 11249 |

From Christopher Reyes comes Aldama, the chic, highly-rated eatery where food and drinks take on a new art form. Chef and partner Gerardo Alcaraz (from three-Michelin-starred Martin Berasategui in Spain) highlights beautiful dishes like Pescado Zarandeado and Carne Cecina at this chic Brooklyn eatery.

This Mother’s Day, the Aldama team welcomes Luis Valle of the beloved Mexico City destination, Don Vergas Mariscos, for a one-day-only pop-up with five dishes from the Don Vergas Menu, available in two separate seatings: 11 am – 1 pm, and 2 pm – 4 pm. Reservations can be made through Resy HERE.

 

For the Italian Riviera Lover:

Casa Limone | 20 E 49th Street, New York, NY 10017

Take mom on a trip underneath a canopy of flowers with pops of cheerful yellows and blues at Casa Limone, the bold Southern Italian restaurant led by Michelin-starred chef Antonio Salvatore. For Mother’s Day brunch, feast on a three-course, prix-fixe menu for $65, which includes a complimentary mimosa for all those 21+.

Choose from a selection of Antipasti, such as Zucca e Burrata (roasted squash, Pugliese burrata, pumpkin seeds, bottarga) and Carpaccio di Salmone (wild salmon, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, radishes); Mains such as Margherita Pizza (fior di latte mozzarella, tomato, basil), Tagliata e Uovo (steak and eggs, salad, fries) and Lobster Benedict (Maine lobster, poached eggs, hollandaise); and Dolci such as Tiramisu, Meringata di Limone, and Gianduja. Typically closed on Sundays, Casa Limone will be open on May 8th for the special occasion, serving Mother’s Day brunch from 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. The full menu may be found here, and reservations may be made on OpenTable.

 

For Trendy Downtown Chic: 

Saint Theo’s | 340 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014

 

Saint Theo’s, the new coastal Italian restaurant from owner Robert Goldman, partner Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, and executive chef Ashley Rath offers a menu inspired by Venice and the Italian coast, including elevated housemade pasta, and savory egg preparations, and daytime sweets. New and favorite dishes include Cherry Tomato spaghettini ($24), Mozzarella in Carrozza ($15), Baked Eggs, three eggs, parsley pesto, fried sage ($19), Frittole (fried dough with apricot jam, creme fraiche $19),  and Fried Tomato Sandwich (fried heirloom tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, prosciutto, aioli $20). Reservations open two weeks in advance on Resy.

 

Decadent Delights: 

Cathédrale | 112 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003

Treat mom to a decadent brunch at Cathédrale at Moxy East Village. The restaurant will be creating a special experience for mom, starting with complimentary Prosecco upon arrival, and special items for Mother’s Day like Eggs Benedict with poached lobster and caviar and served with truffled fingerling potato and a special Crepe Suzette pastry for mom. 

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

Derby de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo—the Mexican holiday to commemorate their victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862—and the Kentucky Derby—the most famous horse race of the year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY—are always in the same week. In case you are not aware, Cinco de Mayo is always on May 5th, while the Kentucky Derby is always on the first Saturday of May.
Continue reading

How Topo Chico Went From Local Cult Favorite to Worldwide Phenomenon

Founded in Monterey, Mexico in 1895 Topo Chico’s uber-bubbly mineral water is now a world-wide brand. The story of this seemingly innocuous sparkling water that was born in Mexico, raised in Texas and is now flourishing on multiple continents—thanks in part to its acquisition by Coca Cola in 2017—dates back over 125 years.

History of production and relationship with Coca-Cola

Speaking of its parent company Coca Cola, Topo Chico and Coca Cola have a relationship that dates back about 100 years. In fact, long before Coke acquired Topo Chico, Topo Chico actually acquired the licensing rights to bottle Coke in Mexico, roughly 100 years ago. Needless to say, they have been working with Coke for many years so it’s not a big surprise that Coke decided to acquire them.

When Topo Chico was founded in 1895, it sourced and bottled the water from a spring near a small mole-shaped hill that it was named after. “Topo” means “mole” in Spanish and “chico” means “small.” 127 years later, it still sources water from the very same “Cerro del Topo Chico” spring. 

The minerals matter

Topo Chico is not just ordinary sparkling water, like seltzer or club soda. It is actual mineral water, containing naturally occurring minerals and electrolytes like Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese. For comparison sake, “La Croix” sparkling water (another popular brand) is simply seltzer and does not contain any minerals. So what’s so special about these minerals? Sodium is needed for blood regulation (absence can cause serious impairment of bodily functions), regulates bodily fluids and transmits electrical impulses in the body; Calcium is an important nutrient and major component for bones and teeth; Magnesium aids in digestion, helps muscles recover and promotes a sense of calm; Potassium provides fuel for the heart and promotes kidney and nervous system function; Manganese is an antioxidant that benefits your bones and increases collagen production (healthy looking skin).

