Photo Confessions: Street Art II

“The fate of the bridges is to be lonely; because bridges are to cross not to stay!” 


Mehmet Murat ildan

View of NYC from I-78

Ok, this may be the nerdiest thing I have ever said ...

 but I love bridges. Maybe it's because I come from a family of Engineers, or maybe its just because bridges are awesome engineering triumphs! (Well, unless you're on the

Tacoma Narrows Bridge


I appreciate them for the great views. This post features a snapshot of the last great view I saw. So, be sure to appreciate the view next time!


The Enthusiasts! NYC Wine Club: American Wine

"I want YOU to drink American Wine!"


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Dear Enthusiasts! This month's wine club brings us back to the good, ol' U.S. of A -

get excited

- we are learning about the Wines of America!

Now before you all head to your wine cellars and grab your favorite bold Cabernet Sauvignon or creamy Chardonnay from California - take note - CA wines are

off limits.

 That's right folks, this week we are examining American wines and totally not inviting the most popular kid in school.

So, let's talk history!

  In case you didn't know, the U.S. has its own native grapes! The most common,

vitis lambrusca

, produces an exotic, but somewhat wild wines (at least for the Europeans). But these wild wines satisfied the local thirst and Americans kept producing wine. Until, duh... duh... duh... Prohibition. This "dry legislation" resulted in the uprooting of hundreds of vineyards and the destruction of the wine industry. Prohibition, together with the Great Depression and those pesky World Wars left the American wine industry very out-dated. 

Yet around the 1960s, Americans began to produce wine from

vitis vinifera

 grapes and eventually the great Europeans regions began to sense the competition. Today, wine all across American is recognized internationally.

U.S. Appellation System.

  So what will you see on the wine label?? Historically, much of American wine is organized around the political borders of the 50 states. However, much  of the major wine regions are organized into

Approved Viticultural Areas

 (AVAs), based on geography and climate. You may think, this sounds similar to the European tradition of placing the village or vineyard on the label. However, I still think it is extremely uncommon for American winemakers to label based on region or sub-region without also putting at least the state or grape on the bottle as well.

A Few Fun Facts...

  • The U.S. is the world's #1 consumer of wine (passing France in 2010).
  • The most popular varietals in the U.S. are: #1 Chardonnay, #2 Cabernet, #3 Merlot.
  • Only grape names approved by the TTB are allowed to be used on labels, currently there are 312 varietals approved.

Now we know that wine is produced in all 50 states (yes even Alaska). But, I know we don't have time talk about everything from Alaska to Wyoming, so I have featured the top 15 based on wine production:

1. New York (3.692% of US Production).  

Leave it to the Empire State to come in at #2 after California, who produces nearly 90% of American wine. Most wine nerds argue that New York has the greatest potential for wine-making in the Atlantic Northeast, but isn't quite reaching that potential yet. Biggest problem - New York is still producing wine with native grapes (thus not using the major players consumers are used to from Europe). Yet, the New York soil does yield some interesting wines (mostly shale, slate, schist and limestone). So check out Long Island, Hudson River Valley and the Finger Lakes wine regions.


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2. Washington State (3.250% of US Production).

  Until 1889, when Washington became the 42nd state, there was an issue of sovereignty because Spanish, American Colonists and British had all claimed the land as theirs. Identity issues aside, the Pacific Northwest produces some great wines, focusing on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Syrah. Best recent vintage for Pacific Northwest was 2008.

3. Oregon (0.906%).  

Much of Oregon's success actually came from new winemakers who decided to dropout of California and set up shop in a different region. Specifically, winemakers from Hill Crest, The Eyrie Vineyards and Tualatin were some of the early producers that helped establish Oregon as a notable wine region. 

Primary varieties grown here include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Favorite regions include Columbia Valley (which includes Walla Walla and Yakima) and Willamette Valley.


Pennsylvania (0.476%).

  Man, in Pennsylvania all roads lead back to William Penn. Penn established the first vineyard in PA in 1683 (unfortunately, it failed). But lasting wine producing success can be linked to Conrad Weiser in 1729. The most successful varietal in the state is Chambourcin, a native grape known for its tough resistance to rot and producing Beaujolais-like red wine.

