Thursday, December 18, 2014

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs with Robibero Family Vineyards Vinomad

It's winter and this is a great recipe to make for a cold winters day.  Especially when you want your oven on to keep the house warm.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Robibero Family Vineyards Vinomad, not only will the oven keep you house warm, so will the wine (make sure to pour yourself a glass first. Vinomad is 88% Merlot 12% Cabernet Franc and retails for about $30

2 shallots chopped
1 onion chopped
3 carrots chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2.5 lbs beef short ribs
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs olive oil
2 1/2 cups Vinomad
2 cups beef broth
salt & pepper

Dredge ribs in flour. Heat oil in a dutch oven and brown ribs on all sides.  Set aside.  Add to the dutch oven, shallots, onion and carrots.  Saute for about 4 minutes.  Add wine and broth. Bring to a boil.  Add ribs.  Make sure ribs are completely covered.  You might need to add more wine or broth. (your choice, in was wine)

Bake in oven at 350 for 2.5 - 3 hours.  The meat should be falling off the bone.

Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans, or over noodles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Your Presents Is Appreciated

The sun poking through the clouds is a welcome gift from the heavens, and a clutch of bicycles leans against the beer patio fence for the first time in eons. Inside, a trio of cyclists unwinds after making the ride from the City. Kevin Siwoff of Brooklyn and Alejandro Castro and Tom Lewis of Manhattan are celebrating their accomplishment with samples of Liquid Gold.

“Around a month ago, we talked about taking a ride,” says Kevin. “Tom said, Captain Lawrence has tours and a tasting room. It was, need he say more?”

The guys are also enjoying the beers they don’t normally see down in the five boroughs, including the Hop Commander IPA and the Smoked Porter.

Speaking of welcome gifts, we chat about our greatest Christmas/Hanukkah/Chrismukkah presents ever. For Kevin, it was a Sega Genesis he and his brother got when they were boys. For Alejandro, it was his first guitar—a pink, green and white Ibanez that he still has.

Across the tasting room on a mellow Sunday, Jack Horn of Ossining has gifted himself with a panini from the Birdsall House boys—for what it’s worth, the housemade meatball and cheese is delightful--along with the Sea Nymph, a calypso pale ale. He had initially moved to Pleasantville not long after Captain Lawrence opened in the village in 2005, and was elated to discover he could walk there. “I remember when Scott (Vaccaro), his mom and his dad were the three people there,” he says.

These days, Jack, a biology professor at Pace, hops on his bike to visit Captain Lawrence. He does a loop from Pleasantville down to Elmsford, over to Tarrytown and Briarcliff and back, using a slice of the same rail trail that Kevin, Tom and Alejandro took from the City, and stopping at Captain Lawrence for grub and a few samples.

Asked about his favorite Christmas gift ever, Jack thinks for a moment before his face lights up. Fittingly, it was a unicycle he got when he was 7.

Elsewhere in the room, Donna Engelese and Lee Rogers have opted for transportation of the four-wheeled variety—hailing from Easton, Pennsylvania, they’re on a brewery tour that included Newburgh Brewing, Rushing Duck in Chester, NY, and Peekskill Brewery. “This is what we do,” says Lee. “Every time we go somewhere, we plan to see the breweries.”

Lee knows his breweries; after all, he works in the Weyerbacher tasting room back in Easton. He’s digging the Captain’s Kolsch, while Donna goes for a heartier brew. “I’m an IPA person,” she says, adding that the Brown Bird Ale and Birdsall’s cheese plate make for a “nice combo.”

Best Christmas gifts? Ones they got for themselves, or perhaps each other, just a month ago. Lee and Donna ventured to Belgium on a beer tour. “Seven breweries and countless cafes,” Lee says dreamily.

Speaking of beer tours, the 2 p.m. tour lets out. Old school punk plays on the house system. No one is home watching the Giants, though some are discussing Big Blue. “When Eli has enough time to throw, he makes bad decisions,” says one guy. “When he doesn’t have enough time, he rushes—and makes bad decisions.”

The German-style Kolsch also has fans in Shetara Melvin of Wappingers Falls and Rich Conte of North Salem. They dug the massive imperial stout known as Frost Monster too. “Very good,” says Shetara. “Strength,” sums up Rich of the 12% ABV, roundhouse-right of a beer.