I’m not saying drinking Topo Chico everyday will solve any of your health problems but it certainly won’t hurt and the extra mineral intake could have some positive effects—if nothing else the electrolyte-laiden water will help keep you hydrated.

It now comes in 3 flavors but you may like the original

In addition to their original unflavored version, TC also comes in three litely flavored mineral waters; Twist of Lime, Twist of Grapefruit and Twist of Tangerine—all zero calorie. 

 

 

While Topo Chico’s flavored versions are quite popular, their original unflavored water tastes quite good too. The naturally occuring carbonation, while plenty effervescent (more on this in a sec), has a softer mouthfeel than other sparkling waters, as if the bubbles are smaller but greater in quantity, leading to a texture that is mellow and inviting. Also, despite the minerals, TC also has a very mild, neutral aftertaste, if any at all—something I would imagine most people want in a sparkling water. I know I do. Less is more when it comes to a water’s taste.

It all about the bubbles

While less may be more on the aftertaste, more is more when it comes to carbonation. Yes, Topo Chico’s secret weapon—you guessed it—is in its bubbles. Simply put, the naturally occering carbonation in Topo Chico is more explosive and lasts longer than other brand I have tried. No wonder it is a cult-favorite for consumers and bartenders alike who like a vibrant Vodka Soda or Tom Collins with ferocious fizz that doesn’t go flat.

Leave an open bottle of TC out overnight and the next day it will taste like you just opened it. And while all mineral waters naturally contain sodium—which can be off-putting to some people—the sodium level in TC is fairly low and provides a thirst-busting sensation (Gatorade’s secret thirst busting recipe has ample sodium for a reason).

What is Ranch Water?

You cannot make an authentic Ranch Water cocktail without Topo Chico. What is a Ranch Water you ask. It’s simply a tequila and soda with lime—a popular drink these days due to its low calorie, low hangover appeal. It is only a Ranch Water though if you use Topo Chico. It is also the unofficial cocktail of Texas—which is the unofficial home-away-from-home of Topo Chico. Yes, Texans love their Topo Chico and likely have played a big part in TC’s meteroic rise in popularity over the past decade.

 

Ranch Water Cocktail

Photo Courtesy: Valerie’s Kitchen

 

In March of 2021 Topo Chico released a lineup of Hard Seltzers onto the market—hardly a surprise in today’s hard seltzer crazed world. The flavors include: Tangy Lemon Lime, Exotic Pineapple, Strawberry Guava and Tropical Mango. Almost a year later TC released a new lineup of hard seltzer “Margaritas” (with salt, lime and tequila flavors) in four tropical flavors including Signature Margarita, Tropical Pineapple, Strawberry Hibiscus, and Prickly Pear. Seperately, during the same launch campaign, TC released their highly anticipated “Ranch Water” Hard Seltzer. Inspired by the taste of the popular cocktail recipe made famous by Texas bartenders, Topo Chico Ranch Water Hard Seltzer features real lime juice and a refreshing, crisp taste.

 

Topo Chico Hard Seltzer Margarita Variety Pack

 

5 Happy Hour Spots in NYC with Interesting Apps

With the weather slowly warming up, it’s about time for New Yorkers to enjoy the after-work hours, easily sipping libations with co-workers or friends. Sometimes, what you need is something exceptional, yet uncomplicated. Here are 5 of our favorite happy hours that will be sure to please:

 

photo by @by_dre

 

ALDAMA

Mexican hot spot Aldama is the perfect place to sip perfectly crafted cocktails, made under partner and beverage director Christopher Reyes (formerly of Employees Only and Cosme).  Aldama is offering happy hour every day of the week from 5 pm to 7 pm, with refreshing cocktail creations like the Citruz Fizz and the staple Margarita, and snacks like tacos, guacamole, and ceviche available for $10 or less.

 

BUBBY’S

A Tribeca staple for over 30 years, Bubby’s is well-known for its family-friendly brunch, but a happy hour at Bubby’s shouldn’t be missed. Grab a seat at the bar, and choose from a selection of wine, beer, or classic cocktails (Margarita, Negroni, Pickled Martini, Rye Manhattan) available for $10, and hearty snacks include nachos, mac and cheese balls, chicken wings, and deviled eggs for only $7.

 

 

THE STANDARD EAST VILLAGE 
Available every day, The Standard East Village has launched a brand new happy hour menu. Sip wine over charcuterie, or sample a specialty curated cocktail like the crowd favorite jalapeño infused tequila-based cocktail the No Problem, paired with $2 Oysters, spice nuts, or newly Fried Chicken Sandwich with a B&B pickle, bibb lettuce, a special chili-lime aioli served on a Hawaiian roll. Happy hour is available Monday- Thursday from 4-6 pm, Friday-Saturday 4-5 pm.
KATANA KITTEN 
Known as one the best cocktail bars in the city, it’s surprising they have a happy hour at all.
Keeping with the Japanese theme, the 4-7 pm daily happy hour features a $6 house cocktail, $5 Sake, $5 Sapporo, and $5 Hot Dog with Japanese pickles and mustard.

