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I wrote for Eater Drinks about new restaurants serving natural wine across the U.S., and what to drink at those spots.

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Many thanks to the wine directors, restaurant owners, and importers who helped with this article!

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I wrote on Saveur.com about the new generation of Spanish winemakers who are producing low-sulfur, less extracted beauties made with indigenous varieties. Look for these five producers at your local natural wine shop!

Originally published on FoodRepublic.com

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Warmer days are here, and for most of us that means that around 5 p.m. our ability to work is severely compromised as visions of a glass of refreshing sparkling wine claim the imagination. Maybe some of us prefer to splurge on the best grower champagnes out there, but even so, there is always a time and a place for the lovely, simple, low-alcohol wine made in the pétillant-naturel (naturally sparkling) style — known affectionately as “pét-nat.”

As the name indicates, pét-nats are a French thing, which isn’t to say that they come exclusively from France, because naturally sparkling wine can be made anywhere. But this wine has been enjoying a revival over the last decade or so in certain parts of France, especially in the Loire Valley. Its popularity stems from the robust natural-wine culture that’s developed as producers all over the world have turned away from overly manipulated wines and shifted to pre-technological, ancestral methods.

Pét-nat is one of those methods. The wine is made sparkling simply by bottling a wine and capping it during fermentation — using a crown cap, like most beer — as opposed to Méthode Champenoise, in which bubbles occur through a lengthy process of continuously rotating bottles. The Champagne method produces lovely stuff, but it’s laborious and requires machinery and extra human labor (the job of a riddler is to turn bottles, one by one, to prevent the sediment from caking). Plus, champagne is often dosed with sugar water afterdisgorgement — hello, hangover — and it is pricey. Pét-nats are neither dosed with sugar nor expensive; they usually range from $18 to $27.

Most prosecco is made through a method called Charmat, in which the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in steel vats and is then bottled under pressure. Many cheap sparkling wines are made by injecting bubbles into flat wine, which results in large, cola-like bubbles that burst harshly in your mouth, whereas wines made in the Champagne style have subtler, more elegant bubbles.

Now, pét-nats aren’t exactly elegant. They are usually unfiltered and unfined — meaning cloudy, earthy juice — and their bubbles are hardly noticeable; rather, they are almost effervescent, alive. Plus, there’s no cork popping for that celebratory effect. But in situations involving porches or patios, grilling, pizza, day drinking, late-night gossip, lowbrow novels, highbrow magazines or snacky foods such as chicken wings, frog’s legs, popcorn or oysters, a pét-nat will be the ultimate light, refreshing quaff.

There are a lot of French pét-nats on the market, but in recent years domestic winemakers have been trying their hand at making pét-nat — with some very good results.

Brianne Day started making wine in the Willamette Valley in 2012, after working harvest at wineries in Argentina and Burgundy. She supported her “winemaking habit” by waiting tables at Gabriel Rucker’s bistro Little Bird, until one day a generous customer noticed her grape-cluster tattoo and offered to become an investor. She makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the name Day Wines, and now her first pét-nat, using Malvasia, an Italian varietal that is usually made in a slightly sweet style. Day harvested early, going for a higher-acid style of wine. She added no yeasts, and rather than adding sulfur, she stabilized the pressed grapes by exposing the unfermented juice to oxygen — by literally splashing the liquid around with her hands. She added just a touch of sugar before bottling. The wine, called Mamacita, hits you with white flowers on the nose. It is soft, yeasty and pleasant to drink, with notes of stone fruits and ripe lemons, and it is cloudy enough to make it seem like drinking a barrel sample.

Only 50 cases will hit the market of a new pét-nat made by young winemaker Jonathan Oakes of Leonard Oakes Winery in upstate New York. Just this year, Oakes became motivated to experiment with Old World-style ancestral winemaking. His pét-nat, made with his estate Riesling ($15), was fermented for just eight days and bottled about a month after harvesting. It’s fresh and quenching to the point where it’s actually more like a wine spritzer, or a cider, than a wine.

