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Drink Eat Events

Go West Hungry Diners- To Manhattan’s Upper West Side

We squeezed in an evening at Taste of the Upper West Side Saturday, May 19. Despite having lived in Manhattan for more than 25 years, we’d never been to this event which took place under a huge tent and featured more than 80 restaurants, wines, and cocktail bars split between two nights.  Palm Bay and Taub Family Co. supplied the numerous wine tables, and we tasted several cocktails from local UWS watering holes.

Serving up Carmine’s meatballs.

The night we attended, Chef-Restaurateur John Fraser (The Nix, Narcissa and The Loyal) was the evening’s honoree, and Jacques Torres was signing his book, “Dessert Circus” which was free for American Airlines Mastercard holders. So glad I brought my card!  The evening was presented by the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District to support neighborhood improvement and beautification.

Chef Bill Peet, Tavern on the Green

 

Fabulous Melanie With Chef John Fraser, the evening’s Honoree

 

Stunning bread from Orwasher’s

 

A special thank you to Linda Alexander, Alexander Marketing Corp., for arranging our press tickets. Congratulations on a fabulous event!

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Eat

The Feast of Seven Fishes (and Pastas)

Even though neither of us grew up in an Italian-American family, we both have adopted the celebration of the Feast of Seven Fishes as one of our holiday traditions. Called “Il Cenone or La Vigilia,”  the emphasis on fish comes from the Catholic religion’s centuries-old rule against eating meat on Fridays to honor the sacrifice of Jesus. The number “seven” refers to the seven sacraments, although there are varying opinions on why this specific number matters.

To our delight, we attended a dinner hosted by Santa Margherita USA with wine writer, Anthony Giglio, at Aunt Jake’s in Soho. It was a small group of industry friends, and Anthony kept us engaged with amusing stories about growing in a very traditional Italian-American family. We always enjoy seeing Anthony and his entire family at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and this dinner was a wonderful way to catch up in a more intimate setting.

The dinner was abundant with the appropriate number of fish dishes and almost as many pastas, all paired with different wines. While we know the Feast of Seven Fishes has nothing to do with the “seven deadly sins,” this meal was sinfully delicious! Our special thanks go out to Lisa Friedman at Santa Margherita and to Anthony Giglio for putting us in the holiday spirit.


Whether your holiday feast centers around fish, meat, game or vegetables, we hope you enjoy it pleasure. And, save room for dessert!

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

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David Ransom Eat Melanie Young RESTAURANTS AND CHEFS THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Chef Ana Sortun’s Inspiration

Chef /Restaurateur Ana Sortun (photo: Kristin Teig)

A trip to Turkey while studying in Paris at La Varenne Cooking School as a young girl inspired Chef & Restaurateur Ana Sortun to specialize in the foods of Turkey and the Middle East in her three restaurants, Oleana, Sofra Bakery & Cafe and Sarma, all located in the greater Boston area. Ana is author of two cookbooks, “Spice,” and “Soframiz” (with Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick). LINK to show on iHeart.

In this edition of The Connected Table LIVE! Ana discussed her career, the business of being a restaurateur with multiple units, her passion for the flavors and culture of Turkey, and her love of farms. Her husband, Chris Kurth,  is owner of Siena Farms, named after their daughter, which supplies all of Ana’s restaurants with fresh organic produce.

Listen now

 

Ana Sortun’s food capures the spicy, sensuous colors and flavors of Turkey and the Middle East

 

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Drink Eat Explore THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

The Breakers Palm Beach- Ageless & Timeless

I’ve been fascinated with grand hotels ever since my father took me to New York when I was five to visit Eloise at The Plaza. The front desk told us she was with her Nanny in Central Park. Eloise mailed me a thank you postcard for stopping by.  A girl with manners!


One of the items on my travel “bucket list” is to visit many of the grand dame hotels around the world. While staying with David’s mother in Florida last week we spent the day at The Breakers Palm Beach and hosted our show at the hotel. Our guest was Nick Velardo, VP of Food & Beverage, who oversees the resort’s nine restaurants. We dined at two of them, The Seafood Bar and HMF restaurant and cocktail lounge.

Quiet gardens are everywhere

 

So are awe-inspiring floral arrangements

It was my “Eloise” moment, and the day did not disappoint. It was easy to say “Hello” to this Grand Dame and hard to say “Good Bye.” An interesting tidbit: The Breakers is still family-owned, and the heirs of Henry Flagler invest about $30 million annually to keep the property fresh and fabulous.

