Author: Robert Stepanek

ROTARI WINES

Perhaps the most striking group of mountains within the domain of the Alps are the Dolomites, situated in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige. They point towards the sky not in the pyramidal or conical forms commonly seen elsewhere, but rather as a collection of craggy, singular sentinels looming over a very distinct area of Italy with a rich artisanal tradition and agricultural bounty. Thus it is apropos that the unique soil and environment in this realm of pristine air, clear lakes, glaciers and diverse microclimates gives rise to some exceptional wines.

NEW YORK CITY BEER WEEK 2016

It may not be the case that Matt Groening’s everyman owes his record-setting television sitcom longevity to yeast, hops and barley, but certainly many a similar notable accomplishment has been fortified with regular consumption of Homer Simpson’s favorite quaff. Those sharing his obsession have something to look forward to as from February 19-28, the 8th Annual New York City Beer Week will take place – yes it’s a ten-day week, but would seven days be sufficient to allow for a sampling of the fine products of local artisanal brewers? In the elasticity of time, let work weeks be shorter, and beer weeks be longer.

APAP 2016 – JANUARY IN NYC 2016 – REVIEW

For 2016 the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference offered a broad array of performers and entertainment to behold, not only for those members of the organization looking to fill out their calendars for the upcoming year – at arts facilities, festivals, colleges and universities and the like – but for aficionados of the performing arts in general. As the world’s largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals, APAP features more than 3,600 presenters, artists, managers, agents and emerging arts leaders from all 50 US states and more than 30 countries convening in one place at one time to both celebrate the disciplines they have dedicated their professional lives to, as well as discuss in many forums and panels the issues which impact the production and presentation of culture, both in the US and globally. While the Conference program unfolded over January 15-19 at the New York Hilton Hotel, the showcase performances which energize and thrill both members and general audiences alike took place over a longer period, from January 12-21 (with some showcasing performers in residencies extending for a week or more beyond), and could be seen at a great number of sites around New York in addition to the Hilton.

8TH ANNUAL CASSOULET COOK-OFF AT JIMMY’S NO. 43

There is little better on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter than a hearty bowl of stew, and the version perfected in France, the Cassoulet, raises the concept to an art form. While there is no standard recipe, ingredients usually lean heavily on meats such as lamb and pork, slow-cooked in a savory mélange, and beans are essentially mandatory. At a previous cook-off one attendee remarked that he didn’t like beans – to which I retorted “going to a cassoulet tasting and not liking beans is like going to Bill Cosby’s house and not liking roofies.”

BEER, BOURBON & BBQ 2016

While January annually brings cold weather, it also avails New Yorkers a great and singular opportunity to indulge in the kind of pleasures one normally associates with the long days, warm and sunny weather, and open-air celebrations of summertime – namely, the feast presented by the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ event, slated for January 30th. Once again taking place at the Tunnel, at 608 West 28th Street, the Manhattan installment – the 7th annual – of Beer, Bourbon & BBQ is the opening event in a multi-city tour; future stagings are set for February 27 in Tampa, Florida, April 1 & 2 in Timonium, Maryland, May 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 21 in Atlanta, Georgia, June 11 in Richmond, Virginia, June 17 & 18 in National Harbor, Maryland, August 5 & 6 in Cary, North Carolina, August 20 in Virginia Beach, Virginia and September 17 in Leesburg, Virginia. Named by Fest Forward the ‘Best of the Fests’ 2015 Award Winner, it is indeed a welcome gustatory escape from the rigors of winter.

APAP 2016 – JANUARY IN NYC 2016

While New York is justly celebrated as a center of culture year-round, in January this distinction is magnified by the confluence of several events concentrated not only on the presentation of diverse practitioners of the performing arts, but equally dedicated to the business, aesthetics, logistics and issues involved with the realm of live performance. Given New York’s situation as a gateway to the US and its distinction as a global city, this entails both national and international aspects.

THE 66TH NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS FINALISTS

The Finalists for the 66th National Book Awards have been determined, with the Longlist of 10 titles being winnowed down to a Shortlist of 5 in each of the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature respectively. It seems every year there is a category wherein any number of the Finalists could possibly get the prize, whereas perhaps in another there is often a book that seems foreordained to get the top honor – due to aspects ranging from a Finalist nominee being a notable author with prior nominations yet no Grand Prizes; a groundswell of popular or critical acclaim distinguishing one of the titles from the rest; or circumstances in the political or social sphere in America that serve to make a certain book timely or “important” in terms of the national dialogue.

EXPLORE & ENJOY GEORGIAN WINE! – PART 1

Following up from the great ‘Discover Georgia in New York’ event that took place in the Chelsea Market from September 25-27, and which enabled visitors to acquaint themselves with the fashion, art, food and wine products of the ancient Caucasus nation, aficionados of that land’s culture had an opportunity to savor the viticultural products of the region in depth at a wine tasting held at the Astor Center on October 6. Although Georgian wines have been available in the US for some years, the occasion was only the second time that a “critical mass” of these – representing many different wineries and major areas – have been presented to American oenophiles, with the broad assortment poured displaying the diverse styles and rich history of over 8,000 vintages cultivated.

2015 FANCY FOOD SHOW LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

By any measure, it is truly a golden era for food in the United States, and particularly with regards to the specialty foods industry. A niche that hardly existed 50 years ago, specialty foods sales have achieved a record high of $109 billion, accounting for nearly 15 percent of all retail food sales in the U.S. While it may now seem to have been inevitable that a nation with a populace as diverse, large and steadily growing as that in America would embrace the development of an increasingly abundant variety of food products and cuisines, it nonetheless took some visionaries to recognize the potential for the growth in this area and to cultivate the means of delivering such a bounty to what has become an ever expanding marketplace.

2015 SOFI™ AWARDS

The first time I laid eyes upon the statuette given to the winners of the SOFI™ Awards – the annual honors recognizing outstanding achievement in the realm of specialty foods – I detected a distinct familiarity about the form, but couldn’t immediately place it. While the figure is fundamentally modeled on ‘Oscar’, the three-dimensional logo of the Academy Awards, in that it is bisymmetrical, golden, standing erect, and holding an object (appositely a serving platter instead of a sword), there was another aspect to it that struck me as reminiscent of an iconic predecessor – namely, the head. The SOFI statuette, you see, is apparently wearing a chef’s toque, but not one that is clearly delineated; rather the sculpting is more evocative than realistic, so that the abstracted headwear resembles as much a bulbous projection extending the cranium as a hat sitting atop it.

And then I had it – the SOFI statue is a Kanamit!