FAVORITE THINGS – 2013

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RESTAURANTS:
I finally made a trip to Ana Sortun’s eastern Mediterranean inspired restaurant Oleana in Cambridge this summer.   After a visit to the Gropius House with artist Rebecca Roberts, on a triple digit day, we headed over to Cambridge and braved the back patio at Oleana for an awesome small plates dinner. The kaleidoscopic mezze choices were layered with concentrated flavors and just the right amount of heat.  The wine and drink list is especially thoughtful toward these multifaceted dishes, this place is a gem!  Oleana

Schoepf’s BBQ in Belton Texas is an institution for locals and the service men and women from Fort Hood.  For moi, it is the perfect lunch stop on the Dallas to Austin drive to visit my nephew.  Enter the sweltering smoke house and place your meat Belton TXorder by the pound.  In addition to the usual BBQ carne, pork, chicken, brisket, sausage and turkey breast, this joint even has quail.  Move on to the air-conditioned main restaurant to order your sides, don’t miss the potato salad with ample amounts of Brisket Platerefreshing vinegar and crunchy celery, the perfect counterpart to the fatty ribs.  Dig in with your hands and wash it all down with a shinerbock!
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Calliope French Bistro in the east village in Manhattan is the closest experience to dining on the left bank this side of the Atlantic.  It was the ideal place to celebrate a Francophile’s birthday. Manhattan is full of impressive French bistros, but this one goes above and beyond in authenticity. The appetizer Tete de porc, sliced paper thin and tossed with red onions and pickles and parsley, salty and refreshing, not fatty at all.  The eggs mayonnaise perfectly cooked with soft yolks enrobed in a silky gorgeous “real” mayo.  We each ordered a pasta, the rabbit pappardelle is their signature dish, tender rabbit legs with peas in a white wine shallot and herb sauce, delicate and concentrated.  My hot and sour lamb neck with mascarpone agnolotti had just the perfect amount of spice.

 

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Vancouver BC
PLACES:
VANCOUVER, BC

I was fortunate to return to the Pacific Northwest this last spring, visiting old friends in Seattle and my niece Christine who has settled in Vancouver, BC.  I spent a decade in Seattle and would visit Vancouver every chance I could.  The city hasn’t changed much except for the profusion of more glass and steel Christine and Walt at Saltskyscrapers.  Highlights were a visit to Salt tasting room, down an alley in Gastown, where we had the local BC wines and cheese tasting.  Stanley Park and Granville market haven’t changed a bit and the sloping geography of the city allows for spectacular views from every neighborhood.  This is a great multicultural city and the perfect place to sample the authentic cuisines from every corner of the world.

 

Christine’s boyfriend Walt and family, Canadian’s with roots in Sri Lanka, took us to an amazing South Indian restaurant, House of Dosas.  The dosa’s were gigantic, crisp and delicate and the curry’s delicious.  A specialty of the house is poppers, bowl shaped dosa’s with a poached egg in the bowl and curry on top. IMG_2371

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stanley Park

BEACON, NY   The art rarely changes at Dia Beacon, but I never tire of seeing the collection of minimalist installations in different seasons in the daylight only galleries. Among my favorite’s are the Dan Flavin florescent light sculptures and how they play with the natural light through the grided factory windows.  Indulge in the shaker goodness of the Agnes Martin’s and the On Kawara room, a peaceful homage to time, moments and craftsmanship.  Don’t miss the exquisite Louise Bourgeois pieces in the attic, a wonderful organic contrast to the minimalist work.

Agnes Martin - Dia BeaconThe good news is Beacon the town, just a 90 minute drive north from Manhattan, is finally starting to catch up to its main attraction.  Check out the downtown area, stop into The Hop for house made The Hop -Beacon NYcharcuterie, local cheeses, craft beers and ciders.  The David Rockwell designed old mill building, The Roundhouse, now a farm to table restaurant, boutique hotel and spa is a perfect place for an outdoor cocktail and snack and sits right on the waterfall.  Afterwards rub elbows with the local artist’s at dogwood, a downhome tavern/pub with a great selection of cocktails and craft beers.
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Wine:

Marilyn was right, drink more champagne!  We toasted the new year with Alfred Gratien Rose Champange, a delicious barrel fermented, barrel aged rose champagne. IMG_2234 This rich and opulent full-bodied champagne is from a small grower producer and a great deal compared with other rose champagnes.

