The Dutchess is Waiting

scenicA short train ride just about two hours north of Manhattan lies a verdant world of rolling hills dotted with apple orchards, horse farms, vineyards, hiking trails, mom and pop storefronts selling locally made items and even an old-fashioned roadside drive-in movie theater. Tucked away among towering tree-lined drives are historic mansions with names like Roosevelt and Vanderbilt, as well stately homes of lesser known captains of the industry who retreat to Dutchess County to relax or ride to the hounds.

We recently took a day trip to Dutchess County to attend the 13th annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival where we had the chance to taste wines produced from all over New York Stat and try artisinal foods, craft beers, a few spirits and dishes from area restaurant and food trucks.

You could spend a perfect day hopping the rails to immerse in the Dutchess County lifestyle but we recommend staying overnight. Why rush? Isn’t that why you left the city?
With so many options and places to visit, both Dutchess Country Tourism and Metro North offer brochures, suggested itineraries and special packages (“Gasless Getaways”).

Here is a sample of what we recommend:

Eat: The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park has four dining options: American Bounty, Apple Pie Bakery, Caterina de Medici and The Bocuse Restaurant. For a taste of history with your meal try The Tavern at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck and Stissing House Restaurant & Tavern in Pine Plains. Farm-to-table fare is everywhere as are casual gastro-pubs and small cafes run by CIA graduates. One of the best ways to experience the region’s dining bounty is during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week where many establishments offer prix- fixe lunches and dinners. (November and March).

Stissing House in PIne Plains NY
Stissing House in PIne Plains NY

Take home: Crown maple syrup from Madava Farms (Dover Plains), Krause’s and Oliver Kita Fine Chocolates (both in Rhinebeck), Bumble & Hive for a selection of honeys (Rhinebeck) and for the ultimate tea experience, Harney & Sons Store and Tea Lounge in Millerton. Adams Fairacre Farms, with locations in Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls, feature many locally made products as well as other fine foods, but nothing beats buying straight from the farm stand. Many farmers markets are open on Saturday mornings through December but check ahead since schedules vary by location.

Millbrook Winery
Millbrook Winery
Drink: Many vineyards offer tasting rooms, but some hours are seasonal so it’s best to call in advance. Recommendations: Cascade Mountain Winery in Armenia, Millbrook and Oak Summit Vineyards in Millbrook; and Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners. Information:

New York State distilleries and breweries are popping up all over the Hudson Valley (and elsewhere) thanks to new legislation passed in recent years. Millbrook Distillery in Millbrook (now open) and Dutch’s Spirits in Pine Plains (opening soon) are two to visit. In Beacon, which is a stop on Metro North, try The Hop Craft Beer & Artisinal Fare located on a delightful street lines with curio shops and more.

Dutch's Distillery
Dutch’s Distillery

Stay: Bed and breakfasts and country inns abound. Some of our favorites are in the picturesque and walkable town of Rhinebeck, including: the historic Belvedere Mansion and Beekman Arms Tavern & Inn. Red Hook, another small pretty town, has a number of bed and breakfasts as do Beacon and Rhinecliff, both near the train.

Explore: October is prime leaf peeping season and the heart of the harvest with weekly events and festivals. Winter offers deals on hotels and dining, festive holiday bazaars, Christmas tree farms and a serene beauty.

Information: Dutchess Country Tourism: 800.445.3131
Metro North: NY State Tourism:


The Connected Table Live Debuts October 1

Melanie Young & David Ransom at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards- Photo by Jennifer Mitchell
Melanie Young & David Ransom at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards- Photo by Jennifer Mitchell


Food and beverage industry veterans Melanie Young and David Ransom will cohost The Connected Table® Live, an international radio show airing Wednesdays at 2 p.m. EST/1 p.m. CST on W4CY Radio. The show will be available on demand at, and everywhere the iHeartRadio app is available, under the Shows & Personalities section. Link to station:

“The Connected Table® Live is an interview-driven format show featuring guests who work in food, beverage and hospitality, including chefs and restaurateurs, wine and spirits professionals, farmers, food scientists, educators, authors and journalists. Our work in the industry has brought us in touch with a wide range of fascinating and dedicated people and we want to showcase them and share their stories,” said Young.

“Our respective and complementary backgrounds in food, wine, spirits and hospitality will add lively commentary to The Connected Table® Live. We are both passionate travelers, cooks and restaurant-goers who enjoy supporting all aspects of the industry. We like to refer to ourselves as ‘an insatiably curious culinary couple,’ ” said Ransom.

Both W4CY and W4WN Radio are among the top ranked internet radio stations in the world presented by Talk 4 Media and Talk 4 Radio with listeners in all 50 states and in all 197 countries.  For guest booking Information:



Want a Career in Food? Try Looking Outside the Kitchen

I recently attended a Women in Culinary Leadership dinner presented by The James Beard Foundation and Vermilion Restaurant in New York City on June 25th. The panel included Susan Ungaro, president of The James Beard Foundation (JBF), Rohini Dey, owner of Vermilion; Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine;  Gail Simmons, Director of Special Projects for Food & Wine; Kristen Kish, a “Top Chef” winner and former chef de cuisine at Menton in Boston; and Michael White, executive chef and co-owner of Altamarea Restaurant Group.

Having attended other “women in restaurant” or “women in food” panels,  I did not expect much to come out of this one other than more of the usual issues being raised and discussed.  I have felt many of these sessions sadly turn into bitch sessions about how the media unfairly puts male chefs on a pedestal (Time magazine, “The Gods of Food”), how the kitchen is a hard-to-crack fraternity (aka “brass wall”) and how juggling work-family-personal health is a continued challenge (frankly, this is an issue for anyone owning and running a business not just women chefs and restaurateurs).  Sometimes it feels like a mise en place of commiseration.  All the ingredients are laid out on the table, but no recipes for change are executed.

