When I heard about a trip called Shootin' & Drinkin', I knew I had to check it out. What a wacky combination. The trip to the Hudson Valley is offered by a cool new Manhattan-based outdoor adventure company called Urban Escapes, and combines clay shooting and whiskey tasting—though not at the same time, I was assured by Bram Levy, the director and also one of the guides. The day starts with a two-hour lesson on clay shooting (basically firing a shotgun at clay targets). After riding through the forest in golf carts stopping at various stations to shoot clay discs, the group calms their adrenaline rush with a tasting of artisanal vodkas and whiskeys at Tuthilltown Distillery in nearby Gardiner, New York. Not all of Urban Escapes' trips are so Wild West. River tubing and wine tasting down the Delaware River sounds a lot more low key.
While researching a piece on the best wineries near beaches for a story that will appear in our October issue, I discovered that there is a die-hard community of surfing winemakers around the world, from Santa Barbara to Basque country. Perhaps the most serious of the bunch are the winemakers in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, including the guys over at Tokara, Beaumont and MAN Vintners. They all showed up for the 10th annual Vintners Surf Classic, held this past weekend. The two-day event attracted 40 to 50 surfers plus family and industry friends who came for the Champagne breakfast and post-contest barbecue. Contest organizer Miles Mossop, the winemaker at Tokara, e-mailed me the highlights, including the winners in the three different categories. I'm pushing for an international competition—pitting together surfing winemakers from around the world—for next year.
1st Gunter Schultz - Kleinood
1st Johan Reyneke - Reyneke Wines
1st Anton Smal - Villiera
© Eben Sadie
When he's not making wine, Eben Sadie is riding waves.
When I drove out to Montauk, New York, last week for all of 16 hours, it was for one reason: to eat at a pop-up restaurant at the Solé East hotel. Our meal, prepared by Jon Shook, one of the two chefs at Los Angeles's Animal (both F&W Best New Chefs 2009), was awesome. After checking out the N.Y. Times Diners Journal blog, I now know that Steven Spielberg and friends ordered all seven items on Animal’s menu, just like my friends and I did. But where has Shook been going to eat during his weeklong stay in Montauk? His favorite spot: Belly’s Sno Balls, for snow cones, which are dispensed from a bright orange truck. Shook has sampled a bunch of flavors, but his favorite is the coconut-watermelon combo (“artificial flavoring all the way,” he says). He’s about to sample the lobster rolls up and down Montauk Highway, so maybe he’ll find something he likes to go with those snow cones.
For the last two years, foodies have been talking about the exciting restaurant scene in Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, particularly its hot food ‘hood, Zona G (which has restaurants from Peruvian star chefs Rafael Osterling and Gastón Acurio). I got to experience it for myself last March. I also spent a week eating around what I believe may be Colombia’s next great food city, Cartagena.
The historic walled city by the sea has finally started to get some excellent restaurants. The most recent addition, Vera, opens next month in Latin fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s amazing new seven-room boutique hotel. Vera means truth, as the food will be authentic coastal Italian prepared by chef Daniel Castaño, a Mario Batali protégé who is also the head chef at Bogotá’s popular Emilia Romagna and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based supper club social experiment A Razor, A Shiny Knife. Opening menus will include a classic seafood risotto loaded with clams, mussels and shrimp and pollo al peppe, black-pepper-crusted chicken breast served with confit thighs and a date, watercress and macadamia salad. Castaño's food will be complemented by a 100-plus-label wine list of bottles from Italy, Spain, Chile and California.
© Tcherassi Hotel + Spa
Vera restaurant in Cartagena's new Tcherassi Hotel + Spa.
I have nothing but respect for people who religiously follow the Kogi truck around Los Angeles (and extra respect for someone named Shirley who hits the truck every single day and has her own spot for her lawn chair the way Philip Johnson always had table 32 at the Four Seasons). But since I found out that Kogi has established an outpost at the Alibi Room where I can avoid the lines, I took the lazy way out and headed straight there. I’d already tasted the Kogi dog—we published the awesome recipe in F&W’s August issue—so I went for the three taco combo made with homemade tortillas; short ribs with cilantro-infused lime relish; spicy pork belly; and BBQ chicken. But my very favorite thing was the Blackjack Quesadilla, a ridiculously good mix of caramelized pork, kimchi, salsa verde and melted jack and cheddar cheeses. Chef Roy Choi named it to honor 20 or so Kogi fans who caravaned from Las Vegas just to hit the truck, and texted in a request for something with kimchi and pork.
I’ve recently become semi-obsessed with the idea of getting a motorcycle. My friend Matt (a Harley guy) suggested I get my feet wet with some Vespa riding (an excellent suggestion). So last week, looking very Roman Holiday in my heels and little black dress (much to the horror of my riding instructor), I spent the morning learning how to drive a Vespa in the parking lot of Manhattan's Tavern on the Green. I started on the most basic model, the LX50 (max speed 39mph). After knocking over a few cones I was riding like a pro.
Further incentive to get my license: Wine Country Vespa just launched a series of two-day Napa and Sonoma-based Vespa tours with stops at top wineries like Caymus Vineyards and Paul Hobbs, luxe lodging at places like Hotel Healdsburg and fabulous winemaker dinners at local restaurants.
© Piaggio Group Americas, Inc.
Vespa 101 at Tavern on the Green.
© Kristin Donnelly
Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo.
For years, my friend beckoned me to Buffalo with the promise of interesting people and great food. Last weekend, she got married, so I finally made the trip. And I was completely charmed. A few places I found:
Just Vino The one-year-old bar offers about 80 wines by the glass, including choices from the nearby Finger Lakes region, plus some geek wines, like Movia Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia.
City Wine Merchant Does Buffalo have the audience for quirkier bottles, like, say, the Nigl sparkling Grüner Veltliner from Austria or the Daniel Bouland Morgon, an aromatic cru Beaujolais? I sure hope so, because I certainly enjoyed them from this brand-new wine shop.
Trattoria Aroma Tucked on a corner in the cozy Elmwood Village neighborhood, Trattoria Aroma does beautiful rustic Italian-style food, like house-made sausages with stewed onions, tomatoes and bitter dandelion greens.
Lake Effect Diner Here’s a triumph story for the locavore and DIY movement: Last year, this seven-year-old diner in a vintage diner car closed for six weeks to source local eggs, meats and produce. I had fabulous fluffy blueberry pancakes (now made from scratch, not a mix) and delicious though slightly misshapen house-made sausage patties.
Yesterday my colleague Emily McKenna gave an enticing preview of the first ever Vermont Cheesemakers Festival on August 23. Murray’s Cheese has organized a 24-hour field trip to get transportation-challenged, cheese-loving New Yorkers to Vermont. A red-eye bus departs Manhattan at midnight, stops for breakfast at Vermont's excellent Farmers Diner and drops passengers at the festival when the doors open at 10 a.m. The field trip tickets include round-trip transportation, breakfast, festival entry, and special access to some of Vermont’s top producers.
© Murray's Cheese
Murray's will be leading a field trip from NYC to the festival.
Ben Harper, the Decemberists, Band of Horses and the Killers are just a few of the stellar bands gathering in Chicago this August 7–9 for the annual Lollapalooza music festival. Another highlight: amazing food cooked by F&W Best New Chef 2004 Graham Elliot Bowles. Snacks—all $9 or less—will mimic the whimsical dishes Bowles serves at his eponymous Chicago restaurant but with a state-fair bent: lobster corn dogs, buffalo chicken with blue-cheese foam, black-pepper-parmesan-truffle popcorn.
Bowles, something of a music junkie himself (he recorded some of the songs that play at his restaurant) will also be cooking a VIP dinner for Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell and his band, Jane’s Addiction, who will be taking the stage Sunday night.