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Virginia Wines on Our Mind!

There’s more to discover in Virginia than stunning mountain scenery, historic landmarks, expansive horse farms and miles of coastal Atlantic beaches. This beautiful state also has an impressive diversity of wines; many wineries are family owned. We recommend putting Virginia on your U.S.A. wine itinerary

A Little Virginia Wine History

Virginia’s wine history dates to the Jamestown Settlement in 1607. The Virginia Company of London made it mandatory for each male settler to plant at least ten grapevines as an economic venture. In the 1700s Thomas Jefferson, an oenophile after serving as Ambassador to France, tried without success to cultivate European grape varietals at his home, Monticello in Virginia’s central Piedmont region.

Good wine is a necessity of life for me. - Thomas Jefferson

In the nineteenth century, Virginia’s native Norton grape, the oldest American varietal, was named “best red wine of all nations” at the Vienna World Fair. In the twentieth century, Virginia’s wine industry stalled thanks to Prohibition, two World Wars, and the Great Depression. However, modern farmers and visionary entrepreneurs from the late twentieth century to current times have remained committed to making quality wine in the region and have made the necessary investments to make it happen. A turning point was 1976 when Italy’s Zonin wine family invested in Barboursville Vineyards in Central Virginia.

Virginia Wines Today

Today, Virginia has over 300 wine producers in eight designated AVAs. The most concentrated areas are Central Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia. While Bordeaux varietals dominate, notably Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot, one can also find Tannat, and some Rhone varietals (red and white). Notable whites include Chardonnay, Viognier and Petite Manseng, a grape better known in the southwest of France, and Vidal Blanc, a white hybrid. To be called a “Virginia wine,” the grapes must be primarily sourced from within the commonwealth.

Virginia wine country is an easy getaway for east coasters or visitors to Washington DC. Here are three regions to get you started based on our visits:

Monticello AVA

While Thomas Jefferson never managed to make quality wines at his home, Monticello, the AVA is a center for production, thanks to the region’s fertile, clay and granite-based soils. Base yourself in  Charlottesville to explore the dining scene as well as numerous historical sites.

Bottle of Octogan
Octagon is Barboursville’s iconic Bordeaux Blend

Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville. Established in 1976, by Italy’s Zonin family, Italian varieties such as Vermentino, Fiano and Nebbiolo flourish under the watchful eye of Luca Paschina, the respected estate general manager/winemaker.  Barboursville’s Paxxito took top honors at Virginia’s 2021 Governor’s Cup Awards. Its signature wine is the sublime Bordeaux blend, Octagon.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Madison. Owned by former AOL executives, Steve and Jean Case, this winery features a large tasting room and small café where visitors can sample a curated selection of Virginia’s “best of the best” wines as well as Early Mountain’s selections made under the guidance of winemaker Ben Jordan. Try: Eluvium 2016, a Merlot-dominant (56%) blend with Petit Verdot (44%).  Here is a link to our interview with Ben Jordan (link to podcast)

Horton Vineyards, Gordonsville. (Pictured at top of article. Photo: Megan L. Coppage). The late founder, Dennis Horton was inspired by Rhone varietals he discovered while traveling in France, and this winery plants several as well as ancient varietals such as Georgian Rkatsiteli and the native Norton red.  We tasted nearly 20 wines when we visited! Try: Horton Petite Manseng, a fragrant white with a tad (5 %) Viognier and Rkatsiteli, named “Best in Show” at the 2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards in February. the estate is now run by Horton’s wife, Sharon, and daughter, Shannon, whom we interviewed on The Connected Table in November 2020 (link to podcast)

Shenandoah AVA

The Shenandoah Valley stretches from Winchester to Roanoke. Driving the rural roads, one can’t help but pull over to take Instagram-worthy photos of historic farmhouses and pastures of grazing cows and sheep. In the distance, the Blue Ridge Mountains stretch to the east and the Appalachians and Allegheny Plateau to the west.

Bluestone Vineyards. The Hartman family makes small-batch wines from estate-grown grapes Try: Bluestone Chardonnay (100%), aged on lees and in French oak and Acacia barrels for perfect balance and texture and Bluestone Petite Manseng. We visited with family winemaker, Lee Hartman, in this edition of The Connected Table Live (link to podcast)

We recommend Bluestone’s 2019 Petit Manseng which is among the 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case top 12 highest ranking red and white wines. Petite Manseng does well in Virginia, and this is one of our favorites.  Fermented in oak and aged on the lees for 10 months, this wine’s is a more citrusy versus creamy style of Petit Manseng with a nice, long finish and great minerality. SRP: $24.50.

Bluestone Vineuard
Bluestone Vineyards Manor House and Vineyards: Bessie Black Photography

CrossKeys Vineyard, Mt. Crawford. The Bakhtiar family named this palatial winery with an on-site café after the historic Cross Keys Tavern which served as a community gathering place in the 1800s and housed wounded soldiers during the infamous Battle of Cross Keys. Try: Fiore, a refreshing rosé made from Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc- a Silver Finalist for Virginia’s 2019 Governor’s Cup.

Middleburg AVA

Dotted with palatial estates and horse farms, it’s hard to believe the bustle of Washington DC is only an hour’s drive away.  Middleburg is truly a country retreat for the city weary and country squires.

Linden Vineyards, Linden. Owner Jim Law is one of the most respected vintners in the state. Located in the Blue Ride Mountains 60 miles west of Washington, D.C., The off-the-beaten path drive is well worth it the destination! Law produces stunning, limited edition Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux blend reds. We chatted with Jim Law in this edition of The Connected Table Live (2nd guest). (link to podcast).

