July 29, 2011

The JakeWalk

I can always count on my friend Jen A to hit up Brooklyn spots with me. She works not far from Jakewalk, so we ambled on over one day, just missing happy hour but still up for a good glass of wine.

From what I've read, Jakewalk, a wine and cheese bar in Carroll Gardens, is co-owned by the owners of Stinky Brooklyn and Smith & Vine. (go here for my post on Stinky Brooklyn--but come back here after that, mkay?)

I ordered a French rosé--I don't remember the name but I know it was made with grenache grapes. Dry but fruity and just perfect.

You have to get the fondue when you go to Jakewalk--it comes with tart green apples, salty dried sausage, and soft chunks of bread. We demolished this in no time.

Everything was delicious, service was good, and our aim next time is to make it for Happy Hour, where I hear
The JakeWalk
282 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(347) 599-0294

July 22, 2011

Dandelion Wine

I popped into Jen A's local wine shop a while ago--Dandelion Wines in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She had raved about it to me a few times before we went together.

It's a super-cute spot just one avenue from the G train's Greenpoint Avenue stop.

Inside they have a nice, long chill case for your whites, and an even-longer display of room temperature reds, rosés and more whites.

The staff are friendly and have put recommendations and easy-to-understand descriptions for all of their favorite wines. I'm not an oenophile, I just like delicious wines, and Dandelion makes it super simple to find those.

I was also delighted to find: WHITE PORT! I haven't found this since a few years back when Alfama owner Tarcisio Costa introduced us to it at a Murray's Cheese class (a port and cheese class). (Note: Alfama was one of my favorite places for years. The West Village location had to close in 2009 but it has reopened in Midtown East--stay tuned!)

I snagged the white port and a summer red and we headed back for some outdoor dining and drinking--what a delicious summer this has turned out to be! If you want something that's sure to be a hit at your next party, dinner, dinner party, etc, stop by Dandelion for a surefire winner!

Dandelion Wine
153 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(347) 689-4563

July 21, 2011

La Caridad 78

NYC is quite a mix of people from all cultures and walks of life, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that one of my favorite places (thanks to friend & NY Native CPZ) to eat is Cuban/Chinese hybrid La Caridad. They serve bountiful portions of delicious dishes, from vaca frita to sesame chicken. You can easily eat for under 10 dollars a person, too.

Jen A & I stopped here yesterday after some retail therapy. It was scorching hot outside, so we drank iced tea and soda at our corner window seat while perusing the chock-full-of-choices menu.

Jen A ordered the avocado & onion salad, not realizing it was only....avocado and onion. Raw, pungent, eye-searing onion. We removed most of the onions and ate the incredibly generous portion of fresh, soft avocado (there was still plenty to take home later).

I ordered the 1/4 roast chicken, and when the server told me they only had dark meat, I barely hesitated. I'm learning to love the darker, more tender meat that I once avoided. This may not look fancy, but it was juicy, perfectly seasoned, and I absolutely, happily demolished it.

My chicken also came with a mini-mountain of rice and beans. That is a plate piled high of zesty yellow rice and creamy red beans. YUM.

Jen A ordered the sesame chicken with broccoli. I had a bite of broccoli (one of my all-time favorite veggies) and it had a bit of the chicken's sauce on it--zippy and sweet--not bad!

We ate to our hearts' content and still had plenty of leftovers. La Caridad 78 is cash only, but you only need a little to get a lot of food! Our lunch specials were each around 8 dollars--an insanely affordable and savory treat!

La Caridad 78
2199 Broadway
New York, NY 10024
(212) 874-2780

July 20, 2011


My friend Ali came to town for a whirlwind weekend of sightseeing, theatre, and good food. We saw the matinee of "Jerusalem," for which actor Mark Rylance won the Tony. It was intense, gripping, and we had amazing seats that had us hanging on to every second of every scene. I also needed my friends to translate some of the British slang for me along the way--yay, new vocab!

