Turning Wine Into Hope: Wine on Wheels

Turning Wine Into Hope

 


Each spring since 2012, New York City’s finest hospitality professionals gather for what is now known as one of the most anticipated wine events of the year. Wine on Wheels is the main fundraising initiative of Wheeling Forward, a substantial contributor in assisting individuals with spinal cord disability obtain a proper support system, resources, and services needed to continue active and fruitful lives. Wheeling Forward has earned a reputation of understanding first hand how each disability impacts every person’s life uniquely.

Founders Alex Elegudin and Yannick Benjamin met after sustaining spinal cord injuries in the same month. At the time, Alex was 19 and Yannick, 25. Both young and determined to persevere, Alex returned to school and became an attorney. Yannick went to college while becoming an esteemed sommelier. After years of volunteering in the disability community, Alex and Yannick decided to use their experience, talent and individual networks to tackle challenging, underserved areas of need. In 2011, Wheeling Forward was manifested with the assistance of several committed board members.

For the last 8 years, Wheeling Forward has provided many with the motivation and resources to resume active lives!

This is why Wine on Wheels is so important!

In February of 2012, Yannick and Alex hosted the first ever Wine on Wheels Grand Tasting. Yannick, always motivated to serve others invoked his peers from the restaurant community to join the cause! Each year since, more and more budding Sommeliers, Chefs and wine enthusiasts have gathered at the Wine on Wheels Grand Tasting to display hospitality in true definition: the virtue of caring for others.

The grand tasting, is a day when wine aficionados and wine novices alike can gather together to learn and enjoy – for the benefit and support of those in need.

From the support of the restaurant industry’s best, Wheeling Forward is now recognized as hospitality driven, innovative and consists of a constantly growing and effective group of self giving advocates dedicated to enrich the lives of the disabled community.

There are many way to become apart of the Wine on Wheels tradition. You can assist in changing the lives of many! Visit Wine on Wheels to learn how!

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Feast your eyes & your appetite: Toronto 

Anticipation is an emotion I have always associated with traveling. My imagination runs wild when I begin to fantasize of adventures that may come about while exploring new city streets. My appetite grows when I wonder how other communities offer and enjoy hospitality. After all, good food, good wine and pleasant company is what unites all cultures and civilizations! With an additional dash of architectural design and style, we are ready for a weekend well spent! 

Toronto is a culturally rich city, as one would expect. It is full of youth and beauty and clearly evokes a certain standard of living. Not only is this prominent by the amount of Audi’s and Porsche’s on the roads; but the restaurants and rooftop bars have an attention to detail which tailors to Toronto’s vibrant millennial culture. For the first time in my career I have been more delighted by the atmosphere and design of Toronto eateries than I was impressed by the food. I experienced no terrible meal of course, but I found myself more in awe at color schemes and fabric choices than at flavor combinations. I am looking forward to returning and experiencing the internationally acclaimed Canoe and Aloe, but for an introdutory visit, feast your eyes and your appetite on the following:                                                                                                                                              

Make it a point to visit Colette, a more than French Bistro located on Wellington St. The interior is designed by Gianpiero Pugliese and boasts of full Parisian-style throughout the bakery, café, bar and library. The dining room and wrap around terrace decorated with topiaries and scalloped valances are beyond regal. The chandeliers which hang from a high ceiling will have you question if you are dining at Versailles. Join for Saturday brunch and begin your Toronto adventures at Colette. Savor French favorites such as a croque monsieur or madame and sip your coffee with pinkies up. 

Art Deco meets Italian Renaissance at Oretta. Located on the see and be seen King St., Oretta’s clashy pastel, jewel toned interior paired with stiking accents of gold inspire pure dolce vita. Their menu is designed for anytime of day (oretta translates into any hour) and offers seasonal Italian favorites that will please anyone. Pizzas are thin crusted and delicious, their pastas are flavorful and plentiful. Their mostly all Italian wine list is impressive. Though, nothing is more impressive than Oretta’s airy sophistication. 

For Soigné ingredients and a direct view of the CN Tower, visit Lavelle. This rooftop bar also located on King St. may give off Jersey Shore nightclub vibes at first, but those vibes will quickly turn into luxe sophistication. Chef Romain Avril helms the kitchen, and though Michelin has yet to arrive in Canada, Chef Avril is serving up Michelin quality. Cocktails are inventive and certainly pack a punch for your buck. Spend your day at Lavelle and enjoy the Canadian breeze with a view! 
 

