A list: 11 of my favorite French things in honor of Bastille Day

In honor of Bastille Day on July 14th, I give you a rundown of my favorite French things.  Take a thing or two and find a way to bring out your inner Frenchie on Monday.  How will you be celebrate French Independence Day?

11.  Escargots in garlic-herb butter

Americans need to be more open-minded to try these little tasty snails.

Photo credit: Saveur.com

Photo credit: Saveur.com

10.  Berets!

Just kidding, there’s no reason for anyone to wear these…ever. (especially hot guys).

Photo credit: TimeXUS

Photo credit: TimeXUS

9.  Foie gras

Flavors abound with preparations ranging from pan-fried to cold from a can.  At the end of the day, it still came from a delicious duck.

8.  The best along the Southwest coast of France

Refer here and book your next flight to glory.

7.  Armagnac

Courtesy of Uncle Edouard

6.  Jardin du Luxembourg

It’s a beauty.

5.  Daniel NYC

Where everything from this world-renowned Boulud establishment is exquisitely French and artfully prepared.

4.  Berthillon ice cream

It’s the best ice cream I’ve had so far in my life.

3.  Lots and lots of FROMAGE

Stinky, soft, cow, sheep.  Cheese: my favorite food group.

2.  French wine

Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Provence.  The French kill it.

1.  Ma famille 🙂

Advertisements

A love letter to North Fork (and wine)

I like wine.  Okay, I love wine.  And much as I love my city of Manhattan and state of New York, I must admit I didn’t know too much of anything about New York wine.  So I was excited to celebrate the Saturday summer solstice in North Fork vineyards combining a couple of my favorite activities – biking, drinking and eating.  I haven’t “cycled the wine lands” since Stellenbosch during Semester at Sea.  My parents and I drove the car from Stamford, CT (approximately 2-2 1/2 hour drive), strapped two of the bikes on the back of the car and rented one from a super nice guy named Dan in Greenport.

Our first pit stop was Duck Walk Vineyards.  As you enter the building, it opens up to a beautiful, massive event space suitable for 400 guests with high vaulted ceilings, two tasting bars and an outside scenery that includes an expansive outdoor patio and vines stretching acres across the residence.  At 11am sharp, tourist buses, limos filled with bachelorette parties and other walks of life storm through.  Some vineyards like Duck Walk can accommodate huge crowds, but others like to keep the intimate feel of the vineyard, and prohibit tourist buses and large parties.  The talk of the vineyard isn’t the red, white, or sparkling wine but its distinctive Blueberry Port crafted from wild Maine blueberries.  They serve it with a little piece of dark chocolate and recommend you sip, bite and sip again to really bring out the bright, fruity flavors of the port.  I was also a fan of the 2012 Chardonnay that received a New York Times Best Buy, and was a nicely balanced, crisp dry white wine.

 My mom and I were researching lunch spots in the car and came across my friend Charlotte Savino’s post in Travel + Leisure about the delicious scallop BLT at Southold Fish Market and it sounded too delicious to pass up.  It was about a 10-15 minute bike ride from the vineyards.  Sadly, the scallop BLT was not on the menu, but my mom ordered the fried scallops which were deliciously fresh and battered to perfection, while I stuck with a classic lobster roll and few raw oysters to start.

After lunch, our second stop was Croteaux Vineyards, where I was surprised to learn that it’s the only vineyard in the United States dedicated exclusively to producing Rosé wines.   In terms of ambiance and setting, this colorful, hip, European-style vineyard definitely took the cake.  Buses, limos, drop-offs and parties larger than eight are prohibited, keeping the backyard tasting area low-key with a killer view.  Unfortunately, none of the wines blew me away, but naturally I’d think the rosés should be left to the French. 🙂

 

Our next and last stop was Sannino Bella Vita Vineyardone of the newest wineries on North Fork with beautiful outdoor seating overlooking the vines.  I picked up a bottle of their ” 2nd Bottle Red”, a blend of red grape varieties that produced a high tannic and peppery wine with a subtle hint of berries.

So, that was three vineyards out of the many beautiful estates spread across the region.  You can bet I’ll be back to visit a handful more this summer, where I’ll continue to profess my love and raise my wine glass to New York’s North Fork vineyards.

