Review: The Big Chocolate Show at the Waterfront Oct 6, 2017

Cover image: © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Imagine a room full of chocolate… Sounds amazing right? This might seem like a fantasy, but the weekend of October 6th was a dream come true. Over 50 notable chocolate makers and vendors of the industry came together to show off amazing chocolates.

The Big Chocolate Show © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Since its inception in 2016, The Big Chocolate Show has attracted over 5,000 attendees over the three-day expo, with professional experts, foodies, food editors and fans enjoying up-close-and-personal live demos, tasting and pairing classes and of course, a plethora of samples from chocolatiers around the globe at The Terminal Stores on the city’s bustling waterfront.  A notable component to the weekend included the ”Legends” award that honors some of the chocolatey best. This year’s honorees included Sophie and Michael Coe, Ed Seguine, John Scharffenberger and Juan Carlos Motamayor.

Chocolatier Jacques Torres © Vicha Saravay for The Big Chocolate Show 2016

Chocolatier Jacques Torres at the Big Chocolate Show 2016 © Vicha Saravay for The Big Chocolate Show

So I know what you are thinking… Just spill the chocolate beans, Alyssa… what kind of chocolate did you have? Well, I was like a kid in a candy shop! It ranged from all the usual suspects (white, milk, and dark) to drinking chocolate to chocolate with quinoa — you can’t say I did not have anything healthy that night! Soft chocolate with beautiful designs from Chocolate Moonshine was irresistible. Fun political chocolate from DC-based Harper Macaw al la Flip-Flopper (chocolate with huge chunks of toffee). Hoja Verde Had a sweet rose and lemon bar that opened my palate in so many ways.

Chocolate Moonshine © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

One of the most decorated chocolates was William Dean Chocolates, which follows the artisan tradition of creating every truffle, confection, and piece of chocolate by hand, in small batches. The beautifully crafted treats are truly works of art, exciting the eye and intriguing the palate with interesting flavor combinations and vibrant designs.

Both delicious and a treasure to the eye, some of the presentation of some of the chocolate was an eye-popping experience. There were LAZOR engraved chocolates, which were perfect for corporate gifting and party favors. Also, chocolate shape as shoes was totally cute.

I attended the date night portion of the show on Friday night which paired chocolatey desserts with a boozy counterpart.  Before entering the choco-boozy room, I met Celebrity chef, Mary Giuliani who was promoting her new book The Cocktail Party, which was right up my alley!

Chocolate hearts © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

An interesting read, it got me amped up to enter the section of the show dedicated to desserts and spirits.  I soon discovered a lot of local sweet shops paired with some of the most delicious spirits in the industry— and of course, there was chocolate. Spirits like the sweet Indian liquors like Somrus to dessert vodkas like Van Gogh paired up with boozy cupcakes and bacon mousse tarts… YUM!

Truly an unforgettable experience. The Big Chocolate show was truly a sweet experience.

Review: How to Eat Like a Samurai Event on September 26, 2017

Cover image: Discussion with Kanna Himiya at the Japan Society © Meg for WhereNYC

“In order to conquer the world, we need to live a long life. And in order to live a long life, we need to eat properly, having the best food at the proper time.”

From the moment Ms. Kanna Himiya stood up from her seat, I was mesmerized by her pure elegance.

Mr. Romano introducing Ms. Himiya © Meg for WhereNYC

After New York City-based executive chef and restaurant owner in Japan, Mr. Michael Romano, presented Ms. Himiya, she stood up perfectly from her seat without moving her back, which was already formed in perfect posture. Then, before she climbed up the steps to the stage, she faced the audience, revealing her beautiful blue kimono, and bowed in a perfect 45-degree angle. I heard gasps and various “Wow” whispers from people sitting around me. As an American-born Japanese person, I, too, felt the urge to straighten my back in my seat.

For the Japanese, eating is a “Godly act” (i.e. shinji), because one shows grace to honor life, earth, peace and love. The term “Itadakimasu” used before eating, roughly translates as, “I will gratefully have your food.” “Gochiso-samadeshita,” said after eating, means, “I have finished your food and I thank you for giving me this food.” Ms. Himiya adds through an interpreter, “Even though Japan is a tiny island, I believe that it has the best cuisine, full of the most profound history and culture.”