JBF’s Susan Ungaro pointed out that “over 50 percent of culinary students are women and yet less than 7 percent of restaurants in the U.S. are owned by women.”  She also noted that, for the first time, two of the top honors at this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards went to women: Barbara Lynch for Outstanding Restaurateur, and April Bloomfield for Outstanding Chef.  Perhaps the tables are finally turning for women in the industry.

But, there is more to be done through education, mentoring and business training.

Ms. Dey, a Ph.D and  former executive at McKinsey & Co., got down to what I feel is the heart of the matter: Women have all the talent and passion for working in a kitchen but may lack the training to run a business and negotiate financing.  As a business woman myself, I know it takes more than great ideas, salesmanship and management skills to success in business.  It takes confidence and cojones along with practical knowledge about finance.  Culinary schools may need to sharpen their business training curricula to match up to teaching knife skills.

Yet, everywhere I look in the food, beverage and hospitality, I see more women making significant strides.  I think there are more opportunities than ever for women if you look beyond the kitchen.

On July 10th Les Dames d’Escoffier New York, a not-for-profit organization of leading women in food, fine beverage and hospitality, awarded $92,000 in scholarships to 26 women pursuing careers in the culinary field. What struck me was the range of careers these women were pursuing and most with the goal of owning and running their own businesses.

Nutrition and public health, wine and spirits, farming, food science, food and beverage marketing,  specialty foods, and culinary education are just some of the areas where women are running successful enterprises and thriving.

Nearly 50 percent of the winners at this year’s Specialty Food Association sofi™ Awards were specialty food companies owned by women. Walking this giant food show at Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan I couldn’t help but notice the significant number of women owned specialty food brands.

Many of my colleagues own spirits brands, run beverage programs for major hotels and restaurants, own their own bars, specialty food businesses, catering companies and marketing consultancies, produce artisan chocolates and other food products and services. Some of the most respected names in nutrition and food policy are women.  Maybe we just need to stick our heads out of the kitchen and look around and other opportunities to make money and make a difference in the lives of others as well as our own.

I think organizations such as The James Beard Foundation, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and Les Dames d’Escoffier are helping to raise awareness of the issues. They also offer scholarships to help further careers in the industry through education. I’d like to see more done to help raise awareness of all the business options for women in other areas of the industry. We have more to offer and there are more opportunities out there.


The James Beard Foundation

Les Dames d’Escoffier International 

Les Dames d’Escoffier NY

Specialty Food Association

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs





Going Native: Crete Wine Varietals

There’s a place in the middle of the wine-dark sea called Crete, a lovely, fruitful land surrounded by the sea. – Homer, The Odyssey



Thrapsathiri, Vidiano, Vilana, Malvasia de Candia, Daphni, Plyto, Kostifali, Mandilari, Liatiko…..To the uninitiated these sound like another version of the nine Greek muses. But in the wine world, these lyrical names are among the native varietals of Crete.

Wine production in Crete dates back to 2000 B.B. to ancient Minoan civilization. After the Ottomans invaded Crete in 1669, wine production subsided for nearly two centuries. It was reborn in the late nineteenth century after liberation. In 1913 Crete became part of Greece. Over the next few decades of war and political turmoil in Greece and throughout Europe, Crete winemakers persevered, despite less than favorable opportunities for exportation.

The most widely planted indigenous varietal in Crete is Vilana, a white grape, and Kostifali, a low tannin red which is frequently used as a base for blending.  Other local varietals include whites: Vidiano, Daphni, Plyto, Thrapsathiri, Malvazia di Candia, and Spina Muscat.  Indigenous red varietals include Mandilari, Romeiko and Liatiko, which produces delightful sweet wines.

International varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, are also grown in Crete

Today’s Crete wine producers are focusing on international trade. Crete wines can be found in the United States, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Canada and China.

The Heraklion Winemakers Network (Wines of Crete), a trade organization of producers based in Crete,  works to educate both trade and consumers on the contemporary appeal of these ancient varietals through workshops, trade missions, its website and a  free application for both the iPhone and Android visit

written by Melanie Young








A Taste for Toddies

As Old Man Winter blows  snow and wind across our paths and we nestle in during the quiet dark nights, one drink is certain to warm our bones, clear our colds  and put a little fire in our bellies: the hot toddy.

January 11 is National Hot Toddy Day. While I grew up sipping toddies as a youngster under the guise of “clearing up a cold,” as an adult I had little time to think about toddies.  My mind and taste buds drifted off into the vineyards and wine. But the wrath of this year’s winter has had me yearning for a warm cup of tea, a mug of cocoa or a glass of  spirited toddy.

Photo: Shannon Graham.
Photo: Shannon Graham.

By definition, a “toddy”  is a hot drink consisting of water, sugar, lemon, spices and the spirit of your choice, usually rum or scotch whisky.  I am a whiskey woman from back in the days when my father served me Rock & Rye to fight a cold, one of the few times I could imbibe beverage alcohol as a young girl under legal drinking age.