5. Ohio (0.440%).  

Ohio may be the dark horse of the Atlantic Northeast. Back in the 1860s, it rivaled California for vineyard acreage. While the vineyards dwindled for much of the 19th century, there has been expansion lately. The most popular varietal grown there is Catawba, a

lambrusca x vinifera

 hybrid, known for its "foxy" aroma. Some notable wine regions include: Grand River Valley, Isle St. George, Loramie Creek, Lake Erie and the Ohio River Valley.


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6. Kentucky (0.316%).  

There are approximately 65 wineries and 4 vineyards in Kentucky. Most stick to growing the native American grapes and there has been some success with the American-French hybrids. One notable


 producer is Chrisman Mill, known for their Cabernet Sauvignon. Or... you could stick to drinking Bourbon, we all know Kentucky does that well.

7. Missouri (0.270%).  

The "King of Missouri grapes" is Norton. Norton is a black grape variety (sometimes called Cynthiana) native to the United States


 a "foxy aroma." (And while I don't know what "foxy" means in terms in flavor, I think going without it is a good thing). The wine made from these grapes can been tannin and high in acid. Producers to look for - Mount Pleasant Vineyards and Stonehill Winery.


Florida (0.258%).

 The first wines in FL were made around 1563. Beware the local grape, Muscadine (not to be confused as a member of the Muscadelle family), its not too tasty. Its safer to try some of their fruit based wines. Yes, they make wine with oranges, key lime, mango and passion fruit in Florida!

9. New Jersey (0.207%).

 New Jersey is actually more famous for cider rather than wine, but actually produced the first American wine to win an international award. In 1767, two NJ vintners were recognized by London's Royal Society of the Arts. Today, there are approximately 32 vineyards but no major recognition of late. 


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10. Texas (0.182%).  

Who knew the Lone Star State made wine in addition to great BBQ. Much of France should be indebted to Texas winemakers because it was Thomas Volney Munson who saved the phylloxera-infected vines by sending Texas rootstock. Producers to look for - Caprock (aka Teysha Cellars), Flat Creek Estate, and Messina Hof Wine Cellars.

11. Michigan (0.179%).

  Initially, Michigan vintners only grew native grapes, but around the 1960s there was a major transition to French hybrids. What is interesting about Michigan is the soil - glacial scree in Fennville. I don't know if glacial soil produces tasty wines, but its definitely something different! Wineries to look for: Left Foot Charley and 2 Lads.

12. Virginia (0.137%).

  Despite Thomas Jefferson's attempts, Virginia was not the first state to make wine - that honor goes to Florida. Virginia was the first state to attempt to cultivate the


 grapes, but unfortunately most attempts failed due to the hot and humid growing season. (The heat leads to overripe grapes and the humidity encourages disease). The quality of each vineyard widely varies.

13. Colorado (0.046%).

  Its a bit tough to actually grow grapes in Colorado, but the number of wineries is on the rise. In the past 20 years, the number of wineries has grown from five to ninety! The most popular varieties are Chardonnay and Merlot.


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14. Maryland (0.045%). 

 Sadly, my home state of Maryland is not a major player, producing a mere 0.045% of American wine, and most of it is a fruity sugar bomb. But, Maryland has been making since 1662 (shout out to Lord Baltimore for that one!) and has three major wine regions: Catoctin, Cumberland Valley and Linganore. Look out for wine festivals that feature small producers because there is quality out there, its just hard to find. My favorite local winery - Boordy Vineyards (Who couldn't love a bottle of wine with a Terrapin on it - honestly!).

15. Idaho (0.042%).  

For you east coasters (myself included) that aren't exactly sure where Idaho is on the map, its technically grouped with the Pacific Northwest when discussing U.S. wine. Wine production here is typically an extension of Washington State's Snake River, where extreme


differences create wines with high acidity and alcohol balance. 

Primary varieties grown here include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.

And that wraps up our overview of American Wines. While the International community makes a mean glass of fermented grapes, get out there in you local community and see what is available. You just may find something delicious!


*Wine Nerd Definitions...

 diurnal, term used for extreme temperature variations between day and night (warm days and chilly nights).

NYC Wine Event!


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Dear Enthusiasts! This post is for my NYC readers (or NYC Bound readers)! One of my favorite sommeliers, wine blogger/podcaster is hosting an event in NYC. Elizabeth Schnieder of

Wine for Normal People

, is going to be in NYC this week, Thursday October 3! Check out her blurb about the event below!

