Posts Tagged ‘pinot noir’

Adventures to San Francisco & the Bay

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

 

Recently, three members of The Nyman Group had the opportunity to head to the San Francisco and Bay Area for meetings, events and tastings, experiencing quite a few elements that the area had to offer.

 

Desiring to embrace a classic San Francisco restaurant landmark, we ventured over to Swan Oyster Bar at 1517 Polk St. (no website and they don’t answer their phone, fyi). – a seafood haven founded in 1912 that is cash only, you wait on line for the 16 bar stools and sit elbow-to-elbow with locals and tourists alike.  Every fish and bivalve served are extremely fresh and completely delicious.  We sampled an oyster platter and then the mixed seafood salad, mounded with Bay Shrimp, Dungeness crab and Prawns, which was then served with an olive oil and vinegar dressing, mixed with some of the back fat of the Dungeness, in the shell.  WOW!

 

Needing some caffeine to charge us for the afternoon, we stopped over to see our good friend, Nick Floulis, at his 27-square foot coffee bar (yes, really), Hole in the Wall, located in North Beach at 524 Union Street.  Hole in the Wall only serves pour-over coffee (very cool and impressive), in three distinct roasts – Blonde, Brunette (lovingly known as North Beach) & Redhead, right on Union Street.  They’re fully embraced by the local community and a great spot for a damn good cup of joe.

 

We then moved along to one of our main reasons for the visit, heading to the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Experience Trade Tasting, being held at the stunningly beautiful venue, Bently Reserve.  Zinfandel is commonly referred to as ‘America’s Grape’, even though it is not native to our country, it has been fully embraced as American in flavor and palate appeal.  Tasting through the over 75 wineries, our favorites were definitely Turley, Klinker Brick, Gamba and Brown Estate.

 

Needing sustenance and wanting another San Francisco classic food and beverage venue, we made our way to NOPA in the NoPa (North of Panhandle) neighborhood.  Established in 2006, NOPA is more than a restaurant, but a gathering point for the local community for good eats, a lively bar scene and late night dining.  We were able to swap standing room only into seats, ponying up to the bar and holding down that area with the buzzing activity around us.  The Half Roasted Chicken was tremendous in flavor, having been brined and basted in an herb butter, and the Country Pork Chop with Brussels Sprouts, Cara Cara Oranges, Mustard and Sesame was divine.

 

Next stop on the tour was to The Independent, one of San Francisco’s premier live music venues, to take in a performance by Kamasi Washington.  The jazz saxophonist was in town as part of the 2016 Noise Pop Festival and came under critical acclaim in 2015 for his album, The Epic.  The show proved to be just that as Kamasi and his band (which at times included his father!) laid down a 90-minute set filled with jazz, funk and a room full of mesmerized fans.  To witness this is a room that holds just 500 people was truly special. Following the show we headed just up a touch of Divisadero St. to swing into Bar 821 for an amaro to finish the evening.  Upon arriving, we looked at the wall of the bar where to amari and digestivos were listed and, we were all immediately and completely in awe of the variety they had available.  There were at least 30 amaros and another 20+ digestives, with tasting flights and bottles from Italy, the U.S.A., Switzerland and France.  We were able to sample a great variety, including Brovo #4, an American amaro from Seattle, Washington, which we never knew existed!

 

Wrapping up the evening, we had decided to rest our heads at the recently renovated The Buchanan Hotel, in Japantown, right on Buchanan.  This Kimpton property had clean and spacious rooms, friendly staff and a perfect location for our trip.  We would gladly recommend the hotel to any travelers, business or leisure for your next visit to the Bay.

 

Friday morning we hosted a breakfast meeting at Sweet Maple, located right now the street from our hotel where they are focused on fresh ingredients, gigantic portions and fun combinations of flavors.  We were able to sample one of their signature items, the Millionaire’s Bacon (which was featured on the Discovery Network) – thick, free range bacon baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black pepper.  Damn good!

