Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buying Wine To Enjoy

When it comes to wine, you can talk about appearance, sensations and finish. Dwell on aroma, complexity and character, if you wish. But lets get real. You either like it, or you don't. It all boils down to flavor. How does it taste on your palate? Is the wine easy to drink without overwhelming your taste with bitterness or acidity? Or, is it smooth and well-balanced? While individual preferences come into play, and certain wines taste better with particular foods … you know a great tasting wine when you drink one. I'm no expert so I asked Bill, a knowledgeable wine consumer, for his pick.

Bill lead me to the first great find:
Vrac Cotes du Rhone 2007 – Here's how it got its name: For everyday drinking many French locals headed to the town winery to buy their wine in bulk (“en vrac”). Deep red in color and modest in intensity, this wine goes well with grilled chicken, tacos and just about everything. Bill says, “This is no bulk wine, it's a very good blend.” Costs $8 - $10.

For a Chardonnay try:
Bodegas Catena Zapata Alamos Torrontes 2007 – A white wine from Argentina, it's medium bodied, vibrant and fruity with a dry finish. The taste is clean -- a perfect blend to sip alone, or pair with BBQ chicken and potato salad. Cost: $9 - $11.

Selecting a Rosé, try:
Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence Rosé 2008 – This French wine is delicious chilled. It has a racy body and is refreshing to sip solo, or to serve with meat and potatoes. Cost: $9 - $10.

Finally for a splurge I asked Mitch, a wine magazine editor, what he likes, and the answer is from his twitter post:
Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina Montesodi 2001 – "Elegant, refined, with great silky texture and strong finish. 93 points non-blind." It's a sangovese blend. Later he wrote to tell me, "This is a great Italian wine that will still age for several years." Cost: $50 and up.

Thanks Bill and Mitch for your input. Uncork a bottle and raise your glass!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Uniqlo's Contemporary Style Is Easy On The Eye And Wallet

Recently I stepped into Uniqlo,* an innovative Japanese clothing store for men and women, which opened in Soho in 2006. What I found was a massive place [36,000 square feet], consisting of 3 floors of stylish, comfortable and casual wear selling for a fraction of what you'd pay anywhere else. With extra fine merino wool skirts priced at $19.50, cashmere sweaters at $89.50 and women's corduroy pants for $39.50 you can't go wrong. It's definitely an upscale place to shop for basics. Dark denim skinny jeans are a reasonable $29.50, and stretch leggings are only $10.50. Uniqlo has every style and color of pants, scarfs, tops and shirts. They have cotton blouses, plain t-shirts, graphic t-shirts, crew-necks and v-necks, tanks, as well as, long or short sleeves. All are well made with durable, soft, mostly natural fabrics and listed at affordable prices. I saw a variety of colored tights for $5, smooth cotton hoodies for under $20 and fashionable parkas selling for $49.50. A preppy wool dress was $35, and a man's [100%] cotton oxfort shirt was priced under $40.

Uniqlo's New York flagship store is airy, colorful and organized. Its customer service is friendly and extremely accommodating. If the pants you select require hemming, they offer it as a free one hour service. And daily sales and special promotions are everywhere! Wednesdays are an especially thrilling day to shop. It's when the store is restocked with incoming "just arrived" merchandize, and new weekly promotions begin. If you need a smart casual essential, you won't leave empty handed. For telephone orders dial: 1-877-4-UNIQLO.

Undate: Two stores opened in Midtown: 666 5th Avenue at 53rd Street and 31 West 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.  And now you can order online.

*Unlike its many competitors, Uniqlo is turning a profit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

City Gardener Extraordinaire

I work for a magazine. In early May I brought home a tiny bell pepper plant from a photo shoot, transferred it into a big flower pot, began watering it, added a weekly fertilizer and sat it in my windowsill just to see what would happen.

Later I bought sweet basil because herbs are like weeds, easy to grow. Than I received two free tomato plants [which I know] require a lot of sun to produce tomatoes. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I transplanted both -- a male and female -- into a single large pot and tended to them too.

Now I have enough basil to make a pesto sauce and three bell peppers that are getting surprisingly big, mature enough to pick soon. The tomato plants have tripled in size. A dozen little yellow flowers have blossomed on each one, and I understand those turn into tomatoes. Had they been outside receiving 6-8 hours of full sun each day, tomatoes would be falling off the vines already. Regardless, I'm thrilled they're doing so well indoors. And plants are pretty. Even without the produce, all the greenery spruces up the apartment. So my experiment of growing the unlikely in flower pots is paying off. With a minimum of time, effort and experience, I'll actually serve fresh picked “garden” peppers, tomatoes and basil for dinner. And straight from my windowsill, I'll savor the sweet taste of success.

Update: Other easy to grow herbs include: mint, oregano, chives, sage, parsley and lavender. The red peppers and tomatoes were delicious! Another way to pollenate tomato plants -- and as it turns out all plants like air -- is to turn a fan on them. Most herbs need 4 hours of direct sunlight to live, but you can use an inexpensive fluorescent light to make up for not having enough sun.