THIS makes me ridiculously happy to be living in New York City. Hope I get the chance to check it out this Friday!

(Thanks to Publishers Weekly for the link.)

Children's Day at the Four Seasons

I meant to blog this last week but didn't get the chance...

Josh Haner for the New York Times

The Four Seasons has a Children's Day where children eat free. And they're not ordering that chicken-fingers-and-french-fries-TGI Friday's kids' menu crap - this is the real deal. They order off the adult menu.

I have mixed feelings about this so I put it to you. Is this pretentious and precious and yuppy as all hell? Or is this a lovely way to teach our kids a sense of occasion and respect for dining out? A bit of both perhaps?

Eat, drink, and exclude the kids from fine dining?

NOTE: And to tie this all back to children's books, in 2009, Candlewick published Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant by Leslie McGuirk and Alex von Bidder. (von Bidder is the co-owner of the Four Seasons)


Austrian Riesling

I was embarrassingly late to my wine-tasting date with Jenn this past week. I had never done a wine-tasting where you make a reservation, pay $25...and the wine geek in charge ("Chairman Paul") gives a lecture. So I walked in to a quiet room with all eyes turned to the lecturer...and then all turned to me. Crap.

But bad start aside, Terroir Wine Bar in the East Village (follow them on Twitter: @terroirny) gives an amazing wine-tasting. We started by talking about the important wine-making regions in Austria, which are in the easternmost part of the country. In particular, there's a trifecta of the best of the best regions: Kremstal, Kamptal, and Wachau. Wachau is arguably the bestest of the best. We even had a map of Austria to help us identify all these regions (along with a "Hello, My Name is Summer Of Riesling" sticker and a tattoo). Check out the packet we received:

We tasted 7 Austrian Rieslings - the first two were from the Traisental and Wien regions while the last five were from the trifecta. Here are a few snippets of information I learned (among many):
  • Rieslings (or any wine, really) won't smell sweet - that's a taste.
  • Sweet wines need acidity for balance - you want some tartness to counteract the sweet.
  • A petrol nose is characteristic of Riesling but not always present. Likewise, Rieslings characteristically smell and taste of slate, granite, etc. That's speaks to terroir.
  • "The best thing about tasting Riesling is that we don't have to talk about oak!" (This was related to our discussion that some of these wines had Chardonnay-esque qualities: butter, warmth, peach...but no wood! Rieslings are much cleaner and crisper.)

Check out all the notes I took (and there's more on the backside):

I won't get into the details and notes about each wine, but Jenn and I agreed that #4 was our favorite: Riesling Pfaffenberg Rainer Wess 2006 (from the Kremstal region). It was incredibly unusual - our instructor rightly told us that you don't taste the peach fruit, you taste the pit. It was very earthy and metallic (in a good way). One of the reasons we loved it was because it was a rather odd, disconcerting wine...which made you want to keep drinking it to figure it out. It intrigued me more than the others.

Our least favorite? The first wine: Riesling Rothenbart Ludwig Neumayer 2007 (from the Traisental region). It was all Granny Smith tartness and no roundness of flavor to balance it. I could certainly see where it would pair well with sashimi but, for this tasting, I wasn't a fan.

Terroir has a three more wine-tastings left as part of their Summer of Riesling event: here's the schedule. It was $25 well-spent for this:

Word to the wise: you might want to eat a snack before the tasting. Drinking this much wine pre-dinner was a bit of a challenge for Jenn and me...but we held it together admirably. I also want to share that this is a great class for beginners (I'd classify myself as a beginner-intermediate wine taster). I can't say if it's too "easy" for the advanced connoisseur, but I do know there was some schmuck there who kept talking over our instructor, loudly blabbing about his "wine tutor". Wine snobs like that guy are what give people who love wine a bad name. Luckily, I easily ignored him.

Lastly, I leave you with this quote from Chairman Paul:

"There is no conversation about how these wines are made. They're made in the vineyard [...] Wines are made in the vineyard, NOT in a winery. That's terroir."