 

After some meetings and exploration, we headed over to Union Larder, a neighborhood joint at the corner of Union & Hyde that refers to itself as a Cheese, Wine & Charcuterie Bar.  Our afternoon stop was perfect timing, as it wasn’t too busy and allowed us to sample the menu, most specifically their House-made Charcuterie and Uni Pate with Fruit Mostarda, a really cool concept of pate.

 

Venturing further down into the city, toward the Financial District (FiDi), we went to see our friends at The Hidden Vine, a wonderful wine bar in the shadow of the TransAmerica Building, complimented by their regulation size Bocce court.  They are great supporters of our Director of Operations’, Labor Wines wine project, featuring the Pinot Noir by the glass.

 

Next on the Bay adventure was a quick BART trip to Oakland for the Vance Joy/Elle King concert at the Fox Theatre.  On this warm February night, it was a breath of fresh air to see Oakland so alive and bustling with activity as patrons entered and exited bars and restaurants. Glancing into the windows of hustling hot-spots and seeing folks eating and drinking, smiling and conversing reassured us that Oakland is continuing to rise again, city-wide.  Just a couple years ago people would have called you crazy to paint a picture of the scene on this night.  The Fox was one of the venues that really led a change for the neighborhood and with shows like Vance Joy, a diverse, happy and fun-loving crowd invaded Oakland in a great way.

 

Saturday morning, we stopped over to the Fillmore Farmer’s Market, which is small but has a nice collection of vendors, purchasing some heirloom carrots, salmon jerky and fresh pastries.  A really fun treat to enjoy a piece of the area’s local flavors.

 

Escaping the city, we were taken to a classic restaurant for lunch, Max’s in Palo Alto at the Stanford Shopping Center, which has been open for over 25 years and is run by our good friend Dennis Berkowitz.  His restaurants are truly run for their customer’s pleasure and enjoyment, and happily boasting, ‘everything you’ve always wanted to eat.’  Max’s menu is vast and full of deliciousness, and we sampled too many dishes!  Having the chance to taste their Corned Beef (Nitrate-free!) and Pastrami, was a heavenly experience.

 

Capping off the trip, we had the pleasure to get a full tour of Max’s Commissary, located in the shadow of San Francisco International Airport.  Being shown around this massive facility was quite the perspective, seeing all that they produce for their various operations, located around the bay.  We were given a Chocolate Covered Macaroon that was the size of our fist, truly unbelievable!

 

All told, our 2 very full days in the Bay Area, were tremendous.  Mixing our meetings in with pleasure, we came, we saw, ate, drank, listened to music and caught up with some great people.  Can’t wait to be back there!

 

Tourist in Paradise

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Life is what you make of it in eating, discovering and enjoying.  However a food blogger friend of ours, Ralph Raffio has a better take on life and food of course, saying, “Like many wonderful people in my life they know about and take enormous pleasure in good food. Eating is an important part of the pleasure, but it isn’t the biggest part. Sharing is. It’s everything, actually.” So, with that great perspective  began an interesting visit to the East Coast to share some new experiences and visit some old haunts with friends, associates and several thousand other ‘tourists’ in the height of travel season, at the end of Summer. The greater New York area was where I grew up and lived on and off for decades and each time I return to the area, there are of course fond and trying remembrances, but mostly pangs of joy.

 

Long Island’s South Shore is well known for the Hamptons, however one of the best kept secrets  are the older mid-island beach towns around Patchogue that are rich with small local restaurants, farm stands, culture and history.  Delfiore Pizzeria is a great example of a simple and easy restaurant with very good pizza.  It is a local favorite and very accommodating as to type and style of pizza.

The area markets also feature local produce and dairy products, which are the hard to get ingredients in many of our big cities today, but just right for a Summer cookout and dinner party.

 

The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts are rich in culture, heritage and brimming with new and established restaurants along with food markets all primed for the season.  Guido’s is a perennial favorite of locals and a must stop for picnic preparations for a night at Tanglewood.

 

Just across the Connecticut state line, in Lakeville, is The Woodland a favorite for fresh local fish, sushi and daily specials; extremely popular with the natives.

