Review: Natto: Japan’s Probiotic Superfood Event at Japan Society, May 23, 2018

Cover image: Modern natto… put in on anything! © Meg for WhereNYC

Mr. Spaeth and Ms. Yonetani © Meg for WhereNYC

“It is quite wonderful to see so many people interested in natto or just natto-curious,” Ms. Ann Yonetani, “microbiologist turned food entrepreneur/natto maker” (as per Japan Society), began. Ms. Yonetani shared the stage with her friend, former New York Times and current Serious Eats writer, and who’s also half Japanese, Mr. Sho Spaeth for a talk on natto. When they both met in 2016, Mr. Spaeth was baffled by Ms. Yonetani’s passion to promote natto in the United States because the fermented, pungent soybean would be a hard sell to the public.

Ms. Yonetani growing up eating natto (c) Meg for WhereNYC

But the natto industry could hardly hope for a better PR rep. Quirky with fun nerd vibe and clever, Ms. Yonetani unexpectedly became the ultimate “natto cheerleader.” 

While natto is a “common day household food experience in Japan,” Ms. Yonetani explained, as a Japanese-American growing up in Philadelphia, it was impossible to find. It was during a visit to Japan when she first tried it. She does not remember her first time tasting natto, but she remembers that she eventually fell in love with it.

What is natto?

This “Japanese soul food” is essentially fermented soybeans. As a Japan-American myself, I was familiar with Ms. Yonetani’s description of  the “most polarizing quality of natto.” In Japanese, it is referred to as neba neba, the sticky, stringy texture that natto has, similar to that of okra. We laughed when she said that it tastes “like Boston baked beans crossed with a stinky French cheese with the slippery mouth feel of Southern okra,” but added, “No, it tastes nothing like kimchi!” as she often finds herself saying to Americans. As I also grew up eating natto myself, Ms. Yonetani’s take was definitely spot on.

It’s all about the soybeans! © Meg for WhereNYC

The term ‘superfood’ gets thrown around a lot, according to Ms. Yonetani, but natto has healthy properties. The two basic ingredients are soybeans and bacillus subtilis culture, a natural probiotic and a source of nattokinase, which is rich in Vitamin K2. Bacillus subtilis is a part of the microbiome, or beneficial microbes that we can’t possibly live without. Known as the best source of Vitamin K2, it can help strengthen bones, improve cardiovascular health and aid digestion. Nattokinase is a natural blood thinner, which may prevent stroke and heart disease and is sold in supermarkets such as Whole Foods.

To combat the decline in natto consumption in Japan, today there are many new varieties “to appeal to the younger generation.” For example, dried natto is sometimes served on Japan Airlines flights in place of peanuts. Traditionally, natto was more of a “breakfast staple,” Ms. Yonetani explained, served with a bowl of rice, scallions and soy sauce, and sometimes a raw egg. Though still her preferred way, Ms. Yonetani also likes to “throw [natto] on pretty much anything,” which she encouraged the audience to do the same. “Think of it like a cheese and put it on anything you’d put cheese on.”

Line up, take a plate, and go! © Meg for WhereNYC

Ms. Yonetani learned how to make natto from a fifth generation maker in Japan. One must “start from really good soybeans” and of a specific type. Interestingly, the majority (80%) of natto is made from U.S. grown soybeans and is fermented for one day only. “Fermentation makes food more digestible,” Ms. Yonetani explained. Natto began as an “accident,” just like many delicious common foods today, and it was likely discovered by samurai warriors when they fled with fermented soybeans wrapped in rice straw to prevent it from spoiling.

As founder of New York based natto company, NYrture Food, one of Ms. Yonetani’s missions is promote natto in the U.S. and around the world. “I think America is finally ready for it,” Ms. Yonetani explained. For beginners, she suggested trying “the black natto” as it is “much milder and chocolaty” and not as sticky as the traditional kind. Also “mix it with foods that will dilute or get rid of the gooeyness.” As mentioned before, the “neba neba” (sticky, stringy texture) quality is something that people either love or hate. Her company sells traditional, black, and even turmeric natto – the latter shocked the judges in this year’s natto competition in Japan.

Annual natto competition in Japan (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Our tasting reception included new unorthodox varieties including: Natto Italiano, Black Natto Parfait, Natto Pani Puri and a traditional style Natto Maki Sushi served on a clear plate. The reception also served wine and soft drinks like a palette-cleanser. For me, the traditional style Natto Maki Sushi was the best. It had the familiar “neba neba,” character and  distinct odor with the bitterness of traditional natto.

Although a daunting task, it would be great to see healthy options like natto become popular outside of Japan.

Wine Tour de France 2018 – Wines of Paul Bocuse’s Rhone Valley

Cover image: © Meg for WhereNYC

The name Paul Bocuse of the culinary legend, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 91, is synonymous with high-end French gastronomy. Affectionately known as Monsieur Paul to those in the industry, his recipes and his unashamedly French classic repertoire won him fame and a Michelin starred culinary empire. His base situated in Lyon, France’s culinary capital in the Rhône-Alps region, is also famous for its exquisite wines. FIAF honored the Frenchman’s legacy with some of the region’s most iconic wines in its Skyroom.

