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April 11, 2012

This weekend, Bed-Stuy Crawl returns!

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This Saturday, April 14th, Nicole Taylor, Alisha Miranda and I will be hosting our second installment of our Bed-Stuy Crawl series.

Having lived in Bed-Stuy since I was a kid, I have to say there hasn't been a more exciting time to live in the neighborhood. As recently as five years ago, the idea of being able to spend a Saturday evening out with friends without leaving the bounds of Bed-Stuy was pretty unlikely. Your options were to hang out at an old man bar or to spend the whole time at one of a handful of scattered restaurants around the area. That's all changed. And it's pretty great.

If you missed the first Bed-Stuy Crawl back in February, here's your chance to make it up to yourself. Last time, led a group of 40 from Fulton Grand on the Clinton Hill border to Breucklen Cellars, Vodou Lounge and finally Black Swan. It was an amazing time and we're doing it all over again this weekend. Check out the plan for this weekend's festivities after the jump.

Continue reading "This weekend, Bed-Stuy Crawl returns!" »

December 28, 2010

Vietnam: Hotel Bars

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At the end of our first day in Saigon, Tammi and I decided to get a little western hospitality at the roof bar at the Sheraton Saigon. The view was gorgeous and the wine list wasn't bad. What we didn't really realize until we got the check was that the prices were also quite western. The typically high hotel mark up is dramatically higher here compared to the wine bar across the street we discovered later, which stocked plenty of good wine for as low as $5-8 a glass.

Whoops.

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May 9, 2010

Recently on Examiner: Drinking in Brooklyn and the Freedom Party

A new Hot Bird rises from the ashes

If there was much of a theme at all in my last couple weeks of posts it was Brooklyn Bars. Besides the regular Brokelyn 25 series that I've gotten moving again, I've also posted about a few new choice spots to imbibe that have opened up recently. Above is Hot Bird, which I lucked into on its second night open. I basically got the first shots of the space and thus ended up on Brownstoner and Eater. The place looks pretty amazing, so I expect to spend quite a bit of time there this summer.

See what else I've been posting about after the jump...

Continue reading "Recently on Examiner: Drinking in Brooklyn and the Freedom Party" »

March 28, 2009

Markets: The Suburban Supermarket

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I could never live in the suburbs for any number of reasons beginning with the fact that I don't drive, an essential skill in any place outside a real city. Beyond that, the suburban aesthetic and the concept of the subdivision offend me to my quite citified core.

But, there is one thing that I find attractive about the world outside of The Big City: the supermarkets like this one we visited near Chapel Hill while visiting my aunt.

They are gigantic. And Clean. And full of so many wonderful things that I temporarily lose my sympathy for local small businesses and pine away at the many, many options on hand.

The airplane hanger-sized space is full of so much wonderful stuff that I find myself wandering through the aisles wistfully, raising my arms to full length and appreciating all the space. It's like a different world.

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Another wonderful feature of the supermarkets outside of New York is that they stock wine, something that is still unavailable at home. Racks and racks of bottles of medium to low-priced wines are on sale in the same place you get the rest of your groceries.

The selection does not include the highest end bottles, but it has more than enough wonderful everyday bottles.

Given space and legal concerns, I don't expect to see a place like this in NYC-proper for some time, but I can dream. . . .

February 9, 2009

Aspen: The Wine Spot

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My recent visit to Aspen was remarkable for being my least social excursion out there to date. The co-workers who usually accompany me there did not go this year and my suddenly sensitive stomach left me a little cranky and not in much of a mood for the crowds that end up in town for X Games.

The Wine Spot was my savior. If not for this place and Seth, its proprietor, I'd have found myself sitting in my room alone every night watching netflix instant or whatever crap was on TV.

Situated in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Aspen, a 'residence,' which I think is just fancy-talk for 'time-share,' this place is just off the beaten path. It's right across from Rubey Park, the main bus stop for the whole town, right down the block from the bars, clubs and restaurants in the middle of town. Yet, it's not actually in the middle of anything, so most of the people who actually show up here are those who are staying there.

It was the perfect place to go to escape the crowds. I must have stopped in there 4 or 5 times and there were never more than 10 people in, even on Saturday night when packs of teens and twentysomethings roamed the streets looking for a party.