FULL DISCLOSURE -- you may have to pay for a glass of wine, but there is no cover charge, so still worth the trip to Times Square if you have the time.

"Another reminder to New York City Metro Normal Wine People! Come meet me and other normal wine people this Thursday night! I'll do a reading from the book and we can dork out and drink some nice stuff!"

Thursday, October 3. 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM at NIOS Restaurant at the Muse Hotel (Times Square) Midtown.

If you go, let me know how the event was in a comment!


NYC Favorites: Advanced Must See

"Didn't I tell you this was a wonderful place?"


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Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of my all time favorite movies. In fact, I actually had breakfast at Tiffany's one morning (kinda by accident) and it was kind of perfect. In honor of that classic New York movie and moment, here is a list of some places that are worth seeing if you have extended time in the city:

1. The Guggenheim.

 Classic New York City museum, needs no introduction!

2. Chinatown.

 Chinatown can be daunting and crowded but its worth it to feel like you are in a different city for a few hours. I love to head down there just to walk the streets, grab a bubble tea and maybe dim sum with friends.

Little Italy

 is also nearby (but mostly getting taken over by Chinatown) but its fun to walk up the street lined with Italian restaurants.

3. Union Square.

  The unsung hero of NYC parks. I love Union Square (and sure I'm a bit biased because I lived nearby). But it has a farmer's market open all year (complete with local wine, jam and cheese), great shops and a Christmas market during the holidays. Plus, two of my all time favorite stores are nearby

Union Square Wines

(offering free wine tastings basically every Saturday from 2-5) and

The Stand

 (an amazing bookstore).

4. The Highline.

  Eco-friendly park built on an old elevated railway. Offering great views of Chelsea and the Hudson river.

5. Chelsea Market.

  I have to admit that I lived in NYC for two years and never visited this market until right before I left. Big mistake! (Though I blame the misery that is traveling east-west in NYC). This market is just full of interesting stores and restaurants. All I can say is check it out now!

6. Theater.

  The BROADWAY! Check out the student rush deals or TKTS daily deals before springing for the full priced tickets. You can easily see a show in the city for $40 if you research. (Though don't even bother for Book of Mormon tickets).

7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

8. MoMA PS1.

 This modern art space is located in Long Island City. If the timing is right check out PS1:Warm Up - its a 

9. SOHO (Alternative Flatiron).

 For those shopaholics, SOHO is a must see for NYC's latest trends. I prefer to head to SOHO for speciality food shops and tiny boutiques that aren't offered elsewhere. A personal favorite - Vosges Chocolate. Beginners beware, it is always crowded down there, so be sure you know where you are going or you WILL be run-over by locals. The overcrowding in SOHO is why I prefer Flatiron, basically all the same shops are there, but they are much bigger.

10. Eataly.

 The must see Italian Market in the city. Sure Eataly is a global chain, but the NYC location features at least five restaurants and a roof top brew-pub. My favorite is the vegetarian bar, the dishes are fresh and delicious. FYI - wine is served at most restaurants!

And that wraps up my favorite NYC sights, check out the must see sights for


if you want to revisit old classic spots. As always, I'd love to hear some comments on your favorite places in the city!


NYC Favorites: Drinks

So it's no secret - I love a good glass of wine. With this interest in mind, I spent the better part of my time in NYC hunting down some of the best places to grab drinks in the city. May fun times be held by all!


1. Dead Rabbit.

 My all time favorite bar in NYC, ever (as of 2013)! For me a favorite has three key components: excellent drinks, distinct ambiance and quality service. DR has all of these and then some! Think historic five points NYC (circa The Gangs of New York movie) with creatively mixed drinks and none of the violence. Grab a table on the second floor - it is worth the wait. There you can choose from a vast range of traditional drinks popular throughout history or go for a modern special. The only downside - this bar is about as far downtown as you can go. Solution -just grab yourself a gentleman (or lady) who works on Wall Street as a date.

2. Corkbuzz Wine Bar.

 A favorite classic wine bar. I first discovered CB when I read an article about the owner, she was the youngest female Master Sommelier in the field. Naturally, as a supporter of Accomplished Ladies, that alone was enough for me to check it out. I was not disappointed - the decor is warm and classic, the service was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable and the wine was great. The list itself is very diverse. Only downfall is that is a bit pricey but worth it for special occasions.

