The Best Places to Become an Amateur Sommelier in New York

Most people aren’t aware of the small cooking school nestled next to the swimsuit department on the eighth floor of Macy’s Herald Square. It’s there I found myself last Saturday afternoon, sipping cool Rieslings while most of my food-focused brethren sweated, and waited it out for bite and beer at GoogaMooga.

The school, De Gustibus, was founded in 1980 and has hosted numerous cooks, many who are now celebrity chefs, including Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and April Bloomfield. The host on Saturday was Juliette Pope, the beverage director of Gramercy Tavern, and she was teaching a three-hour course all about Rieslings. Three hours, and yes, it felt like a long time to me, too. But with 14 vintages to try, numerous nibbles from the restaurant, and more information than I knew was possible to cram in, the class went by in a flash.

Unfortunately Pope’s course was a one-time deal (though she did it last year, so hopefully she will continue the trend), but they do have another class in their Best in Glass series on June 2. This one features wine writer Jim Clarke, who is the beverage manager of Armani Ristorante, and South African chef Hugo Uys. This team will pair South African wines like Chenin Blanc and Syrah, with food by Uys.

Don’t worry, the wine education doesn’t stop there. New York City has a plethora of options, including wine bars that are happy to teach you a thing or two about what you are drinking. Terroir in the East Village is one of them, and their Bible-like book of wine proves almost a class in itself. At City Winery, head winemaker David Lecomte teaches a class on how to craft wine, and, as bonus, you can discuss your newfound knowledge over a flight in their in-house wine bar. As a bonus, you can also buy and compose your own barrel of vino.

Another great place to learn about wine is at master sommelier Laura Maniec’s Corkbuzz Wine Studio in Greenwich Village. Here they offer all sorts of classes from all about Spanish wines to basic wine education. They frequently plan food and wine pairing courses where they match six vintages with themed snacks as a way to teach you how certain foods and wines can enhance the other. Coming up on June 15, they will feature pizza pairings.

That’s right, wine goes with pizza. In fact, it goes with everything, and now, given the availability of classes and chatty experts, is a great time to stick your nose up, and put it right in that glass.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 25th Annual James Beard Award Winners

Over two decades have passed since the James Beard Awards began handing out trophies to the best in the restaurant world, and it continues to be the Academy Awards of the food world. Last night, at the packed Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, the awards commenced with their 25th annual ceremony that honored the country’s top chefs, restaurants, food writers, journalists, servers, bartenders, and television personalities. Not surprising, New York took a big chunk of the glory, with awards going to Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, who won Best Chef in New York, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar who won Rising Star Chef of the Year, beating out Dave Beran of Grant Achatz’s Next, which won the Best New Restaurant award. New York also boasts a win for the outstanding chef award, which went to Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. He trumped the other top-notch contestants including David Chang, Paul Kahan, Nancy Silverton, and Gary Danko. Paul Grieco took the prize with Terroir for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. PDT won for Outstanding Bar Program, and La Grenouille achieved victory for outstanding service.

Though only a handful of people walked away with a medal, Lincoln Center filled up with the country’s hottest foodie folk. April Bloomfield of the Breslin and Spotted Pig made an appearance decked out in a snappy suit and—shocker—with makeup on. Food Republic spotted Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston sneaking a flask of Fernet, and, rumor has it a PR gal got fired after failing to recognize renowned French chef Jacques Pépin and not letting him enter the pressroom. Naturally, the nominees were there, as well as haute chefs like Ed Lee, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Stephanie Izard, Cathy Whims, and dozens more. Keep making us tasty treats guys, and, may you all win next year.

The List of Winners:

Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park (NYC)

Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco)

Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar (NYC)

Best New Restaurant: Next (Chicago)

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH):  Bruce Sherman, North Pond (Chicago)

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama (Hoboken, NJ)

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Tory Miller, L’Etoile (Madison, WI)

Best Chef: New York City: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT): Tim Cushman, O Ya (Boston)

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY), Matt Dillon, Sitka & Spruce (Seattle)

Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI), Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS): Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club (Birmingham, AL)

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Tie between Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten (Athens, GA) and Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta)

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT), Paul Qui, Uchiko (Austin, TX)

Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional, Paul Grieco, Terroir (NYC)

Outstanding Wine Program, No. 9 Park (Boston)

Outstanding Bar Program, PDT (NYC)

Outstanding Service, La Grenouille (NYC)

Outstanding Pastry Chef, Mindy Segal, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (Chicago)

Outstanding Restaurateur, Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle)

For a complete list of winners, go here.

