J Vineyards & Winery 2010 Harvest Kicks Into High Gear

With the arrival of warmer weather along Sonoma County’s coastal hills and valleys, the 2010 grape harvest at J Vineyards & Winery kicked into high gear.  Harvest crews were busy picking Pinot Noir grapes from J’s "Nicole’s" and "Robert Thomas" Russian River Valley estate vineyards throughout the early morning hours, arriving just in time for a short "Blessing of the Grapes" ceremony at the winery.

Heavy coastal fog and low clouds shrouded the region in June, July, and most of August, pushing the annual grape harvest back about three weeks.  Temperatures, however, began to spike warmer this week, pushing the coastal clouds offshore and helping grapes destined for sparkling wine to mature to their desired ripeness and bright acidity.  The varietal wine harvest throughout J’s ten Russian River Valley estate vineyards is expected to begin by mid-September.

"We finally hit our optimum sugar levels for sparkling wine," said J Viticulturalist John Erbe. "We will continue concentrating on sparkling wine for the next three weeks, and then follow up with a three-week harvest of our grapes bound for varietal wines."

With the harvest delayed due to the unusually cool weather, both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay appear to be ripening on a parallel path. Such a compressed, rigorous harvest can push a winery to its limits. At J Vineyards & Winery, a complex "battle plan" has been put in place by winemaker George Bursick to make both the sparkling wine and varietal wine harvest transition smoothly.

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Amazing Wines for the New Season from Arnaldo Caprai

As we approach fall, wine-lovers inevitably turn to Technorati Tags: Italian,wine wines that pair well with the flavors of the season.  Arnaldo Caprai produces wonderful white and red wines that will make you forget all about the end of the summer and look forward to the cool weather. Arnaldo Caprai, one of the most beloved […]

Luxury Boutique Hotel The Betsy in South Beach Invites You to Spice Up Your Life

Enjoy A 2 Night Stay and Dinner for 2 at BLT Steak During Miami Spice Starting at $569betsy

Summer officially ends on September 23, but the joy of warm weather continues at The Betsy in South Beach.  Not only can you hit the beach to work on retaining your golden glow as we move into the Fall season, you can take the time to “Spice Up Your Life” with a veritable feast of dining options throughout the city.  “Miami Spice” is a mouth-watering summer restaurant city-wide promotion that showcases the very best of Miami gastronomy created by world renowned chefs.  So pack your bags, and enjoy a two night stay that includes one three-course dinner for two from BLT Steak’s Miami Spice menu, continental breakfast daily, an umbrella, beach chairs and plush towels, New York Times delivered daily, Wi-Fi access, and taxes.

The award winning BLT Steak offers a delicious three-course dinner menu for two as part of the Miami Spice special promotion.  The delicious selections satisfy meat and fish lovers as well as vegetarians.  Dinner always starts with the delivery of Laurent Tourondel’s freshly baked popovers and a jar of warm pate.  Your first course may consist of the refreshing Heirloom Tomato-Watermelon Salad or the perfectly Charred Portuguese Octopus.  Considering your selection of entrée, you might choose the 5 Pepper Crusted Black Angus Steak or the Grilled Red Snapper. Round out your meal with either a side of Jalapeno Mash or Spicy BBQ Corn and further tantalize those taste buds.  And, for dessert, the local mango cheesecake and the Pina Colada Sundae are options for a melt in your mouth food finale.  Afterward, to enjoy the star filled sky, visit The Deck at The Betsy offering sweeping views of The Atlantic.  Is it the end of summer?  Maybe, but it is the beginning to a perfect evening.betsy2

Rates start $569 with your arrival from Sunday through Wednesday.  If you arrive from Thursday through Saturday upgraded take advantage of the BLT Blackboard Special at a rate of $729.  Rates include all taxes, resort fee, and high speed internet access.  Extend your stay with additional nights, available at prevailing rates.  For reservations dial toll-free 866-792-3879 or 305.531.6100, or make your booking at www.thebetsyhotel.com and use special access code SPICE.  This offer is valid based on availability and is valid from now through September 30.

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Pastry Chef Jenn Giblin’s Freshly-Baked Desserts, Now Available on the Go

Blue Smoke has a delicious new addition, Blue Smoke Bake Shop! Blue Smoke’s cakes and pies have long enjoyed a devoted following, with guests savoring the restaurant’s irresistible homestyle desserts just as much as its authentic real pit barbecue. Now, every day can be a little bit sweeter with Pastry Chef Jenn Giblin’s freshly-baked pies and cakes, breads, cookies and more, available to go. Stop by and pick up some stellar treats for any occasion from meetings and birthdays to housewarming gifts and the holidays.