Samurai Cuisine Introduction © Meg for WhereNYC

For Ms. Himiya, Kanazawa, in the Ishikawa prefecture of Japan, has the “healthiest cuisine” and is  the “birth place of samurai cuisine.”

What is the samurai diet?

Essentially, it consists of healthy, well-balanced food with the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. It served both to entertain and represent the samurai’s land and power. The origins of the “samurai diet” started in the Sengoku Period, which directly translates to the “Period of Battle Country.” During this period, the samurais held miso shiru (i.e. miso soup) parties, or shirukou, allowing them to forge alliances. The samurai regimen featured “ritual foods for good luck” before they went to battle. This led to “Kyouoh” (i.e. banquets) during the following long, peaceful Edo Period in Japan, led by Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. Under Tokugawa, the daimyos had to entertain each other, and they did this through Kyouohs, which were full of the “spirit of thanks,” or omotenashi  as they honored each other.

Beer from the Ishikawa Prefecture was also a hit. © Meg for WhereNYC

The samurai’s philosophy of a healthy diet contributed to the betterment of Japanese culture during the Edo period. The samurai regarded fresh, seasonal ingredients as “medicinal.” Staples such as miso, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and umeboshi (i.e. pickled plums) were key to “umami,” which “can only be expressed in Japanese food,” explained Ms. Himiya, who believes that naturally delicious food made with the “spirit of thanks” (i.e. omotenashi) can help achieve world peace.

Soy sauce and dried soy sauce.. along with dressing. Soy-yummy! © Meg for WhereNYC

“I believe [cultural exchange] is the key to having a better world,” said Ms. Himiya through her interpreter. Perhaps a reference to today’s political climate, Mr. Romano, bluntly remarked, “If only our government could see that…” followed by rapturous applause in the audience.

The reception following the talk showcased an array of delicious food and sake samples from Ishikawa prefecture. One could feel like a true samurai in Edo Japan. The exchange of good food, sake, and conversation was almost therapeutic, making me feel very peaceful.

Sake tasting- tastic! © Meg for WhereNYC

The talk by Ms. Himiya was truly sublime, and the sake and food tasting from the Ishikawa prefecture added to the whole experience. It was so enjoyable that I unfortunately missed my chance to receive a signed copy of Ms. Himiya’s book, The Samurai Gourmet. Ah, well… Gochiso-samadeshita.

For more information on upcoming events including Escape East @ 333, Fri. Oct 20, please visit the Japan Society.

Review: Taste of NY Experience Craft Beverage Week – September 12th, 2017

Cover image: Beet Cider © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

As New Yorkers, we are spoiled to have an abundance of fresh ingredients in our food, only matched by our selection of tasty spirits, beer, wine, and cider – we have it all!  Well, it’s no doubt that the local movement is here to stay and one of our great state initiatives in New York is to promote local food and especially the beverage scene. The Taste of NY Experience is a celebration in honor of the first-ever New York Craft Beverage Week started by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which is coming up November 5-11, 2017. The week is designed to promote local artisanal beverage producers from the five boroughs of NYC and reinforce the city as an incomparable travel destination for epicures and drinks enthusiasts.  Over 50 local craft spirits, wines, beers, and ciders artisans came out to the landmark Pier A Harbor House to show off their finest liquid gems.

Taste of New York Sign (C) Alyssa Tognetti

One of the major standouts to me personally was how many great ciders there are in New York State, and now with apple season in full force, it’s a no-brainer that this would be the choice ingredient. Some of the cideries featured were Brooklyn Cider, Doc’s Draft Cider, Bad Seed, and of course, Angry Orchard, which brought some of their unique ghost bottles to wow guests! The most eye-popping and tastebud gamechangers of this category that I tasted was actually not made from apples but beets. If you are not afraid of beets, Pennings Farm Ginger Beet Cider is worth the taste – plus the pinkish-purple is quite mesmerizing! If you are not a cider traditionalist, then Doc’s Draft Hard Pumpkin is a refreshing change guaranteed to get your proper pumpkin spice fix for this year.

