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Harlem’s Queen of Comfort Food: Melba Wilson

Melba

“The way I see it,” says Melba Wilson, “Soul food is the foundation of American comfort food.”

She’d know. For Melba, a Harlem native, or as she likes to say “I am Harlem born, bred, and buttered,” owns one of  most influential soul food restaurants in New York City’s most exciting dining neighborhood, aptly named Melba’s.

Like many children, she grew up watching her mother and grandomother cook and learned to love food, and soul food, in the process. But, Melba actually went into marketing and sales after school, anything from cosmetics to limo driving, finally entering the restaurant business on a lark when the great Sylvia Woods, Harlem’s Queen of Soul Food and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s, called and asked Melba to spearhead the 25th anniversary of the restaurant.

Melba did such a good job that Sylvia offered her a postion at the restaurant, starting her love affair with the hospitality business and eventually leading to her opening her own place.

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Melba’s, on the corner of 114th St and Frederick Douglas Blvd

Opened in 2005, Melba’s was an almost overnight success, with a family style menu that as Melba likes to say, “blends my Carolina heritage (her family is from South Carolina), with a dash of extra spice, a little urban edge, a taste of the melting pot, and a few ‘dee-lish’ twists.” It’s also been covered regularly in foodie magazines, and Melba even “Beat Bobby Flay” with her fried chicken recipe, now renamed Throwdown Chicken in honor of that accomplishment.

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Fried Chicken and Waffles

 

Comfort Food’s reigning authority, Melba Wilson joins us to talk about her passion and new cookbook Melba’s American Comfort (Atria Books) on The Connected Table LIVE Wednesday May 18th at 2:00pmET.

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#1 seller in biscuits and muffins. Click book cover photo for link to purchase.

THE CONNECTED TABLE BANNER WITH TIMES

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Cookbook Eat Explore

Meet the Golden Girl of Persia

There’s just something about the name “Persia” that seduces us. We are drawn to the flavors and aromas. Mint, cumin, cinnamon, oranges, pomegranates, dates and honey are ingredients we

like add to many of our everyday dishes. Aside from Melanie’s coming of age tour to Israel as a teenager, we’ve only traveled to the Middle East by way of our palates and the few restaurants we’ve experienced here in the USA. One of our favorites is recent JBF Award Winner Shaya in New Orleans.

Learn more about Sabrina Ghayour at www.sabrinaghayour.com
Learn more about Sabrina Ghayour at www.sabrinaghayour.com

Lucky for us a book entitled, “SIROCCO: Fabulous Flavors form The Middle East” by Sabrina Ghayour transports us and offers us new ways to accent our food at home. Dubbed “the golden girl of Persian cooking,” Sabrina is a self-taught cook, food writer and host of the popular Sabrina’s Kitchen Club in London. Her first book was “Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond.” In SIROCCO Sabrina draws on her Iranian

heritage and features dishes with a modern twist integrating African spices and Mediterranean staples.

BOOK COVER

 

A sirocco is a hot, dry wind that blows from northern Africa through the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Sabrina’s SIROCCO spreads the fragrant flavors of this region throughout her recipes.

Lamb Shank Tagine
Lamb Shank Tagine
Butternut Squash, Feta, Pesto
Butternut Squash, Feta, Pesto

 

Buy SIROCCO here and experience the flavors of the Middle East for yourself.

 

 

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David Ransom Drink Explore INSPIRE Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Peter Lehmann’s Ian Hongell: Barossa’s Straightshooter

It seemed like the perfect plan: Help out Barossa Valley grape growers unable to sell their fruit in a changing market by making wine from their grapes, sell it off in bulk to those who need wine to sell and go play golf for the rest of the year.

Well, something like that, anyways…

A champion of the little guy, Peter Lehmann, a fifth generation Barossa native who grew

up surrounded by vineyards, was originally a winemaker and buyer for a large British-owned Barossa Valley wine company. In 1979 when told by his superiors not to buy fruit he had contracted for, Peter, knowing it was the only source of income for his suppliers, decided to buy and process the fruit himself under the name of Masterson Barossa Vineyards (aptly named after Sky Masterson, the gambler in Guys and Dolls) – and he did it at his employers winery and with their blessing!