 

 

 

PORTALE

Understated, yet sophisticated Portale by Chef Alfred Portale features an extensive happy hour menu from Tuesday- Friday from 5-6:30 pm at the bar, serving up 14 classic cocktails ($12), wines ($10), and beers ($6). Small bites include crostini, arancini, and sliders ($8-$14).

Raw Bar Hopping – 8 Great Oyster Bars in NYC

In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.”  Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading

Best Hotel Bars In Miami

Miami is known for its hotels—dating back to the 60’s when Sinatra, Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack frequented town. Not much has changed as many of the choice bars in town still remain inside Miami’s posh hotels. While caribbean themed bars may emanate throughout other parts of the sunshine state, Miami’s bar scene is much more sophisticated. Continue reading

A Locavore’s Dream in Chapel Hill

The farm-to-table concept is more than just a passing fad; rather, it’s a movement here for the long haul.  While some restaurants are in their infancy in terms of creating farm-to-table business models, perhaps starting with a few menu items that feature local foods or a installing compost bins, others are far ahead of the curve. Continue reading

The Largest Nobu in the World is in The Four Seasons Hotel in This Small Country

Qatar!

The stunning 26,000-square-foot Nobu, the famed sushi empire from Michelin-starred chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, is part of the Doha Four Seasons and floats on its own mini-island in the Qatar Gulf, rising like a coiled shell crossed with a starship from the future.

 

Stunning Design

Inside, seven separate glamorously designed dining areas comprise a 134-seat main room, two private dining rooms, two bar lounges, and a 38-seat rooftop venue. Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa’s recipe for success combines his formal sushi training with a love of travel and global cuisine.

 

 

 

 

World-class Cuisine

The architectural masterpiece, designed by the NYC-based Rockwell Group, showcases the very best in fine dining, featuring Nobu’s world-famous cuisine matched by panoramic views of the alluring Arabian Gulf.

A practitioner of new-style Japanese cuisine, the Nobu menu includes innovative flavor pairings, such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, lobster with wasabi pepper sauce, and perhaps Chef Matsuhisa’s most notorious recipe – the black cod miso.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nobu Doha does nothing but impress. A destination as a whole; the world’s largest Nobu is not just a restaurant, its the venue for an entire evening.

Offering a truly exclusive culinary experience, found nowhere else, the tri-level Nobu Doha boasts the largest of its kind in the world and is the only Nobu at a Four Seasons in the Middle East.

The Right Way to Open Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Not all food and wine traditions—like grilling certain meats, decanting certain wines, or “popping” the cork off of a champagne bottle—results in a better product. Champagne is supposed to open with a bang, right? Not necessarily. In fact a huge celebratory “pop!” is actually a sign that it was opened by an amateur. Experts contend that a bottle of champagne opened with skill will make only a very small popping sound, or perhaps none at all.

Here is how to open a champagne bottle like a pro:

Chill thoroughly – Properly chilled champagne will fizz and/or froth over less
Towel dry the bottle – if there’s condensation to ensure a good grip and prevent slippage
Cut the foil – using a knife, only tearing with fingers after you’ve scored the foil.
Tilt and aim – Tilt the bottle to 45 degrees and aim it away from yourself, others, and anything breakable (like windows)
Hold the cork down – with one hand while twisting open the wire cage with the other
Twist the bottle – with one hand while continuing to hold the cork down with the other
Listen – for the sound of air escaping to signal that the bottle is open. There may also be a small cloud of gas.

The pop can be fun when among friends in a party atmosphere but if opened gently and quietly the champagne will have more bubbles and taste better. As the old saying goes “The ear’s gain is the palate’s loss.”

Once you’ve successfully opened the champagne the next step is pouring it. For the best results make sure the bubbly has been chilled to the proper temperature, 46º F – 57º F depending on age, and then further preserve the bubbles by using a ‘beer-like’ technique and pouring the liquid down the side of a tilted champagne flute.

 

How to Open Champagne

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

5 Thanksgiving Wines From Carneros (Or Close)

“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—and informing my readers of my choices—because, quite frankly, not many wines do. This Cabernet will go perfect with some turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole…said, no one.

 

Of course, big reds like Cabernet would not be the varietals I would look to in this situation, but even some subtler reds or whites can be a difficult task for this once-a-year feast.

 

I tend to favor American Chardonnay because Thanksgiving is an American holiday and while Chardonnay may not be a match made in heaven for this cuisine, it works about as well anything else. And since I don’t think Chardonnay pairs all that well with much, why not use it in this instance. The key is to find a Chardonnay that has good minerality with little oak and only a small percentage of malolactic fermentation. There is no reason to have a fruity, oaky, butter ball wine with your marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. It’s too much. And favor soil (terrior) over fruit. The more Burgundian your chardonnay is, the better.

 

I also enjoy some white Rhone varietals with this meal as well as Sauvignon Blanc, but I would advise the same as with Chardonnay—look for minerality and acidity, over round, oaky, buttery wines.