Nahmias et Fils Distillery Mahia (C) Alyssa Tognetti

If beer is your vice, then there are no shortage of breweries in New York State. My latest beer obsession was Greenport Brewing was there with two of their finest beer. I found my newest favorite IPA from War Horse Brewing called Lieutenant Dan. Yes, named after Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump.

Angry Orchard Ghost Bottles (C) Alyssa Tognetti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For wine lovers, there was a wonderful selection: including Stoutridge Vineyard which has no sulfates. It was incredibly fresh. The take the whole farm to table movement to heart. Other amazing wineries that should be noted for their deliciousness are Sheldrake Point and Enlightenment Wines.

Sheldrake Point (C) Alyssa Tognetti

But if you’re after something stronger, New York State does have a fine share of spirits. One of the most intriguing spirits happened to be called Mahia from Morocco and made from figs from Nahmias et Fils Distillery in Yonkers. They are the only local Mahia spirit in the US. Another notable spirit producer is Hudson Valley’s Denning’s Point in Beacon with their award-winning Maid of the Meadow, herbs and wild honey infused in a wheat-based spirit, which mixes quite well in cocktails or is quite lovely to just sip.

If any of these amazing New York State spirits intrigue you, then run to your nearest Taste of NY store.  Learn more at taste.ny.gov 

Review: Eurocircle Annual White Party at the Ganesvoort Park Rooftop, July 25, 2017

Cover image: © Mike Bas for Eurocircle

View from the rooftop of the Gansevoort Park Hotel. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Meeting people in the city can be daunting, especially when options are often limited to an app or a poorly lit bar with a sticky flooring. But, if you’re new to the New York area or even to the country, that task can feel even more isolating in an already unfamiliar place.

Last Tuesday night, July 25th, the congested summer air of the city decided to take a break and cool the evening for Eurocircle’s Annual White Party on the rooftop of Gansevoort  Park Rooftop.

© Mike Das for Eurocircle

People gathered the venue dressed head-to-toe in all white attire, including a wide range of creative accessories. From fedoras, fascinators, and even fluorescent lights, partygoers sported some really outrageous  were decorated and fully committed to the festivities.

Eurocircle’s other events the Masquerade Ball at the Empire © WhereNYC

Eurocircle, founded in 1999, is a global community for individuals to network and meet up with Europeans, expats, and other travelers in their city. Groups currently reside in 48 major cities around the world, and their circle is continuously growing. Annual trips are organized for members, as well as wine tastings, concerts, and other exciting excursions. Currently, they are planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand later this year.

“It’s all about having fun…Come with us and mingle for a night with Europeans and Europhiles,” the Eurocircle website states. “Moving in the right circles!”

Dressed in whites © Mike Das for Eurocircle

Despite the allure of the evening, and the exclusivity of being apart of “a free for members only” event, there was a crowded sense of being constantly observed, of people guessing ethnicities and backgrounds. Even though Eurocircle offers an opportunity to meet people in a new environment, there is an apparent awareness that European people are the obsession amongst everyone’s narrative. If you aren’t European you love European people, is the understanding. Additionally, even though anyone can become a member of Eurocircle, there is a price tag for certain events.

Admittedly, I am neither European nor am I particular about associating within specific circles, so the recognition that this party was not meant for me, a 26-year-old graduate student from California, is very apparent. Both the bar and the outdoor spaces were overly compacted with people ranging from their late thirties and older, perhaps a bracket of people that is slightly out of reach in relatability to my preferred dollar beers and interpretive millennial dance moves. The ambience was hard to appreciate when trying to get past the poorly executed bar. The drink special for the night was $10 Absolute drinks, but these were difficult to acquire unless you were willing to wait.

Crowded bar at Eurocircle event. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

I took my $15 cocktail, in a deceiving four ounce glass, out to the terrace. I enjoyed the views of the lights overlooking Park Avenue and appreciated the structure of the evening, regardless of being squished up against a bench that already had too many people. I watched the newest members meandering to different countries around the bar until they found new friends they were comfortable connecting with.
Meeting people as an adult is difficult, and having outlets to do so is relieving in a city that can be overwhelming for anyone. If you are interested in connecting with Europeans all over the world and participating in the events that are available, check out Eurocircle, and become a member for free.

