Riedel Me This

"So you're telling me the shape, size and rim diameter of a glass can affect the way the liquid inside tastes and smells...I'm not sure I believe it," said a man sitting in front of me during a spirit tasting seminar last week at the Riedel showroom in New York City.

"Yes!" Maximilian Riedel excitedly proclaimed in his Austrian accent, "Shall we get started?"

Maximilian (11th Generation glassmaker) gave an overview of the tasting mats in front of us, while pointing out the order we will taste each spirit.

He explained his tag line: See, Smell then Taste, which was what he wanted us to do each time we picked up a new glass. First you are to look at the color of the beverage in the glass, swirl it around and look and the viscosity, pay attention to the color range from tilting the glass on it's side. Next swirl the beverage and put your nose inside the glass to smell the aromas, feel the strength of the alcohol on your nose and eyes, note the aromatic components (i.e. vanilla, oak, caramel). Last take a small sip of the beverage letting it cover the mouth in order to reach all taste receptors of the tongue, then either sip or swallow the liquid.

And so we began...Maximilian instructed us to pick up the first spirit located in the plastic cup on the far left corner, a Reposado Tequila. We first looked at it, then smelled it and then finally tried it. It tasted like a regular 'ol tequila shot to me...smelling of heavy alcohol and had a burning sensation as it went down my throat, leaving me with a slight pucker and shiver. Next he had us pour the remaining liquid from the plastic cup into the Riedel Tequila Glass (which resembled a Champagne Flute).

We then went through the motions again: Sight, this time the color of the Reposado really came through showcasing a beautiful light amber hue sparkling in the light; and the legs of the tequila slowly trickled down the sides of the glass like a graceful swan dive.

Smell: to my surprise, the glass really did change the dynamic of the beverage. I wasn't getting the over-powering alcohol burn on my eyes and nose, it was much more refined. I also started to smell the richness of the tequila, it was a bit smokey, and had hints of salt water and vanilla.

Taste: the tequila went down smoothly without a bite and followed through with the vanilla and smokey aromatics.

Wow, I thought...this is cool! I was now a believer in beverage appropriate glassware. We went on to try a Cognac and Single Malt in the same fashion (from plastic cup to the signature designed Riedel glass) and low and behold, the differences in color, aroma and tastes were more elegant and balanced in the glassware.

Maximilan explained that in the Riedel Bar collection, each glass is finely tuned to increase the enjoyment of neat spirits by showing the unique character of the beverage; highlighting the fruitiness and de-emphasizing the evidence of alcohol on the nose and palate.

As he wrapped up the tasting he gave us all a little gift: a set of Riedel Single Malt Glasses! Awesome....this gives me an excuse to start updating my barware collection, as I am quickly learning "general" glassware (i.e. snifters, rocks, highball) is becoming a thing of the past now that there are spirit specific glassware on the market.

This was truly an educational and useful seminar, and I'm excited to utilize my new knowledge next time I'm out at a bar or restaurant!

For more information on Riedel Glasses, visit: http://www.riedel.com/


Speedy Gourmet

Tonight I hosted an impromptu dinner party for some of my girlfriends who came over to watch "The Bachelorette"…otherwise known as our version of Monday Night Football. Since I had no time for a trip to the grocery store I had to get creative with what I already had…it was Kitchen Challenge time!

The contents of my refrigerator and pantry loosely consisted of Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Mozzarella, Zucchini, Garlic, Olives, Anchovies, Cremini Mushrooms, a Lemon, Black Truffle Paste, Capers, Romano Cheese, Puff Pastry, Dry Spaghetti, Olive Oil and the usual spice/seasoning suspects. After my quick inventory I realized I had all the ingredients to make a Pasta Puttanesca, which was actually somewhat appropriate (or a bit humorous) for our “Bachelorette” evening, as the word "puttana" in Italian translates "whore" or "prostitute”. It has been said that Puttanesca originated in the mid-1900’s when the brothels of Italy were state-run and the "whores" would make this pasta dish to lure in potential customers, others say it's because the strong smell--anchovies, garlic--made the pasta itself "smell like a whore." Either way, it is delicious pasta, extremely easy to make and budget friendly to boot!