Villanelle 

There are a handful of restaurants in New York City that I refer to as hidden gems. These hidden gems you all learn about through various ways. What you are unaware of are the city’s precious gems. Some restaurants I enjoy so much, I tend to keep them as little secrets for myself to enjoy. Such is the case with Villanelle

Yes, the name sounds exotic, but this restaurant is much more than a clever name. Chef Nick Licata creates his own Villanelle at the namesake Greenwich Village restaurant and truly represents the meaning of word. Like the 19 lined poem depicting pastoral scenes of Italy, Chef Licata has a 19 item menu that highlights the freshest ingredients from the neighboring Union Square Farmers Market. 
My first visit to Villanelle was during the opening week in early March. Of course I was warmly welcomed by eager staff with gleaming smiles. I made myself comfortable at the bar, and the bartenders made sure I was comfortable too. Hospitable and absolutely delicious, my immediate impression was ‘I must return’! 

A few weeks later, I did return and sat at a table. Once again warmly welcomed. The difference this visit, though, was my sense of familiarity. I couldn’t help having repeat dishes from my first visit like Chef Licata’s crispy octopus. Known as his signature dish, the octopus is steamed for two hours before gently fried; served with a mouth watering pomme purée and coveted spring favorite, nettles. The house made cavatelli with black pepper is served with fresh market asparagus and a hen egg. Similar to a carbonara, the cavatelli has a subtilty that contributes to its appeal. The silky slow poached Arctic Char with sorrel, dill oil and plenty of roe is a dish I hope will be on the menu for some time. 

On my most recent visit, I once again opted for the bar. Just missing their newly launched oyster happy hour which is from 5:30pm to 7pm, I instead enjoyed the Cured Thai Snapper. This tartare style dish is accompanied by radishes from the farmers market, though that may change based on availability. The snapper is cured in a curry pulp, which is made from banana, kaffir lime leaves, kombu, thai chilies, and offers a refreshing kick! 

Desserts at Villanelle are some of the most delicious I’ve had. Chef Licata and Chef de Partie Christian Grindrod have collaboratively exposed a broad range of flavors from ingredients found at the farmers market. They bake parsnip root then butter-braise it, and serve it with white chocolate. It’s skin, thinly shaved, turns into a delicious crisp that encases the vegetable. It makes for a creamy, buttery dessert that is rich, uniquely flavored and utterly satisfying. A watermelon sorbet is served under a baked meringue crisp with fresh shelled peas which is served with a soft meringue, mint oil and fresh mint. Think pavlova, but with components more interesting than fruit. 

One of my new favorites, Villanelle is a restaurant I look forward to visiting again and again! 
Villanelle is located at 15 E. 12th Street between University Place and 5th Avenue, 212-989-2474, http://www.villanellenyc.com @villanellenyc. The restaurants serves dinner Monday – Thursday 5:30pm – 10:30pm; Friday & Saturday 5:30pm – 11:30pm; Lunch Monday – Friday 12:00pm – 2:30pm Closed Sunday. Happy Hour Monday – Friday 5:30pm – 7pm offers six East Coast oysters and a glass of wine, beer, sherry or cider for $15. 
Original publish date, May, 2017 

French Style Pavóchon!

Holiday Traditions are such a joyful pleasure. For those lucky to have traditions centered around a dinner table; eat, drink and be merry becomes an annual lifestyle!

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, was the busiest day of the year in the gastronomic world. It also traditionally signifies the beginning of the Christmas season.  Ding, Dong Merrily on High!

My brother Jason is quite the at home Chef. With my sister in law Beth at his side to deck their dinner table – (not to mention their home), the duo has certainly Mastered the Art of Living. The Crye family Black Friday Pavóchon is a tradition worth noting. My brother has  adepted his Pavóchon based off a Stephane Reynard recipe: Dinde Farcie de Bonnes Choses.

11 pound, deboned Turkey

3.5 ounces of bacon

3.5 ounces of pork belly

14 ounces pork loin

5 ounces chestnuts

6 cloves of garlic

3 shallots

1 cup heavy cream

half cup pistachios

2.5 Tablespoons Armagnac

half cup of white port

Olive Oil for sautéing, salt and pepper to taste

Peel, dice  the shallots and garlic, and sauté in olive oil.

Chop all the meat. Crush the nuts. Combine with cream, Armagnac, Port, garlic and shallots.

Spoon the stuffing into the Turkey cavity. Close it up with string. Oil the turkey and season.