And in the unlikely wine region of Maine, Brian Smith of Oyster River produces natural cider and wine. This year he has a dry, bright pét-nat called Morphos, made from a 50/50 blend of cold-hardy hybrid grapes, Cayuga and Seyval Blanc ($19). You can find it by the glass at Brooklyn’s new natural-wine bar, June.

Two pét-nats from California to look for include the Salinia 25 Reasons ($23), made from Sauvignon Blanc, and J. Brix’s Riesling ($25).

For some of the best examples of French pét-nat, seek out these bottles:

  • Pow Blop Wizz ($27): A blend of Grolleau and Cabernet Franc — two red varieties indigenous to the Loire — by Olivier Lemasson, this is a true warm-weather sparkler. It’s a beautiful pink color and just the tiniest bit fruit-forward, with a satisfying touch of residual sugar.
  • Les Capriades ($25): Loire Valley winemaker Pascal Potaire is particularly known for his pét-nats. He’s got a Chardonnay that’s nice and round, good alongside fried foods, and a rosé made of Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Côt – the local name for Malbec — and Pineau d’Aunis, called pièges à Filles (“girl-trapper”) that’s off-dry, but clean and snappy.
  • Hirotake Ooka ($22): This Japanese vintner makes unfiltered, unsulfured wines in a cellar carved out of the side of a mountain in the northern Rhone; his pét-nat Muscat de Hambourg is an all-around winner – lush, soft and completely dry.
  • And lest you think they only do natural sparklers in France, there’s a pét-nat-style prosecco from the Veneto, from a winery called Costadila, made primarily with the Glera grape. Have it with boquerones and best friends.

Originally published on Food Republic.

GLASS LV (1)

On a recent night in February at Piranha, a gay nightclub in Las Vegas, the owner approached Cooper Cheatham, who had organized the event to bring together LGBT spirits and cocktail professionals. Piranha and Share, another Vegas gay bar, are something like rivals — usually the two sets of clientele do not mix, preferring to stick to their home bases. But that night, many Share loyalists showed up at Piranha, and the owner commented to Cheatham that it was a really surprising turnout. For Cheatham, it was a success, because his organization, G.L.A.S.S. — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Spirited Sipping — is all about creating community by bringing together the mixologists, brand reps and beverage directors who often feel marginalized in a heteronormative, male-dominated industry.

“I want people to feel comfortable being themselves — no matter where they are — and feel accepted,” says Cheatham over cocktails at Manhattan’s ABC Cocina, where two of his “G.L.A.S.S.-mates” are on staff, as the chef de cuisine and beverage director. “A lot of people feel like they have their straight life behind the bar and their gay life outside the bar. They feel isolated from coworkers, but they’re so passionate about spirits, cocktails and hospitality.”

Edible DC editor AJ Dronkers (here with Cheatham) came to a recent event dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.”

Edible DC editor AJ Dronkers (here with Cheatham) came to a recent event dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.”

Since 27-year-old Cheatham started G.L.A.S.S. a few years ago, it has grown so quickly and attracted enough attention that Absolut approached with a sponsorship offer, helping expand G.L.A.S.S. to cities across America, including D.C., Miami, Dallas and Austin. Now Cheatham is traveling around the country — with Absolut’s sponsorship — building up local chapters at events, like the one in Las Vegas, that bring together LGBT beverage-industry professionals. He shows me a picture on his phone of a recent launch event, at Southern Efficiency in D.C., where Edible DC magazine editor AJ Dronkers had come dressed in drag as “Felicia Beefeater.” Cheatham had also just thrown a launch event in Miami, at the Gaythering, a gay hotel.

G.L.A.S.S. was born out of a sense that LGBT-identified people were feeling isolated within the drinking industry. Fresh out of college, Cheatham first worked at the distributor Cooper Spirits. “I was still becoming confident with myself and my sexuality,” he says. There was one other openly gay guy in that office, and Cheatham felt grateful for his presence. Very quickly, Cheatham began to see that the spirits industry was “very macho, male-dominated,” even though there was a “sizable population” of LGBT professionals in it.