According to the website Punchbowl, “Hot toddies originated in Scotland sometime during the 18th century. While the exact details are unknown, historians believe that the recipe was developed to make the taste of Scotch whiskey more palatable. (Apparently the women of the day didn’t care for the smoky, peat flavor.) One theory suggests that the word “toddy” evolved from “Tod’s well” (also known as Todian Spring), the water supply for Edinburgh.”   Full article:

The Toddy, like the Martini, has had a lot of cocktail accessorizing over the years, with multiple twists, including recipes I found online using  non traditional ingredients like Siracha, frozen blackberries and pomegranate juice.

traditinal toddyCocktail historian and  author of Imbibe Dave Wondrich, a toddy traditionalist, bemoans the souped-up toddy in this post on and provides his own true toddy recipe (a.k.a “whisky skin”) noting:  ” Fortunately, there’s another name for a traditional toddy: a “Whisky Skin.” Back in the daguerreotype days that’s what it was called. (The “skin” part coming from the lemon peel and the “whisky” part meaning they liked it best with Scotch.)”  Full article:

And then there’s the toddy technique:  Spirits writer Jason Wilson, author of  Boozehound, provides this toddy tip in his 2010 article in The Washington Post: ” The first, most important tidbit of toddy technique to learn is this: Always rinse the mug with hot water to warm it before adding any ingredient.” Full article:

There are numerous “how to make a toddy” videos and posts online. spirits writer Colleen Graham offers this easy version of a tea ‘n toddy

However you prefer your toddy, traditional or contemporary, tipple well this winter and, like many of us, toast to longer, warmer days ahead!



DRINK: Christmas Wine Selection – Unwrapping the Possibilities

Unlike Thanksgiving, where the menu, since it never really changes, is known well in advance and the process of selecting what to drink with it is something that can be done fairly easily; Christmas Dinner, and it’s accompanying wine selection, tends to be a bit of a struggle for most. This is due in no small part because there are many possible traditional dishes, particularly entrees, to choose from. Duck, Goose, Pheasant, Capon (that poor rooster…), Crown Roast of Beef, Venison, all come to mind. Turkey, at least in my household, thankfully does not.

So, what to do when presented with such a diverse set of eating possibilities?  Is there one wine to cover them all? Since the accompaniments for each meat choice tend be be as differing as the meats themselves, I would say no. This does not mean, however, that the evening’s beverage list can’t include a few staples, like bubbly, dessert wines, maybe a good Sherry (early or late in the meal, it doesn’t matter, since there are different sherry styles from dry Fino to sweet Pedro Ximinez).

For the meal, though, the wine will invariably be red. And unlike Thanksgiving, which tends to favor lighter, less tannic wines, Christmas dinner, which features more intensely flavored (mostly fattier) fare, usually pairs better with full bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux-style blends, Rhone-style Reds, anything with good backbone, really. Concept laid out, let’s walk through the day:

DAYLIGHT:                                                                                                                 Presents opened, breakfast/brunch consumed, fire roaring, it’s time for some festive drinks and nibbles. Our family tends to drink bubbles at this time. There are lots to choose from. Traditionalists would probably go for Champagne, and I would tend to agree. Nothing creates a more festive mood than bottles of actual French Champagne, especially big bottles. So, do yourself and your family a favor and get whatever you buy in magnums (or larger). You won’t regret it. As for other types of Sparkling wine (this is one time where I would stick with something other than Prosecco, of which even the driest Brut tends to be too sweet). Go for California Sparkling, Franciacorta (Italy), Cava (Spain), or the like. Something that is methode champenoise and at least slightly oaked. It will better compliment those smoked salmon canapes your Aunt (not mine) spent all day making yesterday. Prices vary widely in these categories, so it’s good to speak with your retailer and set a range you want to stay within.

Alternative options:                                                                                                                         Fino Sherry: The lightest, least sweet of the Sherry category, Fino goes wonderfully with the cheeses, nuts, and dried fruits sitting on the coffee table. Brands to look for are Lustau ($16), Williams & Humbert Dry Sack ($15 – Dry Sack is a medium Sherry, not quite as dry as a Fino, but still a good choice here).

White wine: always a good choice for non-bubbly people (do they exist?). How about a Sancerre (France) or DOCG Soave (Italy). Classic whites with nice traces of minerality and good acidity (like tannins in reds, acidity is a good thing when drinking with food). Brands to look for: of the Sancerre: Sauvion “Les Fondettes” ($23); of the Soave: Cantina Del Castello ($16), or Sereole ($15) which is produced by Bertani.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

DINNER:                                                                                                                   First, we need to know what we’re eating. It’s actually less difficult than people think, as the birds involved are somewhat similar, as are the meats. So, let’s separate the entree hopefuls into two distinct categories that we’ll call “Feathers” and “Fur.”

Feathers:                                                                                                                 Duck, Goose, Pheasant, are all fairly rich, dark meats. Capon being the only one of the flock that actually has white meat to offer. That said, it’s the sauces that tend to accompany them, usually quite fragrant and fruit-driven  that drive the pairing. Rich, soft reds do well here, a little spiciness in the wine is a nice component to keep in mind, as well. Rhone varietals like Syrah, Grenache ( Garnacha in Spain), and even certain styles of Pinot Noir would do well. Here are a few to consider:

Rhone (France):                                                                                                                                  M. Chapoutier. Any of them. Michel Chapoutier is widely regarded as one of the Rhone’s, if not the world’s, greatest winemakers. His wines range from inexpensive to over-the-top. all are worthy.                                                                                                                                   Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf du Pape: Various versions made. All good.  Prices start around $60. The 2010 Cuvée Réservée (SRP $120) was #7 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List this year (though not ready to drink yet). Laurence Féraud and her father Paul make consistently great CDP!

Spain:                                                                                                                                       Garnacha (Grenache) is one of Spain’s great varietals, and is planted widely. Priorat, in Catalunya South of Barcelona, may make some of the best.  The Priorat pioneers: Rene Barbier (Clos Mogador), Alvaro Palacios (Finca Dofi & l’Ermita), Jose Luis Perez (Clos Martinet), and Daphne Glorian (Clos Erasmus) all make great, (and generally quite expensive) wines. However there are some quite affordable ones as well. One of my favorite Priorat producers is:

Mas d’en Gil, family owned, small production, well priced. Their Como Vella is  about $29, their Clos Fonta  about $90.

