Headlining Long Island restaurants, wine and spirit brands, nightclubs, entertainers, hotels and catering halls all joined together for the 2nd annual Long Island Hospitality Ball on Monday, June 18th, held to benefit the American Cancer Society. The brainchild of hospitality pioneer and thyroid cancer survivor, Keith Hart, the event was a true sensory delight, where over 150 hospitality businesses set up poolside stations showcasing their talents. Held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on a clear, almost-summer evening, finely-attired folks sampled the fare, tasted wines and liquors, danced, raffled, socialized and networked. At $100 per ticket, not only did folks fully enjoy themselves, they managed to collectively raise $220,000 toward a cancer cure!
Crest Hollow’s pool area was beautifully trimmed and brimming with party-goers. Each of its two small beach-like seating areas had live entertainment, and an upstairs room was pumping with DJ and later, the fun and funky, That 70’s Band. When the sun went down, lit-up bars drew in guests like fireflies. Enormous tikki torches were set ablaze. Lit-up waterfalls created serene spots within the hustle and bustle.
Slicing through the crowd with Skinny Girl margarita in hand, I sampled a bit of sushi from Nisen, some short ribs from Brasserie Cassis, oysters spiked with jalapeno vodka from Old Fields, ceviche from Besito and rigatoni with vodka sauce from Serata. For finales, I enjoyed a silky cannoli cream-filled sugar cone from Ciao Baby and decadent tiramisu cream-filled biscotti from the Garden City Hotel. I also tasted some phenomenal Long Island white wines, but unfortunately hit my limit right when I found a table offering caiparinhas. Full of food and fun from the ball, I opted out of the after party at Four Food Studio in Melville. Maybe next year…Miss Cinderella Ciao needed to go home!
This was an epic event and a true win-win – a delightful time while contributing to a great cause. The 2013 ball is already being planned. If you’re a Long Island foodie, don’t miss it.
With a last name like Nappa, it’s only natural he’d be a winemaker. Now Anthony Nappa’s got the space to let his and his colleague’s wines shine…
He and partner Sarah Evans, former sous chef at the North Fork Table and now private caterer, took what was once The Tasting Room and transformed it into the boutique-ey Winemaker Studio on the North Fork of Long Island on Peconic Lane in…you guessed it, Peconic. And it’s such a neat concept – an art gallery for local wines. The artists? Four local winemakers!
This vine-centric hub was designed to elevate a sense of camaraderie within the wine making and hospitality realms on the East End and further boost the wine industry in New York. Local wine offerings are rotated and include winemaker’s private labels, library selections and hard-to-find bottles. It’s also a really cool place where the masters can showcase their talents. Pushing the limits is highly encouraged – watch out for creative winemakers on the loose! The best part? Guests get to taste the fabulous results. I thoroughly enjoyed Anthony Nappa’s Anomaly, a lush white wine made with Pinot Noir grapes. It had an appropriate punch of acidity along with delicious essences of white cherry and strawberry. I purchased a few bottles and plan on serving it at my next Miss Ciao soiree.
Some cozy tables and a few resident pups make it easy to settle in with a glass or two of wine or even local beer. Local art from Corey Solinger enhances the pretty space. Small noshies from Chef Evans are planned to be offered in warmer months. So if you visit the North Fork, make the Winemaker Studio a must-stop on your vineyard trail. I’d love to hear feedback on any obscure wines you’ve tasted there. And no, James Lipton will not be present. I hear he drinks tea…
Not everyone likes Champagne (present blogger excluded). And only those that come straight from the vineyards of the Champagne region in France truly earn the title. Most of the bubbly you’ve been enjoying at weddings or popping open on New Years Eve are champagne-style, or sparkling wines, and have monikers like “spumante,” “Sekt” or, as most often seen with American versions, “methode Champenoise.”
Over the years, I’ve discovered most people either love or hate “champagne” because it’s so distinct. On the negative end I’ve heard, “It gives me a nasty hangover.” “The bubbles bother my nose.” “It makes me hiccough.” “It’s just tastes bad!” “Just give me the damn strawberries.” Etc., etc…
If it’s too dry, too sweet, too fizzy, too much, don’t fret. Simply reinvent your celebratory cocktail. Channel your inner Italian and switch to a dry, semi-sparkling Prosecco.
What is Prosecco? It’s the main ingredient in a Bellini cocktail, normally made from Glera, or Prosecco grapes. This tasty bright wine is considered an “everyday drink” in parts of Italy. Prosecco is also mixable (think Mimosas) although Miss Ciao prefers it straight. And unlike most aged Champagnes, should be consumed within six months to a year within purchase.
Up until the 1960s, Prosecco was made to be quite sweet, so in this case change is good! It comes in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) varieties. I prefer a dryer, frizzante Prosecco, such as Primaterra Prosecco, which I purchased at Stew Leonard’s for around $10. Once called “the Prosecco for the people,” it’s refreshing with bright, delicate bubbles that dance on the tongue. Totally quaffable and simply delicious, it is pale gold in color with aromas of green apples, pineapple and citrus with floral notes. Unlike some sparkling wines’ harsh finish, this one is soft and creamy. Yum.
And in this case, price does not reflect quality. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks making the wine less expensive to produce.
So add some carbonation to your next celebration. Whether it’s a wedding, divorce party, an “I-managed-to-land-a-job-in-this-crappy-economy” party, or what have you, pop open the Prosecco. Don Ho knew what he was talking about. Tiny bubbles rock.
The wine ritual is a beautiful thing. A gleaming, sexy glass is placed at your front. Your selection is seductively poured. You inhale gently and then take that first glorious sip. Or you swirl then sniff. Or you swirl, sniff, swish it around your mouth, swallow, sigh, look wistfully into the air and say something wine-ey like, “This lovely Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is crisp and acidic, with a hint of grass in its finish.” You sit back like a proud sommelier until your friend cradling a beer leans over, looks in your glass in between pirate swigs says, “You didn’t finish…you’ve got a whole glass there. And I like to drink my wine from a coffee mug.” Oh, how gauche.
Joshing aside, I do enjoy the fanfare surrounding wine at times. I like holding the sleek glass by the stem, going through the tasting process and knowing about the grapes, vineyards, regions and such. But overall, stuffiness and snobbery belongs at the bottom of the barrel because realistically, growing quality grapes is tough farm work. There’s very little glamour in the process. And most of the time you’re drinking wine to enjoy and kick back, not be intimidated. Your palate and even your choice of receptacle are individual. So if you’re feeling frisky, go ahead and quaff that big California Cab with some tuna tataki, darnit.
On a similar vein, there’s no need to spend a fortune on good wine. There are affordable, delectable selections that go well with any type of fare. For some excellent choices, check out this article I wrote for Woodbury Magazine on wines under $20 featuring the amazing Kevin Zraly, teacher of the Windows on the World Wine School. There are some food pairing suggestions, too. Now raise that gleaming glass or coffee mug and click me. Saluté!
One of my favorite things to do is visit the North Fork of Long Island. I fell in love with the region about 12 years ago when pumpkin picking during harvest season. Fall was in the air, along with the smell of roasted corn, Briermere’s pies and festive music coming from Palmer Vineyards. The strum of banjos beckoned our group inside.
I remember sitting on the deck that day with glass of wine in hand, listening to sweet harmonies while I gazed out on the perfectly placed rows of plump red and white grapes. While the sun warmed my face I thought, “Does it get any better than this?” Actually, it did. The only thing that was missing was baguettes and cheese. So, on my next visit to the NOFO, I loaded up on goodies from the Village Cheese Shop in Cutchogue on Love Lane prior to vineyard hopping. I explored the area more and more each time I went out, and there was always more to see.
Some years after I took a job writing for the Long Island Wine Gazette, and I discovered more vineyards, met important winemakers and covered some monumental vineyard events. I began to learn all about the wine making process. And I tasted a lot of wine because that’s the only way to learn each grape’s distinct characteristics. It takes lots of practice, but I’m willing to devote even more time on the NOFO and continue to taste, taste, taste. Ah, the sacrifices we make for love…