Situated just inside the restaurant, the Bake Shop is open seven days a week from 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM. The menu features some of Blue Smoke’s “greatest hits,” as well as additional selections specially-created for the Bake Shop. Current highlights include cupcakes (Chocolate, Very Vanilla and Red Velvet), whole pies (Key Lime, Banana Cream and Bourbon Pecan), an ethereal chocolate cake, cookies and bars (Chewy Chocolate Chip, Double Fudge Brownie, Raspberry Almond Fruit Bar) and a selection of just-baked breads (from Brioche Buns and Cornbread to a Buttermilk Loaf and Raisin-Fennel Bread that also makes an incredible French Toast). Menu changes seasonally, including a special cupcake “flavor-of-the-month.”

Visit www.bluesmoke.com/bakeshop for more information, or call 212.447.6058 for special orders.


PÓ . . . Delivers Big Tastes In A Small Package

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Simply Delicious Simply PÓ

is located at 31 Cornelia Street in the heart of the West Village, and is open for dinner Monday – Thursday from 5:30 – 11 PM, Friday – Saturday from 5:30 – 11: 30 PM, and on Sunday from 5 – 11 PM. Pó is also open for lunch Wednesday – Sunday from 11:30 to 3 PM. For reservations, please call 212-645-2189 or visit www.pórestaurant.com.po mirror-e2

It may be known as the restaurant that catapulted Mario Batali into celebrity, but , the West Village neighborhood hub has become something of a star in its own right. At once the same place it’s always been and an evolved, mature, improved version of its original self, Pó is as much about a love for food and a love for the community it’s been a part of for so long.po-interior

It all started quite simply, between best friends (and then unknowns) Mario Batali and Steven Crane,po steven2 (below), who’d moved back across the country from San Francisco to be closer to family. The restaurant they’d start would lead them to a whole new family—the entirety of Crane’s staff at Pó has been with him for over a decade.

The space they fell in love with had both character and history: as Café Cino it was New York’s first off-off Broadway theater, a place that saw the early careers of Al Pacino and Sam Shephard, and whose rich history earned the spot landmark status in June 2010. What was once a stage for actors-in-the-making would become the stage for Batali’s career and a platform for modern, local Italian food, made simply with nothing but love and the best of New York’s homegrown ingredients.

Indeed, Po retains the integrity of  Batali’s original dictum, offering it in a small, warm and endearing atmosphere peppered with neat white clothed tables, a tin ceiling , large mirrors and muted lighting. Even the noise level is tolerable and everyone, from the grazers sitting at the bar to locals, celebrities and walkins are treated with respect, care and a total lack of pretention.. 

That’s why 18 years after Po opened its doors, it continues to draw chic crowds and stands for the same values—fresh, Italian fare and respect for the community—that initially led to its success. Under Crane’s solo ownership, with his Executive Chef Lee McGrath, Po is better than ever and has mellowed into a Village icon.po bar larger-IMG1102

That experience begins almost quietly, with white bean crostini (Pictured Right).po bruschetta2 It looks unassuming, but its flavors are bold, with notes of chili, garlic and rosemary. Smooth beans atop crunchy bread, it’s a fresh start of the meal that opens your eyes and palette for what’s to come. The menu might change seasonally, but some things can never go: so it is with Bob’s Steamed Clams and Mussels, named for Crane’s dad and the dish’s biggest fan. Cooked in a tomato brodetto with black olives and the gentle spice of fresh black pepper, it’s a fresh take on the classic whose leftover sauce is best soaked up by the Sullivan Street Bakery bread served alongside. Absolutely fabulous! 

An appetizer of Cured Tuna is dressed with the bright natural colors of chili oil, piled delicately over thinly sliced artichokes and red onion-speckled frisee, a blend of textures and vibrant flavors that indicate the best local ingredients in their freshest preparations. Asparagus get dressed up in melted, gooey fontina before they’re studded in thickly sliced almonds and dressed in parsley oil, the grassy, vegetal flavors taking richness from the cheese and nuts. And all salads are fresh as the farm, copious and delicious. We adored  Beets and Carrot Crudo with pistachio-crusted goat cheese and an equally delicious composite of crunchy Sugar Snap Peas, radicchio, pine nuts & caccio d’Roma. po 1_AE38045

The reputation of remarkable pasta started by Batali is taken even further by Chef McGrath, whose spin on Mario’s White Bean Ravioli comes piped into a red tomato envelope and laden with a tangy, sweet balsamic butter sauce. Locals wait for summer to arrive to enjoy his Sweet Pea Pappardelle, which makes its appearance each year and delivers an unusual freshness and robustness, in part due to a splash of fresh mint that balances the peas’ natural sweetness. Homemade tagliolini pasta, sauced with impeccable rock shrimp and red butter sauce was complex and beautifully balanced.

