Posts from January 2010

Eat Cheese, Loose Weight, Are You Ready for a Cheese Diet?

I never think calories, vitamins, health benefits when I grab a piece of cheese.

I just enjoy.

These cheese facts that I never worry or care about were exposed to me last night thanks to a Cheese 201 session at Artisanal Cheese in New York.

I was the guest of Max McCalman who I interviewed last month after the publication of his latest tome Mastering Cheese.What was it all about?

This 201 session enlightened us on what some call 'the French paradox' or the 'Mediterranean diet'.

What's in a cheese?

Depending on the type of milk, the animal it comes from, goat, cow or sheep, cheese provides you with a few things, namely vitamins B and D and E, good levels of calcium, amino acids and way less calories, cholesterol and fat content than one would believe and way less than eggs.

One of these amino acids is Tyrosine coming from Tyros which mean cheese actually.

I will not serve you all the facts that Max shared with us.

As he mentioned even with a daily cheese intake, you still need fiber and fruits for your vitamin C.

If you are in the New York area, you can always sign up for his next 201 Class at the end of February and see for yourself.

Be reassured, it was not a medical course.

Before the session started we sipped come Cava along with a number of cheeses amongst them a very cream and tasty Nettle Meadow Farm Kunik from NY State (pictured below), a first time encounter.


Its proud producers describe it accurately as "a unique and voluptuous triple cream cheese only made in Thurman, New York in the Warrensburg area at our small family farm. It is a white mold-ripened wheel made from goat's milk and jersey cow cream. The blend makes Kunik far richer and more flavorful than a brie-type cheese yet more subtle and sumptuous than similarly ripened goat cheeses."

During the session itself, we tasted 7 cheeses placed clockwise from milder to bolder alongside a Chardonnay Terre Dorees and a Gamay Vielles Vignes both from Jean Paul Brun.

On the mild side we started with the Majorero Pimenton (Spain, Goat Milk).

My 2 favorites though were the Forsterkase (Cow Milk), "washed in a white wine bath and then wrapped in fir bark" which gives it spicy tones and the Vacherin Fribourgeois (Cow Milk), an old timer that has 1000 years of existence to its name.

Now are you ready for a cheese diet?

Dark Chocolate and Praline Heart of Joy for Your Valentine thanks to Henri Le Roux

No need to put your heart on a plate for your Valentine.

If you can make it to Henri Le Roux chocolate shops (Quiberon and Landevant) in my native Brittany, he has a treat in store for you, what he calls 'Offering Happiness for Valentine's Day'.

Happiness is a Dark Chocolate and Praline Heart.


A heart shaped edible chocolate box.

Henri Le Roux is also famous for his caramels with salted butter (caramels au beurre sale) or CBS.

Sweet and sinful for Valentine's Day 2010

Free Tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape 08 at Le Du, NY, January 30, Meet the Producers

What could be better to warm up your blood and your soul on a freezing Saturday in New York than a Free Tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape 2008.

Jean Luc Le Du and his team at Le Du Wines invite you to pop in the store between 2 and 6 PM on Saturday, January 30, 2010, sip the wines, meet some of the producers and pick a few bottles for the week-end (there's a 20% off all Rhone wines in the store during tasting).

Jean Luc says "they'll be offering you an exclusive first glimpse of the not-yet released 2008 vintage of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, from 17 top estates. The wines haven't even been bottled yet, and we'll be tasting most of the wines from barrel samples, directly from the domaines! All together over 40 wines."

The visiting winemakers are...

Bruno Boisson - Domaine Boisson
Pascal Lafond - Domaine Lafond


Claire Michel - Le Vieux Donjon (tasting room above)
Véronique & Caroline Maret - Domaine de la Charbonnière (pictured below)


Didier Latour - Domaine Moulin-Tacussel
Pierre Pastre - Château Fortia
Yves & Martine Hermann - Clos de Gamot (Cahors)

And also pouring the wines from these domains:

Mas de Boislauzon
Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils
Cuvée du Vatican
Domaine Pontifical
Domaine Tour Saint Michel
Domaine Albin Jacumin
Bosquet des Papes
Clos des Brusquières
Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange
Domaine Olivier Hillaire

My apology to producers for not putting a picture of each Domaine in this piece, not enough space for all. I will make it up to you.

Will you be sipping at Le Du on Saturday?

Fruits are Like Babies and Other Words of Wisdom from Takahiko Takahashi (via Japan Times)

Wisdom from the fruit vendor is what you get from Takahiko Takahashi's Interview in Japan Times (January 28) by Judit Kawagushi.

Actually it feels more like a conversation than an interview.

You know that Takahiko Takahashi (69) loves his occupation when he starts by telling us that 'Fruits are like babies; they need protection and constant care'.

This handle with care approach makes sense one you learn that Japanese farmers "individually wrap each fruit — such as biwa (Japanese loquat), apples and bunches of grapes — into paper to protect them from bugs and the cold. They even change the paper as the fruits mature."


He also suggests that "jokes sell more products than low prices" even though he considers people with that approach as a dying breed in Japan.