Gros bisous,

Krystina

Kick off summer with the best tacos on the planet

The surest sign that summer has arrived involves a visit to Rockaway Taco.  It’s been a year and a half since Hurricane Sandy clobbered the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens and while progress has been slow, I am relieved to see it nonetheless.  An improvement we witnessed last weekend was the sand restoration project where bulldozers brought in mounds (ok, 3.5 million cubic yards) of sand to help the extensive beach erosion from Sandy.  The boardwalk is slowly being rebuilt, but you can tell when it’s finally done it will be gorgeous.  And while some are complaining, I commend the parks and local NYPD community who are doing everything they can to ensure proper maintenance of a safe and clean beach – because after spending all of this money to rebuild, why would you want to go forth and trash it?

The best part about a day at the beach is a lunch break at Rockaway Taco.  The fish tacos are the only important menu item to order – perfectly battered with fresh fish, and not too fried.  Make sure you add a dollop of guac and to jazz it up, help yourself to their secret brown spicy sauce from their condiment stand.

It is CASH ONLY – but they do have ATM to accommodate the forgetful.  The line can get a little crazy starting at 12:30pm so plan to go earlier or later.  If all else fails, Roberta’s parked themselves across the street.  While I am a huge fan of the pizza, you have to feel a little sorry for the guys as they gaze on to a taco line that’s wrapped around the corner.  In summary, it’s worth the wait.

How To Get There from Manhattan:  Hop on the A train and get off at Beach 90 or 98 Sts, Bike (which is my next ambitious goal, but plan for at least a 2 hour ride), or if you are lucky enough to have a car (or parents who live nearby and don’t mind hitching you a ride:) you’re all set there, or I’m also a big fan of zip car.

Happy Summer!

Where to eat: Mimi’s Hummus

My best bite of hummus hails from a dimly lit side alleyway in downtown Amman, Jordan.  In the event you are unable to make the 12 hour flight for an overnight food feast through the streets of Amman, Mimi’s Hummus in Brooklyn serves some of the most delicious hummus I’ve uncovered around New York.  My Israeli best friend will certainly be angry at me for this statement but my mom and I were simply in awe of the unparalleled creaminess of the simple Mediterranean staple.

I’ve only been there for brunch, but I imagine everything on the menu is delightful at any time of day.  Here’s what you need to order:

– Green Shakshuka (Braised swiss chard, tomato, sunny side eggs & Bulgarian cheese – NOT your ordinary feta).  It comes with a little side Israeli salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions)

– Hummus topped with mushroom and onion cumin stew served with warm, pillowy pita bread

– Mimi’s sandwich ( the house signature – open faced pita with lebane eggplant, roasted peppers and Bulgarian cheese)

The one issue I have with this restaurant is the remoteness of the Flatbush location, so if you are coming from Manhattan rent a Zipcar and drive.  The nearest subway is about a 10-15 minute walk.  And while I adore the quaint, homey feel of the restaurant, the 20 available seats fill up quickly so if you are planning to dine for brunch, I recommend arriving when the doors open.

Mimi’s Hummus

1209 Cortelyou Rd

Brooklyn, NY 11218

Weekend Brunch:  11am – 4pm

Vino series: Wine regions of France

Another day, another wine tasting with my good friends at Chelsea Wine Vault.  Today we ventured through the various wine regions of the world’s largest wine producer.

Here’s a list of the delicious exploration from the marvelous growers hailing from Champagne to Bordeaux to Burgundy.

1.  Jean Michel Blanc de Meunier Champagne 2007 (Champagne):  $54.99:  Made with 100% Pinot Meunier, this special grape to the region is also known as the “other red grape”.  And while most of the champagne produced today is “non-vintage”, meaning blended product of grapes from multiple vintages, this favorable year led the producer to create a “vintage” wine, where the bottle is composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year.

2.  La Foret des Dames Sancerre 2012 (Loire Valley):  $18.99:  While this wine was one of the most reasonably priced of the group and received a sweet 90 point mark from Cellar Tracker I was, unfortunately, not a fan.  Many say that Sancerre is where the Sauvignon Blanc reaches its zenith of quality but I was catching more lime fruit and melon on the nose and palate that didn’t appeal to my liking.  Fun new fact I learned about sauvignon blanc – most producers favor the grape because it is a simple process where you can plant and produce a sauv blanc in a year, while a pinot noir generally takes 4-5 years.

3.  Albert Boxler Gewurztraminer 2011 (Alsace):  $39.99:  Once again, I’m not sold on the German-influenced Alsatian wine that all seem to taste like sweet dessert wines to me.  Steve tells us this is one of his favorites in the group.

