Crawling for Riesling: Part 1

Last year I took part in an innovative, month-long jaunt across the city organized by the coolest wine bar I've ever been to, Terroir. The Summer of Riesling is the brainchild of owner Paul Grieco, who only serves Riesling and no other white wines at his establishments (in the East Village and Tribeca...and soon to be Murray Hill!) all summer long. For more information about the Summer of Riesling, I would recommend reading an article the New York Times wrote up last year.

The Crawl, as it's called, started last summer and was ingeniously planned by both Grieco and the man behind @grapesandgrains, David Flaherty. After coming in second place last year, I'm back for more and I'm in it to win it. Here's how it works: throughout the month of August, you must visit 16 different wine bars throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, try a different Riesling and get a stamp on your official passport. At the end of the month, all those who turn in their completed passports are emailed two fairly inane questions and the winner chosen receives a Riesling tasting dinner for six people at Hearth, the restaurant also owned by Grieco.

With about two weeks left in this year's crawl, I have already racked up 8 stamps. Here's a little recap of my experience thus far:

Night One: City Winery, Blue Ribbon Downing Street, Bar Henry
Heading out on this vino adventure, I was excited that City Winery was the first stop. I had never been before, but had heard all good things about the venue, with its lively backyard BBQs and unique concert space. I also knew that they made their own wine and was excited to try it. I met my friend Katharine and we found a space at the bar in the newly opened Barrel room. The wine selection here was: Riesling "Uptown," Uva Blanca Vineyard, City Winery, 2009, Finger Lakes, NY. I found this glass to be a fairly straightforward Riesling, tasting like crisp apples and on the slightly sweeter side. We lucked out because it was happy hour so our glasses were each only $5. For food, we snacked on the Mediterranean Flatbread which had a fair kick of spice, but was definitely delicious.

For Stop #2 we headed north and found the cozy Blue Ribbon Downing Street. We managed to find two seats at the bar, right next to a couple clearly on their first date. It made for very interesting eavesdropping as we snacked on our buttery breadsticks (gratis!). The bartender here was extremely nice and attentive. He told us about how the winemakers of the wine we were trying (Riesling Spatlese, Hochheimer Daubhaus, Schloss Schonborn, 1996, Rheingau, Germany) had been doing so for 27 generations. This wine, I wrote in my passport, is "the reason why I love Riesling." It had an almost offputting aroma of petrol, but once you start drinking it, it's interesting and complex in a way that no other variety of wine seems to be, at least in my experience.

For a Monday night, I was proud that Katharine and I made it to the subterranean Bar Henry for a third glass, and this was perhaps my favorite stop of the night. As we tried the Riesling Spatelese, Erdener Treppchen, C.H. Berres, 1997, Mosel, Germany, we talked with the bartenders who told us about their plans to do the crawl in two days. (Here's proof that they actually did it!). The bar, also a jazz venue, had a very chill feel and the bartenders were both very knowledgeable about both the wine we were there to try and a sweet Ice wine they let us sample. I would definitely come back here the next time I'm out in Greenwich Village or Soho.

Night Two: Terroir E. Vil. and Edi & the Wolf
For my second Riesling adventure night, my friend Rebecca and I hit up the location in the East Village. First stop was Terroir where we each had a glass of the Riesling Spatelese, Oberemmeler Hutte, von Hovel, 2004, Saar, Germany. This wine I described as "peachy and honey-y with well balanced acids." As the place where this whole crawl started, I definitely appreciated the relaxed vibe (their menus are in 3-ring binders for goodness sake) and the friendly bartender. We tried the smoked trout salad here as part of the Riesling-specific menu and I would definitely recommend it.

We then walked a mere two avenues over and five blocks down to Edi & the Wolf. I had been told to visit this Austrian restaurant before and I was very excited to finally venture over there. It's decorated to feel like a rustic and homey wine tavern, complete with lights running above the wood plank ceiling, giant ropes draped out of the ceiling, and a big burly bartender with an accent. It almost felt like I'd hopped a plane to Vienna until Rebecca reminded me that we were in New York and everyone was speaking English. The wine we tried here was the Riesling, Ried Alsegg, Mayer am Pfarrplatz, 2010, Wien, Austria. I loved this wine and thought it tasted like apples and honey, which went very nicely with the cheese plate we also ordered.

Afternoon/Evening 3: Anfora and Colicchio & Sons Tap Room
My first weekend outing began in the late afternoon, and honestly folks, that's the best time to start drinking Riesling. My girlfriends and I had had a wonderful day exploring the West Village and decided it was time to find a place to rest our feet for a while. Luckily, we were around the corner from Anfora, a dark lovely little bar in the heart of the West Village. There we tried the Riesling Spatlese, Urzinger Wurzgarten, C.H. Berres, 1997, Mosel, Germany.  I found it tasted like honey and nectarines and we especially enjoyed it with the free ricotta crostini we got for checking in on Foursquare.

