Posts from February 2011

2 Hours in Armagnac Heaven, Meet Delord Bros at Brandy Library, New York, March 1

I am a bit cross with my friend and Armagnac ambassadrice May for letting me know about this only 25 hours in advance. I will miss it dearly.

Good news for those of you who can make it to the Brandy Library in New York for 2 Hours in Armagnac Heaven with the Delord Bros of Armagnac Delord fame is I will not be taking their time so they will have more time for you.


This Free Tasting takes place from 6 to 8 PM at the Brandy Library, 25 North Moore St # 1 in Tribeca, New York.


Greek Wines Second Annual US Road Show by Athenee, March 7 to March 9

A last minute emergency prevented me from attending the first edition of Athenee Importers Road Show so I have every intention to make up for it by being there for their stop in New York at Del Posto on March 8, 2011.

Following producers will be present:

Argyros Estate, Cavino S.A,  GAI'A S.A, Gentilini Winery, Emery Winery, Estate Hatzi Michalis, Chateau Harlaftis and Chateau Mercouri

I don't believe I had a chance to taste any of them yet so it will be a complete discovery.

I signed up for the morning seminar to learn a bit about some known unknowns.

Notios White front 2010

The other two stops on this roadshow are Boston on March 7 and Chicago on March 8.

There is a whiff of the Mediterranean in the air already.

This roadshow is reserved to Trade and Media.

You can discover some of the producers and their wines like the Gaia Notios White 2010 on the Athenee Importers blog.

HTC Inspire 4 G Workout, Prying Open Reluctant Battery Cover, Solutions

The tech community is fond of the expression 'eat your own dog food' meaning whoever writes a program or designs a product should test if first before they release it.

This must not have been the case with the person who designed the battery slot on HTC Inspire 4 G.

After a family member dropped my tired Blackberry Curve in the soup a couple weeks ago, I've been looking for a replacement.

I had pretty much made up my mind to go with the Samsung Captivate but the starting at 0.01 offer on Amazon Wireless ended up being very attractive only to new customers.

I went back to the drawing board to see what Upgrade Options my wireless carrier (ATT) was offering and noticed the HTC Inspire 4 G...Free with a 2 year contract...

Reviews including One by Bonnie Cha for CNET (February 4) were quite good.


2 drawbacks mentioned in all reviews were the size and weight of the phone (balanced by great real estate, screen wize) and the battery slot door issue...

I received my phone this morning.

They were not kidding regarding the battery door. I tried to opening it by pushing gently with my nail, to no avail.

Rather than break something, I went looking for advice online.

Some suggested a coin, no luck.

I looked further into it and found this Best way to open battery door on HTC Community Android Forum.

Suggestion was to 'pry open door from behind volume control. I had to use a small flat screwdriver for that. It worked. Plastic cover flexes a bit so it helps.

Who knew you needed your toolbox nearby to power your phone?

My humble suggestions to HTC team:

Come up with a user friendly design for the door and if you want to kiss and make up with those like me who had to struggle with this issue, maybe you can make a replacement piece available (at no cost, via ATT) to people who already purchased the HTC Inspire 4 G. Alternative would be to ship phone with a 'special' tool that does the trick.

Looking for more detailed instructions on how to deal with this headache (you won't find them in the user guide) check play by play guide Meet the HTC Inspire 4G Double Back Cover System by Jason Hidalgo (

At least it comes with Android 2.2 (Froyo) so you don't have to start by upgrading the Operating System.

Is it why they call these Smart Phones?

(* HTC Inspire image from HTC product pages)

2011 Oscars, King's Speech Calls For Amarone, Dry Sherry or Nyetimber Classic Cuvee Brut?

Writing the Director's Piece on Cahiers du Cinema Paperback Profiles got me thinking which wines would pair well with the movies nominated for Oscars 2011 so I put the question out.

Here is some feedback i received with Kings Speech stealing the show.

Elisabetta shares her Italian perspective:

"IMHO, The King's Speech is an "important" film which needs an important wine. I think to Amarone della Valpolicella "Monte Lodoletta" 2007 Dal Forno, or Brunello di Montalcino 2007 "Madonna delle Grazie" Alessandro Mori (sorry, I'm Italian, so my first thoughts are for Italian wines!). However, I would like to see Colin Firth celebrating with an English sparkling wine: Classic Cuvée 2003 from Nyetimber , for example."