So with little time to spare I began to prep my ingredients. As I was sorting through everything I quickly realized I had enough goodies to make a few side dishes: A Truffled Mushroom Tart and a refreshing Salad of Tomato, Zucchini, Mozzarella and Basil. After about 25 minutes of cutting, dicing, mixing and cooking (just in time for my guests to arrive)…Viola, dinner was served. Top that Rachel Ray!

My recipe for Pasta alla Puttanesca:


1 pound dried spaghetti
3 garlic cloves (put through a garlic press)
4 anchovy filets (packed in olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBS capers
1 cup of cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (chopped)
2 TBS of fresh lemon juice
½ cup Romano Cheese (grated)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
Salt/Pepper to taste


Cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente.

While pasta boils, cook garlic, anchovy, red-pepper flakes, salt, pepper in oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant... about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes to garlic oil along with olives and capers and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Simmer, turning pasta with tongs about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle with basil, lemon juice and Romano cheese.

Serves 6 people


Bottled Up

Have you ever feared being stuck in a small crowded elevator…well last night that fear was my reality! My friend Chef Dave Martin and I were on our way up to a Newton Wine Tasting on the roof at Hudson Terrace when we mistakenly took the elevator. Things were moving along just fine until all the sudden the elevator came to a shaking halt! Dave, myself and 8 other people were trapped in very close and steamy quarters for what seemed like an eternity! About 25 minutes later we were saved…each of us had to be lifted up from the elevator shaft out of a small slit at the top of the door. Boy did we all make an entrance! I do have to admit that I remained collectively calm and somewhat humorous during our little crisis which was a surprise to me, as I for sure thought I would have a meltdown if I ever found myself stuck in an elevator.

Once we finally made it up to the roof terrace and took some deep breaths of fresh air, we were ready (very ready) for a glass of the Newton wine! Dave and I started with the Unfiltered Chardonnay which was delightful. I am usually not a California Chardonnay fan, but I found this one to be perfectly balanced with the right amount of oak to acidity. The Chardonnay was paired with a shot glass full of rich and creamy lobster bisque, and a smoky seared scallop with red pepper and zucchini slaw.

We then moved on to the Unfiltered Merlot, which was paired with a mushroom ravioli served in a veal demi-glace sauce topped with duck breast (I gave my duck to Dave since I’m still only eating fish). The pairing worked nicely, although the demi-glace was a bit too thick and hearty for the delicate ravioli. The Merlot, was full-bodied and had notes of plum, chocolate and truffle, and a long. Another nice wine from Newton!

The third wine we tried was the Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon, it was dynamite! It was elegant, earthy with hints of cherry and cassis. It was paired with a beef tenderloin (again gave mine to Dave) with a colorful stack of grilled vegetables. As I was enjoying my glass of the wonderful Cabernet, I was introduced to Su Hua Newton, owner of Newton Vineyards. She is a spunky woman with a flair for life, but takes her wine very seriously and has been known in the past to declassify her wines if she isn’t happy with them. Su Hua prefers to make her wines unfiltered so the natural fruit characteristics achieved in the vineyards are preserved and the wine is reflective of the region’s terroir.
Su Hua Newton (center) with Myself, Dave and our Elevator friends

After sharing a few laughs with the fabulous Su Hua, I moved on to the last wine of the evening: The 1994 Puzzle! It is Newton Vineyard’s iconic Bordeaux Blend, made up of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, and it is amazing! The wine burst in my mouth but rounded out like a cashmere scarf on my tongue. This is the type of wine you want to enjoy after a long day at work while reading a trashy novel! The Puzzle was served alongside the dessert course, which was an average chocolate torte of some-sort with berries. I honestly would have just preferred the Puzzle on its own or maybe with a small piece of aged Gouda.

Just as a few rain clouds started to gather up above we said our goodbyes and were on our way…down the stairs, you must be crazy if you think I would try to get on that elevator again!

Newton has definitely captured my attention with their wines and their lovely owner. I look forward to sampling more from their collection.

If you would like further information about Newton Vineyards, their website is: http://www.newtonvineyard.com/

If you are interested in visiting Newton, they offer Tours and tasting by appointment only Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00am to 2:30pm. Price is $35 per person.