All that drama can work up quite an appetite, so we walked from the theatre to Puttanesca (site of a birthday dinner from years ago with ABF). We sat at an outdoor table and dug in to our bread and olive oil---we were hungry!

We started with an antipasti platter--salami, provolone,mortadella, and creamy/salty gorgonzola cheese to mellow it all out-- delicious. It was quite stunning to see, too.
We thought about getting some pasta, but we weren't famished. The helpful server offered to bring us half portions instead--win!

I ordered the half portion (yes, that is the HALF portion) of the Paglia E Fieno (Straw & Hay)--prosciutto bits, peas, and an avalanche of mushrooms. This was perfectly al dente (just a little bite to it), nicely balanced. Wow. I'm not normally that impressed by plain old pasta, but this was not plain old pasta. Deeelish.

We had the pleasure of having two lovely gentleman accompany us to the theatre--J, a friend of Ali's who flew in from the UK, and his friend A, an Australian living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. NYC really is a melting pot, and such a fabulous place to meet fun new people. However, I kept my foodie freak flag a litle low, so I didn't reach allllll the way across the table to shoot A's food..thus...only 3 entrées are featured:

J ordered the Chicken Parm, which in typical restaurant fashion covered the entire plate. It smelled outrageously delectable and J seemed to enjoy every bite.

Ali ordered the Chicken Francese, fried chicken cutlets in a bright, lemony sauce. This got the thumbs up, too. (Sorry for the blur--again, freak flag flying lower that day!)

I ordered the cioppino, the seafood stew with a tomato-based broth. This was really, really good. Tender mussels, clams, shrimp, and a generous fillet of fish on top--I can't remember what type of fish, but it was flaky, perfectly cooked, and I ate quite a bit of it. I know saffron is a big deal, but it doesn't do that much for me. I understand it's tough to harvest, etc, etc, but for me, meh. The tomato-y goodness with the briny seafood is what really pulled me into this dish. Mmmm. Briny.

There was absolutely no room for dessert, and I'm not even a little sad about it!

Puttanesca definitely is at the top of my list--if you're looking for romantic date night, business meals, or just a gathering of newly-formed friends, this is a stellar find. Abbondanza!

Mille Grazie to Ali for the theatre experience, and to our gentlemen friends who refused to let us pay for dinner, AND gallantly accompanied us to our taxis/subways at the end of the night. It was a delicious end to an amazing weekend in the city I'm so blessed to call home!

859 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019-4453
(212) 581-4177

July 19, 2011

Las Margaritas

My friend CPZ & I went out to Queens on a sweltering Sunday to check out the Museum of Moving Images' Muppets exhibit (so fun!) We were ravenous after and not in the mood for a long trek to find food. We decided to stop at Las Margaritas for their brunch special.

The chips and salsa were delicious--lots of chunky vegetables in the salsa, crisp, not-too-salty chips. This was a good start.

I ordered the scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions and rice and beans on the side. One bite of the eggs and I was totally turned off. I can't even explain it--just very bland and unappetizing. The beans were tasty, home fries were passable, the pico okay, but this whole dish lacked...something. The guacamole needed a serious kick of lime juice.

Brunch dishes included a drink, and I opted for a mimosa. It was fine, but not anything super special. It had the citrus my guac could have used, though!

CPZ ordered the Bloody Mary--she's a fan of them. It was nice and horseradishy, but they're just not my favorite.

CPZ ordered scrambled eggs with chorizo, and didn't think hers was anything great. However, she liked it enough to take it home and try it again the next day (how did that turn out, CPZ??)

Ever the optimist, I ordered another margarita! This was spectacular. Tart and tangy with just a hint of sweet, this was exactly what I needed on this insufferably hot summer day. And at $7.50, a true bargain in NYC!

The crossbreeze kept us cool as we sipped our drinks and caught up on things (it had been too long since we got together!) The staff checked on us but never rushed us. We may have ordered another round before we left too, you know, just for good measure.

