Williams Selyem 2008 Tasting

This year’s fall tasting of the exclusive and coveted Williams Selyem 2008 vintage, nestled in the Russian River Valley, could not have have been more elegantly executed. The tasting featured four acclaimed ’08 Pinot Noirs, a Zinfandel, and a Chenin Blanc, all of which are sold out with the exception of the Chenin Blanc. Spread between two gigantic patios, tasters indulged between tastings in organic cornbread, olive oils, cheeses and breads, each sustainably produced within miles of the winery. The spacious outdoor tasting area, encircled by breathtaking views of vines, was just recently built of sustainable materials and is solar-powered. The love and respect that Williams Selyem so faithfully manifests in the estate’s surrounding land is matched by the brilliance intrinsic of the winery’s handcrafted vintages, unquestionably referred by many as some of the greatest wines in the country.

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Just Add Beer

courtesy of Los Angeles Times

You’ve never truly had pub food until you’ve had Rackhouse Pub food. And you’ve definitely never had mac n’ cheese until you’ve had Rackhouse’s beer-baked mac n’ cheese–composed of five different cheeses and amble ale and then baked into comfort food bliss.

Nestled in the Rocky mountains, this Denver hotspot offers a selection of Colorado beers and uses local produce (no easy feat a 5,000 ft above sea level), offering creative spins on old time classics that incorporate the pub’s local beer selections. Pub of the moment it may be, but with some luck, it’s newfound national attention could be lasting.

No beer-goggles needed here. Seasonal grub and local beer make for good times.

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It’s Tartine Time

San Franciscans are blessed with quite the competitive palate when it comes to coffee, pastries and breads. So the never-failing line that encircles SF Mission District’s Tartine Bakery & Cafe serves as some indication that this French bakery offers the crème de la crème of all things baked–and not baked, for that matter. The croissants will make you melt in ecstasy (or whatever the French equivalent of ecstasy may be) and the sandwiches, quiches and cakes will keep you coming back begging for more (bread must be reserved via telephone). This Euro-style gem kneads and bakes with all organic and local ingredients, adding a bit of Berkeley-esque flavor to bread lines reminiscent of Soviet times.

Tartine Bakery & Cafe
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.487.2600

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Shhh, there’s espresso!

courtesy of NYTimes

Nothing complements a coffee better than a book (okay, a pastry isn’t so bad either).

Eugene Kagansky, owner of D’Espresso in the Lower East Side, had exactly this in mind when he opened another coffee shop outside the New York Public Library. He reportedly told his designer: “Let’s do a coffee bar that looks like a library, but would be more interesting.”

Mark his words.

With a budget of $500,000, designer Anurag Nem of nemaworkshop flipped the 500-square-foot coffee shop on its side and lined the wall and floor with glazed tiles printed with books to allude to sideway tilted bookshelves. Another wall is covered with oak flooring. Lights jet out horizontally from the behind the bar rather than from the ceiling.

Kagansky said he plans to open 10 more in Manhattan and other major cities. He says that the next one will be upside down.

Hold your coffee cup with two hands.

D’Espresso, 317 Madison Avenue (42nd Street), (212) 867-7141. Opened this month. New Yorkers are saying that it will blow you away, so it must be pretty good.

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Chefs Get Their Hands Dirty

Napa chefs prove to be not only masters of the kitchen, but also that of the land.

A group of chefs from 8 participating Napa restaurants have transformed the city’s neglected downtown gardens into a flourishing source of fresh, seasonal produce- all to be savored in the dishes they serve.

With loss of what to do with the city’s abandoned gardens, Napa’s community development director asked Napa’s downtown chefs if they might be interested in working the land; an agreement met with fruitful enthusiasm. The garden permits the chefs to consistently control the food choices they offer while always being guaranteed of its high quality. Chefs reports that the garden is a great source of inspiration and is also very handy- as herbs are always on hand. Kitchen staff often run to the gardens for extra needed ingredients on a busy day.

Thomas Keller of French Laundry explains the role that the garden plays in his kitchen (largely considered the most celebrated kitchen in America): “First and foremost is the synergy it [the garden] creates with the restaurant and the individuals in the restaurant, the young cooks, the chefs, everybody. To look out over the garden and know that the vegetables that you’re working with that evening or that afternoon are coming from right across the street, were harvested that morning or that afternoon – it’s an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride.”

Mother Nature would be proud.

Some Wine Country restaurants with gardens:
The French Laundry: 6640 Washington St., Yountville. (707) 944-2380. frenchlaundry.com.
La Toque at the Westin Verasa: 1314 McKinstry St., Napa. (707) 257-5157. latoque.com.
Pearl: 1339 Pearl St., Napa. (707) 224-9161. therestaurantpearl.com.
ZuZu: 829 Main St., Napa. (707) 224-8555. zuzunapa.com.
Brix: 7377 St. Helena Hwy., Yountville. (707) 944-2749. brix.com.
Mustard’s Grill: 7399 St. Helena Hwy., Yountville. (707) 944-2424. mustardsgrill.com.

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Hitting The Books To Make Gelato

Look no further to discover the true craft of gelato. Bologna, Italy is home to the world’s very first university inspired by the art of making gelato.  And who knew that such art required so much diligence and bookwork? The Carpigiani Gelato University, located outside Bologna, prepares its international student body (attracting students from over 100 countries who largely return home to open their own gelaterie) to continue to rightfully spread Italy’s arguably greatest export- gelato. Made from all-natural ingredients, void of chemicals and expiring after only two days, gelato’s detailed ‘pasteurization’ and ‘aging’ processes (as referred by the professori) lend gelato making much more to science than to art.

Consisting of only a few ingredients, namely water, sugar, milk and fruit, gelato hardly resembles ice cream at all, in that it contains significantly less air and fat and is served at a higher temperature. One professore explains that gelato “is a balance between water and other ingredients like sugars, fats, milk solids and fruit. The aim of Italian gelato is that it is low fat, low sugar and low calorie. It is possible to make strawberry gelato with only strawberries, sugar and water — no more.”

Another professore explains the beauty embedded in gelato versus ice cream- “Gelato has a matte surface, You don’t want it to be shiny, as this would reflect on an amount of water that still needs to be frozen. Overall it looks dry. … A good structure is one that holds the peak like a meringue. Texture-wise, it has got to look smooth, like a silk fabric.”

And just like silk, indeed. Leave it to the Italians to transform anything–even milk and water–into glamour.

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Can It

The newest trend in the kitchen dates back to Granny’s era. Traditionally cast as a country, grandmother craft, canning is now recognized as the hottest method to capture seasonal produce at their peak to be savored all year long.

Canning courses have sprout up in the last two years around the country, as green-conscious foodies recognize that canning enables the preservation of seasonal ingredients (in a cheap way) and of traditional dishes that request certain produce. Even the Culinary Institute of America in New York uses canning in classes for students to understand how to make use of peak ingredients out of season in a resourceful way.

Granny was onto something.

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