Review: The Beer-Changing Magic of Brewing with Hops at The Greene Space, July 19, 2017

I found myself on a Thursday night out and drinking a few hoppy beers but not at a bar but at the radio WNYC Greene Space.  Like they say Thursday is the new Friday.

© Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

This was The Beer-Changing Magic of Brewing with Hops talk and tasting emceed by owner Jimmy’s No. 43, host of Beer Sessions Radio and beer aficionado Jimmy Carbone, who kicked off a serious beer talk and brought some of his beer buddies to discuss the popularity of hoppy, sudsy thirst quenchers.

© Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

Before entering the Greene Space main doors, I received a full bottle of Lagunitas IPA — it was that or the Pilsner, but I was here for the IPAs. I walked in holding a check list of beers featured on the tasting menu. Before taking my seat, I swooped in for some delicious cheese and bread topped with roast beef. Then, I headed straight to the tasting tables lined, which included Two Juicy Unfiltered from Two Roads Brewing Co., Tools of the Trade Extra Pale Ale and Power Tools IPA from Industrial Arts Brewing Co., and Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing. I tasted one before realizing it would be better to sample the brews during each presentation.

Jimmy Carbone (right) at the Breakfestival 2016 © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Jimmy’s line-up included many well-known beer experts ranging from various industries: Jeff O’Neil, founder and proprietor of Industrial Arts Brewing Company in Garnerville, New York, which focuses on using the best ingredients available to make “fresh, clean, hoppy beers”; John Segal, co-owner of Segal Ranch a third-generation, family hop farm widely known among craft brewers for estate-quality hops and a commitment to innovation in hop growing; Katherine Kyle, a managing partner at New York City’s Blind Tiger Ale House; and John Holl, writer, author of American Craft Beer Cookbook, co-host of Steal This Beer podcast and senior editor of Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine.  Each person brought a different perspective and story to the table.

© Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

“Did anyone think IPAs would become so popular?” Jimmy asked his fellow panelists. This opened up the discussion with the history of the IPA, beers like Liberty, dating back 40 years ago, that introduced pale ales  to the public. Although the initial reaction was mixed, eventually beer drinkers grew to like the bitterness, which at the time was the major shock appeal. Still more people were drawn to light lagers at the time. That has changed, according to Hall, who said people are asking “what IPAs do you have on tap?” Likewise, Katherine Kyle of Blind Tiger discussed how of her 28 her beer lines, 5-9 of them are IPAs. She can’t keep an IPA on very long since it’s always in demand- more than anything else.

@Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

The discussion was an eye opener to beer industry as a whole. It was both informative and interactive with the audience by passing around different types of hops and the pellets.

After schmoozing with the panelists, I grabbed some more cheese and brews before heading home.

To learn more about upcoming events or WNYC, please visit the Greene Space and catch Jimmy Carbone’s Beer Sessions Radio show here.

Review: The Rubin Museum of Art’s 2017 Block Party and Sound of the Street

Cover image: Crowd at Kirtan with the Bhakti Center. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Inside The World of Sound. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

When first walking into The Rubin Museum of Art to enter the newest exhibition, The World Is Sound, visitors are immediately asked to take part in the imagination of sound. Before entering the elevator onto the sixth floor, one question establishes our expectations for the exhibit: What is the first sound you remember?

An odd sense of nostalgia overcame me as I tried to search for my own personal answer to that question, an answer that I wasn’t sure I could articulate as definite. How does one remember sound when they have no concept of what those sounds mean?

When thinking about my experience, it wasn’t something I instinctually heard, but rather something seen and felt. The soothing vibrations of my mother’s voice as I fell asleep on her chest, the light from under the doorframe flickering to the footsteps and muffled hums of voices outside, while I curiously listened from a crib in a dark room.

