Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Jersey – The Northeast Corridor

7.09am, Tuesday 31st January, Dunkin Donuts (for the free wi Fi!), West 36th & 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY, NY, USA

I was just standing on 8th Avenue looking up 34th sStreet as the sun is starting to lift over the hightop skyline of Midtown’s east side, and there’s The Empire State towering over everything, then it’s over the road and into the caverns of Penn Station, which is underneath Madison Square Garden. Now there’s a sentence full of New York icons.

Why?

To get myself a ticket on the New Jersey Transit train out to Hamilton on the Northeast Corridor Line.

Why?

Because I’m out there today to work with one of the blokes from our new distributor in this part of the world. It’s a strange part of the job, really, where you make arrangements to meet up and spend the day in a car with a man that you don’t know at all! And you bring bottles of wine along! Aren’t there a whole stack of websites where you have to sign up and pay for that sort of thing?

Any rate, I am taking the day to work with Keith in the Trenton, New Jersey area, and we’ll be out there trying to win hearts and palates for Yalumba, and no doubt talking about the local baseball team the Trenton Thunder – which just happens to be where my favourite New York Yankees player – Derek Jeter – played a lot of his early games before going on to be a Hall of Fame shortstop in pinstripes.

Not forgetting the NFL and the lead up to this weekend’s Superbowl. I’m sure that will be a hot topic of conversation as I’ve come from one football crazy town – Baltimore with their Ravens – to New York with their Giants. Me … I’m now a Ravens girl, so I’d love to see the Giants get up over the New England Patriots. Looks like a big sports Sunday coming up!

So wish us luck! I’ll let you know how we go much later on tonight when I get back to Manhattan, as we have a wine dinner at a restaurant called Chakra after our day whizzing around Trenton.

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New York Tourist!

7.59am, Monday 31st January, Midtown, Manhattan, NY, NY, USA

What a midwinter’s day in Manhattan yesterday. Cold, chill your bones with blow-you-over wind type of cold, but clear. Clear enough to see the whole city from the top of the Empire State Building, somewhere that after coming to New York since 2001 – I’ve never been. So as I wandered down to Chinatown yesterday I found myself right there and went on up! Apparently there’s often a couple of hours wait for the lifts, but yesterday morning it was just me and a few diehard European tourists out in the cheek-chilling cold, so we went straight up … to the 80th floor, changed lifts and went up again. What a view. I had a whole Cary Grant “An Affair to Remember” moment having seen that as a kid – I think that was my first Empire State memory. Well, now I’ve got pictures as well.

The view looking down to Wall Street and Battery Park – that dot to the right offshore is the Statue of Liberty.

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This is my favourite building in Manhattan – the Chrysler. Close second would be the Flatiron, which is further Downtown.

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When I say cold – I mean it. This is your friendly security guard who makes sure no one throws anything off the building.

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And here she is ….. Going all the way up – all 1250 feet or 381 metres!

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Meanwhile back in Annapolis at the Grapes Wine Bar

7.23am, Sunday 29th January, 39th St between 8th & 9th Avenues, Manhattan, NY, NY

I have a couple of events from last week that were absolute stars, so I wanted to write them up before we get into the jobs for this week over in New Jersey.

The first one was with our Yalumba fortress in Annapolis – Wine Cellars of Annapolis. You’ll find them just outside the town centre on Forest Driv, in Clock Tower Place. Since we visited last, Patrick has added a sharp wine bar right next door – separated only by a solid beaten metal fire door that was salvaged in original condition from a tobacco drying warehouse from down in Virginia that was over 100 years old. It’s so heavy that they had to hang it on a heavy duty solid mild steel rail – and it looks great. We did a tasting in the wine store with Ellen and Vernon first that featured our new release triple act of the 2011 Y Series Vermentino, the 2010 Strapper GSM, and the new blend of old fortified material in the Yalumba 21 Year Old Antique Tawny. After chatting to a stack of folks about everything from Australian wine to American Rye Whisky, we adjourned next door to the Grapes wine bar – where our wines were paired up with several small plate dishes, and I got to stand behind the bar and tell stories for a few hours. On a Wednesday night folks, the place was packed – the counter and the tables. Must have everything to do with the top wine list and the combination of small plate, appetizer and dessert plate tastes on the menu – especially the artisanal cheese and charcuterie selections.