Greatest Christmas gifts ever? Rich got an Atari 2600 handed down from his dad, along with memorable games such as Joust, Donkey Kong and Centipede. “I was very impressionable at that age,” he says. (As if anyone needs to explain their love for Atari 2600!)

Shetara beams as she recalls an EZ Bake oven. “I made my own candy bars!” she says.

The oven was eventually passed along to her sister, and then to Shetara’s niece-- cranking out candy bars all the while.

Sometimes, your greatest present ever isn’t one y ou get. Amanda Audia, who works the tasting room door, pairing up people with their all-important beer chips, was pleased to reach an age where she could make her own money, and was able to buy a new TV for Dad and a blender for Mom.

“Giving gifts,” Amanda says, “has always been more rewarding to me.”

—Michael Malone (

Captain Lawrence Brewing, at 444 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, is open Wednesday through Friday (4-8 p.m.), Saturday (12-6 p.m.) and Sunday (12-5). The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in India Pale Ale. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Give the Gift of a Wine Club

One of the best compliments was when I gave a 6 month subscription to the California Wine Club as a wedding present.  The bride told me that was the best wedding gift they received.

So this Holiday Season give the gift of a wine club.  Here are some suggestions to find the right wine club for that person on your list.

Know the person you are buying for.  Don't try to impress them with expensive bottles that they themselves aren't going to be able to purchase.  You want to make this fun and enjoyable.

Do they like red or white?  There are some wine clubs that you can specify for the white or red wine drinker.

What region do you want to introduce them to?

Then decide on the amount of months you are going to gift them.  There are usually 3, 6, 12 month subscriptions or quarterly.

Here are some suggestions:

California Wine Club This wine club offers  a few regional clubs.  You can subscribe to the Premier Series is a great introduction to the California wine scene.  The average bottle price here ranges from $10-$15.  One step us is their Signature Series as these wines are usually priced $25 and up. If you want to expose your friend to the international scene try their International Series.  With this club they will recieve hancrafted wines from all around the world.  The prices for the wine are $19 up.  If Washington State or Oregon wines are their favorite, they have a Pacific Northwest Series where they will receive wines from Oregon and Washington's small family wineries.  The prices on the wine here begin around $20 up.

Vintners Collective If you looking to send the gift of big California reds, this is the club to get.  Many of the wines are from small boutique wineries that often don't have tasting rooms.

Oregon Pinot Noir Club This is a great club to experience Oregon Pinot Noir. There are three levels to choose from.  Most of the selections are on the higher end wines.  What is nice is as a member you also have access to purchase Futures in the fall. Average price per bottle is $30

Club W Experience Here you can design a club based on their tasting profiles, so you will need to know your friend well.  The average price per bottle in this club is $13

Tasting Room by Lot 18 This is another profile based wine club.  Here they will receive a tasting kit of 5 mini bottles of wine to try.  From there they can set up their profile to receive the regular size bottles every month based on their preferences.

Also don't forget you favorite winery.  Many wineries offer wine clubs.  If you think your friend will like those wines, set them up with a subscription.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Food & Wine Pairings with Mary Cressler

Last year I did a great podcast with Mary Cressler on holiday food and wine pairings and what to look for when in the wine store.  T'is the season and I thought it would be beneficial to re-post the post and podcast to help you with your holiday wine purchases and pairings.

Holiday food and wine pairing decisions can be more stressful than holiday shopping.  When you walk into that wine shop you can be completely overwhelmed with the choices you have in front of you.  What wine to pair with your dinner, dessert and then after you make the purchase you hope it was the correct one.

In this podcast we sit down with Mary Cressler, wine writer, blogger and consultant at Vindulge as she dishes out some great advice on looking for that bottle(s) for the dinner and celebration.

Remember, you are the host and as a host it's great to introduce your guests to new wines.  Don't be afraid to go a little out of your comfort zone for that new wine.

Some thoughts for your food pairings on your holiday table:

Serving Fish, salty and fried pair with a Sparkling.  Sauvignon Blanc for light delicate white fish. Spanish Albarino goes well with seafood.  Avoid red and tannic wine but a nice Pinot Noir with Salmon is a nice pairing.