Photo of Momofuk’s Christina Tosi by Kent Miller

New York Openings: Terroir, Walden, The Tippler

Terroir (Murray Hill) – Reign of Terroir: beloved wine bar lands a third location. ● Walden (Williamsburg) – Simplify at this neighborhood wine bar from the owner of the design shop Matter. ● The Tippler (Chelsea) – Ancient storage space converted to tippling shrine beneath Chelsea Market.

Where Celebs Go Out: Stanley Tucci, Tom Colicchio, Alessandro Nivola

Stanley Tucci at The Luxury Collection Destination Guide Launch with Assouline: I like to go to a lot of different places, but certainly Mario Batali’s restaurants. The beef cheek ravioli at Babbo is so delicious and so incredible. Just about anything he cooks is okay with me. I always stay at the St. Regis, here in New York. ● Rosie Perez: I love Gino’s in Bay Ridge. The arroz con gandule at Luz in Brooklyn is a favorite, and the roasted chicken is the best deal in town. Here in the city, Dok Suni’s for Korean barbeque, at First Avenue and 7th Street.

Alessandro Nivola: Sunny’s, a bar in Red Hook, which has bluegrass bands on some nights. It’s where they filmed On the Waterfront. And a restaurant called The Good Fork in the same neighborhood. The Red Hook Bait and Tackle is a bar that’s seedier than Sunny’s. In Boerum Hill, there’s a great place called Mile End, a hip, Jewish deli. They smoke their own meats and have this incredible beef brisket. ● Estelle: Avenue and SL, I love ’em both. ● Krysten Ritter: I love Brooklyn Bowl. Kenmare is a fun place to go. Aurora in Williamsburg on Grand Street has a wonderful, little beet salad with hazelnuts. ● Timo Weiland: I love to go to Norwood and Gramercy Park Hotel. Sugarland in Brooklyn, so much fun. It’s off-the-beaten path, but a wild dance party. ● Daniel Boulud at the James Beard Awards: Right now, DBGB these days, because it’s one that keeps me the most busy. I like Marea, Le Bernardin, Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. ● Tom Colicchio: I live in the West Village, so I, often, go to Barbuto or Spotted Pig, ’cause they’re in walking distance. The food’s all good. I try different things all the time, so I don’t go back and try the same thing over and over. ● Wylie Dufresne: We like to go to PDT for a cocktail late at night or some tater tots. 15 East is a favorite. We just came from the new Terroir in Tribeca that was great. DBGB just opened up in our neighborhood. The hundred-layer lasagne at Del Posto was pretty special. ● David Burke: Corton was great. From the Garden is a favorite dish there. ● Michael Oher at Big Brothers Big Sisters Sidewalks of New York gala: I live in Baltimore. I love seafood, so anything on the Inner Harbor. The Cheesecake Factory is there. At PF Changs, I get the shrimp-and-chicken fried rice. ● Sebastian Copeland at Pepcom for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Into the Cold: My favorite sushi is in the Valley at Nozawa, which is a place that Spielberg goes to and tried to have Mr. Nozawa open a restaurant in New York. He serves you the food, so you can’t ask for what you want. He kicked out Cherlize Theron one time. He’s known as the “Sushi Nazi.” ● Miranda Cosgrove at Sony Music luncheon celebrating the release of her debut album, Sparks Fly: I go to Mozza in L.A. It’s like a pizza place. They have squash blossoms and really, good margherita pizza. Hungry Cat, on Sunset, has the best dessert. It’s like a chocolate souflee. ● Phil Ramone at opening night of Million Dollar Quartet on Broadway: Bravo Gianni’s on the east side. Sardi’s because I want to feel the history, and they have a good wine list.