In Northern Catalunya, and I’ve written about this brand before, is Eccoci Winery. Owned by designer Elsa Peretti. Wonderful wines from french varietals. For this meal, choose the Eccomi Tinto Super Premium (The Gold Label, $48).

Regarding Pinot Noir:                                                                                                                            If you want a Pinot Noir, think California, where the warmer climate allows for more extraction and bigger wines. A good bet is something from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara. Sanford, which graced every wine list I ever created when I did that sort of thing, has been around since the 1970’s and makes some of the best.  Prices start around $40.

Fur:                                                                                                                           Beef, Lamb, Venison. They all call for a wine that’s substantial, like Cabernet Sauvignon. A wine with big body and big tannins. We obviously need a Bordeaux.  That said, this list should be pretty easy, right?   Yes and no, Cabernet is made all over the world now, and made well. So lets pick some from outside Bordeaux:

California:                                                                                                                                           Napa, California’s home of Cabernet, is not my strongest region, knowledge-wise. Yet I do know a few gems that are worth the steep prices that the upper-tier Napa Cabs generally command:

Miner, The Oracle ($90). Dave Miner’s Bordeaux blend. He also makes a series of  great varietal Cabernets with prices starting around $30.                                                             Chimney Rock, Stags Leap District ($65). Great “Estate Cab” from Napa’s smallest and arguably most acclaimed sub-appelation. Elevage, their Bordeaux blend, is $90.

Chile:                                                                                                                                                    We all know Chile makes good inexpensive Cabs, but did you know it also makes world-class hi-end Cabernets as well? Here are a couple worth every penny:

Montes Alpha M, Santa Cruz, Apalta ($75). Aurelio Montes’ Bordeaux Blend. 80% Cabernet. A masterful Cabernet from one of Chile’s greatest producers (and, by far, Chilean wine’s greatest ambassador).                                                                                                   Concha y Toro, Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto Vineyard, Maipo Valley ($125).  In the 1980’s, Concha y Toro set out on a long-term mission to make Chile’s best Cabernet. This is it. Separate vineyard, separate winery(!), a benchmark for all of Chile, if not the world.

None of the red wines just mentioned (excluding certain wines available from Chapoutier) come cheaply. So, if they’re above your spending cap, I suggest discussing options that fit your budget with your retailer.

If you have to feature a white for those allergic reaction types and resveratrol haters, make it Chardonnay, which will have the body, depth, and flavor profile it takes to stand up to the meats. Here ‘s a good bet:

Landmark Vineyards, Sonoma County, CA ($25-$50). Winemaker Greg Stach makes some of California’s best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For Chardonnay, the Overlook is a steal at $25, He also makes a Coastal selection and a couple of Russian River Valley selections. Both a bit pricier, and also very good.

There you have it, Christmas wines for 2013, unwrapped.

By the way, if you’re looking for presents for someone who’s a wine afficionado, all of these also make good gifts. Happy Holidays!

~David Ransom



INSPIRE! The Giving Season


If  Summer and Fall are considered the growing seasons, Winter is the official giving season. In fact, Tuesday, December 3, has been named The National Day of Giving  #givingtuesday with an international movement and website dedicated to motivating companies and individuals to work toward giving back to help the common good. I like the idea of #givingtuesday starting a movement. It is a comforting detour from Black Friday, Monday Madness, Cyber Tuesday,and Gridlock Friday because it is about paying it forward. http://www.givingtuesday,org

If you are like me, you may be getting bombarded with heart warming solicitations for donations this time of year. While we are stuffing our faces with food, clinking glasses at holiday parties and shopping for gifts, those slim #10 envelopes with my name often misspelled and the e-cards often made out to my former company stuff my inbox and remind me to remember those in need and to make that tax deductible year end donation.

I grew up in a family where every season is the giving season. My mother believes in doing small acts of kindness every day as a way of life. As I mature (yes, I am still maturing!) I am trying to follow her example even if it is as simple as sending a personal note of encouragement to someone.


Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, We make a life but what we give.” 

“Philanthropy” is a big word that you think is applied only to the wealthy (as in: a “philanthropist”).  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of philanthropy is “the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people….an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.”  That sounds pretty simple. But how does one high on hope and low on funds pay it forward and make it matter in the spirit of philanthropy? I have a few tips:

1. Support fewer charities and make a longer term commitment. Find something you believe in or are passionate about and donate year round with money, goods or services.

2. Think local. Align yourself with a cause that supports your community. Your contributions may go further.

3. Consider crowd funding donations as an option. While not all crowd funding is really “charitable” since you are contributing funds to help someone with a business, it can be invigorating to help someone realize his or her dreams come true. There are numerous crowd funding sites covering various interests offering a tier of options for contributing. Some examples: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rockethub, Peerbackers. Here is a helpful article (among many)

4. Do your homework. Before you write a check, learn more about the organization and how funds you contribute will be used. I have been solicited by a few cancer and animal rights groups whose funds are really being used for government lobbying. That’s not how I want my contributions used. Here are some charity rating websites: and

5. It’s not always about giving money. While the usual solicitation is for a financial contribution, there are other ways you can donate. It is worth asking the organization how you can help aside from writing a check. Here are six ways to donate if you have a large heart and a lean income.