 

If you go with a red, Pinot Noir from California or Oregon (again, we are going domestic on this holiday) is always a safe bet. Syrah and Zinfandel, which have lighter tannins, can also work provided they are cooler climate ones. Warmer climate reds from places like Paso Robles, for example, can run very high in alcohol and brix (sugar) levels which can put you to sleep on your father-in-law’s couch a little sooner than you anticipated.

 

So with that in mind, for this 2021 iteration I am focusing on the cool climate, under-appreciated Carneros region of California (with one wine from nearby in Napa Valley). I love the range and variety of wines that come out of the Carneros region. Situated on the southern border of both Napa and Sonoma and just north of the San Pablo Bay it has a sort of “goldy locks” climate with hotter temps to the north in Sonoma and Napa and cool air coming off the bay to the south. While most of the region is known for cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there are micro climates in Carneros that allow for the growing of myriad varietals—Syrah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and even Riesling.

 

Ok, enough of the foreplay. Here are my 2021 Thanksgiving wines:

 

 

2018 Bouchaine Las Brisas Vineyard Riesling ($38)

As I mentioned, Carneros has a wide range of varietals that can grow in the region. One of these is Rielsing—a varietal that thrives in southern Germany and Alsace, France and is beloved by many somelliers for its complexity and food friendliness. But Carneros has cool enough sites for this grape and the Las Brisas Vineyard is one of the most suitable in all of California due to the fact that the region is often covered in fog until mid-day. The Las Brisas Riesling from Bouchaine showcases beautiful floral notes, white peach and tangy apple notes with just enough acidity to compliment your turkey with gravy as well as your sweet potato pie.

 

2019 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc ($22)

More and more Napa Valley wineries are experimenting with non-Bordeaux varietals and I love that. While not quite as many micro climates as Sonoma there are still plenty of micros and soil types in Napa to allow for all sorts of varietals, including most of the Rhone varietals.

 

The Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc comes from the Somerston Estate in the Napa Valley, a 1,682-acre property with 244 acres of hillside vines, located in the east of Pritchard Hill. When done correctly, white Rhone wines have a lovely bouquet of stone fruits (particularly peach) and white pepper with floral notes and minerality that I love. This Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc is no exception, with intriguing floral aromatics, ample acidity, and flavors of peach, apple tart and Crème Brûlée on the finish.

 

2018 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Estate Carneros Pinot Gris ($24)

I consider Etude to be one of the forefathers of the Carneros region. Established in 1982, the winery has been a top Pinot Noir producer for decades. And while Pinot Noir still dominates Etude’s varietal lineup, the winery actually produces quite a few different varietals and blends including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Rose and even a sparkling wine—and they’re all good.

 

Etude’s Pinot Gris— grown at their Estate “Grace Benoist Ranch” vineyard—has actually become quite popular (a staple on many menus in Northern California) as it’s extremely consistent, food friendly and varietally correct. This classic Pinot Gris offers solid acidity with aromas of pear, apple, stone fruit and white flowers on the nose. Delicate notes of spice, citrus and peach dance on the mid palate while classic Carneros minerality lingers on the long finish.

 

Ram’s Gate Estate Pinot Noir ($85) 

Located at the epicenter of three of Sonoma’s greatest AVAs, Ram’s Gate’s estate vineyard borders the Sonoma Valley to the north, the Sonoma Coast to the west and Carneros to the east, and is the proverbial “Compass Rose” of Sonoma. Like most of the region, the signature morning Carneros fog rolls in off the San Pablo Bay and the wind-rich location creates a “temperature controlled” impact on the estate that is ideal for Pinot Noir.

 

This wine erupts with a bouquet of cherry, tobacco and clove on the nose. Subtler, classic Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, anise and holiday spices come through on the palate. This wine should work with anyone’s version of a Thanksgiving feast, whether you fancy white or dark meat; sweet potato pie or classic mashed potato with butter; peas or a green bean casserole.

 

2018 DuMol “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay ($75 – $90)

If you read my “Talking Turkey—With Wine” article from last year I covered another “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay. If it seems redundant for me to cover another one this year, that’s fair. But the truth is, Carneros is currently making arguably the best Chardonnay in California (Aubert, Donum, Tor and Hyde de Villaine all make world-class Chardonnay here) and the superstar Hyde vineyard is probably the best of the best, turning out high quality Chardonnays on the most consistent basis. So why not touch on it back-to-back years.

 

DuMol’s “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay has lots of pineapple (tropical fruits are indicative of this vineyard) elegant floral notes, and lemon zest on the nose with wonderful acidity and limestone minerality on the long, long finish. The wine is extremely complex with integrated acidity and flavors that unfold fluidly. It should go wonderfully with your Thanksgiving meal but can also be relished afterward while you settle into a football game or talk politics with family and friends.  Your only issue with this wine will be finding a bottle of it, but if you do, it’s worth the price.

 

Enjoy your Turkey Day and be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Chicken & Champagne at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc

If dining at a Keller establishment is a must, two other options exist in Yountville. Ad Hoc is much less expensive than the Laundry but still gets stellar reviews for its four-course menu of ever-changing selections featuring local ingredients.