Newton Vineyard
2555 Madrona Avenue
St. Helena, California 94574
Phone: 707.963.9000


BBQ in the City

Yesterday, on Saturday it doesn't matter Day, I wandered over to Madison Square Park to check out the 7th Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party! Some of the county's best Pitmasters were serving up their award-winning 'cue to us NYC foodies giving Shake Shack a run for their money. Other than straight BBQ the event also included a main stage with alternating Bluegrass performers, a Beer Garden, and small booths of goodies featuring the various sponsors.

As I fought my way through the floods of hungry people, while stopping along the way for a few free samples of Ice-Cream and Snapple Sno-Cones, I finally arrived at my destination of choice: The PIT! A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the Pit's big boss Ed Mitchell at the James Beard Awards and have been dreaming about his BBQ ever since. He is very jolly man, known for cooking fantastic Eastern North Carolina-style 'cue, specializing in whole hogs. I eagerly got in the mile long line (in the rain) and began to wait for the melt in your mouth Pulled Pork sandwich he was dishing out.

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell in his overalls drinking a Bud

Waiting in the Rain

After about 25 minutes I finally had it! Not only was I excited about actually eating it, but it was also a pretty significant moment for me, as for those of you who know me well know I haven't eaten meat in over 4 months....so this little sandwich had a lot riding on it since I was about to brake my "meat free" streak. As I took my first bite, I fell in love all over again! It was perfectly tangy, salting, smokey, tender and delicious, served with a side of well seasoned slaw...YUM! It was worth the wait and indulging in a little meat (for the day). For more information on Ed, check out http://www.thepit-raleigh.com/

The Whole Hog Pulled Pork Sandwich

Happy Campers!


Take me out to the Ball Game

The New Yankee Stadium dishes out more than Peanuts and Cracker Jack at its premiere restaurant, NYY Steak---with an interior that pays homage to the boys in Blue and menu to boot, this 115 seat Yankee eatery offers an upscale alternative to standard stadium fair. NYY Steak is equipped with flat panel TVs continuously tuned to programs on the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, making up for its lack of a field view. Whimsical walls that boast original signatures of past and present Yankees, and framed pictures of baseball greats help create a club-level atmosphere.

Executive Chef Jason Tilmann, alum of David Burke & Donatella, crafts a hearty line-up of traditional steakhouse items and signature dishes---try the Iceberg Wedge Salad equipped with a shot of vodka and blue cheese stuffed olive to begin; or the plump Maryland Lump Crab Cakes with a bouquet of micro greens. Entrees go up to bat with some of New York’s famous Steakhouses---the 10 oz. U.S.D.A Prime New York Strip Steak with Au Poivre Sauce is prepared perfectly juicy; the larger than life Lemon Pepper Halibut served on the bone is flavorful and flaky; and Jeter’s favorite the Crispy Free Range Organic Chicken with guanciale polenta and wild mushrooms is comfort food at its finest. Satisfying sides include crispy garlic steak house fries, decedent lobster mac & cheese, and sautéed fresh asparagus. In place of a typical bread basket, Tilmann serves up his interpretation of a pretzel bagel with mustard butter to accompany the meal. Desserts hit a home-run with the Yogi Berra inspired Yoo Hoo Float; the majestic NYY Steak 151 Volcano made with a mound of vanilla bean ice cream covered in Heath Bar then flambéed table with a shot of 151; and a traditional New York Style Cheesecake. Note: On home game days, the restaurant will only be open to ticket holders.

Lemon Pepper Halibut
Hearty Sides: Lobster Mac & Cheese, Mushrooms and Asparagus

151 Volcano (Yum)

My review ( the more edited version) can be found at Gayot.com:

Chakras to me

If you haven't heard of Kundalini Yoga, I urge you to try it...it is definitely an experience! Last month when my good friend Amy invited me to stay at her lovely Montecito home overlooking the ocean and mountains to do a 10 day yoga detox/cleanse with her, I couldn't refuse. I mean, she had me at Beach in Santa Barbara! Not only was it perfect timing to get in shape for Summer, but also it was a chance to try something new: Kundalini Yoga!