3. Terroir Wine Bar.  

If a wine bar was worthy of my "friendly neighborhood wine bar" Terroir would win hands down. It's a cozy bar with awesome staff - just a great place to hang out during the week. Full disclosure - the list is Riesling heavy - but there are plenty of alternates on the list as well.

4. The Ginger Man.

 Finally, a bar featuring beer! The bar reminds me of classic NYC with  modern twist. There is plenty of room at the bar with couches in the back to lounge on. The beer selection is HUGE. A must see for beer lovers in midtown.

5. Balkanika.

 Now some of you may be wondering why I would suggest heading to Hell's Kitchen near the heart of Times Square and the Theater District. The reason - diverse wines. This wine bar features wines from Eastern Europe including Croatia and Estonia. The food is decent and the service is usually lack luster. But I kind of enjoyed the sassy waitresses. It made me feel like I was in Croatia for a bit. Not worth a long commute, but its something different.

6. Le Bateau Ivre.

 If you want to feel like you left NYC and landed in France for a night, head to LBI. I found it one night on a whim but it has an extensive wine list featuring French wines. Best on nights where you could sit outside.

7. Elsa.

 Solid cocktail bar in East Village. A must see if you love gin based drinks.

8. Middle Branch.

 A midtown cocktail bar brought to you by the owners of Little Branch. 

9. Pegu Club.

 If you want a more high end cocktail experience in NYC, PC is a good choice. While I am sure there are fancier establishments, I enjoyed my experience at PC without feeling like I wouldn't be able to buy groceries for the rest of the month. 

10. The Biergarten at The Standard.

 If you find yourself in Chelsea craving a beer al fresco, this is the place to go. For those of you who have been to The Black Forest in Germany, this place may remind you of there, minus the forest and plus one overpass. Sure, it may not seem so magical to be sitting under an overpass while drinking beer, but its a nice alternative to the pricey club scene in Chelsea. (And you will be thankful if it rains). 

Bonus -- While I wanted to cap the list at ten, these two places were favorite neighborhood spots. First,

Pierre Loti Wine Bar

, a cute bistro with outdoor seating and a vast wine list. Second,

Zum Schneider,

 small but authentic bavarian beer garten.

Also, check out any of my favorite

Speakeasy bars

Finally, if you are looking for a bottle of something to share at home, here are some Wine Stores worthy of a shout out:

 Union Square Wines and Bottlerocket Wine and Spirit. 


NYC Favorites: Beginner Must Sees


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Start spreadin' the news

I'm leaving today

I want to be a part of it

New York, New York.

Frank sure did know a good time when he saw one. New York City is my favorite city to visit in the U.S. because there is always something new and exciting to do. While my previous posts have focused on where to eat - this list of sights is for those first-time visitors who are looking to see classic NYC sights, with local insider tips.

1. Brooklyn Bridge.

  Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is my #1 most favorite thing to do with newbies in New York. On a nice day you have some great views of the city, the bridge is a historical piece in and of itself, plus you get some exercise to burn all those calories from cronuts, cookies, and drinks.

2. Central Park.  

When you head to the park, plan to just walk around (or maybe bike). Do not get in the horse draw carriages. Just walk to the center and enjoy some quiet nature in the heart of midtown.

3. 5th Avenue.  

Window shopping on 5th avenue during the day is fun - a bit hectic - but fun. However, my favorite time to strut along 5th avenue is at night, the windows are still lit up, but the streets are mostly empty. Its like walking through an art gallery for free. 

4. Times Square.  

I know what you are thinking - why would a local suggest heading to Times Square, which is NYC's biggest tourist trap? I love to go to Times to people watch. Go around dusk, grab a coffee and just hang out. You will see tons of interesting people. Plus there is shopping for you shop-aholics. (But my favorite shopping area is Flatiron).

5. Empire State Building.  

The history and the view of the city from the top can't be beat. Just get the basic ticket and take the elevator to the top.

6. MoMA.  

Museum of Modern Art. My favorite museum in the city. Even if museums aren't your thing, the store is definitely worth visiting.

7. Statue of Liberty.

  I recommend just taking the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of lady liberty. It's definitely the affordable option.