 

 

Keller opened Ad Hoc in 2006 as a casual dining venue to showcase the American comfort food of his childhood. The name Ad Hoc literally means “for this purpose,” and derives from Keller’s original purpose for the restaurant—to temporarily fill a space while his team developed a different restaurant concept. Yet from the start, Ad Hoc was loved so much by the locals and visitors to the wine country alike that it stuck around and is now one of the most popular restaurants in the valley.

 

Ad-Hoc-4

 

The daily-changing four-course menu, featuring classic American dishes like fried chicken, pot roast and barbeque, is handwritten nightly on chalkboards throughout the restaurant. All courses are served family-style to increase both the conviviality of the Ad Hoc experience and to further recreate the casual comfort of home. The wine list also features many of the local vintners—many of whom can be seen frequently dining at the low key restaurant.

 

 

 

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, Calif. 94599
(707) 944-2487

America’s Most Coveted Shellfish

Move over Maine lobsters. An even more revered, more sought after New England shellfish has stolen the culinary spotlight for a few fleeting months. Fresh-caught Nantucket Bay scallops – arguably the best and most coveted seafood in America – are now arriving at select restaurants and seafood shops throughout the country, and they won’t be here for long. Continue reading

A Magnificent Merlot

After being one of the most popular kids at the party in the 90’s, Napa Valley Merlot took a hit to its reputation in the 2000’s. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reason as the quality did not suffer. If anything it got better.

 

The 2004 movie Sideways certainly did not help. In perhaps its most famous scene, the main character Miles, who adores Pinot Noir and seemingly loathes Merlot declares before a double date evening with his best friend Jack, “I’m not drinking any f—ing Merlot.” After that Pinot Noir sales went up and Merlot went down in the US and that remained the trend for many years. Yet in reality Merlot was already stumbling. I know because I spent many a Saturday or Sunday in Napa during this time and could see with my own eyes that the interest in Merlot among the wine tasting crowd was waning.

 

Some will point to the fact that California Merlots used to be too one dimensional, intended for blending or for making a very quaffable wine that appealed to a wide range of people albeit in a simplistic if not monolithic fashion. My personal theory is that Merlot took a back seat to Cabernet from a perception standpoint during the late 90’s and early 2000’s—a unique period in US history when a lot of money was being made (and later lost) and people based their opinions more on what they read or heard versus what they actually experienced or tasted. From expensive technology stocks to expensive wine, perception played a big role during these hifalutin times. Commanding higher prices and receiving higher scores from the critics (namely Robert Parker and Wine Spectator), Cabernet was king in California.

 

This superficial period also happened to conveniently coincide with some stellar Cabernet vintages coming out of Napa and Sonoma, thanks in part to favorable weather and a mini winemaking renaissance of sorts which further helped solidify Napa Valley on the worldwide stage—along with its most high profile varietal—Cabernet. Combine these factors with the advent of the Internet—which allowed wine geeks like me to keep tabs on exactly which wines were getting the top scores—and it’s no surprise that Napa Cabernet, the most expensive and highest scoring in California, took off in popularity.

 

But Napa Valley Merlot—which has been thriving in the valley for as long as Cabernet—never faltered in quality during this time. In fact, while not a lot of people were paying attention it just better. And people are starting to take notice. At least I am.

 

I recently tried a Merlot from Sullivan Winery in Rutherford (Napa) and it blew me away. I can easily say it is one of the best wines I have had from Napa, of any varietal. It’s important to also point out that I tried this wine without knowing the price. No matter how unbiased a wine writer or critic attempts to be, it is inherently impossible not to have the knowledge of price effect our thinking or judging. In this case I was not surprised to find out after I had relished in a glass for twenty minutes that it commanded a hefty price. It’s justified in my humble opinion.

 

2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot ($250)

 

Consisting of 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot is actually more of a “right bank” Bordeaux style than a straight up merlot. And I love that. Aromatically, this wine has distinguished earthy qualities rooted in the typical notes synonymous with “Rutherford Dust” leading with notes of graphite, tobacco leaf and cocoa, along with an unforgettable fruitful essence that emerges from the glass. On the palate, the seriousness of the wine becomes apparent. Broad, structured and coating, the wine maintains an old-world finesse, with freshness and bright acidity. Layered, nuanced and complex, flavors of raspberries, rhubarb, crushed herbs and wet stone minerality meld together seamlessly, leaving a prolonged and satisfying finish. The polished, yet complex tannin structure gives the wine an invitation to cellar.

 

 

Distilling in NYC

Manhattan‘s first and only legal whiskey distillery since prohibition has opened. 

 

 

 

Great Jones Distilling Co. opened to the public on August 21st, 2021 in the downtown NoHo area of New York City. With 28,000 square feet set over four floors in a distinctive building that was built during the prohibition era, the stunning distillery offers guests the chance to explore a working distillery.