Eat, drink, and cheers to that!


Wafels and Dinges

How did I spend one of my last summer Fridays*?

I finally went to the Wafels & Dinges truck! And wow. I only wish I had gone AGES ago!

I ordered the liège wafel with spekuloos spread. I had NO idea what the hell spekuloos spread was and I didn't ask - but the board said it was their favorite so I just went with it. Oh, man. The Wafels & Dinges website says "Spekuloos is a spread that looks like peanut butter, but it tastes like traditional Belgian gingerbread-cinnamon cookies. It beats Nutella 10 to 1." And I have to agree with them.

Adding to the experience is how cute and cheeky the guys in the truck are (what is it with gourmet food trucks in the city being operated by incredible flirts?!). When I said I wanted a liège wafel, cutie guy working the truck says, "Avec quoi?" I answered, "Avec spekuloos, bien sûr." Need further proof that these guys are awesome? They hosted a Miss and Mister Wafel competition this past week!

Want to make wafels yourself? The website has the goods.

Can't wait to go again - they're going to give Schnitzel & Things a run for their money in my own personal Favorite Food Truck competition!

Eat, drink, and danke schoen for the excellent wafels!

* Bless publishing and their half-day Fridays in the summer!


Spanish-Style Braised Squid

Every once in a while, someone will ask me how we get Bug to eat the food I feature on the blog. Well, in this case, I will openly admit that she didn't eat this - she had her own "kid dinner" and then we ate this meal post-bedtime. Now, she loves calamari (code: fried food) but she wouldn't touch this with a 10-foot pole. And as much as I would love to "expose" her to a new food, to be quite frank, that would have ruined my meal if I had to spend it cajoling and convincing her to take a single bite.

Right before I left on my summer vacation, I found a galley of Emeril Lagasse's new cookbook Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh in the office and took it. One of the first meals I made was this Spanish-Style Braised Squid:

It was the type of dish that transports you to another place because it just doesn't seem possible that you're sitting in your apartment in Queens, tasting something so fresh and straight-from-the-ocean. In fact, it was sort of a cruel joke. I should have been enjoying it from some cozy vacation home nestled on some beach in Spain, right? Well, I was very much grounded in New York, on the 17th floor of my apartment building, and this was the next best thing to actually being abroad.

Spanish-Style Braised Squid
by Emeril Lagasse

1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. sliced onions
3 tbsp. sliced garlic
1/2 c. dry white wine, such as Albarino
1 lb. squid, tentacles removed and reserved, bodies cut into thin rings
3 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. nonpareil capers, drained (I omitted these - I don't like capers)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
Generous 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. hot pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
Warm crusty bread, for serving

1. Combine the olive oil and onions in a large saute pan (I used nonstick) over medium heat, and cook until the onions are beginning to caramelize, 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer (watch it closely so it doesn't burn!). Add the white wine and reduce for 2 minutes. Add the squid (tentacles and rings), parsley, oregano, lemon juice, capers (if you want), salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook until the squid is tender, 5-6 minutes.

2. Serve with the crusty bread

4-6 tapas-size servings (I just made this 2 entree-size servings)

The only thing I would change about this is add another 1/4 tsp. or so of paprika next time. The recipe could have done with more smokiness, I think. Otherwise, this recipe was incredibly simple and easy...but you would never guess from the richness of flavor and texture.

Eat, drink, and travel vicariously through food.


The Red Balloon

As I mentioned earlier, I went out of my way to read non-kids books while on vacation recently. One of the books I read was Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.

I don't have a full review but, rather, a Twitter review: So much fun but not quite as shocking or eye-opening as Kitchen Confidential.

What I insanely loved about the book was the following passage. Ever see the movie The Red Balloon as a kid? Well, I did. Repeatedly, every time we had a substitute teacher and it traumatized me every time. I blame my astrological sign (Cancer). Bourdain sums it up:

What exactly was the message of The Red Balloon anyway? Every time our teachers didn't show up, they'd haul out the projector and show us this supposedly heartwarming and inspiring story of a little French boy and his enchanted balloon friend.

