Cochon 555 is a “nose to tail” culinary event that covers nine cities on its U.S. tour. The organization was created in 2008 with a mission to support family farms and to educate buyers about heritage breed pigs. The signature event featured 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 winemakers in a friendly competition for a cause where the winner is crowned “Princess/Prince of Pork”. Sommeliers were on hand for a to pour wines and to participate in a Somm Smackdown.
The New York City leg of their tour was held on March 8th at the Altman Building event venue at 135 West 18th Street in Manhattan. The venue is a landmark building dating from 1896 and was the carriage house for the B. Altman department store.
This was one of the last events I was able to attend before the virus lockdown and fortunately it was one of those consumer events that had a good crowd enjoying a good mix of food, spirits and wine. They had oysters, cheese and steak tartare for those who were pork adverse though it seemed they didn’t get the logistics of the new venue down right, some of the lines for food were way too long and that was before general admittance was let in. But with a couple of floors of food, drink and music people were enjoying what was probably the last party that were able to attend.
This year was the 20th anniversary of La Paulée de New York which was held from March 4-7. The week included seminars, tastings and some very expensive dinners. The Grand Tasting was held on Saturday afternoon at the Pier Sixty event venue located at 60 Chelsea Piers on the far west side of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson river.
In the U. S., the festival alternates between New York City and San Francisco and showcases the latest vintage of the Burgundian wines to be released. At the Grand Tasting on Saturday afternoon over 50 wine professionals were on hand to serve the wines from over 40 domains of Burgundy. A team of top-notch chefs prepared “petits plats” for guests to nosh on while they sampled the various wines. Members of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastvin were on hand to serenade (a capella style) the wine drinkers.
The event is Restaurateur and Sommelier Daniel Johnson’s homage to the annual La Paulée de Meursault in Burgundy. That originally began as a end of harvest festival thrown by the Burgundian growers for their guests and field workers and was revived in the early twentieth century as an annual event for the growers and their guests.
The 2017 vintage was a much better year for Burgundy than Bordeaux. The later suffered through epic frost while Burgundy was able haul in the biggest crop since 2009.
This was one of those tastings that I could have spent 2-3 days tasting through all the wines. There were over 150 of some of the most famous (and expensive) wines in the world to taste. I really enjoyed the whites, in general they were very elegant and balanced wines with just enough of the tropical fruit and oak notes to make them interesting. The reds were light in color with restrained fruit and firm acids, very old world style.
On Saturday afternoon February 29th, Jimmy Carbone’s Food Karma Projects, a producer of food and craft beverage events, held the first ever Bowl of ‘Zole pozole festival. The event was held at Bibi restaurant at 110 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The event brought together 10 chefs who cooked their versions of Pozole for people to sample and to accompany all that were 50 different Mezcal from 20+ producers.
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup (stew), associated with special occasions, festivals and family. Traditionally made with pork and hominy, it comes in three versions, blanco (white), rojo (red), and verde (green). It’s Mexican comfort food, something that grandma would cook for you.
Mezcal is an alcoholic spirit from Mexico made from the agave plant. It is similar to tequila and while technically all tequila are mezcal, not all mezcal are tequila. Tequila must use a single varietal of agave (blue agave) and be made in the state of Jalisco, while Mezcal can be made using up to 28 different varieties of agave and mostly produced around the city of Oaxaca put produced in other States as well. With tequila the agave heads are baked in above ground ovens while in Mezcal the agave is cooked in the traditional method in pits dug into the ground. Cooking in those in-ground pits is what gives the Mezcal its smoky flavor profile. The permitted use of many types of agave and wider geographic production area results in a greater variety of styles of the spirit than in tequila. Many are still made in the traditional method at small production family run operations which means that with the exception of a small handful of labels, many of the brands are not widely distributed and were not familiar to me.
I have to admit that this was the first time I had a comprehensive tasting of Pozole as it’s an under the radar Mexican food choice. They are traditionally made with pork but there were versions made with chicken and seafood as well. I was able to sample the different versions of the stew and it was the perfect food choice to have on a chilly Winter Saturday afternoon.
Some of the Pozole I sampled:
La Esquina chef Gonzalo Rivera: Vuelve a la Vida Pozole, Maine lobster, mussels, clams, organic hominy, fennel, toasted sesame, & chile de arbol oil, smoky hoja santa broth.
Balvanera chef Fernando Navas: Pozole rojo with radishes, avocado and fresh oregano.
Bacado chef Ivy Stark: Pozole rojo with braised short rib.
Hotel Indigo chef Chai Trivedi Kitsch: Rojo, matzo ball Pozole.
Mesa Coyoacan chef Ivan Garcia: Shredded pork, hominy, guajillo, ancho chile broth, radish, oregano.
Toloache chef Julian Medina: Pozole verde, heirloom hominy, green curry, coconut milk broth, thai basi, lemongrass, salsa macha, been sprouts.
While Mezcal can be made from several types of agave, the “workhorse” is the Espadin varietal and many of the spirits on hand were made from that type of agave. I tried to sample as many made from agave other than Espadin.
New York City Beer Week began on Saturday, February 22nd. It was the start of 10 days of craft beer events with beer tastings, beer themed food pairings and seminars throughout the city.
