Vino series: Vin blanc en français!

I was excited to take my second vino class at Chelsea Wine Vault centered around the country de ma famille:  France!  My first class I delved into the full-bodied delicious red wines of Washington.  This class was focused specifically on white wines, where most white varietals are grown in the cooler northern regions of the country and the reds are produced in the warmer climates in the south.  Once again, our instructor Steve had a nice spread of cheese and crackers laid out for us as we’d make two rounds of tastings with our glasses to compare notes after the wine was able to open up a bit more.  It was a little harder for me to pick my favorite this time around, but obviously I left with at least one.  I wanted to pick up another bottle of my favorite Cab Sauv from the Washington class but they were already sold out.

Here’s the list of the wines we tasted along with a few of my personal notes and learnings:

  1. Pol Roger Reserve Champagne NV (Champagne, France):  Hailed as Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne, this bubbly happens to be very well-known for its bubbles, which are smaller due to colder cellars which slows the second fermentation (Steve tells us smaller bubbles = better champagne.)  Comprised of four different years of crops and about 35 still base wines, I was digging this crisp, citrusy refresher which seemed like a perfect complement for a summer day outside.
  2. Lucien Crochet Sancerre 2011 (Loire Valley, France):  Grown in limestone soil, Steve tells us he gets grapefruit on the nose and palate, with a metallic taste to finish.  Like many of these white wines, the suggested pairing with scallops or fresh white fish like dover sole.
  3. Gerard Duplessis Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (Burgundy, France):  An interesting tidbit I learned about Burgundy wine: By law, all white Burgundy has to be 100% Chardonnay and all red Burgundy has to be 100% Pinot Noir.  This chardonnay from the northern Chablis region produces wines with more acidity and flavors less fruity than chardonnays grown in warmer climates.  Since Steve likes to make up his own words and adjectives to describe wine, I liked to call this one “minerally”.
  4. Morey-Coffinet Bourgogne Blanc 2011 (Burgundy, France):  When tasting it was fascinating to think this is same grape as #3 and learn it’s grown only 50 miles away, but has a completely different taste and aroma.  From one of the top growers and winemakers in the hallowed vineyards of Chassagne, this wine was my second favorite of the group.  Just as Steve described, it was beautifully balanced with an acidic mineral structure and oaky finish.  And for only $22.99 for the bottle, it’s quite a steal!
  5. Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvée Silex 2011 (Loire Valley, France):  Vouvray is the most famous and respected appellation in the Loire Valley’s Touraine district.  My top pick of the bunch, I ended up leaving that evening with a bottle.  I think I preferred this Chenin Blanc because it was dry (sec = dry) but also a little ripe; juicy pear and floral notes in counterpoint to lemon zest acidity and clean-cut minerals.
  6. Paul Coulon Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 (Rhône Valley, France): This wine blend is selected to produce a tangy wine with deeply perfumed aromas: 30% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourbenblanc, 22% Roussane and 3% Picpoul Picardan.  This wine won the evening’s award for the weirdest descriptions including the smell of wet wood that has been sitting out in the rain and one classmate even described the aroma reminiscent of play-doh…And then Steve chimed in in the second round of tasting, “you know when you make a cup of tea, and you leave the tea bag around after you take it out and you say, ‘I wonder what a wet tea bag tastes like'”… Despite the hilarity that ensued, this wine was pretty enjoyable to me, just not worth the $46.99 price tag in my opinion.
  7. Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Gris Patergarten 2010 (Alsace, France):  I wanted this wine to be my favorite so I could tell Meme since she grew up in Alsace, but unfortunately I felt like this wine was almost too thick and fruity for me.  It was a nice finish after six pretty crisp white wines, but this almost tasted like a dessert wine to me.  Steve recommends pairing this with chicken, or Asian dishes like Thai cuisine.

I’m still working on refining my palate, but can’t say I’m not learning a few great things about wine.  Next up:  Oregon wines for summer!  Pencil it in, people.

xoxo, Krystina



NYC’s ‘Cue Central: Big Apple BBQ 2013

NYC is the epicenter for foodie events but with a ravenous and impatient population of eight million, pardon my language, you MUST have your shit together to pull off an event that makes people happy, full and hungry for more.  Some of them quickly become annual anticipations that keep getting better year over year, and others just become the not-so-Great Googa Mooga or a Food Truck Festival fiasco on Governor’s Island.

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is one of those annual anticipations for me.  Orchestrated by restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group, you expect nothing but exceptional service from the folks behind some of the top critically-acclaimed dining establishments in the country.

This carnivorous shin dig takes place one weekend each June in Madison Square Park so we can feed our face with award-winning barbecue and Southern-inspired fare from the country’s top pitmasters.   There are always plenty of fun and family-friendly activities with sponsored tents including interactive games and prizes, live music performances, grill-inspired tips and tricks from top chefs in the Seminar Tent, and the beer-sanctioned area (because what kind of barbecue would this be without beer?)