 

New York, New York – a heck of a town!  Russ & Daughters has been in business for decades and finally decided to open a café which features their tremendous smoked fish selection. My only complaint is, why did they wait so long!

In the mood for a light lunch or brunch, but with some panache and people watching included, head over to Sarabeth’s on Central Park South and you certainly will not be disappointed. It’s a comfortable spot to relax, enjoy a salad, an order of crab cakes which are one of their specialties’ and glass or bottle of Labor Wines Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

When in New York and the Yankees are playing, ride the subway to the game and a night at the Stadium is must, along with eating ballpark food, meandering around and talking to other baseball fans.  Quite the wonderful experience.

 

The Oyster Bar at Grand Central is the quintessential New York old school restaurant occurrence, which is as much of yesterday as it is today.  The best selection of oysters, clams and fish that there is in the City with a dining room and counter seating that is all about food and a nod to history.  By the way, if you’re looking for one of the best wine lists, both by the glass and bottle, this is the place to come too.

Walking neighborhoods in the City is one of the great enjoyments of life and not just a past time.  The Upper East Side is full of trendy restaurants, wonderful shops and plenty of people watching.  But to really experience New York, one needs to have a hot dog; if you’re not going to Nathan’s in Coney Island, you need to head to Papaya King on 86th & 3rd Avenue to enjoy a true New York treat.

After a busy day touring the Metropolitan Museum and viewing art from around the world, since New York is the ethnic melting pot of the country (not sure about this phrase), a visit to Chinatown hits the spot.  The oldest continuing operating Chinese restaurant, serving only Dim Sum since 1920, Nah Wah Tea Parlor is the place to visit.  They are welcoming and always busy, with over 30 choices prepared to order, it most certainly never gets boring.

Continuing on with the ethnic vein, it’s not often you can find Southern Indian cuisine in the states, as most Indian restaurants feature the Northern version of the food.  Anjappar Chettinad, located in the heart of the Murray Hill neighborhood answers this call with plenty of delicious options, including Fresh Whole Grilled Fish, Mint Sauce & House made Chutney, Onion Kulcha and Chicken from the Tandoor oven, accompanied by Vegetarian Biriyani, the traditional roasted rice dish, washed down with strong tea.

 

There are most certainly hundreds or thousands of restaurant options in New York, but your own personal taste and pocketbook can also be your guide to great food, experiences and ambiance. But for a last stop before you leave or a late night experience, one needs to cross the Hudson River and head to the Ironbound ‘Portuguese’ District in Newark, New Jersey.  There are many different types of restaurants, from Churrascaria’s to traditional and home style to simple bars that serve food and drink.  But to truly enjoy a working class local environment where you will be welcomed as you arrive, go and experience Seabras Marisqueria on Madison Street.  Belly up to the bar and feast your eyes on the fresh shellfish and hot food display.  Take a walk by the glass enclosed kitchen and view the fresh fish display and the cooks working the stoves.  The food, wine list, total ambiance and hospitality will assure you of a great time.

It is said one can never truly go back and enjoy the memories of life, but a visit to the East Coast and the New York area are as close as you can to enjoy Paradise!

 

 

Crashing OPC!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Flying into Oregon from Las Vegas I immediately had a 35-40 degree drop in temperatures, not too shabby when you it’s 100+ degrees and Summer in the desert. It is always wonderful to be back in Oregon – it’s a different vibe compared to other states and I just feel comfortable and at home when I’m there.

I was picked up by a old wine buddy and we headed out to enjoy an early lunch at one of my favorite spots in the city, Bunk Sandwiches. This is not your average sandwich shop, they source some of the best ingredients available, bring in certain breads from Philly and embrace the farm to table credo. I went with my favorite sandwich they make, an Albacore Tuna melt w/pickles & hot peppers. Not only is this delicious, but fresh and the bracing spice of the peppers off-set the coolness of the tuna.