 

 

 

The massive venue encompasses a fully functioning distillery, educational tour and tasting bar experiences, and numerous thoughtfully designed drinking and dining venues including an underground speakeasy and full restaurant debuting this fall. 

 

 

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Try out the Great Jones Distilling Co. 100% New York three signature whiskeys – Great Jones Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Great Jones Four Grain Bourbon, and Great Jones Rye Whiskey.  With special attention to ingredients, the grain is sourced from the Black Dirt region in Warwick Valley, NY where the air, climate, and rich soil impart a distinctive flavor profile.

 

 

For more information or to book, greatjonesdistillingco.com.

Oysters and Beer in the East Village

While the space inside this East Village eatery may be small, Upstate offers one of the largest assortments of east and west coast oysters available in NYC. From the Long Island Sound to the Puget Sound, Upstate’s friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to guide you through their vast medley of shelled delicacies. Whether you prefer briny, coppery, milky, or floral – or haven’t the faintest idea what any of that means – they’ll help you mix and match over 20 oyster varieties with their similarly impressive selection of craft beers. Come during Happy Hour, and $12 will get you a pint and six oysters. And if that’s not enough to entice you, Shane Covey, Upstate’s genial and gracious owner, will swing by at the end of your meal and give you a piece of whiskey cake made by his wife.

 

upstate

 

95 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003

Dining Departures

The Best U.S. Airport Terminals To Be Stuck At 

Delays at airports are not as woeful as they used to be. That is, if you are lucky enough to be stranded in a choice terminal replete with the type of trendy dining and watering-hole options that rival our very cities. If you find yourself in an airport for an extended period of time this coming holiday season—or any time for that matter—hopefully it’s at one of these terminals.

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5 New Places to Visit This Summer in NYC

New York City is back in full force, and brand new bars, restaurants, and lounges are popping up all over the city. Here are 5 brand new chic places to add to your list for the summer:

 

 

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POPULAR at The Public Hotel 

In a collaboration between Ian Schrager, Peruvian Chef Diego Muñoz, and Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, Popular at The Public Hotel brings to life a menu Latin culture at its finest. Opened in June 2021, POPULAR, which means “of the people,” offers a culinary tour of the many styles and traditions of Peru, showcasing made-to-order Ceviches, wok-fried dishes to wood-fired specialties.

“Never before have two chefs of such world-renown collaborated to bring a luxurious, multicultural, culinary experience to New York City,” says Schrager. “I have long been impressed by Chef Diego’s innovative cooking, which spotlights Peru’s healthful cuisine that effortlessly marries indigenous, European, and Asian influences. His ‘live’ Ceviche program, where guests watch their dishes being freshly made, brings excitement and theatricality to the experience. I truly believe that Pisco is about to step into the limelight and Chef Diego creating our Pisco cocktails really takes them to a new level.”

 

 

 

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WRITING ON THE WALL 

The Lower East Side’s most exclusive new lounge and cocktail bar is hiding in plain sight on East Houston Street and Avenue A. A new venture from 29MONROE Hospitality that opened in March 2021, the energetic vibe features a resident list of amazing DJ’S, Handcrafted cocktails, and tropical bites.  Don’t miss The Roaring 20s signature cocktail made with Louis Roederer bubbly, Ketel One Vodka, muddled blueberries, and fresh mint or the Mont Blanc Cake. wotwnyc.com

 

 

 

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CASA LIMONE 

Take a trip to Southern Italy with a visit to elegant Casa Limone. The first NY restaurant by Monte Carlo Hospitality Group, Michelin- starred Chef Antonio Salvatore from Monaco’s favorite Rampoldi highlights the flavors, sights, and scents of Basilicata, Italy. Don’t miss the meatballs, Frittata Casa or Carpaccio di Polpo.

 

 

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THIEF 

Opened in June 2021, Theif is the first solo venture from John McNulty (Katana Kitten, Swine and Cocktail Kingdom). The 50-seat quaint neighborhood spot is inspired by the 1980’s NYC graffiti, art, and music scene. Boomboxes and spray paint line the bar, as well as small craft producers for both spirits and wine.  Don’t miss out on the Friesling (Frozen Riesling), truffle grilled cheese, or Vegan Mini Corn Dogs.

 

 

 

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ELECTRIC BURRITO
From Alex Thaboua and Will Wyatt of Mister Paradise, comes Electric Burrito, a SoCal style eatery inspired by Thaboua’s upbringing in San Diego. Find a variety of burritos, tacos, nachos, house-made sodas, and orange sauce for sale (a staple of any San Diego burrito). Electric Burrito is also committed to sustainability, re-using waste from tomato salsa, bacon fat and more in creative ways. Electric Burrito is located at 81 St. Mark’s Place.