But wait a minute. The poor kid is impoverished and clearly unloved. He wears the same clothes every day. Immediately on finding his balloon, he's ostracized by society, banned from public transportation, chastised at school, even ejected from church. His parents are either dead or have abandoned him - as the hideous crone who cruelly throws his balloon out the window at first encounter is clearly too old to be his mom. The boy's schoolmates are a feral, opportunistic bunch who instinctively seek to destroy what they don't understand and can't possess. In fact, nearly every other child in the film is depicted as part of an unthinking mob, fighting viciously among themselves even as they pursue the boy and his balloon through the streets, like a pack of wolves. The boy runs away, is assaulted, separated from his only friend - then reunites with it only to watch it die slowly before his eyes.

The happy ending? Balloons from all over Paris converge. The boy gathers them together and is lifted aloft. He drifts away, dangerously suspended over the city. The end.

Where's the kid going? To an unspecified "better" place - for sure. Or to a fatal drop when the balloons empty of their helium (as we've seen them do just previously).

The message?

Life is cruel, lonely, and filled with pain and random acts of violence. Everybody hates you and seeks to destroy you. Better to opt out altogether, to leap - literally - into the void, escape by any means necessary. However uncertain or suicidal the way out.

Hilarious and so true, right? After a couple mai tais on the beach, this was the funniest and truest thing I had ever read. In case you need a reminder, there's this:

It certainly isn't the first time I've disagreed with A.O. Scott. And to completely counterbalance that unjustified lovefest, there's this:

Eat, drink, and put this on the shelf next to Love You Forever.


Thank god it's...


This is what Fridays are like in the Lutz household:

Any guesses what we're making?

Lillet on ice with a splash of seltzer and slices of lime


It's the one night a week we allow Bug to eat in front of the television. In fact, we call it Family Movie Night and we all have to compromise on something to watch. Lately, we all agree:

Eat, drink, and cheers to family!


The Anatomy of a Twinkie

I'm already in shock when I see food products and read their lists fo 30+ ingredients. But this photo montage takes it to another level:

Wow. Where does one even find Thiamine Mononitrate? And did you know, according to this article, that 500 million Twinkies are made annually?!

Thanks to Ruta (@RutaRascal) for sharing the link.

Eat, drink, and put down the Hostess snacks.


Fill 'Er Up!

I don't know. What do you guys think? Is this all kinds of awesome...or a bit strange?

Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

There's a kiosk in Chelsea Market called the Filling Station. And it's exactly what it sounds like: rows of olive oils and vinegars where you buy a bottle...and then you can return to refill it at a 10% discount. They also have salts and sugars treated similarly - they are sold in refillable containers.

Adam and I actually stopped by there (quickly) one night while we were on our way to the Biergarten at the Standard Hotel. It actually looked pretty cool. The thing I really liked about it was that next to each pump (is there another name I should call them by?) was a stack of tiny paper tasting cups and we were free to taste at will. Which reminded me of my beloved O & Co. where the purveyor wants to educate the customer as part of their business model.

We didn't have a chance to truly peruse, indulge, and enjoy - we had beer to get to! - but I'll definitely go back there. Adam works right across the street from Chelsea Market so it would be easy enough to get refills. And according to the blurb in the New York Times, the Filling Station is working on their license to sell beer. Which means growlers. Here is the conversation I foresee in our household -

Adam: I'm out of beers. Maybe I'll stop by Filling Station on my way home...
Laura: Faaabulous. And get me some olive oil while you're there!

[she ungracefully shoves an empty bottle into his hand]

Eat, drink, and kudos to yuppy green living.

Here is what some others are saying about Filling Station:


Wine-Marinated Grapes

Menu planning is difficult. Every weekend, I look through my cookbooks and notebooks to decide what I'm going to make for the week ahead. But even with the hundreds of recipes available, sometimes I want to change things up a bit.