The man does not like waste so "as the sun goes down, so do our prices. We keep lowering them so that by the time we close for the day we have sold out. But the cake shops in the depachika (department store basement food shops) never give discounts; instead they throw out the leftovers at the end of the day. That is mottainai! (wasteful)"

I will let you discover the rest of the man thoughts all by yourself.

Work, life and wisdom on the menu of Tokyo Thursdays #124

Previously: Tokyo in Frisco at New People, Japanese Whiskies on Show in Paris

(* Biwa picture from Wagashi: Early Summer Loquat (Biwa) Namagashi on Kyoto Foodie)

Italian Week in Brisbane, Fast and not So Fast Cars, Fashion, Style, It's Wonderful

I will be Italian for a Week thanks to Vino 2010, Italian Wine Week in New York (February 2 to 5).

This morning, I went looking for any buzz (no pun intended) I was getting, comments and related stories.

What I came back with first was Italian Week in Brisbane, Australia.

It is not a wine event but rather a celebration of all things Italian from fast and not so fast cars to food, fashion, style and culture.

The organizers put together the happy snappy video It's Wonderful, a recap of the first 3 years (07 to 09) above to promote the 2010 Edition which takes place end of May to early June (not sure about the exact dates).

Light morning fun on a snowy day.


Lifting the Curtain on Hoja Verde Dark Chocolate, Fino Arriba, Ecuador with Karla

In one of my frequent (too frequent) trips to Whole Foods, I noticed a new arrival. dark, organic, mysterious, fair trade, premium cacao, Hoja Verde Dark Chocolate from Ecuador.

Hoja verde

I asked the company for a sample and after it landed in my mailbox decided a proper introduction was in order.

Who could do that better than Karla, brand evangelist for Hoja Verde Dark Chocolate USA?

Here's my interview with Karla, fresh off the web.

Q: How far back can you trace the origins of Hoja Verde?

A: Hoja Verde is an Ecuadorian family owned company, established in 1997,founded as a producer of high quality Fair Trade certified roses .  In 2008, they qualified as the first Ecuadorian "Processor -Exporter" of Fair Trade single origin, natural, premium Dark Chocolate.

Q: What about the French Connection?  

A: Hoja Verde was established by a French family who immigrated to Ecuador. This  small-but-beautiful South American nation, possesses an abundance of love, passion  and quality of life  ... perfect to formulate Chocolate - especially from the highest quality cacao bean from Ecuador.  The "Arriba"
cacao has captivated chocolate connoisseurs with its depth of flavour and its unequalled aroma. Sweetness comes naturally.

Q: Roses and Chocolate tell me more?

A: The origin of the company stems from the Ecuadorian rose business (ie the" green leaves " of a rose). We know and understand the perish-ability of fine, fresh & delicate products. Plus, the reputation of Ecuadorian roses is the gold-standard of quality & distinctive color, size, life & smell of
the flower.

Q: When did Hoja Verde become available in the US?

A: Since 2008, Hoja Verde has been exporting this couture single-origin bar to other South American countries and with in a limited way in America. In 2009, it was decided to open offices in the USA - Hoja Verde Dark Chocolate USA - to supply the US market with the finest chocolate, maintaining the operation and know-how by the Ecuadorians in Ecuador from bean to bar to the chocolate-loving consumer.  This way, maintaining the integrity, quality and passion at the source w/ the Ecuadorian homeland & investing in the US market while returning profits to Ecuadorians.

Q: In which countries is Hoja Verde available?

A: Peru, Ecuador, USA ... the list will be growing soon

Q: How would you describe the area of Ecuador that Hoja Verde is coming from?

A: Hoja Verde Dark Chocolate is made from only premium cacao beans grown by farmers in the tropical lowlands of Ecuador (foothills of the Andes mountains), one of the planet's most biologically-diverse countries. These cacao beans are produced in small shaded plantations, thriving in the shadows of the rainforest's green leaves at farms implementing the conservation of natural resources standards. 

Shade-grown cacao farms, which border secondary rainforest, benefit from a wealth of nearby pollinators and agro-ecological conditions, which obviates the use of chemicals. Farmers cultivate their cacao beneath valuable rainforest trees, while also intermingling with a wealth of other crops, such as plantains, yucca, papaya, guava or lime, alongside their cacao. In the long term, this is better for both the farmer and the environment.

All the cacao beans come from this one rich region - called Arriba, which is a  special type of cacao .  The scientific name of this dark chocolate bean is called "Fino Arriba".  This cacao is exclusively found in Ecuador's tropical rainforest.  In fact, Ecuadorian cacao has long been recognized as one of the finest in the world.  You could parallel this to the "Champagne" region - where Cavas, Proseccos, Sparking Wines - cannot call themselves as Champagne because they do not come from that region.

As I mentioned earlier, your chocolates are all dark, from rich to richer.

Q: If the 58% was a word what would it be?

A: Tantalizing

Q: If the 72% was a movie which one?

A: "Cinema Paradiso"

     "As Good As It Gets"

Q: If the 80% was a song, title please?