FIAF Wine Tour de France © WhereNYC

Upon entering, there were  rows of table, each sitting six people. Each guest received a folder with an information packet to use to take notes while wine tasting and order forms from the Upper East Side wine shop Millesima, and pencils. In front me, there were six glasses of wine, cheese (from Président), bread  (by Maison Kayser), and charcuterie. It was sheer agony to wait  as my mouth watered and stomach growled.

After a quick introduction by FIAF representative, Benjamin Raphanel, a wine buyer at Millesima, introduced himself and the two other experts, Mr. Mike Duffy from Martin Scott Wines and Mr. Ilya Smolenskiy from Skurnik Wines who guided us through the tasting.

Map of Rhone Valley vineyard regions © Meg for WhereNYC

As a “normal” non-connoisseur wine lover, I always thought Côte du Rhône wines were generally red and accessible, as they went with any kind of meal and were not too thick or bitter. Often, there are affordable ones served at restaurants in France. But the region also produces white wines, which I knew little about.

“A lot of French wines are pretty,” said Mr. Duffy, as we tasted the first, the Domaine Louis Chèze St. Joseph Ro Ree Blanc. The term “Appelation (d’origine contrôlée),” according to Mr. Duffy and Mr. Smolenskiy, confirms a wine’s authenticity. As Champagne can only come from Reims in Northern France and be produced in a specific way, St. Joseph must also follow a certain set of strict laws “to protect the terms.”  Both St. Joseph and Pagus Luminis, Condrieu white wines came from the Northern Rhône region, which Mr. Smolenskiy explained is much smaller than Southern Rhône. The Northern part is incredibly steep, depriving the grapes of water. Both wines are very refreshing and fruity and can be enjoyed alone.

Cornas wine bottle © Meg for WhereNYC

The reds at the tasting included the Cornas, the most expensive one on the list, retailing at $84.99, from the southern edge of Northern Rhône. It is a “broad, powerful wine,” Mr. Smolenskiy said. Like most Rhône reds, it was 100 percent Syrah, giving it its dark, rich color.

The majority of the red Rhône wines come from the South, which is relatively flat in comparison to the North. The most famous, and one of the oldest wines, is the Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge. It is “fruity, elegant and pretty” as the presenters aptly put it. The region is fairly dry and is known to be windy. “The balance of sugar and acidity and the perfect climate” makes popular wine famous and expensive, the presenters said.

The last wine was the “super elegant” Côte Rotie from the Northern Rhône region, retailing at $69.99. It has a spicy, bacon-like taste, caused from being stemmed, as the stems add “pure fruit flavor which to some people may be unpleasant,” Mr. Smolenskiy said.

Châteauneuf du Pape bottle (c) Meg for WhereNYC

All wines except for one were from the year 2015, which was a “great vintage year for wine,” according to the presenters. This was because the wines were made in “perfect, warm conditions” and “will last 30 years.” Apparently younger wine is more fruity, and aged wine has more savory notes.

Some in the audience asked about the effects of global warming on “the vineyards and the wine industry in general.” Warmer climates cause acidity levels to drop, and alcohol levels to rise. This can potentially change the grapes and significantly affect the vineyards. For example, Champagne used to be the coldest wine region, but now there are other colder regions in England. As most wine makers are relatively small, climate change can potentially cause serious damage to their business. On the other hand, global warming can allow for new wine regions to bloom as well.

The wine servings and hors d’œuvres at Le Skyroom were a delightful, educational heaven. At the end, the audience was able to go up to the Maison Kayser bread table and take home a bread of their choice.

My next step (and yours should be too) is to go to Millesima to buy the Pagus Luminis Condrieu, which was my favorite white wine that I tasted, and the Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge as a gift for my father. Now not only do I have a greater appreciation for Côte du Rhone wines, but also for French wines in general, which I will happily continue drinking.

Review: The Third Annual Charcuterie Masters at the Flushing Town Hall

Cover image: Il Porcellino Coppa cured ham © WhereNYC

As someone who recently started eating meat after being vegan for the past six and a half years, it’s easy to say that the craft of charcuterie was relatively foreign to me. Meat has always, for a lack of a better word, scared me. I still can’t bring myself to touch raw meat and more often than not, I will let my partner take over the cooking in that case. Aside from aesthetics, the meat industriously has often left me questioning: what am I consuming and where is it coming from?

New York’s own Le District serving savory samples. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC.

My knowledge of charcuterie and palate has expanded immensely. I tried liverwurst and even blood pudding for the first time, as well as witnessed first hand (from a live demonstration with Chef Rodrigo Duarte) the importance and care that goes into butchering the animal.

˝Despite having consumed more artisanal meat in the span of four hours than I have in my entire life (and enjoyed every smoky and seasoned minute of it) this retired vegan has a new appreciation for not only the consumption of meat, but also more importantly, the handling.

Chef Durant giving a demo on the infamous Flushing Town Hall stage. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC.

