Just about now watching the snow fall steadily all day and awaiting another deep freeze on Thursday, we look at each other and say, “At least we had Miami.” If you live anywhere in this week’s polar vortex, you know what we mean!
We celebrated New Year’s in Miami Beach. Actually, we were off the beach more than on it, catching up with friends and trying local restaurants. If you go, make sure to visit the Wynwood Arts District and take in the colorful street art and local cafes. That’s where we caught up with Chef Norman Van Aken at Three at Wynwood Arcade. We were glad to see him back in South Florida after closing Norman’s in Coral Gables. If you go, sit at the chef’s counter. Van Aken also has a cooking school and rooftop bar that is an Arts District hot spot.
We continued checking out locally owned spots like Stiltsville Fish Bar on Sunset Harbor, owned by Chefs Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth. We enjoyed the well-prepared fish dishes and casual, no-attitude atmosphere. Our one Cuban restaurant was Bella Cuba, a small family-run spot opened in 2005 that serves authentic dishes and a popular blueberry mojito.
Lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab is always fun. Of course, we partook in the restaurant’s namesake menu item, along with the signature creamed spinach and key lime pie. We never would have considered ordering fried chicken at Joe’s, but one of our lunch mates did. The excellent one-half free-range fried chicken is one of the best bargains on the menu at $6.95!
Miami is filled with great restaurants. Just about every well-known chef has an outpost in one of the hotels that line the beach or downtown. As much as we’d love to try them all, there something about smaller locally-owned places that draw us in.
We left Miami in sunny spirits and ready to book another trip.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for roses.
My maternal grandmother’s name was Rose. My maternal grandfather created a rose garden in his back yard in tribute to my grandmother. I used to love to wander the garden and smell the different roses.
My late father would bring my mother a single rose every Friday during their 52-year marriage. The day of his funeral, a Friday, David Ransom presented my mother a single rose at the memorial service to continue the tradition.
My mother always has a vase of fresh roses in my bedroom when I visit her in Tennessee. Roses are a symbol of love and, for me personally, for family and for heritage.
So, naturally I was intrigued by the story behind Four Roses Bourbon, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2018 by sending us a baby rose-bush to plant. Coincidentally, our garden had just three blooming rose bushes. Now, it has four rose bushes. I welcomed an invitation to visit last December. It was my first visit to a Kentucky Bourbon distillery.
The legend of Four Roses Bourbon (est. 1888) started when its Founder, Paul Jones, a Louisville businessman, became smitten with a Southern belle named Mary, whom he courted for a number of years. Jones asked Mary to respond to his “final” marriage proposal (after a few asks) by wearing a corsage of four red roses to a cotillion dance. This time she accepted and entered the ballroom wearing the corsage.
There are a few versions to this story depending on who tells it. But, if you visit Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, you may be lucky enough to meet Al Young, the brand’s official historian (a.k.a. Senior Brand Ambassador), who will share a few anecdotes and who has a sharp memory. Young has worked with the distillery for 51 years and wrote a book called “Four Roses- The Return of a Whiskey Legend.”
The word “return” is important because for a long time, Four Roses did not produce its Bourbon. One reason was Prohibition which lasted from 1920 to 1933. During that time whiskey was only approved and made for medicinal use. After Prohibition (Repeal) distilleries had to invest heavily to start over. Making Bourbon, is time intensive. In 1943, the company was acquired by Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., which reorganized it and decided to focus on making whiskies only for the export market. Then, the brand was acquired for a time by a consortium established between Pernod Ricard and Diageo. In 2002, Japan’s Kirin Holdings acquired Four Roses and reintroduced its flagship Kentucky Bourbons starting with its single barrel in 2004 and a small batch in 2006.
During a distillery visit last December Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott guided us through a tasting and explained the process to which utilizes two mash bills and five propriety yeast strains to make ten distinct recipes used in the blending. It was a lesson in chemistry as he showed how the different proprietary yeasts are coded and then blended (V-delicate fruit, K=light spice, O=rich fruit, Q=floral essence, F=herbal).