Serving prime rib, roast beef or a big chunk of meat  go for the rich and tannic wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, or Tempranillo from Rioja.  You want a rich and full bodied red wine.

Serving a pork roast  or tenderloin, go with a Rhone style wine,.  Syrah or Grenache.

After you are all done with dinner comes my favorite, dessert.  For this reach for the  Port and Ice wine.

Most of all find a trusted wine shop that can steer you in the right direction.  Tell them your price range and if they make you feel uncomfortable, leave and don't shop there.

Listen to Mary and her great advice on what to look for in a wine and how to choose a bottle for your holiday dinner and celebration.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room: Finding ‘Gold’ in the Gray, Or, Drinkin’ With Lincoln


Miserable, cold, plans-crushing, muck-making rain, falling in silvery sheets all week.

Not much to do on a day like this, except grab some friends and find a warm, dry place to hang. Such as Captain Lawrence.

Ryan O’Keefe of New Fairfield, Connecticut, chooses to look on the bright side. “I’m glad it slowed down a bit,” he says, “so the Saw Mill won’t flood.”

Ryan and Mike Galella of Yonkers have indeed found some fun indoor stuff to do—climbing the faux rocks at The Cliffs in Valhalla, then retiring for a few samples at the brewery. Mike is intrigued by a new small-batch pale ale called Sea Nymph. “Very interesting,” he says. “It’s got kind of sweet thing, kind of a sour thing going on.”

Mike works outside at times, setting up sound systems. The rain is no damn fun. “It just sucks,” he says.

His tattoo captures the mood: It’s a one eyed caricature in an Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat and beard, wielding a club. “Ogreham Lincoln,” explains Mike.

Across the room, it’s Matt Somerville of Orange, Connecticut’s first time at the brewery, and the visit has only gotten better. “I got to the parking lot and thought, ehhh,” he says. (Note: the once muddy brewery lot along Clearbrook was recently paved. Matt should’ve seen it before.). “But we walked in, and it was, Nice!”

He’s got the Liquid Gold. “Very drinkable,” says Matt of the Belgian-style ale. “I would not think it’s 6.5% ABV.”

Pal Juan Cabrera is, like many in the tasting room, enjoying the Pumpkin Ale while it lasts. “I just love pumpkin flavors,” he says. “Fall is my favorite season, probably because of pumpkin.”

The guys are taking the foul weather in stride. “If it was great weather, we’d be outside,” says Matt. 
“The weather is bad, so we’re inside.”

“Drinking at Captain Lawrence,” adds Juan, “is not too bad.”

With the patio a no-go, the tasting room is filling up. One group has spread out the board game Cranium across a table. At another, a toddler stacks Dad’s beer chips like a seasoned gambler. People sample the offerings from the new menu from the good folks of Birdsall House, including housemade meatball & cheese panini and a puree butternut squash soup.

Clearly people did not have their fill of pumpkin flavors at Thanksgiving. Mike Bailey of Little Ferry, New Jersey and Jillian Turcott of Woodcliff Lake are happy to find Pumpkin Ale on tap. It had run out during their last visit to the brewery, though they were pleased to find it on draft at the restaurant they visited after Captain Lawrence. Mike says most pumpkin ales taste like pumpkin pie, while the Captain Lawrence brew is more of a pumpkin spice thing. “I love all types of pumpkin,” he says.

The pair has returned a few times since they first visited Captain Lawrence a couple months before. It seemed like the perfect thing to do today. “I hate the rain,” says Mike. “But I don’t mind being here.”

“Same,” adds Jillian with a smile.

The 2 p.m. tour winds down and the tourists hit the tasting room for a well deserved sample, be it the Captain’s Reserve double IPA, the Smoked Porter, the new Kolsch called Tis the Season. Sarah O’Mealia, Kate Saksik and Emily Cleghorn, along with Emily’s 2 ½ year old Madeline, hopped in a Zip Car van with their husbands in Manhattan and made a day of it. The IPA known as Hop Commander is a “table favorite,” says Sarah. “I’m not crazy about hoppy beers,” she says, “but this one mellows out fast.”

Emily’s husband grew up in Belgium, which prompted her to try the Belgian-style Liquid Gold.