We did have most of Danielle’s family and some friends turn up, which was a top ‘rent a wine interested crowd’ to have on our side. Danielle is my colleague in wine who drove the ‘Mom Van’ with all our wines and gear during the Baltimore to DC / Elkton / Wilmington / Annapolis commute week. Through sleet, storms, across the state lines – nothing slows the Mom Van down. I can’t wait for our next trip to Danielle’s Mid Atlantic territory – nothing safer and more enjoyable than the Mom Van in a Dunkin Donuts drive through!

Any rate – back to the Grapes wine bar. Sorry about the quality of my photos – must have been the really soft romantic lighting.

Here’s the featured flatbread – Four Cheese & Mushroom – which went so well with the Strapper GSM. As did the Veal Osso Bucco with Polenta & Gremolata – where the slow cooked beef is stripped off the bone with a fork and is popped on top of the polenta cake, with the gremolata topping the lot! Not forgetting the mini Lamb Sliders with Local Tomato Jam, which should be illegal they’re so addictive!

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Speaking of addictive, they have these paper cones of potato fries cooked off in duck fat and drizzled with truffle oil. I had two of them … yes, only two because I was pressured … .and I could feel that pound land! But gee they tasted good. Why is it do you think that everything that is so bad for you tastes so jolly good! And brussels sprouts that are supposed to be so good for you taste so forgettable. Another great mystery of the world!

I had the small plate Strip Steak Au Poivre and gave away the accompanying fries! This was also a winner with the Strapper GSM, plus the 2008 Patchwork Shiraz that we opened for a lad who knew Yalumba well from his time working in Western Australia. Sorry – no pic. Too busy talking behind the bar!

The other feature on the Grapes menu is the desserts – all made in house by the chef’s girlfriend. I recommended the Lemon Butter Pound Cake with Gelato & Berries to several people who liked the 21 Year Old Tawny (fortified with some lovely cool dry brandy spirit from Yalumba’s own pot still). Proof of the pudding were the clean plates that came back to the kitchen!

All in all folks, if you live in the area and like the whole food and wine combination thing, do yourselves a favour and drop in to Grapes … and don’t be in a hurry.

Put yourself in this picture … happy days!

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Thanks Grapes and the Annapolis crew for being such a staunch Yalumba fortress – and hopefully we’ll be back to visit sooner rather than later, and we can do it all again. Until then, watch out for those duck fat fries!

Manhattan weather report – no snow!

9.19am, Sunday 29th January, 39th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues, Manhattan, NY, NY, USA

Not a snow flurry in sight this morning, folks. It’s a big New York Yankees blue sky out there, and I think today it’s going to be … down to Chinatown. It’s the big parade today for the Year of the Dragon Chinese New Year, with bands, floats and firecrackers.

Here’s what’s taking up most of my room here in Manhattan. You forget how small they can make a hotel room!

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Made it to Manhattan!

5.22pm, Saturday 28th January, 51st & Broadway, Midtown, Manhattan, New York, NY, USA

Here’s proof folks, I drove all the way into Manhattan, dropped the wine at the hotel on 39th – my home for the next 14 nights – and then navigated my way up to 55th and returned the rental car gratefully to Hertz. Thanks yet again for a magic vehicle – I felt like a rock star in the black glossy tinted windows Chevy Equinox!

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Now, I don’t want it to sound like it was easy – even with a GPS unit! I put 39th Street not West 39th Street into the machine, so it took me to Brooklyn! All of a sudden it’s telling me to exit, and I have a choice of getting into Manhattan which is still miles away via the Triboro Bridge or the Battery Tunnel. And we’re at speed, and you can’t hesitate so I chose the Battery Tunnel because fewer cars were going that way. Good thing everyone else weaved around me – I just gripped the wheel and held my course! Then not having had a huge amount of time Downtown, I eventually found the West Side Highway and worked my way up to Midtown, then it was just a matter of working out the one way street and avenue maze to get to the hotel on 39th Street in between 8th & 9th Avenues. All that time previously on the up and downtown plus the crosstown buses really paid dividends today! Then to my horror it turns out that the hotel is on a feeder street to the Lincoln Tunnel – main joining artery between Midtown and New Jersey. You try reverse parking on the wrong side of the road when the traffic won’t stop for you! But it’s done now and I’m a bit proud of myself actually.