  • donate your expertise, time and talent  to the charity who cannot afford staff or consultants to do the necessary job
  • donate goods.  This is a season for toy drives and coat drives. Year round many charities need office supplies, furniture and equipment. Next time you clean out your home or office, think about what you can donate
  • sell items and donate the cash. If your heart is in writing a check but your checking account is lean, fatten it up by selling items on Ebay or holding a tag sale or bake sale and donating the income to the charity of your choice
  • pool your resources. Start a charity giving group at your office or among friends who join together to volunteer or pool funds to donate
  • become a mentor. There are many organizations geared toward helping others grow and learn through mentoring. The great thing about mentoring is that you share your wisdom to cultivate someone’s knowledge and talent.  Mentoring is a commitment of time but the rewards at both end can be very fruitful.
  • be social and share. If you support a charity “Like” its Facebook Page, Follow it on Twitter and “Share” its news and initiatives with your friends and followers. Charities rely on social media more than ever, so your shout out is great way to support a cause




“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think we need to stop thinking about one day, one month or one time of the year for raising awareness or paying it forward. Charitable giving is not about dishing out food at a church or delivering meal baskets only on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas; hunger, homelessness and loneliness occur 365 days of the year. It’s not about turning a month pink in October and purple in November and then moving on to another disease (note to journalists!). People are diagnosed with cancer and other major illnesses every day. And it’s not about feeling guilty because you don’t or can’t donate if your friend or relative repeatedly asks you to support their charity walk, chain letter, or new business endeavor. Giving must come from your heart and head and not from someone else’s heavy hand. And if your heart is not into it, so be it.

But if your heart is into giving, do your homework, thinking perennially not seasonally and give to what you love and believe in, not what someone else wants you to support or because it looks good for your image or your product

I attended the annual Citymeals-on-Wheels Women’s Power Lunch last Friday in New York City. Citymeals-on-Wheels deliveries nutritious meals to greater NYC’s homebound elderly who are often too frail or lonely to enjoy the bounty of the city. As I watched the photos of the elderly whom Citymeals feeds, I thought, “That person could be me or my husband one day.”

Photo: Citymeals-on-Wheels

At the lunch Citymeals-on-Wheels Co-Founder Gael Greene summed up her vision of philanthropy noting she couldn’t take it with her so she gives while she is alive where she can see the difference it makes.

My husband and I have no children who can inherit our so called “worldly goods”  and I have no siblings to care for. I hope when I die I have nothing left to give because I gave it my all when I was alive.


“All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving
may be yours and not your inheritors.”

                                                                                                                                    Kahlil Gibran


posted by Melanie Young


What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing Eating with Her Fingers?

MUMM- placecard I’m at sitting at the end of a long, elegantly attired communal table eating dinner with my fingers and  drinking some very good Mumm champagne. What’s more, I am sitting in a Jewish delicatessen just  north of  Manhattan’s Lower East Side eating an assortment of shellfish dishes from oysters on the half  shell and  pickled shrimp to  lobster salad and beet cured scallop.

So trés treif!  So deliciously decadent with all the slurping, sipping and licking of the fingers after each    course without the structure of forks, knives and spoons. And so thankful the organizers gave us all    hot towels to wash our city hands as we sat down to eat.  Pity anyone who keeps  kosher at the  delicatessen that night.   Mile End would have felt like a wrong turn off the deep end. But for the 40 or  so guests, an assortment of food and wine writers and bloggers, it was a Mile High Mumm experience:  a classic champagne with contemporary twist to dining in an unconventional setting.


On its website Mile End is a self-described “Montreal inspired Jewish Deli.” I don’t know any Canadian Jews and I always thought “Jewish Comfort Food” was pretty universal:  chopped liver, pastrami, lox and bagels, gefilte fish, smoked fish and brisket. But, why was this night different from all other nights?  Because on this night Mile End was tuned into a trés chic pop up dinner party of pop in your mouth foods served sans utensils paired with some very good champagne.

Mumm’s Chef de Cave Didier Mariotti, a charming French man (aren’t they all?) guided us through the menu pairings of G.H. Mumm Blanc de Blancs, G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge and, my personal favorite, G.H. Mumm Le Rosé.  As a bona fide pescatarian who loves a good dose of quality fizz, I was in my element.  I grew up with a Mom who preferred  Mumm Cordon Rouge (Mom’s Mumm), so Mumm was was my training champagne when I was taught by my wine instructor father  to drink responsibly and selectively.

Being that we were in a Jewish delicatessen, there was chopped liver.  Well, sort of.  It was more like chicken liver mousse on toast next to the lobster salad on challah and a shrimp toast.  Being that our host was a French champagne there was foie gras tucked in my pot sticker  side by side with the whitefish croquette.  Ooh la la! meets  Oy veh!

Chef de Cave Didier Mariotti Deftly Uncorks the Mumm with a Wine Glass
Chef de Cave Didier Mariotti Deftly Uncorks the Mumm with a Wine Glass

Naturally we goaded Didier to sabre a champagne bottle. Since when do you go to a champagne event where someone doesn’t brandish a sabre to pop open a bottle? Au contraire, Didier brandished no sabre.  Instead, with true savoir faire and a magic flick of his wrist he used the bottom of a wine glass  to  uncork the bottle.  For the uninitiated, don’t try that at home unless you have a broom, dustpan and extra set of glassware.

Dinner concluded with puffy donuts and passion fruit sorbet with more Mumm of course. It was hard not to ask for seconds of both.  But I resisted and only wished my last parting dish had been a small bowl of warm scented water and a hand towel on it to wipe my fingers.

Champagne Selection and Menu for the Evening

Menu of decidedly non traditional Jewish comfort fare created by Mile End’s Noah Bernamoff and James Merker.

