Thursday, August 20, 2015


Summer soiree' proves its never too early to start planning an elegant Holiday Champagne Party

by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--Fans were the tchotchke of choice on a sweltering summers eve at an elegant private East Village townhouse, filled with an exquisite private modern art collection and showcasing The Art of Celebrating The Holidays with Champagne Taittinger.

The stylish interior of the East 12th Street townhouse of Pamela Bell, founder of Prinkshop and co-founder of Kate Spade. The house is renowned for its original crown moldings and other original appointments and her fabulous modern art collection

The famous Taittinger Bicycle greeted guests at the open house event, featuring four distinct Taittinger Champagnes, Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV ($59.99), Taittinger Prestige Rose' NV ($83.99), Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs, 2005 ($169.99) and the piece de resistance, Taittinger Nocturne ($81.99).

Paired with the cuisine of Chef Sarah Simmons of Birds and Bubbles and the elegant interior designs of Sam Masters, the champagnes showed exquisitely. Guest Sommelier, Jerusha Frost, of Chef's Club, wearing a stunning red Holiday gown, was on hand to mingle with guests and personally pour the House's world-renowned Champagnes.  

    Guest Sommelier Jerusha Frost from Chef's Club
    Below: Cuisine of Chef Sarah Simmons of Birds and Bubbles

Sharing the Holiday Season with family and friends is a personal passion of the Taittinger family. Pierre-Emmanuel, Vitalie and Clovis Taittinger, the father, daughter and son team, respectively, look forward to it each year.

While sampling bites of Brussels Crostini with Champagne Vinaigrette, freshly shucked Oysters, and French Macarons and Chocolate Champagne Truffles, among other delicacies, guests were guided through each unique experience of Holiday entertaining; from an elegant Champagne Party, a sit-down Holiday Dinner with Champagne pairings and, the Grand Finale, a Moroccan-inspired New Year's Eve celebration under a Berber Tent.

An aerial view of the Berber Tent for a Moroccan-themed New Year's Eve Celebration

New interpretations of holiday menus and decor concepts are the perfect vehicles to experience the effortless elegance of Champagne Taittinger. The last of the family-owned and operated grand marque Champagne houses in France, Taittinger is the second largest vineyard or domaine owner in the region. This gives them ultimate control of quality from vine to bottle. The Champagnes are Chardonnay dominant, which gives them their elegance, delicacy and finesse. Taittinger is widely distributed around the world in 140 countries. 
Champagne Taittinger  and "The Art of Celebrating the Holidays”  a perfect way to discover unique and whimsical pairings of champagne and holiday favorites 

The Holiday Dinner was re-imagined to feature rich jewel tones instead of the traditional red and green. the four-course meal created by Chef Sarah Simmons of New York's acclaimed Birds and Bubbles restaurant,  provided a modern take on elevated classics, giving traditional favorites a fresh twist. 

For example, Brussels Crostini with Champagne Vinaigrette and Pomegranate, was paired with Taittinger Prestige Rose' NV. The Champagne offset the roasted greens and matched the sweet/ tart, red-fruit flavor of the Pomegranate.  Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2005, is the bench-mark for all 100% Chardonnay Champagne. Brioche-laden and mineral-driven, it is the perfect accompaniment to fine cuisine, or as a stand-alone aperitif. 

For the New Year's Eve Moroccan Party, it was the perfect partner from the First course of Bitter Greens with Champagne Pickled Walnuts. It carried through the meal to the Moroccan Rubbed Beef Wellington and on to the celebratory Croque en Bouche (translation: "something that crunches in the mouth," the traditional French wedding treat which is a towering cone of choux pastry balls piled high and drizzled with threads of caramel to bind them together. It is often decorated with chocolate, sugared almonds or candied flowers.)

Taittinger Nocturne was appropriately named. It's the perfect 'nightcap' and accompaniment to Champagne Chocolate Truffles, or sugary-sweet French Macarons.

The Champagne Party menu, featuring Shrimp Rillette, with House-made Black Pepper Crackers, NY Cheddar Puff Pastry wrapped Castelvetrano with Smoked Almond and Crispy Potato Latke with House Cured Trout and Horseradish Creme Fraiche and Dill provided the perfect opportunities to play around with each of the four Champagnes.

Chef Sarah Simmons of Birds and Bubbles serves up Crispy Potato Latke with House Cured Trout
Below: Shrimp Rillette with House-Made Black Pepper Crackers(I personally ate a ton of these!)

Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV, for example,  might make a tasty companion with the Potato Latkes and Trout, also (Below)  with the freshly shucked oysters. The creamy richness would offset the briny minerality of the seafood.

Shucking Black Point Oysters by CANESP Global Distribution

There's no end to the flavor combinations and variations that you can create with Champagne Taittinger. Use the menus reflected above as a springboard  to come up with on your own ideas. Pick up a few bottles of Champagne Taittinger and start experimenting on your own and come up with a Holiday menu that will thrill and delight your guests. If nothing else, you'll have a great way to say goodbye to summer and an inspiration to look forward to the Holidays ahead!

To learn more about Champagne Taittinger, visit:

                                              The Champagne Taittinger "Christmas Tree"
 A Moroccan Berber Tent created for New Year's Eve revelers

Keeping cool in the garden with the giant inflated Champagne Taittinger

 The Champagne Taittinger Glass Pyramid poised for action in the Moroccan Garden
Cooling off in the sweltering heat is Nichole Fratangelo of Latina Magazine
 Keeping cool on a sweltering summer's eve at the "Christmas in July" event
                                             Another view of  the famous "Taittinger Tower"
 The elegant East Village townhouse with its fabulous modern art collection and table settings
 Low floral arrangements, individual menus and place cards and individual bottles of Champagne Taittinger add a personalized touch to each table setting

Event planner Arthur Ceria (r)

Samuel Masters, Interior Designer and Event Planner

                                                             Taittinger Nocturne

                           Kte Grehl, looking elegant with fan in hand

Jill Goldsberry, beauty and style blogger takes it all in with Taittinger Prestige Rose'

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Historic Rockefeller Townhouses is setting for U.S. introduction for wines from one of Italy's oldest regions

by Dwight Casimere

NEW YORK--Il Gattopardo restaurant in the historic Rockefeller Townhouses on Millionaire's Row in midtown Manhattan was the setting for a momentous occasion; the New York and U.S. debut of the Wines of Campania. Although a few of the wines are currently available at restaurants and fine wine purveyors, this was the first concerted effort to present the wines as a cohesive entity.
The "A Team" at Il Gattopardo: Gianfranco Sorrentino, Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo, Paula Bolla-Sorrentino

With Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer conducting a guided tasting of the wines for a select audience of wine media and food and beverage trade, and Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo and his culinary team preparing a menu that paired nine of the wines with regionally inspired cuisine, this was an occasion that will live long in memory.

Each of the winemakers were on hand to personally explain their wines and mingle with the guests.
First, a word about Campania. Located along the South Western Coast of Italy, Campania is located in the "shin" of the boot, anchored by Naples, which is its capital. The name "Campania" derives from the Latin phrase "Campania Felix," which roughly translates to "the fertile land." No name could be more appropriate. From the time of the ancient Greeks, in the 8th century BC to the 6th century BC. when the Etruscans absorbed the land into the Roman Empire, the region was known for cultivating what became the "cult" wine of the era, Falemum, a probable blend of Aglianico and Falanghina grapes, indigenous varietals that are grown in Campania to this day.

Campania is uniquely situated with a wall of mountains leading to a fertile valley with mineral-rich volcanic soil, that cascades to the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, covering Pompeii and Herculaneum with volcanic ash. Although an entire civilization and culture was nearly wiped out by the catastrophe, it later became a blessing in disguise. The region became primarily Phylloxera free because the deadly mites that nearly destroyed all of the viable grape crops in Western Europe didn't like ash, and therefor, bypassed the region.