I follow about a hundred food blogs so you can imagine how inundated I am with recipes every day. When I see a particular recipe I love, I email myself a link to that blog post. Then I tag it with "Recipes" in my Gmail. So anytime I feel dissatisfied with all the books and all the ripped-out magazine pages (I know, poor me, right?), I turn to my email. Which is how I discovered this gem: Wine-Marinated Grapes, which I virtually dog-eared from the blog Thursday Night Smackdown. I dog-eared it in 2008.

I was looking for inspiration this past Saturday. Adam was out of town, visiting his own Soul Twin (husband to my own Soul Twin), and Bug was wiped out from a 3-day camping trip. Which is code for she-was-going-to-sleep-a-lot-and-watch-lots-of-TV. So what to do with all that free time? Make drunk grapes!

Michelle at Thursday Night Smackdown got the recipe from Bon Appetit...and aptly, brilliantly named the post "The Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries". Come on, children's literature folks, you know where that line is from. God, the parallels of food and kids' lit never cease to amaze me.

ANYWAY, the recipe is ridonkulously easy. Click the Bon Appetit link above - you'll see. And here's where I might scare away potential dinner guests (and maybe even the ones in current rotation): the recipe requires a bottle of dry white wine and I used a bottle of white Zin that a guest had brought over for dinner. White. Zin. I am not drinking that. Ever. And this is the moment where everyone who ever comes over to my house for dinner (and reads this blog) panics. So, for that, I am sorry.

One thing that Michelle mentions is that you can strain the marinating liquid and save it for wine spritzers. I was skeptical. I mean, wine spritzers? With white Zin? A little froofy, right? Oh, no. This was soooo good:

The wine, the grape juice, and the lemon zest are rather sublime. Add a splash of seltzer and a couple of lime slices and you have the perfect summer apertif. Really wonderful.

This is a ridiculously long blog post about drunk grapes but I can't resist. What a fun way to spend my Saturday afternoon while Bug was watching Wizards of Waverly Place.

Eat, drink, and snozz some berries.


The Great Food Truck Race

Have you guys heard of this yet? "The Great Food Truck Race" on Food Network?

It premieres tomorrow night (Sunday, August 15) at 9:00 pm (ET, I think?).

I would normally dismiss this. It's too close to reality TV and the only reality show I watch is "So You Think You Can Dance"...and that's in large part because it lacks all that screaming, fighting melodrama you normally see. I don't like any show that brings out the worst in people - I want to see the best.

Anyway, I digress...

So I really wouldn't give a rat's arse about this...except that I read that Tyler Florence, in the NY Times, called this show "Cannonball Run with food trucks".


Oh, yeah. I'm watching.

Cannonball Run?!?!



Oh, Fresh Direct. This is NOT the asparagus I ordered.

Eat, drink, and flick that packing guy in the forehead.


My Other Non-Food-and-Wine Blog

We recently started a new blog at work: THE PAGETURN. Well, the full name is actually THE PAGETURN: AN INSIDE LOOK AT BOOKS. It's specific to teachers and librarians, highlighting the books and authors that resonate with that market. It's super-new - we started it in July - so come over, say hi, and welcome us to the kidlitosphere!

When we started the blog, we knew we'd be blogging every weekday and, I have to admit, I was concerned that blogging everyday at work would steal away the last bit of energy and mojo I had left for this blog. Which hasn't been much in recent months.

But I'm so happy that I've been proven wrong. Instead, blogging every day at THE PAGETURN has reminded how much I love doing this, how much I love writing every day, and I feel all sorts of new energy for Pinot and Prose.

Eat, drink, and say hi to me at THE PAGETURN!