Because it was a Saturday and there was still much more fun to be had, we headed north to Colicchio & Sons, just under the Highline. Unknowingly, we were in for a treat at this famed restaurant owned by none other than Top Chef's Tom Colicchio (who I met at last year's Star Chef's Gala). Walking in behind a couple dressed to the nines, I almost thought we should come back another time when we'd taken our cocktail dresses out of the backs of our closets, however we soon figured out that we would fit right in at the bar, located in the Tap Room at the front of the restaurant. We sat down at the empty bar and ordered glasses of the Riesling, Auten Vineyard First Harvest, Bloomer Creek, 2009, Finger Lakes, NY. This wine first tasted almost sparkling, but then I realized that was just the wonderful acid and fruit, Granny Smith apples to be exact. As the bar began to fill up, the awesome Sommelier and Beverage Director Thomas Pastuszak (someone who's good side I definitely need to stay on!) came by to introduce himself and treated us to samples of the other two Finger Lakes Rieslings the restaurant was featuring. The first, Argetsinger Vineyard, Ravines, 2008, Seneca Lake, NY, was perhaps the driest Riesling I've ever tasted. It would definitely pair well with a hearty meal and I loved it. The other, Magdalena, Vineyard Herman J. Wiemer, 2009, Seneca Lake, NY, was also drier than the Bloomer Creek, but definitely on the fruitier side. What was so weird to me was that the first wine we had and loved so much really tasted like pure juice when we went back to it after the drier wines. It's funny how comparing like wines side-by-side really enables you to discover these nuances. So thanks Thomas!

Night 4: The Tangled Vine
While I love visiting these establishments two and three (maybe four!) at a time, it's also nice to just plop down in one spot for the night, enjoy some food and pair it with some Riesling. So that's what a girlfriend and I did at the year-old Tangled Vine in the Upper West Side. I love this place. It's relaxed, comfortable and fits right into the neighborhood, but the staff is super knowledgeable about the wines they offer and I once heard that the desserts were all homemade by the owner's wife (literally in her home). On top of our Riesling, the Riesling Kabinett, Trittenheimer A Harchen Ernst Clusserath, 2008, Mosel, Germany, which was fruity with very round notes of pear and grapes (yes, wine can taste like grapes), we sampled the menu. Starting with the happy hour $1 oysters, we made our way through an order of the crab croquetas (think round mini-crabcakes with saffron aioli) and bites of the tuna and fennel crostini. I'd also recommend ordering their homemade paprika potato chips. Lastly, we didn't forget to check in on foursquare and claim our free glasses of Cava, a sparkling white wine.

So that's it for the first half of the crawl. With less than half the month left, I better get a move on the last stops!


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 2 Tickets to Stomp!

The risk you take by going to see a brand, spanking new theater show is, well, that it could suck. However, when a show has been around successfully for more than 20 years, you know you're in for a treat. STOMP is the legendary anything-can-be-an instrument show that has been captivating audiences and using four blocks of athlete's chalk and 30 brooms (among other random items) a week to create soulful and high-energy musical performances. If you remember the old TV show Doug and the "bangin' on a trashcan, drummin' on a street light" song, you will be thoroughly entertained with this show.

All my readers are in luck! I'm giving away a pairs of tickets to see STOMPThe tickets are good for most performances in the show's East Village theater through the end of March. There are 5 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

Subscribe to this blog by email, using the submission box in the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to see this show.

3) Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

5) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a link to your tweet or blog in a comment below.

Two winners will be chosen using Random.org on Tuesday 8/23. You have until Monday 8/22 at 6 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

A winner has been chosen! Congratulations Jerry! He was the 8th person to comment and wins two tickets to see the Off Broadway show STOMP! Thanks for playing everyone and stay tuned for more giveaways!

If you didn't win the contest, you can grab discounted tickets by clicking herevisiting the box office or calling 800.982.2787 and using the code AMC47 through September 4. You will be able to find tickets for as low as $47.50 (regularly $72.50).


Another Successful Restaurant Week

Every year, twice a year, restaurants in NYC expand their menus and welcome in hoards of adventurous diners looking for an excellent meal that's light on the wallet. These are two of my favorite times of the year, for Restaurant Week (which is really two weeks that gets extended an additional month...but who's really counting?) gives me the opportunity to try those restaurants I can never afford and sample menu items that I so often salivate over. 

