Review: Farm-To-Tap Brews @ The Greene Space July 27, 2016

From left to right: Moderator Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43Jakob Cirell of From the Ground BreweryJason Sahler of Strong Rope BreweryJamie Adams, of Saint James Brewery and Dietrich Gehring, of  Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery & Cidery © Tokyo Racer for WhereNYC

Bottom Line: Over the past five years, New York has experienced a boom in local farm and micro-brewing thanks to recent New York State legislation. It spawned a mini self-sustaining economy led by passionate individuals who continue to invest tremendous toil and energy into building a nearly 100%  New York industry.

Craft Beer Jam event "Brewing Like It's 1776" was a huge success. © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

Craft Beer Jam event “Brewing Like It’s 1776” was a huge success. © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

For this upcoming season, the Greene Space will host over 100 food-related events.

For this upcoming season, the Greene Space will host over 100 food-related events. ©WhereNYC

Review: Farm-to-Tap brewing was virtually non-existent until recently when Governor Cuomo with the State Legislature approved New York’s first Farm Brewing license.  Jimmy Carbone, craft beer aficionado and owner of famed Jimmy’s No. 43, sat down with four farm brewers in the last of three Craft Beer Jam events the Greene Space. While some farms like Hill Farmstead Brewery have been around for a hundred years. Other brewers came to the industry later in life and have won the respect of the local farming community and millers whom they support.

It didn’t start off so easily for these farm brewing pioneers. New York State lacked essential resources and facilities such as milling plants for barley and hops. Not long ago, brewers had to send their barley to the nearest processing facility in Massachusetts before it could be shipped it back. Needless to say, it was cumbersome, expensive and time consuming. The majority of barley was  also destined for the Midwest. Today, the revenue of upstate New York has reached nearly $3.5 billion dollars, according to Jakob Cirell. Inspired by the success upstate, other brewers in regions like Long Island have appeared on the beer map.

Those in audience sampled all four craft beers. © Tokyo Racer for Where NYC

Those in audience sampled all four craft beers. © Tokyo Racer for Where NYC

Since the Farm Brewing license came into being and New York finally acquired its own local milling centers, the story has changed for the better. Rather than restriction, the state licensing laws have actually given these beer producers both recognition and flexibility, allowing them to distribute independently and sell beer at the Green Market. Under the licensing law, they can have up to five off-site tasting rooms. It’s not, however, always harmonious as overlapping federal, state and local agencies sometimes clash over divided interests. Jamie Adam’s plan, for instance, to open a brewery elsewhere in Long Island was rejected by the local county.

The farm brews are unique, and although some use French names like saison (season) or fraise (strawberry), they are far from copying their Belgian counterparts. Climate change and produce availability also affect what goes into the beer and invariably creates individualistic taste. Much of their seasonal beers result as well from improvisation and discovery. Similarly to American brewers in the 17th and 18th centuries and sake producers in Japan, they make the most of the terroir, or land in terms of its agriculture and regional characteristics. Instead of using cherries for a Belgian-style kriek like my favorite Mort Subite per se, they could substitute with plums or other ingredients, depending on the harvest. For this evening’s panelists, between 90% and 100% of their ingredients come from New York State.

with Jimmy Carbone © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

with Jimmy Carbone © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

New Jersey-based Bobolink cheese and breads displaying the good stuff © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

New Jersey-based Bobolink cheese and breads displaying the good stuff © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

From the tastings, the brewers are clearly not looking to fit established beer style molds. Instead, they have put their own stamp on beer. My favorite of the evening was the fraise or strawberry-flavored ale from Saint James Brewery. Far from sweet, it was incredibly enjoyable with that little hint of strawberry tang. Very clever indeed. I could have had six of them. Other stars included the Saison by From the Ground Brewery. Although it was a little flat, I really enjoyed its refreshing quality with a nice dry finish. An unlike any I had tasted when I lived in Belgium, his version was incredibly smooth and perfect on summer’s day. Brewers Jason Sahler from Strong Rope Brewery and Dietrich Gehring, of  Indian Ladder Farmstead  showcased their IPAs. I enjoyed the citrusy orange peel ( the only ingredient from Florida!) taste. Although IPAs are just not my preference, both of them rightfully won over many in the audience who applauded with a big grins.

Jimmy's No. 43 has hosted craft beer and local events including the Danish dog company Revolving Dansk. © WhereNYC

Jimmy’s No. 43 has hosted craft beer and local foodie events including Danish dog company Revolving Dansk. © WhereNYC

It is fantastic to see that farm brewing has taken off in New York and elsewhere in the country, but it is still has a long way to go. Many of these breweries are small operations and still virtually unknown, making it difficult to keep up with the more well-known microbreweries, and of course, the larger nationals and imports. The task that these gentlemen have taken on is extraordinary. The flexibility and freedom that allow them to grow their own crop, brew, distribute and run off-site tasting rooms also adds to their shoulders. Instead of relying on distributors, they do almost everything themselves. Less expensive, yes, but a lot more work required.

Following the event, guests were treated to complimentary tangy, fruity cider from Indian Ladder Farmstead

For upcoming events, visit the Greene Space at WNYC and WQXR.

Tokyo Tuesday Meet Up @Away Travel Jul. 26, 2016

Bottom Line: The Away Concept Pop-up Shop in NoHo opened its doors to friends and Asia Society’s young members in this little meetup.

USB-enabled smart, practical by Away

USB-enabled smart, practical by Away

Review: There’s always something happening on a weekday evening after work, especially by SoHo. With so many boutiques, bars and restaurants, after hours events are always popping up. Asia Society’s young Asia Circle members and friends organized a cocktail meet-and-greet at Away’s pop up boutique.

Horse figurines for travel ? ©WhereNYC

Horse figurines for travel ? ©WhereNYC

Asia Society members and friends ©WhereNYC

Asia Society members and friends ©WhereNYC

New to the scene, Away Travel Concept Store open its doors earlier this year to showcase high end travel suitcases and accessories primarily from Japan and Sweden.

Browsing and chatting at Away © WhereNYC

Browsing and chatting at Away © WhereNYC

It seems like an unusual combination, but both countries are renowned for their penchant for design and pragmatism. Rather than selling just luggage, Away is selling a lifestyle concept, similarly to high bath and kitchenware gurus Pirch, just a few blocks away. In addition to travel apparel, Away also features excerpts from its book, The Places We Return to.

Drawing on their own travel experiences and habits, the creators designed carry-on luggage are practical, well-organized and USB enabled, allowing travelers to charge their mobile phones. A novelty? Perhaps not. And they’re not the only ones on the neighborhood. Minimalist but upscale Raden also recently opened it shop in SoHo with its line of smartphone- syncable luggage also allow you to track your suitcases.

Sake cups and carafe © WhereNYC

Sake cups and carafe © WhereNYC

While it was nice to chat and enjoy a glass of rosé and canapé, some of us didn’t quite get Away’s concept. Quirky travel boutiques like Flight 001 have been in existence for some time and carry upmarket mult-brand suitcases as well as fun accessories. What makes Away’ own line unique? I wondered.  It would have been nice to have a little tour or an in-store demonstration of the carry-on luggage or other products on display. Unfortunately, it seemed out of focus and left us guessing why so many Pocky snacks were on display? Some other odd bits included horse statues. What has that got to do with smart, sleek travel? I couldn’t say. Keep it simple and narrow it down a bit more.

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Away Pop-up store continues through August 31.

 

Review: Brewing Like It’s 1776 @ The WNYC Greene Space July 20, 2016

Bottom Line: America was once the laughing stock when it came to beer, but out from the shadows, craft brewers all over the U.S. have put this country on the map for quality brews. It is these passionate brewers who are blending ancient traditions in harmony with innovation.

© Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

The WNYC Greene Space will host a series of events next year on food and drink © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

Review: WNYC couldn’t have chosen a better moderator than Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 bar, whose cheerful mantra is all about local food and beer. So when Jimmy introduced Rich Castagna of Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, David Lopez of Gun Hill Brewing, and Celeste Beatty of Harlem Brewery, the audience knew it was in for a treat. Though this talk and tasting discussed beer in 17th and 18th centuries, the personal stories of these brewers were even more fascinating. Similarly to many local brewers worldwide, making beer is a family affair, often deeply rooted in heritage. Drawing inspiration from their backgrounds and life experiences, these beer makers have put their own individual stamp on beer.

© Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

Bobolink served delicious handcrafted cheeses and artisanal breads. The olive, onion ciabatta was a superstar. © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

© Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

The audience got to taste all three beers © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

David Lopez collaborated with the production team behind award-winning musical Hamilton and created an 18th century-style beer, donating some of the proceeds to Graham Windham Charity from the Bronx. Rich Castagna starting brewing out of his garage in Maspeth before relocating to Ridgewood, Queens. Finally, there was Celeste Beatty whose African roots have also influenced her style of beer.

Many in Europe and the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries drank ale because of the fear of water contamination. But brewing in the colonies was far from easy with disease and hostile native tribes. Life in the New World also meant that colonists had to make due with local ingredients and often in short supply. Somewhere between trial, error and triumph, they began brewing ale or gruit, according to Rich. Similarly, this evening’s panelists also have used local ingredients and experimented with different recipes. Sometimes, it didn’t go to plan. Rich told the audience how a simple batch had gone terribly wrong, releasing an unimaginable stench and causing him to quickly throw it in the bin.

with Jimmy Carbone © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

with Jimmy Carbone © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

The beer we sampled, happily told a much different story. Using spruce from Sullivan county and a bit of black molasses, Bridge and Tunnel’s amber rye had a slight fruitiness. Very pleasant with a little bite to it and perfect for a summer picnic.