New York: Top 10 Bánh Mì

For those with their heads still stuck in a panini press, this Vietnamese sandwich is the best thing that ever happened to toasted mini baguettes, pork pâté and mayonnaise, pork cold cuts, barbequed pork, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, chiles, and cilantro. Known as the No. 1. Also, bun me. Proving French colonialism wasn’t all bad.

Ba Xuyên (Sunset Park) – Preme hawker of the greatest sandwich ever, sorry Cubano. Crunchiest buns, tartiest daikon, don’t-ask pâtés. Drop-ceiling realism in the less douchehead, more snakehead BK. Stinky fruit milkshakes + potted plants for the ladyfolks. $3.75 a hit. ● Bánh Mì Saigon Bakery (Little Italy) – Bling’s got nothing on salty, briny, flaky, bbq hoagie goodness. Behind this jewelry store’s nondescript display cases hides a hopping toaster oven. Atmosphere of grungy international intrigue makes up for smattering of pre-made sammies. Just leave the quiet American at home.

Baoguette (Gramercy Park) – Michael Bao Huynh and missus — of Manhattan Vietnamese Bao empire — dish out glorious, bombing bánh mì, putting former Blimpie’s space to shame. Catfish variation makes your Filet-O-Fish look inbred. Sammich addicts beware. ● Num Pang (Greenwich Village) – Technically a num pang, not a bánh mì. But swipe a page from Tricky Dick: international border, I had no idea! Cambodian carb missiles of toasted demi baguettes, chile mayo, pickled carrots, cukes, and cilantro. Gaping headcheese hole filled with trade-up peppercorn catfish, veal meatballs. ● An Choi (Lower East Side) – LES entrant into Great Bánh Mì Scare of Ought Nine. Crusty petite torpedoes layered with roasted pig, lemongrass pork, chicken and caramelized onion. Price tags running nearly double nearby Chinatown OGs, but intentionally exposed bulbs for your latest hipster romance. ● Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches (East Village) – First-wave bánh mì gentrification. An Dong daughter brought porky subs over from Sunset Park way back in ’04. Pickled daikon-ites beware: Not nearly as over-accessorized as other No. 1’s. But portobello mushroom option warms mad vegetarian hearts. ● Silent H (Williamsburg) – Eponymous chef/owner Vin(h) Nguyen raids mom’s recipes for the stylishly unstyled masses. No love for the pho, and bánh mì banished to “street shop” lunch counter. But big blonde Polish bread straight outta Greenpoint. Swap cold-cuts for kielbasa and have a go at pronouncing Agnieszka. ● Pegu Club (Soho) – Homage to late 19th century British officers’ club in Burma is close enough to Indochina for us. So is the bon-bon fried oyster bánh mì with all the fixings. Plus faster prep than your ten-minute OCD cocktail, topped with a fresh-cut purple orchid. Colonialism rocks. ● Nha Toi (Williamsburg) – Fusion bánh mì finds natural home among freaks and geeks of Billysburg. Though traditional No. 1 no match for Daddy, like its peers, it excels at careful eccentricity. Bulgogi beef riff, or pho bánh mì — the Vietnamese version of fried chicken and waffles. Bakes late. Gird your stomach ‘til 9pm. ● Terroir (East Village) – Between bánh mì and panini: two continents, one toaster oven, and a sandwich press. Yet somehow this table-less wine bar makes it work. Bánh Mì Italiano keeps pork terrine, pickled veggies, adds smacking of mortadella. Almost as good as your other half-Italian, half-Vietnamese fantasy.
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New York: Top 5 Non-Vintage Wine Bars

imageCrash courses in tannins and charcuterie available now. 1. Terroir (East Village) – Hearth spin-off proves the East Village did need another wine bar after all. 2. Bacaro (Chinatown) – Venice comes to Chinatown. Get blotto in the grotto. 3. The Monday Room (Little Italy) – Intimate and classy, come feel good about a Monday for once.

4. The JakeWalk (Brooklyn South) – Fancy cheese, wine, and whiskey and everything’s Jake. 5. Ten Bells (Lower East Side) – Organic wine and fresh small plates in LoHo? The Bells toll for thee.