Archive for November 2010

A Heavenly Take on One Hellacious Week Night 4

A Temporary Farewell to an Ithaca Favorite.

Friday night I decided I needed to get my butt out of the house and go to Castaways in downtown Ithaca.  Friday night was what could be the final performance of an Ithaca Local Trio called Revision.  They have been playing and performing music together from close to 10 years.  The band originally met attending Ithaca College, and began developing their own sound from the onset.  Their sound is infectious to say the least, combining genres of funk, jazz, shred rock, piano groove, and work in some mind-bending jams throughout.  They just finished up a new album called Ricochet available here:

The crowd for this concert was huge.  I didn’t expect to see nearly as many people at this concert, but I forgot to consider the fact that Castaway’s is their home venue.  This was their 50th concert at Castaways in a 10 year span!  I was fortunate to have crossed paths with them about 4 years ago.  I had been working as an entertainment director for a local venue, and we had booked them to play a fall harvest party.  It was then and there that I began following them.  Like a nice bottle of wine their sound has refined itself over the years, and their fan base continues to grow, despite the fact that they just went on hiatus.  Unfortunately, I had left the Finger Lakes for a few years after graduating from college so, I had not seen them perform in four years.  Getting to see them perform last week was a real treat for me.  They closed the first set with one of my favorite songs Soul System Breakdown (  They managed to include several crowd-pleasing covers in their second set including a ripping rendition of Rage Against the Machines – Killing in the Name.
I certainly hope these guys decide to keep doing what they’ve been doing, as their music is incredible.  I hope when you read this that I have said enough positive things about them that you check them out, buy their record, and then get the word out to your friends.  If you are in the band Revision and you read this – if you make a comeback add a bassist… if your keyboards can solo like that with one hand think about how sick the solos would be with two.

Deck the Halls

The weekend before Thanksgiving is for most people a relaxing couple of days getting ready for the the in-laws coming to town. My weekend was a fantastically fast paced, busy and enjoyable Deck the Halls. The first of the two Deck the Halls weekends, this is a great way to kick off the holiday season, with some fun, wine and food.

Executive Chef Debra Whiting prepared a Dried Apricot Bar (find the recipe: Click Here) for the thousands (literally) of people who visited the Finger Lakes on this Seneca Lake Wine Trail Event. With these bars we served our 2009 “Circle” Label Riesling and our 2009 Dry Riesling. These were really fun pairings for us to try out and with great response from our guests.

As I mentioned before this was a really fun weekend for us here at Red Newt Cellars. Thanks to all of you who were able to make it out for the November Deck the Halls and we look forward to seeing the rest of you ticket holders in December.

A Heavenly Take on One Hellacious Week Night 3

Nerdcore Hip Hop came to the Finger Lakes last week led by its pioneers MC Chris and MC Lars.  What is “Nerdcore Hip Hop?”  I am glad you asked… It is truly an art form that needs to be seen for itself.  Hip hop artists have taken on an aggressive style of rapping, using masterful beats and vintage samplings, while keeping their lyrics tuned in to a subject matter relate-able to your everyday household nerd.
Thursday nights Nerdcore Hip Hop show at the Haunt in downtown Ithaca was remarkably well attended.  You could tell the bulk of the crowd had shown up to see MC Chris.  MC Chris began his career working with Williams Street, a comic team that helps produce television shows for Adult Swim.  MC Chris most notably appears in episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force where he plays a character called MC Pee Pants.  MC Pee Pants is an 8 foot spider from Hell who wears a diaper and raps about needing candy to help build a drill from the surface of the earth straight down to Hell to release the demons on Earth to help fuel his ponzi pyramid scheme.  It was his time working with Aqua Teen Hunger Force that enabled him to make the transition to being a touring rap act.
MC Chris blew the crowd away performing hits like Pizza Butt, Nerd Girl, and Fett’s Vette, a song explaining how Star Wars character Boba Fett became a Bounty Hunter to help finance his Intergalactic Corvette.  Between songs MC Chris keeps you entertained airing out witty political banter and observation humor.  The one thing that will keep you in stitches is the fact that his voice is as high pitched as a toddler screaming after scraping his knee.
MC Chris was the last to go on stage.  The opening acts were the legendary MC Lars and Schaffer the Dark Lord.  I had seen MC Lars back in 2003 in his home state of NJ.  His act has improved considerably with a visual slide show synchronized to his songs and a live drummer.  To add to the sound MC Lars now shares the stage with YT Cracker.  MC Lars is the known creator (self-proclaimed) of post-punk laptop rap.  He draws samples from notable emo and indie songs as well as background music from video games and obvious pop culture references.  In fact, one of my favorite bands of all time is called Piebald.  Their song American Heart is used as a sample on his tune iGeneration.  A term now coined to identify the generation of youths growing up during the technology boom.  His closing song of the set was a tune titled: Mr. Raven – a tribute to writer Edgar Allen Poe.  To keep crowd participation high he invited one of his biggest fans, a deaf student from the Rochester Institute of Technology to sing back-up vocals.
As for Schaffer the Dark Lord (affectionately know as STD),  I could write a review of his set, but I won’t.  I urge you to YouTube some of his work, it won’t disappoint (  If you think you are a Nerd now, just wait.