4.  Château Coussin La Croix du Prieur Rosé Côtes de Provence 2012  (Provence):  $16.99:  Spring has sprung, which means I’m partial to a refreshing rosé, and this 87 point winner from Wine Spectator has a smooth texture and acidity.

5.  Domaine Pierre Gelin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos De Meixvelle 2010 (Burgundy):  $54.99:  The rare, remarkable 2010 vintage year with small supply and growing worldwide demand drives the pricey tag on this beautifully balanced pinot noir.  Aside from that, the producers are crazy conscious of the need to respect the growing environment.  The Domaine uses rain water to wash its tractors and has installed a “plant container” to process water used to rinse sulfating equipment.  That’s what I call dedication!

6.  J.L. Chave Offerus Saint-Joseph 2011 (Rhone Valley):  $35.99:  I’m a fan of the big, bold, earthy reds which makes this Syrah more up my alley.  Suggested pairing with lamb chops.

7.  Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 (Bordeaux):  $38.99:  Definitely give this wine some time to open up its aromatics and flavor.   Notes of smoked cherries, cigar, peppercorn with an earthy texture.

See you at Pinot Palooza!

Sunday brunch zucchini fritter recipe

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables due to its versatility as an ingredient that can be deliciously baked, fried or sautéed in a dish.

There are a lot of zucchini fritter recipes out there but this one by Martha Stewart combines earthy ingredients and, naturally, I think the pecorino romano is an essential add that gives a subtle rich flavor.   It’s simply one of my favorite uses of the squash – a light yet filling brunch or lunch recipe that I can make in large batches and store for leftovers to eat (reheated or even served cold) throughout the week.

Bon appétit!

 

The best things I ate & drank at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

I’m slowly checking the myriad of wine & food festivals off my list, but the monumental difference between attending this year’s SOBE fest versus the Aspen Classic or NYCWFF was that, thankfully, I didn’t have to work.  As a PR marketer for CPG brands, you can generally find me staffed behind the booth representing my clients in the midst of wrangling media.  Imagine my excitement when my good friends at Sobieski Vodka offered two tickets for me and a friend to come down to Miami and LEISURELY enjoy the Grand Tasting event.  In 80 degree weather on the beach in the middle of February.  Twist my arm, why don’t you.

I couldn’t help but individually snoop through all of the sponsor experiences to make mental note of the ingenious (or faulty) brand experiences.  I could bore you with my marketing take-aways, but I thought you may be more interested in receiving my favorite food & beverage highlights.

Food

I was born a fat cheese-head (go, Wisconsin!) so you may notice a trend in my top three dishes…

Castello:  Hats off to this delectable cheese brand.  Only for the first hour of the tasting they served a special Michael Symon’s ‘Bonus Burger’ featuring the brand’s new sliced blue cheese which will be available in grocery stores this May.  Additional points include:  1) Their brand spokesperson, Michael Symon, is my secret chef crush.  2) The representatives were incredibly knowledgeable so it was clear you were speaking with someone from the company who knew their cheese versus a paid brand ambassador.

Fratelli la Bufala:  This fresh burrata from Italy had the line practically stretched across the length of the tasting tent.  Unbeknownst to me, there is a location in New York’s Upper West Side!  Guess who will be stopping by for lunch very soon…

Doggis Churrasqueria & Arepas Bar:  Tequenos is the Venezuelan version of the American mozzarella stick – a delicate pastry stuffed with different types of cheese and served with a dipping sauce.   This particular tequenos had mozzarella cheese with a merlo aioli.  The cheese wasn’t piping hot oozing out of the pastry but just tells you how damn delicious they were that it made my top three.

Drinks

From shaved ice chipotle grapefruit margaritas being served up by the Cooking Channel to Tanqueray cocktails, new Jagermeister Spice sampling and Strongbow Cider, there was certainly enough alcohol to go around.

My favorite wine of the day was Barton & Guestier Rose D’Anjou sparking rose.  It was perfectly chilled, crisp and refreshing with a hint of sweetness – an amazing complement to walking around a super hot beach in Miami. I almost fell over backwards when I got home and found out the price point is less than $12.   This could make sense considering my friend and I quickly discovered we could very well be a cheap date.  Marriott International challenged us in a blind taste test to identify the $15 vs. $300 glass of wine and we both failed.  I wonder what my instructor Steve at Chelsea Wine Vault would think.  Hopefully I can spruce up my game in time for my Wine Regions of France class next week.

à bientôt!