Last week I had the pleasure of giving the 20th consecutive Wine 101 session, a basic introduction to wine for the senior class of my undergraduate school on Long Island, NY. It was an intimate affair; there are only 23 students in the class, which includes 2 students who are visiting for the semester from the University of Southampton in England. We tasted 11 wines, with a wide variety of terroirs represented: France, Spain, Italy, California, Arizona, Portugal, Israel and New Zealand.
As planned, I drove into NYC to spend three days and two nights exploring food and wine, and visiting with friends, in the city where I grew up. This post is primarily about my New York visit, similar to other adventures I have made bi-annually during the past few years.
What made this trip different was the forecast for dramatic snowfall in the city (12-18″), which began late the first night and significantly affected plans and activities for the next day. My first stop after checking in to a perfect Airbnb apartment in an ideal location was a visit to Eataly Vino, a delightful Italian wine store adjacent to Eataly’s flagship location on 23rd Street. I had purchased a case of wine there in November, but unfortunately, all the bottles did not arrive in time before I had to leave the city on the last trip, so my case rested peacefully in the Riserva section for four months, waiting for me to reclaim it.
One of the great charms of this store is the manager, Lenny Rankin, a modest but insightful and knowledgeable philosopher-king of the kind one often discovers in New York. After discussing wines for awhile, our conversation turned to the weather and the dire predictions for Wednesday (the next day). For weeks I had planned to visit my friends Jan and Jen on Wednesday night for dinner. In fact, Jan is a wine importer and supplier to Lenny, which is how I found the store in the first place.
I was equivocating about whether or not to keep our date, since it involved a long trip up to Harlem, where they lived. To get there would be impossible by taxi or Uber at rush hour during a heavy snow. Only the subway offered a reasonable alternative, but I would have to walk through the snow and slush to get to the subways, and I had not brought any boots from home, so I had images of cold, wet feet all night.
Lenny encouraged me to go there anyway. When he smiled at me and said, “if you’re not living on the edge, you are taking too much space,” I cracked up. He had me then and there. So the next day I stopped at a sporting goods store, bought a pair of waterproof boots (I needed new ones anyway), and made the trip without incident the next night.
In the meanwhile I have some food and wine to tell you about, since that’s why I was there in the first place. Tuesday’s lunch was at abc cocina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s upscale farm-fresh eatery which serves Latin American fusion food. It is only four blocks from my apartment, and since I had eaten at his vegetarian restaurant next door on my last trip, it was time to go Latin. It’s a beautiful place and the food is terrific. It was quite busy, but I got there just in time to get a table for one.
I was starved, so I started with an order of their spicy guacamole, which was incredibly delicious. The other dishes were the maitake mushrooms with goat cheese, and the charred octopus with smoked paprika crème fraiche — both excellent. For wine, I had a glass of cinsault/carignan from Chile, just right for the meal.
As always, I found Jean-Georges’ restaurant to be superb in every dimension.