A: "What a Wonderful World" or "Black Pearl"

Q: If the 100% was a woman, how would she be?

A: Sophisticated, Couture, Confident yet Sexy, Classy


One last question: For Valentine's Day which of the 4 Hoja Verde offerings would be best?

A: From my palate, I'd highly recommend the 80% with a nice bold wine to stir up some romance. The 80% delivers a well-rounded, full-bodied bouquet of fruits and flowers of the rainforest. 

Hoja Verde chocolate presents special fine and aromatic flavors, Arriba floral and citrus notes, balanced fruity taste and a robust cacao flavor. This will make a lasting impression on any loved-one.

On a health and nutrition note Karla wants you to know that since their bars go from dark to darker, with very high proportions of cacao and very little sugar added, you can lie back and indulge their unique flavor with confidence. They contain as many anti-oxidants as six apples or two glasses
of red wine.

As for my personal impressions

I had the chance and pleasure to sample both the 72% and the 80%.

I definitely vote for the 80%. Rich with a long finish, earthy, I would compare it or maybe even pair it with a nice Red Zinfandel.

Thanks to Karla for taking time out of her busy schedule for this impromptu Q and A.

Makes it Number 3 in our infrequent series of interviews and the opening act for 2010.

Previous Interview:
Mastering Cheese, the Bible for Cheese Lovers, a Few Party Tips, my Chat with Max McCalman

Italian for a Week thanks to Vino 2010, Italian Wine Week, New York, Feb 2-5

I will turn Italian for a week thanks to Vino 2010 'Italian Wine Week' taking place in New York from February 2 to February 5, 2010.

It is presented as The Biggest Italian Wine Event Ever Held Outside of Italy by its organizers, the Italian Trade Commission and the regions of Calabria, Puglia, Toscana and Veneto.

Vino 2010

Here is what 's on my schedule so far, mostly afternoons and early evenings, duty calls in the morning.

February 3rd:

-'The New Generation of Southern Reds' Seminar

Followed by 'Unique Expressions of Italian Sparkling Wines' Tasting

February 4th:

-'Meet and Greet the Vintners' Luncheon 

Followed by 'Terroir, diversity and complexity in Brunello, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano' Seminar.

February 5th:

-The Grand Tasting' with winemakers from all over Italy.

One of the attractions of Vino 2010 is the opportunity to sample a number of producers not yet imported in the US.

The other plus is that with an event spread over a few days, it will give me a chance to spend time speaking with individual producers and other parties involved in it which I hope will make for good stories to share with you all.

You might feel like you are missing a fun event.

Don't feel bad it is not opened to the public.

It is not completely closed either.

One session, on Thursday, February 4th invites you to take a peak.

Titled Virtual Vino, Millenials and Social Media Decanted it will be broadcast on the Vino 2010 website.

Better even you will be able to submit questions to the panelists via Twitter by sending your Tweets to either @vino2010 or @JRvino2010 and be part of the conversation.

Alder of Vinography which just celebrated its 6th birthday is one of them.

If you don't Tweet, feel free to share your questions with me and I will do my best to air them.

Date Night at The Liaison on Capitol Hill in DC, Sign Me Up

Not sure if Affinia Hotels were going for the double entendre when they launched a Date Night Special * at The Liaison on Capitol Hill in DC.

In any case it's a great idea.

How Much and What do You Get?

      "Starting at $149, you'll enjoy:

  • $50 food and beverage credit to be use for dinner, brunch or breakfast at Art and Soul or in-room dining
  • Your choice of in-room movie *Credit is per stay
  • Late check out of 2 p.m. on weekends only
  • A comfortable Affinia room customized by you at!"


Even if the pillows at The Liaison are not as comfy as those above, a short week-end escape to DC with a couple hours at The Smithsonian and maybe some Ethiopian food in Adams Morgan sounds likes a plan for any couple living in a 2 to 3 Hour range.

For me, catching the train rather than driving would make it even more relaxing.

Sign me up for a test drive!

* Date Night Special is available until February 28, subject to availability (Promo Code D8NGHT)

3 Days of Green Wine, Millesime Bio, January 25-27, Montpellier

The last week of January 2010 will make amateurs of organic and biodynamic wines happy.

At least the fans and professionals who are in France.

I already wrote about La Dive Bouteille (near Saumur, January 31) and Return to Terroir (January 30 and 31).

The opening salvo for this Green Wine Week comes from Millesime Bio which opened on Monday, January 25 in Montpellier (France) runs until the 27th.


Reserved to wine trade professionals, it showcases only wines produced by organic farming not just from France but also Spain, Italy and Portugal.

To encourage a spirit of discovery, wine stands are not grouped by region or appellation but placed randomly.

It might have helped me at the Terry Theise tasting last week where I ended up spending most of my time with German wines.

With all the controversies swirling around what is organic and what is not, the organizers of Millesime Bio screen all the wines showcased to make sure they are certified organic.

Now in its 17th year, Millesime Bio is presented in collaboration with Sud de France.

Drinking organic for Green Day # 112

Previously: Green Pots and Pans, Is there a Secret?