David’s Rise Up Rye, in contrast to Bridge and Tunnel’s, was lighter in character. Similar to a bière blanche, or wheat beer. He chose to make a refreshing beverage without being too hoppy that appeals to the masses but still preserves the historical style of brewing. Very much like a light pilsner, it would go really well with sushi or a bowl of ramen. 

Celeste’s Renaissance Wit beer was truly remarkable. It told a personal story of a young woman who intertwined her family roots in Harlem and North Carolina with her African ancestral heritage. It had a surprisingly smoky bouquet like a beautiful Southern barbecue. The taste had complexity without being over the top. A slight spiciness from the cumin with an orange fruitiness. Smooth and not bitter. She definitely had it on the button. On its own or with a spicy curry, it will be heavenly.

Jimmy and the panelists discussed the future of local breweries. With multinational giants such as AB Inbev who own almost 48% share of the market and has since 2012 snatched up over 200 breweries, craft beer makers can hardly compete. Nevertheless, craft beer sales represented almost 20% of the market share in 2015, reason enough to make mega beer companies nervous.

Craft beer may have entered the mainstream but still has a long way to go. While some like Brooklyn Brewery have moved their breweries to larger facilities upstate, others are vulnerable to larger corporations. Fortunately, brewery guilds, such as the national Brewer Association or New York City Brewers Guild provide local brewers a support network and sponsor beer events allowing them more exposure to the public.

 

Don’t miss this Wednesday’s final Craft Beer Jam event, New York’s Farm-to-tap Brews.

 

Review: MOFAD: A conversation on Experimental Design Tues Jul 19, 2016

Bottom Line: What does it take to create a museum from scratch? Moderator Paola Antonelli from the Museum of Modern Art,  Emma Boast of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), Ryan Dunn  and Wyeth Hansen of LABOUR creative design discussed their collaboration on Flavor: Making It and Faking It, currently on view at MOFAD.

Flava Flav! The interactive Flavor Station at MOFAD © WhereNYC

Flava Flav! The interactive Smell Synth at MOFAD © WhereNYC

Review:  One of New York’s newest museums, MOFAD’s story began over a decade ago and united an unlikely group of individuals. They found a common mission to educate the public about food and drink.

 © WhereNYC

Turnout was impressive © WhereNYC

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Panelists Ryan Dunn, Emma Boast, and Wyeth Hansen

Far from being foodies, Ryan Dunn and Wyeth Hansen of LABOUR had different career aspirations. One wanted to be a painter, the other studied industrial design. And according to Mr. Dunn, neither were really foodies. Their interest in design led them to collaborate with program director Emma Boast and MOFAD’s visionary team, designing exhibits connecting themes of food, science and technology.

“In order to become real, you have look and act real.” – Wyeth Hansen

Mr. Hansen, Ms. Boast and Mr. Dunn along with others created a series of exhibits to generate interest in the museum. Using a special machine, they could puff up the grains. It was a big hit with students who had never seen this process, let alone cereal being made.

Hugh at the Smell Snyth

Hugh at the Smell Synth ©WhereNYC

Visitors toured the museum before the event began.

Visitors toured the museum before the event began.

MOFAD’s most recent expo Flavor: Making It and Faking It explores the $25 billion dollar industry of simulated and natural flavoring . Made up of several exhibits, LABOUR helped MOFAD designed the layout and logo.

Can you name the components of cola flavor? ©WhereNYC

Can you name the components of cola flavor? ©WhereNYC

© WhereNYC

Design of the logo reflecting the complexity of flavor © WhereNYC

Both Ms. Boast and Mr. Hansen admitted that it has been a learning experience in creating exhibits from scratch that could reach the public. While larger museums in New York can rely on name recognition, MOFAD is a much smaller operation.  Its team, nevertheless, has learned to maximize on its available resources.

Though the museum has few full time employees, its many volunteers who play the role of educator and reporter. By interacting with guests and exhibits, volunteers like Calvin and Erik said they can advise the museum on areas that need improvement. They took me around to test out my skills of flavor making on the interactive simulators. For a first timer, I was stunned how many layers of aromas needed to make that familiar cola smell. It suddenly became clear: what you smell affects what you taste.

When it came to guessing which aromas were real and simulated. I was stumped. What is real? I wondered. When the food and beverage industry say “natural flavoring”, it could be taking an extract that is “essential,” or derived directly the from the ingredient. My favorite was the ripe banana smell from the flavor simulator. All you need is “fresh banana”, “nail polish remover” or acetate and “booze” – which I took to be like a rum. Strangely all three ingredients made that familiar tropical banana smell. I’ll think twice before I order a banana daiquiri!