G.H. Mumm Blanc de Blancs  ( SRP$75) –  served with Oysters of the Half Shell, Sake-Cured Trout Roe and Pickled Shrimp with Smoked Cocktail Sauce,

G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge ( SRP $45) – served with a trio of Lobster Salad, Sunchoke, Black Truffle on Challah;  Chicken Liver Mousse on Rye Toast Point and “Shrimp Toast” with Hoisin and Cilantro. Also served with the soup course, a duo of Cauliflower with Caviar and Chive and Butternut Squash with Pecan Granola and Creme Fraiche

G.H. Mumm Le Rosé  (SRP $75) – served with Beet Cured Scallop with Blood orange and Poppyseed paired with Fried Oyster and Brussel Sprout Slaw. Also served with the fourth course: Smoked Potato with Bone Marrow Rillette, Foie Gras “Pot Sticker” with Apricot Mustard and Whitefish Croquette with Pickled Red Onions

Dessert with our choice of Mumm (I chose Le Rosé) – ethereally addictive donut puffs with ricotta, lemon curd and passion fruit sorbet

Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Soups
Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Soups
Fried Oyster, Brussels Sprout Slaw and Beet Cured Scallop with Blood Orange and Poppyseed
Fried Oyster, Brussels Sprout Slaw and Beet Cured Scallop with Blood Orange and Poppyseed


Mile End Delicatessen is  located at 53 Bond Street in Manhattan 212.529.2990 . There is a second location in Brooklyn at 97A Hoyt Street, Boerum Hill.  718.852.7510 Website



Thanksgiving Wines: Don’t stress out, here’s a list!

With Thanksgiving season upon us, many tend to stress out over the elaborate meal about to be consumed – “Do I wet-brine or dry-brine the turkey? Do I brine the turkey at all? How big a turkey? What sides should I serve? What’s a Parsnip, and who named it that? In what grocery store aisle does one actually find those little fried onion pieces that get sprinkled over the green bean casserole? What exactly IS a green bean casserole?

And then there’s the wine selection. The last thing one really needs to worry about when heading to town to buy that toilet paper roll-long list of groceries needed to complete the holiday feast, is what wines to buy. And while many store owners are happy to steer their customers in the right direction, let’s remember that they also are selling products, and will invariably point you in the direction of something that they probably got a good deal on and have a big stack of.

So, Let’s not turn Thanksgiving into ‘Thinksgiving!’ Let’s de-mystify it a bit, and go off the beaten path while we’re at it, as Thanksgiving, for all its significance and pageantry, is really quite a simple meal, and the wine selection process should be a simple endeavour, too. That said, let’s categorize it, breaking down the day into three parts: Before Turkey, During Turkey, and After Turkey. That’s how my family does it each year, and it helps define the day, and the drinking.

Before Turkey:

This is the part of the day that’s devoted to prepping the meal by those in the kitchen, each with a certain job, like peeling chestnuts for the stuffing, making the mashed potatoes, etc (the turkey went in the oven before everyone arrived); and to lending moral support to those in the kitchen by the family members that are less culinarily inclined. They do things like set the table, report the game score, and open the bottles of wine that go with the appetizer spread that’s out for everyone. Some families might not do appetizers. We do, and it usually involves a good amount of wine consumption help wash them down. We usually drink non-vintage Champagne, but any sparkling wine will do. We’ve also done Cava, Italian sparkling wine, and even sparkling wines from New York and California.  Mixing it up each year is a good thing. Here are a few that are good options (all bottle prices retail 750ml):


Mumm Cordon Rouge (NV), France, $45. One of the great NV Champagnes, made since the 1840s. You can’t go wrong.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve (NV), France $37. One of the top champagne makers in the world, a personal favorite.



Pere Ventura Tresor Reserva, Cava, Spain, $17. A beautiful wine, and major bargain. Truly an artisan Cava. This is a small production family owned producer who makes some of the best bubbles south of Reims.


Italian Sparkling Wine:

Ferrari Perlé Brut Trento, $42. A well known and well-made sparkler from Trentino. One of Italy’s top producers. Great name, even better bubbles

Note: there are many good choices for Italian sparkling wines, including wines from Franciacorta, and Prosecco, which we drink all year. Want a Prosecco? Try Ruffino’s DOC Prosecco, $15.


New York:

Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs (NV), Finger Lakes, $30

Chateau Frank Celebre (NV), Finger Lakes, $21. (Crémant style sparkling wine)

Both these wines are award-winning sparklers, consistently rated at the top of the game.



Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut, Sonoma, $40.  Classic Indeed! From Joy Sterling, one of Sonoma’s great ambassadors.

There are many many sparkling wine options. Too many to list. Good sparkling wine is made all over the world now, with great representation also coming from countries like Austria, New Zealand, and South Africa. 


Still Wines:

For those who do not like Bubbles, there are also many still wine options. We tend to offer something fresh and lively, like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($13), is a good choice here. For Chardonnay folks, try the Isabel Mondavi Chardonnay ($30) from California, a truly wonderful wine from Carneros fruit made by Isabel, Michael, Rob, and Dina Mondavi. This wine is also a good choice for those who want a white wine during the next phase of the day, as its body and richness on the palate hold up well against the food.


During Turkey:

Once the feast is finally on the table, most folks will say it’s time for red wine. I agree, but what kind?  Cabernets tend to be too much for the turkey, but there are lots of wines that do work. One that gets a lot of attention is Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau ($11). The first wine release of the year’s harvest in France’s Beaujolais region, and cause for celebration in its own right, it is soft, fresh and vibrantly fruit driven, and tends to work well with Thanksgiving and the spirit thereof.

For something a little more traditional, try one of the Beaujolais Cru wines, same grape (Gamay), but vinified to be aged for release the following year, not the following month. More structure, more finesse, and in some cases, like those from the villages (Cru) of Morgon,  Julienas, and Moulin a Vent, an ability to age for a few years. Again, producer Georges Duboeuf is a good bet for these wines, He bottles offerings from all ten Cru Beaujolais designations. Prices vary, and start around $16.