 

 

Some of the countries best in charcuterie were seen last Saturday [February 24, 2018]

at the historic Flushing Town Hall in Queens. Home to some of Jazz’s greatest legends, like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong [just to name a few], the event had an immediately welcoming atmosphere that felt oddly nostalgic despite the fact that this was a place and a world I didn’t know much about.

Too delicious to wait for a photo. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

“The hallmark of [Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts] (FCCA)’s current programming is a cross-cultural focus: works that fuse or bridge different cultures, as well as larger programs that bring together presentations of art forms from different parts of the world…”

˝With a fitting space to compliment the event, like the cheese and wine to the evening’s main course, 60 different charcuterie products were selected out of 98 applicants from all over the US and Canada. From Peter McChesney’s espresso salumi, to Will Horowitz’s fermented and seasoned radishes dipped in a mushroom sauce, there wasn’t a corner of the room that wasn’t filled with creativity and care.

Chef Horowitz’s fermented radishes. ©Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC.

“We want to recognize everybody who entered…we realize that there was a lot of work, money and time that went into all of these products. And it’s obvious that all of the contestants care about the subject matter. That means we care about you too,” said judge Chef Brian Polcyn, co-author of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

Guests sampled the contestant’s charcuterie and participated in a People Choice Award, with the overwhelming task, of selecting their favorite table. Doug Kelles aka “The Bacon Guru” was the crowd pleaser and the Grand Champion of Charcuterie Masters was Bill Miner, Chef and owner of ll Porcellino salumi. His wagyu beef bresaola alongside the thinly sliced coppa, proved the attentive skill required to “wear the crown.”

The winning table giving out samples. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC.

“I’m completely blown away. This is a dream. We’ve only been in business for two-and-a-half years, so we’re really brand new at doing this. It’s humbling to be among the best of the best in the country,” Miner said.

With plans to open a wholesale facility next month and sell nationwide by the summer, Chef Miner bases their success off of hard work and “using the best quality animal for the best quality finished product.”

Regardless of my dietary preferences in both the past and the present, the statement resonated with an underlying principle: transparency; a word that felt universal between the participants and judges.

Brooklyn Cider House serving patrons. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

“Charcuterie is a very important part of modern American cooking; it’s not a modern craft…Our costumers want to know where their food comes from… it’s a craft that needs to be cracked, it’s a craft that needs to be developed, it’s a craft that is learned. And it’s a pleasure to see how thing have changed,” said Chef Polcyn before awarding the winners in front of an enthusiastic and wildly supportive crowd.

Eager crowd sampling the charcuterie before the announcement of the winners. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

“It’s a nice community,” Miner said,” It’s not a bunch of egos. Everyone’s [here] to help each other.”

Whether you were there for the Black Label Donuts made from banana, pecans, miso and bacon (lots and lots of bacon); the Brooklyn Cider House’s simplistically perfect “apple only” cider, or just the appreciation of well cured meats, it was hard to leave without feeling apart of the camaraderie. I certainly don’t plan on showcasing my “talents” any time soon, but will say I do feel a little more at ease with the idea of approaching meat in my kitchen. I might even season it myself next time.

Guest enjoying a Black Label Donut.  © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC.

For more information on upcoming foodie events, visit: https://www.nyepicureanevents.com.

Review: Walking in a Sake Wonderland: A Year at a Japanese Brewery

Cover image:  Sake tasting at the Japan Society © Meg

Tired of working in the corporate world?   Then, why not work for that drink that you love so much?

That is essentially what Mr. Timothy Sullivan did. Sullivan, who was given the honor of the title, “Sake Samurai” in Kyoto, Japan in 2007, fell in love with something Japanese in 2005 – in New York City. And it was not anime. It was sake.

The sake that he tasted with his delicious sushi that night was a premium Junmai Ginjo by Hakkaisan. He wanted to find out more about sake but realized that there wasn’t enough information out there.

So he began his own blog, urbansake.com, that same year.

According to Mr. Sullivan, sake is “Japanese culture in a cup.”

Why move to Japan? © Meg for WhereNYC

Mr. Sullivan found his calling. He first started teaching at the Sake School of America while working in the corporate world, and eventually transitioned to a full-time career in the sake industry. As he had more opportunities to travel to Japan to promote Hakkaisan products, he decided to move to Japan and live there for a year. He not only wanted to improve his sake knowledge and his Japanese language skills, but also wanted to “get to know the people behind the sake.” So he received a special Japanese visa, which was specifically for cultural activities usually reserved for foreign artists and athletes, and went on a journey to work at the Hakkaisan sake brewery in Niigata, Japan.

Walking over fire for good health?! © Meg for WhereNYC

As he spoke joyfully, comically and nostalgically about his various cultural experiences in Niigata – including how he walked barefoot over soil that was just dramatically lit on fire at the Hakkaisan Shrine Hinata Festival (to wish for “one year of good health”), he also showed many pictures of himself covered from head to toe, working at the brewery. At Hakkaisan, the workers took each step of the sake making process very seriously. Although they also use machines, they believe that many things can only be done well by hand.