Towering snacks. Unhealthy, perhaps, but many of them have natural flavoring. ©WhereNYC

Towering snacks. Unhealthy, perhaps, but many of them have natural flavoring. ©WhereNYC

It doesn't grow on trees! ©WhereNYC

It doesn’t grow on trees! ©WhereNYC

It doesn’t grow on trees! What goes into making a mass produced aroma has also capitalized on its outreach, working with several different institutions, individuals and schools. It has successfully made its mark in several different areas including: a collaboration with the Rubin Museum on Himalayan cuisine,  The Future of Protein dinner with Toronto-based One Hop Kitchen and its March fundraiser with food science author Harold McGee.

Exit through through the MOFAD gift shop . Note Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking © WhereNYC

Exit through through the MOFAD gift shop . Note Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking © WhereNYC

In spite of this great start, there is still new territory to cover and new crowds to draw in. Mr. Hansen said that LABOUR and MOFAD also must think of how to democratize the museum’s outreach. It is not an easy thing to do, but bringing in schools, as Ms. Boast said, has had impact.

Moderator Paola Antonelli warned, however, that museums must not appear “elitist” and maximise on diversity, which many institutions, according to her, tend to ignore. Maybe the food world is full of “white guys (on TV) chewing stuff,” as she put it. Like MOFAD perhaps, television gastronauts: Anthony Bourdain, Keith Floyd or Gordon Ramsay have also gotten people to think about what they’re eating.

Flavor: Making It and Faking It is currently open to the public. Visit MOFAD for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Summer Night at The Frick Collection Jul. 15, 2016

Bottom Line: Through events like its free Summer Nights series, the Frick Collection has gone from underdog to major contender in attracting new and often  younger crowds.

© Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

A couple touring one of the main galleries. Note the J.M.W. Turner painting in the background. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

Frick dessinatrices

Smiles and sketches! The Frick provided pencils and paper to those brave enough to sketch. © WhereNYC

Review: It was an amazing night; the museum was packed as the line of people queuing to get in wrapped around the block. In all my years of visiting the Frick, I had rarely seen it this crowded. In the interior garden, guests sketched statues by the fountain while listening to live classical music and sipping sparkling water. In spite of more people wandering in, the Frick still retained its unique, therapeutic vibe. The sounds of the string duet mixed with running water and sketchers’ laughter only added to the calm atmosphere.

© Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

No words needed. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

The museum’s organization of the event was impressive. Each guest received a schedule of guided tours and got links to the audioguide app. Nothing, however, felt rushed. One could grab a complimentary pad and pencil and draw or freely view the galleries.

Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

Students from the Juilliard School played classical music. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

Curious first-time patrons joined the free guided tours, which included the Meissen exhibit on the Chinese and Japanese influences of German porcelain. Other tours of permanent collections took guests through the sculptures and paintings by James McNeill Whistler. For fans of Vermeer, the Frick Collection has three of the 12 works on public display in the U.S.

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Frick’s guided tours were well-planned and informative. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

The Frick Collection is one of New York’s most beautiful museums, hands down. Understated, yet beautifully elegant, and rich in refinement without being pretentious. And whereas larger museums such as the Metropolitan, Moma or Natural History, although amazing, can sometimes overwhelm with their sheer size and plethora of exhibits. Being a smaller institution, however, has a special advantage because you never feel like you’ve seen too much. The Frick’s artwork is also well spaced, allowing visitors to easily access the galleries without overcrowding.

©Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

Gazing into another world. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

Since it began in June, the Frick Collection Summer Night series has helped get the word out about the museum and bring in new people. According to Heidi Rosenau at The Frick Collection, the majority of visitors polled at last month’s free event were newcomers with many having never heard of the museum.

© Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

The event brought in new, younger crowds. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography

Similarly to First Tuesdays at FIAF or the monthly Himalayan Heritage Night at the Rubin, The Frick Collection plans to make First Fridays a regular monthly open house, where people can enjoy tours of exhibits or simply sketch with their friends. In the end, it was time to go, but as we left, more visitors were pouring in. Don’t miss the Frick’s next Summer Night in August.

Review: French Tuesdays “Bastille Day” Party @ The Sky Lounge Jul. 13

French Tuesdays at the Sky Room ©Daniel Serrette

French Tuesdays at the Sky Room ©Daniel Serrette

Bottom Line: Frenchies, Francophiles and party-goers flocked to this year’s French Tuesdays pre-Bastille Day rooftop party at the Sky Room.

French Tuesdays © Daniel Serrette

On va danser! Trabi Lizie pulls off killer beats ©Daniel Serrette

French Tuesdays © Daniel Serrette

Three’s company © Daniel Serrette

Review: You couldn’t have asked for a better evening. Warm weather, wine and scenic views of the city. France may be an ocean away, but its festive spirit was truly present at this soirée sponsored by Ricard. When we first arrived, the French Tourist Office, or Atout France, with Air France were finishing up their Provence tourism presentation. Fortunately for us, there were plenty of complimentary chilled wine and canapés floating around the bar.