A place so refined event the cocktails wear a monogram. “Blueberry Bootlegger” at HMF
(Pisco, blueberry, lemon and ginger)

We were in Palm Beach during the off season, but you wouldn’t know it at The Breakers. The July 4th holiday brought families, couples and loyal fans, and the the hotel was bustling. Still, the team made time and accommocations for our last minute plans to visit.

“Natural” sushi at HMF. No rice is kind of nice.

 

Baked Alaska at HMF

Nick Velardo and his team, including Master Sommelier and Wine Director Virginia Phillip, have their work cut out for them. The Breakers is a place where guests’ expectations are high, and the crowd comes hungry. That’s why The Breakers sells annually:

  • 75,993 martinis
  • 621,087 pieces of sushi /sushi rolls
  • 11,757 stone crab claws
  • 1,365 pounds of caviar
  • and 27,200 slices of Key lime pie.
Make that 27,201 slices after we devoured ours.

Here is the iHeart link to our July 5th show with Nick Velardo, VP of Food & Beverage at The Breakers Palm Beach and Stanislas Thierry, VP of Sales & Marketing for Vranken-Pommery America, who shares the legacy of Louise Pommery who is credited for creating the Brut Champagne style. (LINK)

Or click here:

 

 

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Eat RESTAURANTS AND CHEFS

Restaurants We Loved and Lost

A sunset stroll on a warm September evening in lower Manhattan while watching party boats cruise the Hudson River had us reminiscing about the New York restaurants we’d loved and lost. The occasion that prompted this was a dinner at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) with Chef David Waltuck who was recently named Director of Culinary Programs.

David prepared five signature dishes from his landmark restaurant, Chanterelle, which closed in 2009 after 30 years in business. It was lovely to see David in action and catch up with his wife and partner at Chanterelle, Karen, as well as Andrew Friedman who collaborated with David on the book, “Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic.”

David Waltuck's cookbook written with Andrew Friedman
David Waltuck’s cookbook written with Andrew Friedman

I could write a memoir based around restaurants that played an important role in my life. Some were clients. Others were host venues for my events. Many participated in programs I produced such as New York Restaurant Week, The James Beard Foundation Awards and the Bon Appétit Wine & Spirits Focus. Many took good care of me when I paid a visit either as a solo diner or when I dined with good friends or my parents when they paid me a visit from Tennessee. Many owners became close friends.

We made a list sitting on a bench watching the sunset. We named it “the restaurants we loved and lost.” The sun may have set on these restaurants, but they each left a special imprint in various aspects of our life in Manhattan. The reason why some of them are included is another story for another time!

melanie-and-caroline-at-the-four-seasons2
Melanie with Caroline Stuart who worked with the late James Beard at The Four Seasons during its final week. James Beard who was one of the first food consultants and co authored an early cookbook.

Our list: An American Place, Arizona 206, Beppe, Bolo, Capsouto Frerès, Chanterelle, Cité, Danube, Hudson River Club, Lespinasse, Lola,The Four Seasons, Giovanni’s Atrium, La Caravelle, La Cote Basque, La Fourchette, Les Célébrités, Le Madri, Les Halles, Lutece, March, Mesa Grill, Nosmo King, The Oak Room, Pastis, Peacock Alley, Princess Pamela’s Little Kitchen, Picholine, Pipa, Quilted Giraffe, Rainbow Room, Restaurant Florent, San Domenico, SD26, Sign of the Dove, Tabla, Union Pacific, WD50, Windows on the World, Verbena, Veritas, Zarela. And then there are the original locations no more: Bouley, Le Cirque and Union Square Cafe. More recently it was announced that Carnegie Deli will close the end of 2016; its rival, Stage Deli, already shuttered.

carnegie-deli-closing
Carnegie Deli will mark its 40 anniversary by closing close December 31 2016

I know you have more to add to this list based on your own personal experience. We found list on Gayot.com.

giovanni-natalucci

The above photo is of the late Giovanni Natalucci of Giovanni’s Atrium in Lower Manhattan. (Credit: Downtown Express file photo by Maria Yoo).  Our back story: A small group of us tried to “save” Giovanni’s Atrium after the September 11th terrorist attacks by hosting events there. At a dinner party in 2003 I reconnected with David after not seeing him for more than a decade. Both the restaurant and its owner left us in 2008, a year after David and I were married.

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Eat THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

The Creole Queen- Still Cooking at 93- July 20 on The Connected Table LIVE!

She’s called “The Queen of Creole Cuisine.” And we are honored to have a seating with this amazing lady who is truly Louisiana culinary royalty this week in New Orleans when we head to Tales of the Cocktail.

That’s right! We’re visiting with the venerable Ms. Leah Chase, owner of New Orleans landmark Dooky Chase Restaurant on our July 20th edition of The Connected Table LIVE!

Ms Leah Chase
Ms Leah Chase

Born in 1923, one of 14 children, in Madisonville, Louisiana, Leah moved to New Orleans to live with an aunt to pursue her education since there were no high schools for black children after the sixth grade. She juggled some pretty interesting jobs for a woman back in those days to make a living including managing two amateur boxers and becoming the first woman to mark the racehorse board for a local bookie. And she waited tables in the French Quarter where she caught the restaurant bug.

Leah married New Orleans musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase in 1946. Together they took over the po’boy and lottery stand opened by Dooky’s dad in 1941 and turned it into a full service restaurant. Dooky Chase has been the gathering place for political titans, food cognoscenti, literary lions and dedicated locals ever since. During the Civil Rights movement it was the only public place in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet to discuss strategy. Maybe thought leaders need to gather at Dooky Chase for a soul nourishing meal and to discuss how to heal the challenges today faced in our nation.

Leah Chase is said to have chided President Obama for putting hot sauce in his gumbo. (photo from Dooky Chase Restaurant website)
Just about every U.S. president has dined at Dooky Chase. Leah Chase is said to have chided President Obama for putting hot sauce in his gumbo. (photo from Dooky Chase Restaurant website)

At 93, Leah is still behind the stove and Dooky Chase, lovingly restored after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina, remains a hot spot on the New Orleans culinary trail. Leah has received numerous honors for her work in the community, in civil rights and for her role in American’s culinary heritage. She’s even been the inspiration for a Disney’s Princess; Tiana in Princess and the Frog. This past May, Leah was honored with the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, and this Dooky Chase restaurant celebrated its 75th anniversary. That’s more than a lifetime for any restaurant!

DOOKY CHASE
Dooky Chase Restaurant has been a gathering place for generations of families, politicians, entertainers, writers and food lovers since 1941  www.dookychaserestaurant.com

We visited Ms Leah at Dooky Chase July 20 and enjoyed a delicious conversation about her life along with heaping portions of fried chicken. You could call it Ms. Leah’s “Fried Chicken for the Soul!” Listen here and share!

 

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Eat THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Has Amanda Cohen Ever Met A Vegetable She Didn’t Like?

New York City has seen its fair share of vegetarian restaurants over the years, like Zen Palate, Blossom, Candle Cafe and Angelica Kitchen, but none have ever garnered the accolades that Amanda Cohen’s Dirt Candy has. Opened in 2008 with only 18 seats, Dirt Candy wasn’t just a fresh look at how to create a meat free menu, it was more like the Le Bernardin of vegetarian cooking: a veritable temple to the possibilities of where one can take a chef’s chosen medium, in this case vegetables, in the kitchen.

Great balls of veggie bread! These chewy puffy, pick apart rolls are serve as a side at Dirty Candy
Great balls of veggie bread! These chewy puffy, pick apart rolls are serve as a side at Dirt Candy

When it was reviewed, finally – after four years, by Pete Wells of The New York Times (he, like Leonardo DiCaprio, probably couldn’t get a reservation), Dirt Candy got a glowing review and two stars. Later, the Michelin Guide took notice. the restaurant expanded to a large location on the Lower East Side with plenty of seating and counter space to feed NYC’s growing population of healthy minded restaurant goers. Address:  86 Allen Street (212) 228-7732 Twitter@dirtcandynyc

Portobello mousse with Asian pearsand truffle toast at Dirt Candy
Portobello mousse with Asian pears and truffle toast at Dirt Candy
All of it comes from the energetic mind of Amanda Cohen, a Canadian by birth, who has, in the process of creating a restaurant based on vegetables, also bucked most of the stereotypes associated with that concept, like using organic vegetables, sourcing only from farmers markets, and eschewing the use of dairy and eggs in her dishes. She does none of those, choosing instead to focus on making sure that what she creates in her professional kitchen, while certainly more labor intensive and admittedly intricate than similar dishes one may cook at home, can at least be done so from supermarket ingredients if need be, and without scouring the far reaches of the earth to find the perfect purple carrot.
Chef/Restaurateur Amanda Cohen
Chef/Restaurateur Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy

Amanda calls Dirt Candy an all vegetable restaurant  versus vegetarian. Dirt Candy appeals to vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike. It’s just that good and you want to try every dish. Rephrasing something Amanda says in her comic book cookbook, “Dirt Candy: A Cookbook,” “It’s about saying “yes” to vegetables versus saying “no” to meat. In fact, Amanda does eat meat. But has she met a vegetable she doesn’t like? Listen to our January 13th show with Amanda at this iHeartRadio Link

 

Purchase Amanda’s cookbook now and find out how her sense of humor is as fabulous as her cooking.

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Drink Explore

It’s Time To Add Bolivia To Your Culinary Travel Bucket List- A Visit with Chef Kamilla Seidler

One of the most fascinating places I have ever visited in South America is Bolivia. Albeit my trip was too short and too focused on recovering lost luggage when I visited many years ago with the intent on hiking. But the images still remain in my mind, and I am eager to revisit and linger longer.

Bolivians consider Lake Titicaca a sacred place.
Bolivians consider Lake Titicaca a sacred place.

I remember taking a boat ride on Lake Titicaca on Christmas Day. I remember the other-worldly Valley of the Moon.

Bolivia's Valley of the Moon
Bolivia’s Valley of the Moon

I remember the fragrant markets and the women wearing colorful clothes and bowler hats.

It seemed like everyone wore this type of hat when I visited Bolivia
It seemed like everyone wore this type of hat when I visited Bolivia

Yes, I remember the stunning visuals of this landlocked country located deep in the heart of South America just below Brazil that I knew nothing about when I first visited.

What I don’t remember is the food.

So when the opportunity came up to visit with Kamilla Seidler, Executive Chef for Gustu Gastronomia S.A., a leader in the “Bolivian Gastronomy Integration (MIGA)” on The Connected Table LIVE! David and I couldn’t resist.

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Eat Explore

New Orleans Strong- A Visit with Ralph Brennan

New Orleans is Cooking again!- Bananas Foster at Brennan's
New Orleans is cooking again!- Bananas Foster at Brennan’s

It’s hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with its eye on New Orleans 10 years ago August 29th. At the time we were planning a major dining and wine event for following February the following year which sadly was cancelled. The aftermath left many of our restaurant friends recovering for months, and people were still living scattered here and there.

Flash forward to 2015: New Orleans is back on its game and its restaurants are better than ever as noted in this New York Times article. Media outlets around the country are focusing their eyes on “The Storm’s 10th Anniversary,” but we never lost sight of New Orleans and neither did its staunchest supporters, its restaurateurs.  One of the first restaurants granted a license to reopen was Ralph Brennan’s Redfish Grill.

There's nothing like a New Orleans crawfish boil!
There’s nothing like a New Orleans crawfish boil!

Ralph Brennan is a third generation member of a family whose name, Brennan, is synonymous with New Orleans cuisine. The flagship French Quarter restaurant, Brennan’s, founded by his grandfather was Ralph’s playground where he worked as a prep cook during high school summer vacations. After earning his MBA and working as a CPA for Price Waterhouse for eight years, Ralph returned to the family business.

Ralph Brennan
Ralph Brennan

Today, The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group includes the recently renovated (2014) Brennan’s, Red Fish Grill, Ralph’s on the Park, cafe b in Metarie and cafe NOMA within the New Orleans Museum of Art, well as restaurants in Disneyland. he is a co-owner of Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s in Houston. And he’s acquired the venerable 200-year-old Napoleon House in the French Quarter, best known for its Pimm’s Cups and Muffulettas as well as a mighty fine Sazerac.

brennans exterior

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Frank Pellegrino Jr.- Bringing Rao’s To the People

Being a successful restaurateur is never easy. Being the son of a legendary restaurateur sounds like it might be easier but not always. This is especially true when your name is Frank Pellegrino Jr. and your dad, Frank, Sr., runs New York City’s toughest table-to-book in town, Rao’s (pronounced RAY-ohs). We’ve never snagged a table at Rao’s NYC, which is on our dining bucket list. I think tables  end up in the wills of its regulars.

Frank Pellegrino Jr. Rao's Restauranys
Frank Pellegrino Jr., Rao’s Restaurants

 

It takes (meat) balls to follow in the footsteps of Frank Sr., and Frank Pellegrino Jr. (“Frankie” to Rao’s regulars) has done just that overseeing  Rao’s Caesars Palace, Las Vegas (opened 2006) and Rao’s Hollywood (opened Fall 2013). The tables are easier to book, and the Southern Italian fare served with a large helping of hospitality is just as satisfying. That’s why Rao’s has a loyal following everywhere.

Frank Jr. earned his chops working at Rao’s NYC at night while running an advertising business by day. His Mad Men career took him to many restaurants and prepped him well to step out on his own in 2000 with his first restaurant, Baldoria, located in Times Square. It opened with great fanfare; I remember the party.