Then when I started walking back from the Hertz office down to the hotel, what do I literally run into right next to the Ed Sullivan Theatre – where they do the David Letterman Late Show? Yep – Pie Face – the new Australian pie shop that is having its opening next week, which is why I drove the wine in! Fate steps in, so I had to try one of the mini savoury mince and tomato pies for all of $2.95. Not bad at all – there was a line out the door, and a big dent in the pie racks – so everyone else likes them as well!

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So I think I’ll just wander down through the Theatre District to the big subway station in Times Square and buy my Metpass – $27 gives you all the trains, buses and ferries in all 5 boroughs of New York – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and The Bronx – for a complete 7 day week, 24 hours a day. That’s the keys to the city for not a lot of money at all. Then back to the hotel to unpack and set myself up, and plan what to do with the whole day off tomorrow. So far no snow flurries, so if it’s another day like today, anything’s possible. Maybe a ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty, or walk the Brooklyn Bridge! How cool to have those things on your list of possibilities! In Angaston on a Sunday it’s basically whether we’re going to have coffee at Blonde or go down to Nosh in Tanunda! Don’t worry – I’ll find something interesting to do believe me.

See ya from the bright lights, big city!!

Road trip! Baltimore Charm City to New York the Big Apple.

12.40pm, Saturday 28th January, Dunkin Donuts, Hulmeville Road, Bensalem, Pennsylvania, USA

Lunchtime folks, and I’ve just had the best Philly cheesesteaks Sandwich that I reckon you can buy in this country. Where? In South Philadelphia at Pats King Of Steaks. They’re open 24 hours on Passyunk Avenue and have been since 1930, and they’re opposite Geno’s – also open 24 hours making cheesesteaks sandwiches. So it’s always a hot topic of conversation around that crossroads – which one is the best – and for my money it’s Pats, because they shave the steak tissue paper thin, and really caramelize down the onions.

Here’s the Pat’s cheesesteaks, with every topping you can have – ketchup, pickles, brown relish, and roasted chillies.

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And here,s the two Temples of Philly cheesesteak :

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Have a look at the black Chevy parked right out front of Pats – up front to the right hand side of the building – rock star car park! That’s the rental car that I’m driving from Baltimore up to Manhattan, to deliver 4 boxes of Yalumba Wine to the new Australian meat pie shop Pie Face for their official opening party next week. apparently there are some curly donation of alcohol laws in New York state, and it’s illegal to ship wine into New York to give it away – but you can bring it with you in the car and it’s OK. So I get to have a one day road trip on a very uncharacteristic sunny winter day, and got to do the lunchtime cheesesteak side trip as Philadelphia is on the way! So I’ve already crossed two state lines – Maryland into Delaware, and Delaware into Pennsylvania, and I have the crossover into New Jersey, then finally into New York state to come.

And how lucky am I. It turns out that Dunkin Donuts stores all have free wi Fi now, so it makes good sense to stop here…….nothing at all to do with the donuts!!!

See you when I’m safely in Manhattan and the rental car is returned. This will be my first time driving in the Big Apple, so wish me luck! There’s also snow flurries forecast for this evening, so I need to get cracking and be there early afternoon to avoid any of that.

See ya when it’s Time Square South.

Baltimore – where even the potato chips are crab flavoured!

1.56pm, Friday 27th January, Fleet street, Fells Point, Baltimore, MD, USA

Hi folks – last day in Charm City – Baltimore! We had an early start this morning with the big sales meeting for our distributor in this part of the world – Bacchus Wines. We showed them the two star new wines of the moment – the 2011 Yalumba Y Vermentino and the 2010 Yalumba Strapper GSM – which have been winning hearts and palates at a rate of knots across The states of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware plus the District of Columbia (that’s the nations capital Washington for those folks from Australia that tune in) for this past week. So we’re leaving town happy, having caught up with a lot of old friends that we hadn’t seen for a while, and made a whole lot of new ones. I have a load of laundry in the drier to take care of as I’ve started packing for the drive up to New York, then a tasting with Michael Fishman over at Quarry Wines in Federal Hill. Then I need to show you what’s happening at the Wines Of Annapolis wine bar “Grapes” and the new DC Macarthur Park restaurant “Salt & Pepper”

See ya when we’re finished work and off to check out the cool old neighbourhood of Federal Hill.

PS i wasn’t joking – here’s the crab chips!

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