The first night I came in, Seth greeted me and reintroduced himself, remembering me from last year. It's an interesting thing because I've unintentionally become a regular in a place where people often only come in for a week or two a year. After being reacquainted, he went on to help me find some of the wine on the menu that I'd enjoy.

I also partook in the one food item they serve, a cheese and meat plate:

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Both the food and drink were great, but what kept me coming back was the warmth and familiarity of the hearth, the leather couches and the service.

January 21, 2009

Toasting President Obama

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Last night I celebrated the inauguration quietly with this small bottle of Champagne I had at The Wine Spot, a slightly out of the way little hotel bar that I visited last year. More on that to come. For now, cheers!

January 8, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Jurançon


IMG_1327, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

"Don't let anyone see you walking down the street with that! They'll want to be your friend and you'll know they only like you for your Jurançon!"

That was the least colorful advice given to me by Juveniles Wine Bar owner Tim Johnston, an old scot who, for 10 years has run this Australian themed wine bar in the heart of Paris.

The wine, a sweet dessert wine, is by Uroulat a family vineyard in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees. It has a light body for a dessert wine and tastes strongly of apricots.

When I tasted it after our meal, I had to have it. But they didn't have any regular sizes left, so I was 'stuck' with this magnum. Johnston said the wine is great to drink now but offered that it will be even better in 5 years, "If you can hold out that long."

I can't guarantee that it'll survive until 2013, but we'll see...

January 7, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Wine for the Cellar

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Yes. I bought all that wine in Paris. More, to be honest. We came back with 15 bottles. Among other things, I've decided to really spend some time learning about wine in the next few years. And part of that is to take advantage of the cellar conditions we've got in our basement. It's consistently 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the house, typically in the mid to low 60s, and the humidity tends to be upwards of 50%.

Starting my 'collection' in France just made the most sense, since we were heading there for the honeymoon anyway and the French, more than anyone else, have put a lot of effort into aging wine. I took learning about French wine up as my distracting obsession, something I think everyone who is planning a wedding should have. If you don't have something like that, the wedding will consume you.

I learned a lot more than I knew before about French wine, but there's so much more to discover. In the meantime, I mostly stuck with regions I knew I liked when buying. Many of the bottles I bought to 'hold' are from the Rhone regions, whether Cote Rotie, Gigondas, or Chateauneuf du Pape. I tried to expand into Bourdeaux as well. It was Burgundy that gave me the most difficulty. Tammi and I both found it hard to tolerate the thinness in body and flavor of wine from Burgundy. I bought one bottle of a Grand Cru, to hold for 5 years, based on the recommendation from the clerk.

At the center of my newfound obsession is my deeply ingrained hoarding habit. I can't lie. But beyond that is the idea of holding onto these bottles for our anniversaries, 10, 20 and 30 years in the future. We may pop open one of these bottles to celebrate our kids' graduations or any number of events in our life together through the years. I can't plan any of those things nor do I want to. But I love the idea that no matter what, I'll have the right bottle for the occasion.

October 18, 2007

Rosell Boher Champagne


IMG_8540, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last Friday was 4 years since Tammi and I started dating. To celebrate I made dinner and opened up a couple special bottles.
I bought this sparkling in Buenos Aires last fall. It's from a limited release of 9500 bottles. I have been saving it for a special occasion just like this.

This may very well be the best sparkling I've ever had. The taste was one you'd expect from a rosé. The flavor of black cherry was so strong, it reminded me of a kriek lambic beer. What was amazing was that it wasn't cloyingly sweet as a lot of fruity sparklings can be.

When it was done, I was irritated that I couldn't go out and get another. So, a hint to any friends who may be going down to Buenos Aires any time soon. This would make a fantastic gift to that special writer/photographer/geek.

June 28, 2007

Photo of the Day: Through the Drinking Glass


IMG_4805, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

May 24, 2007

Brooklyn Uncorked


IMG_8788.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last week I went to Brooklyn Uncorked, a wine tasting at the BAM Cafe. The event brought in more than 20 different wineries from Long Island to show off their products. It was sponsored by Edible Brooklyn, the free food magazine. I heard about it a month or so ago from my editor at the Brooklyn Record, they had given us press passes. I was pretty psyched to check it out.