Tibetan Community of NY/NJ © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

The World Is Sound asks us to interact with sound as a universal, multisensory experience. Touching the walls of the gallery to listen to mantras sung by monks visitors got lost in the chanting of the collective Om in an immersive sound installation room. Tibetan culture colored the rituals of sound while a scientific explanation behind resonant sound in our universe, maintained a tangible understanding of it. The exhibit itself poses a new question when leaving: What is the lasting effect or sound of the universe’s creation?

The exhibit was the perfect foundation for entering the annual block party, Sounds of the Street, which took place in front of the museum last Sunday, July 16th.
From the tranquil submersion of the sounds inside the museum to the energetic vibe of the streets, a universal vibration carried over. Children made their own music with pots and pans while artists on the sidewalks drew the sounds they were making.

Learning new instruments.© Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Visitors of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed both exhibit and block party, thanks to the interactive nature of the event including various craft tables, meant to appeal to both children and adults.

Participants made art pieces from bubbles and constructed their own instruments from ordinary appliances. That inclusiveness was even available at the food trucks, like Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream, serving both classic and vegan options. Various flavors of food were available like Korilla Korean BBQ as well as the museum’s Café Serai dishing up Himalayan specialties along with wine and beer.

Beef and kimchi tacos from Korilla.© Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

The day was full with plenty of food and constant entertainment. Performances by The Blue Angels Drumline and girls from the Tibetan Community of NY/NJ, kept the crowd actively listening during the event. Meditation spaces were available along with a silent disco booth, providing individuals with isolation amongst the street.

In the final unifying moments of the event, a kirtan concert with the Bhakti Center perfectly emphasized the purpose of participating in sound.
“A kirtan is never performed alone,” Bhakti Center told the crowd as they collectively reached towards the sky, thanking the street and New York City for the constant vibrations of the day.

Live art painting on stage © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC

Regardless of belief or perspective in one’s awareness of listening, many understood that sounds are most certainly felt by all.

For more information on exhibits and upcoming events, please visit the Rubin Museum of Art.

Review: AWIB Cheese and Japanese Whisky Pairing at the French Cheese Board

Cover image: Suntory Toki Whisky at the French Cheese Board © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Story contributor Kaori Mahajan

Highball cocktails with Suntory Toki © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Lowering my nose into my glass, the mélange of whisky and bubbles tingled in my nostrils as I took a careful sip. Although not a fan of whisky, the Highball cocktail with a twist of grapefruit and carbonated soda was really refreshing and a nice way to kick off the event at the French Cheese Board.

Once associated as a man’s drink, women have increasingly embraced whisky, snapping up nearly 37% of the market share in the U.S. From the 1980s’ powerbroker drink choice, the ladies have begun organizing their own whisky-themed events. For some, it is a desire to try something different. Typically, cheese is often paired with wine or beer, but according to Asian Women In Business founder Bonnie Wong, it was excuse to experiment with delicious French cheeses. Similar to the cheese and sake event last year, AWIB’s Japanese whisky and cheese pairing was about pushing boundaries and bridging cultures.

Dazzling display of French cheeses © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

The French Cheese Board is no stranger to unorthodox cheese pairings at its concept store in SoHo, whose events include cheese and Japanese tea as well as a 50 Shades of Grey-themed chocolate and cheese soirée, where blind-folded patrons reached in a gold mystery box of creamy goodies. Since its quirky lab incarnation in 2016, the FCB has dazzled New Yorkers with amazing towering displays of cheese, pop-ups and foodie meet-and-greets.

Hibiki Whisky and Camembert © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

For whisky lovers, Suntory needs no introduction. Standing alongside the top producers of Scotland and Ireland, the Japanese maker’s whiskies rank among the world’s best. Famed for its award-winning, floral Hibiki and Yamazaki, tonight the Japanese distiller showcased its top-selling classics as well as its newest star, Toki, part of Suntory’s promotional campaign which included a recent stopover at Roki Brasserie. Recently available in the U.S., Toki combines a spicy, oaky blend of Hakushu, Yamazaki and Chita distilleries.

