In honor of Labor Day, David Hautzig, our upstate Sales Rep, writes about feeding his family year-round with bounty from the family’s home garden. Thanks David!
“Dad. Why am I lying on the floor next to a zucchini?” my son Sam asked, quite predictably under the circumstances. I mean, I asked him to lie on our living room rug with three gargantuan zucchini’s at his side. It’s not something Child Protective Services would be up in arms over, but it’s not an average request from Daddy.
These are not your average zucchinis either. They look like small tactical warheads. They had been lying under leaves at the bottom of the raised garden bed we dedicated to this wonderful and highly versatile veggie. My wife Terri simply hadn’t seen them until the other day. From a sheer visual standpoint, they are the highlight of our 2014 harvest. Read more
Chef George Mendes at the center of Aldea’s kitchen
Anticipating the arrival of Chef George Mendes’ My Portugal: Recipes and Stories (soon-to-be-released on October 7th), we couldn’t wait for last Monday night’s Ameztoi Txakolina Dinner at Aldea. Seated at the chef’s counter, we watched Mendes pirouette from one side of the kitchen to the other, spoon, bowl or pan in hand, with the members of his troop supporting and shadowing his every move. On view to all who were seated in the dining room, Mendes prepared plates with a surgeon’s precision, placing a single black trumpet mushroom just right. Closed for the event that night, Aldea buzzed with its attentive staff coursing through its intimate space, pouring Ameztoi and bearing paired plates.
Gretchen Thomas of Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurants
“It’s not easy to sell Bobal from Manchuela,” said Gretchen Thomas, the Wine and Spirits Director at the Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurants, “but if you bring the staff to meet Juan Antonio Ponce, you can’t not sell Bobal for the man.” At Barcelona since 2005, Gretchen began as the assistant manager and six months later was given the opportunity to develop the wine program for Barcelona’s five restaurants. Currently with nine locations, and another on the horizon, Gretchen revamped a wine program that was initially 80% Cabernet from California. “Staff training is the number one most important part of my job,” she added, as she spoke about the sommelier training classes that she conducts every Saturday. “I’ll teach the same wine class until I get through to every restaurant. It helps me put a face to the staff. When you read reviews about our staff, people are impressed with what they know about the wines.” Read more
Gabriela Davogustto of Vinateria
Celebrating their one-year anniversary in April, Vinateria is home to the most courageous wine list in Harlem. Curated by Gabriela Davogustto, who is also responsible for the cocktail menu, the list compliments the seasonal offerings from the kitchen, where her husband Gustavo Lopez is the chef. “People are used to wine lists in Harlem that lack innovation,” said Gabriela. “They don’t bring the bottle and let you taste it and discuss it with you. I feel that people are amazingly receptive to it [here] maybe because they’re tired of places that don’t put much adventure or love into their wine lists. The whole experience should be friendly and not to intimidate. Bring the bottle. Talk to them. This has to be a presentation. Respect the customer.” Read more
Jennifer Lim & Ben Sandler, wife & husband team at The Queens Kickshaw
“Modern cider-making realizes that the quality of fruit is important,” said Jennifer Lim of The Queens Kickshaw. “We like to be able to ask our cider makers what apples they use and not get a run around answer,” added Ben Sandler, her business partner and husband. “For us, it’s less about buying a sellable product, [and more about] something that expresses what the true nature of cider is.” And with 35 ciders on their menu, from the U.S., to Basque Country, France, Spain and the UK, The Queens Kickshaw is pioneering cider in Queens to the whistle of Johnny Appleseed. Read more
Piera and Giuilo Pastura (3rd and 2nd from right) outside the family’s vinacola
“Barbera, in my opinion, has nothing less than Nebbiolo,” said Massimo Pastura of Cascina la Ghersa, “with great respect…It has great potential.” And so, beginning in 1989 when Asti was focused on mass production, Massimo (then 19) joined his parents at the winery and sought inspiration from Giacomo Bologna who in 1982 was known for his Barbera from Monferrato, which at the time surpassed many a Barolo in quality. “Everyone was talking about his expensive Barbera,” said Massimo, “like a Barolo. But tasting it, you could see the difference.” Read more
Recently, we visited Left Bank in the West Village where we asked Beverage Director David Clift to select a song to accompany our video and here’s what he wrote. Thanks David for the amazing dishes and wine, and for the introduction to Orange Juice! (We love the tune!)
Siobhan Lowe at Alder
When Siobhan Lowe began managing the 40-bottle wine list at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder the emphasis was then on an affordable but interesting wines. “Then one day,” said Siobhan, “Kevin, our bar manager, said he’d been to Dover and they had a similar list–heavy on Old World with a sporadic [selection of] New World producers. It’s not a competition, so I thought…that’s cool…a lot of restaurants are looking for small producers. But then I started thinking about how I could bring focus to the list. Read more
Martin Foradori of Hofstaetter
On the final leg of his North American tour, Martin Foradori of Hofstaetter (his accent more German than Italian, he joked) spent an afternoon tasting us through his recent vintages. Home to six estates, each occupied by different members of the Foradori family, Hofstaetter is the only private winery in Alto Adige with properties on both side of the Adige valley. “You don’t often see estate or vineyard names on [Adige] labels,” said Martin, whose maternal grandfather was the first in Alto Adige to produce vineyard specific bottlings. With half of the estates located on the east slopes of the valley and half on the west, Hofstaetter is home to 50ha of vineyards, which is huge for Alto Adige. “70% of the vineyard surface area [in Alto Adige] is managed by co-ops,” said Martin, emphasizing that co-ops use only “fantasy names” for their wines, instead of identifying a wine’s origins by its parcel. Read more
Natasha David of Nitecap
Descending the stairs to Nitecap, one can be sure that Natasha David has left no pineapple unjuiced, no straw not recycled, and no wine unnatural in this cocktail-centric cellar. Born and raised in Europe (“Oh, this is going to sound so bougie!” she said and laughed), Natasha has been tasting wine since she was a kid. “My family has a very European sensibility about drinking,” she said. And so she came to favor the social experience of wine and spirits over boozy blackouts. Without formal wine training, she’s spent the past 11 years behind New York bars and has a great passion for juice; Natasha knows her palate. “I’m a wine drinker,” she said. “After my shift, I don’t have a cocktail. I want wine.” And so, unlike most other cocktail destinations, Nitecap offers a small but conscientious wine list. Read more