Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Kosher food has surged…wine must now catch up

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I must be getting old.

I remember wine from 30 years ago (Manishewitz), wine from 20 years ago (Baron Herzog White Zinfandel) and wine from 10 years ago (Herzog Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet – still a consistently great wine btw).

And while I have not written too much about cooking/food over the years (damn, I’ve been blogging since 2007) I am very much a foodie and remember restaurants from 30 years ago (Shmulke Bernstein’s), from 20 years ago (Noah’s Ark) and from 10 years ago (Le Marais).

Seeing where kosher wine & food has come from makes me nostalgic.

SO you ask, where are kosher wine & restaurants these days…???

Well, there are many Cabernet Sauvignon, cabernet based blends or similar big-bodied wines that have been rewarded with high-scores – and deservedly so.  The best of these complex, elegant, full-bodied wines are excellent.

As to restaurants, there are some good ones on the scene now and over the past decade.  Places such as Va Bene, Tevere, Le Marais and the Prime Group.  Old world Italian,  French or American Bistros…places where kosher consumers can bring non-kosher guests & feel proud (kosher isn’t just knishes, hot dogs or deli sandwiches).

Well, the point of this whole personal kosher history is a prelude to my observation that kosher food has surged ahead of wine.

I had dinner the other night at Pardes.  This 5 month old restaurant is at the cutting edge of molecular gastronomy with its unique & creative menu, its unpretentious hipster decor & artistic presentation – all at very fair prices.  This follows a recent dinner at Basil (whose menu was constructed by the owner/chef of Pardes) as well as quality time out West in Oxnard California where I was treated to the delectable creations at Tierra Sur.  My experience at each of these three has me confident that we are seeing a new generation of chefs stepping up the quality level of kosher food/restaurants to yet a new height.

But I fear wine is lagging.  Sure there are some great wines to accompany a good steak or roast, but what about dishes such as Pardes’ Salmon Tartare wrapped in Socca & topped with a poached egg, Basil’s Parmesan & white asparagus, wood burning oven pizza or Tierra Sur’s Fennel and orange zest encrusted Ahi tuna???  Sure there is a decent Chablis, a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an expensive but nice Laurent Perrier Brut rose’ & champagne.  But the selection of good quality kosher wines OTHER THAN big Cab, merlot, zin or Syrah based wines is limited.

While at Pardes the other night I found myself lacking a quality wine pairing for many of the gourmet courses.

In general, there are few if any good Pinot Noirs (will there ever be a top-line Grand or Premier Cru kosher Burgundy?), no decent German Rieslings, French Sancerre or other well-priced high-quality food-friendly wines.  Is there even a demand for these kinds of wines??

While the kosher world should be proud of the upward trend of high quality kosher offerings for both food & wine, I hope kosher wine offerings will broaden to include wines that will allow kosher foodies to accompany their non red meat meals with subtle wines and not just big Cabernet style wines.

Happy kosher food & wine pairing!

WTG

Surging kosher (and more)

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

It has been MANY weeks since my last post.  Producing an event with 2,000 guests is all consuming.  And though the event is now behind us, blogging is much like going to the gym – once you lose momentum it is hard to get back in the groove.  But I’ll try…

I have a lot on my mind these days.  The event I worked on was the Kosher Food & Wine Experience (www.kfwe2011.com).  As I walked the hall at Pier 60 on event night I was truly struck by the quality of offerings.  There were a huge (0ver 300) number of wines on offer, from wine producing countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand and the country possibly producing the best kosher wine, Israel.  But I have been fortunate enough to witness the high level of wines being made the past 5-10 years.  What really struck me was what is going on in the kosher food industry.  Joining the ranks of high quality restaurants Prime Grill, Le Marais & Tevere, are new cutting edge culinary establishments Basil, Pardes, Pomegranate & the team behind Got Cholent? & Gemstone Catering, amongst others.  Lamb Meatballs with Turnip & Olive.  Seared Tuna Loin over Mango & Jicama salad.  Brandy Frangelico chocolate mousse topped with sugar coated toasted hazelnut.  These were just some of the dishes offered at KFWE2011.  Overall, I think the kosher industry has really turned a corner, and the best is yet to come.

A quick example of the treats kosher foodies have at their disposal is the 5 course whiskey & kosher food pairing taking place tomorrow.