Ode to Naan

This is my latest favorite recipe: White Bean and Pancetta Flatbread from Food and Wine (April 2010). It is Damn Good, which was unexpected because I thought it might be too dry. Somehow it works, though. I attribute it to the perfect ratio of melting cheese to beans. Take a look:

I used the exceptional naan that I get from my local market, but this same naan is available at Whole Foods (I usually use the plain naan). Barring that, you can try using a pita. (Check out my well-documented love of naan here and here)

Now, on a weekday, I would pair this with greens and a vinaigrette for simplicity. But I made this on a weekend so I went fancier and paired this with the Mesclun Salad with Fried Shallots and Blue Cheese, also from Food and Wine (April 2010):

Both were incredibly simple and, lest you think that you can't make something like this, I followed the recipe to a T. Just follow the instructions and you'll be fine!

So as I typed that - "just follow the instructions and you'll be fine" - I was quite suddenly reminded of 6th grade. We had an assignment where we each had to stand in front of the class and teach everyone how to do something step-by-step, like teach everyone origami...or how to play guitar...or something. Up until now, I had completely forgotten that I taught the class how to make brownies. (How portentous!) I mean, it's a recipe. You don't get more step-by-step than that! So if you're thinking that you can't make the sort of food I make here, just channel your inner sixth grader, follow the instructions...

Eat, drink, and you'll be fine.


Cake and Marriage

When I got married 13 years ago yesterday, I was a sweet young thang:

Back then, I only ate white food. It wasn't a conscious prejudice...I was just ridiculously picky and would experience a self-induced gag reflex over anything green. So I don't think I would have gone for this back then:

Yep, that's a CHEESE CAKE. A tiered stack of cheese wheels. Be still my beating heart. My wiser, smarter palette swoons over this one:

Wouldn't that be so perfect for an autumn wedding? My lack of a sweet tooth has been well-documented on this blog so this is right up my alley. It also reminds me how much can change over the years, how much richer and fuller our lives can become.

Eat, drink, and a toast to another 13 years of marriage!

Thanks to A Cup of Jo for the link. See The Cheese Shed for more goooorgeous photos.


Buying Wine

Most of you probably already know this...but I adore wine. I drink it every night with dinner (and usually a glass after dinner too). On the weekends, I'll even have a single glass with lunch. When I have dinner parties, we've been known to go through two bottles (or three, depending on the company). So, with the exception of Adam's passion for beer, it's safe to say that ours is a wine-drinking household.

But here's the thing: I don't really have a collection. I usually buy a couple bottles a week from Fresh Direct and sometimes I'll trek over to The Wine Room of Forest Hills, which is one of my favorite places to buy wine. If we're really low, we'll get a ZipCar and drive over to Jersey to the Total Wine. Even then, sometimes I'll buy two bottles of something I know I like but, mostly, I buy a lot of single bottles.

The idea is that I want one of everything so I always have something great to drink with dinner. I rely heavily on What to Drink with What You Eat by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and few things frustrate me more than when they make a strong recommendation and I don't even have anything close. So I try to diversify when I buy wine.

Recently, though, I ran into a problem. I fell in love with a Rose that I bought at Total Wine a couple months ago. Here it is:
It was so well-balanced and refreshing. It was floral and herbal, but it also managed to be dry and grounded. I adored it.

But now what? I only bought one bottle. In Jersey. Wait until I go back? But then it'll be October or November and they most likely won't have the crazy-awesome selection of Rose. Go online? But then do I order six bottles? Go for the full case? Do I love it that much?

I also had a similar dilemma with Cubanisimo wines recently. As you'll recall from my previous post, I really love their Rose and their Pinot Noir. So I went to the Cubanisimo website to look into buying a couple bottles. It made sense to buy at least 6 bottles because of their discount. But my grand total was going to be $120+...and I couldn't bring myself to click the "Buy" button. I mean, $20 for a bottle is no big deal. But dropping more than a hundred? There's a mental hurdle that I can't seem to get over.

I've done a lot of wine reading (The Battle for Wine and Love...Red, White, and Drunk All Over...Educating Peter...The Wine Guy...these are some of my faves) and I don't feel any less confused on this issue. Does it make more sense to buy a half-case or full-case of something I love? But then I risk a lack of space and funds to have a wider selection. Or does it make better sense to diversify to make sure I always have the perfect wine-food pairing on hand? Have any thoughts on this issue?