While camping out a year at a sakagura in Japan may seem like a loafer’s paradise, it was anything but a holiday. For Mr. Sullivan, it meant serious work: from polishing and milling the rice to meticulously washing each rice bag with his hands. He explained every step in detail. For example, rice becomes very fragile when they are milled, and if they are cooled right away after milling, rice will crack in half.

During the cold winters in Niigata, when trees have a special guard on them to hold the snow up, the majority of the sake making process takes place.

He also spoke about the Koshiki Taoshi, which is a formal dinner that happens among the workers to celebrate the day they stop steaming rice. For them, it was unique occasion to shed their work suits in favor of jackets and ties.

Needless to say, Mr. Sullivan had an unforgettable experience. The chef at the brewery’s staff cafeteria specially served Mr. Sullivan’s self-proclaimed favorite food, chicken pot pie, for his goodbye party. They even gave him a jar of umeboshi (pickled plums), another of his favorites, along with one of the shovels he had to use, albeit unsuccessfully, to place the rice in each bag.

Despite the weather and walking over hot coals, he never got sick even once in Japan. And while his Japanese still could use some polishing, he learned so much more about the craft of sake brewing.

Sake tastings are always a hit at Japan Society (c) Meg for WhereNYC

In the United States, sake, along with ramen shops, has taken off, becoming one of Japan’s biggest export destinations. In New York, there are several sake bars frequented by connoisseurs and hipsters alike. In Japan, it is another story. Still considered a “parents’ drink”, there are no “hip” sake bars and is almost always served with food. Beer is the most popular drink in Japan.

He gave some interesting tips on enjoying sake. Interestingly, it is easy to pair with food because of its ‘umami’ (savory notes) and the fact that it has 1/3 of the acidity of wine.

Temperature matters when you age sake (e.g. Room temperature will cause the sake to darken its color.) Sake lasts around 2-3 weeks after the bottle is open, as long as it is kept in the refrigerator. The more earthy, robust sakes have a longer taste life.

The three sakes! (c) Meg for WhereNYC

 

Our post-talk reception included three Hakkaisan sakes:  the Junmai Ginjo (the “sake that changed [Mr. Sullivan’s] life.”), the Honjozo (best selling Hakkaisan sake) and a special 3-year Snow Aged Junmai Ginjo. The latter is stored in a “Yuki Muro” (i.e. snow storage seller) with 1000 tons of snow in it, for 3 years.

I am no “sake samurai,” but appreciate the taste. Personal favorites included  the Junmai Ginjo and the intriguing Snow Aged. For many of us in the audience, it was a rare opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a brewery and the passion and devotion that the people in the industry give to making sake.

Review: The New York Times Travel Show on January 26-28, 2018

Cover image: Bahamas’ colorful display © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

“YOU BELONG HERE.” – Provincetown, MA (From ManAboutWorld Trade Day Reception)

LGBT Travel Booth (c) Meg for WhereNYC

The New York Times Travel Show was full of booths, amazing travelisto/as, awe-inspiring presentations and performances, and loads of places to go and places to stay, no matter who you are and where you are from. This year featured a LGBTQ section, organized by the handsome, beautiful and lovely people from gay travel magazine ManAboutWorld.

Every year, the NYT Travel Show draws thousands of visitors stuffing bags with brochures and goodies from the different booths. While many of the freebies including the quintessential  key chains, some were very creative and special. Mexico’s Puebla region gave out USB drives with pictures and videos of the region. Of course, the live performances stages and cooking demos were again bustling with entertaining shows and serving tasty treats.  As one who loves food, I checked out the Introduction to the Taste of the World presentation, where the speakers demonstrated how they would cook an easy “breakfast couscous” in their RV via the on-stage stovetop.

Live performances including dancers from Thailand © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

Camp Cody from New Hampshire had interactive activities for kids (and adults) such as making s’mores. In the same section there was also a compact RV from Taxa, Inc., on display, which I was able to go inside and experience how practical for traveling all over the United States this RV was.

S’mores- sh’mores! You gotta have ’em! © Meg for WhereNYC

As expected, the Caribbean section was full of color, music and energy. Since the end of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Cuban Guru has been promoting guided tours to island at the travel show, and assured that the travel agents are all Cubans who cater itineraries to each customer, and take care of essentially everything, including your visa.

Korea’s Winter Olympics-themed booth was full of interactive activities such as fishing and curling, which came with various prizes. Many customers were seen taking pictures with Korea’s Winter Olympic mascots who hung out around the booth as well.

Indonesia’s vibrant, mystical carnival costumes stood out as well, which led customers to find out that Indonesia is not just Jakarta and Bali. With over 17,000 islands in the country, there is a lot of diversity and natural beauty that the country has to offer – such as the “hidden secret” (or not so much anymore), Raja Ampat, which had breathtaking views and pictures/videos on display.

Bubble tea at the Taiwan booth at the NY Times Travel Show © WhereNYC

Brazil’s booth was serving an açai drink, which naturally attracted many customers to hear what Brazil was all about. Ms. Masche from Rio de Janeiro said that the “quality of life has become better” after the Olympics, as she is able to easily take the train from her home to the center of Rio now. She also mentioned that Brazil’s visa system has changed for the better. It is cheaper ($40) for U.S. citizens and is an electronic visa that can be processed within 72 hours.

Hanging with the Korean Olympics mascots! © Meg for WhereNYC

Taiwan proudly served bubble tea, which natural attracted many customers who formed a line circling around their booth. Israel served wine, which naturally attracted winos like myself to go to their booth and hear what they have to offer.

Being Japanese, I was very proud to see the organized Japan booths full of customers, and the Ashura live ninja performance presented by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). They combined suspense, action and humor in a truly shocking, yet enjoyable performance that was interactive and entertaining to watch.

The non-cliché destinations in the Europe section of were Azores, Ukraine, and Belarus. Azores, part of Portugal, was a place that I had never heard of, but after hearing about this remote island state from travel agent Mr. Joao, I am highly convinced that this hidden gem (only 5 hours away from JFK!) is the place to be.

The Japan booth is one of the largest at the Travel Show © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

The Ukraine booth was promoting adventure tours, such as a Chernobyl tour, a Shooting tour, and a Tank driving tour. This “politically incorrect” Eastern European country that had only been truly independent for 4 years, was proudly promoting its craziness and uniqueness. Belarus, as it is “where Soviet Union began and ended,” promoted its combination of influence from the Soviet Union (i.e. tank riding) and Western culture (i.e. castles from the medieval times). They were also promoting their “5 Days Visa-Free” initiative, which has already attracted an influx of tourists.

Although South Africa’s booth was by far the most colorful, biggest, and most vibrant, Rwanda’s tour companies stood out to me as the travel agents promoted cultural tours and safari tours in traditional Rwandan dress in the Africa section.

The presentation floor was downstairs, and I watched Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods being interviewed in a large, full pressroom (three rooms combined). Initially, I did not know much about Mr. Zimmern other than the fact that he was a chef on Bizarre Foods. After the talk, I became a fan. He spoke about his childhood growing up in New York City. He kept the audience engaged in his witty, long-winded answers, as he pronounced ‘pho’ like ‘fo,’ “because I am not Vietnamese, and that is the same reason why I would not pronounce ‘Van Gogh’ like ‘Van Gogh’ (imitating Dutch pronunciation).”

Andrew Zimmern is not just the “Bizarre Foods” guy © Meg for WhereNYC

When asked about immigration in the United States, and he said, “The U.S. is like the New England Patriots. Every year we get the best players.” As a self-proclaimed “glass full-full guy,” Mr. Zimmern added that no matter where we live, what language we speak, or what kind of food we eat, “We have more things that unite us than divide us.” Mr. Zimmern continued to show us his authentic and down-to-earth side, when he admitted to having struggled with ‘happiness’ as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and said that where and when he is happiest is when he is with his son by the water. He closed the talk by complimenting the gastronomical diversity and deliciousness that Queens, New York has to offer (which I completely agree with), and with the thought, ‘Travel is transformative.” Travel changes who we are and how we think.

 

Visit Bhutan © Kei Hayashi for WhereNYC

After inspired by the talk, I visited one of Bhutan’s booths, and was very curious to know why it had been called “the happiest country in the world.” Mr. Tshewang of Zhidey Bhutan Tours & Treks explained that it is the least developed country, and the more developed a country becomes, the more materialistic one becomes, leading to unhappy citizens. He added that backpackers are not allowed in Bhutan, in order to preserve the culture. He also said that one never starves in Bhutan, because “if you have a problem, it is our responsibility to help you.” In Bhutan, people are not focused on the future, as long as one is happy today.

Let us travel more and see the world and become happier, better citizens.

Review: “Meet the Spirited Authors” Book Signing with Robert Simonson, Kara Newman and Carey Jones

Cover image: © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

It was a Monday night before the Thanksgiving holiday, and I could feel that it was going to be a long week already. Fortunately, I was in the mood for a drink and headed to HGU Hotel for a cocktail to celebrate some of the best drink writers in the industry’s new cocktails books.

‘Meet Spirited Authors’ © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

This was a signing for Hanna Lee’s “Meet the Spirited Authors” book signing event featuring New York Times’ Robert Simonson, Kara Newman of Wine Enthusiast and Carey Jones.  The event celebrates our agency’s 13th anniversary and is part of an ongoing series that gives back to the community and supports authors. And you know, I need to add to my already extensive cocktail collection. I sat with all three guest cocktail authors as they schmoozed with . While all were about mixology and cocktails, each one brought a unique twist. Robert Simonson’s “3-Ingredient Cocktails,” a collection of the greatest drinks of all time, modern and classic, all of which conveniently feature only three ingredients.  Kara Newman’s “Shake. Stir. Sip.”  has an interesting cocktail strategy of using equal parts of the main ingredients and adding a dash of bitters or a splash of seltzer to gild the lily.  Lastly, Carey Jone’s “Brooklyn Bartender” showcases bartenders and cocktail recipes from the booming borough at the height of its international popularity. 

