Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Orleans' Greatest Chefs Honor Paul Prudhomme's Lifetime of Achievement

Dwight The Wine Doctor

New Orleans’ greatest chefs honor Paul Prudhomme’s Lifetime of Achievement

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

  1. Paul Prudhomme accepts the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award at New Orleans’ J.W. Marriott ile de France Grand Ballroom dinner in his honor
  2. Celebrity Chef John Besh shares his recipe for Slow Roast Saddle of Local Lamb with Dwight The Wine Doctor
  3. The main course paired with Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley
  4. Chicago's Chef Rick Tramonto shares news of his New Orleans venture, R'evolution Restaurant at the Royal Sonesta, French Quarter
  5. Chef Prudhomme shares a light moment with Dwight The Wine Doctor before the dinner

NEW ORLEANS—“I’m just a cook who likes to make people happy. The fact that I was able to make a nickel at it, was just lucky.” Those were the humble words of Chef Paul Prudhomme as he accepted the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award at a one-of-a-kind New Orleans Wine & Food Experience dinner in his honor. A galaxy of the Crescent City’s top culinary stars converged on the ile de France Grand Ballroom of the J.W. Marriott hotel to create a lavish six-course meal that included Chef John Folse & Chef Rick Tramonto’s Sugar Cured Duck Ham with Wild Mushroom Cream Orecchiette, Chef Lou Sanders’ Pickled Oysters on the Half Shell with Osetra Caviar and Chef John Besh’s main course of Slow Roast Saddle of Local Lamb with Verbena and Petite Farci of Covey Rise Farms Vegetables.

Chef Prudhomme is credited with almost single-handedly elevating New Orleans’ cuisine to international stature with his signature dishes at K Paul’s and through his numerous television appearances and personal outreach at restaurants and “pop-up” restaurant ‘happenings’ throughout the world over the course of his 40 plus year career.

“Chef Prudhomme is more than a legend, he is both a local and national hero to everyone who loves food and who loves New Orleans,” said Rick Tramonto, a celebrity chef known to Chicagoans as the founder of Tru restaurant on the Magnificent Mile and current owner of Tramonto Steak and Seafood. Tramonto is set to open Restaurant R’evolution in the historic Hotel Royal Sonesta in New Orleans’ legendary French Quarter this fall.

The night’s festivities were preceded by a Moet & Chanson Champagne Reception, Dinner Featured Moet & Chanson Brut Imperial and Brut Imperial Rose ($35.98), Champagne Gusset Brut Grand Rose, Grand Cru, Ay NV ($59.95) paired with Chef Tory McHale’s Crawfish Boil Vichyssoise, Reynolds Family Winery Pinot Noir, Los Corners, 2008 ($52.99) and Reynolds Family Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2008 ($29.99) paired with Chef Aaron Sanchez’ Seared Local Fish with Louisiana Shrimp Veracruzana & Salsa Verde, Presented by Restaurateur Drew Nieporent of New York’s famed TriBeCa Grill and NOBU followed by Chef John Besh and his Slow Roast Saddle of Local Lamb paired with Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006 ($75).

Chef Tariq Hanna provided a captivating dessert, P.B.&J. paired with Banyuls, Grand Cru “Clos Chatart,” Jacques Laverriere 1999 Port ($99). Tim Laughlin’s Quartet provided entertainment. Silent and Live Auctions presented a dizzying array of dining and vacation packages and an assortment of exotic wines and novelty items, such as a custom Schecter Limited Edition New Orleans Saints XLIV Champions Guitar donated by the New Orleans Saints Football Club and signed by Head Coach Sean Payton and a “Sippin’ In Sonoma” Wine country week. Electric guitar signed by members of the New Orleans’ Saints Super Bowl Championship team. New Orleans Designer Mignon Faget created the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality The award recognizes one individual each year that has made a lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry through extraordinary leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and philanthropic contributions to the community. The Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award is named for restaurateur legend Ella Brennan. Her deep passion and commitment has made a significant and longstanding impact on the New Orleans hospitality industry. This is the second year the award has been given.

New Orleans Magazine & Riedel Glassware sponsored the event.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

London in full bloom as nations put forth their best for London International Wine Fair

Dwight The Wine Doctor

London in full bloom as nations put their best wine foot forward at 31st London International Wine Fair

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1. Sunset over Kensington Gardens from the rooftop restaurant Min Jiang at the Royal Garden Hotel, London

2. Mark Bilt of Bilt Wines, Stellenbosch, South Africa

3. Dwight Casimere on Kensington High Street, London

4. Original art graces the labels of ENATE wines of Spain

5. Export Area Manager Tomas Arribas shows off an ENATE label selected for display in an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

6. South Africa makes a big splash at the 31st London International Wine Fair

7. At the Uruguay tasting pavilion

London, England--London is in full bloom as the sight and smell of Daphnes, Magnolia and Camellia fills the air in this misty and magical city.