Angela sees it as a chance to showcase British bubbly and a taste for Sherry:

'"For the Real King, I think it would be a dry sherry. Valdespino Innocente Fino would be my commendation. For Colin Firth, oh yes, definitely an English Sparkling - apart from Nyetember perhaps Ridgeview Bloomsbury or Camel Valley ..."


Beer and Tequila might be a better fit for The Social Network.

Get in Slow Wine Lane with Slow Wine 2011, Royal Horticultural Halls, London, March 11

After having worked with Gambero Rosso for a number of years on Tre Bicchieri guide, Slow Food Italy is now walking to its own drumbeat with Slow Wine, not so much a guide than a window in the lives and homes of Italian winemakers who want the way they treat the land to be as much a cause of celebration as the wines they produce.

On March 11, they will share the news outside Italy with a London Tasting at Royal Horticultural Halls under the aegis of Slow Food UK.

Slow Wine Guide 2011 is only available in Italian so far but they will use the event in London as a launch pad for a UK iPhone app for the guide which will be in English.


Some of the Winemakers present at the event are (listed by region):


Cataldi Madonna with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tonì 2007 and Pecorino 2010

Praesidium with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2005 and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 200

Alto Adige:

Loacker with Chardonnay Ateyon 2008
Brunello di Montalcino 2005 (Tuscany)


Camerlengo with Aglianico del Vulture Antelio 2007 and Aglianico del Vulture Camerlengo 2006


Agnanum - Raffaele Moccia with Campi Flegrei Piedirosso Vigna delle Volpi 2008 and Campi Flegrei Falanghina 2009

Le Vigne di Raito with Ragis 2007 and Ragis 2008

Emilia Romagna:

Orsi - Vigneto San Vito with Colli Bolognesi Cabernet Sauvignon Pro.Vino 2009 and Colli Bolognesi Barbera Pro.Vino 2009

Friuli Venezia Giulia:

Davino Meroi with Colli Orientali del Friuli Chardonnay 2009 and Colli Orientali del Friuli Dominin 2007



Togni Rebaioli with Opol 2009 and Millesettecentotre 2007


Bucci with Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Villa Bucci Riserva 2007 and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Bucci 2009

Fattoria Dezi with Regina del Bosco 2007 and Servigliano P 2009

Moroder with Conero Dorico Riserva 2005 and Rosso Conero Moroder 2008

Piedmont, Publia, Sardegna, Sicily , Tuscany, Trentino, Umbria and Veneto will also be present will many other great producers.

Tasting takes place in Lindley Hall , a classic Victorian structure, from 4 PM to 8 PM.

Tickets are £15 for Slow Food members and £20 for General Public

You can register online via Eventbrite

Cahiers du Cinema take Oscars 2011 by Storm, 10 Paperback Nominations, Almodovar to Kubrick

Before music 'new wave' there was cinema 'nouvelle vague'.

A number of its principals came from the Cahiers du Cinema magazine.

Cahiers du Cinema take Oscars 2011 by storm on February 27 with 10 paperback nominations.

We get cameras rolling with 10 directors profiles from Scorcese to Almodovar, Hitchcock to Eastwood published by Phaidon Press.


Valerie Buffet, Editorial Director, Cahiers du cinema gives her take on the series:

“The Masters of Cinema series is meant to appeal to the widest audience possible. The series should serve as the foundation of any film library and is perfect for experienced cinephiles and amateur film buffs alike. For someone just being introduced to these directors, each volume provides a lively, accessible, completely up-to-date and incredibly beautiful visual and written account of their careers. But for the cinephile the books also provide a more in-depth perspective through the sidebars, which consist of seminal critiques of films or a director’s work; interviews with directors or collaborators; analyses of film sequences; or a focus on a specific technique, theme, actor, or collaborator. The series will be the cornerstone of Cahiers du cinéma’s expanding book program and will include additional volumes on new directors every season.”

The last illustration is not the Croisette, Who cares when Penelope Cruz is there.


And the Oscar goes to...

(* Illustrations shared by permission of Phaidon Press are Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove (1964) for Stanley Kubrick and Lluís Homar and Penélope Cruz in Broken Embraces (2009) for Almodovar)

Kiss a Girafe, Hop on a Matatu in Nairobi, Green City in the Sun 10 Do's and Don'ts

I cannot thank world traveler Ulrike Reinhard enough for putting Africa on the 10 Do's and Don'ts map.