For my first evening in Oregon, we did a little home cooking with the assistance of Abusto’s Carneceria – enjoying their marinated Carne Asada, house-whipped sour cream, Pico de Gallo and spicy Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. We were fortunate to wash it down with some Victoria beers – one of Mexico’s finest that just started being imported to the States. Absolutely delicious! Following those were some homemade margaritas, then moving up to the Van Duzer 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir and a treat was brought by our friends; a bottle of Soter, 2002, Beacon Hill, Pinot Noir – this wine is just starting to come into its own and will definitely last for years to come. Rounding out the evening by the fire, we puffed on cigars and complemented them by snifters of a 1971 Armagnac.

Friday morning started with me getting a peek at the kick-off speech for Oregon Pinot Camp, being held at the Evergreen Aviation museum. Always cool having a chance to see some of the stars and veterans of the Oregon wine industry casual, yet focused and without a collection of people around them. I then had a chance to see a fellow OPC alumni, my friend Margaret who made the move from North Carolina, becoming the Director of Hospitality for Chehalem Winery. We bounced off to one of the newest addition’s in the Willamette Valley, the Red Hills Market a small gourmet coffee bar café featuring local flavors and produce – much needed in the Oregon wine country. I had the chance to enjoy my first Stumptown latte, which I knew wouldn’t be my last, fantastic with steamed soy milk.

I ran a few errands with Margaret, including stopping into Adelsheim Winery where I had the chance to taste the 2009 Caitlin’s Reserve Chard ($40) and the 2008 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir ($68), along with 4 other bottlings. These two were definitely my favorites, distinct in their own ways and in keeping with the house style.

Dinner that night was at my buddy Scott Cunningham’s new (3 month old) restaurant located in Downtown McMinnville, Community Plate. Scott has done a great job of making sure that all of the products used at CP are from within 100 miles of the restaurant and sustainable. You would be surprised how hard this is to accomplish – he’s very serious about his craft. Highlights of the night were definitely the Pork Nuggets, crisped to perfect crunch deliciousness and the house made Pickle Plate. Continuing the evening I headed to see another friend in the valley, over in Newberg – Tahmiene Momtazi of Maysara & Momtazi Vineyard, where they were hosting a traditional Persian BBQ for friends, family and OPC visitors. Even though I had already eaten, I was forced to have a full plate for dinner – in keeping with the wonderful hospitality of this Persian family.

Saturday
After an early wake up, I headed over the Chehalem Mountain Range to go meet my buddy’s from Elk Cove Vineyards to play a round of golf at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. This course is a regular host to significant tournaments, including a yearly stop on the LPGA Tour; so let me tell you it was not easy! The course is primarily a forest setting that opens up to the plains that surround the club. Great day to be playing 18, it was a blast catching up with some old friends and making some new ones.

I then headed back to enjoy the OPC Kickoff Party that afternoon over at Sokol Blosser Winery, where over 250 ‘campers’ were plied by over 50 wineries red and white bottlings and culinary delights by a local caterer. This casual, walk-about gathering was a fantastic way for these newbies to begin immersing themselves into Oregon and the varied collection of wines. Personal favorites that I tasted that evening were two Rieslings by Brooks, Sokol Blosser Rose and Elk Cove Pinot Noir.

On Sunday morning, after having a quick latte (#2) with Tahmiene of Maysara, I caught up with Alex Sokol Blosser and we headed over to Penner-Ash to begin preparing for Day #1 of the OPC Soil Seminar. Basically, on the Penner-Ash property are two distinct soil types (Volcanic & Marine Sedimentary – rather rare in the Valley) and campers are walked through both areas, then tasted on a collection of wines representative of their appropriate soil type. I thought this was one of the best seminars I attended during my time at OPC three years ago and having the chance to setup with winemakers, growers and winery folks just further endeared Oregon to me.