Cocktails! © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Of course no event with such great cocktail writers could leave out amazing drinks. Notable sips included the Danny Boy, a cocktail with Slane Irish Whiskey with truffle infused amaro — you bet you could smell that truffle! Mr. B’s Ballerias had Aviation Gin, St. Germaine Elderflower cordiale and these incredibly cute roses in the middle. Classic looking! And you know if there are cocktails, there are bites including Ahi Tuna Flatbread, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Whiskey Pork Belly, Crispy Chicken, Sea Bass Ceviche and Forest Mushrooms.

For cocktail enthusiasts hunting new ideas, these recipe books will provide plenty of inspiration.

Review: “How to Fight Fake News” Event at the French Consulate on November 14, 2017

Cover image: How to Fight Fake News at the 934 Conférence courtesy of the French Consulate

Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre – Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

“You will be the heroes of this topic,” Alexander Eisenchteter began. Little did we know in the audience that we would be the ones “debating” and “co-creating solutions” at the How to Fight Against Fake News 934 Conférence at the French Consulate.

I suddenly felt more relaxed, although up until that point, I had been in awe of the glamour and trappings of the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue. Looking at my attire, I wondered whether I’d fit in among the well dressed. Straightening my dress, taking a mental deep breath, I switched to “French mode.”

Interior of the French Consulate © Meg for WhereNYC

 

 

Before me stood six large round tables, enough to seat six people each, complete with iPads. As a public school teacher who reads the “5 Things to Know for Your New Day” every morning on the CNN app on my daily commute (and not much more), I though I was out of my depth.

Alexander Eisenchter making the rounds. Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Eisenchteter, co-founder of Stormz, a friendly looking guy with red glasses, approached our table and introduced himself. His interactive presentation focused largely on the audience, as we discovered with the iPads on our table. For a teacher like myself, I know that student-centered lessons are always a plus.

After a brief introduction by Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre, David Andelman, both former editor and publisher of World Policy Journal and journalist for the New York Times discussed the phenomena of “old news that’s surviving today.” Before 24-hours news stations existed, few considered news as ‘fake,’ whereas now, the majority of public have grown skeptical. With the many layers of readers and writers and the complexity of the Internet, for Mr. Andelman, “trust is the most important thing” in order to fight against fake news.

“Nous sommes tous les médias!”  – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mathieu Magnaudeix, U.S. correspondent for the French-based news agency Mediapart, defined fake news as “false information,” often created by “ideological people.” While President Donald Trump derides unfavorable coverage as “fake news to appear as a victim of the media,” his constant presence in the news can inadvertently aid his popularity.

Mediapart calls itself an “ad-free, investigative news website,” that depends on the support of its subscribers. When comparing news coverage in both America and across the pond, Mr. Magnaudeix states that the coverage in the U.S. tends to be more polemical and “talks too much of fights and not much about ‘real’ problems” — unlike its European counterparts. For Mr. Magnaudeix, the solution is to educate oneself rather than complain about fake news. But some in the audience believed that fake news like tabloids are popular due to the entertainment and “instant gratification over what reality is.”

It was then our turn to be media sleuths as we worked on the following:

1) Challenge Storming (i.e. Come up with “How to” questions related to the topic)

2) Generate Seeds of Ideas (i.e. Come up with possible answers to the “How to” questions)

3) Select Most Appealing Seeds (i.e. Add points to appealing answers to the “How to” questions)

4) Present one “solution” as a group

Using the Stormz app on our iPads placed on the tables, each group collaboratively brainstormed questions and ideas. Mr. Eisenchteter, our animated facilitator, brought the whole audience together for a debrief after every 10-15 minutes.

Following the “Challenge Storming,” we searched for common words used among our groups. For example, a commonly used word in our “How to” questions was “reliable,” as in, “How to identify a reliable source?” Like Presi or NearPod, The Stormz app was very engaging and easy to use, allowing us to type our answers, or ‘seeds’ of ideas, while seeing the other groups’ seeds, and then providing feedback. Mr. Eisenchteter then projected the most popular ‘seeds’ including: “Advertising transparency – who is paying for the news?” As an educator, I would definitely consider using Stormz in my classroom.

Our table group came up with the following solution: “We are all media. We are responsible. – Eliminate safe harbor from legal liability for online publishers of fake news,”  which received a round of applause. Some ideas that other groups came up with were “create media literacy classes in schools” and “emphasize critical thinking in the education system.” Although perhaps I was the only teacher amongst the audience, it was refreshing to see how pedagogical activities like this can be used to discuss global affairs – and lead back to education.

French hospitality – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mr. Andelman concluded the event with “Don’t sue [journalists],” and “I love the idea of democracy taking its course.”

After the event, wine and orange juice were on offer in the reception across the hall. As I was on an empty stomach, I enjoyed a glass of orange juice, and left during the  mingling portion of the evening.

It was a satisfying experience to attend, and any teacher would probably appreciate Mr. Eisenchteter’s interactive approach to understanding current events.