Friends, views and wine © Daniel Serrette

Friends, views and wine © Daniel Serrette

Check out our Ricard shades! ©WhereNYC

Check out our Ricard shades! ©WhereNYC

© WhereNYC

Girls’ night out © WhereNYC

This year’s French Tuesdays bash was interestingly on a Wednesday and  a little low key compared to the debauchery of last year at the legendary Box, where nudity and lovely decadence carried the stage. Sadly, this year was devoid of burlesque dancers, but with a glass of wine in hand, people mingled and danced long into the night at the Sky. It was great to hear the DJ spin some French rap classics as well as more contemporary stuff like Maître Gims and fun dancy stuff from Khaled

C'est la musique! © Daniel Serrette

C’est quoi c’morceau là? DJ spinning French pop and rap © Daniel Serrette

The Sky Lounge also was a fantastic venue because of its proximity to Times Square and public transportation. Easy to find with no hassle at the door. And with two floors, each with its own bar, long sofas and smoking balcony, it had a nice spacious feel. Whether you wanted to chat or chill out below, it was easy to move about. As the night drew and clouds cleared, the skylights opened giving a great view of the twinkling stars of the cityscape.

With so much fun and so many kinds of people to meet, it was hard to leave, and for a short time, we instead stepped out of our daily grind and shared a laugh, sipped and continued to dance.

French Tuesdays

Cheers and vive la France, buddy! © WhereNYC

Don’t miss French Tuesdays upcoming pool party July 26 at the Hotel Americano!

 

 

Review: FIAF’s 2016 Bastille Day Block Party Sun. Jun 10, 2016

Cover photo: © WhereNYC

Bottom Line: France may had lost dismally in the 2016 Euro Cup final, but in New York, the mood was far more jovial at FIAF’s annual Bastille Day block party. With the uncorking of champagne bottles, cheese tastings, pastries, and live entertainment, who could have asked for more.

Dancing the Can-can © Michael George

Sarah O’Dwyer Dancing the Can-can © Michael George

With each ticket - guests could enjoy up to five classes of champagne and as much chocolate as they could eat.

With each ticket  at Champagne & Chocolate Tasting- guests could enjoy up to five glasses of champagne and as much chocolate as they could eat. © WhereNYC

Tarte aux abricots. Apricot tarts from François Payard. © WhereNYC

Tarte aux abricots or Apricot tarts by François Payard. © WhereNYC

Review: If only every Sunday could like this: French food, music, dancing, soccer and wine. French Institute Alliance Française of New York’s annual block party in Midtown is always one of my favorite summer events, and every year, it gets better. Even with the crowds of people stepping on each other trying to get from one booth to the next, there was no real mayhem. The addition of three ticketed indoor tasting events provided a perfect oasis from the heat and crowded street and made this year’s festival even more special.

Macarons were a hit at the MadMac table.

Macarons were a hit at the MadMac table.

Stretching from Lexington to Fifth Avenue on 60th Street, visitors sampled classic French pastries from legend François Payard, nutella crêpes from The Crêpe Escape Caterers. The event was full of great names like Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud (which serves the best gourmet merguez dog by Lincoln Center!). Delicious charcuterie by Le Bec Fin Fine Foods, and Maman Café and Financier dished out goodies. And who can forget those buttery biscuits from St. Michel! With all that food, I was about to surrender my soul to gluttony. How do the French stay slim!

The classic crême brûlée.

The classic crême brûlée. ©WhereNYC

Classique = Magnifique! François Payard's classic tarte aux fraises with pistachios, sitting in a buttery pastry crust. © WhereNYC

Classique = Magnifique! François Payard’s tarte aux fraises with pistachios, sitting in a buttery pastry crust. © WhereNYC

Perfection on a serviette - a superbe tarte aux pommes by Maison Hugo. © WhereNYC

Perfection on a serviette – a superbe tarte aux pommes by Maison Hugo. © WhereNYC

Highlights included crispy-on-the-outside-and-gooey-centered classic French macarons by Madeleine Macaron or MadMac from Patterson NJ from and the crowd-pleaser crême brûlée. French Brasserie Maison Hugo from Midtown dished the perfect tarte aux pommes or apple tart. I could have had six of them.

maisonclose

Naughty Maison Close – although the display was a little family friendly, their steamy collections online are NSFW!

Some traditions, however decadent, should never die. The traditional can-can dancers are always a hit as everyone waits for the perfect crotch shot. Just across Park Ave. Maison Close sold sexy lingerie, masks and plumes. Très naughty!

But it wasn’t all about decadence and hanky panky. French Morning, the French-language newspaper and organizer of the Speak Easy language exchange events, Air France Mon Voyage, French cable channel TV5 Monde and bilingual magazine France-Amérique gave out promotions.