As their husbands—friends from Columbia Business School—order a fresh round, they agree that there are worse ways to spend a gray and wet day. “Bars get so crowded,” says Emily. “Here, you can talk.”

As Madeline climbs all over her, she adds, “It’s laid back--and it’s family friendly.”

--Michael Malone (

The author is paid by Captain Lawrence, partially in pale ale.

Monday, December 8, 2014

3 Books for the Wine Lover on your List

Whether the person on you list is to wine, likes wine or just wants to know about wine, here are three book suggestions on an overall get to know wine.

WineWise by Steven Kolpan, Michael A Weiss and Brian H Smith, all professors of wine at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

This is a get to know your wine and wine region book. They nicely explain the wine regions and also notable wines from the region, both inexpensive and expensive.

They spend time in California, Washington, Oregon and New York wine regions. Take you to South America and cover Chile and Arentina before heading Down Under to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

That about takes you half way through the book before you head to the European wine regions. Here you go into the major wine producing countries in detail.

They finish the book with food pairings and navigating through a restaurant wine list.

A good all around book for the person who wants some knowledge on wine. It sells for $24.68 on Amazon.

For the person who wants to take that wine course, but can't seem to fit it in their schedule, Kevin Zraly's, Windows on the world Complete Wine Course 30th Anniversary Edition is for them.  

This book makes you feel like you are in the classroom with Kevin.  There are QR Codes with links to explain pronunciations and a few videos along the way.  

He goes into the wine regions, wine and food, the major grapes of the region and more.  Even has a tasting worksheet and guidance on the wines to purchase for each tasting.  Yes you will be tasting. Don't let me forget the quizzes.  Don't be alarmed, but after each class (chapter) there is a quiz.  Just like attending wine school in person.

Kevin's Window on the World Complete Wine Course sells for $17.85 on Amazon

For you girlfriend that wants to know wine, I suggest the Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine.  This book, Barbara and Beverly speak to you about wine, girlfriend to girlfriend.  Even at times comparing wine to fashion and men. At times they will have you laughing so hard you might choke on that sip. 

Not sure how to shop for wine, don't worry they give your some good strategies for both purchasing on line and in your local wine shop.

Need some selections to pair with life events such as first date, wedding, first child, divorce, death. No worries, they take those feeling and pair it to a wine complete with explanation.

A fun book to learn about wine with a bunch of laughs on the way.  

The book sells for $9.97 on Amazon and is available on Kindle too.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Food Trucks and Fire Pits

On our way back from New York on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we stopped at Laurita Winery in New Egypt, New Jersey for Food Trucks & Fire Pits.  This was my first time at this winery and I had no expectations on what to expect.

The grounds were very impressive and huge.  It is clear this winery can accommodate a huge crowd on it's grounds for events.  The picture above is the food truck area that lead to a stage and the tasting room.

The tasting room area was beautiful and huge.  Two levels to taste and enjoy a bottle of wine and be warm.  They do make a variety of wine ranging from dry to sweet and chocolate and strawberry.  The winery is fairly new as they planted in 1998 and they had their first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 2003.  Today they produce between 14,000 and 16,000 cases.

After our tasting we purchased a bottle of Cabernet Franc and headed to find a fire pit to hang out at and some food.
Cab Franc & Fried Cheese Curds
There were fire pits all around the property and they supplied the firewood.  We found a nice fire pit to hang out at and met some new friends. Now it was time to make trips to the food trucks.
Chicken Tacos

Chicken Braciole Sandwich
What I didn't like about the event:
  • $8 to get into the event and free glass, $7 to do a tasting.  Why not just charge $15 or even $20 for admission, keep the glass and get a free tasting.
  • Being served Naked Chardonnay that was flawed with Ethyl Acetate (nail polish remover smell) and not having another bottle opened.
What I liked about the event:
  • Part of the admission went to charity. 
  • The grounds!  Very impressive and able to hold lots of people and not feel crowded
  • Very well organized
  • The shuttles to/from parking area ran very frequently
  • Great variety of food trucks!
  • Overall it was a great event!

The evening ended with fireworks, but unfortunately we didn't stay for them.  We were a bit chilly even though we were sitting by the fire.