Merci, French Consulate, for a very educational event. And yes, I take full responsibility for my words. This is not fake news.

For more information visit the 934 Conference.

Review: Sip Smoky Scotch Cocktails & Limited Release Single Malt Whisky at Flatiron Room-November 6

Cover image: Scottish Tea Time © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

The Flatiron Room, known with their extensive collection of brown spirits—whiskeys, bourbons, single malts—you name it, hosted a very private, exclusive event for media a week ago that yours truly got to try some delicious libations.  This was a night to celebrate GlenDronach and BenRiach, two delicious smokey single malt whiskies from Scotland. Some of the best drink writers in New York City dropped in to reminisce and sip the classics, but the reality for them was to try the rarity.

GlenDronach and BenRiach © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Spoiled for choice, you could go either neat or mixed cocktail depending on the mood. Owner Tommy Tardie of Flatiron Room guided me through the GlenDronach portfolio. including the 12-year-old and the peatier 18-year old. Then, I tried the BenRiach 10-year-old, which according  to Tommy was the blue cheese of the brand. Each one was tasty in its own right,

Having had my “neat” introduction, it was time to dive in straight for the whisky cocktails. The bartenders at the Flatiron Room showcased three signature drinks. First up, was the Smoky Star. I’m quite the sucker for a pretty drink in a coupe glass, especially garnished properly. For fans of smoky cocktails, the name would not disappoint; however, in need of a little more sweet tasting drink, the Scottish Tea really hit the spot.  The hands-down favorite was the Allardice Elixer that was also sweet.

GlenFronach’s Kingsman Edition 1991 being poured © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Towards the end of the night, BenRiach’s Ambassador Stewart Buchanan said a few words to commemorate the brand, while we sipped our suds. He showed us to the GlenFronach’s limited Kingsman Edition 1991 that salutes the new blockbuster Kingsman: The Golden Crown. From the 2,000 bottles produced, only 200 bottles actually reached the American shores. The guest raced to the corner where it was being poured to get a few drops of this exclusive dram.

The night was good laughs, great people and wonderful drinks. While not everyone one can experience this VIP sort of event, so for our readers, here is the recipe to make the Smoky Star for your next adult beverage.

Smoky Star by Young Kim

Smoky Star @ Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Smoky Star

1.5 oz BenRiach 10 Year Old Peated Curiositas

.5 oz Dry Vermouth

.25 oz Maraschino Liqueur

.25 oz Benedictine

1 Cinnamon stick

2 Star Anise

Add all ingredients including 1 cinnamon stick and 1 star anise in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with star anise.  

GlenDronach and BenRiach is the perfect gift for your whisky lover this holiday season. But if you’re going to try a brown tasty drink, head over to the Flatiron Room.

Review: Edible Magazine’s Food Loves Tech Expo 2017

Cover image © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Panel discussions included “What’s Old is New” in the food industry. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Foodies, inventors, and entrepreneurs alike gathered November 3rd and 4th for Edible Magazine’s Food Loves Tech (FLT) expo at Brooklyn’s Industry City. Over a hundred different exhibitors were featured throughout the event, showcasing groundbreaking technologies in and around the food industry, as well as educational entertainment concerning important issues around food supply.

Guests enjoy alcoholic drinks and well as non-alcohol drink with @CuriousElixirs.© Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

From selfies printed onto whipped cream foam, to suppliers of locally sourced produce, FLT proved that the advances that are being made in the industry can and should be accessible to everyone.

Located on the waterfront of Sunset Park,Industry City’s innovative location, bringing together industrial architecture with chic, modern amenities, was a perfectly suited environment for the nature of the events.

Crowds of people gathered around the KabaQ 3D Food table in anticipation of seeing the augmented reality cookie come to life. It was hard to get a sample at the popular Oatly booth this year, serving oat based milk and quirky packaging. The genuine excitement and intrigue of both the vendors and the guest was overwhelming and intoxicating. Each table offered something new to learn and experience. With reluctance, I even tried cricket granola for the first time, from Seek Food, and it was delicious.

Not only did the expo provide an insight into the unimaginable capabilities of food, but it also emphasized a major theme: the basic fundamentals of food being apart of everyone’s future.

“[FLT] unites food and drink innovators,thought-leaders and enthusiasts to experience the future of food and drink,” (foodlovestech.com).

Oatly booth @FoodLovesTech. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Standing alongside reputable companies like Gotham Greens, establishing urban farms since 2009, were first year businesses, ready to take localized produce and make worldly changes. A notable entrepreneur was 17-year-old Priya Mittal. Mittal’s business, GroGreen Tech, supplies unwanted or “ugly” produce, that is often wasted, to businesses and people who can repurpose them. Even her business card, which can be planted into a basil plant, doesn’t go to waste.

Packed crowd at FoodLovesTech. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Normalizing modernized eating and farming are the primary goals for a lot of these businesses, especially for food delivery services, such as HelloFresh, and alternative greenhouses, like AeroFarms.

“I’m really excited about people adopting [HelloFresh] as a lifestyle change where they are able to learn from us… implementing it into their daily routine,” said HelloFresh’s Sales Manager, Andrew Lombardi.