I'm still getting a handle on the wine thing. I know a decent amount about what I like, but there are huge swaths of grapes and styles and regions that I'm entirely unfamiliar with. The idea of exploring a region so close to home really appealed to me.

When I got there and saw so many people pouring Merlot, I was also pleasantly surprised. I don't know much about Merlot either. It would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, it seems that Merlot is nearly the only thing they grow out in Long Island. Pretty much every table I visited had the same selection. I had the same conversation about a dozen times:

Me: What are you pouring?
Them: Well, we've got our Merlot, here. And this is our blend with X% Merlot, X% Cab Franc and X% Cabernet Sauvignon. We've also got this, which is Y% Merlot, Y% Cab Franc and Y% Cab Sauv.

I like variety and I didn't find any there. I'm probably somewhat biased because I'm just not fond of Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, with few exceptions, I can't stand it. So, most of the blends were ruined for me, because even with 30%, it overpowers the other grapes. A few of them mixed some other grapes into their blends, which was interesting. But 5% Syrah or 10% Malbec was barely noticeable to me.

In the end, I was just bored. When I asked about the fact that everyone brought essentially the same selection, I was told that they all made many more, but chose to bring the most popular. That sort of depresses me. I'd think that an event like this would have been a perfect opportunity to show off wine that's different from everyone else's. Instead they went with the same old same old.

May 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: 20 Year old Port


20 Year old Port, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I first tasted port in Lisbon. After dragging my jet-lagged sister around town all day, I had one last stop. We stopped at the Solar do Vinho do Porto - Lisbon, a branch of the government organization dedicated to the promotion of port wine. The main room looked more like a living room than a bar. Apparently the word "solar" in traditional English is the "upper chamber of a medieval house," presumably similar to a parlor or sitting room. At least that's what my computer's dictionary says.

I hadn't had port before. At the time I didn't know much about wine in general. I wanted to try it because it was so specifically Portuguese. I've been a fan ever since. While in Lisbon, I picked up a bottle each of red port and white port. White port is great, but you can't find it here in the states. When done right, it has a nutty caramel flavor that's incredible. The closest thing I've gotten to a good white port is a Marsala I got from Italian Wine Merchants last year.

Outside of that, I'm 'stuck' going after 10 and 20 year old red port as I find it. I've been considering buying a 1977 for myself for my 30th birthday this year, but I haven't actually done it yet...

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April 28, 2007

The Bar List

Behind the Bar

There are hundreds if not thousands of bars in New York. Now, I do go to a lot of bars, but I've barely scratched the surface. I have, however, gone to enough that I sometimes lose track of spots that I enjoyed.

Every now and again, people ask for bar recommendations or I have to come up with a place for, say, my 30th birthday party - which I still haven't done. It would be incredibly useful to have a receptacle for my impressions of the bars I've been to.

Following mikeoliver.org's mission statement of 'holding on to things Mike Oliver will forget...' I've decided to use the blog for just such a thing.

So, begins a new feature. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on bars and boozing.
Expect a few quotes from my brooklyn record posts too. These won't all be reviews as much as (semi-)organized notes.

I'll break down the categories for your searching enjoyment. For all bars click here.

Let me know what I missed in the comments.


::c::

April 19, 2007

Hartford: Bin 228

Bin 228 is an Italian inspired wine bar in Hartford. Last week I had dinner with Eli, a friend from college. I liked it enough to go back last night, when I returned to CT. I had heard about it a while back, but didn't know how extensive the food selection was, so I never bothered to go. I'm glad I finally made it.

The menu is made up of small plate antipasti and panini with a few larger dishes. Last week we had some panini and charcuterie along with some bruschetta. The flavors were all familiar. Prosciutto with fresh mozzarella and basil, spicy meats with hot peppers and cheese and so on. They even had a bruschetta made with parmesan, asparagus and truffle oil, reminiscent of the truffled egg toast at 'ino and 'inoteca back home. It wasn't nearly the transcendental experience, but then few things are.

