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Cutchogue: Bedell Cellars First Crush
On a shockingly bitter cold Tuesday in November, Bedell Cellars of Cutchogue held an exciting launch party celebrating the release of Bedell First Crush Red 2013 and the winery’s collaboration with artist Mickalene Thomas; who’s art proudly decorates the bottle. The expected 200 guests stayed warm at the Four Seasons in NYC and indulged in a variety of Bedell wines in suitable honor of the winery.

Bedell Cellars’ owner and Hollywood film producer Michael Lynne, mingled with guests with a smile on his face that never faltered. Among those invited were several whom are well known in the art and entertainment community including Stacy Engman, a curator at the National Arts Club in New York; Mashonda Tefiere, previously married to musical artist Swizz Beats; and Will Cotton, a famous painter whose inspiration is sourced from Katy Perry.

The 2013 First Crush is an exquisite blend of 60% merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, from grapes picked from younger vines. Lettie Teague of The Wall Street Journal describes it as, “A light juicy blend, pretty, uncomplicated, marked by soft tannins and bright red berry fruit.” It is absolutely delicious and delightfully smooth. Among other wines poured were an oak barreled chardonnay, a stainless steel chardonnay, and the Musée, another red blend with heavy, velvety tannins and a long finish. 3-2

Accompanying the wine were elegant hor dourves of steak carpaccio with truffle oil, seared tuna with mango chutney, duck wontons, and fried oysters among several others. Guests reacted very positively grabbing bites just as quickly as wine was being poured. Each food passed was more delicious than the last and thankfully were not in short supply.

Some time into the evening, Michael Lynne addressed the attendees, announcing the release of First Crush and introducing Mickalene Thomas whom also spoke to the crowd of the wine and her artwork. She described First Crush as being very easy to drink and would also make for an excellent art piece after drinking! Both speakers radiated positive energy and the crowd gave a loud and long applause to honor the collaboration. 4-2

The evening was a lovely celebratory event of art, great food, and excellent wine. To name this newly launched Bedell wine First Crush is an understatement. It truly seems more appropriate to be titled “First Love.”

NYC Happenings: Paul’s on Time Square
Paul Nicaj and Dino Redzic know hospitality like the back of their hands and they proved just how well they know it at the grand opening party for their new restaurant “Paul’s on Time Square.” The two industry giants held a warm and welcoming event at the Hilton Garden on 42nd Street last Wednesday to celebrate their newest project, and the hotel’s featured restaurant, described as a destination for Italian fare with a global touch. FullSizeRender(2)

The party kicked off several stories up in a cozy lounge with a fireplace, tables for both communal and private seating, and an outdoor terrace. Champagne and wine was poured and complimented the extravagant spread of Italian meats and cheeses as well as an assortment of fruits and nuts.FullSizeRender(3)
The main dish was a whole baked branzino, delicately cut and served to guests whom were eager to try. The hor dourves passed included mini caprese skewers, bruschetta bites, crab cakes, and margharita pizza slices. All seemed to enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and the company.

Drawing a crowd next to the main bar was New York City’s first “SmartTender,” a revolutionary automated bartending system. Guests, myself included, were instructed on how to try the new bar toy. The touchscreen displays the list of spirit options. By touching the screen to choose, the patron then selects a mixer such as cranberry juice, pineapple juice, Coca-Cola, etc. Next, the SmartTender prompts the guest to choose an additive if preferred. Those listed were seltzer, orange bitters and lime juice, to name a few. The final step in the process is the option of adding an additional shot of alcohol and then it’s time to pour. The SmartTender registers the guests’ choices and pours a proportionally correct beverage into a glass positioned below the machine’s dispenser. Viola! A cocktail made to your liking in 30 seconds.FullSizeRender(4)

With my new “smart” made drink in hand, I made my way through the crowd and came upon Paul and Dino’s private table where they sat with, whom I presumed to be, close friends and family. I sat at a table close by and glanced in their direction noticing the plates of meatballs, shrimp cocktail, and other dishes that filled the table. Everything looked delicious and I could not refrain myself from commenting on the spread that lay out in front of them.