Convenience is no longer the sole priority when it comes to the innovation aspect of the consumer. The future doesn’t inherently imply futuristic. The revolution, however, is a result of the habits being made from how we choose to take part in the food industry.

“[Here] we are able to tell our story. We are able to be very transparent with how we do things and why we believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Julie Qiu, Marketing Director for Australis BarramundiThe Sustainable Seabass. Aiming to enlightening their consumers, Australis Barramundi provides insight into the vast world of seafood and “climate-smart ocean farming.”

Priya Mittal, Founder and CEO of GroGreen Tech. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

A common word that came up for entrepreneurs, concerning products getting into the hands of the consumers, was transparency. What is old is in fact new again, and in the eyes of this years innovators, the “fad” of going organic and green isn’t just appealing; it is necessary.

It seems so painfully obvious, and perhaps even ironic that the food industry in America has gotten to the point of us needing to backtrack in order to make a better future. Food Loves Tech is not just an event establishing the compatibility between food and technology, however expansive and cohesive. FLT strives towards food and technology loving the environment and leaves everyone to question, if everyone made these changes, what would the future look like?

For more information on upcoming events, visit Food Loves Tech.

Review: New York City Craft Beer Festival on November 4, 2017

Cover image: © Tatsuya Aoki for WhereNYC

It was an afternoon of absolute beer-filled bliss at the New York City Craft Beer Festival event on Saturday. After arriving, I was immediately mesmerized by the beer tastings and more (They had a million flavors of beef jerky for sale and even candles made from beer bottles!).

Lit Up candles for sale at Beer Fest (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Upon entering, each patron received a complementary beer-tasting shot glass. Tables stacked with different beers made it difficult to choose where to start. While the afternoon had a slightly low-key crowd, both sessions were full of people who were prepared to go par-tay after they were done enjoying their beer tastings.

Happily, many of the brews were local, along with others from different states and countries (even one from Nicaragua!). Most breweries displayed their flagship beers and new flavors.

Panga Drops beer, brewed in Nicaragua, one of the most unique displays (c) Meg for WhereNYC

There were several highlights of the beers we tried, including the Caramel Porter by Saranac (brewed in Utica, New York). According to the Saranac representative, this beer is a fall/winter beer due to its “darker, sweeter flavor.” On the contrary, the summer and spring flavors are “lighter and more bitter.” The caramel taste of the Caramel Porter was something unexpected. It was not too sweet, and the caramel taste gradually appeared in your mouth, leading to a, “Yep, that’s definitely caramel,” comment that my friend and I both made after we sipped the beer from our shot glasses.

Caramel Porter by Saranac © Meg for WhereNYC

Others were funky yet with delicious flavors, such as Westbrook’s Key Lime Pie flavored beer (brewed in South Carolina), and Golden Road’s Mango Cart beer (brewed in California). These are year round flavors due to their brewing locations. Golden Road’s Mango Cart is inspired by California’s beach weather, and beer fest customers each got a Golden Road cap, which certainly matched the brewery’s Southern California image.

Golden Road’s Cali style beers (c) Meg for WhereNYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my friend and I did our rounds, we learned about beer trivia, including the basics. For example, did you know that IPA stands for Indian Pale Ale? Also, apparently IPAs, which tend to be bitter, are more “West Coast style” than “East Coast style.” According to the folks at Five Boroughs Brewing Company, East Coast style tends to be more “juicy” and less bitter. Hence, the Gose was their “East Coast style” beer. (I did not even know that Gose was a beer style, so this was all new to me.) I guess, for East Coasters, we experience enough daily bitterness from our stressful, uptight lifestyles, so an IPA would not be our go-to beer?

West Coast Style vs. East Coast Style beers by Five Boroughs Brewing Co. (c) Meg for WhereNYC

The festival also featured spirits, such as brandy (e.g. Western Grace), cognac (e.g. Camus), and even tequila (e.g. Blue Nectar). They had beer cocktail tastings that included these spirits, and my favorite mix was the Caramel Porter and Camus mix, naturally. For whiskey lovers, I recommend the Blue Nectar Arejo. If you did not know it was tequila, you would think it was whiskey. It was that whiskey-licious.

Camus Cognac x Caramel Porter = Oh la la… (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Blue Nectar Tequila (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Furthermore, Kombucha was also poppin’ at the event. As a Japanese person, I thought of Kombucha as “kelp tea,” which is what kombucha is in Japan. Here, however, it is actually a “fermented tea” with many health benefits (such as energy gain, improved digestion, etc.) which can have alcohol content. There were many kombucha beers (?), such as Kombrewcha from Patchogue, Long Island. My confused self felt rewarded by the health benefits and did not feel like I was drinking alcohol at all when I tried these “kombucha” beers.

Kombrewcha (Is this beer?) (c) Meg for WhereNYC

Needless to say, the beer festival was an excellent event, even for ones who may not be self-proclaimed beer lovers (like myself).

For more information on upcoming events, please visit New York City Craft Beer Festival.