I want to end this post on a somber note.  The world lost an amazing man the other day.  Good friend, and kosher food & wine lover Ilan Tokayer passed away in Northern California.  Since hearing the tragic news yesterday morning I have cried more than I have in many, many years.  Ilan was a bright, optimistic, warm, open, giving, Zionistic young man training to be a winemaker.  He and I talked about a winery we would open in Israel one day.  Details of Ilan’s passing are still unknown to me.  What I do know is that I am absolutely heart-broken.  To say that Ilan will be missed is an understatement.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Every day is precious folks…treasure life.

WTG

Avoid the hangover – drink clear spirits

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Ahhh….the holiday season is upon us (as is the COLD in NYC).  Which means lots of partying.  Lots of partying means lots of drinking.  And lots of drinking means the likelihood of the infamous HANGOVER.

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But is there a way to avoid a hangover?  I think when it comes down to it, if you drink too much and don’t have sufficient food/fluids in your system, you will suffer with some form of hangover.  I would recommend drinking with your meal & if possible, having a glass of water with each drink.  But researchers from Brown University have a different idea…drink clear spirits.

The researchers have said that dark drinks such as wine or whiskey have many times more chemicals called “congers” than lighter colored drinks such as gin or vodka.  And it is these “congers” they concluded that cause the infamous hangover.

“While the alcohol alone is enough to make many people feel sick the next day, these toxic natural substances can add to the ill effects as our body reacts to them,” Damaris Rohsenow, a professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, said in a statement.

OH BOY…I’m in trouble…90+% of my wine/beer/spirits collection are dark.  Dark beer, bourbon & red wine.  Thank goodness for ibuprofen!

Happy hangover free imbibing!

WTG

Is this food/wine any good?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

When you go to a bar/restaurant, do you ask the waiter if a dish/drink/wine is any good?

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I mean seriously, what server/waiter/waitress worth half their weight in plonk (low grade wine) would actually answer NO, that dish/wine is bad.  I mean seriously…

But WTG, what if I am curious about a dish and want to know if it is any good?  Shouldn’t the server tell me the truth???

NOOOO!!!!  Sure the server is working for a tip & presumably that server will not want to steer you wrong.  BUT once you leave the restaurant that server has a boss to answer to & if that boss hears the server saying anything negative about the food at the establishment said server will likely be unemployed.

The best solution would be to ask for a taste of the dish/wine in question.  In the case of foods this may be difficult, but with most wines that are served by the glass at restaurants or wine bars you should be able to get a taste.

At restaurants I like to employ 2 strategies.  The first, if I have a specific dish in mind, is to ask the server if they have had the dish.  (Many servers only eat from community dishes prepared in advance of their shift for the whole staff.)  If they have, ask if they enjoyed it and would order it again.  This way the server can tell you that they might not have enjoyed it or they might not order it again, without saying that it is not good (or heaven forbid BAD).

The next strategy I like to take, and the one I favor most hoping to get the restaurant’s BEST dish is to ask the server what their favorite is, or what they would order if they were eating dinner and I was paying.  This really gets them to open up & generally lets you know if you take their recommendation that you are likely to end up with a good dish.

Happy tasty food & wine tasting!

WTG

go work out, old vine wine & turkey talk

Monday, November 16th, 2009

You know, writing and maintaining a blog is a lot like going to the gym.  Once you lose momentum, it can be real hard to motivate to get going again.  Speaking of which, I have got to get my growing ass back into a gym.  Sure my surgically repaired wrist has been a convenient excuse, but it is not like I can’t exercise other muscles.  Heck, I forget what the inside of a gym even looks like.  Come on…motivate Wine Tasting Guy!!!!

My writing focus is all out of whack.  Nothing overly compelling to write about, so I suppose I might as well talk about the compelling wine I drank the other night.  It was an old vine carignan and it was quite spectacular.  From Carmel vineyards in Israel, this wine comes from 35-40 year old vines – some of the oldest in Israel’s modern day winemaking world.

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No official tasting note taken, but this rich extracted wine, with its notes of berries, herbs & bittersweet chocolate is a great alternative to a Cab or Merlot.  I think that among the special things one is rewarded with from an old vine wine is complexity.  And these complexities generally show themselves as the bottle is open for a little while.  This bottle was enjoyed by MANY (and I do mean enjoyed) at a large meal, so it did not have a chance to fully open and show its complexities, but I am sure to revisit it.