Rao's Hollywood
Rao’s Hollywood

Vegas came calling, and Frank followed with the first Rao’s. Today, with the two Rao’s restaurants and a book, Rao’s on the Grill, Frank Jr. has accomplished something his Pops never did at the “original”- make a dinner table at Rao’s accessible for the rest of us folks. Mangia!

Connect: http://raosrestaurants.com/   Twitter@Rao’sRetaurants

Melanie Young, July 7, 2015

THE CONNECTED TABLE BANNER WITH TIMES

David and Melanie chewed the fat with Frank Pellegrino Jr. July 8, on The Connected Table LIVE! www.W4cy.com and iHeart.com. Here’s the show! http://www.iheart.com/show/209-The-Connected-Table-Live/?episode_id=27281944

 

 

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Connecting with Chef Alon Shaya

Chef Alon Shaya was born in Israel, raised in Philadelphia and now lives in New Orleans where he oversees the kitchens at Domenica, Pizza Domenica and his namesake Shaya Restaurant, and is a partner in both with Besh Restaurant Group.

Marianna Massey 55
Chef Alon Shaya  (photo credit: Marianna Massey)

He credits cooking with his mother and grandmother for fueling his career in food and the Culinary Institute of America for giving him his formal education. Alon was working as an intern at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas when he met Octavio Mantilla, a co-owner of Besh Restaurant Group. Octavia recruited him to New Orleans, and Chef /Restaurateur John Besh took him under his wing. Alon credits John as the most influential non-familial influence  in his culinary life.

Located in the historic Roosevelt Hotel Domenica is recognized for its straightforward  family-style Italian cooking. The name “Domenica” means “Sunday” in Italian, a day when families in Italy gather for a festive meal overflowing with good food and wine.  Alon spent a year cooking and traveling in Italy to learn from both home and professional kitchens. Uptown, Shaya’s Restaurant serves Alon’s take on Modern Israeli cuisine while utilizing local and seasonal Louisiana ingredients. He went back to Israel in 2014  to immerse himself in the culture and cuisine of his homeland.

I dined at Shaya’s in May. The words “fertile crescent” came to mind. The dishes I tasted conjured a caravan of flavors from a region of the world I long to visit again some day. Fortunately, we have restaurants like Shaya’s that just require a quick trip to OpenTable to snag a coveted table.

Shaya photo

shaya.003

 

It’s been a few good years for Alon: 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Southeast Chef, 2014 Hottest Restaurant (Gayot), 2012 Chef of the Year (New Orleans Magazine).

Hosts Melanie Young and David Ransom are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple www.theconnectedtable.com
Hosts Melanie Young and David Ransom are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple www.theconnectedtable.com

Chef Alon Shaya visited with Melanie and David July 8 on The Connected Table LIVE. You can listen to show anytime on iHeart.com and the iHeartApp.  Or cut and paste here:

http://www.iheart.com/show/209-The-Connected-Table-Live/?episode_id=27281944

Follow Melanie and David on Twitter@connectedtable and Like us on Facebook.com/TheConnectedTable

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

El Jefe of Nuevo Latino Cuisine- Chef Douglas Rodriguez

He’s been called “the godfather of Nuevo Latino cooking” by media and food industry cognoscenti.  His dishes pack a “pow” in flavor, texture and color.

I first became familiar with Chef Douglas Rodriguez’s muy sabroso culinary style when he was still in his tender twenties cooking “upscale Cuban” food at his restaurant YUCA (an acronym for “Young Cuban Americans”) in Miami. The James Beard Foundation Awards took notice early on and nominated him twice for Rising Star Chef of the Year; he won the award in 1996.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez
Chef Douglas Rodriguez

Doug exploded into the competitive New York City restaurant scene with Patria, where he honed his Nuevo Latino style. The New York Times awarded Patria three stars, and other restaurant developers came calling on Doug.

More restaurants followed: Chicama, a Peruvian restaurant and Pipa, Spanish tapas, both in NYC’s Union Square neighborhood; and Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia with restaurateur Stephen Starr. Today, Doug continues to run Alma de Cuba.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Doug was raised in Miami and starting cooking in his early teens, landing his first job at age 14 as a summer apprentice at the Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami. Now, with his restaurants, a successful catering company and four books, DRod (as he refers to himself) is still at the top of his game.

DRodriguez

We’re excited about his culinary trips to Cuba. With U.S.-Cuban relations opening back up and the tourism industry in Cuba looking at a renaissance, you may want to book a trip with DRod soon!