Roast in a 235 degree oven for 3-4 hours, basting regularly.

#athomesoigné

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Virginia is for wine lovers

Just before Christmas in 1784, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend and wine contact John Bonfield, The American Council in Bordeaux. He expressed a fear. He wrote to his friend, “I have written a letter to Monsieur d’Yquem for 250 bottles of his newest vintage, but I am afraid he will not know who I am.” Mr. Bonfield in favor wrote to Monsieur d’Yquem introducing Thomas Jefferson, Minister of The United States of America. By February of 1785, Jefferson had received his 250 bottles which were described as “bottled with greatest care” in a letter signed by Count Louis-Amédée Lur Saluce, the newest proprietor of what Jefferson referred to as “House of Yquem.”

Thomas Jefferson’s introduction into the circles of French society was welcomed. They viewed him as “warming to intelligent conversation” and found his colonist lifestyle intriguing. His greatest friends included French liberals such as the Duke of Rochefoucauld, the Marquis de Chastellux, and General Lafayette. Through these influences and eventual life long friends, Jefferson discovered that fine wine and fine food is a great way to meet informally with political friends and foes. He approached gastronomy as a gentile art, and encouraged the newly American citizens to embrace it as a refined accompaniment for everyday life. During his time as president, Jefferson frequently used dinner parties as a form of legislative lobbying.

The success of Virginia viticulture was one of Jefferson’s greatest ambitions. He saw a vision in a state of breathtaking views, majestic mountain ranges, favorable climate, and diverse soils. “The best Virginia soil from an agricultural point of view is clay soil.” Exclaims Gabriele Rausse, the dubbed Godfather of Virginia wine and Director of Gardens and Grounds at Jefferson’s beloved home of Monticello. “As the Virginia wine industry started to take off people started to experiment with areas which were not clay.” Says Rausse. “Virginia also has a lot of loamy soil.”

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Virginia has a topography which compares very much to the Friuli region in Italy, and now produces quality wine as well. Though Jefferson’s predictions of Virginia wine were seen as over enthusiastic, now 200 years later Gabriele Rausse along with other Virginia winemakers have turned Jefferson’s vision a reality!

White Truffles!

While strolling the city, I’ve noticed the colors of the leaves are changing . Autumn has arrived! One of the world’s most rare ingredients has arrived too; the white truffle. These are not the black truffles of Burgundy, France seen on menus all over the world.  The Alba white truffle is one of the most expensive foods in the world. It grows wild and it can not be cultivated. The Alba white truffle is a true piece of gastronomic luxury.

Starting in early to mid  September through December truffle hunters along with their dogs prowl the Piedmont in search for what some call the diamond of the culinary world.

Once brought to surface, the truffles are sold to purveyors around the world. These precious fungi contain an aroma that is very earthy and can compare to mildew, or sweat, but trust me, it is strangely becoming and very intoxicating. You can smell a truffle from a few feet away but once shaven, the aroma fully exposed floats in the air. The truffle purveyors save their largest truffles for the best Chefs and restaurants and they eventually end up on your plate; garnishing buttered pasta, risotto, pizza, steaks, burgers, and even eggs. img_3126

I wish you a happy truffle season. Bon appetite! 

Panzanella!

img_3439The Italians love their pasta. They also love their Panzanella. Variations of this dish are known throughout the boot of Italy, though, there is nothing quite like savoring the flavors of this dish – especially in the Summer. Tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, and gatherings with friends are many. Preparation for Panzanella is easy for the novice cook, and the freshness in flavor is bound to impress anyone. Paired with a crisp bottle of Roero Arneis, the fruit forward notes provide a subtle balance while still offering a bit of a bite. Raise a glass, send off the Summer season in style!

1 (12- to 16-ounce) loaf sourdough bread

2 to 3 large heirloom tomatoes

1/2 large cucumber

1 medium red or yellow bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Instructions

Slice or tear the bread into roughly 1-inch cubes. I usually leave the crusts on, but you can remove them if you prefer. You should have about 10 overflowing cups of bread. Tear your bread for a more rustic presentation.

Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Bake in a 300°F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.

Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Peel, and deseed the cucumber.  Slice the onion into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the rest of the salad.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.

Combine the bread and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and thoroughly combine.

Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to 4 hours: Let the salad sit at least half an hour before serving, or up to 4 hours. Stir occasionally so the juices and vinaigrette are evenly distributed.

Add fresh basil just before serving. This salad is best eaten the day it’s made.

Mangia!