A Versatile Vermentino

For whatever reason, when talking about Italian wines many people think of red wines—Barolo, Brunello, Barbaresco, Super Tuscan. Yet Italy produces 17 different white wine varietals—more than any other country—with a variety of styles and characteristics that can work with almost any cuisine. One of these varietals, which tends to fly a bit under the radar, is Vermentino. Considered to be one of the most important white wines produced in Italy, Vermentino, if done right, can be one of the great food wines. It’s perfumed nose and rich minerality make it a great match for light summer meals from fresh fish and produce, to light pasta dishes with olive oil and herbs to a simple burrata salad.  It can also stand up to heavier dishes such as Gnocchi with mushroom sauce, Bouillabaisse or even a classic Chicken Piccata.

 

Produced mostly on the island of Sardinia, Vermentino is generally light in body yet is quite complex with alluring aromas of peach, white pepper and lemon zest. On the palate, Vermentino can have a slight oiliness to it but is otherwise dry and crisp. What I love most about a good Vermentino is the mineral and saline characteristics. Wine, after all, is made from fruit off a vine that is grown from the earth’s soil. And while a wine’s bouquet may greet you, and its mid palate may strike up conversation, it is the earthiness, the soil, the terrior of the wine that lingers on the finish, leaving an indelible mark in your wine memory bank. Subsequently, it is also what makes a good food wine.

 

2020 Surrau “Limizzani” Vermentino Di Gallura DOCG (SRP: $16)

 

Located fifteen minutes from the stunning Costa Smeralda in the northeastern corner of Sardinia, Vigne Surrau is home to the only DOCG on the island of Sardinia—Vermentino di Gallura DOCG.

 

This 100% Vermentino is a blend of fruit from all of Surrau’s estate vineyards and was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The 2020 Limizzani is quintessential Vermentino with a bouquet of spice, crushed flowers, white peaches and apricots that lift up out of the glass. The perfumed nose leads to more stone fruits, pepper and lemon zinger, followed by crushed stones and a viscousness on the palate that is typical of Vermentino. The round, supple mid palate finishes crisp and clean.

 

Surrau’s 2019 “Sciala” Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG (SRP: $27) is wonderful as well with similar characteristics, but I actually preferred the lower priced Limizzani, without knowing the price difference. At $16 a bottle the Limmizzani is a great wine to buy several bottles of or even a case of and enjoy throughout the summer with fresh seafood, pasta and other summer fresh dishes.

 

Great Rosé from…Napa Valley?

 

When it comes to fine wines and gourmet foods, we have a tendency as consumers to put things in a geographic box. Only the small Champagne region in northern Burgundy can produce world-class sparkling wine, right? Only the cold waters off the coast of Maine are where quality lobsters are caught, right? And great rosé only comes from Provence right? Wrong.

 

Italy and Spain produce myriad styles of wonderful rosé and rosato. So does South Africa and Argentina. And so does Napa Valley. “Wait, Napa Valley,” you say. Renowned for their Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot (and word-class Sauvignon Blanc which never seems to get its due recognition) Napa Valley not only makes great rosé but is perfectly positioned to be a rosé producing machine if it really wanted to be.

 

As it is, many Napa wineries make a rosé but few seem to promote them or sell them on the retail market much. Don’t expect to see many in wine stores or on restaurant wine lists outside of Northern California. They are typically reserved for club members and tastings at the winery. In my article Napa Nuances from a couple years I quipped about Sauvignon Blanc that, “for a long time, it played the role of warm up wine—a palate cleanser or amuse bouche—before the featured wines.” Similarly, rosé is the wine a tasting room manager greets you with when you first walk in. It’s a “greeting” wine.

 

Due to its unrelenting popularity, however, I expect this to change. Yes, rosé will still be a greeting wine at many Napa wineries, but I would expect to see more of them on wine lists and on the retail market in the future. Why? The simple explanation for this prediction is that a) rosé remains ultra-popular in the US (and is no longer just a summertime attraction) and b) Napa Valley has the means to produce a ton of it. While Rhone varietals such as Grenache and Cinsault and Mouvedre remain the choice for many Rhone and Provence style rosés, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can make for wonderful rosé too and these varietals are abundant in Napa Valley—with plenty to spare.

 

I can’t speak for every winery in Napa but typically higher-end wineries will “drop” a lot of fruit or declassify certain barrels they don’t consider to be of high enough quality to make it into the final wine. This “extra” fruit can be used in myriad ways. It can be sold to negotiants. It can used to make a blend or second label that’s only sold at the winery. It can be used internally as “practice fruit” to test new blending techniques. And it can certainly be used to make rosé—great rosé. Considering that most rosé wines are relatively inexpensive, the “leftover” fruit that goes into many Napa rosés—while not quite up to snuff for the $60 Merlot or $80 Cabernet—is more than sufficient quality-wise for the more whimsical, low key rosé.

Here are several Napa Valley rosés I like. Each one is made from different varietals resulting in different styles.