 Let’s make a resolution to celebrate more in 2014!

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Eat, drink, create and be grateful, Happy 2014 – xo Carlita
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Austin: Cinema Paradiso

How cool is Austin?

When I told my old graduate school friend, Michael Pittard, of the Austin based online clothing company Supermaggie, I was coming to visit, he replied, “get ready to look at real estate, everyone who visits from the Big Apple wants to buy a place.”

A four day three night jaunt through Richard Linklater territory left me wanting to probe deeper into this stew of youth, politics, culture and cowboy coolness………It was a genius move by my nephew to choose the best college and food town in America and hitch his laptop at St. Edward’s University for the next four years. The trip was fast and furious and I’m looking forward to my next visit already.  Had a great time with my sis and brother-in-law and we packed all the food adventures possible in 3 days…

Here are a few highlights…….

Clarke’s oyster bar, is the little brother to Perla’s seafood on Congress street.  The small intimate space has a New England retro feel with sherbert colors and tables lining the outside with misters.  We ordered a mix of oysters from the east and west coast washed down with a bottle of muscadet,.  The menu focuses on seafood, simply prepared with some riffs on classic dishes along with all the latest food trends: steak tartare, shells and cheese crab gratin, grilled kale etc.  If I did invest in that little Austin bungalow, this would be the perfect after work hangout for cocktails and oysters.  The creative wine list ping pongs around the globe and hits some classic and esoteric seafood friendly bottles. Service was A plus and the wait staff well versed on the oyster selections and wines.  Love this place, see ya’all at Clarke’s on my next trip!

Jo’s coffee is the perfect outdoor coffee kiosk, right next to the super cool mid-century designed, Hotel San Jose.  Get the $3.00 breakfast burrito with hot sauce, a cup of joe and watch the world go by…..

Joe's Coffee, Austin

While in the neighborhood, stop at Allens Boots, a dark, low ceiling temple to cowboy wear.  The cavernous, New York city dollar store interior, is penetrated with piercing sunlight from the small windows in front,  just another Austin cinematic moment!  The boot selection is gigantic, just walk down the aisles and smell that leather!

Snack Bar, San Jose Motel

Hopdoddy burger bar is part of the “new breed” of fast food joints following in the footsteps of Shake Shack,  and Chipotle, local natural ingredients,  choices, service and booze.   This burger palace has outdone the competition with a wider selection of food items from appetizers to burger to salads.  The assembly line is impressive, from the burger bouncer at the door to the obvious bar stop on the way to the food counter.  My sis got a beergrita, a frozen margarita with an upside down mini IMG_3149corona inside that slowly marries with the margarita…only in Texas!   When we finally reached the food counter, a hostess took our info to find us a table, no food orders are taken until a table is open. Once your order is in, the hostess gives you a table number and a waiter brings the food and solicits more drink orders.  A fine-tuned machine that turns tables quickly and has your credit card swiping at every stop.  Hopdoddy are certainly doing their part to bolster employment and hopefully the workers are making above average wages.  Definitely my nephew’s new date spot!

Hopdaddys

Amy’s ice crèams has some inventive flavors with chop-ins.  I opted for the stout ice cream which had some wonderful sweet caramel and bitter notes…………Ok, beer and ice cream really can play together! Time to try that Shiner Bock ice creme recipe on Homesick Texan!

Amy's Ice Cream

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Our last night dinner was at Eddie V’s steakhouse.  Décor is contemporary and rustic, dark and comfy.  Service was stellar, the waiter even compted my halibut with morel and fava bean sauce when he eyed the tiny bones on my plate.  This is a great special occasion place and perfect for graduation dinner.