Let me tell you about my last great meal…

First things first. If you’re looking for a great, inspired meal check out Hearth Restaurant!  Hearth is located in the East Village in NYC  and shares our localvore passion for food, sourcing many ingredients from farms local to metro NY.
Debra and I had occasion to dine out this week and chose to check out the kitchen pass at Hearth. We’ve dined several times in the dining room at Hearth and have always been impressed. The kitchen pass is a very different dining experience, and great in a different kind of way. Our seats (2 of 4 total) put us on the counter, just feet down from the pass, where dishes are plated and sent into service. Inches away from the action!
We chose the chef’s tasting menu, a seven course sampling, paired with wine. It was fun to see Chef Marco Canora communicate his passion for excellence to the entire kitchen staff. It was also great to have Chef Marco deliver several courses himself and have the opportunity to chat for a few moments about his dishes. (You might recognize Chef Marco as a contestant on this season’s “Next Iron Chef”.)
First course was a salad of braised endive, pistachios, ricotta salata and orange. The sweet richness and delicate bitterness of the braised endive mirrored similar sweet flavors from the orange and rich, astringent notes from the roasted pistachios. Paired with a dry Austrian Riesling, showing a likewise conflicted synergy, the course really took off!

BRAISED ENDIVE Pistachio, Ricotta Salata, Orange

Next up was sweetbread piccata with potato purée and hen of the woods mushroom. Rich, flavorful and elegant.  Just two courses in and we were feeling really great about the evening.

SWEETBREAD PICCATA PotatoPurèe, Hen of the WoodsMushrooms

Fast forward three more courses, each distinctive, delicious and inspired…

Mushroom Cavatelli with Wild Mushrooms, Soffrito, Sage

Cavatelli with Wild Mushrooms, Soffrito, Sage

roasted cod

Roasted Chatham Cod with Black Cabbage, Smoked Chickpeas, Garlic Confit, BaccaláCold Quince Soup topped with Yogurt Sorbet

beef and broccoli

CREEKSTONE BEEF AND BROCCOLI Roasted Flat Iron, Braised Short Rib, Grilled Corned Tongue, Confit Heart, Bone Marrow, Onions, Consommé

I haven’t said too much about the wines, which were selected as half glasses for us to pair with each course.  Primarily from the list of wines by the glass, very nice and nicely paired with the courses.

The two sweet courses were a perfect way to end our meal.  Here the wine selected was a  2006 Alsatian Gewurztraminer.  Rich, sweet, and alluring.  First dessert was cold quince soup topped with yogurt sorbet.  This pairing was perfect.

2006 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim Cuvée Maxime

quince soup with yogurt sorbet
Cold Quince Soup topped with Yogurt Sorbet

Final course was pear clafoutis , spiced seckel pear and bartlett pear sorbet (sorry, no photo).  This dessert was quite distinctive from the first.  And whereas the quince soup accentuated rich quince and lychee elements in the Gewurztraminer, the spiced pear and clafoutis keyed in on the floral and spicy elements of the wine.  Very different pairings and both quite elegant.

To sum up the meal, Great.

Many thanks to Chef Marco Canora and Paul Grieco for a terrific evening!