The 31st London International Wine Fair kicked off at Excel London convention center with a dizzying round of tasting events and more than 20,000 wines and spirits being poured for industry professionals, including importers, merchants, producers, agents, restaurateurs, wholesalers, sommeliers and wine journalists. Some 100,000 people are expected to make their way among the breathtaking array of tasting booths and to attend focused tastings and seminars.

Preceding the fair was the announcement of the winners of the International Wine Competition. France came in first, with 1,932 medals. Australia took second place with just over a thousand and France garnered 979 medals to come in third.

Australian label Wolf Blass proved a highlight among competing winemakers, taking four gold medals with its Black Label 2006, Gold Label Riesling 2008, Platinum Label Shiraz 2007, and Yellow Label Shiraz 2009.

"There is significant commercial advantage for wines bearing the IWC logo and medal recognition," event director Chris Ashton said in a statement issued as results were announced yesterday.

"The competition generates considerable global media coverage for all IWC award-winners, and this in turn increases sales by strengthening a wine's credibility with consumers."

Innovation is the key as winemakers experiment with new varietals and make key changes in the profile of their existing portfolio to capture market share in the tectonic slip and slide of today’s ever-fluid market. Younger, inexperienced wine drinkers and women are target markets as producers offer lighter, more fruit forward and food friendly wines that are both easy to drink and easier on the pocketbook.

Fusion of wine and art is the calling card of ENATE wines of Spain. “If you look at our labels, each one is an original work of art. The owner is an avid art collector and we wanted to someone represent that in the wine,” said Export Area Manager Tomas Arribas. “One of our wine labels has been selected as part of an exhibit on the relationship of wine to art by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,” he said with pride.

Mark Bilton, of Bilton Wines, Stellenbosch, South Africa, in his characteristic jaunty Panama, greeted me with a warm handshake and a glass of his distinctive 2006 Gold medal winning Cabernet Sauvignon ($20). The elegant, stylish wine is redolent with flavors of cinnamon and cloves. This is a masculine wine with complex layers of fruit, balanced with touches of black olives and truffles. A grilled steak or hearty beef bourguignon are the recommended mains, but it’s versatile enough to pair with a variety of mildly spicy exotic cuisine. The outstanding balance and style of this wine has re-defined perceptions of quality among South African wines.

Wines of France, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Chile occupied prime spots on the floor of the Excel, with new players, such as Lebanon, Croatia and Russia, vying for attention. These “newcomers” actually bring with them a history of winemaking that practically goes back to the dawn of civilization. While their wines are consumed with relish within their own borders and are known to a handful of intrepid world travelers, this is their first time presenting on the world stage. Their presence makes for an intriguing and interesting London International Wine Fair. Cheers!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Get Reintroduced to Soave Wines of Italy at Eataly!

Dwight The Wine Doctor: Time to Get Reacquainted with Soave

Wines Reviewed by Dwight Casimere May 2, 2011


200 Fifth Avenue at 23rd

New York, New York 10010

United States

(212) 539-0204 - Ext. 304

Photos by Dwight Casimere

  1. The Arena inside the ancient city of Verona
  2. Alex Saper, general partner and manager of retail operations, Eataly
  3. The vast food and wine emporium at Eataly
  4. Dr. Luca Sabatini-Export Director, Cantina di Soave with Dwight Casimere
  5. Giovanni Ponchia-Soave Consorzio Tutela
  6. Michael Wolff-wine marketer
  7. Channeling “Samantha and Carrie” for the new series “Wine & The City!

NEW YORK-One of the first wines I was introduced to as a college freshman was Soave. I remember it vividly. I had it with my then girlfriend, Ruth McIhenny and a former Al American football player from Ohio State, Al Thrasher, who fancied himself to be a soul-singer in the James Brown vein. Needless to say, he was better off sticking to the gridiron. We were all students at the University of Chicago and were hanging out at “The Point,” a Promontory Park that juts out from the shore on the South Side of Chicago to reveal a dramatic view of the downtown skyline. After a hard night of hanging out at the blues clubs in Bronzeville, it was the perfect refresher as we watched the golden sunrise.

Since those salad days, my taste buds have been bogarted by Robert Mondavi’s Fume Blanc, and shortly thereafter, the oaky, buttery Chardonnays of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Recently, I’ve become enamored of the juicy, fruit-forward white wines coming out of Australia and New Zealand. So, it was with a great deal of expectation and more than a little curiosity that I followed up on an invitation to taste the new line of Soave wines, presented by the winemaker, Giovanni Ponchia of the Consorzio Tutela and Dr. Luca Sabatini, Export Director to the Cantina di Soave at the huge Italian food and wine emporium. Eataly on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Roughly, Soave means “mellow” in Italian, and that’s the best way to describe these highly approachable wines. Only, instead of the light, somewhat inconsequential wine I remembered, the wines now escalate in quality and complexity.

Eataly partner Alex Saper presented an impressive array of wines in Eataly’s La Scoula (cooking classroom) as a chef prepared fresh Risotto. Saper, manager of retail operations and a former financial analyst with J.P. and brother of Eataly CFO and general managing partner Adam Saper, gushed about the wines and their versatility to handpicked gathering of industry professionals and media which packed the room.