The beer week kicked off with the Opening Bash on Saturday afternoon and evening. That event was held at the Brooklyn Expo Center, an event venue at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s becoming a popular spot for hosting beer/wine/spirit events.
The opening bash was sponsored by the New York City Brewers Guild whose mission is to advance New York City’s brewing industry and thereby “lessen human misery”.
It was a huge event with 75+ breweries from New York City, New York State and from around the country pouring their beer to sample with all styles represented. There was even a brewery on hand from Sweden.
At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, there were so many breweries in New York that New York State was the largest grower of hops in the country. Prohibition brought that all to an end. The last couple of decades has seen a resurgence for the beer industry in New York City and Data from the State Liquor Authority (2018) had 41 breweries throughout the five boroughs.
With such a massive amount of beer to sample, I focused my efforts on sampling any beer that was out of the ordinary. For the most part on that night that meant sampling sour beers which were usually infused with all sorts of fruits and botanicals, and any beer that was aged in various barrels which included wine, whiskey and rum barrels. For a change of pace I sampled stouts which themselves were flavored with coffee, chocolate, coconut and vanilla to name a few of the ingredients used. Surprisingly, I could only find one cider company in the house.
Some of what sampled:
Mikkeller: “Jammy Buggers” fruited sour ale.
KCBC:“Cosmic Zombie” barrel aged fruited sour ale with coffee.
Hops & Props was a beer festival that was held on February 8th. The event took place at the Cradle of Aviation Museum which is located on Charles Lindberg Boulevard in Garden City, Long Island.
The event featured 100+ craft beer and cider scattered throughout the galleries of the museum.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum is dedicated to the history of flight with galleries showcasing exhibits from the first hot air balloons to the space program. The museum houses many restored World War II fighter planes as well as an authentic Apollo-era lunar module. That lunar module was built by the Grumman Corp. which is based in nearby Bethpage and was scheduled to fly to the moon on the Apollo 18 mission. That mission was cancelled and the craft is now on exhibit in the museum. It was a cool venue to have a beer fest.
The museum sits on the Hempstead plains, a flat and treeless (at the beginning of the 20th century at least) part of central Nassau county on Long Island which made it a natural airfield. At the dawn of the aviation age, many flight schools and flying clubs made their homes in the area. Charles Lindbergh’s took off on his famous 1927 transatlantic flight from nearby Roosevelt Field which is now a shopping mall.
I go to a lot of wine/spirit/cocktail events and I have different expectations for every event I go to. There are the events that are geared for industry professionals and non industry enthusiasts. They usually serve the higher end and eclectic spirits. Many are open to consumers and spirit neophytes and those tend to focus on quantity more than quality. But they are a good way for the neophyte to learn more about wine ands spirits and they usually make for a fun party. I’ve had my expectations met, I’ve had them exceeded and sometimes the event did not live up to my expectations.
I recently attended an event that was more the latter than the former. It was a “Best Of” beer and food event in Brooklyn. Buying a ticket gained you entrance into a spartan, bare bones industrial floor space with a handful of beer vendors and food vendors that you had to purchase food to sample. It didn’t keep my interest peaked for too long and I spent less time at the event than on the commute to get there.
Fortunately the event was held at Industry City located at 36th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Industry Center is a complex of commercial buildings dating from the 1890’s that has been repurposed as a retail and commercial space. You can easily spend that day shopping, eating and drinking and when the weather is nice, relaxing in the outdoor spaces. It’s also home to breweries and distilleries.
The Craft New York Act of 2014 eased the regulations for opening a brewery or distillery in New York State which has resulted in a boom of those businesses in the state especially if they use local agriculture to make their products. Distilleries and Breweries have opened once again in New York City.
In Industry City if you walk over to building 5/6 you’ll find a few and since I didn’t spend too much time at the beer and food event, I stopped by a couple to sample a few spirits.
Standard Wormwood Distillery
This distillery produces sprits and liquors using New York State grown ingredients particularly wormwood as a base. Wormwood was a formally banned ingredient traditionally use in the production of Absinthe. I had a flight of spirits/liquor which included a Rye, an Agave, an Amaro, an Apertivo and a Wermut (vermouth).
This is the State’s first Sake brewery. They make several craft Sake and serve them on tap in their minimalist tasting room complete with a view of the brewing vats in the background.
I had a glass of the Bluedoor Junmai which was described as “umani laden, rich, clean”.
Next door to the Sake bar, they have the largest selection of New York spirits in the city, in fact those are the only spirits they are allowed to serve. I had a craft old fashioned.
This past Saturday on January 25th I attended the New York Wine Festival. It was a consumer event with tasting sessions in the afternoon and in the evening. I attended in the evening. The event was held at The Tunnel event venue at 269 11th Avenue on the west side of Manhattan.
These bi-yearly wine festivals are run by the same company at venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They are more or less cookie-cuter versions of each other with the same food and wine vendors in attendance. They’re not events for hardcore wine and spirit drinkers but rather events for wine and spirit neophytes who are looking to sample something new while socializing in a party atmosphere.
They poured a wide selection of wines from Italy, France, Spain, South Africa and the United States. Local wines from New York State were represented by RooftopReds, an urban winery based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard using New York State fruit and by Pumphouse Wines which poured locally produced red, white and rosé on tap.