Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Words are hard to describe the praise and admiration I have for Adam Strum and his staff from the Wine Enthusiast, for staging "TOAST OF THE TOWN", New York's true premier consumer food and wine event.The lavish event took place at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater,named after the philanthropist, who donated $100 million dollars to Lincoln Center.The setting was majestic. Lincoln Center is a cultural mecca that is visually and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The grandeur of the room was only equaled by the fantastic musical sounds of the Global Village Artists Jazz Quartet, whose music was played throuhout the evening. I am from New Orleans, originally, and am keen on jazz quartets. The band was so good, they could play jazz seven nights a week in New Orleans French Quarter (Vieux Carre).Something about the music made me thirsty, so,I waundered aimlessly searching out the vendors for a beverage that fit the New Orleans music that was playing in my mind. Imagine finding a lone vendor generously pouring my favorite and once outlawed alcoholic beverage, Absinthe.The drink fit in perfectly with the music and my evening began.The music intoxicated me, as well as the smell of freshly prepared food. I had to prepare myself for the five hundred plus wines that were being poured, so, unlike my industry trade wine tastings, I wasn't forced to spit tonight.I needed food in my stomach to give me strength to try the hundreds of wines that await me this enchanted evening.Where to start?Well, the Diver Sea Scallop over Caviar Mousse from Tribeca's Thalassa restaurant (179 Franklin Street) was a perfect warm-up. Thirty of New York's finest restaurants prepared their wine matching 'signature dishes' for this event.I only have twenty-nine more restaurants to go.Throughout the evening I sampled food that would make Julia Child smile.The true standouts were Kellaari Taverna's(119 West 44th) Fire-roasted Baby Lamb Riblets; Brasserie Cognac's (1740 Broadway) Lobster Bisque; Allegretti's (46 West 22nd) Sardines 'In Soor' a la Riveria mixture; Center Cut's (44 West 63rd) Steak Tartare with Brandt Beef Tenderloin; Tolache's (251 West 50th) Tacos of Braised Brisket, Tomatillo Salsa and Avocado and soon to open, Accademia di Vino (1081 Third Avenue) Etruscan Farro Salad.

The evning was tastefully choregraphed to expand your palate through food and wine, while socializing between bites and sips. Now was the time to venture into the "World of Wine".With over five hundred wines ahead of me, I had to figure out how to navigate the wine scene efficiently.With over fourteen hundred people attending this event, the logical approach was to talk to my neighbors and get recomendations. What I pleasently learned was the crowd was wine savvy and knew,decriptively, about the wines they recommended. What I also learned was that this event has more wines that are affordable to the consumer than many of the events that only sample the higher end wines. Many attendees told me that they attend this event, specifically,so they can taste all of the wines that they have interest in and make a decision whether to buy the wines or not. All of this without buying a single bottle of wine.I admire that approach. It makes the price od admission a true bargain.I started my quest with a glass of Cristal champagne, from the recommendations I received. Small bubbles and a nutty, elegant flavor made this 'Cult Classic' a true crowd pleaser.Normally, my approach is simple: Sparkling wines first, followed by whites, roses and reds. After this I search for ports and dessert wines. If I am still standing, I will end the evening with a spirit like limoncello or grappa.The choices at the TOAST OF THE TOWN fit that bill.There were so many wines that stood out and were affordable that I believe the best way to share this information with you is to list the vineyards that consistently produce excellent wines, rather than specific anmes and vintage years that I tasted. These are the wineries I liked the most, both for value and quality:

Abadia Retuerta - Batasiolo - Beaulieu Vineyard - Berberana - Bodega Norton - Bonterra - Brancott - Campo Viejo - Castello Banfi - Chateau de la Gardine - Clos de Tart - Clos du Bois - Cloudy Bay - Domaines Ott - Gloria Ferrer - Hess Collection - Joseph Drouhin - Louis Jadot - Marques de Riscal - Masi - Rocce delle Macie - Santa Sofia - Sequoia Grove - St. Francis -Sterling - Tedeschi - Tranchero - Wente - Zonin

Choose any of the above wineries and I am sure that you will find a wine you will like, both for price and quality. All of the vineyards produce excellent wines and information about them can be found at your local wine shop or on the internet.now that I have had so many wines, it was time to move towards spirits.As I stated earlier, at the end of meals I like to drink a glass of Linoncello (always store the bottle in the freezer) for digestion, as was the case at the TOAST OF THE TOWN.Laird and Company (NJ) poured Casani Linoncello, which was absolutely wonderful. My relatives are from the Isle of Capri, own a restaurant named La Capannina , and once exported Limoncello to the states years ago. That is the reason why I like Linoncello so much.And what goes with Limoncello? Desserts,of course.being the glutton that I am, I couldn't pass up dessert. I had quite a few choices,but, my favorite dessert was the mini-cupcakes from the Cupcake Shop in Manhattan.To top all of that off and to end the evening, I had a decadent cup of Serendipity's (225 East 60th) famous Frozen Hot Chocolate.I was in Heaven!!What a night to remember.!!One that I will remind my readers to experience in 2010.TOAST OF THE TOWN is money well spent.I can't wait until next year, so, I can ask you "WHAT WINES DID YOU LIKE?'.
Posted by Philip S. Kampe 'Cheesy Concepts'
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