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  • 6/20-6/23: Milwaukee
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Entries in Parties you weren't invited to (21)

Friday
Aug072015

(NYC) Celebrating the holidays - in July - with Champagne Taittinger

*This event and article were attended/captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.*

 

Last Thursday, I attended Champagne Taittinger's exclusive The Art of Celebrating The Holidays event in downtown Manhattan.

Photo courtesy of TaittingerThe world-renowned Grand Marque French Champagne house hosted their very first "winter holiday" party of the year - ahem, in July - at the private townhouse of Pamela Bell (founder of Prinkshop and co-founder of Kate Spade).  To properly "tis the season," I made my way to the soiree in my most festive holiday attire: A sassy lil' red Christian Dior number and my favorite strappy Jimmy Choo's.

Over the course of a two hour "open (town)house," approximately 75 of us very lucky folks had the pleasure of experiencing new interpretations of holiday menus and decor concepts, mouth-watering cuisine courtesy of Chef Sarah Simmons from Birds & Bubbles, plus a selection of four Taittinger Champagnes:

Photo courtesy of TaittingerPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Chef Sarah SimmonsTaittinger's selections were perfectly paired with the evening's three holiday themes: The Champagne Cocktail Party - The Holiday Dinner - New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.  As mentioned above, Chef Sarah Simons (of Birds & Bubbles) created an outstanding array of small bites for this incredibly special evening.

The Champagne Cocktail Party

My first tantalizing bite of the eve was a house-made black pepper cracker topped with creamy shrimp rillettes.  Paired with the Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: Shrimp RillettesThe second hors d' oeuvre was a NY cheddar puff pastry with castelvetrano olives + smoked almonds.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

The third bite was a crispy potato latke that was topped with house-cured trout, horseradish, dill, and creme fraiche.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

And as if the passed hors d'oeuvres weren't enough...we were presented with a bounty of plump oysters on ice.  Tres magnifique!

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

After the Champagne Party, we were escorted to a communal table where we were seated for The Holiday Dinner.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To wrap up the festivities, we toasted in style at a New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.

Inspired by a classic riad, designer Sam Masters invented a Moroccan-themed lounge beneath a white muslin-draped tent.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To end the evening on a sweet note, desserts were presented both passed and served at stations.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: French macaronsPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Champagne truffles

Oh what a night!  This was one of the most exclusive, whimsical, delicious, romantic, and fabulous events that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in recent memory.  I cannot wait to recreate all that I observed, learned, tasted, and sipped courtesy of Taittinger.  But one question remains: Do I have to wait until the holidays?

...

Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle

Friday
Jul242015

(NYC) Reviewed: Industry Kitchen

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Edgar Alonso Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

...

Restaurant: Industry Kitchen

  • Cuisine: Modern American
  • Location: 70 South Street, New York, NY 10038
  • Pricing: All menu items under $30
  • What's delicious: Cocktails
  • Perfect for: After-hours drinks, corporate events, scenic dining/waterfront views

...

The entertainment-packed grand opening of Industry Kitchen, South Street Seaport’s newest waterfront restaurant + bar, proved a feast for the eyes.  Albeit a mixed bag for the palate...

Photo courtesy of Industry Kitchen: In terms of seating, the venue’s options were great - al-fresco vs. a generous interior area adjacent to the lively bar/open kitchen.

Veering away from the restaurant's daily menu, this special evening called for a festive assortment of passed hors d'oeuvres.  From sweet and savory - spicy and smoky - tangy and tart, every realm of the senses was provoked.  

An early stand out was the Spanish Artichoke Dip, which was gifted with just the right amount of texture, seasoning, and tang to compliment the delicious artisanal flatbread.

Photo captured by EAC: Spanish Artichoke DipAnother favorite of mine and Alyson's (my guest) was the marinated rock shrimp with creamy polenta.

Photo captured by EAC: Marinated rock shrimp + polentaThe brilliant marriage of savory and sweet was found in the stone fruit topped with salty ham ribbons and burrata.  However, it was the roasted tomatoes crowned with herbed goat cheese that stole our hearts.

Photo captured by EAC: Roasted tomato halves + goat cheeseHaving fantasized about the restaurant's house-made pie since I had initially read the menu, the evening was without pizza due to an issue with the wood-burning oven.  We were so bummed!

Just as we were noshing on our third second helpings of hors d’oeuvres, the entertainment began!  With the sun setting on the horizon, an incredibly-talented fire performer utilized South Street Seaport - the restaurant's virtual "back yard" – as her personal stage.  Did I mention that there was also a juggler on stilts and a live DJ?