I first shared Mac Jordan guide to Accra on January 22.

Today Mark Kaigwa whose digital fingerprints are all over the Kenyan scene from digital art to start ups and innovation introduces us to his hometown of Nairobi.

Enjoy the ride!

10 Do's and Don'ts in Nairobi

Affectionately known as the Green City in the Sun, Nairobi's typically bathed in the sun's warm gaze with minimal humidity and a calm breeze at a high of 26°.

Nairobi can be a great city to navigate and discover, and it never hurts to have a local's perspective on what to do. Mark Kaigwa gives us his perspective on what to do and what not to do in Nairobi.



1. Do Take A Safari

Sometimes it's easy for a Nairobian to forget that we're one of the only cities in the world to have a National Park in the city limits. The Nairobi National Park is an amazing sight to see. Fresh off your business meeting with 2 hours to kill before you need to be at the airport? Why not head to the National Park and see some lions on the prowl or watch a herd of buffalo by sunset. There's several types of safaris to take, whether wildlife, cultural, adventure, sport, scenic and specialist. Nairobi's known as Africa's safari capital for good reason.


2. Do Visit a "Maasai Market"

On any given day of the week, somewhere in Nairobi, there's an open air market of  hand-crafted crafts commonly referred to as a "Maasai Market". It's recommended you visit with a local to do the bargaining for you, but you can be sure to find some good finds here, whether it's jewellery, clothing, carvings, statuettes or beadwork, you'll find a little piece of Nairobi to take back home with you.

Masaai market

3. Do Prepare for The Traffic aka The Jam

Rush-hour in Nairobi can be manic and the ride from the airport will most likely give you a baptism-by-fire as a passenger immersed in Nairobi's traffic. It's best to travel between rush-hour times, avoiding 7-9AM, 1-2PM and 5-7PM. You can be stuck in traffic quite a while if you hit it, from 30 minutes to a grim 2-3 hours. Local radio alerts on which roads tend to be helpful.

4. Do Try Nyama Choma!

Nyama Choma is the typical Kenyan barbeque. Usually consisting of goat meat served with other delicious treats such as ugali (maizemeal) and kachumbari (salsa) this is a must-try. Do try the various meat products of the barbeque as well as authentic Kenyan dishes. Immerse yourself! Do consult locally for a great place to have nyama-choma and visit with a local for best experience.

5. Down for some game? Try The Carnivore

One of Nairobi's attractions is The Carnivore Restaurant, where you can try an array of wild game meat in a buffet-style where the meats keep coming until you say it stop. Delicacies include zebra, gazelle, wildebeeste, crocodile, camel among  other seasonal treats.

6. Do Ask About The Need-To-Know Laws

Recently there's been some changes to the municipal laws e.g. don't cross the road while speaking on your cellphone (unless on handsfree), no leaning or sitting on ledges and no serving drinks after 11 PM (this one's currently being debated) get yourself a refresher by asking anyone from your cab driver to any local what bunch of city-centre related rules that you need to know.

7. Do Keep Your Valuables With You

It's common to visit coffee shops, where there's free Wi-Fi and take a bathroom break leaving your valuables in plain sight. For this, in Nairobi it's better safe than sorry.

8. Do Get On Top of The Kenya International Conference Centre

One of the best place to view get a 360 degree view of the city of Nairobi in all its sun-bathed spleandour. It's one smart way to watch the sun set and if the fog's not too heavy you can see all across the outskirts of the city, from the slums to the National Park; entry can cost Ksh. 400/200 ($5/$2.50)

9. Do Have Kenyan Tea (and Coffee)

Take my word for it, Kenyans have some great tea, ask for a cup to be prepared in typical Kenyan fashion with milk (or without, if that's your preference) and relish the great flavour and aroma of one of nature's most beautiful gifts. You won't regret it! And while you're at it, sample some of the world's best cofee. Some noteworthy coffee houses include the Nairobi Java House, Dormans Coffee and Pete's Coffee.

10. Do Kiss A Giraffe!

The Giraffe Centre breeds the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and has education and conservation programmes for children as well as as plenty of information on giraffes. Part of their program involves feeding the giraffes and you have the option to kiss a giraffe in the process. With the way our planet's going, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.


