Review Edible Escape 2017 October 19, 2017

Cover image: Edible Escape 2017 © Lise for WhereNYC

New York City Brewer and Restaurant Paulaner on Bowery was also a huge hit. © Lise for WhereNYC

Fall was indeed in the air at Edible Escape’s tasting event hosted by Edible Manhattan. Tastings offered city-dwellers an escape through globally inspired food and drink from around the world with an abundance of fall flavors and seasonal goodies. Pier A Harbor House was an amazing setting for the occasion as attendees were treated with a view overlooking the Statue of Liberty, plenty of room to mix and mingle around the tasting tables, and even the opportunity try their dance moves with a tango lesson. The many notable tastings were presented from restaurants, tea houses, wineries, breweries, and catering joints in the city, as well as in Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

The buzz this year at Edible Escape was incredible. © Lise for WhereNYC

Upon entering the top floor of the Harbor House, attendees had no problem jumping right into dessert. First stop for this taster was from the Vienna Calling Catering table, with its hard-to-pass apple strudel. With the fall fruit also on the menu, Brooklyn Cider House offered a flight of ciders made from apples in their own Hudson Valley orchard.

 

 

Pier A Harbor House © Lise for WhereNYC

Another fan favorite was the butter chicken dish presented by the chef from Badshah, a modern Indian restaurant located in Hell’s Kitchen. The chef graciously replenished tasters’ bowls with seconds, as the dish was too good to be satisfied with just one bite!

As thirst set in, Wines of Argentina’s table graciously filled glasses with a variety of wines from the Mendoza region, its standout being the Trinita Grand Reserve, a blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Wine in hand, one could easily mistake themselves for Buenos Aires as tango music filled the air and aroma from Balvanera’s empanadas and steak tartines with homemade chimichurri sauce drifted.

Loire Valley Wines also appeared at Edible Escape 2016 © WhereNYC

 

An exceptional stop was at Ghost & Grits, where the Indian born chef fused a ghost pepper jam from his Indian roots with southern-style grits, a nod to his stay in Tennessee for a period of time before settling in New York. Although they do not yet have a brick and mortar restaurant, foodies can try his grits at Smorgasburg.

The event also hosted tables with Kombucha beverages, wines from the Loire Valley in France, German style beer and a beer cake dessert, hot and cold tea tastings, cheese plates, seafood dishes, and sake. Attendees left Pier A Harbor House, after a world tour of gastronomy and a pallet full of global flavors.

For more information on upcoming events, visit Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.

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: Urban Adventures Brewery-Winery-Distillery Tour May 18, 2017

Cover image: Bridget Firtle of The Noble Experiment © Lise for WhereNYC

Spending the end of the week with Urban Adventures on their Brooklyn Brewery-Winery-Distillery Tour was the perfect way to kick off what felt like the first taste of summer in NYC. Tour-goers got a crash course on the history of boozing and booze-making in the New York City area, dating back to Prohibition, all the while enjoying some hidden gems of Brooklyn’s own craft beverages.

Urban Adventures Brewery © Lise Bienvenu for WhereNYC

The first stop of the tour was the distillery the Noble Experiment in East Williamsburg / Bushwick. Guests escaped the sweltering temperatures outside and enjoyed a glass of crisp Chardonnay from Brooklyn’s very own rooftop winery, Rooftop Reds. A white blend was poured next, as founder Devin Shomaker spoke about his project and the rooftop’s production. Rooftop Reds is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and will welcome its first harvest this October. In the meantime, the rooftop winery hosts a variety of events during which wine aficionados can sample their production of wines created with grapes grown in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York.

Guests were treated to a guided tour. © Lise Bienvenu for WhereNYC

The Noble Experiment is home to the one-woman distillery of Owney’s Rum. With a spacious tasting room in the front and the rum distillery behind a large window in the back, the space is open to tours and tastings of the small-batch rum. Stepping into the distillery, the smell of molasses was strong, as founder Bridget Firtle explained the distilling process. The tour ended back at the tasting room, where visitors imbibed on the white rum (served on the rocks, as suggested by Bridget).

Owney’s © Lise Bienvenu for WhereNYC

Interboro Spirits & Ales was the last stop on the tour. With IPA in hand, guests were welcomed into the distillery side of Interboro for a rundown of the various boozes produced there. At Interboro’s taproom, visitors can experience nine beers on tap from the brewery, whiskey from the distillery, or their canned gin and tonic made from their own distilled gin.

Urban Adventures Brewery © Lise Bienvenu for WhereNYC

Urban Adventures’ carefully curated tour left attendees wanting for more as the last drops were indulged. With the list of craft beverage producers on their list of organized Brooklyn tours, there are many more left to experience!

For more information on upcoming tours and events, visit Urban Adventures.

Review: French Tuesdays 14th Anniversary at Zuma April 21, 2017

© Mike for French Tuesdays

Cover image: Mike for French Tuesdays

Larger-than-life Happy Birthday cards decorated the tables around the upstairs bar lounge of the trendy Zuma, setting the scene for French Tuesdays’ Fourteenth Anniversary celebration. With fourteen years of experience, the fête was fresher than ever, welcoming new and old members to dance the night away.