“The pairing process was a trial and error” – said Rosser Lomax from Jim Beam Brands Co, part of the Suntory Group, who had the difficult task of pairing Japanese whiskies and French cheeses. Happily, many of them worked very well. He matched Toki with a soft cow’s milk cheese Chaource, which has a creamy, crumbly texture, bringing it to a whole new level.

Suntory Whisky including Toki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Yamazaki © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Fans of smoky whisky would delight in Suntory’s Hakushu, a 12-year single, champagne gold malt. Far from a super smoky Laphroaig, Hakushu is a bit subtler with a sweet pear note. The choice of creamy Camembert from Normandy was really nice with the smokiness of the Hakushu worked well with the  buttery, mushroomy flavor of the Camembert.

Hibiki, known for its incredible floral bouquet and complex aromas with a hint of Mizunara, a Japanese oak, seemed an interesting choice to pair with the Rolls Royce of French cheeses, the fiery orange, nutty Mimolette. Interestingly, the honey sweet and candied citrus flavors of Hibiki cut through the cheese’s super sharp nuttiness.

Charles Duque of the French Cheese Board discussing Mimolette © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

Finally, we moved to Japan’s number one seller and Suntory’s flagship single malt, Yamazaki 12 year, which has an agreeable fruity, buttery caramel note that carries a warming cinnamon finish. Normally paired with soft fruit, it seemed natural to enjoy it with sheep’s milk Tomme Brûlée, which is often served with apricot or fig jam. The whisky and saltiness of the cheese was so well balanced that I could not help wanting more.

A cheese shrine © Kaori Mahajan for WhereNYC

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Daring as these combinations were, AWIB’s activities also stretch beyond the casual meet-and-greet. Though AWIB’s primary purpose is to support Asian professional women through forums and fundraising, the group often includes non-members and spouses at its meet-ups. Events include test-driving Teslas and an upcoming, colorful Diwali Day event at Bloomingdales.

For more information on membership and activities, visit AWIB.

Review: French Tuesdays Bastille Day Cruise July 14, 2017

Cover image: French Tuesdays © Daniel Serrette and Magdalina

French Tuesdays: The Friday Edition

French Tuesdays

Lively and loads of dancing © Daniel Serrette and Magdalina

Mellow mists and balmy drizzles veiled the Hudson River’s Pier 40 on Friday evening as blue, white, and red bedecked revelers boarded a ship to celebrate Bastille Day with a three-hour cruise around Manhattan. The evening illustrates just how well French Tuesdays – an invitation-only global community, classy social networking phenomenon, and lifestyle brand – has reached yet another level of excellence in the event planning world with panache and flair. It partnered with Champagne Canard-Duchêne and XL Airways to host a Bastille Day celebration cruise for New York French Tuesdays members and guests.

Champagne Canard-Duchêne and XL Airways © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

“It was the consecration of the unity of France,” explained French Senate Chairman Henri Martin of this holiday’s genesis and importance in his 1880 address to the Senate. Indeed, the Storming of the Bastille fortress – a symbol of royal authority and its abuses – on July 14th in 1789 had proved a turning point in the French Revolution, and on July 14th the following year Bastille Day was a celebration of peace. Finally in 1880 July 14th was voted an annual national holiday for the Republic and today is met with celebrations around the world. Earlier in the day even the Trumps and the Macrons cemented a new and perhaps unlikely friendship in Paris over dinner at the Eiffel Tower’s Jules Verne restaurant.

The Statue of Liberty – which had been merely a distant apparition if not notably curtained by clouds thus far – emerged in all her lighted glory. © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

Flash back to the river cruise celebration in New York: a photo booth, a raffle for XL Airways tickets to Paris, music, and air conditioning graced the middle deck, leaving the top deck as open air for those who wanted to take in the views and quieter night. The crew served dinner on the bottom deck, and the two bars offered bottle service, flutes by the glass, as well as cocktails. Wine was curiously limited to a French rose.

The ship motored north along the Hudson before turning around to head south. It tucked around a cloud-encased lower Manhattan, up the East River by DUMBO, and continued north beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, eventually U-turning to head south again.