Stanley Egubchulam and associate displaying the goods at the VIP room at Amali

Stanley Egubchulam and associate displaying the goods at the VIP room at Amali © WhereNYC

First stop: The VIP lounge at restaurant Amali by Lexington offered guests a cozy retreat with open bar full of French wines, cocktails and tasty bites. Cognac maker Bache Gabrielsen served guests refreshing cocktails. Delicious and refreshing but a bit sweet.

Bache Gabrielsen served guests a sweet ,citrus cocktail

Bache Gabrielsen Cognac’s sweet, citrus cocktail at the VIP Lounge at Amali © WhereNYC

I stuck with sparkling rosé and noshed on the cheesy bits. It was tempting to stay, but the clock was ticking towards the kick-off of the Euro Final.

Next Stop: Wine / Cheese / Beer / Cocktail tasting on the ground floor and lower level at FIAF.

All in zee famille! My French Wine Club serving reds and sumptuous white wine.

All in zee famille! My French Wine Club serving reds and sumptuous white wine. © WhereNYC

Soldiering through the crowds on 60th street wasn’t easy, but we didn’t rest on laurels with more cheese and wine on our radar. The buzz at the Tinker Auditorium in the basement was incredible, while chilled Kronenbourg 1664 beer was available on the first floor.

C'mon Issac, where's me drink? Ricard's anniseedy cocktail. Would have preferred it with Oysters Rockafeller.

C’mon Issac, where’s me drink? Ricard’s anniseedy cocktail. . © WhereNYC

For food, Président served the usual plate of  the best French suspects: brie, comté and roquefort. My only negative was that the baguette slices were doughy and lacking the crunchy crust.  But the cheese and wine worked beautifully. Most of the wine was from the Languedoc or Southwest region, which is one of my favorites but treacherously underrated.

My poison of choice was the Villa des Anges rosé that Sud de France served, which had a beautiful crispness on the palate with a clean but fruity finish. I had to go back for seconds.

Les filles du Président! Serving guests cheese plates.

Les filles du Président! Serving guests cheese plates. ©WhereNYC

Final Stop: The Champagne and Chocolate Tasting at Le Skyroom at FIAF.

Villa des Anges Rosé second on the right has made my Christmas list (c) Brittany Buongiorno

Villa des Anges Rosé second on the right has made my Christmas list (c) Brittany Buongiorno.

Having had my sips of wine and Ricard cocktails, it was time to catch the soccer final at Le Skyroom on the eighth floor – one of two spots showing it at the Bastille Day event.

Watching the 2016 Euro final over champagne, chocolate made it extra special.

Watching the 2016 Euro final over champagne, chocolate made it extra special. ©WhereNYC

À la vôtre! Reps from Piper-Heidsieck - one of my favorite champagnes. Yummy.

À la vôtre! Piper-Heidsieck – one of my favorite champagnes. Yummy. © WhereNYC

Guests guzzled champagne from some of the greats including: Brimoncourt, Billecart-Salmon, La Caravelle, and Drappier. One of my favorites of the bunch was Piper-Hiedsieck that had a dry misty refreshingness that complimented the chocolates beautifully.

Plateau du paradis. Belgian Chocolatier Neuhaus beautiful chocolate truffles with dried raspberry.

Plateau du paradis. Belgian Chocolatier Neuhaus © WhereNYC

Speaking of chocolate, Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus served a beautiful raspberry truffle.

La Maison du Chocolat from Paris and locations in NYC serving exquisite classic French chocolate Truffles.

La Maison du Chocolat from Paris and locations in NYC serving exquisite classic French chocolate Truffles. ©WhereNYC

Santé! Brimoncourt and smiles © WhereNYC

Santé! Brimoncourt and smiles © WhereNYC

Both the La Maison du Chocolat and Marie Belle served scrumptious champagne truffles.  The latter had a unique crunchy exterior with a soft ganache filling. As for the game, the fact that no one scored in first 80 minutes didn’t seem to bother the guests as they cheered over a glass of bubbly. In the end, France lost to Portugal 0-1, but even in defeat, we toasted one last time with a sigh and carried on.

Tension and eventual defeat, but everyone had a fantastic time.

The agony of defeat! French soccer fans watching the final on the giant screen at 60th St. © Michael George

Don’t miss First Tuesdays with free language sample classes and hors d’œuvres. For more on upcoming events, visit FIAF.

 

 

Review: Himalayan Heritage Night with writer Ann Tashi Slater @ the Rubin Museum of Art Wed. Jul. 6, 2016

Bottom Line: Ann Tashi Slater‘s latest book Travels Within and Without, is an incredible and inspiring journey into her family’s history, which she discussed at this month’s Himalayan Heritage event at the Rubin Museum of Art.

Tashi Chodron of the Rubin Museum introduces Ann Tashi Slater.

Tashi Chodron of the Rubin Museum introduces Ann Tashi Slater.