We recommend trying the Hardscrabble Chardonnay.  Produced from estate grown grapes from Linden’s signature vineyard, this wine offers aromas of ripe pear and grilled peach with vanilla toast and nutmeg with a creamy texture combined with balanced acidity. SRP $48.

Hardscrabble Vineyard at Linden Vineyards
Hardscrabble Vineyard at Linden Vineyards

Boxwood Estate Winery, Middleburg. One of Virginia’s earliest horse farms, this eighteenth century estate focuses on premium estate-grown wines in the Bordeaux style.

Slater Run Vineyards, Upperville. This 300-year-old family-run farm along Goose Creek focuses on making classic wines using French varietals under the guidance of French winemaker Katell Griaud.

Places to stay:

The Berkley Hotel, Richmond An upscale hotel centrally located.

The Red Fox Inn & Tavern, Middleburg. This luxury inn dates to 1728 and is in the heart of Hunt Country. Try the Virginia peanut soup!

Inn at Little Washington, Washington. This is a tiny town with a big reputation thanks to Chef/Owner Patrick O’Connell, who runs this luxury inn with a Michelin three-star restaurant.

The 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards: The historic inn located on the expansive winery property is the perfect place to unwind after a day of tasting and sumptuous dinner at Palladio, Barboursville’s excellent Italian restaurant.

1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards
1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards

Planning a Trip The Virginia Wine Marketing Board has a helpful website listing wineries as well as producers of local ciders and mead. www.virginiawine.org

Learn more…..

In this episode of The Connected Table SIPS, Frank Morgan, Host of Virginia Wine Chat and Drink What You Like, discusses Virginia’s different appellations and a few standout grapes, including Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. We taste selections from three Virginia producers that we have visited: Bluestone Vineyards, Linden Vineyards and Barboursville Vineyards.

Frank Morgan, Host of Virginia Wine Chat
Frank Morgan, Host of Virginia Wine Chat

 

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Women Command the Kitchen at Commander’s Palace

Commander’s Palace has been a breeding ground for many leading New Orleans chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Tory McPhail and the late Paul Prud’homme and Jamie Shannon. For the first time in the restaurant’s 128-year-old history, a woman is leading the kitchen.

Chef Megan “Meg” Bickford is no stranger to Commander’s Palace. She worked closely with former executive chef, Tory McPhail who decided last year to move to Montana. McPhail was born in Bozeman and accepted a position working with a restaurant group there. Many were surprised and saddened to see him depart. He had served as both a de facto culinary ambassador for New Orleans and had earned many awards during his long tenure at Commander’s Palace.

Chef Megan Bickford (Photo by Chris Granger)

Everyone was equally delighted to see Chef Meg assume her new role. The Louisiana native has family in Bayou Lafourche and attended the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. After graduation, she joined Commander’s Palace, advancing through the ranks over the years. For a time, she was executive chef at family’s restaurant, Café Adelaide until it closed in 2018.

Since taking over Commander’s kitchen, Chef Meg has upheld the restaurant’s award-winning haute Creole menu and “dirt- to- plate within 100 miles” philosophy, as in 90% of ingredients come from within 100 miles of the restaurant. And she’s added her personal flair.

Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce
Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce

Dishes we tried included Wild Louisiana White Shrimp Curry, ancho-citrus glazed Gulf shrimp with crispy artichokes, fire-roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes and spiced coconut curry broth; Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce and Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.

Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.
Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.
Pecan crusted Drum with Crabmeat, Kale and Corn
Pecan crusted Drum with Crabmeat, Kale and Corn

Hospitality is in Lally Brennan’s DNA. Both she and her cousin Tí Adelaide Martin grew up in the family restaurant business and now serve as co-proprietors of Commander’s Palace and Sobou, a stylish restaurant in at the W hotel in the French Quarter. They also co-authored In The Land of Cocktails from the Cocktail Chicks. After all, New Orleans is the origination of some classic cocktails, including the Sazerac, French 75 and Ramos Gin Fizz, among others.

Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin
Lally Brennan, Tí Adelaide Martin

Both Lally and Tí are longtime friends who make us feel like family every time we pay a visit to Commander’s Palace. But we’re really not alone. Everyone who dines at Commander’s Palace feels extra welcome. On any given day or night, one or both will be working the floor saying hello to every table of guests. And how lucky you are if you on hand for Sunday Jazz Brunch or twenty-five cent martinis at lunch. We’ve done both and celebrated a birthday and an anniversary.

In December 2016, we had the pleasure and honor of having both Tí and her legendary mother, Miss Ella Brennan, join us on The Connected Table Live! Ella was 91 and had co-authored a memoir with Ti entitled Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace: I Don’t Want a Restaurant Where a Jazz Band Can’t Come Marching Through. A film called “Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table” had been released. Both can be ordered at www.commanderspalace.com

In this edition of Link to podcast“>The Connected Table Live, we visit with Lally Brennan and Chef Megan Bickford.

Lally Brennan, Tí Adelaide Martin, Chef Megan Bickford outside Commander’s Palace (masked in 2020 due to COVID-19)
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A Must -Visit Museum For Southern Food & Beverage

For anyone curious about southern food and beverage culture, a visit to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (a.k.a. SoFAB) is a must-stop when you visit New Orleans. Located at 1504 Oretha C. Haley Boulevard, the museum is chock full of culinary culture and ephemera, ranging from the history of Popeye’s Fried Chicken and traditional New Orleans foods to the many foods, products and culinary curiosities native to each southern state. There is a demonstration kitchen; cooking classes and other educational programs are offered regularly. www.southernfood.org

Inside SOFAB. Museum hours are Thursday to Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

SoFAB also houses the Museum of American Cocktail (MOTAC), a fascinating history of America’s cocktail culture, and the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library, containing over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to SoFAB. It’s also home to the Nitty Grits Podcast Network, a selection of audio and video podcasts addressing food and drink topics.