This year, some coworkers and I continued our tradition of going out for a Restaurant Week lunch. We settled on Wall & Water in the newly-opened, swanky Andaz Hotel on Wall Street. I prefer going out for lunch than dinner for these meals as you definitely get more of a bang for your buck and it's such a treat to have a three-course lunch.

Finding the entrance to the restaurant was slightly more confusing than I would have liked, however, upon ascending the beautiful staircase to the main restaurant we were warmly greeted by the hostess and promptly shown to our table. The decor of the restaurant is beautiful. It doesn't feel like your typical "hotel restaurant," rather it's coated in a chic yet relaxing navy hue and is connected to an open kitchen. I liked watching the chefs at work as we enjoyed our meal.

In addition to bread, we were offered complimentary roasted artichokes with a delicious creamy dipping sauce. The best part about the artichoke, other than the fact that I was able to show my fellow diners how to cut through to the heart, was the fact that our waiter brought more as soon as we finished the first two. For my official appetizer, I ordered the burrata cheese served with mission figs and marinated onions. Wow, what flavor!! Burrata is one of my favorite foods maybe ever, and this dish presented it in a way that made me exceedingly happy and satisfied.

Burrata Cheese Appetizer
For the main course, eight out of nine of us ordered the steak and one person ordered the young chicken entree. While the flavors of my steak were good, I ordered it medium and it came fairly well-done. I'm not one to send food back unless it's truly inedible so I still enjoyed it with a squirt of grilled lemon and some roasted potatoes and tomatoes.

Steak Entree

Dessert was a course that I was very impressed with. I decided to go with the berry crumble with a bourbon creme anglaise and when it arrived at my plate, I was tickled with excitement. The warm and gooey center combined with the buttery and flakey crust so well and the sauce drizzled over added even more delicious flavor. I also tried the apple pie with ice cream that a coworker ordered and I loved that as well.

Berry Crumble
Apple Pie
For both of our birthdays, my boyfriend and I also dined out for Restaurant Week at the intimate Giorgio's of Gramercy. I'd never heard of the restaurant before we made reservations, which is very rare for me, but the menu looked amazing, it was close to our apartment and the price was certainly right. The restaurant also offered wine pairings, which we took advantage of, for $15 a person. While I didn't take pictures at this dinner (come on, it was a date!), I did fall in love with the food.

Giorgio's traditionally always offers a three-course meal year-round, and they use the same menu as part of the Restaurant Week promotion. This is very good news for my readers as the official Restaurant Week ends Sept. 5th! The long and narrow restaurant was packed when we got there on a Wednesday night. It's painted in a sexy red and decorated with some provocative artwork. The host greeted us as we made our way through the jam-packed bar and sat us in the back, where it was a little quieter and we could actually hear each other talk.

I started with the fried oysters; served in their shells on top of a bed of creamed spinach and topped with chipotle remoulade, these puppies were an excellent start to a meal. My boyfriend had the tuna tartare, which I almost ordered, and that was super fresh and tasty. It was also a comparatively large portion than what I would have expected, so that was nice. For the main course we both ordered the surf and turf that came with an 8 oz. grilled filet mignon and a poached tiger prawn. It was served with lemon fingerling potatoes, a good portion of asparagus and herb butter. To end our celebratory dinner we both ordered the s'mores bread pudding. You really can't compete with this dessert. When you throw chocolate together with marshmallows and graham crackers in an which formation, it's going to be good. This version was also served with vanilla ice cream and drizzled in caramel sauce. 

Restaurant this year was definitely a success for me, but I'm already plotting where I want to go for the next go-round. Anyone have any suggestions?

Wall & Water on Urbanspoon

Giorgio's of Gramercy on Urbanspoon


It's Not Summer Without Baseball

I recently attended my first Yankee's game and was playing around with the panorama feature on the camera of my new phone. Check it out!

Have any of my awesome readers been to a Yankee's game before? What's your favorite part? I loved my Italian sausage with peppers and onions, although I was eyeing the much-anticipated Meatball Parm sandwich from Torrisi Italian Specialties. However, at $15, I figured I could go straight to the source in Little Italy any time. 

Run, Awesome! Run!

So you'll note the blog's been a tad sparse in the past few months, and I do apologize to my loyal readers for this. However, I think you'll forgive me when I tell you exactly what I've been preoccupied with.

In junior high, I was one of the kids who would get mini-panic attacks the period before gym on the days that we would have to run the mile (not just a mile, but THE mile). To me, this was one of the most arduous tasks you could ever ask me to complete. So imagine my surprise when I agreed to partake in the NYRR Queens Half Marathon on July 30. This was back in March when I was tired of being cooped up in the gym and I thought a little running around the city could be fun. Plus, some friends had committed to this crazy scheme as well. We established a training plan and more than 175 miles of training runs and several gallons of coconut water later, we were ready to take on Queens.

The night before, we all met up at one of my new go-to pizza/pasta places, Il Forno, in Gramercy. They have an all-you-can-eat pasta special for just $6.99. That's an unheard of deal for NYC, especially since it includes  five different sauces (I love the pesto!) and all different noodle shapes. Also, if you bring in your receipt from last time you visited, they give you an additional 10% off your entire bill. Love it.

There aren't many times in life when you truly deserve all-you-can-eat pasta.
The day of the race, the 7 subway wasn't running in Manhattan, of course, so I woke up extra early (4:30 am to be exact) just to make sure we would get to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in time for the 7 am start. It's not often you see a jam-packed subway so early in the morning, but when we made it on the 7 in Queens, not only was this car filled to the brim, but everyone was in running clothes and full of pre-race excitement.

My pre-race breakfast
8000 people waiting to go to the bathroom before the race
Having never been to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park before, with the exception of a few visits to the Queens Museum of Art, I was excited to check it out. The park was the site of the World's Fair in 1939-1940 and 1964-1965 and was originally home to the offices of the United Nations until 1951 when they moved to Manhattan. The famous Unisphere was built for the 1964-65 World's Fair as a symbol of the fair's theme of unity. The New York State Pavillion and Observation Towers, also built for the 1964-65 World's Fair, still stand in the park as well, although it doesn't seem like the structures are well-maintained anymore. Currently, the park is home to the aforementioned Queens Museum of Art, the New York Hall of Science, the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center (where the US Open is held) and it abuts Met's Stadium.

And we're off!
The Famous Unisphere - We ran around it a total of 3 times and the spray from the fountain was most welcome.
The Observation Towers at the New York State Pavillion
The New York State Pavillion
One thing I would not advocate thinking about, if you are in fact thinking about doing a half marathon, is doing a half marathon at the end of July or any time in August. Even with such an early start time, the temperature was higher than it was on any of our other long training runs and it really took a toll on me. Thankfully they had sprinklers and guys with fire hoses about every mile, and water and Gatorade aplenty, but at the end, I felt more beat up than ever. Even so, I finished in a steady 2:16 and I'm very proud of what I accomplished.

Finish Line!
Love my coconut water
One thing I loved about running so much was that it gave me a new way to appreciate the city. I started my short runs in Central Park, and by doing that, I really got a feel for Central Park. I think that New Yorkers who don't run or bike will often walk into that great abyss of a park and very easily get lost. Working my way up to the full 6-mile loop gave me not only endurance, but a glimpse into the only real nature in the city. I can't even tell you how many birds I heard chirping and the sheer abundance of wildflowers in the spring was awe-inspiring.

In addition, we made our way around the city for our longer runs. For the 8-miler, we started at my friend's place in Astoria and ran around the entire perimeter of Roosevelt Island. There's a lighthouse at the tip - who knew! Perhaps my favorite run of all was the 11-miler. I started at 23rd Street and FDR on the east side and was able to go south all the way around the tip of Manhattan and hug the perimeter up to 72nd Street on the west side. Let me just say that I'm in love with Battery Park and all of the waterfront recreation space they have.

Now that I'm done with a time-intensive training schedule, I'd still like to continue running, but I'm looking forward to introducing more variety into my fitness routine. However, when the weather gets a tad cooler again, you'll see me running along the West Side Highway or the Central Park Reservoir. And I'm definitely looking forward to dedicating more time to blogging!

IL Forno on Urbanspoon


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 4 Tickets to Follies on Broadway!

If there's one thing I don't like about summer, it's the lack of new Broadway shows. However, the fall season is revving up and I'm getting uber excited. The Broadway revival of Follies, Stephen Sondheim's classic musical, is set to begin previews this Sunday, August 7 at the Maquis Theater on 46th Street and 7th Avenue.

Starring an award winning cast including Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines, Follies focuses on the lives of two couples and tells the story of a reunion of a group of performers from the Weismann's Follies (based off the Ziegfeld Follies) in a theater that's scheduled for demolition. The women were once showgirls in a production in the same theater between the two World Wars and have now come to see life and love in different ways. The 28-piece orchestra and ensemble cast of 41 will enthrall audiences I'm sure throughout the limited engagement.

All my readers are in luck! I'm giving away TWO pairs of tickets to see Follies! The tickets are good for any Tues, Wed or Thurs evening performance from through the end of September. There are 5 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

Subscribe to this blog by email, using the submission box in the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to see this show.

3) Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.

4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a link to your tweet or blog in a comment below.

Two winners will be chosen using Random.org on Tuesday 8/9. You have until Monday 8/8 at 6 p.m. EST to enter the contest. Good luck!

Winners have been chosen! Congratulations to Sarah P. and Eunice H.! You have each won a pair of tickets to see Follies on Broadway. I hope you each have a great time and be sure to come back and tell us how you liked the show!

If you can't wait for the end of the contest to grab tickets or just want to know about a good discount, visit Ticketmaster or visit the box office using code 2BUDDY before October 2. You will be able to find Orchestra and Front Mezz. seats for $89 (normally $135/$125) and Mid. Mezz. seats for $65 (normally $95/$85).

Brooklyn Suds

Something that had been on my list of things to do in NYC for, say three years, was to visit the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg. Maybe it was the foreign concept of taking the L or maybe I've been too consumed with wine, but I finally can check this activity off my list and tell you all to do the same.

The Brooklyn Brewery was founded in 1987 by a war correspondent and a banker who decided to quit their jobs and devote themselves full-time to the art of brewing. They started operations upstate but in 1996, took over an abandoned warehouse space in Williamsburg and it became the first successful brewery in New York City since 1976. Today, Brooklyn Brewery beers are sold all over the world.

Tours are free but I would recommend making a reservation for a small batch brewery tour from 5-7 every weeknight. Those tours are limited to just 25 people, and for $8, they include beer samples. You'll also get to see where the beer is actually made instead of just the large warehouse they show you on the free tours.

After your tour, I would invite you to stick around and throw back a couple. You can purchase beer tokens for $4 or 6 for $20, and glasses range from 1-3 tokens depending on the beer. The event space is great and open to the public Fridays 6-11 and Saturday and Sundays from 12-6. While they don't serve food, you can bring in your own or even have it delivered, just ask the bartender for their stash of menus.

Brooklyn Brewery event space
The day I visited, I tried three different beers: Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Pilsner and Brooklyn Brown Ale. They were all excellent and I'm sure very fresh. From time to time the brewery will also showcase seasonal beers, so keep an eye out for those. 

Brooklyn Brewery Beers
And don't forget to check out the brewery's collection of old beer bottles from NYC brewery past.

These date back to more than 100 years ago!

Madison Square BBQ

Note: Don't you hate it when you start something and then get too distracted to finish it? Unfortunately that non-awesome situation happened to me with this post. It's a tad delayed but still super delicious. Enjoy!

When I think "New York," I don't usually think of "finger-lickin' good" (with the exception of an experience at Hill Country). However, for one weekend every summer, Madison Square Park becomes charcoal grilling, hickory smoking and pork 'n beans central wend the Big Apple BBQ takes over. At $8 a plate, patrons can gorge themselves with the best BBQ from across the country. All proceeds benefited the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

It was a slightly cloudy day, but that didn't stop the masses from donning their bibs and nibbling their ribs from a selection of more than 15 pitmasters, each with their own unique styles. All sorts of BBQ specialties were represented, including St. Louis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork Shoulder and Smoked Sausage.

Yup, that's a whole hog

We kicked off the event with a visit to the pop-up beer garden within the boundaries of the park. Goose Island was the beer sponsor, and I was a happy camper with a glass of their refreshing IPA.

After completing a once-over of all of the food options up and down Madison Avenue, we decided to try two different types of ribs. Ultimately this was decided by the which booths had the shortest lines. The smart folks had paid for an event fastpass well in advance. They were able to have special access to visit each of the booths from behind and skip all the lines and hullabaloo I had to wade through. Definitely doing that next time.

We visited the booth of the famed Gramercy joint, Blue Smoke for their Texas Salt n' Pepper Beef Ribs. Having never experience this kind of rib before, I was pleasantly surprised by how moist they were. Not only did the meat fall right off the bone, but they were full of flavor. We also tried the Baby Back Ribs from Rack & Soul, also in NYC. The sauce on these babies was out of this world, and they came with a side of BBQ beans that left me in BBQ heaven. In the end, I think the consensus was that Blue Smoke's ribs were better.

Rack & Soul's  Baby Back Ribs and BBQ Beans
Blue Smoke's Texas Salt n' Pepper Beef Ribs
This event puts Madison Square Park even higher up on my awesome list. For such a small park (in comparison to others...ahem...Central Park...), the conservancy does a great job of jam-packing it with wonderful activities, interesting art pieces and stellar events. The Shake Shack doesn't hurt either...