Want something with a little more body and tannic structure? Maybe a little less traditional are these wines, all of which tend to work quite well, and will be a hit at the table:


Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, ($130). A splurge, but well worth it. I find the unique flavor profiles of Amarone to be wonderful with this meal. Current Vintage is 2006, but many stores will have older vintages available, as well.

Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany. ($16). Morellino di Scansano is one of the unsung Sangiovese-based wines of Tuscany. Great wine, greater value.

Italy is obviously renowned for making reds, so a little experimentation  is always a fun thing, and will probably lead to true Thanksgiving enjoyment.



Ecocci Tinto Premium, Catalunya, ($34). Owned by designer Elsa Perretti who has owned property in Catalunya for 40 years. This winery makes very good wines strictly from French varietals. The winery is also Zero Carbon certified, Spain’s first to be credited as such.



Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir, ($20). The Skinny on WVV: Pinot Noir is a great Thanksgiviing wine. Oregon makes some of the world’s best. Jim Bernau has been doing it there longer than most. A win-win.


New York:

Channing Daughters Blaufrankish, Long Island, ($25).  Esoteric European Grape varietal, grown on Long Island. How can you go wrong? One of New York State’s most unique and delicious wines.

Again, there is great red wine made all over the world. So, if you have a style you like, then try it. The Thanksgiving meal tends to be  quite a versatile pairing opportunity.

After Turkey:

 Once the carcass is cleared, most families tend to take a bit of a break to digest. This is a good time for a digestif, right? Here’s one of the best:


Amaro Nonino ($35). Nonino is, hands down, one of the most lauded spirits producers in Italy, and a legend in the world of Amaro. 


Pie Time:

Finally, when the pies come out, it’s time for dessert wines. Almost every wine producing region in the world makes them. Find one you like from a grape you like: notable are Sauternes (made with Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscany’s Vin Santo wines (from Moscato grapes), German and New York Late Harvest Rieslings (also Ice Wines), and many others. All full of rich flavors that bring out the best in any dessert course.


All Done:

After dinner, the marathon meal over, our family has a tradition of opening a good bottle of aged vintage Port. There are a lot of good producers of Portugal’s  famous fortified wine. The new release, one of the best declared in a long time, is the 2011 vintage. If you buy one, plan on having it for Thanksgiving 2030, it’s way too young to drink now. If you have an old bottle, open it, decant it, let it breathe, pour and enjoy. If you don’t have any, try a 20 year old Tawny, one of the hidden gems of the Port industry, aged by the producers and bottled ready to drink. It takes the guesswork out of  ‘how old is just right’ – and allows for immediate gratification.  My go-to is the Sandemen 20 Year Old Tawny ($52). All nutty and soft, and a perfect end to a long, gluttonous day.

Happy Thanksgiving!



INSPIRE! The Healing Power of Dance

Melanie shares this inspirational  post from her blog Getting Things Off My Chest at


“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” ― Martha Graham


I’ve always felt my most vibrant, most creatively free and most beautiful when I am dancing. But I never truly understood the healing power of dance until later in life when I turned to dance movement to rebuild my body, mend a broken heart and reclaim my creative energy.

“It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.” ― Xiaolu Guo

pink tutu

As a young girl I trained first in ballet, then modern and jazz.  I was a somewhat ugly duckling, lacking in the “cute category” and taunted by male classmates. But when I was on a stage performing, I felt like a swan. My first “beautiful moment” was coming out for my curtain call in a bright pink tutu at the age of six after my debut as Trixie in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Chattanooga Little Theater. My father, Mel, stood at the footlights to present me with two bouquets. I opened my arms, took a deep curtsy and gathered my flowers. That night taught me I was destined for center stage, not the sidelines.

nancy sinatra

In the 1960s I frugged and boogaloed to television’s “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo” with my baby sitters when my parents went out for the night. I idolized Nancy Sinatra and practiced dancing like Nancy in front of my relection in large living room windor wearing my go go boots and mini skirt. I fell in love with Tom Jones and danced to “Delilah” and was thrilled to be able to see him on stage in Nashville with all the women tossing bras at him.

At age 12 I begged and finally convinced my mother to let me take ballroom dancing classes at Mrs. Howell’s Dance Studio where I learned to Box Step, Fox Trot, Waltz…and kiss a boy after class. I strapped on heels, wrapped silk scarves around my neck and gyrated and Hustled  to Donna Summer and Kool and the Gang in the 1970s. My high school classmates and I expended our pent up adolescent energy bobbing and bumping hips to Soul Train. I performed in my local high school dance troupe, Terpsichord, and tried my hand at choregraphy.

Donna SummerSoul Train

“Life is sweet when you pay attention. When it doesn’t seem sweet, put a sticker on your nose and do a funky dance.” ― Whitney Scott


Soul Train clip:


Fosse groupIn college I donned a hat and practiced jaunty hip juts and palmed the air in the  manner of choreographer Bob Fosse. At school dances we performed the Carolina Shag. My heart lept when I  first saw “A Chorus Line” and “Pippen” (the original) on Broadway, I watched the movie “The Turning Point” with Mikhail Baryshnikov over and over.Turning Point

The ugly duckling blossomed, but my legs and body shape were never right for dancing professionally. Eventually after college my ballet slippers and jazz shoes were donated to Goodwill, and my dancing was mainly at friends’ weddings or forays into New York City’s club scene, such as The Surf Club or Millennium.

And then for many years the dance music slowed down as my business pace sped up. The only rhythm in my life seemed to be the steady pulse of work and running my agency. We tap danced our way through client presentations and did victory dances each time we won accounts. Working with my clients was a different kind of dance where every move needed to be calculated and purposed.