Photo captured by EAC: Live fire performance!The staff at Industry Kitchen was just as amazing as the delicious nibbles!  After initially being served by multiple waiters and passed trays, we became friendly with Matt and Pat, a dynamic duo who ended up serving us exclusively for the remainder of the eve.  Informative, accommodating, and personable, the mission of these stand-out employees was to make sure that we sampled the bar's full range (yes, I said full range) of cocktails!

Cocktail report card: Finding a drink that I enjoyed was on par with Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Some were too weak and lacking, others were convoluted and missed the mark, yet a few were just right...

CRIMSON & CLOVER

Grey Goose Vodka, Pomegranate, Lemon, Clover Honey Cordial

Report card grade: (B) A great, lighter summer option that I can picture myself enjoying while jamming to the hit single by Tommy James & The Shondells...

SHOES OPTIONAL

Avua Cachaca, El Bujo Mezcal, Aveze, Fresh Lemon Juice

Report card grade: (D) The only reason this cocktail didn’t get an F is because of the effort that was put in to it.  The earthiness of the mescal is completely convoluted by an ever-present Avèze.  Unfortunately, the minor tones of the lime juice and Cachaça aren’t enough to save the drink. Tip: The mixologist should get rid of the Avèze.  In this writer’s eyes, a good mescal need not be mixed -- and shouldn’t be!

BOURBON BERRY SMASH

Mitcher’s Bourbon Whiskey, St. Germaine Elderflower, Lemon, “Blackberry Stew”

Report card grade: (B+) Aside from missing the obvious alliteration of calling it the “Blast” or “Bash” (because of the smashed fruit), this is the ultimate summer drink!  Refreshing, cool, and lip-smacking good!  

SUNBURNT & SPICE

Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, Bitter Truth Allspice Pimento Dram, Fresh Lemon & Lime Juice, Soda

Report card grade: (A) This drink breaks the internet bell curve and goes straight to the head of the class! It was my favorite for the complexity, subtle shifts in flavor, and diverse ingredients that don’t overwhelm.

SANGRIA DUO (RED AND WHITE)

Report card grade: (C-) My partner in crime, Alyson, said that sangrias were a miss.  I only sampled the white variety which, while very fruit forward, failed to deliver the necessary “punch” from the wine.  I’m going to chalk this up to a humid evening and a little too much extra melted ice.

 

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Alonso Castillo for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jul222015

(NYC) Reviewed: Spaghetti Incident

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

...

Restaurant: Spaghetti Incident

  • Cuisine: Italian, pasta
  • Location: 231 Eldridge Street - New York, NY 10002
  • Pricing: All menu items under $12!
  • What's delicious: Bucatini in Kale Pesto, arancini
  • Perfect for: Grab'n go, mobile eats, girls' night out, first date

...

Last Wednesday evening, I attended a private tasting and official launch of Spaghetti Incident (Name sound familiar?  It was borrowed from the infamous Guns 'n' Roses album circa the 90's!), Emanuele Attala's latest culinary venture: Serving “mobile spaghetti” to the masses.  Yep, you heard me correctly: Pasta in a cone!  

With such a unique name and concept, I simply had to see what all the fuss was about!  I mean, have you ever heard of eating pasta in a cone?  Me neither...

Photo captured by: Vanessa Shoman-DuellReminiscent of one of my most treasured restaurants in Rome, Spaghetti Incident’s dramatic L-shaped bar wraps around the open kitchen, allowing guests to see the pasta chefs in action.  And speaking of the bar, a small selection of red, white, and rose wines are offered - in addition to beer.  With a glass of Montepulciano in hand, I was ready to sample the restaurant’s namesake pasta dishes!  Nine, to be exact. 

Photo captured by: Vanessa Shoman-DuellThe smell of fresh basil from the Bucatini in Kale Pesto was absolutely intoxicating and, by far, my favorite dish of the evening.  The Spaghetti alla Chitarra – noodles topped with a simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil - was precisely as one would find in Italy.  The third pasta I sampled was the Bucatini Trevigiala - a melange of salty pancetta, crunchy pine nuts, tangy radicchio, and a light cream sauce - which was exemplary and proved ideal for the Italian bacon connoisseur! 

Last but not least, the chef introduced his Sicilian-style arancini - also served in a cone - which are available in three different flavor combinations:  Green pea with mozzarella, beef ragu, and crab meat with fontina.

