Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

Chicken Pastis: Liquor cabinet cookery

As most of our readers have already surmised, we are first and foremost wine drinkers. But we are also travelers, and sometimes the taste of place comes from a headier libation. Over the years, we have accumulated a liquor cabinet of spirits, apertifs, cordials, and what David's father used to call “snorts.” (When the last of the sipping whiskey was gone on a Sunday afternoon and the stores were all closed, he'd invariably go to the mixer cabinet and announce, “Let's have a snort!” Sometimes that meant an evening of Drambuie or anisette, but too sweet was better than dry.) Some of the bottles shown above are more than mere snorts. They make excellent sippers by themselves. It's just that we don't sit around sipping...Read More
Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Fomenting a wine revolution close to the Liberty Bell

Serious modern winemaking took root several decades ago in Pennsylvania, but a handful of small wineries just outside Philadelphia's western suburbs are expanding well beyond the presumed limits for Keystone State wine. This third post takes a quick look at three wineries a short drive from Philadelphia. One challenges conventional thinking about Italian grapes for Eastern Seaboard winemaking. Nestled in a suburban neighborhood, another proves that “backyard winery” is not just a California phenomenon. And yet another is systematically proving that Pennsylvania can produce wines that age beautifully into a voluptuous maturity. Vineyards speak for themselves at Vox Vineti Ed Lazzerini refers to Vox Vineti (Latin for “voice of the vineyard”) as a nano-winery because it produces 200-300 cases per year. But the vines are...Read More
Fine wines in horse-and-buggy Lancaster County

Fine wines in horse-and-buggy Lancaster County

While you're as likely to get stuck behind a horse-drawn buggy as a tractor on Lancaster County's rural roads, the region is more than straw-hat and gray-bonnet country these days. Historic dairy and row crop farming is giving way to vineyards and hop yards as farm wineries and craft breweries pop up in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Traditionally, this has been a region of fruit winemaking, followed at the end of the 20th century by a reliance on French-American hybrid grapes. Slowly but surely, wineries focused on traditional European wine grapes have begun to prove that Lancaster County is fertile soil indeed for well-made classic wines. In the quest to look at the future of Pennsylvania winemaking, I was able to visit a pair of very...Read More
Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

William Penn must be smiling somewhere. With more optimism than horticultural knowhow, the Quaker son of an English admiral planted a Philadelphia vineyard of French wine grapes in 1683. They soon died off, and what wine Pennsylvania made until the 20th century was largely vinted from native labrusca grapes. There are accounts that some Pennsylvania wine was well-received in London in the 1760s, but the correspondent might have been merely polite. There's no longer any need to cut Pennsylvania wine special slack. I spent part of a week in September touring nine outstanding wineries in eastern Pennsylviania. While these nine represent just 3 percent of the Keystone State's wineries, they demonstrate that Pennsylvania has the potential to make major league wines that can compete with...Read More
Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

We don't need to be convinced that food plays a central role in people's lives and cultures that goes way beyond the basic need for sustenance. But if we did need proof, Mexico's Day of the Dead observances would be Exhibit A. On November 1, families decorate the graves of their lost loved ones with marigold flowers. It's a custom, several women told us, that brings them close to their loved ones and makes them feel contento (content). The bright orange flowers almost cover the gravestones and their pungent aroma fills the air. We've really never seen anything else quite like it. As we looked more closely, we realized that families also leave personal belongings and mementos that their loved ones had enjoyed in life....Read More
An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

Thanks to the many Mexican families who have settled in the United States, we have had a good introduction to Day of the Dead observances. In recent years, we've even caught some stateside glimpses of both the pageantry and the solemnity of the occasion. Last fall we decided to go to the roots of this holiday that blends All Souls' and All Saints' days in the Christian calendar with pre-Columbian ceremonies connecting the worlds of the living and the dead. The lakeside mountain community of Pátzcuaro is the most celebrated spot in Mexico for Day of the Dead ceremonies. It is one of what the Mexicans call the pueblas mágicas (magic towns). We joined the throngs who flocked there at the end of October and...Read More
Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Commonwealth Bistro explores rich edges of Kentucky

Chef Chris Burns of Commonwealth Bistro (621 Main St., Covington, KY; 859-916-6719; commonwealthbistro.com) refers to the Mainstrasse neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky, as “the Brooklyn of Cincinnati.” And though he worked for a number of years in Jean-Robert Cavel's Cincinnati restaurants (see previous post), he and his wife Tess self-identify as Kentuckians. “I came out of a classical French kitchen and wanted to get away from all that,” he explains. “We're in an agriculturally rich region. I wanted to explore what Kentucky cuisine meant without resorting to stereotypical Southern dishes.” Open three years this month, Commonwealth Bistro is the realization of that vision. Burns jokes that it only took seven years to open, three of them devoted to construction after shifts and on his days off....Read More
Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L in Cincinnati is the kind of dining treasure we always hope to find in a mid-sized city but rarely do. The most formal of chef Jean-Robert de Cavel's empire of French eateries in the Queen City region, L bills itself as a “Parisian-style restaurant, with a little New York attitude and an abundance of Cincinnati charm.” That pretty much nails it. The elegant dining room in the rather new Queen City Tower is the culmination of de Cavel's decades-long saga as Cincinnati's leading proponent of French cuisine. If we lived in Cincinnati, we'd probably eat more often at Frenchie Fresh (his casual bistro) or Le Bar au Boeuf (his beef-oriented bistro), and treat ourselves to lunch at the bar at the swanky Jean-Robert's...Read More
What’s for dinner? Meike Peters has a plan for that

What’s for dinner? Meike Peters has a plan for that

We consider ourselves adventurous eaters who enjoy trying out recipes and experimenting with new dishes at home. But, like most people, we have a few old reliable dishes. This summer, we ate lots of Caprese salads with just-picked garden tomatoes and a cold pasta that we concocted with basil pesto, corn, and grilled chicken. We can't help but be impressed with Meike Peters, who chronicles a new dish for every day in 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking, Prestel, $40). Peters has been sharing recipes on her Eat in My Kitchen blog (meikepeters.com) since 2013, drawing inspiration from the hearty German comfort food of her youth and the lighter Mediterranean diet of Malta, where she spends part of the year. Even so, coming...Read More
Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Even if we didn't enjoy a good cocktail or a nice glass of wine, we would find an excuse to visit the Bar at Palm Court. It occupies a prime spot in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel. One of the most glamorous buildings in the city, it's at 35 West 5th Street. The hotel, which opened in 1931, oozes French Art Deco style. There's barely a surface that's not embellished with a lotus pattern, a bird, or a sun. One of the best places to admire the masterful mix of rich woods, polished marble, frescoes, and ceiling painting is from a padded fan-shaped banquette in the bar. (The wooden bar itself, by the way, was originally a ticket booth at Union Terminal, the city's...Read More