We had the chance to visit both the distillery in Lawrenceburg and the bottling facility on Cox’s Creek to experience production from start to finish. We were intrigued by the bottling line with staffers applying labels and bottle tags by hand, each bottle carefully inspected. Talk about hand-crafted!
Four Roses has three signature Bourbons. All were smooth, mellow and delicate on the palate.
Four Roses Single Barrel has notes of vanilla, maple, pear and spice with a long finish (100 proof/50% ABV)
Four Roses Small Batch is creamier and rich with more caramel and berry notes. (90 proof/45% ABV)
Four Roses Bourbon balances vibrant fruit and spice. (80 proof/40% ABV)
We also tasted a special blend 130th Anniversary Four Roses. This limited edition Bourbon was lightly floral and a tad sweeter in a very satisfying – please, give me some more!- way. Then, Elliott took us into his laboratory where we had the rare chance to taste of few other proprietary blends. Swoon!
Four Roses conducts guided tours at the Lawrenceburg distillery, which is a beautiful Spanish mission-style building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On site are a small Four Roses museum and gift shop. Info: www.FourRosesBourbon.com
Four Roses Bourbon Senior Ambassador Al Young discusses the history of Four Roses Bourbon on The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart. Click the photo below to listed or this link
A special thank you to Four Roses Bourbon for hosting this trip and to The Baddish Group for including Melanie, a dedicated Bourbon drinker and rose lover.
It had been awhile since either of had spent much time in Sonoma Valley, so we felt lucky to add three nights for a visit following our stay at Meadowood in St. Helena for the Professional Wine Writers Symposium. Where Napa feels gentrified and sophisticated, Sonoma feels bucolic and achaten-suisse.com laid back. It’s like comparing cashmere to fleece; they both feel great and will keep you warm outside, and you want both for different reasons.
The first two nights were spent at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley tasting wines, exploring the expansive estate and enjoying a quiet dinner with Lisa Mattson and her husband, Damon, at BarnDiva in nearby Healdsburg. Lisa was a guest on The Connected Table LIVE! to talk about her book, “The Exes in My Glass.” We met proprietor John Jordan whom we learned has a thing for “Star Wars” movies. Jordan specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and does both well.
Another night took us to The Shed Cafe, a restaurant located in a cookware shop and bakery. Most of the food is locally sourced within 10 miles of Healdsburg. We suggest checking out the four- course tasting menu for $58 with a $25 wine pairing option. Address: 25 North Street, Healdsburg. 707-431-7433 www.healdsburgshed.com
Our final night was spent at Valette whose chef-owner, Dustin Valette visited with us on The Connected Table LIVE March 8th. Dustin began his restaurant career at the age of thirteen washing dishes at Catelli’s in his hometown of Geyserville. A Culinary Institute of America grad, he worked at several top restaurants to fine tune his skills, most recently spending six years as Executive Chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant in downtown Healdsburg. With his brother and fellow restaurant worker, Aaron Garzini, Dustin hatched a plan to open Valette in a building which housed his great grandfather’s bakery. The two brothers opened Valette in 2015 spotlighting their deep passion and dedication to Sonoma Country and its food and wine purveyors and producers.
The restaurant is hopping! We dined there the night of the “Oscars.” David noshed on Dustin’s house made charcuterie and Coriander Crusted Liberty Duck Breast with tart pickled cherries and dick + foie grad torchon. Little Miss Healthy Me enjoyed a vegetarian “beet Wellington” described on the menu as Tangerine Infused Beets en Papillote with preserved lemon, farro risotto, baby carrots and Laura Chenel goat cheese and Hawaiian Ahi Poke.
Give This Gal a Forklift!
Katie Madigan, is winemaker at St. Francis Winery. Like many women winemakers I’ve interviewed, Katie started out planning on another career path not realizing the great opportunities for women in wine. She was a chemistry major intent on going into the pharma business. She took an internship as a lab technician at St. Francis in 2003 to pass the time and never left.