Finally I want to start talking a bit about the pending arrival of one of my favorite holidays – TURKEY DAY.  Thanksgiving is a short 10 days away and I am psyched.  The thanksgiving wine articles are starting to appear and I’ve begun to think about what wines to suggest to friends and what wines to open up at my meal.

But before I divulge what wines I DO suggest and which wines I might pop the cork on I figure lets start with what wines NOT I will likely shy away from.   Though some of my favorite wines are the BIG, ROBUST, FRUITY tannic reds, these are wines I will probably steer clear of.  These wines (and their big fruit flavors) will tend to overpower most meals,  let alone a nuanced meal centered on turkey.  These wines do real well with stinky cheeses and fatty cuts of beef.  An aged red will be softer than its younger counterpart and could be a better match, but you might want to reserve those young Napa Cabs for your weekend roast or Sunday BBQ rib-eye.

More on the wines I think do compliment a Thanksgiving meal soon…

Happy old vine sippin’!

WTG

Getting back on the saddle with WhiskeyFEST!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

It is about time for me to resume my regular posting.  It has been almost 3 weeks since the wrist surgery and while it does get sore every once in a while, I am back to typing away.

So what better way to (attempt to) resume my regular WINE posts than with a post about WHISKEYFEST!

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That is right.  There is an open to the public festival where whiskey producers from all over the world come to show off their goods.  And they are goooooooooooooooodddddddddddddd……

Single malt scotch, blended scotch, Rye, wheat whiskey, Irish whiskey and my favorite bourbon.  These distillers brought out their best.  And the attendees, whiskey glass in hand were sipping (and shooting) it up.

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I have never before attended a tasting of whiskey and was confused with how to handle the issue of sip or spit.  I discussed it with some “experts” who all seemed to agree that whiskey is not spit the way wine is.  UH, oh…  With this I decided to focus primarily on my brown spirit of choice – bourbon.

I did not take tasting notes, but what can I say – I was in bourbon heaven.  I really enjoyed speaking with the people about the different blends, barrel selection processes, different proofs (range from 80 to 120+ proof) and just about anything they would share with me about the distillation process.  My favorite bourbon (or at least the one I was most excited to be sipping) was the Pappy Van Winkle 20 yr. bourbon.

Not much else to share about the event other than it was very well attended.  Probably about 99% male.  And for those considering attending in the future, I would highly recommend it.  Just about all of the top distillers from around the world were in attendance & most of them were pouring a special premium whiskey in addition to their standard whiskey.  My only advice, eat a lot before arriving and dress for a room that gets HOT.

Happy whiskey tasting!

WTG

Wrist update & long lasting “mevushal” wine

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I saw my hand specialist today.

FUN NEWS…I got a new cast.

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BAD NEWS.

My wrist is NOT healing on its own.  I broke my scaphoid bone.  This is a bone in the wrist, and the location within the scaphoid where I broke it receives very little blood flow – no healing power.  So sadly, after almost 6 weeks in a cast, the break appears to be just as big as it was 6 weeks ago.

It appears that surgery IS in fact in my future.  I am off to Israel tomorrow so surgery will not commence until I return.  This gives me a glimmer of hope that MAYBE it will show signs of healing over the next 2 weeks and we can avoid surgery.  But if not, then it will be 8+ weeks in cast, maybe 9 before surgery.  Then surgery (screws put into my broken bone), re-cast, rehab…arghhh :(

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But did I mention I am going to ISRAEL!!!   WoooHooo!!!!

OK, wine.

I have blogged before about “mevushal” or flash pasteurized wine.  And in general, though the technology is improved, and I believe that the harm done to mevushal wines intended for early consumption is minimal, I must admit that I am not an advocate.  I guess I just figure that if I can have a non-boiled wine or a boiled one I will choose the “fresher” version every time.

Now the biggest knock that people have against mevushal wine is that the flash pasteurization process expedites the aging process, deeming mevushal wines unworthy of long term cellaring.

This past weekend I celebrated a momentous time in my life and while celebrating with new family members imagine my surprise to find a bottle of 1997 mevushal wine, in a closet, standing upright.  The wine, Herzog’s Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  A very fine wine in its youth.  But this one was standing upright (prime cork drying conditions), in a closet without any climate control, and did I mention; the wine is MEVUSHAL – FLASH PASTEURIZED.  These wines are not age worthy.  They are boiled.  Come on Wine Tasting Guy, don’t even bother opening up the bottle – it is SURE to be a goner.

Well, my hand is now hurting, and I took no formal tasting note, but…

…the wine was BEAUTIFUL!  Alive, soft, complex & DE-LIC-IOUS!

Dare I say my biases against mevushal wines are fading???

Happy (and healthy) mevushal wine tasting!

WTG

Bad breaks – good times ahead!

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I’m not quite sure if I have ever posted an “other” post, but I think that is the category that best suits the following…

Couple of bad breaks to share.

First break:

The break from blogging that I am about to take.

Some might think this a good thing but to those of you out there who appreciate my ramblings, I apologize.  I will continue to blog, but for at least the next 8-12 weeks it will likely be much less frequent.

I’m moving, after 11 years in my existing place, into a new apartment.  It is sure to be a tedious move, but it is an exciting one as I’ll be moving into the apartment I am to ultimately share with my fiance’.

Second break:

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Yup, broke another stem yesterday.  It was a Reidel and I wasn’t too pleased.  Not a big deal, just kinda sucked.  And I figure this is a wine blog, so sorta relevant.

Third break:

ER cast

ER cast

Nope I’m not trying to do shadow animals, I broke my wrist.  “Navicular Fracture”.  Took a good fall while riding my bike.  The bone I broke apparently “heals slowly”.  Ummm did I mention I was moving this week…???  DAMN!

I find out more after seeing a hand specialist in a couple of days, but needless to say typing SUCKS and with all going on there will have to be less blogging.

But rest assured that I am optimistic of the GOOD things that lay ahead.  And I recognize that my broken wrist doesn’t mean the wine world will cease to exist.  The blogging will not end, but it may happen more like once a week (to the delight of some of my friends who have complained that I blog too frequently – how do you think they feel about twitter?).

I’ll blog more after my appointment with the hand specialist, and I’ll write a bit about the NY State winery whose wines I recently tried.  I’ll give you a hint…they are (to the best of my knowledge) the only commercially made NY KOSHER table wine – and it is pretty darn good stuff.

Happy wHining!

WTG

Happy July 4th!

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

July 4th is America’s independance day.

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Happy July 4th wine tasting!

WTG

“Kosher brand tops the chart”

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Not JUST kosher, but kosher FROM ISRAEL!  OK, so it was not a kosher wine, rather kosher marshmallows.  I found the article “Kosher brand tops the chart” in the San Fransisco Chronicle while I was out West the other week.

Just like a wine tasting, the panel tasted 5 marshmallows BLIND (cool huh?) and scored each, with a perfect score being 100.  And the winner…by A LANDSLIDE….(drum beat)…. the ELYON marshmallow.

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While the ELYON scored 80 (out of 100) points, the other 4 tasted scored between 42-49 points.   Price per weight, these marshmallows, imported from Israel, were not even the most expensive ($3.99 for 7 ounces).  That honor went to the Whole Foods brand (43 points & $6.49/10.5 ounces).

SO what does this tell us about kosher?  Probably nothing, but maybe…just maybe, it tells us that kosher (from Israel or elsewhere) can be just as good (or dare I say better) than non-kosher products.

My only hope, and the reason I write this post today, is that I am tired of hearing people say “I am not kosher, I don’t need/want/like that kosher product”.  ESPECIALLY when it comes to kosher wine, which is made THE SAME WAY as all other wine (sans the unnecessary animal byproducts).  Instead I wish people would perceive kosher similarly to how they perceive organic, sustainable, animal friendly, etc – a product that had special consideration given to a specific set of criteria.

Speaking of kosher wine, I attended a truly amazing kosher wine tasting last night.  Oshra Tishbi of Tishbi wines together with a representative from Tishbi’s US importer (Admiral imports), showed off some lovely wines as well as hand crafted olive oils and fruit preserves (the “sangria” flavor was spectacular).  I’ll hopefully be writing more about this tasting in the coming days.

Happy KOSHER wine tasting!

WTG