 Nine of Campania's most exciting wine producers descended upon New York in the largest showcase of wines from the region ever. Among those present was Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara of Avellino, specialists in Falanghina and Taurus wines, Michele Di Gregorio of Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, known for producing a local cultivar named Ravece as well as Coda di Volpe grapes, and Ferrante di Somma, a direct descendant of the di Marzo family, which founded Cantine Di Marzo in 1647. Di Marzo is one of Italy's oldest wineries and is the first producer of Greco di Tufo wine. The winery presented Anni Venti (20th Anniversary) Greco di Tufo Spumante DOCG NV, which is 100% Greco, which served as the afternoon's aperitif, and was also paired with the Stuzzichini (appetizer) of Mini mozzarella in carrozza con salsetta  d'acciughe, Assaggini di torta "pasqualina."   The wines of these producers are currently available in the U.S. and enjoying a prominent place on the wine lists of great Italian restaurants and on the shelves of the finest wine merchants.

The six other wineries present are seeking representation. Those present included Cantine Rao, Contea de Altavilla, Cantine Macchie Santa Maria, Tenuta Scuotto with Sales Manager Adolfo Scuotto, Tenute Bianchini and Terre di Valter with Emanuela Landi present to personally pour her wines.

 The ravishing Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara of Avellino channeling a young Sophia Loren
 Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer begins his brilliant presentation
 The historic Rockefeller Townhouses on Millionaire's Row, home of Il Gattopardo

 Ilaria Petitto with a bottle of her Taurus DOCG 2011, 100% Aglianico
 Alessandro Boga, Account Director, Gino Colangelo, Owner, Colangelo and Partners PR with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer

 Wine journalists attending the Campania Wine Tasting
 The wines of Campania
 Below: Antipasto-Parmigiana di zucchine con scamorza e salsa e pomodoro
 The fabulous wine pairing cuisine of Il Gattopardo whose chefs are Italian born and trained: Below-Primo-Paccherialla pasta with "Genovese" sauce, a rich, onion based pasta sauce native to the region of Campania and introduced to the city of Naples from Genoa, to the North, during the Renaissance, an important part of the region's culinary history. The sauce is unknown beyond Campania
 The cuisine, prepared by the sterling culinary staff of Il Gattopardo, went perfectly with the wines, particularly the first courses and the fruit-forward white wines, which also reflected the mineral-rich soil. The white wines were all fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.

 More Pasta Genovese
 The main course-Secondo-Capretto al forno con padellata di Friarielle e patate (fire roasted  Goat filets with herb and garlic roasted potatoes. Tastes like grilled baby lamb chops. The broccoli rabe on the side was awesome and showed off the red wines in spectacular fashion.  Mmmmm!
 The red wines reflected expert vinification and aging techniques, which emphasizes fermentation in stainless steel to bring out  the luscious fruit flavors followed by the use of large oak barrels, called Botti, which give the wines roundness and character
 Michele Di Gregorio-Directore Commerciale Generale-Tenuta Cavalier PePe

 Mario Pagliaro and Claudia Peluso
 Victor Rallo, Host of TVs Eat!Drink!Italy! (center) with Emanuela Landi (l) and Carmine Giglio (r)
 Adolfo Scuotto with his Oi Ni Campania Fiano DOCG 2011
 The "Stars of Campania"  Carmine Giglio of Contea de Altavilla, Claudio Peluso, Italian Agriculture Department, Emanuela Landi of Terra Di Valter, Mario Paliaro, Chief Agronomist, Italian Agriculture

 The massive garden level dining room at Il Gattopardo in the historic Rockefeller Townhouses
 Alessandro Boga, Account Director, Colangelo PR, holds court with the winemalers of Campania
 La Loggia del Cavaliere Taurasi DOCG Riserva 2008
 Concetta Bianchini with her Le Tre Rose di Gio Falanghina IGT 2014 from Tenute Bianchini
 Emanuela Landi of Terra di Valter with Ventidue Marzo ( 22nd of March)  Irpina Aglianico DOC 2013