Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PARTY! Celebrate the Inauguration Tonight

It’s 1:05 p.m. I’m in the office of my rather conservative day job where I just joined my colleagues in an emotional viewing of the swearing in of our 44th president. There’s a bit of the work day left, but tonight I want to PARTY! And, since this is a wine blog, I will go on the record as saying that I plan on purchasing on a nice California sparkler after work to celebrate this amazing day—plus maybe some red, white, and blue cupcakes. I’m not usually seized with patriotic fervor, but today I want to run American flag streamers around my house.
I think you have to experience darkness to appreciate light, and while the new president himself would be the first to urge us not to get too excited in light of the crisis we and the world face, this is a day to forget the pain, toss our caps in the air, forego political acrimony, and toast America!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Are You a Big Lover of Bordeaux?

My friend Cornelia Blume of the Bordeaux-based tour company Vitivinitours has alerted me to a special getaway her company is organizing May 15-17 on Le Weekend des Grands Amateurs—or the Weekend of Big Lovers, as I translate it. If you’re passionate about Bordeaux wine and you’ve yearned to visit the vineyards where the world’s finest wine is made, this trip is hard to resist.
While my time at the Bordeaux Fete le Vin, a biannual event, was tremendous fun, the wine offered there came from the lesser producers. Le Weekend des Grands Amateurs is for connoisseurs who appreciate the difference between Malesan (a sturdy, supermarket Bordeaux) and Margot. Participants will start Friday night with a dinner in the city, then wake up to a tasting of over 100 Grand Cru wines--the good stuff. Saturday evening promises a gala dinner at a Grand Cru estate. The weekend finishes up on Sunday with a tour of a great growth winery and lunch. Naturally, all the meals will feature carefully chosen Bordeaux.
All this glorious touring, dining, and drinking does not come cheap: the tour begins at 580 euros, which includes accommodations (double occupancy) in a two star hotel. But, when you consider the quality of the wine offered, the price seems reasonable. My own travel plans will take me further south (to Italy) this spring, but I hope one year to join the other Big Lovers at this amazing wine weekend in Bordeaux.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Out and About--Images from Spain

I'm spending time this weekend revisiting the notes and pictures I took while traveling to the wine regions of Spain for 10 days in early December. I've (finally!) downloaded pix from my Iphone, so here are some images captured "on the fly" as I traveled.
Madrid trio
In Madrid, I first began speaking with Carlos (center), who turned out to be a sommelier. I wasn't sure if it was fate or luck that the first Spaniard I met was also an expert on their wine. He wrote out his list of the best Spanish wines: Vega Sicilia (this winery is legendary), Vina Tondonia, Fontal, Arzuaga, Beronia, and Rivola from Abadia Retuerta. Soon we were joined by his old friends Sylvia and David (the dark-haired guy) and we enjoyed a fun evening of wine, tapas and conversation. Thanks so much guys for picking up the tab--and I owe you a night out in NYC!
My Dinner with Americans
In Aranda de Duero I met Tom & Melanie--a couple of political science professors who were each teaching a semester abroad in Spain, albeit at different universities. It was fun to hang out with some English speaking folks because in this town, hearing any English spoken was a real rarity. I was lucky that they invited me to join them for dinner, not only because we had a great time together, but also because if I had dined solo, I would have been unable to order the signature lamb dish of the region, which is served family style. The lamb, by the way, was out of this world tender and flavorful and matched the house Tempranillo beautifully.
Awesome Ex-pats
Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the lovely British couple, Howard and Linda, whom I shared some wine with the following evening at the Hotel Aranda bar. They are a charming and refined couple who have traveled around the world. Now retired, they've settled in what sounds like a heavenly seaside community not far from Grenada. I was so exhausted after a day of touring that I didn't realize until later that Howard had picked up my tab. Cheers to both of you & I would be happy if our paths crossed again on my continent or yours!
Tasty Tapas
Logrono is the capital of the Rioja wine region and a busy, dynamic city. On Calle Laurel, you can hit about a dozen of the best tapas places in town.
Luxurious Lounging
Here's a shot of the bed in my first class room at the Marques de Riscal resort, designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry.
Marveling at Miro
During my brief time in Barcelona, my favorite tourist destination was the Fundacion Joan Miro, where I reveled in the inventive artist's dreamy work.
Consuming Cava
Gabriella Opaz of Catavino took me out on the town in Barcelona, including stopping in a hot spot where she introduced me to a cava (Spanish sparkling wine) that I really enjoyed: Mestres. We ate far-out tapas like these deep fried baby eels.
Well, that's all the blogging for now. Today I have to settle down and organize writing a chapter for my book about wine travel. Salut!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ya Still Gotta Eat: New York City Restaurant Week 2009

The economy is in a tailspin. No one knows where bottom is. It’s a grim time.
But--ya still gotta eat.
Luckily New York Restaurant Week is coming! Very soon! So we can stroll with our slim wallets into restaurants we would never dream of setting a toe into (even in good times.) And the better news is that it’s actually two weeks—January 18-23 and 25-30 (Saturday nights are excluded from the special offers.)
For $24.07 lunch and $35 dinner, you can get all dolled up (in the clothes you already own – we are, after all in a recession), and go out on the town to enjoy a three-course meal from a special prix fix menu. With the food bill so modest, there’s even money left over for a couple glasses of wine—although you may have to search hard on these lists for a modestly-priced bottle.
Indulge in old-money places like Delmonico’s, which bills itself as America’s first fine dining restaurant (opened in 1837). Delmonico’s is a grande dame of American cuisine: in its famous kitchens the first Delmonico Steak, Eggs Benedict, Lobster Newburg, and Baked Alaska were created. Or swing by that former speakeasy and forever NYC icon, the 21 Club. Duck under the lawn jockeys that top the doorway, and guys—dig that jacket out of the back of your closet.
Feeling like something a little fresher? How about either of French chef Daniel Boulud’s more casual Manhattan eateries: Bar Boulud or db Modern Bistro? (Sorry, his elegant CafĂ© Boulud is not on the list).
There are dozens more to choose from, including romantic spots like One if By Land, Two if by Sea and Water’s Edge, which offers a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline from Long Island City (a ferry service is available from Manhattan—which kicks off the romance and view before you even get to dinner).
The full list of New York Restaurant Week participating restaurants is posted here. So book your table and forget the economy for a night of indulgence.