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The Cellardoor at Peter Lehmann Wines

However, when the winery sold the following year, the new owners halted the arrangement, forcing Peter to go out on his own. The result, Peter Lehmann Wines, enabled him to keep his relationships with growers in good standing and also showcase the increasing depth of the region’s growing capabilities, a move and philosophy that eventually earned Peter the title “Baron of the Barossa.”

Thirty-five years later, Peter Lehmann wines, founded in the late 1970s as an act of compassion by its namesake  with a group of like-minded wine industry veterans,  produces some of the best wines in Australia.

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The winery is now owned by the Casella Family Brands of [yellowtail] fame with a winemaking team helmed by Chief Winemaker Ian Hongell, another Barossa native who made his first wine at age 7 in a plastic bucket. Peter Lehmann Wines are now sold worldwide, and count upwards of 30 wines in the portfolio ranging from entry level easy drinkers to top-tier tiny production wines that are continuously heralded as benchmarks of the region’s output.

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Chief Winemaker Ian Hongell with Founding Winemaker Andrew Wigan and Peter Lehmann

Peter Lehmann’s winemaker, Ian Hongell, visited with The Connected Table LIVE! on Wednesday May 11 to talk about Peter Lehmann’s legacy, Barossa, and of course the region’s most famous varietal, Shiraz.  Listen to our podcast of this show on iHeart.com and the free iHeart App. Click here for the link.

 

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple. Connect and follow: Twitter@connectedtable Instagram#TheConnectedTable Facebook/connectedtable

Connect and follow each of us:

David: twitter.com/Ransomwrites
Melanie:  twitter.com/mightymelanie

For more on the inspiring story of How Peter Lehmann wines was started, check out this video:

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David Ransom Drink Explore INSPIRE Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Casa Dragones Tequila Raises The Bar

 

Bertha Gonzales Nieves
Bertha Gonzales Nieves of Casa Dragones

 

She’s called “The First Lady of Tequila” and is the first female “Maestra Tequila” certified by the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Tequila. And she makes a pretty amazing

tequila called Casa Dragones.

After years building the Cuervo brand globally, Bertha Gonzáles Nieves stepped out in 2009 to create her own style of tequila to rave reviews. Casa Dragones is an ultra premium, 100% Blue Agave, hand -crafted sipping tequila that’s smooth, soft and warm with no bite – the way a good tequila should taste. From the sea blue blue packaging and perfume bottle design to the platinum-hued liquid inside, everything about Casa Dragones speaks luxury. This is a sipping spirit to lift the spirits and savor slowly.

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Casa Dragones Joven

So what is Casa Dragones Tequila? Well, it’s a game changer – and part of a growing category of bottlings that are taking the art of crafting tequila, long thought of as a delicious and complex but somewhat pedestrian spirit, to new levels of refinement and elegance through the use of different techniques in distillation, aging and blending. With Casa Dragones, think Cognac with Tequila flavor, but without the burn, or in this case, the color.

First, Casa Dragones is not your old method Tahona wheel/wood-fired Still traditional type of tequila. It is a double column distilled sipper that is clean, ripe with florals and fruit in the nose, and subtle on the palate.

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Bertha Gonzales Nieves

Second, unlike the traditional styles of Tequila – Blanco (or Silver), Reposado, and Anejo – Casa Dragones makes what’s called a Joven Tequila, a blended tequila that is primarily Silver, but with other, more aged lots – in this case a bit of 5 year-old Extra Anejo (the recently added fourth main category) blended-in to add complexity and smoothness. In the case of the Casa Dragones Joven, the color is removed from the Extra Anejo portion to keep the final spirit clear.

 

With the proliferation of Tequila labels on the market these days, many of which are billed as traditional and with a classic Tequila style. Casa Dragones stands out for being exactly not that. It is not a rough, hot, meaty spirit that feels like it was made in a hand-made still in the barn behind the hacienda, but a soft, smooth, elegant spirit with a lightness and level of refinement that liken it more to the sipping equivalent of drinking silk than wool.

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Co-Founders Bob Pittman and Bertha Gonzales Nieves

Casa Dragones Co-Founder Bertha Gonzáles Nieves joins us on The Connected Table LIVE! this Wednesday May 4, 2016 for a chat about Casa Dragones, and her views on Tequila and the state of the Tequila industry. Listen in at 2:25pm

on W4CY Radio.

Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple