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 http://www.archive.org/details/MichaelFrantiandSpearhead. 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.

Posted by,

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!

How far does the grape go?

Alright folks, we all know that most wines come from grapes.  Recently I began pondering just how many grapes go into a bottle of wine.  So let’s put on our “thinking caps” and do some math.  Please keep in mind that different grapes are different sizes, so these are approximate values.

It takes around 75 grapes (one cluster) to make one glass of wine.  4 clusters of grapes equals one bottle.  One vine can make up to 10 bottles of wine (that’s 3000 grapes!).  30 vines create one barrel, and one barrel holds 300 bottles of wine.  300 bottles of wine is enough to fill 25 cases (12 bottles per case).  In a more linear format…

75 grapes = 1 cluster = 1 glass of wine

4 clusters = 1 bottle = 4 glasses = 300 grapes

1 vine = 10 bottles  = 40 clusters = 3000 grapes

30 vines = 1 barrel = 300 bottles = 25 cases of wine = 90,000 grapes

Aha!  There we have it!  So next time you’re out and about enjoying a glass of wine with friends, you can impress them by telling them just how many grapes went into their glass of vino.

Let the fun facts resume!

Welcome back to Meagz Fun Facts.  Over the past few years, you may have noticed a surge in the number of wine bars opening.  What a great, brilliant idea!  A place where you can sample wines by the glass (or bottle) and relax with friends.  I’m obviously enthused by the idea, but many of our modern day trends are recycled ideas from past decades.  So I was wondering if this was an original concept…  Turns out the Greeks thought along the same lines.  Allow me to expound.  When Mt Vesuvius buried Pompeii in 79 AD, it buried over 200 wine bars.  That’s over 200 wine bars in just one city!  Apparently the Greeks may have even more enthusiastic about wine than we are today.  Then again, I know some serious wine-lovers.  Hmm, food for thought.

I’m seeing Spring!

Well, maybe not quite yet. But Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, and the opening Red Newt Menu is done and ready to roll. (check out menu at rednewt.com). We are opening on Thursday, February 11th for dinner and have local musicians Eric Aceto and Doug Robinson performing 7 to 9PM. I am very excited about our opening menu! We will have our ever popular house made ravioli- this month’s filled with roasted parsnip, dried cranberries and garlic chevre in a nutmeg cream sauce! In addition we will have spinach gnocchi on our comfort food menu. Now if this doesn’t have your palate peaked check out this month’s Chef’s Menu. Our ravioli, roasted quail and a chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake that will knock your socks off are just a few of the courses. Remember we will be open for Valentine’s dinner on Sunday, February 14th, but will be running all our specials from Thursday through Sunday for all you early bird Valentine Sweethearts!

Harvest is upon us…so what’s new?

That’s a good question!  It’s the question that I ask every year.  And even with my 21 years of harvest experience in the Finger Lakes, I always get a different answer.

There are some new, neat things happening this year at Red Newt.  We have started harvest *very* early this year with our first picking on the first of September.  This picking wasn’t for wine it was for “Verjooz”.  What is “verjooz” you might ask?  Verjooz is our version of verjuice (or verjus) which is grape juice made from very early picked grapes.  It is very tart, like lemon juice, and very flavorful.  It makes a great component of salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.  In many situations where you might use lemon juice or vinegar you can use Verjooz to make a delicious wine friendly dish.  Debra will be working with Verjooz in the kitchen and posting recipes and videos soon.  Check it out at verjooz.com

The other question of the hour is “What is this harvest going to bring?”.  That is a good question without a clear answer.  I’ve been reading predictions of the harvest lately, made by various folks that espouse such wisdom of the future.  The fact is that, when trying to predict the outcome of harvest in a cool, variable growing region  months before a grape is picked, there are no guarantees.  If you feel absolutely compelled to feel that you know the future, try calling one of the handful of winemakers in the Finger Lakes who has been watching weather come and go around harvest for the past 20-30 years.  Their crystal balls are shinier than most.

The weather in the Finger Lakes continues to be just about perfect.  In the 70′s and sunny during the day and in the 50′s at night.  Great ripening weather.  It is really starting to feel like harvest.  This weekend I’ll be making my first “baseline” harvest assessment of the vineyards  I’ll let you know what I find.



Boycott Red Newt? Why should this be?

Last night I received the following comment to a video piece that we did commemorating the 10 year anniversary of Red Newt Cellars.  It really has nothing to do with the video to which it was attached, but I didn’t want to just delete it.  After all, whoever wrote this had something to say, and wanted it said in a public.   So I have moved the comment here, on RedNewtWrite.com where there can be a venue for further conversation.

Boycott Red Newt David Whiting has joined the initiative to shut down liquor stores and restrict your access to wine outside of supermarkets.  Send the message to Mr Whiting that having access to a wide range of wines means more to the consumer that false promises by Wegmans to carry his low quality wine.  Boycott RedNewt.”

So why did I get this message?  I can only guess.

Many of you may be aware that there is currently legislation being considered that would change some of the laws that govern the sale of wine and liquor in New York state.  The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and is titled “The wine industry and liquor store revitalization act”.   I think that it’s a good name.  The changes proposed would, I believe, result in positive changes for many facets of the NY wine industy, and would generate significant economic benefit to the State of NY.  If you are unsure of what the bill contains, or have only heard secondhand analysis, I suggest you read the bill yourself.  You can download the entire bill, or a copy of the memorandum which covers the high points, by following this link.

So why boycott Red Newt?  I have a clue.

Yesterday, I visited the Last Main Street Store Facebook Fan group.  Following my post I received the following message:   “We have removed your post and banned you from the Last Main Street Store Fan group. Falsifying who you are to stir up anger is not what the group is about. I suggest you display some professionalism and maturity in the future.”  Following this were a couple private emails suggesting I stop, lest my business by hurt, culminated with the post I listed above.

So what did I post that was so unprofessional?

Alas, not being a paranoid person, I didn’t make a backup copy of my now deleted post.  But it was something very close to this:  “I own a small business in the NY wine industry. As a small business owner, I am constantly changing my business and marketing strategies in order to stay competitive. I think that strategic compromise on this issue is important for the health of the industry and for NY State. You can read the Morrelle bill at this link: http://nywia.com/web/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=19&Itemid=9

Recently, the Last Store on Main Street Coalition claimed success with their New York Wine Month(s).  Their press release claimed that the program “was a success, boosting sales of New York wines significantly and creating a stronger relationship between New York’s retailers and wineries.”    While I question the success of the promotion, I do suggest that there be a thoughtful and sincere dialog of how best to change the industry and move forward.

I believe that there is a solution to this issue that can benefit all who are involved.  But to arrive at this solution it is essential to be willing to discuss and consider views which differ from one’s own.