1. Don't Forget To Ask The Price of the Taxi/Cab Before You Depart

When it comes to driving and commuting across the city you've got options, and if you choose the most stable of these options - the taxi cab, it's good to keep a few things in mind. Always agree a price upfront and proceed to pay after. Cabs here don't typically operate meters and set prices as per distance to be travelled, the earlier you can hear the price stated (and in some cases bargain) the better. They're not cheap, but can make life easier and safer. If possible ask a local for a referral or at your hotel.

2. Don't Expect Perfect Timing

"Fast food" has a different meaning here, add a few minutes. If you've got an casual appointment ask if they mean Kenyan time which can typically mean a small delay of 5-15 minutes to longer. Also expect people to give you their projected place e.g.

3. Don't Go To The Malls

You came all this way to stick to the malls? Really? Sure you can do better than that. There's plenty of places to explore in good old Nairobi. If you must, however, The Westgate Mall, Sarit Center, Yaya Centre and The Junction are good malls to shop and relax at.

4. Don't Forget To Carry Change, It Helps Drive a Bargain!

Try and break down your money at the Forex into smaller denominations. The largest being the Ksh. 1,000 note. If you're going shopping and negotiating it usually pays to have change. Bargaining tactic: "I only have Ksh. 500, so the maximum I can pay for it is Ksh. 300."

5. Don't Forget to Ride A Matatu (at least once)

This is debatable, but it's hard to argue that matatus (minivan taxis) aren't part of the lifeblood of the city. Loved and loathed, they are a reflection of popular culture and the Kenyan experience. I'd recommend that if looking for a rush, you take a ride on a matatu (there's routes that are more lively than others) in the company of a local companion. I insist you have a local companion if you'd like to check this off your bucket list. Take care of your pockets and personal items on the trip.


6. Don't Carry Large Amounts of Cash. Join The Mobile Money Revolution!

With the mobile money revolution going on in Kenya, you may as well experience it. Instead of carrying cash everywhere you go, you could opt to balance cash, credit and mobile money. If you're in town for more than a week, try register a SIM card and see how convenient and useful it will prove to be for goods at local supermarkets, stores, cab fare and other informal payments.

7. Don't Forget You Might Need to Pay for a Visa Upon Arrival

Some visitors have to pay for a visa upon entry at the airport or border crossing. A single entry visa costs $50 and is valid for 3 months. A transit visa is $20. You can also pay in Euros and English Pounds. If travelling through Kenya on a connecting flight and don't leave the airport, you don't need a visa. A single entry visa is useful though because you're good for the whole East African region: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

8. Don't Expect Amazing Internet Speeds

...unless you really need them. In which case you ought to get yourself a portable 3G modem (currently only from Safaricom), where 300MB will set you back Ksh. 1,000 (approx $12.50). Overall, there's fibre and there are hundreds of cyber cafes across the city but it can pay to have a backup dongle in case. The 3G signal has proven to be reliable in the city limits and in major towns in Kenya. If you would like to opt for a cyber cafe, you'll find some of the fastest cyber cafe's in the city centre at Norwich Union House, opposite the Hilton Hotel. Expensive ones tend to be in the big shopping malls and in the Westlands area though they're more exclusive and less crowded (but not necessarily faster).

9. Don't Smoke on the Streets

A friend of mine recently faced some trouble for this one and it's certainly not obvious. Smoking on the streets of Nairobi's city centre is against the law, except in designated smoking zones. If anything, take your cue from other smokers.

10. Don't Forget To Ask About Roadworks

It's useful if planning extensive road travel that you ask about roadworks if you're up and about the city and its environs. There's been some great construction but it can affect your timing by as little as a few minutes to as much as several hours or make you miss your engagement altogether.

Overall like a buddy of mine declares on his famous blog, M.I.L.O.N.A.R.E - "Me I Love Nairobi Regardless" (Kenyans have a penchant for starting sentences by saying "me, I") not to mention a habit of replying to the greeting “hello” by saying “fine.” Those are just some of the peculiarities that make Kenyans who they are.

It's a beautiful city with its quirks but a fantastic and memorable place to visit, and lucky for me, I call it home.

Let's see what the next 10 Do's and Don'ts will be.