Crane often boasts about his friend Guy Jones of Blooming Hill Farm in the Hudson Valley who he’s been working with since the start; he’ll proudly say its to his credit that his vegetable dishes taste so darn good. Even still, the flavor combination is brilliant, as unusual as it is memorable.po food larger-foodshot1

Given his proximity to an array of artisanal food purveyors—Murray’s Cheese, Refetto Pasta, Florence Meat Market all make daily bike deliveries—it’s no surprise that so many dishes shine simply for the respect paid to quality ingredients. It’s especially evident with Pó’s Grilled Guinea Hen, cooked with saba (a sweetened red wine reduction) and charred, revealing a sweet depth of flavor not normally associated with the cut. (Pictured Below)po-guineahen-fregula Enjoy it with a side of fregula, an Italian spaetzle-like pasta that’s made from semolina and toasted like couscous, combined with shaved asparagus and scallions for a light, green kick. Pórcini Crusted Cod, a Pó favorite, is fall-apart tender, with the lovely funk of the mushrooms and a warm borlotti bean and broccoli rabe salad, all kissed with chive and smoked paprika oils and pepper sauce.

For dessert, an affogato parfait combines coffee gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato, chilled cappuccino, and a chocolate caramel sauce—an addicting addition to a classic combo. A Ricotta Cheesecake is dressed in Vermont maple syrup, sweet with an inherent savory quality that makes for a light ending to the meal. Don’t miss the house biscotti, one citrusy in flavor and studded with chocolate chips, and another in the classic pistachio: a refreshing instance of Italian indulgence.

The wine selection by the charming Sommelier-host, Fredi Romero, is easy to negotiate, well chosen and beautifully priced with lots of bargains in the $40 to $50 level. The 2006 “Morellino di Scansano Marteto” Super Tuscan is 85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, and spent 5-6 months in French oak barrels. A full-bodied, powerful Morellino, it offers terrific persistence in its expression of black cherries intermingled with sweet toasted oak. Anticipated maturity and is ready now and food friendly.

Service is perfect: Helpful, knowledgeable but never pushy or rushed. The bartender (there is no hard liquor served) is special. His personality radiates throughout the room and you won’t find better cappuccino anywhere. (he prepares it at the bar). 

In all, Po is a great illustration of how restaurants can evolve in the city—how they can get to a point that’s so comfortable and so right, that every diner feels it. We loved and so will you.

(Enjoy a combination of all the above with Pó’s accessible tasting menu, a $53 affair that spans six courses. For lunch, it’s even more accessible: a feast of four courses chimes in at just $35. And when you make your reservation, expect it to be documented on the same 89-cent clipboard that Crane has used for every day of Pó’s existence since 1993.)po mirror-e2


Copyright 2010 by Punch In International. All Rights Reserved.


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Emirates, the Dubai-based international carrier, has underlined its commitment to the United States by announcing the launch of second daily flights to Los Angeles and Houston.

The award-winning airline, which recorded a significant increase in revenue for the Americas in 2009-10, will soon offer over 15,000 seats on 98 return flights per week to the United States.

Starting October 31st for Los Angeles and November 1st for Houston, Emirates will fly non-stop to both cities twice a day on Boeing 777 aircraft.  The services will provide the highest standards of passenger comfort, with luxurious private suites in First Class, lie-flat beds in Business Class and generously-sized Economy Class seats.
Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline said: “Emirates has experienced very strong demand across all of its U.S. gateways this year, including very healthy premium and business traffic. We are delighted to meet this increased demand with the start of second daily services to both Houston and Los Angeles.”


Sacré Tomate!

Heirloom tomatoes are back. This summer promises a bumper crop of these juicy red jewels so to celebrate, Tour de France Restaurant Group will offer a sumptuous selection of specialty dishes featuring heirloom tomatoes grown by local farmers.  The nine Tour de France eateries will allow diners to taste the gamete of  French cuisine from […]