New York City – President’s Day Weekend with Friends

The President’s Day three-day weekend is a much-needed reprieve in the middle of February.  My friends, Ian and Mike, came out to NYC for a few days to blow off some steam and enjoy the offerings of the city.  As always, by the time they left I thought my liver was going to explode and my lack of sleep was catching up with me.  Here are the highlights:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

  • A walking exploration of Chinatown.
  • Had some tea at Mr. Tea, a small little tea and snack shop on a side street in Chinatown.
  • Basilica – a great little Italian place in Hell’s Kitchen.  I had the squid ink pasta with shrimp and a side of garlic toast.  Brie and I split a bottle of Montepulciano.

Sunday:

  • Coney Island The classic getaway for New Yorker’s.  Everything from the boardwalk and the beach to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and the Cyclone.
  • NYC Aquarium A decent aquarium, but I would have expected more for a city such as NYC.
  • Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.  There’s something awesome about a classic hot dog that snaps when you bite into it.  NOTE: Try and not pay attention to the calorie postings.
  • A return trip to Valhalla with some Sacco Pizza.  The beauty of this bar (in addition to the beer selection) is the fact you can bring in your own food.

Monday:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
  • Halal Cart – Street vendors that sell things such as Falafel and Gyro sandwiches.  Our delicious Gyro sandwiches (half lamb, half chicken) were smothered in white sauce and hot sauce.

In addition to the major events listed above, we watched the opening ceremony for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and played drinking games while watching Three Sheets.  As always, it was a great time and we made the most out of the short time and bad weather.  Until next time!

I am also including some of the pieces that struck a chord with me while at the MoMA and Met.

Monet, Hopper, Warhol, Braque, Picasso, Miro, Klee


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A Weekend in the Poconos – Poire Williams and Irish Whiskey

A weekend in the Poconos isn’t complete unless some fine liquor is consumed.  While the food was fantastic (well mostly, I made a forgettable Scotch Broth), I am going to focus on an amazing Poire Williams from France and a lovely 16-year-old Whiskey from Ireland.

Poire Williams is a pear flavored ea-de-vie/brandy/schnapps made mainly in Germany and France.  Most of the times it is around 70 proof (35% alcohol), but this special bottle of Joseph Cartron Poire Williams from France is 98 proof (49% alcohol) and packs a delicious punch.  The sealing wax used to keep the cap on is always a pain to break through, but it gives it a beautiful touch.  Unfortunately I cannot find it anywhere in the United States, so it is one of those items that I get when I travel to Germany.

As for the Irish Whiskey, it is 16-year-old single malt from Bushmills (Northern Ireland).  It is a fantastic whiskey with nutty flavors and a lot of character.  I am guessing that comes from the fact that it ages in three different casks: an American Bourbon cask, a Oloroso Sherry cask, and finally finished off in port wine pipes.  Long story short: Delicious!

Proof that Wisdom Comes with Age: My Journey from McCormick Vodka to Johnnie Walker Blue Label

I have trouble recalling the exact moment I fell in love with Scotch Whisky, but I believe it was sometime in the winter of 2003.  I don’t know if my taste buds were evolving, or if they were simply damaged from my college years of drinking cheap rum and vodka, but all of a sudden Scotch was a new obsession.  I started off with Johnnie Walker Red and slowly moved to the more complex single-malts as money became less of a concern.  The first single malt I ever purchased was Oban, and I still have the box today (modified as a piggy bank).  Over the years I sampled more and more whisky and began developing a discerning palate.  I can usually tell which region of Scotland the Scotch is from and have put together a long list of likes and dislikes.  For a Christmas present this year Brie purchased a lovely bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (pictured) for me to enjoy.  This follows last year’s bottle of Gold Label.  She definitely knows what I love!

I will post more Scotch tastings in the future and will also write something about my other love: Irish Whiskey

Lack of German Schnapps and Wurst in the United States

When we moved to New York City I was expecting to find some authentic German wurst and schnapps.  Unfortunately, the options have been surprisingly limited.  The only beacon of hope is Schaller & Weber on the Upper East Side, but their prices are prohibitive.  This has leads me down the dangerous path of: “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  Unfortunately, this also means I start to obsess and become a bit of a Mr. Toad with my new found hobbies.

Example #1:

Schnapps.  Eau de Vie.  Fruit Brandy.  Do not confuse this with the sickly sweet US version of schnapps.  European fruit schnapps that is clear, lacks sweetness, is about 80 proof, and has a delicate smell/taste of fruit.  My favorites would have to include Williams Birne (Pear), Mirabelle (a type of plum), Himbeergeist (raspberry), and Obst (mixed fruit).  Of all the places to buy liquor in NYC, I have only found a few spots that carry this type of alcohol and what they do have is over $50 a bottle.  How does this happen?  In Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium, these 750mL bottles usually run between 6€ and 15€ a bottle.  So what did this road block make me do?  “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  I found some lovely hand-made copper stills from Portugal and had looked up some recipes and tips on making this type of liquor at home.  My dream quickly shattered when I found out that distilling your own alcohol in the United States is still very illegal.  Damn.  With that said, I have looked up the laws in a few European countries and if you are distilling for your own personal consumption, it is completely legal and easy to get set up.  *reason #50 to move back to Europe*

Example #2:

Wurst: Leoner, Schinkenwurst, Bierwurst, Leberwurst.
Bratwurst: Thuringer, Nurnberger, Weißwurst, Knackwurst, Knoblauchwurst.

These things just don’t exist here in the U.S., and when you do find something that shares the same name, the quality is not even close to what you find in Deutschland.  What does this make me do?  “Well if I can’t find it, let me try to make it myself!”  And away I go…

The first thing I do is go out and buy a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  I get books on how to make sausage at home, I search for recipes in German, and I do research on the various steps involved in the sausage-making process.    The hardest part was finding the natural casings I wanted to use, but I ultimately get a batch sent to me and I now possess nearly 60 feet of hog intestine.  I’m so proud.

My first attempt at making Weißwurst will be my next post, so stay tuned.

January 12th – Buono Cibo, Buono Vino, Buoni Amici

Good Food, Good Wine, Good Friends

These three things are the building blocks of my life. Over the years we experience many meals, countless bottles of wine (some more than others), and various friends come and go.  On occasion we are lucky enough to encounter a meal that will leave us speechless, a bottle of wine that makes us close our eyes in delight, and friends that last a lifetime.  With that said, I kick off this blog in honor of all the things that make life worth living and the treasured memories they produce.

Come celebrate ‘La Dolce Vita’ with me.