Red, white, and blue bedecked revelers boarded a ship to celebrate Bastille Day with a three-hour cruise around Manhattan. © Anne Haack for WhereNYC

This time the ship kept motoring south beyond the island, and suddenly a hush could be heard amongst the revelers. Through the gauzy twilight that had given way to a thick and dark humid night, the Statue of Liberty – which had been merely a distant apparition if not notably curtained by clouds thus far – emerged in all her lighted glory. (The copper statue was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in the late 1800s.) Francophiles sipping French bubbles put down their glasses and walked to the stern, gazing upon Lady Liberty as though mesmerized. The shipped stopped for a spell, and for one languorously magic moment it felt like silent night.

As the vessel headed back to Pier 40, Lady Liberty faded back into the fog. The party got thumping once again, with French Tuesdays’ CEO Pierre Battu selecting the raffle winners before the ship docked at 10 pm. Sated with rose and champagne, at least two merry revelers including yours truly trotted off the gangplank and made a beeline to the West Village, capping off Bastille Day celebrations at Buvette with charcuterie and a proper carafe of red wine – French red wine bien sûr.

For more information on membership and upcoming events, visit French Tuesdays.

Review: FIAF’s Summer in the South of France Tasting July 9, 2017

Les Hauts de Janeil, Rosé, IGP Pays d’Oc 2016 FIAF Summer in the South of France © WhereNYC

Escaping the summer heat at FIAF’s Bastille Day on 60th Street, celebrating the French national holiday, we dipped into the Summer in the South of France Tasting, one of two indoor events at FIAF. Invitees were greeted at the entrance of the tasting event with a typical Provence aperitif, a pastis-eau from sponsor Ricard. With each refreshing sip, the mood grew more and more spirited.

Cocktails by Ricard at FIAF © WhereNYC

Gourmandise was a top priority for those attending. First stop, with cocktail in hand, was the fromage-charcuterie table. Guests filled their plates with a variety of cheeses from the famous French cheese maker, Président. Tastings included an array of France’s all-stars like nutty Comté, Emmental of the Alps, and the Pyrenee sheep-milk P’tit Basque, the creamy Triple-Crème Brie, and the pungent blue Rocquefort, served with toasts of French baguettes from Pain d’Avignon bakery. Charcuterie, including a pork paté and a chicken and goose paté, as well as a dried sausage from Les Trois Petits Cochons, was a huge hit.

Summer in the South of France tasting drew in crowds © Lise for WhereNYC

 

Hédonisme, Rosé, 2016 was also a hit.© WhereNYC

Tasters made their own cheese pairings with the various wines on show, which came largely from the Southern Languedoc region, promoted by tourism bureau Sud de France. For those after a sudsy thirst-quencher, there were blond and blanche varieties of the French beer Kronenbourg 1664. The sparkling Crémant de Limoux, Thomas Jefferson by Gérard Bertrand was a crowd pleaser and finished off quickly.

Looking around the room, it was obvious that attendees were in the south of France spirit, with the majority of tasters opting for traditional summer choice of rosé. Happily most of the wines retail under $17, an attractive bargain for an upcoming dinner party. Some of the favorites were the crisp Domaine Hondrat rosé with its original looking bottle, and Lot 65 French Fusion white, dubbed summer in a glass.

Upon leaving the tasting, a certain je ne sais quoi was still missing from this escape to France. Stumbling right into an authentic crêpe chef still tossing sweets at the street fair outside was indeed the grand finale of the Bastille celebration.

Review: FIAF’s Bastille Day on 60th Street July 9, 2017

Cover image:  Karen Peled and Co. dancing the Cancan © WhereNYC

Croissants and pains au chocolat by Bien Cuit © WhereNYC

Crême brûleé © WhereNYC

From one stall to another, it was a magnificent display of delightful delicacies and fragrant aromas wafting through the narrow passage as crowds of people happily trolled through the one of New York’s largest street fairs, stretching from Lexington to Fifth Ave. Brooklyn-based Bien Cuit’s pains au chocolat stacked like flakey golden bars with a sliver of sinful, dark chocolate. With a blowtorch, a woman nearby expertly caramelized the sugar coating on the tops of crême brûlées.