Eat, drink, and when in doubt drink bubbly...


We interrupt this program...

Well, this sucks. I finally feel like everything has calmed down post-ALA and post-summer-without-Bug...and my USB drive decides that it doesn't want to download any of my photos. Oy.

So, while I figure out what is going on, please dream about the fabulous wine and food photos coming up. They're heaven.

But you don't think I'm fixing the problem, do you? Of course not. This is the moment where I play the heroine, bat my eyes, and say, "ADAM! FIX THIS!" So while he's working on the issue, I'm watching my brand-new Absolutely Fabulous box set. And I must leave you with this:

Eat, drink, and look forward to the next time I see the Soul Twin.

Note: Again, for those that don't read me regularly, the Soul Twin is my best friend. And for better or for worse, this is kind of us.


The Wild Pair*

I apologize for the total absence of blog posts lately. I could give you all kinds of stories about being super busy and "oh my god, my life is so crazy"...but that's not really the case. The truth is that Adam and I have been without Bug for THREE WEEKS. You parents understand. THREE WEEKS. So I've been spending time with Adam - eating, drinking, dating, laughing, catching up on TV shows, watching Alice in Wonderland, visiting with friends. Blogging really took a backseat to getting in touch with Adam again and, while I missed blogging, I'm unapologetic about spending that time away.

But I'm back and excited to be. I really want to tell you about a wonderful restaurant we ate at while visiting my in-laws in Oregon: Wild Pear.

I can't imagine any of you will find your way to Salem, Oregon but, if you do, I can't recommend Wild Pear enough. The ingredients are local and seasonal, and the mood of the restaurant is cozy and relaxed. I started by ordering the Cubanisimo Rosado:

Last year on our annual trip to Oregon, the Cubanisimo Pinot Noir was recommended to me and I loved it. Clearly, I am now a Cubanisimo fan.

I ordered the Lobster and Seafood Melt:

Served on foccacia, it was topped with dill havarti, tomatoes, red onion, and a creamy dill dressing. It was actually a little too dill-y for my tastes...but I should have known better. Dill cheese AND dill dressing? I read that and ordered it anyway. My loss.

Adam had the French Dip and it was excellent - almost like a Philly cheesesteak - French dip hybrid:

The sweet potato fries were even better. And how adorable is that bucket?

But the major coup was had by MC, my mother-in-law; she ordered the Chicken Hazelnut Salad Sandwich:

Chicken, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, red onions...and that creamy dill dressing. What is it this place and dill? Nevertheless, it didn't take over the sandwich. The balance here was perfect - it was sweet, nutty, and earthy. Thanks to the onion, it even bit back a little. So hands down to MC. She won the Best Orderer this day - a fine, fine competitor.

As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, our server says to us, "Funny that you ordered the Cubanisimo...the winemaker is sitting right over there." He pointed to a rather pretty woman sitting by herself, drinking a glass of wine and reading. Naturally MC and Adam urged me to give her one of my Pinot and Prose business cards...but I just couldn't. Totally chickened out. She had an air of celebrity about her (seriously, I really love Cubanisimo's wines) and I got too stargazy...

After lunch, we walked around downtown Salem a bit where I discovered Cherry Redd (careful with the link, this may not be work appropriate for some of you). Bought myself these fab shoes:

After all that walking and shoe-trying-on, it was time for dessert so we stopped at Napolean's Creperie and Gelato. Everyone ordered gelato, of course, but I was hearing the siren call of the espresso affogato.

It was creamy and rich. Which I deserved because I worked very hard earlier. You know, trying on shoes and eating.

Eat, drink, and always give out your business card.

* Yes, I realize I spelled "pair" differently - it was a play on the fact that Adam and I have been child-free for three weeks. Get it? We're the Wild Pair. But my post here is about Wild Pear. Clever, right? Right?