Review: It begins seemingly as a familiar tale of a child born abroad of mixed heritage or immigrant parents. Anything but typical, Ann Tashi Slater’s personal story, however, is even more remarkable. She was born in Spain of Tibetan and American heritage, lived in India and Nepal, then raised in the U.S. and later became a resident of Japan.

Live music greeted the guests who mingled nearby at the bar. Rubin

Live music greeted the guests who mingled nearby at the bar.

Growing up in America, Ms. Slater like many first generation children did not embrace her foreign ancestry until later in life, when she began researching into her family’s history. She discovered an amazing story of her great-grandfather and her grandparents and their relationship with the 13th Dalai Lama and the British colonial government. The more she learned the more questions she asked. Her research led her back to India, Nepal and even in Chinese-occupied Tibet.

Ann Tashi Slater donated her copies of her book in honor of the Dalai Lama's 81st birthday. Note the birthday cake.

Ann Tashi Slater donated copies of her book in honor of the Dalai Lama’s 81st birthday. Note the birthday cake.

Her family’s past was also intertwined with the British Raj. Although Britain may not have directly occupied Tibet, it used its colonial muscle to create a buffer zone between India and China. In order to stabilize the region, the colonial government asked Ms. Slater’s great-grandfather to organize a local police force. It was no easy feat, but he persevered in spite of several attempts on his life. And he became a crucial liaison between the British and Tibetans, partly because of his ability to communicate fluently in the ten local languages.

Her account of her grandparents’ life in Darjeeling, India is equally interesting. During colonial times, it was the perfect summer retreat from the sweltering heat, and an ideal location for the British-run tea plantations. For many Tibetans, Darjeeling was also a sanctuary from the threat from the Chinese, who even long before Mao Zedong’s invasion in the 1950s, had their sights on taking the plateau.

An old map of Lhasa Ms. Slater presented during her lecture.

An old map of Lhasa Ms. Slater presented during her lecture.

Darjeeling became both a refuge and an international community of fellow Tibetans, Indians, British, Nepalese and others. Her grandparents’ ability to engage a plethora of different nationalities made their home an epicenter of cultural interaction, and of course, they threw amazing parties that went on through the night. I could almost imagine what it must have been like with dancing, drinking and laughter at one of their soirées.

The final chapter of Ms. Slater’s discussion dealt with the death of her grandmother and a vanishing culture. The Chinese-occupation of Tibet may brought development but at a cruel price with the gradual eradication of its culture. And although exiled Tibetan populations in India and elsewhere have preserved much of their heritage, they, too, have changed and adopted new customs. Ms. Slater discussed traditions such as those for Tibetan funerals (which last for days) also have vanished with her grandmother’s cremation. Many Tibetans today may not know of these ancient rituals, but thanks to Ms. Slater’s book, it is both a very personal family story and a testament to Tibetan cultural preservation that future generations can enjoy.

Exit through the Museum gift shop.

Exit through the Museum gift shop.

Listening to Ms. Slater’s lecture, I saw some similarities in my own background. Both our families were uprooted from their homelands because of war or partition. Like my grandparents, hers were well connected, affluent and hard workers. And when it came to the finer things in life, both were quite at home with the comforts of a traditional cup of tea but also enjoyed a gin and tonic. And finally, both were very worldly, and neither seemed to have boundaries when it came to engaging people of different cultures.

In celebration of his holiness the 14th and current Dalai Lama’s birthday, Ms. Slater generously donated copies of her book Travels Within and Without to everyone in the audience, which she later graciously signed.

Don’t miss the Rubin Museum’s upcoming annual block party with live entertainment, activities and delicious food.

Rubin Museum

 

 

 

Review: Eurocircle MidSummer Rooftop Party @ Rock & Reilly’s Jun 21, 2016

Bottom Line: When summer is in full swing, a Eurocircle meet up is always on the radar. A chance to meet some new faces while sipping a voddy cranberry is just the perfect way to chill out after a crap day at work.

Cheers! © Mike Bas / Eurocircle

Cheers! © Mike Bas / Eurocircle

Review: Rock & Reilly’s at the Renaissance Hotel in Midtown is now on my list of places to return with friends. I had read about it in Time Out, but no opportunity arose until this soirée. Check out the photos here, I’ve been to loads of rooftop parties at the Empire, Attic, Sky and the Hudson Terrace, but in the end, they tend to be mediocre or even sometimes borderline tacky.

Eurocircle

Fabulous view from the terrace

Rock & Reilly’s, on the other hand, is really nice and inviting. There’s a certain airiness and clean look mixed in with a classic bar charm.  The wrap around terrace greeted me with a beautiful display of greenery mixed in with smiling New York socialites hailing from all corners of the globe. And happily, the $10-vodka specials lasted the entire time I was there!