Taverna Banfi meets Red Newt Cellars November 3rd, 2010

Can I say one word that sums up my latest experience with Taverna Banfi? WOW!!! (And yes, I am including the exclamation points in that one word.) It is truly a pleasure to sit and enjoy an incredibly nice meal with my friends and colleagues at the end of harvest.
The Pumpkin Sage Foccacia with the cinnamon butter was delicious, and because Brandon doesn’t eat carbs, I just had to eat his portion as well.
The 2009 Dry Riesling was the perfect accompaniment to the salad. After having a bite of the sauteed pears and field greens the aroma of pear drifting off the Riesling was enough to show me how wonderfully this meal was paired.
The Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce was tremendously well paired with the 2007 Red Newt Cellars Sawmill Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer. The spiciness of the Gewurztraminer played so well with the slight sweetness of the squash. If you can put butter and sage into the mix, well…yes!
Now, I am a huge fan of venison, and Gewurztraminer with venison is one of my favorite pairings, so yes I saved a small sip of Gewurztraminer to have with my venison. Still glad I did! However I must say that the 2007 Glacier Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Franc with the stuffed venison and roasted root vegetables was scrumptious. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite wines that Red Newt has ever produced, but truly a remarkable pairing. The currants in the stuffing showed so nicely with the fruit of the Cabernet Franc, and those earthy root vegetables brought out great depth in the wine.
For dessert the Maple-Gingerbread Layer Cake with the Spiked Cider was the perfect way to end this autumn style meal. And again, Brandon doesn’t eat carbs, so I got more than just my share.
Truly an incredible meal with great friends. I am very privileged to be included in the Red Newt Cellars family and all the time we get to spend together around great wine and great food is more than enjoyable.

A Heavenly Take on One Hellacious Week Night 2

A Heavenly Take on One Hellacious Week Night 2:

I just recently made the move back to Ithaca. I made this decision for several reasons. The number one reason was that living in Ithaca put so many events and activities right at my finger-tips.  Every night of the week there is a new and exciting opportunity to for me to deepen my cultural awareness.  Wednesday night I had the chance to see Michael Franti and Spearhead, one of the premier live musical acts currently on tour.

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to Michael Franti, I highly recommend you check out some of his previous live concerts available to stream at I would describe Michael Franti and Speadhead as a musical melting pot as diverse as Mr. Franti himself.  Michael Franti was adopted at birth by white parents.  His own ethnic heritage is somewhat diverse, comprised of Native American, African, and European descendants. His live performance digs into the roots of all of these cultures dabbling in pop, hip-hop, rap, rock, punk, groove, R&B, funk, folk, and the all encompassing genre of “music to get you out of your seat.”

If you had the chance to make it to the State Street Theater in Downtown Ithaca you may have noticed something special on Wednesday night.   I have been going to shows and concerts with my family since I was a baby.  The demographic composition of concert goers has always depended on what show I was going to.  I knew I would see my fellow hipsters at Phoenix back in October.   I saw my hippies over the summer at My Morning Jacket and Phish.  In this respect, I wouldn’t expect to see my parents moshing at a punk show. Nor, would I expect to see my moshing friends at a Willie Nelson and Levon Helm Concert (which I went to by myself).

The crowd at Michael Franti looked much like a church that accepted people from all ages, walks of life, and religious beliefs… is the term multi-denominational?   The crowd was as diverse as the music.   Sitting behind me was the cutest retired couple dancing hand-in-hand.  To my right was a husband and wife.   The wife was holding their newborn baby, who was wearing the most adorable baby noise-reducing earphones I have ever seen.  The crowd to my left was a group of roughly 8 kids who I couldn’t tell if they were in middle school or high school either way they were out way too late for a school night (but kudos to their parents for letting them attend this show)!!!

Franti LiveMichael Franti knows that his audience is one of a kind, and he takes the time to give back his appreciation.  For a while he disappeared to give an intimate ballad performance to his fans viewing from the upper deck of the theater.  Another song he sang from the middle of his front-row fans.  And, towards the end of his set he called up all of his “children,” showcasing that you can be a child under the age of six or a child over the age of sixty so long as your childish spirit is alive and kicking.

It is my opinion that music has the ability to unite sworn enemies.  Music helps to bond everlasting friendships.  Music paints a picture in my memory of a time and a place.  From this day forward, whenever I listen to Michael Franti and Spearhead I will picture a culturally diverse masterpiece of a fan-base dancing around in my head every time I blink.  Please, listen to my advice on this one and check him out the next time he comes to your town.   I might just be there.

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Greg Tumbarello

A Heavenly Take on One Hellacious Week Night 1:

Though harvest has slowly come to an end in Finger Lakes Wine Country, the hustle and bustle of the region shows no signs of slowing down come Winter. I have boldly decided to make myself the Guinea Pig for all the wonderful events that have been taking place in this region. Last week was one of the busiest event filled weeks of my life. I only wish I could have as much fun every week.  Last week I had the opportunity to sample what we call the Culinary Bounty of the Finger Lakes.

I’ve always wondered if too much of a good thing could be bad. Is it possible to overdose from too much great food, wine and music? I doubt it, but I’m going to give it a try. I certainly put my own tolerance to the test last week. In part one of this on-going blog I will tell you a bit about my Tuesday Night.

Every school-year semester since I have been working for Red Newt Cellars, David and Debra Whiting assist students involved in the Cornell Hotel School’s class on Restaurant Management in creating a “tantalizing four-course dinner.” Every semester the food and wine pairings get better and better.