After a bit of research before the cleanse, I learned that Kundalini Yoga is the most powerful and inclusive of all yogas. It blends breathing, movement, stretching, meditation and chanting (yes chanting). Kundalini yoga is sometimes called "the yoga of awareness" because it awakens the "kundalini" an inherent form of dormant energy that exists within the body (a coil in the spine) and moves the energy through the chakras.

Benefits include enhanced health and well being, greater physical flexibility, stronger and balanced immune, digestive, eliminative, and nervous systems. And helps one to gain greater calmness, clarity, creativity, and improved concentration. And added bonus: regular practice in Kundalini can greatly increase your levels of sexual energy leading to a wonderfully enhanced sex life.

I have to admit, I was a bit of a skeptic before going in, but after the first day I was an addict! The energy in the room was incredible, so much so that I could actually feel it around me...no joke. Siddhi our yoga guide had the most soothing voice and calming demeanor. She started each class with a song/chant called *Wahe Guru, where we would sit cross-legged and repeat the words Wahe Guru over and over starting in a deep low voice (think bottom of the belly) and go up the scale until it felt like we reached the top of our heads with a high pitched voice. The vibration in the song helped to excite the chakras and start the flow of energy. All very foreign, yet interesting stuff to me! In addition to the daily chanting, Siddhi focused each day around an organ in the body (i.e. liver) to detox, so we would preform certain intense yoga poses (some which left me in pain the next day) and a bit of cardio in the form of dance and movement flow to help release the toxins from that specific organ.

Along with the yoga portion of the detox we also followed a pretty rigid diet plan. This was the part that I had the most fun with! Siddhi provided a list of foods we were able to enjoy during the 10 days, most of which included fruits and vegetables (think extreme vegan), and we were instructed to eat every 2-3 hours. Each day I created a refreshing juice blend, a fulfilling salad and a flavorful dinner for Amy and I. After a few days we both felt amazing and much lighter...not just in the physical sense but also mentally. Here is one of my favorite recipes that I created (perfect for a summer day):

Quinoa Veggie Salad:

1/2 cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1 Zucchini (cubed)
1/2 cup Grape tomatoes (halved)
6 Asparagus (cut into 1 inch pieces)
10 Kalamata Olives (pitted and chopped)
12 Basil Leaves (chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TBS Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Combine quinoa and water in a small pot, bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or until liquid is gone). Then set aside.

In a saute pan, combine olive oil, zucchini and asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat.

In a serving bowl add quinoa, sauteed veggies, olives, basil and lemon juice and mix. Top with fresh ground pepper and serve.

Yield: 2-3 servings

All and all my Kundalini Yoga detox experience was wonderful and I would highly recommend it! Check out Siddhi's website for information on her upcoming events, http://www.siddhisyoga.com/ or check into a yoga studio around you for Kundalini classes. If anyone is interested in more recipes, just let me know and I will gladly send them over :)

*Wahe (Wha-hay) means “Wow” or “Ecstacy.” It’s sort of an exclamation of the joy of existence. ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘Ru’ means light. So Gu-Ru is basically the transformation from dark to light, which is why we have associated the word with ‘enlightened’ or masterful individuals.


RECIPE: Summer Thyme Cooler

I created this cocktail in the Summer of 2008 during a roof-top party in NYC. It is a wonderful and refreshing drink to share with friends on a hot Summer day!


5 cups Fresh Seedless Watermelon (cubed)
2 TBS Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Thyme infused simple syrup
1 cup Vodka
1/2 cup Lemoncillo
Crushed Ice
Sparkling Water
10 Sprigs of Thyme


Start by making the simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water), dissolve sugar into water in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add 5 sprigs of Thyme into the mixture and let sit for 15 minutes to infuse the flavor.

In a blender combine watermelon cubes, lemon juice and simple syrup. Pulse until blended together, then add the vodka and Lemoncillo and pulse for a few seconds until combined.

Pour into chilled highball glasses filled halfway with crushed ice. Garnish with a splash of sparkling water and a sprig of Thyme!

Yield: 4-5 Drinks