I never make the whole round but I was able to sample some beef brisket from NYC-based Hill Country, whole hog from Ayden, NC-based Skylight Inn, pulled pork shoulder from Charleston, SC-based Blackjack Barbecue and baby back ribs from Memphis Barbecue.

That ‘cue coupled with a few craft beers was plenty for me.  I left the 11th annual Big Apple Barbecue happy, full and hungry for more.  See you next year, pitmasters!

How to spend a summer day in NYC

Biking around New York has become one of my favorite summertime activities, and something I only started to pick up about two summers ago.  After four years in the city, I realized I could not start to consider myself a New Yorker as there was still so much around the boroughs I haven’t seen.  And you know I love my exercise, so any time I can combine a workout session with a fun activity, I’m all in!

Especially if you are visiting from out of town, renting and riding around NY is by far the best way to tour and take in the many beautiful sights of the city.

Deal sites like Living Social, scout mob and Groupon always have plenty of bike rental deals during the summer that you can quickly snatch up, but you need to be careful because a lot of places still try to scam you.  My go-to place is Central Park Bike Ride (aka Sayat Bicycle).  They frequently post NYC-based deals, but you can also save money by reserving online to receive 30% off your bike rental and they also have great reward programs for repeat customers.

Everyone in the shop is unbelievably friendly and attentive to make sure you receive the bike that best suits you and feel comfortable with your ride.  Make sure you say hi to the affable owner, Mergen (pictured below.)  He always remembers his repeat customers and, in turn, will be sure to take care of you.

Sayat Bicycle is conveniently located right near the opening of Central Park at 117 W 58 Street between 6 and 7 ave.  Just look for the bright green awning!

So, now that you have your bike – where do you go?  My usual route involve a first loop around the Central Park bike loop, then I cross over to the West Side Highway, glide down the Hudson River to the southern tip of Manhattan and over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn. From the beauty of Central Park to passing the many piers along the river, the infamous Intrepid Museum and glorious views from the promenade in Battery Park City with a view of the Statue of Liberty and, of course, the incredible experience crossing the historic BK Bridge, you’ve already seen so much in so little time.

I rarely visit the borough in the fall or winter so I love making the most out of my visit to BK, whether its planning a brunch with a friend, shopping at my all-time favorite mediterranean deli, Sahadi’s, to stock up on some spicy hummus and goodies, or swinging by Jacques Torres Chocolate on Water street under the bridge in DUMBO to indulge in some well-deserved ice cream after a long ride.

What are you waiting for?  Grab a bike, and I’ll meet you in Brooklyn!



Wordless Wednesday

Fun Halong Bay photo collage in honor of my best friend and travel buddy, Sarita.

Dinner delivery from Plated! Now get your apron on…

Anything involving food or cooking immediately catches my attention so I was thrilled to receive a perk present from the folks over at Klout and Plated to test out the services of this newly launched food company.  I remember reading about them in TechCrunch about a month ago and started following them on Facebook so I was definitely intrigued to find out more about how the concept and sample some of the recipes.

What is Plated?  Simply put, Plated offers recipes curated by top chefs around the country and delivers all of the ingredients to make a delicious home-cooked gourmet meal, down to the exact measurements per plate – directly to your door.  The service costs $14-$15 per plate for non-members, and $10 to $12 per plate for members.

I ordered four plates as part of the perk: two plates of the Roasted Swordfish with Meyer Lemon Risotto and two plates of the Lamb Soulvaki Kebabs with Grilled Pita and Greek Salad.

I realized after I placed my order online that I didn’t really understand the delivery process.  I don’t live in a doorman building so I was nervous about a box sitting downstairs where someone could take it, and then having it shipped to my office sort of defeats the purpose when I’d have to carry pounds of groceries home on the subway.  After I called customer service, they assured me everything would work out and tweeted that they have little ninjas working for them!  Perfect!  I trust little ninjas.

Side note, kudos to the @Plated Twitter team.  As a social media marketer, it’s always refreshing to see brands on top of their game and responding to consumers in near real-time versus receiving a response two days later after its been vetted through multiple teams for approval, which we know is NOT what that platform is about. 🙂
Needless to say, I was beyond relieved to find everything arrived in one piece.  All of the ingredients were conveniently labeled and best of all, everything looked fresh.  Inside were a couple print outs of the recipes along with instructions on how to prepare my dish.
My takeaway:  I think this is an excellent idea and a very simple guide for beginners who don’t do a lot of grocery shopping but are looking to learn how to cook and test out their chops in the kitchen.  It’s such an easy guide and the simplicity of the packaged delivery (they even peeled my garlic clove!) makes the process a lot more approachable for an amateur chef.  Not sure if it was just the dishes I picked, but the one thing that holds me back is the fact that I always have a well-stocked kitchen and tons of ingredients where I find that I do have a majority of the items to make most of the recipes each week.  But, that’s just me.  Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the exceptional customer service and quality of food from Plated and would recommend it to any of my friends.  I’m sure we’ll continue to hear a lot from them and I look forward to watching the company grow and succeed!
Here are some of my #platedpics.  Bon appétit!