I danced again, happily, at my wedding in New Orleans in 2007. David and I carefully curated the playlist of songs with New Orleans music we both love so much along with a mix of popular tunes. The playlist included two songs that meant more to me than I ever would realize at the time: “The Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “The Tennessee Waltz,” songs of my birthplace. These songs were the last two dances I had with my father when he was alive.


I turned to dance to heal my body and spirit after losing my father and my breasts, both to cancer in the same year. My weakened arms could not lift anything. My body ached. But I managed to move my limbs to the slow beat of music.  I started with careful, supervised movements to build strength in my core and arms and then turned to more active free flowing movements to maintain energy and stamina. And I grew stronger until I finally healed my broken wings and heart. Lately I have turned to Zumba and ballet which force me to concentrate and follow specific movements; two disciplines I have had to relearn.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” ― Rumi

Today, I take dance breaks during the day to counter the stiffness of sitting at the computer, lingering neuropathy in my arms and stress. On weekends, my husband and I crank up the music only audible to us and the legions of trees surrounding our house. I freestyle dance to my heart’s content, and grab my husband to join me. I don’t share a stage. No one can judge me. I am free to move as please.

Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.” – Oprah Winfrey  

Studies have shown that steady daily exercise has marked health benefits to women, reducing the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, obesity and other ailments and disease. Dancing has been one of my most enjoyable and easy forms of exercise; in fact, it’s almost too enjoyable to call it “exercise.”

The healing power of dance was brought to my attention with these three examples:

deb coah flash mobBreast cancer patient Deb Cohan leads a flash mob dance in the operating room just prior to her double mastectomy. Talk about a stress buster!


Getting Things Off My Chest 2x3In my book, “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to moving for lifeStaying Fearless and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer,” I interview exercise physiologist and dance educator Dr, Martha Eddy, who created Moving for Life, an aerobic movement program incorporating dance to help women recover from breast cancer. The program is free for women and a offers companion video, Dance to Recovery.

Moving for Life clip:



My esteemed PR industry colleague, Patrice Tanaka, documented how ballrom dancing helped lift her spirits, change her outlook and reclaim her life in her book, “Becoming Ginger Rogers.” Today, Patrice is not only a women to reckon with in the public relations world but also on the dance world as a competitive ballroom dancer. This is an inspirational book on many levels,





Dirty DancingLast night I curled up and watched “Dirty Dancing” and “Grease,” two of my favorite nostalgia dance movies that really get me hopping. It was a Saturday dance-athon on television, and I was alone. I got up and started to dance in front of the TV. My audience was my dog, Sazerac. It is simply impossible to stand on the sidelines and watch when there is room to dance and express yourself. Patrick Swazye said it, and I will rephrase it, No one puts Melanie in the corner.”

“Dirty Dancing” clip:

Pehaps if members of the U.S, Congress loosened up and listened to the words of the French actor and playwright Molière, our government would run more efficiently.  “All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.” A Congressional Flash Mob anyone?

isadora duncan- wildSo the next time you feel stuck inside, stick out your legs and lift your arms. Turn on some music; open up your shoulders, tuck in your stomach, toss back your head and sway your hips.  And move to your heart’s content.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche



INSPIRE! Melanie’s Tips For Staying Fearless & Fabulous

Melanie was featured on Voice America Radio’s “The Kathyrn Zox Show” November 6. A great show on taking charge of your health, staying positive and fit and finding your purpose. Zox-show-description

Here are Melanie’s Ten Easy Tips To Taking Care of Yourself to Stay Fabulous

1. Hydrate: Drink plenty of healthy fluids avoid dehydration. Your skin will say “thank you”

2. Gyrate: Get moving. Daily exercise is beneficial for boosting your energy and maintaining a healthy weight which is important for your overall health.

3. Masticate: Eat healthy, wholesome, unprocessed foods in small portions. Think green, lean, less fatty meat, more healthy oils, less processed foods for starters. Learn to eat well to live well. Think of food as the fuel your body needs to keep functioning and make sure that fuel is clean and healthy.

4. Drink alcohol in moderation. There are many conflicting reports: Moderate alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Moderate alcohol consumption can help decrease the risk of cardio vascular disease I women. A basic rule of thumb is this. Limit alcohol intake to one glass of wine a day if you are a woman. And if you work in the wine business (like me!) try to drink in moderation and make sure what you drink is great quality!

5. Be kind to your skin: Wear sunscreen daily. Moisturize for your skin type. Exfoliate but don’t overdo it. And don’t self treat the problem. It can worsen the condition.  If your skin has a breakout or rash, seek the advice of a licensed dermatologist rather than trying to fix the problem yourself.

6. Turn off the computer; tune out the TV and get some sleep. Sleep is one of the most inexpensive and effective beauty treatments around.

7. Don’t smoke or take recreational drugs and practice safe sex. Get your highs from exercise and better sex (safely) with the right partner. Or pursue a new passion or hobby to stimulate your creative side.

8. De-stress for success. Smiles will open doors for you.  Stress will shut you down. I truly believe stress contributed to my cancer and, looking back, nothing that stressed me out in the years leading up to my diagnosis really matter any more.

9. Be vigilant about your health screenings and checkups. Annual mammograms should start at age 40. Examine your breasts every month. If you see or feel something, don’t wait to see a doctor to examine you.

10. Make quality time for yourself and your loved ones. It’s not selfish to put your well being first; it’s smart. If you want to live a long life to enjoy with your husband, partner or children, then start with making your health and well being a priority.

MELANIE YOUNG- COLOR Melanie Young is author of the just released book, “Getting      Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide to Staying Fearless  and Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” (Cedar Fort  Inc./$16.99) Available nationwide in paperback and ebook.  Follow Melanie @mightymelanie and