One day in 2012, he was having drinks with a friend and they were talking about the lack of an LGBT community within the industry. “She said, ‘Start a Facebook group, and the rest will follow,’” Cheatham recalls. The Facebook page grew quickly, often delivering surprises — “You’d see someone on it and it was like, ‘Wait, she’s gay?’ Which was cool,” Cheatham says.

Chef de cuisine Ian Coogan comes over with a plate of guacamole and chips and off-the-menu maitake tempura, and gives Cheatham a warm hug. As we snack, Cheatham explains that G.L.A.S.S. is about more than just hosting events for its members. They also offer support to the broader LGBT community, such as volunteering as bartenders at fundraising events for organizations like the Ali Forney Center, which works with at-risk LGBT youth.

“We can provide nice drinks and a nice atmosphere to help events succeed,” says Cheatham, who also runs a marketing and events company called Double Barrel Consulting, with clients like cocktail bar Death & Co. and microdistillery Three Hunters Vodka. He points out that it’s good for brands’ images to be known for supporting LGBT culture — it shows that they are progressive. Absolut Vodka, which was the first spirits company to run an ad in the magazineAdvocate back in the ’80s, was way ahead of the game in this respect, he says.

We are joined by Ann Marie Del Bello, who runs ABC Cocina’s beverage program. As I sip my spicy whiskey sour, made with Widow Jane bourbon and Oloroso sherry, Del Bello explains that she originally learned about G.L.A.S.S. through chef Coogir. It had become “like a second family” to her as she transitioned from hanging out with friends she knew from college, most of whom had “corporate 9-to-5 jobs,” she explains, to a social life with people in her industry. Del Bello sees her G.L.A.S.S.-mates as a support group, people she can bounce ideas off of or relax with over cocktails after a long Friday-night shift. “I’ve made some of my best friends through G.L.A.S.S.,” she says.

Over the next few months, Cheatham will focus on using his Absolut sponsorship to build up local chapters and the national network. It’s pretty difficult to imagine that it will be anything but successful, partly because a good turnout is basically guaranteed when people are offered an Absolut vodka open bar and a chance to meet people of a similar ilk, in terms of both career and sexuality, but also because Cheatham is clearly a mover and a shaker whose motives are authentic. As our conversation comes to a close, Cheatham excuses himself to head downtown to meet “a date that’s not really a date.” But then he delays leaving for a few more minutes, chatting about life in general with Coogan and Del Bello, proving that at its heart, G.L.A.S.S. is really about friendship. We share one last round of cocktails, and then Cheatham jumps on a CitiBike to go meet his not-date.

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I think it has something to do with the amount of time I spend in front of a computer screen. Lately, all I want to do is work with my hands, and make stuff in the kitchen. I don’t even have a nice kitchen. It’s literally 5×5. And I’m kind of a klutz, especially in small spaces. Which means a lot of broken dishes. Fortunately, my roommate forgives me. I just ply her with free wine every time something shatters. But this desire to use my hands has led me to discover the immensely satisfying practices of pickling and fermenting.

In a way, it started with investigations I was doing for the website I write for, Collectively.org. First I talked with Tara Whitsitt about how she’s driving around the country in an old police bus, preaching the gospel of fermentation. It made me think about how, while some people are really focused on high-tech, futuristic ways of designing new foods — like cricket protein bars, for example — there’s also this movement to just go back to the things our grandparents did, in terms of growing and preparing foods in the most basic, natural ways.

Hayes making a nuka-zuke pot at Ferment! Ferment!

Michaela Hayes making a nuka-zuke pot at Ferment! Ferment!

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fermented radicchio

After talking with Tara, I attended a little festival called “Ferment! Ferment!” in Brooklyn, where I ate a lot of smelly foods and took a workshop about making a “nuka-zuke” pot with Michaela Hayes, who helped develop the pickling program at Gramercy Tavern before starting her own business, Crock and Jar. The nuka-zuke pot is definitely an advanced fermentation project, but she did give me a simple recipe for sauerkraut.