 

Sullivan 2020 Rosé (Merlot)—$35

 

If you like Provence style rosé but wish they were a bit more bold. With brighter fruit. And a bit fleshier. With more structured tannins. This is your wine. Like most Napa producers, Sullivan excels at red Bordeaux varietals, making some of the finest Cabs and Merlots in the valley. Like many producers in Napa, their rosé started out as fun thing to do—essentially a “greeting” wine. Boy is it good though. Their 2020 rosé is a light pink/salmon color, similar in color to the classic roses from Provence. In the glass, floral aromas and citrus notes of Meyer lemon, tangerine, white peach and limestone emanate. On the palate layers of strawberry, orange and lemon curd unfold with a lot of complexity for a seemingly simplistic wine. Acidity and minerality are abundant on the clean, crisp finish. This wine could be enjoyed with just about anything from shellfish to BBQ.

 

Swanson Vineyards 2020 Rosato (Sangiovese)—$24

Swanson has had their rosé for about as long as anyone in Napa—though it’s actually a Rosato, made in the classic Italian style from Sangiovese. While I haven’t actually looked this up, I know I had it circa 2001-2004 when I visited the winery, so that’s sufficient for me. I loved it then and love it now. This wine is light red in color (not pink), with a bouquet of strawberries and rose petals on the nose. On the palate it opens with red fruits (cherries, pomegranates and ripe strawberries) moving toward mellower watermelon and stone fruits on the finish. Despite its darker color than some of the other rosés on this list, this Rosato is very crisp and refreshing and can be enjoyed with any number of foods.

 

Frank Family 2020 “Leslie” Rosé (Pinot Noir)—$50

 

This new wine from Frank Family is a tribute to Proprietor, Leslie Frank, inspired by her love for Provençal rosé and the “good life.” This rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir, sourced from the cool pockets of Napa’s Carneros region, including their family-owned Lewis Vineyard located along the shores of the San Pablo Bay. Layers of strawberry, white peach, apricot and orange creamsicle on the palate unfold with wet stone and a hint of lemon zest on the finish. This is a wonderful sipping wine for any occasion, with or without food.

 

Gamble 2019 Rosé—$28

 

A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and
2% Merlot, Gamble’s rosé sounds like a classic Bordeaux style blend. And it is. Only it’s a rose. A bouquet of cranberries, grapefruit and crushed flowers dominate on the on the nose. On the palate, watermelon gives way to cherry, strawberry and lemon zest. The finish is long and refreshing with good acidity and minerality. Enjoy this wine with just about anything, including Asian food or rich seafood dishes like a homemade paella.

 

 

2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount

As we move into the middle of spring and the weather across the US (and northern hemisphere) begins to warm up, it is only natural for people’s wine tastes to change.

Rosé reasserts itself after a long winter’s nap and white varietals begin to fly off the shelf too. For those that prefer red wine, regardless of the weather or occasion or food pairing, it seems only natural to favor the softer, more delicate varietals, like Pinot Noir. But if you love Bordeaux varietals and simply will not be satiated with anything else when there’s juicy meats coming off the grill, you might find a nice Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley to be the perfect fit.

Blends, which typically include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc (and to a lesser degree Petite Verdot and Malbec) can offer the ideal balance in a red wine and they pair nicely with grilled meats, barbecue and other stuff you might be cooking as the weather warms. Also, blends from the new world typically offer brighter fruit than their French counterparts which further helps them pair nicely with a variety of foods, including your Memorial Day smorgasburg of burgers and sausages and steaks.

I was lucky enough to recently try the 2017 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount ($90), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot sourced from the Gamble family’s vineyards in Oakville and St. Helena and it was delicious.

Greater than the sum of its parts, the final blend for the 2017 Paramount was drawn from fruit grown on nine different vineyard sites stretching the length and breadth of the Napa Valley. With the intention of allowing each variety to express its unique terroir and character, Winemaker Jim Close ferments each wine separately. At the core of this blend is Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from Gamble’s Knoll-top vineyard and St. Helena Cabernet Franc, which harmonizes with Oakville Merlot from just below Gamble’s Family Home vineyard and Petit Verdot grown on the slopes of Mount St. Helena.

Of course, high pedigree vineyard sites don’t magically make great wines. You need a great wine maker—which they have—as well as a keen understanding of how to farm the land and yield great fruit…responsibly. At the heart of the winery’s regenerative farming approach is owner Tom Gamble, a third-generation farmer, who purchased his first vineyard in 1981. Over 20 years later, he started Gamble Family Vineyards with the goal of celebrating the distinct Napa Valley terroir he had come to know and love. A strong believer that wine is a gift from the earth, Tom takes a holistic approach when caring for his vineyards and the surrounding land.

The 2017 Paramount is deftly balanced—bold yet approachable—with just enough oak and the kind of soft tannins you expect from a top tier Napa Valley blend. Dark fruits—raspberries, black currants, plum—explode out of the glass, giving way to mocha and vanilla notes on the long, long finish. This wine has just enough acidity to make it a wonderful food wine, yet is soft enough to enjoy on its own or casually with some hard cheeses and charcuterie.

Still prefer white wines this summer? Gamble also makes one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in Napa Valley. Their Heartblock” Sauvignon Blanc ($90), while pricey for the white varietal, is a benchmark for quality Sauvignon Blanc in Napa Valley.