That evening, the large format/vintage dinner was held at Domaine Serene – putting campers together with wineries who opened older bottlings for them to taste. Before the event, I donated my time to Panther Creek Winery, pouring with with my buddy Bill Hanson, their Director of Sales & Marketing and Assistant Winemaker. This was great, as it allowed me to interact with more campers, dialogue with people from around the country and get to know some of the wine folks better during the tasting. Dinner was all about the community and sharing, with large format bottles and older vintages being pulled out by every winery. My favorites were definitely the Elk Cove 1997 Roosevelt, Adelsheim 1999 Elizabeth’s and 1998 Belle Pente Murto Vineyard.

Monday I headed up to Portland for some meetings and a culinary tour around the city. First stop was to Lovejoy Bakery where I was able to enjoy a delicious Buttermilk Scone paired with a Stumptown latte (#3). This bakery is a staple in town, located in the heart of the Pearl District – an area of galleries, condos, small shops and very indicative of what Portland is all about. Moving on, I hit a few of Portland’s food trucks – most of which are based around parking lots, so they’re basically renting a fixed space and setting up shop there. My first delicious bites included a killer Reindeer Sausage topped with caramelized onions and a spiked garlic sauce, then topped with sauerkraut. Little heavier than I would have liked for lunch but the flavors were bursting out of the bun. I still wanted to have a little something, so with my ‘dining’ companion, we split an amazing Buffalo Burrito – 100% barley raised, with red cabbage slaw and a killer chipotle chili sauce. Now, THIS was eating!

Continuing the walk-about around Portland, we bounced to some shops and an interestingly, over-geeky coffee spot (Public Domain Coffee) before finding our way to Clyde Common, one of my favorite bars in the city. This is obviously not only a bar, but a great restaurant and we were in perfect time for Happy Hour, including watching the bartenders mix up the evening’s daily punch. After a brief stop to my hotel, I wanted to go check out a friend’s restaurant, Portland Prime and their amazing collection of small plates for happy hour. This stop was perfect, considering they had wine on tap (been dying to try some) and great flavors with generous portions.

By now, I know many of you would be stuffed, however I am a professional (ha!), so we kept going. My buddy picked us up and we went to explore Andy Richter’s Whiskey Soda Lounge for Mixology cocktails and the best wings I’ve ever eaten. No, I’m not kidding. These wings are done in a Thai style, with fish sauce and caramelized goodness – you have to go. Now.

And, even though I was now full, my buddy insisted on heading to dinner, popping into clarklewis for their 4-course, family style tasting menu! This restaurant is all about the farm to table experience and it did not disappoint – being able to enjoy pork belly in a fir sauce along with the daily ‘market-plate’ of vegetables, cheese and meats was awesome.

On my final full day in Oregon, I started off with a great Soy Latte from Stumptown (#4) and a very fresh Hazelnut Raspberry Scone before heading back down to the Willamette Valley. Upon arriving I was able to participate in a closing OPC session, the Dundee Hills Block Party; a tour through the vineyards of Sokol Blosser, Eyrie, Lange (Durant Vineyard), Domaine Drouhin & Archery Summit. Not only were we shown through each vineyard, we had the chance to taste a wine made from each specific block consummating with a lunch at Archery Summit, catered by Bunk Sandwiches, paired with older vintages from each winery. This event truly showcased the hospitality and community of Pinot Camp and Oregon wineries; once again I had to ask myself why I didn’t live here.

Wrapping up the day, I caught up with dear friends Scott and Courtney for a fantastically mellow end to my trip. We commandeered a friend’s house for a Copper River Salmon BBQ and Bake, complemented by fresh Margaritas and Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noir. Dinner was held on the back patio of the house, looking directly at the vineyards and with a sunset not happening until 9:30pm. Complementing dinner were two delicious bottles a Cristom, 2001 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee and a Soter, 2005 Brut Rose. Life definitely did not suck.

After getting packed up and settled, I headed out of the valley and made my way to the Portland Airport – sad to be leaving one of my favorite places on earth but completely at peace with myself based on the experiences I had over the last 6 ½ days. I can’t wait to go back, experience more of Oregon, see friends, taste more fantastic food and enjoy more of their wonderful wines. In the mean time, I’ll just have to pop a cork on a great bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and transport myself there.

Keep eating and drinking!