Next door armed with a pair of tongs, Chef Daniel Monneaux of Le Bec Fine Foods, a friendly, but gruff character, wooed passer-bys with sizzling, steamy merguez sausages on mini hotdog buns. Then, there were the vibrant displays worthy of a street-food Michelin star. Thomas Keller Group’s Bouchon Bakery’s three-tier cake stand was like a high tea fit for the Queen.

Steps away, one couldn’t also help but marvel at the colorful bundles of creative macarons by Mad Mac.

And of course, who could forget beloved, pâtissier François Payard’s éclairs au café, each garnished with crystalized coffee beans, and the endless rows of perfectly made lemon, peach and raspberry tarts, each for a fiver.

Raspberry tarts and chocolate éclairs by François Payard © WhereNYC

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Financier Bakery © WhereNYC

Fans of the classic crêpe bretonne would delight in the sticky banana and drizzled chocolate crêpes by The Crêpe Escape. The only thing needed was a fruity-flavor sparkling water from one the Perrier gals.

Drawing inspiration from the fragrances and flavors of Provence, Sel Magique showcased some of its delicious herb-salt blends with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes.

Cheerful smiles at FIAF’s Booth © WhereNYC

In celebration of France’s fête nationale, or national holiday, FIAF’s annual Bastille Day on 60th Street is synonymous with Christmas for many Francophile New Yorkers. Far from the memory of the bloody insurrection at the fort of Bastille in 1789, the commemoration in New York had a more cheerful take, filled with great food, wine, live entertainment and prizes. Every year, FIAF hosts two very special indoor-tastings including the super-indulgent Champagne and Chocolate pairing in the Sky Room, where guests sample some of the finest chocolates from Chocolat Moderne, Marie-Belle and La Maison du Chocolat. Below in the Tinker Auditorium, patrons can enjoy Southern wines from the Languedoc and elsewhere, 1664 beer, or a refreshing, pastis cocktail by Ricard.

Confectionary and Biscuit purveyor La Cure Gourmande  © WhereNYC

While there were the traditional sights of long-legged ladies in fishnets performing cancan dance, there were also unusual additions to this year’s line-up including: It’s Showtime NYC, which honestly underwhelmed even with an improvised cha-cha-cha audience-participating climax. Away from the stage, the entertainment continued with mimes, and the brass Hungry March Band weaved the crowds with cheerful sounds.

Mimi Catherine Gasta © WhereNYC

Needing a bit of refreshment, perhaps a little drunken solace away from the sweltering heat and pushing mob, I wandered to the VIP Room tucked away in Amali for glass of rosé and plateful of baguette, bleu d’Auvergne, brie and some slabs of pâté. While there were several wines to choose from, I was particularly drawn to the refreshing, unique rosés from the Languedoc region of France. Among the wines of Provence, Bordeaux, and Loire, it is unforgivable to miss those  along France’s Southwestern coast. The 2016 Hédonisme by Gérard Bertrand and Syrah-blend Les Hauts de Janeil of the same year were everything you want with a rosé, refreshingly dry with a slight fruity afternote.

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Wines of the South were a hit in Summer in the South of France tasting. © WhereNYC

The Pays d’Oc as it’s also known has a coastal rustic, dry charm with breathtaking seaport towns like the Port Wenn-like Collioure, near the Spanish-Catalan border and the fast-growing, young city of Montpellier. Too often overshadowed by neighboring Provence, the Languedoc region offers a more affordable, but no-less-enjoyable vacation destination with great food and impressive wines like the famous Pic Saint-Loup, Minervois and Château Coulon. In an effort to boost tourism to one of France’s most underrated regions, Sud de France booth promoted its line of tours outside and showcased some amazing wines in the Summer in South of France tasting at the FIAF Tinker Auditorium.

Sud de France and Le Boat © WhereNYC

Despite crowds and summer, the buzz of FIAF’s Bastille Day celebration was exceptionally jovial with vibrance, indulgent delights and sounds that captured the free revolutionary-spirit of France without any mayhem.

Don’t miss FIAF’s upcoming First Tuesdays with wine, cheese, mingling and more.