© Mike Bas / Eurocircle

Friends and new faces © Mike Bas / Eurocircle

There was, however, a slightly shady element. You always get guys trolling for girls, but a couple were a bit too touchy, which some of the girls did not like. My friend and I decided to move away and watch the Copa America soccer match, but sadly Argentina killed the U.S. 4-0. Uggh, I ordered another voddy cranberry to drown out my sorrows.

Visit Eurocircle for upcoming events.

 

Review: Beyond Momos: Himalayan Food in Jackson Heights

Bottom Line:  Too often living in the shadows of Indian and Chinese food, Tibetan, Nepali and Bhutanese dishes are making their mark in Queens. Restauranteurs, community leaders and Himalayan grub experts met at the Sherpa Kyidug House near Jackson Heights, Queens to discuss the uniqueness and regionality of this underrated cuisine.

Tashi Chodron of the Rubin Museum kicked off the discussion

Tashi Chodron of the Rubin Museum kicked off the discussion © Tenzing Seldonla Ukyab of the Rubin Museum of Art.

Review: In a land called Jackson Heights, you can eat the most amazing Mexican tacos, golden crispy, Indian samosas, halal cart lamb on rice, and of course, steamy, soup filled momos. Those lovely Tibetan dumplings covered in chili sauce that warms the heart on rainy days. As of resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, momos are among my street food staples. Comforting and delicious after a night of serious drinking. But Himalayan cuisine is so much more according to Beyond Momos: Himalayan Food in Jackson Heights presented by the Museum of Food and Drink and Rubin Museum of Art.

Healthy Himalayan Cuisine Veggiyana by Sandy Garson

Healthy Himalayan Cuisine Veggiyana by Sandy Garson.

Part of the Museum of Food and Drink’s traveling talk series on unique cuisines in New York, MOFAD collaborated with the Rubin Museum of Art and panelists who included: Himalayan culinary expert Sandy Garson, Tenzing Ukyab, owner of Himalayan Yak in Jackson Heights, Tashi Chodron from the Rubin. The gist is that Tibetan cuisine is probably as complex as its history.

Rubin Museum Mofad

Packed house © Tashi Chodron and Tenzing Seldonla Ukyab of the Rubin Museum of Art.

The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1958 created a Tibetan diaspora that spread throughout South Asia. Tashi Chodron, like many Tibetans, was born in a refugee camp. Far from the migrant tents along the English Channel you might see in the news, these camps in India are more like villages with monasteries, buildings and infrastructure, according to Chodron. And although much of authentic Tibetan culture has been preserved outside Chinese-occupied Tibet, its food has taken on a more regional tone adhering to local diets and ingredients.

Jackfruit was one of the highlights of the tasting.

Jackfruit was one of the highlights of the tasting.

As the food traveled from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Burma, it was absorbed by the local population and subsequently took different forms. For example, momos from India and Nepal generally are usually vegetarian, while the Bhutanese fill them with meat and spicy cheese. While I am familiar with the geography of South Asia, some in the audience were not. To understand these cultures better, it would have been better if they had put up a map of region during the panel discussion.

Rubin MOFAD

A light, refreshing yogurty dessert. The jaggery rock candy is like a super Tibetan jawbreaker.

For a fellow who doesn’t go out for Nepali, Tibetan nor Bhutanese food, I was pleasantly surprised by many of the dishes that seemed healthier and less oily than your average Indian take-away. The potato and cauliflower (served separately) had all the familiar flavors of a classic Indian aloo gobi but packed a serious punch of chili.

Tibetan Food Rubin MOFAD

Aloo or potatoes with turmeric had a serious belt of heat. Yummy.

I particularly liked the jackfruit, which Indians often simmer. This was lightly fried and had an unusual delicate crunch, giving a slightly meaty, fritter texture. The barley beans were really wonderful too with a welcomed freshness and acidity.

These had a slight sweetness and were very good.

The rings had a nice, subtle sweetness.

There were, however, errors. The absence of burners meant cold food including the momos. What a terrible shame because the joy of eating them is that hot liquid explosion in your mouth while fragrant steam fills your nostrils.

Momo MOFAD Rubin

Cold momos were a tragic misfire.

Some of the other items just didn’t cut it for me. The chicken, although spicy, was dry and strangely lacking in seasoning. The black pudding or boudin noir, normally a personal favorite, was a bit mushy and bland. I personally thought it needed a kick of chilli. And for me, I would have liked to have sampled the Bhutanese chilli, cheese curry or ema datshi.  Finally, it would have been better to serve the food after the panel discussion, for instance like at the Japan Society.

Happy bunch © Tenzing Seldonla Ukyab of the Rubin Museum of Art

Happy bunch © Tenzing Seldonla Ukyab of the Rubin Museum of Art

In spite of minor shortcomings during the tasting, there is a lot to learn about Himalayan cuisine, and rather than compare it to Indian or Chinese, we should enjoy its own uniqueness.

Visit Rubin Museum and MOFAD for upcoming events.