Where To Drink Lovely Fermented Grape Juice In NYC, According To Me

IMG_6507.jpgHow to be a wine journalist: 1) spend all your disposable income drinking wine around New York City; 2) try to get a very paltry sum back by writing about all the amazing places.

Here is my list of places where you can drink wonderful bottles and glasses of wine, at reasonable prices, without fancy Coravins or a squadron of sommeliers. Just real wine, from real winemakers, served by real people who love to drink real wine. Please keep in mind that 18 was a completely arbitrary number (I had a longer list but of course, it was trimmed down by the editor) and “best” is just a word used in headlines. Cheers!

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How To Know A “Wine Bar” Or Restaurant Is Legit

IMG_4646Recently, I launched a regular column at Vine Pair, a blog about drinking culture, which will come out every Wednesday. This week, I shared some tips for finding a legit place to drink awesome wine – so you can avoid places that advertise themselves as wine bars or wine restaurants, but are really just trying to ride the trend wave. Check out my piece here; I hope it helps you find someplace great to drink!

The column is pretty open, and I’d love to hear what people out there (not publicists, regular people who want to learn more about wine) come up with as suggestions for topics – write to me at my full name at gmail.

Beyond Over-Oaked Garnacha And Tempranillo, At New East Vill Spot xYz

One of my fondest memories of graduate school is hanging out at Spain, a super old-school restaurant on W 13th Street where about five bucks gets you a glass of the house red, plus plates of tapas, like greasy meatballs and potato chips, served by grumpy old Spanish men in suspenders. It was charming, and I didn’t care what kind of juice I was drinking back then – but the good news is that it’s now possible to enjoy updated, sophisticated Spanish cuisine alongside elegant, easy-drinking wines that don’t destroy your mouth with tannins.

Forget the oaky, jammy stuff that for too long defined Spanish wine; there’s a whole generation of small-scale producers in Spain who are making lower-alcohol, less oaky wines, often with unusual and indigenous varieties and unexpected flavors. Now, New York City has its first restaurant featuring an array of these wines, the new East Village spot xYz. Check out my write-up of the resto and Alvaro de la Viña’s game-changing wine list, over at Gothamist. (For more on the new wave of Spanish natural wines, see my piece for Saveur from a few months ago.)

Meet The Guys Behind Nobelhart & Schmutzig, The “Noma Of Berlin”

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A few weeks ago, I had an incredibly interesting (though not 100 percent delicious) meal at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, a new chef’s counter restaurant in Berlin that serves a 10-course tasting menu with only regional ingredients. I interviewed the chef and sommelier (who are co-partners) about their vision for a “truly German cuisine” and wrote about the entire experience for Food Republic. If you go to Berlin you must eat here! Especially if you are into natural wines.

 

What To Do When You’re Given A Massive Wine List?

IMG_4300One of my main goals as a writer is to help people enjoy wine more. And you can’t do that so easily if you’re thrown into a state of confusion by the massive wine list — wine book, even — at some of today’s restaurants. A lot of people are intimidated by enlisting the sommelier’s help, and they also feel fatigued at the thought of navigating a list. So, I wrote for Vine Pair about how to tackle any list, with or without a somm by your side, with some tips from experts around the country. Read here!

 

 

A Baker/Blogger/Butcher-Turned-Author, Plus Cocktail Craziness At NYC’s Betony

Last week, I wrote on Eater Drinks about the cocktail program at Betony, in NYC. It really goes above and beyond most restaurant bar programs, partly because general manager Eamon Rockey devotes so much time and energy to crafting each ingredient in every cocktail — but also because he personalizes every drink, to an incredible extent. There is so much emotion, whimsy, and storytelling in each cocktail at Betony — including the delicious non-alcoholic versions.

Betony is certainly taking the lead on this kind of approach to cocktails, but I am also seeing this personalized, hyper-artisanal style popping up at other restaurants, certainly at the fine dining establishment Restaurant Latour, in New Jersey, where I dined this weekend and met mixologist Stephen Thomas.

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Much like Eamon, Stephen makes cocktails out of his wild imagination, using hints of classic recipes but taking them in very contemporary directions. Stephen’s drinks program also features an incredible array of locally distilled spirits. Plus, he’s a talented sommelier, who poured for us many beautiful and unique wines from Restaurant Latour’s cellar — one of the country’s largest and most impressive collections. At dinner, we did not get to drink the Romanée-Conti, but we did have a 1947 Napa Valley wine and a 1914 Madeira.

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At lunch in the Tavern, the more casual restaurant at Crystal Springs, the resort where Restaurant Latour is located, I had a Riesling from Alba, a New Jersey winery — pas mal!

Freshly posted on Food Republic is my profile of butcher-baker-blogger-author Cara Nicoletti, who is a real inspiration for me both on the page, where she elegantly weaves between memoir, essay, and food writing, and in the kitchen, where her recipes challenge me to try new techniques.

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I’ve been making Cara’s Breakfast Sausage since I received the advanced copy of the book, and honestly I don’t know why every single person out there does not make their own breakfast sausage from scratch because it is so easy and delicious. Get her book, Voracious — it comes out tomorrow and is a great read.

Dear Harper’s: I really hate this article, here’s why.

I understand, roughly, what you were going for. Let’s make fun of the rich, and their excesses, hahaha, by sending a writer who has a degree from a top university (specifically, Oxford) to dine at obscenely expensive restaurants and make fun of how ridiuclous they arefor a magazine read mostly by privileged people — because we (the intellectuals) aren’t that kind of privileged people. We’re the good kind of rich, you know, because we publish a thoughtful magazine.

In fact, let’s send this writer to restaurants that normal people, who work in the food industry and actually love food and appreciate how it can be elevated to an artform — an artform which, yes, at times is excessive and outlandish — save up for months to be able to eat at. Because it’s really not just rich people who want to eat at these places, Harper’s; they aren’t just for the 1 percent. And if you think that, then it’s a miracle that you can appreciate Picasso, or Richard Serra, or certainly Jeff Koons.

Sure, the world of food gets really weird, sometimes. It is totally understandable that any diner would be disappointed with these high-end meals on any given night, because they do aim more for bravado than simple, basic flavor. Hell, I’ll take pasta shells with homemade pesto any night of the week, but I still made sure to eat at wd~50 before it closed because I understand that food is an art form, and that top-performing chefs influence all of us and our daily diets. Remember that line in The Devil Wears Prada when the exec chews out her naive new employee, who thinks fashion doesn’t matter — by explaining that the color of her crappy sweater would not exist, were it not for high fashion? Read more