8. Rockefellar Center.

  There is decent shopping around Rockefellar Center, but I loved to just walk around here. There is a sense of celebrity because of all the TV studios. If you are hardcore, you could wake up early and be in the audience of the Today show. If you do, let me know how it is - I like to wake up early, but 6 am is a bit much.

9. Flatiron Building.  

My favorite building in the city! It's so distinctive. Plus Madison Square Park is a great place to relax or grab a burger from Shake Shack. 

10. Financial District.

  Worth the trip downtown for one reason = architecture.

And that's a wrap for NYC beginner must sees. There is a lot to see in the city and it's impossible to see it all in one trip. So pace yourself, be adventurous and don't just sit in the hotel bar. Happy travels!


NYC Favorites: Manhattan Restaurants


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Manhattan. This is the best place to grab a bite to eat - In the world! Yes, better than France, Rome and Tokyo. New York's edge can be described in one word - diversity. You can have quality food from all most every culture around the world. Some of my favorite spots are listed below:

1. Lower East Side Tacqueria (LES).

  Rational or not - LES Tacqueria may be my favorite restaurant in the city. It doesn't offer a fancy tasting menu or wine pairings but it does offer delicious food. My usual included a margarita, guacamole and two tacos. All of their tacos are awesome. And the service is always attentive despite the huge crowds out front. 

2. Blue Ribbon Sushi (South Village).  

If you love sushi, you will love blue ribbon. There are tons of options here and all are great.

3. Baohaus (East Village).  

Taiwanese Street Buns - pure awesomeness. Full disclosure, I went to baohaus before it became a household name - and it was definitely better in the early days. However, the buns are always tasty - my favorite is the fried chicken. 

4. Murray's Cheese Bar (West Village).

  Wine and cheese is definitely a match made in heaven. Murray's aims to exploit this partnership by pairing awesome cheese with complex wines. What's not to love?

5. Mighty Quinn's BBQ (East Village).

  A casual bbq spot with killer pulled pork sandwiches! A recent addition to the east village community, Quinn's has been an instant success. Definitely worth visiting to satisfy that bbq craving.

6. Crispo (West Village).  

Italian. Actually - my favorite Italian in the city! I have visited Crispo several times (and I try to never repeat restaurants in the city). The service is great. The wine list is great. Plus

7. Upstate (East Village).

  Cozy little establishment with fantastic seafood. I'll admit, I'm not a big raw bar person, but Upstate offers several delicious seafood dishes. If you have room, they usually serve a whiskey cake - yum!!!

8. ABC Kitchen (Union Square/Flatiron).

  A favorite among my NYC friends for brunch. 

9. The Toucan and The Lion (East Village).  

Asian fusion small plates - yes please! Plus, they have several inventive cocktails.

10. Beecher's Handmade Cheese (Flatiron).

  Cheese store upstairs, wine bar downstairs. I recommend the mac & cheese with wine (what kind - all of them!).

11. Hill Country Chicken (Flatiron).  

Their chicken and traditional sides are delicious - but I come here for the pies. They come in several flavors and sizes (including a personal size) - my favorite is the cowboy pie.

12. Momofuku - Ramen, Ssam or Ma Peche.

 David Chang is a culinary legend. He is the mastermind behind the Momofuku restaurant family. Ma Peche is the fancy fusion restaurant. The Ssam Bar is great for groups and features a huge slap of pork with sides. My favorite is the Ramen bar - offering simple and delicious ramen bowls. If you have room after visiting those three great spots - stop by Momofuku milk bar. They feature crack pie, everything cookies and red velvet milkshakes.

13. Cookshop (Chelsea).  

Rustic style food - best for brunch.

14. Num Pang.

  Cambodian flavors on perfect french bread - one of my favorite sandwiches in the city. The brisket is always the best. First runner up = shrimp.

15. Otto Enoteca Pizzeria.

  When I start a new restaurant list, I try to stay away from the well-known celebrity chefs. But I always had such a good time at Otto that this Mario Batali restaurant had to make the list. The feature here is pizza and wine. I usually stopped by for lunch when I could sit at the bar and talk the the bartenders about the best wines.

Now before my friends in Brooklyn get too upset about the lack of Brooklyn spots (of which there are tons!) a Brooklyn was posted previously!! So check it out.