Spaghetti in a cone!Sicilian-style aranciniSpaghetti Incident is a true gem and makes for the ideal venue for a quick grab'n go treat, a girls' night out, or a first date.  Oh, and did I mention that nothing on the menu is over $12?  Whether you're in search of a delicious, mobile meal on-the-go - or are in the mood to sit down, relax, and enjoy one of the restaurant’s nine signature pasta dishes, salads, arancini, or a glass of wine/beer - this intimate trattoria will more than satisfy.

I will definitely return to Spaghetti Incident!  With its delicious and singular in-a-cone pasta, affable staff, and reasonable prices, I give it my highest recommendation!

...

Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Jul082015

A behind-the-scenes recap: Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America (2015)

*This event and article were attended/captured/photographed by Edgar Alonso Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

...

For American wine drinkers who want to take the "bucket list” approach to their favorite vino-laden eateries, behold the Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Restaurants...

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloThe Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Restaurants list was celebrated last Tuesday at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Our hosts treated us to an exclusive pre-press panel which highlighted the current and ever-changing world of wine, plus their thoughts on the focus and future of the industry. The once (and future) king of wine restaurants is, of course, according to our panel of distinguished experts -- New York. Sommeliers old and new are flocking (back) to the megapolis to showcase their knowledge and flex their palates. Hand written lists are ever-more present as the conversation continues to widen and allow for a two-way dialogue from those skilled in their tastes, to the newcomer.

Jeff Porter, Beverage Operations Director of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, gave us a lot to contemplate with his thoughts on wine. At home on a casual weeknight, Jeff is drinking Chablis, though he never turns down a rosé. “My mom, who lives in Dallas and has big hair, gobbles down rosé by the case -- and so do all her friends.” Rosés are favored this season, and the sommeliers have carefully crafted their wine lists with due diligence. The result: a magnificent experience that will favor a conversation between those with a skilled palate and the newcomer bravely seeking something new, fun, and full.

Another hot topic -- Vineyards are mixing red grapes and white grapes to make a less heavy red wine, says Lee Campbell, Wine Director of Reynard (at the Wythe Hotel). She also feels strongly about the new California movement. Campbell, who grew up in the Hudson Valley, wishes she could find more to be excited about in NY state, but she’s not. Other regions hot on her radar -- “Recently, everyone was talking about Georgia (the country).” She also recently went to Moravia, Czech Republic to experience the beginning of a new tradition, a thing of beauty. “Our job in terms of editing, is HUGE," she claims. The wine list that is too heavily populated is like the last lifeboat on the Titanic. It is the job of the sommelier to prevent the inundation that will cause certain failure.

“Show me something delicious…ask the right questions. Increase the flow of information that the consumer is getting, and get them engaged. As the sommelier: be comfortable. We want you to feel confidence, let's tell a story, and let the consumer be a part of it.” Adds Jeff Porter, "Chefs are more in-tune to wine than ever before -- having chefs who are engaged is key.”

From the Lone Star State to Brooklyn and back to the California coast, there is a desire to expand beyond the traditional. The ability for the consumer to learn and join the conversation has allowed for an increase of the number of skilled sommeliers. For chefs, being in the front of house is unique; the synergy between this area and the kitchen is being recognized and respected by all involved. 

~~~

After the presentation by our esteemed panel, we were treated to a reception fit for a king-- If a king likes hand-shaken - and stirred - signature cocktails (courtesy of Meletti and Brinley Gold Shipwreck Rum), lobster sliders, cured meats, and especially carefully-selected cheeses that paired ever so harmoniously with the wines being served. While mingling, guests were also provided with passed hors d'oeuvres - from foie gras to chicken kebabs - all while following the room down to the courtyard that featured the awards.

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso Castillo

Photo courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloPhoto courtesy of: Edgar Alonso CastilloWhile browsing between the tables of awards, I observed the wide array of contenders who have persevered and stand out among their peers nationwide. The up-and-coming cities that Lee Campbell is really interested in: Durham, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Austin, Minneapolis.

The future of wine is fruitful, bountiful, and bold. The American palate is quickly changing, thankfully, in large part, to the ever-expanding social media centered around the industry. By following five to ten sommeliers such as these on the panel, you can quickly pick up the guidelines and structure that will allow you to begin the conversation with the correct and appropriate vocabulary.

Till your next pour, Cheers!

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Alonso Castillo for The Lunch Belle