My remark did not go unheard and was responded to by Paul and Dino offering me to indulge in the food before them. “Please, please, eat,” I heard either Paul or Dino exclaim, pushing the plates towards me. And although I was not entirely sure which of these gentlemen made this hospitable notion towards me, I was too pleasantly surprised by the gesture to care. To the guests and myself, the event was for Paul and Dino- to celebrate the opening of “Paul’s” and their success in the industry. Yet to Paul and Dino, as it became very clear to me then, the night was for their guests and their customers, and at any time, even at their own celebration, they would make sure to show great hospitality.FullSizeRender

Photo credit: Laurain Aydinian

Hamptons Eats: Yummy Lobster Roll and Tiramisu
Last week my friend Helen and I went to 75 Main for Lunch and it was delightful. 75 Main was busy this summer and many celebrities were scene dining there all summer, I stayed away because I thought it was just a place to be scene, so I decided to wait until after Labor Day to dine there. I was happy I waited the service was great and my lunch was delicious but the dessert was AMAZING!!!

We started with an afternoon cocktail,because it was Friday and I have always known 75 Main to make really delicious drinks, they did not disappoint. I ordered a Watermelon Martini and it was delicious. A perfect drink that made me want another, you know the kind of drink where the alcohol sneaks up on you. I had only one since I was driving.DSC_7541
I was surprised that there were no specials on the menu for lunch, but that is because it was a brunch menu. There were no starters so my friend and I ordered a 75 MAIN CHOPPED SALAD and split it. It was a fairly large portion even the split, I loved everything in it, it gave me the crunch with the candid walnuts, the sweetness with the craisens and the other ingredients included were roasted red peppers, red onions, gorgonzola & balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious, my only suggestion is if you order this salad, ask for the dressing on the side, the lettuce was somewhat wilted when it got to the table.
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We then decided to order the SALMON BLT: grilled salmon, whole wheat bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, tarragon mayonnaise and the TRADITIONAL MAINE LOBSTER ROLL. DSC_7547
Both sandwiches were very good, but the Lobster roll was by far my favorite, it was full of succulent lobster, well worth the $30. I liked the Salmon BLT but thought the salmon was over-cooked, so it was not as enjoyable as I would have liked.DSC_7549

We ended our meal with a dessert that we shared because I LOVE Tiramisu but was too full to eat it by myself……75 Main makes a very good Tiramisu and I was not disappointed.…DSC_7552
I could totally skip lunch and just go for dessert and coffee. If you have a sweet tooth you must try the Tiramisu. Many times some do not do a good job with this dessert, the cake is wet and spongy, but this cake just melted in my mouth. It was not wet, it was not spongy, the chocolate was not overly sweet, it fulfilled my sweet tooth without giving me a sugar rush. IT WAS PERFECT! I totally recommend you make a special trip just for the Lobster Roll and the Tiramisu.

Overall this was a nice way to spend an afternoon in the Hamptons with my buddy. I recommend going there for lunch and I look forward to dining there for dinner soon.

Hamptons Eats: Stirring the Pot: Conversations with Culinary Celebrities, was held at Guild Hall in East Hampton on 3 different Sundays this summer. The third and final event of the series featured Daniel Boulud, internationally renowned French chef and owner of over 16 restaurants, including Daniel in New York City.
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The event began with a meet-and-greet brunch with Daniel. Complementary glasses of sparking wine were provided by Cantí Prosecco as well as virgin sangria cocktails by Baì teas and an espresso bar sponsored by Nespresso. photo 1
Brunch bites were made by Food Gourmet East Hampton and included salmon and goat cheese crostinis as well as a variety of vegetable frittatas. As food and beverages were enjoyed, Chef Daniel mingled through the crowd, engaging in conversations, and taking photos with fans. photo 2

Following brunch was a conversation with the chef in the John Drew theatre hosted by Florence Fabricant, a food writer and columnist who contributes to the New York Times dining section. The interview played out well with interesting questions and smooth transitions. Florence mentioned Daniel’s new book Letter to a Young Chef, available for signing, and touched upon significant points in his life in which Daniel expanded on, taking us through a series of experiences from the beginning of his journey to the present.

A highlight and perhaps most memorable moment, in which the audience reacted with attention and interest, was in his description of how he prefers to cook a striped bass. Bass is currently in-season and also native to these Hamptons waters so the conversation became very relatable to the group. Daniel exclaimed that he would not cook the bass in an oven but over a wide open grill, stuffed with a variety of herbs such as coriander and thyme, and dressed with sliced lemons and a drizzle of olive oil. The fish would sit upon a bed of salt above the fire to help seal in the juices and provide a lovely smoky flavor.

