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photo 2Last night, I checked out a special tour and tasting at the Kings County Distillery, in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, as part of an Art Lab series that looks at the intersection of art and science. Micro-distilling is, like making any other fermented beverage in small batches or without too much machinery, an art that requires a refined palate and a sense of adventure. Here’s what I learned about Kings County that made me like them even more than I already did:

1) Kings was the first legal commercial distillery in New York. It was only in 2009 that the micro-distillery laws were passed, leading to the proliferation of whiskey, vodka, and absinthe distilling we’re seeing everywhere. Kings was the avant-garde!

2) Whiskey love is a new thing. In fact, vodka used to be all the rage in the U.S. until recently, when suddenly a renewed interest in mixology seems to have propelled a whiskey frenzy, which actually led to a bourbon shortage, as well as ridiculously inflated prices on certain bourbons.

3) What’s the difference between whiskey and vodka? Both are grain distillates, but whiskey must be 160 proof or lower, whereas vodka has to be 190 proof or higher. Hence, vodka is what you drink at high school hotel parties to get blackout drink; whiskey is for sophisticated sipping. Continue Reading »

I feel like the restaurant Emily is kind of this secret that only hard-core Brooklyn foodies know about. To be honest, I’ve never been there but some of my wine industry friends go often and I’m dying to go (isn’t that the most over-exaggerated phrase ever? “Dying” to go, “dying” to eat there? Oh, blah, blah . . .)

But here’s some news: Chef Aaron Taber has come over to Emily from Red Hook’s Grindhaus (reviewed by the venerable Pete Wells), and he’s going to strut his stuff with a 5-course tasting menu on Wednesday, Dec. 10th. There will be three seatings: 6pm, 7:45pm, or 9:45pm. It’s $65 per person. Max party size of 6 people. Make your res by e-mailing: info@pizzalovesemily.com.

Rumor has it (a.k.a. the press release told me) that the menu will include, and I quote, “the likes of fluke, hake and squid, chicken consommé and smoked jowl.”

What is smoked jowl?? Will you go with me to try it???

I’m currently writing for Collectively.org, a Vice Media website devoted to covering sustainability and social change news, with a special focus on video content and social media.

Some recent work:

Send me tips – rachel at collectively dot org

 

photo 1-1It is difficult to get a dinner reservation in Paris. There is no OpenTable, and most Michelin-starred or simply hot restaurants are booked weeks in advance, as Parisians like to dine out and so do the city’s visitors. You have to call places, during specific hours in the afternoon, to find a table.

On my last night in Paris, where I was spending a few days after touring Burgundy and learning about French gastronomic and oenological history (a small and insignificant subject, of course), I was lucky enough to score a res on the same day, at Saturne, in the Bourse district. I’d heard it was very good and read online that chef-founder Sven Chartier had worked under renowned Parisian chef Alain Passard–and Chartier was a mere 24 when he opened the place in 2011, by the way–plus a New York Times reviewer wrote that the restaurant “is dedicated to elevating wild and rigorously sourced artisanal ingredients,” which is kind of like a restaurant making eyes at me and saying, “Come hither.”

Hither (thither?) I went.

I went early and dropped off a bottle of wine, knowing full well that it would be subject to a steep corkage fee. Did I think their wine list would be inferior? No, I did not; rather I wanted the pleasure of bringing a wine I had selected, having happened upon a wonderful cave in the Marais with a kick-ass Burgundy selection. I snagged a magnum of a 2007 white Burg, from Domaine de la Bongran in the Cote Maconnais; it was but a humble village wine, yet I had a feeling it would be a stunner. Continue Reading »

In a chateau, on a hill, overlooking the forest of Nuits-Saint-Georges, at a place called L’or des Valois

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Thierry Bezeux and his son Yann hunt for truffles with their dog, Julio, a special Italian breed called lagotta romagnolo…

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And work with local restaurants and chefs to serve a wholesome, classic, lunch featuring truffles in every course, including a truffled ratafia (a Burgundy dessert wine made with marc)…

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The food is rich, humble yet artful, and fragrant with the pungent smell of black truffles, so earthy and forestal. Thierry pours me a fresh Bourgogne blanc and tells me his philosophy of food: it is about authenticity, and familiarity. The fancy chefs out there, doing haute-cuisine, he tells me, are too focused on visual elements, when what matters is taste. Their fancy meals require more labor and result in high costs. I’m sure we can all relate to what he’s saying, to some extent. Having eaten at wd-50 just about two weeks ago, I am not sure I can pinpoint which experience was more magical–picking at Wiley Dufresne’s whimsical and decorative (and very pricey) gastronomic designs, or having a warm and cozy meal on a misty hill surrounded by forest, enjoying creamy sauces, fresh undressed greens, and thick local cheeses.

The end…

After five days of traveling around the Cote d’Or and Chablis, visiting winemakers whose domaines go back multiple generations, eating excellent food whether classic or nouveau nouveau, and hunting for truffles (plus, of course, eating them), I arrived last night to Paris, a city that enthralls me and yet, makes me yearn for a time when it was less expensive, and more bohemian. Not that I’m complaining, at all. I think that if there’s anything that makes Paris a total gem, and unquestionably worth spending time in, it’s the abundance of amazing food and wine. You can not only eat at Michelin-starred restaurants created by world-famous chefs, but every corner store offers fantastic cheese, and your local wine shop will have the 2012 Premier Cru Dauvissat on the shelf. COMPLETE HEAVEN.

So, I felt conscious that I hadn’t been to France in ten years, and that my understanding of the nation’s culinary history could be bolstered. I found a small company called Le Foodist that offers cooking classes that stress the connection between food, history, and culture. Perfect, I thought. And–it was! The chef, Federic (“Fred”) Pouillot, is obsessively knowledgeable about the stories, often going back centuries, behind the techniques, personalities, and dishes that constitute classic French cuisine. He weaves this knowledge into his instruction, and the class culminates with a full story-telling session when you sit down to the meal. Also, in keeping with modern French tradition that emphasizes the quality of ingredients, Chef Fred points out why he uses certain kinds of products as opposed to others (he also offers a market visit as part of the class, for an extra fee, so you can see who his purveyors are and learn their costs).

I plan to write more about my class at Le Foodist later, but for now I just wanted to share some pictures. And friends, you can bet I’ll be whipping up some salmon tartare to go with this 2008 Mersault I’m bringing back in my suitcase. The most important thing about a cooking class, in my opinion, is that you take away some technique or recipe you can actually do, at home, with whatever equipment you have at your disposal. I can say that most of Chef Fred’s dishes, such as the tartare he showed us (shown in tiny discs below, atop soy-poached turnips), are easy enough to replicate in any amateur kitchen. The true bonus of the class, however–which lasted over four hours!–was that I came away with a much stronger and very specific sense of how deeply rooted cuisine is in French culture, and how those roots are tied into global culture more broadly. If I could offer just one critique of the class, though, it would be that the wine could use some improvement. Chef Fred clearly knows about wine, and takes time to explain each pairing, but to be honest, none of them were very good–my guess is that it’s difficult to include nice wine in the budget, but I just think that people should enjoy nice, natural wine from known domaines alongside such lovely food. More details to come. For now, I’m off to drink some wine!

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Gabrielle Hamilton’s cookbook comes out today. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for Food Republic. I also enjoyed a stunning meal at Prune, pictured above, a few days prior to meeting her. I’ll just say that she cooks as well as she writes, or vice-versa.

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