“The beauty of these wines is that they are so versatile. They go great with food, but they’re also great just by themselves, or as an aperitif with appetizers,” Saper said.

Dr. Luca Sabatini summed it up best, saying “This year, we have brought to the public a very high quality of wine. I think it will enjoy enormous success in the U.S. market.

Winemaker Giovanni Ponchia was effusive in his explanation of the wines. “What I’m most excited about are the changes that are now going on in Soave. The consortium has been doing a fascinating initiative for white wines made on volcanic soil called Vulcania. We’re starting to see the results now in terms of the new wines that we’re releasing that really express the terroir of the region.”

Soave comes from a region of northern Italy that surrounds the area of the fascinating medieval village of Soave, just outside picturesque Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s great romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Soave is one of the world’s top selling wines, and for many years was the vinified calling card of the Italian culinary world.

Servers passed prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and skewers of Rosemary-dusted chicken. A groaning sideboard featured an array of house made salumi and delectable Italian cheeses.

Eataly is the brainchild of culinary heavyweight and celebrity chef Mario Batali and a team of partners that includes fellow culinary maestro Oscar Farinetti and Batali’s New York partners, Lidia and Joe Bastianich. Located in an historic landmarked building, formerly known as the International Toy Center, across from the famous Flatiron building, the ornate lobby, which houses Eataly’s seven restaurants and retail shops, evokes the feeling of an Italian piazza. That visual reference is no accident. The Farinetti’s founded a similar complex in Turin, Italy. There is also an Eataly in Tokyo.

The beauty of the wines is that, in addition to possessing outstanding quality, they are reasonably priced in the $14-$28 range. Among the seven wines presented were:

Re Midas Soave DOC 2010, a golden, straw colored white wine that is beautifully dry, with characteristic aromas of apricot and nectar and flavors of melon and nectarine and a hint of nuts on the palate. The finish is like that of the crisp, early spring air. The wine is made from 100% Garganega grape, the indigenous variety of Soave, and is a prime representative of the grapes grown in the region’s volcanic soil. This “King Midas” wine sells for a very non-regal $24.

Soave Classico Castello 2009 ($22) is one of Veneto’s prima donnas. This bone-dry beauty is also made 100% from the region’s Garganega grape and is the flagship of the varietals.

My absolute favorite was the evening’s finale, Il Casale Soave Classico 2009, a lively, elegant wine with terrific acidity. It has a slightly fruity, fresh taste and a delicate perfume with hints of white flowers. A slight tartness on the finish adds an air of seductiveness. This is an absolute steal at $14!

The other wines presented included Si Soave 2009. Composed of 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano, this wine is typical of the light, crisp summer wines we associate with the Soave designation. Its similar to Pinot Grigio in texture and acidity, however, it’s a bit more complex with an extra layer of minerality due to the volcanic soil the grapes are grown in. This one answers the question,” what wine goes with oysters.”? Love the artsy curved bottle and can you believe, its only around $10 a bottle!

Clivus Soave Classico 2009 ($28), Soave Classico Rocca Sveva 2009 ($12) and Danieli Soave DOC 2009 ($22) rounded out the tasting and completed what turned out to be a stellar evening’s experience. Viva Italia! Viva Eataly!

Monday, May 9, 2011

James Beard Awards bestows "Oscars" of the culinary industry on celebrity chefs

Dwight The Wine Doctor: James Beard Awards bestow industries “Oscars” on the nation’s best chefs and restaurants

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1. Chef Emeril Lagasse with Dwight The Wine Doctor

2. Dwight Casimere with Food Network’s Bobby Flay

3. A chef and his porcine friends “ham it up” on the Red Carpe

4. James Beard Award celebrant at Lincoln Center Plaza

5. Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant, a past James Beard Award winner

6. Outstanding Chef of the Year winner Jose Andres’ minibar restaurant offering of Petrossian Caviar and prosciutto “tacos” at the VIP reception

New York—Petrossian Caviar and Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut champagne greeted celebrity chefs and winners and nominees of the annual James Bear Foundation Awards ceremony at Lincoln Center, the “Oscars” of the culinary industry. Celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Jacques Pepin and Emeril Lagasse rubbed shoulders with this year’s nominees and winners, including Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon New Orleans, who took home the James Beard award for best chef in the south from Emeril, his fellow New Orleans star chef.

Other winners included Chef Jose Andres of minibar in Washington, D.C., who was named the Outstanding Chef of the Year at the Lincoln Center gala. San Francisco’s Michael Tusk of Quince and Cotogna was named the best chef in the Pacific region. Popular Chicago restaurateur Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You was named Outstanding Restaurateur.

In the wine and distilled spirits category, Per Se in New York won for Outstanding Service. The Modern in New York took Outstanding Wine Service honors and Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky won the Outstanding Professional Award.

Among top awards, revered Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen in New York was named Best New Restaurant.