Currently, I do business administrative work for Red Newt Cellars and Bistro. Owners David and Debra Whiting, in my opinion, produce the most delicious and innovative food and wine in the Finger Lakes. As a treat/thank you to many of their employees they invited us out to dinner. However, for me, this wasn’t just any dinner. This is my third time attending this collaborative dinner, and each event serves as my own personalized homecoming. You see, I graduated from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations which is located adjacent to Statler Hall (aka The Hotel School). I spent many years working a variety of different jobs in the Hotel School which served as my bedroom during what was my hell week when I was in school, Final’s Week.

This past dinner was unbelievable. I could talk to you about how each wine fit seamlessly into the palate portfolio of each dish presented to us. I could talk to you about how delicious and refreshing it was to taste proteins and vegetables from nearby local and sustainable growers. I could talk to you about how awesome it was to have ambiance music performed by one of Taverna Banfi’s Student Chefs (wearing a bow-tie)!!!

The thing I enjoyed most about this meal was the one thing served from minute one through the final bite. THE BREAD. Debra Whiting has a fine knowledge of breads, and she showcases this on a daily basis in the Bistro at Red Newt Cellars. Deb’s food has this motherly quality to it. I say this because she is the only chef, other than my Mom, that I know who can get me to eat my vegetables. This year’s choice of bread was a pumpkin-sage focaccia bread served with a sweet cinnamon butter.

This was the most unique take on bread and butter I have tasted. The focaccia had the perfect moistness (my favorite word ever). The pumpkin flavor was exceptional, as it was very similar the flavor of my families pumpkin pie passed down by generations. It showed a savory elegance provided by the addition of fresh sage. To balance the savory flavor of the bread I slabbed on the cinnamon butter. I ate roughly 9 pieces of bread throughout my meal. Call it classless, but I like to use bread as my edible spoon. I dipped my bread in the sage butter sauce with the butternut squash ravioli, killer. I topped my bread with hazelnuts and pears from my salad, amazing. I took two slices of bread and made my entree into a stuffed venison sandwich, superb. Lastly, there was a maple ginger layer cake for dessert that went perfectly atop the bread and butter combination that I can’t stop raving about.

I have spent a number of years in the restaurant and hospitality industry. I suggest that this cinnamon butter is a great example of why the Cornell Hotel School is on the cutting edge of service. Restaurant Owners and Chef’s take note: if you make me unwrap a package of Land ‘o Lakes butter at my table to put on my bread I will never recommend your business to my friends. When I sit down for a meal I want to know unequivocally that the people responsible for my edible satisfaction have left no stone un-turned. I hold this same principle to mayonnaise. If you are slapping straight Hellman’s on my sandwich, then it is obvious to me that you could care less about how good my sandwich tastes.

Taverna Banfi is perfect at creating that “One-of-a-Kind” feeling. Many of the Chef’s and Servers are Hotel School Students who aim to be the future pioneers of exemplary service. A Truly Fine Dining Experience is much like a jig-saw puzzle. Each piece stands on its own individual merits, but also needs to effortlessly fall into its respective place in order for the guest to clearly see, smell, taste, and feel the big picture of their service experience.

Posted by Greg Tumbarello

Red Newt dines with Taverna Banfi

HTaverna Banfi - Red Newt Cellarsey there Red Newt fans! Red Newt recently teamed up with Taverna Banfi to create an evening of innovative cuisine and perfectly paired wines. It was my great fortune to be invited to the Red Newt table to enjoy said evening.
I must say I’m a bit of a “nerd” when it comes to wine and food. There are few things that I enjoy more than having a dinner and discussing how the food and wine works together. Also, the only way to be proficient at creating your own food and wine pairing is to… practice, practice, practice. Yup, you must suffer through the process of trying foods with wine. Aha, what more could you want from life?!
Enter the first course… A delicious salad with sauteed pears, hazelnuts, and chevre with the RNC 2009 Dry Riesling. As a team, we made short work of the course. It was subtly elegant and expressive of our local bounty. Unfortunately I didn’t pause long enough before digging in to take a picture, but it was a beautiful presentation.
The second course consisted of the butternut squash ravioli was paired with the 2007 Sawmill Creek Vineyard Gewurztraminer (WS rated 90!). I personally wasn’t sure about this food and wine pairing, but upon tasting it…I was a believer! The ravioli seemed a little understated at first, but when the Gewurztraminer came into the picture it was perfect. The wine didn’t outshine the food and vice versa. This course I went through a little bit slower having taken the edge off my hunger and really savored the delicacy of the ravioli.
Stage right, the third course of Venison stuffed with pecans, currants, sausage, and apples with some winter root vegetables is paired with the 2007 Sawmill Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc, a staff favorite of Red Newters. This was by far my favorite course. For those of you who haven’t had venison, I suggest taking a page from Banfi’s book and preparing it the same way. I opted for a little bit more wine to go with this course. One glass of Cabernet Franc is NEVER enough! This wine has it all, forward fruit with some nice spice and perfectly structured tannins. I was now ready for the encore of dessert.
The grand finale of maple-gingerbread layer cake with vanilla ice-cream and paired with a warm spiced cider cocktail. Although I was full, I put on a game face and finished the dessert (can’t let good food go to waste) and cider. Now fully satiated, we sat and chatted for a bit longer and then donned our winter gear and headed down to the cars.
Not only is it a nice evening because of the meal, but its also a great opportunity to reconnect with my fellow workers. Red Newt is family owned, but the staff is really one large extended family, and its always nice to sit down with the family for dinner.
Phew, and that’s my review of the Banfi dinner. When the opportunity comes along in the spring, I hope to see some of you readers there to enjoy the dinner along with us Newters.

Taverna Banfi meets Red Newt Bistro – “Same Time Next Year”

Red Newt Banfi Menu
Taverna Banfi meets Red Newt Cellars

This past Tuesday marked the third year of the Red Newt / Taverna Banfi collaboration with the HA3305 student restaurant

management team. Each year, actually twice per year, chef (wife) Debra Whiting works with a team of Cornell students that conceptualize, formulate, and execute and exquisite culinary evening at Taverna Banfi at the Cornell University’s Statler Hotel.

Banfi Red Newt Pear Salad
Poached pear and winter green salad with Riesling and pear dressing

The students and Debra do most of the work, discussing how to incorporate ideas about local food and wine into the menu. I get to talk food and wine and help with the wine pairing ideas. The group of students that we worked with this time around were exceptional, bringing focus, enthusiasm, and inspiration to the table. At the dinner, it really showed.

If you have an opportunity to make one of the Banfi/Red Newt dinners, I suggest that you do. If you weren’t able to make this dinner, an exceptional presentation, here is how it went down…

Arrival at 6:30. All of our party had not arrived, so we passed a bit of time with some 2002 Chateau Franc Brut. Nice.

Our party had all arrived, that’s 17 of the Red Newt crew, and the first course was sauteed pear and fall green salad with hazelnuts, feta and Riesling pear vinaigrette served with 2009 Red Newt Dry Riesling. This course was just outstanding. The pears are delicately poached, a slight crunch while delicately soft. Salad dressing was flavorful, but understated, making it a perfect complement to the wine. The greens were exquisitely flavorful, and the hazelnuts and feta added the bit of robust flavor that set this dish apart. And the

Venison stuffed with pecans, currant, sausage, and pecans.
Venison stuffed with pecans, currant, sausage, and pecans.pairingwith the 2009 Dry Riesling was spot on. 2009 was a year of vibrant andexpressive Riesling in the Finger Lakes, and this Red Newt dry Riesling is, might I say, one of my favorites!

The second course was a a butternut squash sage ravioli with sage-butter sauce served with the 2007 Red Newt Gewurztraminer from Sawmill Creek Vineyard. Ravioli was delicately firm with an ethereal intertwining of sage aromas carried by a rich but delicate butter sauce. The delicate sweetness and earthiness of the ravioli was a perfect match to the delicate but effusive spiciness of the Gewurztraminer – a match made in heaven. My favorite detail of the dish was the garnish of a single fresh sage leaf that had been, essentially, fried in hot butter until it had become crispy, having been releasing its sage aromas and flavors to the butter making up the light but decadent butter sauce.

The students really outdid themselves with the main course. Venison loin stuffed with currants, sausage and pecans. Delicately roasted vegetables and wilted winter greens. Yum. The venison was rich, flavorful and tender enough to cut with my fork. Wine choice with this course was the 2007 Red Newt Caberrnet Franc – Glacier Ridge Vineyards. This Cabernet Franc is one of my favorites, showing supple textures and rich fruit.

Banfi Red Newt dessert
Maple-Gingerbread layer cake with salted caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream.

We topped off the evening with Maple-Gingerbread layer cake with salted caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream. Paired with the dessert was a warm apple cider spiked with Finger Lakes Distilling Maple Jack.

Debra and I and the Red Newt crew had a great evening at Taverna Banfi. It was truly a celebration of great food and wine. We’re already looking forward to doing this again with the next group of students from Taverna Banfi and HA 3305, the Restaurant Management Course in the spring. We’ll keep you posted!