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Driskill Hotel, Austin, TX

The Driskill Hotel is the jewel in the crown of downtown Austin.  The elegant old world façade is a timely contrast to the newer steel and glass skyline of the city.   The cocktail lounge is a scene out of the John Dahl movie Red Rock West, stately with dark wood, leather couches, cowboy art and live music.  Maybe that was Richard Linklater in the corner couch with those LA types…….ok, too dark to tell but I’m sure this is the site of many movie deals…..

haven't seen one of these in a long time!

Next trip:

Anywhere my nephew takes me..

Table shuffleboard

The bats!

Live music!

Jefferey’s and Josephine House, Bon Appetites top new restaurant…

Food trucks!

More live music!

BBQ!

The Lakes!

St Edward's Campus

St Edward’s Campus

I hope you find this foodtruck Koray..

Carlita’s 2012 Favorites…….

Sculpture complex, Glass House

Good art, significant art, great art is firmly rooted in the past as much as it projects into the future.  2012 was a year of exploring new edges of old boundaries.  Here are some of my favorites from the last 12 months.

Books:

Two new cookbook indulgences:  Faviken, by Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson and SPQR by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco’s A16 and SPQR.  The food photography and graphics are stunning while the food and techniques are rooted in tradition, challenging and reinventing along the way.  These books will consume me over the next year.Sweetbreads and Swiss Chard - Faviken

Faviken is a restaurant in the remote Swedish countryside that looks backwards and backwoods to sourcing most ingredients locally.  Chef Magnus Nielsson grew up hunting and gathering, and worked in some of the finest French culinary temples before returning to his roots to start Faviken.  His mad scientist approach to butchering, aging meat, coaxing flavor out of autumn leaves, pickling etc. are ancient and modern at the same time.  Opening a 12 seat restaurant in the outback of Sweden using only local ingredients (this is Viking country) is a far fetched dream and I’m glad he followed his.

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SPQR is a stunning book with amazing photography and excellent descriptions of technique.   The two chefs from San Francisco travel the old roman roads to explore Italy’s regional culinary traditions and then do their own riff on updating them.  Each chapter covers a region with recipes and local wines and obscure indigenous grapes.   This book is definitely for a more experienced cook or chef and incorporates sous vide among other cutting edge techniques.

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Adam Gopnik, The Table Comes First:  France, Family and the Meaning of Food.  Each chapter is rich and dense with food history, tradition and modern day reverie on our most base urge to gather and feast.  It took me a while to get through this and I savored every chapter like a salt caramel.

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Charles Pohlmann Sketchbook

Places:

Istanbul is the place to be right now.  A strong economy is driving the growing art scene along with an emerging wine and established food culture.  Check out the Taxsim area in Beyoglu for cool boutique hotels, vintage shopping and art galleries.IMG_1066

Philip Johnson’s Glass House, near New Canaan Connecticut.  Imagine a mad men style cocktail party in a glass house outfitted with mid-century everything and replace the ad men with artists, dancers and architects.  Besides it’s inclusion in art history books, the glass house and compound served as martini central for New York’s artist and literati who were just a train ride away from this country paradise.

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Restaurants:

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Adelina’s Fraschetta Romana, in Greenpoint Brooklyn, takes it’s inspiration from the blue-collar wine bars of Rome.  The house specialty is Pizza Fritta Montanara of Naples origin, a deep-fried pizza crust, finished in the oven with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and various toppings.  Owner Toby Buggiani, a Roman/American worked on his crust IMG_1448recipe for years and makes his mozzarella in house.  In addition to the stellar pizza, Adelina’s serves an award winning brunch, Italian soul food, pastas, sides and salads.  All the wines and a few local beers are on tap.  Prices and portions are generous along with daily specials and a killer house salad.  If I lived in Greenpoint, this place would be my home away from my own kitchen.   Toby’s father Paolo, a street and performance artist of renown from the Art Povera movement, lent his talent to the walls, and has just completed a new light painting.   In addition Toby’s wife, decorator Alexandra Abuza coordinated the décor, apparently it’s all in the family, Nonna would be proud!