The museum may appear small at first but, trust us when we tell you to take your time walking through the exhibits. There is much to digest, especially if you enjoy learning about the history of food and drink. The exhibits on New Orleans’ culinary history alone, ranging from the impact of Hurricane Katrina to the history of cooking with beans and a tribute to the late Leah Chase, offer much to reflect on.

Learn the history of New Orleans' famous Popeye's fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.
Learn the history of New Orleans’ famous Popeye’s fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.

Meet SoFAB’s Founder

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) was founded in 2004 by Elizabeth Williams, who wanted a place where the intersection between culture and food could be studied. The museum began with pop-up exhibits and was the first official exhibit for what is now the Museum of American Cocktail. Over time, individuals began donating family artifacts to the museum, requiring the need for more space. SoFAB has been at its current location since 2014.

Williams, who joined us as our guest on The Connected Table LIVE May 5th, was born and raised in New Orleans to a family with Sicilian heritage. She notes in her bio that she was “always fascinated by the way the lure of nutmeg and peppercorns motivated the exploration of the world.”

Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation
Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation

A lawyer by training, Williams has had a long career working with foundations and museums. She served as President & CEO of the University of New Orleans Foundation and UNO Research and Technology Foundation, Inc. working in foundation budget management and financing, development and fundraising and management for properties including UNO Studio Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the D-Day Museum, now the National World War II Museum.

Since 2004 she has served as founding President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation and established the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. She has researched and written on the subject of food policy and is coauthor with Stephanie Jane Carter of The Encyclopedia of Law and Food (Greenwood Publishing, 2011).

Over lunch at Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant and hospitality training ground for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24, Williams shared some of her projects for the National Food & Beverage Foundation, which includes the cookbook library and culinary archives, the SoFAB Meat Lab, a state-of-the-art facility offering classes and demonstrations on everything meat-related, from butchering to grilling, and the Nitty Grits podcast studio and other programs around culinary history and education.

SoFAB’s repository library includes The John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library  which contains over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.  The collection is non-circulating but available for reference. The library also contains a collection of books written by members of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a nonprofit organization of leading women in food fine beverage and hospitality.

Williams is encyclopedic on food and drink culture, especially when it comes to New Orleans. Listen to our conversation on everything from Mississippi tamales and Alabama white sauce to New Orleans Krewe of Red Beans on this edition of The Connected Table. Click below or this link

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A Story of Family & Fortitude: Delia Viader

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Delia Viader has a Ph.D in Philosophy from the Sorbonne, studied business at M.I.T., enology at U.C. Davis and speaks six languages. Her parents ran in global business and diplomatic circles. Her late father, Walter, was her inspiration and staunchest supporter when she decided to establish Viader Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley in 1986.

Determined to find a home, build a business and establish a secure future for her family of four children as a single mother, she invested in remote, rocky land on Howell Mountain to build Viader Vineyards & Winery to produce small lot Bordeaux red blends. She consulted with leading oenologists and viticultural specialists Michell Rolland and Tony Soter. Viader’s first bottled vintage was 1989 with just 1200 cases. In 2000, Viader’s 1997 vintage was named #2 in The Wine Spectator Top 100 wines. The following year, Viader’s 1998 red blend was ranked #3.

View from Viader Vineyards
Viader Winery & Vineyards is located on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.

The national recognition for her limited production wines created significant demand and offered a bright future for Viader. But in 2005, an offsite wine warehouse fire set by an arsonist wiped out Viader’s entire 2003 vintage and caused irreparable damage. Viader, along with many other wineries who warehoused their wines in the same facility were dealt a devastating blow.

Determined not to give up, Delia and her family dug in their heels and worked hard to salvage their losses and pivot (we know that word well these days). To help finance the recovery, Viader had to sell Il Masseto, her property in Bolgheri that she had acquired in 1999 to produce Super Tuscan wines and eventually retire to.

Many have shared that Delia is a fearless force of nature who is loyal to the core. The words, “Nevertheless, She Persisted” have never been truer. Now celebrating 35 years with a focus on maintaining standards of quality, sustainability and legacy. www.viader.com

Recommended:

Viader Proprietary Red Blend 2016, Napa. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Cabernet Franc. Aged 23 months in 100% French oak (60% new). Delia calls this wine her “Liquid Cashmere.”- Voluptuous blackberry, black cherry, plum, shaved cocoa and spice. SRP $195

Viader Black Label 2017, Napa. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 12% Malbec, 9% Cabernet Franc. Aged 17 months in French barrel (17% new).  This wine is Alan Viader’s project. It delivers concentrated black fruit juiciness laced with cocoa and spice. SRP $150

Delia and Alan Viadar

Listen to our show with Delia Viader and son and fellow winemaker, Alan Viader on The Connected Table Live to share their inspiring story and vision.

 

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A Real Deal Big Mack: Vintner & Sommelier André Hueston Mack

Sommelier, Winemaker, Designer, Entrepreneur: André Hueston Mack has always had a flair for success. Recognized as one of the country’s top sommeliers and owner of his successful wine brand, Maison Noir, Mack has made his mark in the world of wine in a way few have: encyclopedic knowledge paired with an unbridled passion for championing quality wines through creative presentations.

