tasting time

IMG_2232Hall is one of those small-scale wineries that make tasting your way through the Napa Valley so enjoyable: intimate, artisanal, organic, they produce fourteen-odd varietals each season, two of which you might find in your local liquor store – if you’re lucky. Because they’re such a diminutive producer, the majority of their wines sell out via subscription. Which means to taste the breadth of their fabulous Cabernet, you really need to visit the St. Helena estate vineyards. Though currently in the throes of constructing a major new guest experience facility – of which I’ll tell you more later – I still got the chance to relax in the dappled sunlight of the tasting garden and sip my way through a handful of choice bottles. Cabernet is like the Chardonnay of reds: people either love it or loathe it. If your palate falls into the latter camp you might be surprised, however, by the pure and vivid flavors Hall achieves. Unfined and unfiltered, these wines are layered, expressive, and totally delicious.

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live blog: cheese, please

Anyone who loves to eat will be quick to notice that the artisanal food movement has taken quick and firm root in Ireland. Perhaps it started as a reaction to the mad cow blow up a number of years ago, but now coupled with the current angst over genetically modified products entering the food chain you can’t hardly throw a rock in the countryside without hitting a small purveyor of singular handmade, hand reared, hand farmed, or hand grown accountable-to-the-consumer food. Suffused with a history of dairy-farming, the first great agricultural idea to prove itself in Ireland was cheese and today Irish Farmhouse Cheese is practically an appellation or D.O.C unto itself – traceable not just to a region, but to a small valley, even to the slopes of a mountain. That unique character – plus a distinctive flavor – is what has brought such acclaim to St. Tola, Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith’s award-winning small-batch goat cheese made in Inagh, near Co. Clare’s wild Atlantic coast. As the only organic goat farm in Ireland, the cheese produced here reflects the clean environment. From a young, fresh Crottin sprinkled with salt to a creamy, mature log coated in ash, the curds are imbued with suggestive flavors of the sea and undertones of peat. In short, this is cheese that tastes gloriously of its terroir.

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coffee klatch: rbc

I’m so tired of hearing people bemoan the lack of quality coffee in New York City. No, we are not Portland, people; I get it. We can barely even afford to live within the five boroughs, yet you think an artisanal, single-origin, fair-trade, organic coffee roaster has the deep pockets – as well as the chutzpah - to set up shop here? Blue Bottle aside, get over yourselves. This city is too vast, too commercial, too fast to support that kind of college town kaffee kultur. (Good luck finding your 3AM bulgogi fix in Portland, by the way.) Still, if you know where to look there is some really good brew to be found. Which is why I’m starting an occasional post on the best joe joints in town.  First up: RBC, an unassuming – almost missable – sliver of a shop on Worth Street. Not enslaved to the output of a single roaster means new batches of micro-roasted beans arrive every few weeks. (San Francisco’s RitualRoasters, Grand Rapids’ MadCap, and Coava out of, yes, Portland, are just a few of RBC’s culti suppliers.)  Some are for hand-crafted pour-overs, others are destined for the coveted Slayer espresso machine. The $20,000 toy is the only one in the city – and the object of many a java fetish. The extreme control and variable brew pressure of the Slayer allows baristas to use seasonal, single-origin coffees that wouldn’t ordinarily be prepared as espresso. Which means at RBC a cappuccino arrives with perhaps the rarest flavor of all: nuance.

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