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The Bishops Arts District seems to grow every time I return to Dallas.  Driftwood, a fish/seafood restaurant in heart of the district looks like a transplanted seafood diner ala 1970’s Santa Cruz.  IMG_2045Wooden blinds, driftwood art and mid century fixtures create a fun relaxing vibe. The family loved it, food took a while but everything was cooked to perfection with layers of flavor and A plus presentation.

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Visual Arts:

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Leonardo Drew show at Sikkema Jenkins, in the art world bigger is not always better but this show was a giant.

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Louis Belcourt at Jeff Bailey, formal abstraction, landscape, architecture, color and light, chopped up and re-configured.  Some of this work was damaged in Chelsea during hurricane Sandy.  Oil paintings are tough and I’m sure the conservators will work their magic restoring them.

Wines:

These are two favorites of mine this year that won’t break the bank.  Versatile with food or on their own, they are well made wines that your guests will love, available for under $16 at Premier Cru

Giribaldi Dolcetto, Shaya-Verdejo

Red:  Giribaldi Dolcetto 2010, Piedmont, Italy.  Everything a dolcetto should be, light, bright and bitter.

White: Shaya,old vine verdejo from Rueda Spain 2011,a luscious full body satin texture, starts with a wallop of guava and orange flower and ends with a hint of white pepper and mineral.

Happy 2013!

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APPLE PICKING IN VERMONT-GASTRONOMEG VISIT

Ahhhhh, autumn in Vermont!  I’ve just returned from a quick visit to East Dover Vermont to visit Gastronomeg, Jason and their two girls Charlotte and Madeline.  I’ve been missing Meg’s posts on the vinartculture blog, but she has her hands full with Charlotte and Maddie, one and three.  On top of the girls, she has a large vegetable garden that feeds the extended family and they just added 15 new chicks to their coup.

We started the visit off with a Chenin Blanc fest.  I brought a Francois Chidaine Montlouis, les tuffeaux 2008, and Meg had a Champalou Vouvray 2010.  Loire chenin blanc can vary greatly according to winemaker, vintage, style and microclimate.  The Champalou was much leaner with tart apple,  mineral and bracing acidity.  A classic dry vouvray and perfect to start with.  Chidaine’s Montlouis tuffeaux is a combination of all of his vineyard sites and was fuller in body, rich and tropical, honeyed and all balanced out with great acidity.  It was a perfect companion to Meg’s roasted cabbage, slow sauteed onion, bacon and blue cheese tart.  The blue cheese was Blue Ledge Farm Middlebury Blue, a nice creamy not too salty cow blue was perfect.   The pastry crust was a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and white and the slight nuttiness was perfect with the fall flavors.  We also had a salad of fresh greens from the garden and an amazing squash/chestnut soup……recipe to follow.

The next morning we took the girls apple picking at an organic orchard, Dwight Miller and Son, near East Dummerston, VT.  Maddie got her first bee sting as we competed with the stripped beasts for the late September crop.  Charlotte was the official variety taster!  Besides the rome, gaja and red delicious apples I picked up some pears, maple syrup and eggs from the farm as Meg’s chicks haven’t started producing yet.

Meg adapted this recipe from a Jean George recipe where he used celeriac.  I’ve adapted it from her, paring down the quantity for my NYC apartment.   I’ve just discovered dried chestnuts at my Italian grocery store and reconstituted them and would probably be best soaked overnight.  I know Meg often uses canned chestnuts, I’ve seen at Wholefoods and other stores. Of course you can roast your own but for so few it is a lot of work.  The chestnuts immortalized in Christmas songs never quite live up to my imagination.  The truth is they sound and smell more interesting than they actually taste.  Last winter I picked up a cone of chestnuts from a vender in Central Park that were dry, chalky and bland.  They do make a nice blank palette to support other flavors and are a great way to add some starch and texture to a dish.  You could make this soup vegan, without the cream adding a few more chestnuts to add a great velvety touch.

Squash/Chestnut soup

4 servings

Roast an acorn/butternut or delicate squash – one large or two small.

I tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

8-10 chestnuts – jar or dried work just fine

2 leeks

1 quart chicken broth or veggie broth

¼ cup cream or half and half

salt and pepper

Roast the squash, let cool and scoop out the insides and discard the skin.  Cut two leeks crosswise into ½ inch rounds, make sure to check for dirt.  Saute the leeks in I T butter and 1 T grape seed oil.  When leeks are cooked down and starting to color, add the diced apple, cook for 5 minutes.  Be sure to salt and pepper at this stage so the salt can build, you won’t need as much.  Add the squash, chestnuts and broth and cook for 45 minutes and puree with your hand blender.  Add the cream and let it cook for a few minutes more and turn off the heat.

So long Vermont……….see you in the Spring!

ISTANBUL – COFFEE BREAK

Coffee Break at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

I’m still digesting my April trip to Istanbul and finding great ways to utilize the goods I brought back from the spice market. Turkey is a culinary paradise and right now Istanbul is leading the way with a strong economy, growing contemporary art scene and emerging wine culture. I’m lucky to have family in the city so I get the inside scoop on all the recent happenings!

The food culture is too vast to write about in one post, so I’ll start with the most common beverage besides raki, Turkish coffee. Coffee houses in Istanbul date back to the 1640’s and continue to be an integral part of a culture filled with ritual, history and folklore. As part of a wedding ritual, the groom’s family is invited to the bride’s family home to ask permission and blessings upon the union. The bride prepares Turkish coffee for the group but in the groom’s cup she adds salt instead of sugar. Of course his reaction to the bitter concoction will determine his patience and social skills, suck it up guys! I guess this is what separates the boys from the men!

Turkish coffee is unique from espresso in its preparation of boiling the water and grounds together. You can make Turkish coffee with any type of coffee, what makes it uniquely Turkish is the ground, very fine, and the slow boiling of water with grounds in a one handled pot. There are grinders for Turkish coffee, or you can use an espresso grind and then grind it finer with a mortar and pestle. Sometimes milk is added and also spices such as cardamom, mastic or coconut. Here is a great site that tells you everything you need to know to make the perfect cup.

The Turkish table is designed as a communal experience. There are small plates for eating and serving, and the utensils go beyond fork, knife and spoon with tiny cups for coffee and tea. I admire all the attention to detail and appreciate the love, labor and dishwashing involved in all the jigsaw puzzle pieces required for a proper meal. As a child I had two different tea sets and I loved the activity of taking all the parts, cups, saucers, spoons and pot out of it’s original box and setting up for a tea party. The tea itself was secondary to the thrill of handling the fragile parts, many already glued together, of the set that spent most of the year tucked away on a high shelf. It was a convivial, proustian sort of moment with everyone grasping the saucer in one hand and delicately lifting the cup up by the tiny handle. It was so tres chic, sophisticated and important, a celebration of small things, which at the time seemed not so small.

In Turkish coffee shops adults, male and female, young and old bring the diminutive cup of bitter elixir up to their lips with a determined elegance, judging just how much liquid to sip before they hit the muddy bottom. A small shot of caffeine along with a Turkish delight or small baklava is a great pick me up in just the right size package, Mayor Bloomberg approved portions!

When visiting Istanbul be sure and stop at any of the local coffee shops usually outfitted with hookahs and a great place to ask directions or restaurant advice. These places do tend to be male dominated but here are a few my favorite places that are visitor friendly:

Holy Coffee, ph. 02122436869.
An excellent east meets west coffee house in the Taxim area of Beyoglu. This part of the city is right up the hill from the Istanbul Modern, an up and coming hip neighborhood full of art galleries, boutique hotels, antique shops and home to the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. The owner, Arzu studied film in LA, traveled the world working on Cruise ships before coming back home to open Holy Coffee. Besides excellent coffee, all the cakes and goodies are made in house. We even met an old Turkish film star who seems to be a fixture here!

Coffee House in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. This museum is in the Sultanahmet square, close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. A great small museum you can get through in an hour or two full of regional examples of Turkish tilework, rugs and calligraphy. Inside the courtyard is a coffee house devoted to the education of Turkish coffee culture. It is also a great place to pick up supplies for making Turkish coffee and some excellent Turkish Delight and other sweet goodies.