Mack took the plunge in the world of wine in the early 2000s, leaving behind a career at Citicorp. He become a passionate student of wine, studying and seizing every opportunity to learn and taste. He spent his formative days in San Antonio, Texas, working as a sommelier at The Palm and head sommelier at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood.

Andre
Photo by Stash Photography (www.maisonnoirwines.com)

At age 30 Mack was awarded the prestigious title of Best Young Sommelier in America by La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. He was the first African American sommelier to earn this honor. This recognition led his to a job as sommelier for Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. He went to be become head sommelier at Per Se in New York City, where he oversaw a 1500-selection wine list and consulted with Chef Keller on menu and pairings.

Mack always had a dream to produce wines under his own label. In 2007 that dream became reality with the launch of Maison Noir Wines. Created in cooperation with select growers and winemakers in Oregon handpicked by Mack, the wines of Maison Noir are the end-product of Mack’s dedication to bring joy – and a bit of whimsy – to the world of wine. To that end, he oversees the production and also designs the labels and packaging with eye-popping black and white imagery and names like Oregogne Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot), P-Oui Pinot Noir, Bottoms Up White, and Horseshoes and Handgrenades, a red blend. Wines are available in both stores and restaurants and on his website at www.maisonnoirwines.com

 Horseshoes & Handgrenades is a fruit-driven, full-bodied complex red blend sourced from Southern Oregon (Syrah) and Red Mountain Washington State (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

Horseshoes & Handgrenades is a fruit-driven, full-bodied complex red blend sourced from Southern Oregon (Syrah) and Red Mountain Washington State (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

Mack also owns & Sons Ham Bar in In Brooklyn, NY. The intimate neighborhood ham bar celebrates the culture of American charcuterie, from cured sausages and country ham to pâtes, and features a small wine list of celebrated vintages from the 1960s-1990s. There is an adjacent retail outlet selling assorted hams and cheeses. www.andsonsnyc.com

A talented graphic designer, his line of tee shirts are inspired by -his description- “Wine Lifestyle/Street Culture” of the punk and hip-hop scenes, while reminiscent of independent skateboard company apparel of the 1990s.” He is author and designer of Small Thyme Cooks, a culinary activity coloring book whose sales benefit the Charlie Trotter Foundation, and the thoroughly enjoyable Mack memoir by bottle, 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep’s Guide to Life-Changing Wines (Harry Abrams)

99 bottles
Buy book here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dg9hBa

“Black Sheep” is the nickname Mack’s Per Se colleagues gave him when he was still one of a few African American sommeliers in the industry. As we researched different meaning for this reference, we came to this conclusion: Mack is, indeed, a renegade and a rare breed: a man of integrity and individuality who has made an indelible mark in the world of wine despite all odds.

Listen here to our conversation with André Hueston Mack’s story on The Connected Table LIVE

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“Bald” Peanuts + Oysters in Apalachicola

“Ma’am, what’s your preferred rice?” the woman on the other end of the phone call asked? Confused by the question, my food-centric mind drifted to forbidden black rice or jasmine rice, my two favorites. I asked her to repeat the question. After all, my call was to schedule COVID-19 tests for David and myself. Why would rice matter? Third attempt to clarify the question, she asks, “Are you Caucasian or black?” OK, she’s asking about our race, not rice.

Boiled peanuts are sold by the bag.

I may be a native southerner, but deep south cotton mouth is thicker than my ears are used to. “Bald peanuts” are boiled peanuts, and you pick up “ersters” and “shrump” from local seafood shacks. That’s life here in the Florida’s Panhandle known as “the Forgotten Coast,” where we are “rat now’ (a.k.a. right now). Apalachicola, Eastpoint and St. George’s Island are hours from resort development and crowded beaches further west on the Emerald Coast, and locals want it to stay that way. “Don’t tell people about us,” they write in a private Facebook group.

Well, sorry folks, but we like to share stories about interesting places and support local businesses. We happen to have a mutual passion for oysters. Here in Oyster City (a.k.a. Apalachicola) we enjoy a daily dozen slurp washed down with a cold Oyster City Brewing Company “Mangrove” IPA in the afternoons. (and recently Paumanok Chenin Blanc)!

Jeff Tilley teaches us  to shuck oysters
Jeff Tilley teaches us to shuck oysters

This week on The Connected Table LIVE we visited with Jeff Tilley, co-owner with his son, Reid Tilley, of Oyster Boss in Sopchoppy, Florida. Oyster Boss sells to restaurants, and the Sopchoppy retail outlet caters to drop ins and now has a growing ecommerce business launched during the pandemic. www.oysterboss.com

Apalachicola oysters have long been prized by bivalve fans, from chefs to consumers, but Tilley shared with us the challenges facing the industry as a result in changes in the water quality, resource mismanagement and the global sea level rise, among other reasons. Most are the result of human intervention. Pollution, runoff and waste disposal are all taking a toll on Florida’s coastal water system. Climate change is also a factor. The area has been impacted by drought and by Hurricane Michael, a category five that slammed the Panhandle in 2018. Much of the eye hit further west around Mexico Beach and Panama City, but we still saw some storm damage in Port St. Joe.

oysters on the half sheel
Did you know oysters are loaded with zinc, copper and vitamin B12- so good for the immune system!

Last year The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to shut down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay through 2025, severely impacting an industry crucial to this region’s economy.  Apalachicola Bay historically produced 90% of Florida’s oysters and 10% of the nation’s supply.  Many restaurants rely on farmed oysters from Florida and Texas, although you can still find wild-caught from other regions of Florida.

Oyster Boss sources its farmed oysters from Alligator Point in Franklin County, where the water has a higher salinity resulting in a buttery, mild, salty oyster. Further south in northwest central Florida near Yankeetown (Levy County) Oyster Boss sources wild -caught oysters, that are plump, succulent and briney. Tilley brought us bags of both to sample, gave us a lesson on shucking and provided us with some education on the reproductive system of oysters.

One perfect pearl of an oyster.

Tilley is also a red mullet fan. These fish like to jump in the water, although we still have not tasted. He started the Facebook group, Wet Net Mullet Group, now with 12,000 members. “There is a lot of seafood power in this group,” he shared.

Shucking prowess is akin to having good knife skills. And the right knife. Tilley uses a knife called “Toadfish” which Oyster Boss sells. You need a sturdy grip and a glove. Find the “lip” of the oyster, insert the blade and start moving it back and forth until the shell starts to open slightly. Then, insert deeper. It can take some arm muscle and definitely nimble wrist action.

David shucks oysters
David shucks oysters

If you love pristine places to visit, care about sustainable aquaculture and are oyster lovers like we are, you’ll enjoy our conversation with Jeff Tilley. Listen here:

and share this link with friends: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/209-the-connected-table-live-27073513/episode/fla-gulf-coast-oyster-boss-jeff-77121731/

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Breaking the Silence Provides A Open Discussion To Address Workplace Harassment

Women comprise 70% of the U.S. hospitality workforce and as many as 90% of female restaurant employees report some form of sexual harassment. Late last year, the nonprofit, One Fair Wage, Issued a report which based on surveying 1,675 restaurant service workers. 41% said they had experienced more harassment since the start of the pandemic.

Offering actionable solutions, Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) recently united hospitality leaders and advocates to present helpful information and resources through a free live webinar “Breaking the Silence: Confronting Harassment in the Hospitality Industry,” sponsored by the Institute of Culinary Education.

“Our organization is against the normalization of such unconscionable behavior and we are determined to offer supportive solutions,” said LDNY Co-President Jen O’Flanagan of FeastPR. Her LDNY Co-President Jenifer Lang, the former Managing Director of Café des Artistes, added “Harassment is insidious and needs to be attacked from every angle. Our goal is to empower the victims to defend themselves: legally, physically, and professionally.”

The Connected Table Live Host Melanie Young, an LDNY member and chapter past-president, assembled a panel of six industry experts in human resources, labor relations law, wage discrimination, self-defense and behavioral therapy for an in-depth conversation.

Melanie Young, Webinar Moderator, Co-Host of The Connected Table Live and SIPS

“The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that more than 14% of sexual harassment charges came from the food and hospitality Industries. In 2019 employers paid out a record $68.2 million to employees alleging sexual harassment. When selecting panelists, I wanted a diverse group of experts to provide solutions, support and best practices to help both workers and employers.” said Young.

This summit of female hospitality leaders identified several key steps to address this pervasive problem:

Legalize Fair Wages

Research by One Fair Wage, a national coalition, campaign and organization focused on the service sector, found the restaurant industry to be one of the largest and fastest growing industries, yet it has the absolute lowest wages of any industry in the United States, with 43 states paying only $2.13 an hour. “Female workers are overwhelmingly dependent on the whims and biases of customers and whether customers are pleased with their service,” stated Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage. “’Pleased with their service’ has translated to physical and behavioral biases, core issues that enable sexual harassment. This became even clearer and more blatant during the pandemic.”

Saru Jayaraman
Saru Jayaraman, President, One Fair Wage

Conversely, according to Jayaraman, the seven states that honor a full minimum wage in the hospitality sector (California Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska) have one half the rate of sexual harassment claims and better business with higher restaurant industry sales, higher job growth, and higher rates of tipping. “We have accepted and normalized the sexual harassment in this industry, which cannot continue. We need everybody to help push for elimination of the subminimum wage,” said Jayaraman.

Create Transparent, Supportive Culture

Theodora Lee, shareholder of Littler Mendelson P.C., labor law specialists, and owner of Theopolis Vineyards, advocated for every employee within the workplace to be made familiar with agencies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and their local branch of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), where they can file a sexual harassment complaint without the need to hire a lawyer. “Because of long tradition, employees don’t know they can take action. There are laws on the books,” says Lee.

Theodora Lee, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson P.C.,
Labor Law Expert Theodora Lee, Shareholder, Littler Mendelson P.C.

Only 10% of sexual harassment is reported, which “exposes this overall resistance that people have, this fear that prevents them from reporting,” said Taryn Abrahams, MFT, SHRM-CP Founder/CEO, Empower Behavioral Services, LLC. She encouraged companies to create a transparent culture with clear decision-making and bold communications that includes scripts and training to intervene, if they choose to.

Taryn Abrahams, MFT, SHRM-CP Founder/CEO, Empower Behavioral Services, LLC
Taryn Abrahams, MFT, SHRM-CP Founder/CEO, Empower Behavioral Services, LLC

Ashley Oberdorff, PHR, Director, Empowered Hospitality, emphasized the importance of all restaurants—large corporations or “mom-and-pop”—having a human resources department, either in house or outsourced. She also explained how critical it is to ensure that policies are up to date and to address sexual harassment in employee handbooks, with an acknowledgement form for employees. “It’s so important to act and not put it off,” recommends Oberdorff. “Make sure everything is documented. Find out the facts and go from there.”

Ashley Oberdorff
Ashley Oberdorff, PHR, Director, Empowered Hospitality

Better Workplace Training

“There is a real need to create better, more effective training around this topic. The missing piece is the importance of arming people with the skills to be able to intervene if they choose to,” said Abrahams.

“In hospitality, people by nature have great relational skills, can read someone’s face or body language and tell whether or not someone is happy with their meal. We build on those same skills to give people the skills and practice they need to be more comfortable intervening [in harassment],” said Lauren R. Taylor, director, Safe Bars and Defend Yourself. The Safe Bars program recently formalized training for people who work in bars and restaurants to quickly identify sexual harassment and safely prevent it through strategies like bystander intervention.

Lauren Taylor
Lauren R. Taylor, director, Safe Bars and Defend Yourself

Effective bystander invention training includes different tools to address sexual harassment based on an individual’s comfort level. “It creates awareness and a sense of collective responsibility, because the reality is that most victims don’t speak up. It also gives victims a sense of empowerment,” said Abrahams.

Step Up as a Mentor

The webinar’s title, “Breaking the Silence,” was inspired by panelist, Alpana Singh‘s blog post, “The True Cost of Silence.” In it. Singh shares an emotional coming to terms for remaining silent over the years as she and other female members of the Court of Sommeliers experience harassment by its male members.

Alpana Singh, Sommelier. Restaurateur, Television Host

“To me, from walking away from that title [Court of Master Sommelier], I can speak for those who can’t speak. You don’t have to take it; let me take it for you so you don’t have to. I couldn’t do that 15 years ago, but I can now,” noted Singh, sommelier, restaurateur, host of the Emmy-Award winning PBS-TV Show, Check, Please! Professional organizations such as Les Dames d’Escoffier New York and social media groups such as Women in Hospitality are also forums for resource references, support and solidarity. “The moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice–you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you could have done something, and you did nothing.”

A replay of the Breaking the Silence webinar can be watched on YouTube.com. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2qOYa1Z9Qk&t=21s 

For additional resources on this topic and information on speakers and the webinar Gold Sponsor, Institute of Culinary Education, visit www.ldny.org

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About Les Dames d’Escoffier

Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) is an unparalleled collective of forward-thinking and successful female leaders in all sectors of the food, beverage and hospitality industries. Located in the most dynamic and competitive city in the world, Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (LDNY) is the founding and largest chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI), an experienced 501c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to advance and support aspiring professional women in food and beverage, as well as to champion critical industry issues. LDNY’s vision is guided by three objectives: Education, Advocacy and Philanthropy.

Want to hear more? Listen to our conversations on this topic and more with panelists Saru Jayaraman, One Fair Wage, and Sommelier/Restaurateur Alpana Singh on The Connected Table LIVE.

 

 

 

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Alsace Grand Cru Wines: A Best Kept Secret Revealed

Grand Cru wines are the cream of the crop in regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but here’s a tip: Alsace also makes outstanding grand cru wines, and they deliver exceptional quality for value.

We visited with Georges Lorentz, seventh generation of family-run Domaine Gustave Lorentz and winery president. Established in 1836, Gustave Lorentz is located in the heart of Alsace’s Grand Cru wine country near Altenberg de Bergheim. The winery is the essence of Alsace: historic, decidedly French and welcoming to visitors.

Georges Lorentz
Georges Lorentz

While we were familiar with the fact that 90 percent of Alsace wine production is white, we learned a few key points during our discussion with Lorentz:

Alsace has a unique micro-climate

Located in northeast France bordering Germany and Switzerland, Alsace is a small region with big secret Lorentz shared with us: “Alsace is protected by the Vosges Mountains and has a unique micro-climate that delivers drier and warmer temperatures, ideal growing conditions. In fact, Colmar is considered the second driest town in France.” Most producers practice organic and biodynamic farming. Gustave Lorentz has farmed organically since 2012.

Altenberg-Bergheim slopes
The Altenberg region in Bergheim is the heart of the Alsace Grand Cru wine country

Alsace Grand Cru wines are a rare find

While Alsace produces seven grape varieties, only Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat are permitted in the Grand Cru regions of Kanzlerberg and Altenberg de Bergheim near Gustave Lorentz. Here, vineyard plots are small, with concentrated plantings and lower yields in soils that are mainly clay and limestone, producing exceptional grapes. The wines deliver more complexity and can age well. Lorentz told us, “Alsace Grand Cru wines represent only five percent of production, so they are a rare find and exceptional value.” Most average $35/45/bottle.

Gustave Lorentz Cremant d'Alsace
Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace- versatile and food friendly

Alsace Is a top sparkling wine region

Alsace is the oldest and largest producer of crémant, sparkling wines made in the traditional method. One can find crémants made from blends of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is also permitted to make Crémantd’Alsace. These wines are elegant and refined, delivering great value as well, averaging $30 bottle.


Alsace vs. Germany- Styles

Historically, Alsace has bounced between French and German occupation. However, the heritage, culture, and wines are very much French, as Lorentz explained: “Both Alsace and Germany used the same seven different grape varieties; but Alsace’s vinification style is decidedly French. Germans tend to enjoy drinking wine outside their meals so vinify their wines accordingly, making wines lighter in body, alcohol and style, and also sweeter with less acidity. Conversely, Alsace wines a made to enjoy with food and therefore made with more body, higher alcohol and also drier with better acidity.”

We were impressed with the finesse of the Gustave Lorentz wines we tasted:

Gustave Lorentz Riesling Reserve
Gustave Lorentz Riesling Reserve (importer: Quintessential Wines)

 

Riesling Reserve2017, 100% Riesling with white floral and citrus notes, fresh acidity and a hint of minerality. The finish is dry and fresh. A nice aperitif wine or paired with seafood, white meat chicken or a classic Alsace Choucroute (pork and sauerkraut).
12.3% ABV SRP $21

Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris (importer: Quintessential Wines)
Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris (importer: Quintessential Wines)

Pinot Gris 2018, 100% Pinot Gris, that, while white, shows more like a red wine in structure. Creamy texture and underlying yet distinct backbone of acidity, it shows notes of pear and quince with a subdued smokiness in the finish. A beautiful wine that pairs well with roasted chicken, venison, or cheeses like Comté or Parmesan. 13.5% ABV, SRP $24.

Gustave Lorentz Cremant d'Alsace

Crémant d’Alsace Brut, 34% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Blanc, 33% Pinot Noir. Made in the méthode traditionnelle to bring a refinement to the bubbles. Zesty and crisp with notes of lemon rind and a hint of red berry. Made our mouths water for a plate of smoked gouda and country ham, or a plate of grilled shrimp. 12% ABV, SRP $26

Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, a 100% Pinot Noir made in the méthode traditionnelle. Pale salmon pink in color, this crémant is lovely to look at as well as to sip. Fresh and fruity with flavors of wild strawberry and raspberry, softer palate and more roundness. 12 % ABV SRP $25 Enjoy with a heartier dish like roast pork, pasta with tomato sauce or to complement a light fruit dessert. 12% ABV, SRP $25

Gustave Lorentz wines are imported in the U.S.A. by Quintessential Wines. www.gustavelorentz.com

Listen to our SIPs podcast with Georges Lorentz, seventh generation family member and president of Domaine Gustave Lorentz:

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The Beaujolais Wine Route: A Snapshot

The Beaujolais region in France has been designated a “Paie d’art et d’histoire,” recognizing its centuries-old heritage, picturesque villages, historic sights and many wine estates. Nearly 200 wineries are open to the public.

The official Beaujolais Wine Route covers roughly 85 miles. To the south are the larger regions of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. Moving north you’ll find the 10 smaller crus. Like the wines themselves, each appellation has a unique character based on its climate, altitude and diversity of soils which include an indigenous pink granite, clay, schist and limestone.

Map of beau
Map of the Beaujolais Terroir

Here’s a snapshot, of the Beaujolais Wine Route:

Comprised of 72 villages, AOC Beaujolais, the southernmost appellation, is three times larger than neighboring Beaujolais-Villages, to the east. While reds made from the Gamay grape dominate, one can experience vibrant rosés and white wines made with Chardonnay. Whites from the Beaujolais appellation can carry hints of peach and apricots ,while Beaujolais Villages whites can have aromas of pear, fresh almond and tropical fruit and a touch of almond and vanilla.

Pierres Doree
The Golden Stones (Les Pierres Dorées) Photo: www.beaujolais.com

Here are some fun facts about these two areas: In AOC Beaujolais, Les Pierres Dorées, which translates to “golden stones,” refers to a cluster of picturesque villages dotted with large golden stones that can be quite spectacular in the sunlight. In fact, this area has earned the nickname “Little Tuscany,” thanks to its steep hills and gorgeous landscape. One example is the hilltop town of Oingt ( oh-engt), which is named one of the most beautiful villages in France.

The hilltop village of Oingt has been called one of the most beautiful villages in France. Photo: www.beaujolais.com

For a nice introduction to the region, visit the historical capital of Beaujeu (BO-JU), located in Beaujolais-Villages. The Beaujolais Museum has information on the region’s viticultural history.

Venturing northward lie the 10 Beaujolais crus. Cru wine styles change thanks to geology and climate. One can try Beaujolais wines that are softer like Brouilly, Fleurie and Chenas to more supple and structured like Julienas, Morgon and Moulin A Vent.

Brouilly and Côte-de-Brouilly are the southernmost crus. Brouilly wines are more fruity- plummy with some minerality. Côte de Brouilly wines are slightly fuller bodied. This is due to soils and elevation. This area has a mixture of four soil types: pink granite (unique to Beaujolais), limestone marl, river rocks and clay.

The chapel of Mont Brouilly, in Beaujolais, Rhone department, France

Mount Brouilly straddles the two AOCs -Brouilly at the base and Côte-de-Brouilly on the mountain slopes where vineyards grow in rocky, volcanic soils, some dating to Roman time. At the summit of Mt Brouilly is Notre- Dame- aux Rayzin (The Chapel of Our Lady of the Grapes). It was built in 1857 to protect the vineyards.

Venturing north, Régnié is a small cru spread over just one square mile with pink granite, mineral-rich terrain. Grapes are grown on hillside around 1,150 feet above sea level. Régnié produces aromatic wines with notes of raspberry, red currant, blackberry and a touch of spice.

Morgon-Saint-Joseph-Cru-du-Beaujolais-Gillet-Inter-Beaujolais-

Morgon is the second largest Cru after Brouilly with 250 producers in 4.5 square miles. It is named after the local hamlet of Morgon. The soil in Morgon is rich in iron oxide with traces of manganese and volcanic rock. Morgon wines are fuller-bodied with a deep garnet color and favors of ripe cherry, peach, apricot and plum.

Chiroubles has been called “the most Beaujolais of all the crus.” This region has a higher altitude, 1,475 above sea level and cooler temperatures Wines are ruby red with light floral votes of violet and peony.

Fleurie, a northern cru, covers just three-square miles. The soil here is almost entirely made up of the pinkish granite unique to this part of Beaujolais. Fleurie produces softer, aromatic wines with floral and fruity essences of iris, violet, rose, red fruit and peach.

Le Moulin A Vent in the backdrop of winter vineyards. Photo: www.beaujolais.com

The highest rated of all the Beaujolais crus, Moulin-à-Vent is ruby to dark garnet in color with lush floral and fruit aromas. It’s a wine that evolves and becomes more complex with age, delivering more earthiness and spice. Moulin a Vent means windmill, a nod to the giant windmill located in the town of Romaneche-Thorins

Chenas in a small cru located in a mountainous area that was once a dense forest before King Phillippe V ordered the trees be repaved with vines. Chenas is considered one of the finest crus, whose garnet-ruby red wines can be aged for a few years. Chenas wines were a favorite of King Louis XIII.

Vineyards in Julianas

Moving northwest in Beaujolais, Juliénas produces earthier wines with a deep ruby red color and strawberry, violet, red currant and peony characteristics. Juliénas are powerful wines with essences of vanilla and cinnamon laced into the red fruits. The name, Julienas is taken from Julius Caesar; many vines here date to the Gallo-Roman period.

Beaujolais’s northernmost cru is called Saint-Amour. Wines can range from soft, fruit and floral to spicier, with notes of cherry kirsch. Saint-Amour is known as the most romantic Beaujolais. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of Saint-Amour sales occur in February around Valentine’s Day.

Now that we took you on a snapshot tour, we hope you are ready to taste. For more information on Beaujolais and its wines visit www.beaujolais.com

Listen to our SIPS podcast on The Beaujolais Wine Route below (stream), or click here: https://bit.ly/TCT_BeaujolaisAppellations

 

 

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Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyards: Southern Hospitality with an Italian Accent

We’re fans of Virginia wines and the region itself and made our third visit to explore the state in October. The weather was perfect and fall foliage was just starting. We spent three nights staying at the 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, located in Central Virginia’s Monticello AVA.

This was our first visit to Barboursville, and we produced a live show with general manager and winemaker, Luca Paschina, who shared the estate’s history over a dinner he prepared for us with a selection on Barboursville’s wines.

 

Luca Paschina has been the winemaker at Barboursville since 1990.

Barboursville’s America-Italy Connection

Barboursville was the 19th century estate of Virginia’s Governor, James Barbour, a colleague and good friend of Thomas Jefferson. The two were practically neighbors- in rural Virginia that can mean several miles away which many may still say is “up the road a ways.” Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, is about a 20- minute drive near Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

Barboursville Estate (photo from winery website www.bbvwine.com

)

Historically, Barboursville was a farming estate for sheep. Like many centuries-old farms, it changed hands over time. In 1976 Italian vintner, Gianni Zonin, acquired the estate to create Barboursville Vineyards, the only winery for the Zonin family outside Italy. This was a bold move for the Zonins, whose family dates back seven generations, and it marked a major milestone in then-sleepy Virginia wine history. The Zonins happen to be the largest privately family-run wine company in Italy. By selecting Virginia over locales like Napa and New York’s Finger Lakes to start a U.S. winery, the Zonins made quite a splash in the wine news world.

First grape plantings at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s
Gianni Zonin pictures at the first grape planting at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Barboursville Vineyards

Luca Paschina has served as general manager and winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards since 1990. Paschina is from a Piemontese winemaking family and is doing some amazing things with Italian varietals in this area of Central Virginia, notably Fiano, Vermentino and Nebbiolo. Barboursville’s selections also include Viognier and Cabernet Franc, which both flourish in this area. Most well-known of the estate’s wines is Octagon, Barboursville’s signature Bordeaux style blend.

There is also an onsite grape drying facility to make passito.
The inn itself also offers some smaller houses. When we were there it was quiet aside from two or three other couples staying on-site. However, the tasting rooms, inside and out, were busy with day trippers enjoying wines and a light lunch from the on-site Palladio restaurant. The tasting room team did a great job managing safe social distancing. Throughout our Virginia winery visits, everyone was incredibly careful about this.

What’s left of James Barbour’s home, designed by Thomas Jefferson and destroyed in a fire.

Paschina noted that the tasting room is open every day except three holidays, and one can visit the property and the ruins of Barbour’s house, which was designed by Jefferson. Sadly, the house was destroyed in a Christmas Day fire in 1884. The estate also has some stunning gardens and a patio to relax with a glass or two of wine and gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Barboursville Harvest Toast
Luca Paschina and Fernando Franco toast the end of harvest.

On our final day at Barboursville, harvest ended as we were saying our goodbyes. Vineyard manager, Fernando Franco made the final “victory lap” through the vineyards and up to the tasting patio in the big blue harvester. Out came the cameras and a bottle of Barboursville sparkling wine which Franco sabered. Glasses were raised in celebration to toast the end of a harvest that, many local vintners admitted to us, has its challenges thanks to a frost in May which had everyone scrambling to protect the buds. Paschina made a speech and thanked his team for their hard work. What a special moment to capture and savor in the vineyards among friends!

The Connected Table Live at Barboursville with Luca Paschina.

Here are the show notes and link. You can also hear it anytime on your favorite podcast platform.


 

Photos not provided by Barboursville Vineyards were taken by The Connected Table.

 

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Speaking & Events

Both Melanie and David have produced and led panel discussions and have served as guest speakers on topics addressing the industry, including:

  • Leading wine and food tastings
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Melanie Speaking

Examples of the events we produce (multiple markets):

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We can work in any market.

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With more than 30 years experience in communications and sales training, we can help you fine tune your message and how you you deliver it.

Media & Communications Training

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