That's sort of how I felt about the whole menu. It was all very good, but then it's not hard to put meat and/or cheese on bread. This week I went for something more complicated. One of the specials was Wild Boar on parpardelle. I had just been ogling some game meats online, so I couldn't turn it down. The server described it as almost like a beef stroganoff in composition. The meat was braised and served in shreds and chunks on the pasta. The sauce tasted of sweet gaminess. In the end, it was much heavier than what I had planned on eating, but it was well worth it.

Last week we drank a Tuscan Merlot we were recommended by the waiter. I ordered some more of that to start off. I don't know much about Merlot and I've never seen Sideways, so I have no preconceptions about it as a wine. I've never really gotten a hang of Italian wines. I've had good ones, but I can never really track which ones they are. I just need to pay more attention. I usually just ask for a rec. One day I'll just have to go to Italy myself and learn first hand. In any case, the wine was everything I wanted. It was a little more tannic than most wine I have, but it balanced out very well.

I think this place is going to have to move up on my list of places to grab lunch while waiting for the train from now on. The portions are very well suited to a snack as well as dinner.

Bin 228
228 Pearl Street
Hartford, Connecticut

April 11, 2007

Stonehome's Spring Wine Tasting Dinner

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Seasonal temperatures are (finally) in the forecast, which may mean that Spring is finally here. To celebrate, Stonehome Wine Bar in Fort Greene is hosting a wine tasting dinner on Wednesday, April 18th. The four-course feast will run you $70 but is a relative bargain when you consider what you get: Built around a set of primarily french wines, the menu includes wild salmon, lamb chops and Maine crab ravioli. Each item is paired with a particular wine from Burgundy, Bourdeax or the Loire Valley. Bring it on!

If you can't make it next week, another tasting dinner with a different menu is scheduled for early May, or come by another night and sample in-house chef John Gibson's new spring repertoire. The new menu replaces heavier winter faves like venison and brisket with skate wings, hanger steaks and lamb shanks. Rezzies are required for the tasting dinner but walk-ins are welcomed any other time.

Stonehome Wine Bar is located at 87 Lafayette Avenue, 718-624-9443.

- clay williams

Stonehome's Autumn Wine Picks [Brooklyn Record]

March 22, 2007

SF: Cafe Niebaum-Coppola


IMG_0650, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Peter, the bartender in the rose colored glasses has been there nearly every time I've stopped in over the last 5 years. He's pictured above, barely, as the blur between the waiter and his reflection.


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March 1, 2007

Photo of the Day: Old Astor Wines


Neon, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Old Astor Wines" »

October 4, 2006

Stonehome's Autumn Wine Picks

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Down the bar

No more standing in line to sit in a 'garden' smaller than your kitchen with 3 dozen of your closest neighbors. It's time to go in. Stonehome Winebar in Fort Greene has exactly the right vibe to recover from the bustle of summer festivities. Stonehome is relaxed but not sleepy, the perfect place for a laidback night out with friends or a romantic evening for two.

Proprietors Bill Stenehjem and Rose Hermann have lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. They opened Stonehome in 2003 and found a local following right away. Neighbors meet at the long curvy cherry wood bar and discuss the day, local issues and, of course, the wine. The staff knows regulars by name and wine preference. When new bottles come in, they’ll let you know which are up your alley...

Earlier this year Bill and Rose hired John Gibson to head up the kitchen. The menu was transformed. Stonehome offers new specials daily, using seasonal ingredients in some pretty exciting ways. This time of year, John is using walnuts, maple syrup, beets and acorn squash. The menu is full of comforting fall savories like Braised Beef Short Ribs and Glazed Pork.

Rose and Bill are matching these dishes with some new wine offerings by the glass. Here are a few of their favorite new additions:

Chateaunnuef du Pape '03, Domaine Des Senechaux — "Rich, supple, with notes of baked plums."

Coteaux du Languedoc, '00, Chateau Peuch-Haut, Saint Drezery — "Savory and spicy, with notes of black cherry and sandlewood."

Ribera del Duero, Spain, Guelbenzu, Evor '03 — "Ripe lingering flavors of black cherry, raspberry, chocolate and licorice."

Rioja, Spain, Marquez De Vargas Reserva, '00 — "Lush, smoky, rich dark fruits, blackberries with brown sugar."

Stonehome Wine Bar is located at 87 Lafayette Avenue at So. Portland. Open everyday from 5pm.

— photo and story by clay williams


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