While the margaritas were marvelous, the brunch was a bust. My advice (take it with a grain of salt and some Patron if you'd like): skip the food and just come by for Happy Hour!

Las Margaritas
3801 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 777-1707

July 16, 2011

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery Tasting

Now that you know a little history about Millbrook, here are some delicious details from the post-tour tasting!

Andrew, our intrepid tour guide, led us all up to the second story of the building, where we walked past cool art exhibits and paintings, toward a towering room with sunshine streaming in through the windows and skylights.

You can look out the gorgeous arched window towards the lush field of vines.

The first wine we sipped was a white, their 2010 Tocai Friulano ($19/bottle). Jen A & I are red fans, but this wine wowed us! It has a wonderful honeydew aroma, and the flavors just grip your tongue in a wonderful way. We each took a bottle home--it's going to be delicious with some cold summer salads and maybe some grilled chicken.

The second wine was their 2009 Chardonnay. We both got big hints of bell pepper and moved this down our list. Keep in mind I'm just not a chardonnay fan, overall. We did, however, both think that the 2009 Chardonnay Proprietor's Special Reserve was rich and buttery, but we still favored the Tocai.

On to the Hunt Country Rosé! This blend is 37% Cabernet Franc, 37% Pinot Noir, and 26% Chardonnay. It had a fragrant strawberry aroma and taste to it. Pale pink, chilly, and perfect for hot summer days. Jen's not a rosé fan, but I found it soft and smooth.

After the rosé came the Hunt Country Red, a blend of 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. One whiff of this and Jen was IN. I found it puckery and tart, but in a good way. We both summed it up thusly: "nice summer red!"

Closing out this delicious tasting was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. Jen & I both are not normally fans of this grape. The Millbrook version, however, with a blend of 13% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, is heavier than others I've tried, and had nice notes of black raspberry and plum. This also got a star from Jen AND me, and completely changed my mind about Cabernet Franc.

Millbrook also has savory biscuits, flavored with white wine and shallots or red wine & pepper. These were both so good (especially the white wine), and really accentuated the layers of flavor in the wine.

I wish I'd brought home some of those white wine crackers. Omnomnom!

Millbrook's owner also has vineyards and olive groves in Tuscany, Italy, and we got to taste their own olive oil. It smelled gorgeously of fresh, tart olives. The olive itself was rich and smooth and packed a SERIOUS wallop of peppery heat. This was very impressive and delicious---well done!

Jen & I each left with a bottle of the Tocai Friulano and a bottle of the Cabernet Franc. We have happily discovered that both are available in a few wine stores around the city--but if you can make the trip out there at least once, you simply must! I can't wait to visit in the fall, too. Thank you again to everyone at Millbrook for showing us such a deliciously lovely time!

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
26 Wing Road
Millbrook, NY 12545
(845) 677-8383

July 15, 2011

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery

Jen A & I snapped up a deal on bloomspot.com a few weeks ago--a day trip to an upstate NY winery, Millbrook Vineyards & Winery. This deal also popped up on DailyCandy.com. If you have a chance, grab one--and you're about to see why!

Millbrook Vineyards & Winery is a gorgeous, sprawling, impressively appointed piece of land in Millbrook, NY, about 30 minutes from the Poughkeepsie, New York train station. It's equidistant from Albany and NYC (about 90 minutes), and while it's a bit of a trip, I absolutely believe it's worth the effort. What a stunning place for a day trip!

The winery itself is a converted dairy barn, and this place has been rolling out impressive vintages commercially since 1985 (so why did it take me so long to find out about it?) John Graziano has been the sole winemaker there since 1984.

It's a shlep for people from the city, but the folks at Millbrook make it so easy--they shuttle you to and from the train station! (More about this later when I share my interview with Sales Director Scott Koster)
While it takes some time to get there, it hardly takes any effort--we took the train from Metro-North, then we clambered onto a bus waiting for us right outside the Poughkeepsie stop.
A short 20 minute bus ride later, we drove up to an awe-inspiring, lush landscape of rolling hills and lovely, scrolling vines. We were told the owner, John S. Dyson, wanted it to resemble the rolling hills of Tuscany. Well done!

Andrew, our tour guide, started us in the vast, sprawling field right outside the main building. He explained that the proprietor, John Dyson, patented the Dyson Goblet trellis, used in their vineyard. This method helps the vines grow up and outward, and gets them a ton of sun.

The tour took us inside the winery, as well, and showed us where they keep their red and white wines, how the aging process works (nerd stuff--love it!) and where they bottle them. We saw a striking visual display of how the barreling process affects the color.

I gotta say, I wish we could have seen the bottling/labeling machine in action--I'll bet that is one sweet event!

One of the coolest displays indoors was a sample from a cork tree. I must say I made it a good few decades on this earth before really knowing where cork comes from--and how it's harvested. How cool is that?!

After we moved through the wine storage areas, we went upstairs for the tasting (that post is right here!) and after the tasting, we enjoyed a delicious lunch outdoors by one of their lakes.

Lunch was included with the tour & tasting. Students from the nearby Culinary Institute prepared our meal, which was even better than I hoped! Jen & I each ordered the grilled ahi tuna. It came on a surprisingly soft ciabatta roll with salad and of course, a glass of the Tocai Friulano.

After I finished my lunch, Millbrook's ebullient Director of Sales, Scott Koster, sat with me for an engaging interview. I was full of questions, and he was so kind to sit down with me during a really busy afternoon. I had seen him walking around, taking the time to approach everyone he passed and not only ask how they were enjoying themselves, but stick around for the answer! I could tell he genuinely loves what he does and where he's working. That's Lollipop Hill over his shoulder--called so because deer eat the bottom foliage off the cypress trees until they look like..lollipops! It's also where they grow the grapes for the Tocai Friulano.

Scott's first question to me was if I was having a good time. I assured him Jen & I both were, and that we loved his wines--even the Cabernet Franc, which we normally avoid (except for Clovis Point's!) His eyes flew open even wider as he exclaimed "Yes--it's not vegetal at all, is it!" and suddenly, he put his finger on exactly why I normally shy away from this grape. He was so pleased to hear that they'd helped expand my wine palate!
Scott told me how he'd always been in the wine business in some way. I was impressed to learn Scott graduated from the Culinary Institute of America himself at age 50--rock on, Chef Scott! He also started at Millbrook as tour guide, and now he's their Sales Director and one of the most welcoming people on their friendly staff!

While passionate about everything Millbrook has to offer, Scott readily admits it isn't easy to get to for a lot of people, which is why they work so hard to simplify the travel time (check out the map on the bottle to the left)! I can testify that the travel time was effortless, from train to bus without missing a beat, and a lovely journey that let us know we were definitely leaving behind the hot, concrete-filled city. Hey, I love NYC but sometimes it's still good to get outta town!

My pictures don't do this place justice--Jen and I just walked around and around in awe of the scenery. Scott promises it's even more stunning in fall--which I hope to see in person!

Millbrook's passion right now, Scott says, is educating the rest of us on what they do and what they have to offer: from tours and tastings to outdoor classes, weddings, and dinners (including one in October with Top Chef favorite & NYC restaurateur Angelo Sosa). They already produce 15-20,000 cases a year, but they always want to do and reach more. With the friendly staff , gorgeous location, and passion of people like Scott, they will have no problems accomplishing that goal. Cheers!

(There are so many photos I had to leave out of this post--go to my blog's Facebook page to see the rest of the gorgeousness that is Millbrook Vineyards & Winery!)
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
26 Wing Road
Millbrook, NY 12545
(845) 677-8383

John Dyson, Proprietor
John Graziano, Winemaker/Vice President
David Bova, General Manager/Vice President
Their website: Millbrook Wines

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