Girls night out © Mike for French Tuesdays

Guests indeed dressed to impress, as the FT’s invitation suggested, with one of the event’s hosts decked out in a white tuxedo. Each flute of champagne encouraged invitees to leave their workweek and political thoughts behind, regardless of the looming first round of the French presidential elections taking place this weekend.

Bubbly on ice © Mike for French Tuesdays

Attendees indulged in an array of selected menu items created specially for the event, like Zuma’s signature Japanese-inspired gindara no saikyo miso (black cod marinated in saikyo or white miso), hot and cold appetizers, and sushi and sashimi plates. Most partygoers opted for a sponsored champagne cocktails and gathered around friends and newcomers as the DJ’s hits and the accompanying percussionist, Trabi Lizie, kept partiers on their feet.

© Mike for French Tuesdays

At midnight the FT creators counted down to the event’s anniversary, with a birthday cake to top off the celebration. The soirée raged long into the evening with Zuma’s bartenders graciously keeping guests’ drinks full.

The birthday celebration continued the tradition of French Tuesday’s nightlife events, as the organization continues the party going beyond their fourteen years of socializing.

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

Review: African Culinary Traditions with Pierre Thiam March 30 at MOFAD

Pierre Thiam @ Lise for WhereNYC

Think of food as a common language uniting people, according to Chef Pierre Thiam whose talk at MOFAD challenged the audience to view traditional African cuisine as a culturally multifaceted entity of several overlapping influences and roots that trace back millennia. Kicking off with a cooking demonstration, Chef Thiam began with the ancient grain fonio from his native Senegal. Described as the most nutritious grain ever heard of, Thiam’s presentation included an excerpt from a National Geographic documentary, which featured a women’s coop that organizes the grain’s cultivation and processing in Senegal. As per Chef Thiam, this grain is grown in a remote, poor area of Senegal that has largely been affected by the current refugee crisis. Fonio also has tremendous economic importance and could be the perfect cash crop for an impoverished people, thanks to its array of nutrients and levels of amino acids not present in other popular grains, like rice and quinoa.

Precious fonio © Lise for WhereNYC

Ironically, both the effects of colonization and overall demand have downgraded fonio’s benefits. To this day, the grain still remains elusive in the big cities of Senegal. Having been cultivated for the past 5,000 years, the interest in fonio dropped during the French colonization of West Africa, after which Africans largely stopped growing fonio in favor of cash crops like peanuts that the French deemed more important. Nevertheless, remote arid areas of West Africa continued to cultivate fonio, as it requires little water, poor soil, and no pesticides.

Fonio, which is sandy and grainy in texture, has a somewhat nuttier flavor than couscous and is easy to cook. The chef shared a Malian saying that “Fonio never embarrasses the cook.” Chef Thiam steamed it in a cheesecloth for fifteen minutes, warning that it is a generous grain and will quadruple in size after being cooked. The versatility of this gluten-free grain allows it to go well with salads, stews, or even be ground down flour.

Chef Pierre Thiam’s dishes packed amazing flavors. © Lise for WhereNYC

While being treated to the fragrant cooking of Chef Thiam’s traditional sauce of onions, tomato paste, peanut butter, and seasonings, he shared stories and history of Senegal, a country whose food and cooking is so richly embedded in the culture and everyday life. He described the “soundtrack of cooking in Africa,” moving to the beat of the mortar and pestle pounding away, as he added peanut butter to his sauce. The chef explained some of his secret ingredients in Senegalese cooking, like the spice dawa dawa that gets its strong smell from the fermented locust bean and can be added to flavor his spicy salsa, or “confiture de piment,” that accompanies most Senegalese dishes.

His newest cookbook Senegal is also jam-packed with stories Thiam has collected from his beloved homeland that illustrate his recipes through his homeland’s history and traditions, allowing readers to learn more about the country’s past and important issues of today. Recipes from the cookbook are of traditional Senegalese cooking with influences from the baguettes of the French, the Portuguese pastel, and spring rolls from Vietnam, cultural dishes Thiam suggested that were always embraced by the food Senegalese mothers cooked.

Michael Twitty introduced two kinds of okra stew: Southern and Ghanaian © WhereNYC

Writer Michael Twitty previously talked at MOFAD about African roots in Southern cuisine © WhereNYC

He also shares the connections that American cooking has to Senegal that dates back to the slave trade. What is known today as Carolina rice has its origins from from West Africa and later brought to the Americas on slave ships, along with other Southern cooking staples such as sweet potatoes and okra. As those familiar with Louisiana gumbo might be surprised to know, the African word gumbo means okra, an essential ingredient in some versions of the Southern dish.

Those interested in trying out fonio for themselves will be pleased to know that they will be able to find it in the Harlem Whole Foods as early as this summer, and that many African grocery stores in Harlem and the Bronx already have the West African grain.

For information on upcoming events, please visit MOFAD.