ROADTRIP – VISIONS OF ITALY ON THE CONNECTICUT COAST

Bufalina is a tiny wood fired pizza joint in Guilford, Ct owned by Melissa Pellegrino and Matteo Scialabba, chefs and co-author’s of the Italian Farmer’s Table cookbooks.  The small 325 square foot space in an old carriage house on Boston Post Road is just off of I-95, exit 59.  A quaint oasis amidst strip malls, fast food restaurants and a CVS pharmacy, and the perfect half way stop on my way home from Boston.  I’m a big fan of their books on agriturismi cooking which highlight the fresh, local, seasonal and creative farmhouse cuisine of Italy.   Matt and Melissa traveled throughout Italy working on sustainable farms with agriturismi, recording recipes and absorbing local and regional traditions from each location.  Yes, this is my dream job in another life!  In addition they worked at some of the best New York City bakeries and restaurants before settling in their hometown to bring a taste of Italia to the Connecticut coast. 

I arrived at Bufalina around 6:00 and Matthew was working the oven.  The space holds about 8-10 seats situated at a counter that surrounds the wood-burning oven.  They do take reservations and seem to do a good deal of take-out.  There are also tables out back along with planters of herbs and even a small fig tree.

I decided to go for the name-sake Bufalina which had a lightly charred crust, a bright tomato sauce and the ever-creamy buffalo mozzarella with torn basil leaves and washed it down with an aranciata.  The menu consists of 10 pizzas and one salad and for now is BYOB.  The special pizzas utilize local farms seasonal produce, sweet Italian frying pepper and sausage and orchard white peach, prosciutto and provolone.  This is a soulful place on a not so soulful looking strip.  My only regret is I forgot to get my copy of their new book Southern Italian Farmer’s Table signed……oh well, next trip.

Carlita’s 2011 favorites…

A few highlights from 2011!

San Antonio Tex Mex- In March I headed south to San Antonio, birthplace of tex-mex, for my niece Amy’s wedding.  We stayed on the river walk but the best food was at the catered wedding and rehearsal dinners.  The groom’s family, native’s of San Antonio,  treated us to an awesome brunch the following day at La Fonda on Main, the oldest Mexican restaurant in San Antonio opened 1932.

Jura wine dinner-chicken with morels, etc, etc…thanks Beth Baye for the most memorable dinner party, what a line up! Dom Berthet-Bondet, Puffeney, Bourdy, Dom Montborgeau…….

Favorite recipe: Poblanos stuffed with herbed goat cheese with a fresh corn sauce and sliced heirloom tomatoes.  An impromtu summer dinner party with the best of the August farmer’s market…

Meg’s bread-she has been perfecting this recipe for years and swears by the bread bible.  Made with a combination of flours and starter and baked in a regular oven, these loaves come out crusty and rustic.

Book:  Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter – She came in through the back door, one chef who has not sold out to the cult of celebrity.

Cookbook:  Ron Suhanosky, The Italian Table-from the former chef of Sfoglia and now of Nonna’s Table, a small take out establishment in upper Manhattan.  A refreshing update on rustic Italian.

Restaurant: Turkish Kitchen – My friend and fellow Turkeyphile Stacy Greene treated me to a birthday celebration at the Turkish Kitchen.  Haven’t been in years and the joint has gone white tablecloth, French service.  It’s nice to see a NYC Turkish restaurant go beyond Kabobs and play up the elegance of this under-rated cuisine.

Wine:  Anything from Louis Dressner Selections.   Sadly, founder Joe Dressner passed away this year and will be celebrated for his irreverence and herculean efforts to alter the wine landscape .  Thanks for paving the way Joe, now there are many small companies focusing on naturally made terroir driven wines.

Art:  Metropolitan Museum of Art – the met is on a roll with newly designed galleries and excellent shows from Alexander McQueen, Indian miniatures to Italian portraits.  A great way to spend a Friday night with wine, music and art….