My plan was to start with that recipe — but then my roommate went out of town and left a nice, fresh radicchio head in the fridge. I learned from research that chickories aren’t necessarily the best candidates for fermentation, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Hayes advised me to add a mixture of water and a tablespoon of salt to the radicchio since it had not created its own brine. I let it ferment for five days, and it was ready — and it tastes awesome!

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kraut!

For my next experiment, I turned to this great cookbook by the English chef Arthur Potts Dawson, who founded the People’s Supermarket in London and is an advocate of the veggie-forward lifestyle. I tried his recipe for kraut and it’s now fermenting away happily in a cool, dark cabinet.

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pickled onions and leeks

Meanwhile, I’ve also been pickling onions and leeks. This started when I cooked a Passover seder for a bunch of friends and I made chicken liver pate, which is one of my absolute favorite things to make because it’s soooooo easy (we had a “Passover-inspired” meal, by the way, with brisket and matzah ball soup, but everything else fairly non-traditional). I needed pickled onions, so I threw them together that morning, and by dinner time they were tasting fantastic. Quick pickle is the way to go!

I enjoyed interviewing Andrea Calek for Eater Drinks. Check out the story here. And more of my photos below, from his visit to June Bar.

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Originally published on Collectively.org. Photos by Alex Brook Lynn.

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Unless you’re a pretty elite food industry or media professional (like Pete Wells), chances are you couldn’t get into the WastED pop-up that Dan Barber threw this month at his NYC restaurant, Blue Hill. Well, get over that FOMO – because the important thing is that food waste is the hot issue of the moment, and now is the time to make sure it doesn’t fall off our radar.

One of the cool things about Barber’s pop-up is that he sought waste materials to use on his menu from all over NYC – bruised leaves from the outer edges of cabbage heads from a Bronx restaurant supplier; imperfectly rolled noodles from a pasta shop; and juice pulp from Melvin’s Juice Box, a colorful Jamaican-inspired spot in the West Village. These collaborations naturally created a unique dialogue between businesses across the city, about waste.

We were invited to partake in a mini-pop-up at Melvin’s, which is attached to a Caribbean restaurant called Miss Lily’s and a record shop. The restaurant has been around for five years, and the juice bar for only three, but within that short time Melvin and chef Adam Schopps have developed a devoted neighborhood following, due to the amazing vibe inside their eateries — not to mention the delicious food.

The place was hoppin’ when we got there around lunchtime, but chef stepped aside to whip up his juice pulp burgers for us.

Chef Adam Schop used juice pulp from Melvin’s to make us a seriously awesome (and vegan, except for the cheese) veggie burger. For real, we were amazed at how good it tasted – we wouldn’t lie to you! And not only is this is a great way to repurpose waste, it’s also super healthy: juice pulp is full of vitamins and minerals, including lots of fiber.

Here’s the recipe, but you can totally improvise and play with the proportions.

Chef Adam Schop’s Recipe For Delicious Vegan Juice Pulp Veggie Burgers

Serves 4

Feel free to vary the recipe as much as you want. Here’s what Chef made for us.

Start by mixing together your leftover juice pulp!

1 cup beet pulp

1 cup carrot pulp

½ cup red cabbage pulp

½ cup red bell pepper pulp

¼ cup green apple pulp

¼ cup pear pulp

Now, add your proteins and binders.

½ cup cooked red kidney beans

1 cup cooked quinoa

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup crushed raw cashews

Throw in some seasonings!

Salt & pepper

Chopped up garlic sautéed in sesame oil (or just add sesame oil)

Extra firm tofu, sliced thin and cooked in vegetable oil 20 minutes or until very dry

Form into patties. Let them sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Put a little vegetable oil in a non-stick cooking pan. Once the oil is hot, turn the flame to medium and put the patties in. Cook until brown on each side. Top with cheese if you wish, and place on a warm bun with any toppings you like. Voila!

That’s chef on the left, and Melvin on the right. We were totally inspired to start doing these veggie burgers with pulp leftover from juicing at home.

All photos by Alex Brook Lynn

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