In the last 20 minutes audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions of their own. By the end, Daniel wrapped up the discussion by giving advice to a young aspiring chef on how to start and what to focus on to be successful. Tips included learn basic knife skills, follow cookbooks precisely, get experience in a kitchen working with a good chef, and one we have all heard before; practice.
From beginning to end chef Daniel was charming, humorous, and engaging. He seemed quite down-to-earth for the success he’s acquired and the empire he’s built, and because of this, proved himself quite admirable. Needless to say I have promised my next dinner out in New York to be at Daniel.

Hamptons Eats: Steak a Claim in Your Summer at Delmonico’s of Southampton
It was another 5-star weather weekend in the Hamptons but as the sun began to set, streaking the trees on Elm Street in Southampton with a fantastic glittering gold, unfortunately my experience at Delmonico’s Steakhouse could not be rated the same.

I stepped into a quiet dining room and noticed several patrons quenching their thirst at the bar. I opted for an outside table to enjoy the gorgeous evening. The décor was simple and clean. The scene set for a well-deserved meal after a long, eventful day in the Hamptons. Red and white striped pillows decorated the furniture on the outdoor patio, evoking a nautical feel. The raw bar was appropriately situated there supporting the seaside vibe. photo-11

The service was fabulous. Upon sitting, the waiter offered a glass of rosé, which some may have considered a pushy or forward gesture but one which I appreciated. Throughout the evening he was attentive but not over-bearing. I chose the “Spiced Margarita,” the cocktail lingered on my mind after having read of it on the online menu several hours prior. It was brought with a mixture of salt and black pepper along the rim, collaborating the saltiness with the “spice.” Garnished with a fresh sprig of mint, I was pleasantly surprised to hear had come from the plant grown on premises. I was happy that he made sure both my water and cocktail glasses were never found empty, a golden rule in restaurant hospitality.photo-18

It is my own personal mission when at a new restaurant, to try the crab cake. If it is mastered, I am already impressed. My crab cake appetizer at Delmonico’s was above average.An abnormally large portion for an appetizer but I had no complaints of that. A large cake, of almost entirely crabmeat, was mixed with summer vegetables (corn, carrots, etc.) and was plated with a piquillo pepper coulis melon “tartar” accompanied the two but I found it a bit bland. The flavors of the crab cake and coulis were a heavenly match but the melon seemed out of place and unnecessary. A simple arugula or watercress salad, lightly dressed in olive oil and a bit of lemon, would have been a perfectly suitable alternative. Some in-season green for a coolness to balance the spice of the pepper but also unify the dish.
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The bulk and real “meat” of the meal (no pun intended) was the rib eye special. This dish was marketed as a steak with lobster mashed potatoes, and topped with chanterelle mushrooms. In complete honesty I give this particular entrée a 5 out of 10 rating. The steak had a nice char and was cooked medium-rare, as I had requested, yet it was quite chewy and took a bit of effort to conquer. I was also not given a steak knife and it was very hard to cut through. I paired my steak with a tasty malbec selection, the glass running a tad on the small side. I was disappointed to find that the lobster in my mashed potatoes was practically non-existent. In this case, I would not have labeled them as so. Why not keep it simple with garlic mashed and nail it on the head without falling short of possible higher expectation? photo-19

My waiter had asked if he could bring me the “Classic Delmonico’s potatoes” along with my entrée. I gladly accepted and was very happy I did. This small potato dish stole the show. The Delmonico’s spin on cheesy potatoes, this side was layered with parmesan cheese, a soft Spanish cheese to balance the pungency, and was baked with pancetta. It was both sinful and divine; I am confident one of the most favored items on the menu.

photo-22Although my stomach began to fill I could not pass up dessert. The menu was small and with standard steakhouse options: an ice cream, a chocolate cake, a cheesecake. I chose the smore’s ice cream, something new for me in comparison to the others. Laced with chocolate chips, graham cracker, and marshmallows, it was, in a nutshell, a more texturally exciting chocolate ice cream. More interesting than rocky road, to compare, but in no way a dessert which forces you to loosen your belt buckle and lick the plate clean. Need-less to say, it was chocolate and I was satisfied.

When my dinner came to an end, I was happily stuffed on a satisfying and elegant meal that impressed me in some ways but disappointed me in others. Delmonico’s provides a simple, comfortable dining experience, sure to quench your thirst and satisfy your tummies. It is unfortunate, however, that a steakhouse that holds a top-of-the line reputation, would fall short when it came to the steak. I recommend Delmonico’s Steakhouse in Southampton for a very pleasant and tasty meal. Not for one that is set to knock your flips flops off.