Previously: Hole of Rome, St Theresa in Ecstasy, Eat at Sant Anna, Rome 10 Do's and Don'ts

(* Some of the photos featured by Kenyan photographer Mutua Matheka. See his full photography series atop KICC here)

Wisconsin, More than Pizza, The Wisconsinite Recipe from Grilled Cheese Please

Will events currently engulfing the state of Wisconsin bring fame to The Wisconsinite, one of the regional treats featured in Grilled Cheese Please (Andrews McMeel Publishing, March 2011) by Laura Werlin?

We'll see in history books 20 years from now.

Having preached the gospel of American cheese for the past decade, Laura Werlin turns her attention with this little red book of grilled cheese to 50 ways this sandwich can pop up.

As a teaser to a planned interview with Laura, here's The Wisconsinite recipe.

Wisconsin isn’t called the Dairy State for nothing. It is the largest cheese-producing state in the nation, the place where Colby cheese was invented, and it boasts 46 different blue cheeses alone. In addition to cheese, Wisconsin produces cranberries, which is the number-one fruit crop there. Furthermore, the state is also home to the Mustard Museum, in Middleton. I decided to take these disparate elements and put them together between two slices of dark bread (another often used food item in Wisconsin). I love the sweet, tangy, and earthy combination of flavors that results.

¼ cup cranberry sauce

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or use a Wisconsin mustard if you can)

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

8 sandwich-size slices dark rye or marble bread

8 ounces Colby cheese (or use Colby-Jack or cheddar)

2 ounces blue cheese (such as Hook’s Cheese Company Hook’s Blue or Seymour Dairy Products Ader Käse), coarsely crumbled (or use any creamy yet slightly crumbly blue cheese)


In a small bowl, mix the cranberry sauce and mustard together.

To assemble: Spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on your work surface. Spread the cranberry mixture on the bread. Distribute the colby, and crumble the blue cheese over the colby. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides have darkened and become crisp. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are crisp. Remove the cover, turn the sandwiches once more, and press firmly with the spatula once again. Cook for 1 minute, or until the cheese has melted completely. (You might have to peek inside to make sure.)

Remove from the pan and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

For sandwich maker method: Preheat the sandwich maker. Follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Cheese Lovers of the World Unite!

(* Recipe and Photo from Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes by Laura Werlin/Andrews McMeel Publishing, shared by permission of the publisher)

Toronto Two Wheel Rides in Style Served Daily at 416 Cycle Style

For no obvious reason except the fact that topic fell off my radar, I realized when I spotted 416 Cycle Style that it's been a while since I wrote anything 2 wheel related.

In the same vein as Copenhagen Cycle Chic shows Cycling in High Heels, Green and Stylish the Copenhagen Way, 416 Cycle Style offers daily snapshots of Toronto two wheel rides in style, snow, rain or shine.

Ulster street

Above, we get Ulster Street in the snow by 'Andy's Camera' who shares a Collection of 4 Seasons Photos taken on the same location.

Have you thought of giving your folding bike a Vintage Wine Look as below?


Do you prefer something dreamlike and artistic?


Or longing for the girls of Spring and Summer to return?


Cycling in Toronto comes in many flavors.

Explore the rest.

(* 'Ulster Street' photo by Andy's Camera, All others used by permission of 416 Cycle Style)

Croissant, Cafe au Lait, David Lebovitz Sweet Life in Paris Paperback Contest

After a lull on the weekly contest front, Broadway Books was kind enough to offer us 3 paperback copies of The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz to giveaway as paperback edition is about to be published  on March 1, 2011.


Browsing through it reminded me that my mother frowns on shorts and sneakers worn together unless you are in the middle of sport practice.

Combining life's little annoyances, French etiquette and recipes with a healthy dose of humor, The Sweet Life in Paris if nothing else will clear clouds in the sky on a grey day and put a smile on your face.

Getting back to the Contest at Hand, here's how you can we win one of the 3 copies in this giveaway. Answer the following question.

What is the easiest thing to take care of in Paris out of these 3:

-Get rid of roaches?

-Have the house painter complete his job and leave?

-Open a bank account?

E-mail your answers to info [at] njconcierges [dot] com

All entries must be received by Thursday, March 2, 2011 at 2 PM (US Eastern Central)

Contest is on a first come, first serve basis.

(* This contest is opened to US readers only)