Now 14 years later Katie is in charge of making St. Francis’s award winning wines. She says she’s most proud of making great wines widely available for everyone to enjoy. I asked Katie for career tips for aspiring women winemakers. She says: 1. get your experience working in the cellar, 2. learn to run a pump and forklift 3. be ready to get your hands dirty 4. be confident on your palate and 5. be very patient. Careers in wine, like the wine itself, can take time to mature.
While we did not make it to St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa, we are very familiar with the wines. David has written about St. Francis Winery for Tasting Panel Magazine, and many years ago my former PR firm, M Young Communications, produced St, Francis’s Big Red chef events in New York and Los Angeles. You can arrange a visit, and we hope to next trip. www.stfranciswine.com
Here is our show with Chef Dustin Valette and Winemaker Katie Madigan on iHeart.com and the free iHeart App.
To be honest, we had to look up Tutka Bay on the map. FYI: it’s in Alaska.
That said, it was with pleasure that we did so. For when “The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook” came across our desk and we started flipping through the pages of this wonderful tome, we knew that not only did we want to know more about it, but we also needed to find a way to get its authors, the mother/daughter culinary team of Kirsten and Mandy Dixon, on our show.
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.
I remember taking a boat ride on Lake Titicaca on Christmas Day. I remember the other-worldly Valley of the Moon.
I remember the fragrant markets and the women wearing colorful clothes and bowler hats.
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.
If you’ve ever visited the lush bucolic home of the painter, Claude Monet. you will be transformed by its beautiful gardens. Located in a the tiny and very pretty town of Giverny, France, it’s an easy day trip everyone must take from Paris and, please, allow plenty of time to savor it.
Another way to savor Monet’s gardens is through Aileen Bordman‘s book Monet’s Palate Cookbook: The Artist & His Kitchen Garden at Giverny (Gibbs-Smith Publishers). Written with garden writer, Derek Fell, this book includes 60 recipes linked to Monet’s two-acre kitchen garden near his home in Giverny. With a forward written by none other than Meryl Streep and recipes beautiful photographed by Steven Rothfeld, Monet’s Palate Cookbook transports you to the French countryside in the days of the Impressionists when farm to table was the only way to eat.
Aileen joins us on The Connected Table LIVE! August 26, 2:30PMEST, to share her own personal journey through Monet’s Garden as filmmaker and culinary historian. President and Founder of Monet’s Palate, Inc, she has been immersed in the world of Claude Monet since 1980 and has more than 35 years of firsthand experience at Monet’s home and gardens. Her knowledge and passion with respect to Claude Monet’s lifestyle, cuisine, gardens and art prompted the creation of the Monet’s Palate concept.
Aileen is the creator and producer of the acclaimed documentary film titled “Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View from the Garden,” which has been broadcast nationally through American Public Television to all 350 PBS stations. She independently wrote and produced the film Monet’s Palate with Meryl Streep, Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard and Steve Wynn. The film has been screened from Cannes to New York, and was featured during the six-month “Monet’s Garden” exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden in New She lives just outside New York City in New Jersey. Website: www.monetspalate.comTwitter@monetspalateFacebook/Monets.Palate.Claude.Monet
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.
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).
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:
The first of its kind in Texas, and now in its fourth year, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference was named one of the Best Cocktail Festivals in America by Fodor’s Travel. Like its predecessors the Manhattan Cocktail Classic and New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail every year we bring together top bartenders and cocktail aficionados for educational seminars, guided tastings and cocktail parties. Houston Street Charities and the Conference will once again donate 100 percent of all money raised during the Conference to benefit several local children’s charities.
Join The Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple Melanie Young and David Ransom Wednesdays 2pmET/11am PT on The Connected Table LIVE on www.W4CY.com as we talk with the dynamic people who work front and center and behind the scenes in food, wine, spirits and hospitality. The Connected Table LIVE is available anytime on demand www.iHeart.com under Shows and Personalities. Follow and connect: