Ringing In Thanksgiving Eve Backstage at Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” Starring Jessica Hecht


Top Left: Actress Jessica Hecht with Karen Page at the 2014 SHARE benefit at Pier 60; Top Right: Karen Page with Jessica Hecht backstage after last night’s performance of “Fiddler on the Roof”; Bottom Left: There wasn’t a bad seat in the house at the Broadway Theater; Bottom Right: The village of Anatevka, Broadway-style

“I’ve often said that Jessica [Hecht] is what saints would be if saints were fun. I found myself standing next to her mother on opening night and saying, ‘Was Jessica always like this?’ Even her mother said, ‘You know, she always has been, she has this radiance.’”
Playwright Richard Greenberg, quoted in The New York Times

Scene:  After last night’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, Karen and Andrew enter the theater’s stage door on 53rd Street near Broadway, encountering the Stage Door Guy.

Us:  “We’re here for Jessica.”

Stage Door Guy:  “Which one?”

Us:  “There’s more than one Jessica?”

Stage Door Guy (smiling, and raising an eyebrow):  “SO many Jessicas, SO many Adams!”

Our Jessica was Jessica Hecht — who co-stars as Golde with Danny Burstein‘s Tevye in this new Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, which started previews on November 20th, making last night’s show its fifth performance.


Jessica Hecht last starred on Broadway in the Tony-nominated play The Assembled Parties. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the recent revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge opposite Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson. Her other Broadway appearances include the revivals of Harvey opposite Jim Parsons, Brighton Beach Memoirs opposite Laurie Metcalf, Julius Caesar opposite Denzel Washington, After the Fall opposite Peter Krause and Carla Gugino, and her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play The Last Night of Ballyhoo. On film, she will next be seen in Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia. Ms. Hecht’s extensive television work includes her recurring roles on “Bored to Death” opposite Ted Danson, “Breaking Bad” opposite Bryan Cranston and “Person of Interest.”  Well known for her role as Susan on “Friends,” she also starred in “The Single Guy” with Jonathan Silverman, and in James Brooks’s “What about Joan?” with Joan Cusack. Her many memorable performances include guest appearances on numerous television series including, “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie,” “ER,” “Seinfeld” and the forthcoming Marvel series, “Violet.”

In what’s become a new Thanksgiving Eve tradition for us (having seen Alan Cumming and Emma Stone in Cabaret last year), we love seeing theater and being around the pre-Parade bustle of Times Square — and Fiddler on the Roof was an easy choice this year.  Karen remembers seeing the film version starring Topol in a Detroit movie cinema with her family the year it opened, and that it was the first movie that ever made her cry.  Even her Catholic family had to have the cast album, which was played countless times — so much so that despite never having seen the movie again nor any staged production since, she still knew 90% of the lyrics last night.  Andrew didn’t have any prior exposure to the story or the music, other than the words to “If I Were a Rich Man.”

And besides, we’re already long-time admirers of the impressive talents and range of 2010 Tony Award-nominated actress (for A View from the Bridge) Jessica Hecht, whom we’ve had the pleasure of encountering over the past decade at the annual SHARE event she and Karen support every fall benefiting survivors of breast and ovarian cancer.  Harvey was to Andrew’s family what Fiddler on the Roof was to Karen’s, so of course we also caught her hilarious physical comedic performance with “Big Bang Theory”‘s Jim Parsons in that Broadway production a few years ago.

For getting in the Thanksgiving mood, Fiddler on the Roof and Jessica Hecht’s warm backstage welcome (and thoughtful introduction to yet another Jessica: fellow food enthusiast Jessica Vosk, who plays Fruma-Sarah) proved the perfect combination.  The current Syrian refugee crisis came to mind during closing scenes of the displacement of the villagers of Anatevka, reminding us that the challenges of oppression are ongoing, and those of us fortunate to be living in the United States have much to be thankful for today — not to mention a responsibility to those less fortunate around the globe.


Don’t miss Fiddler on the Roof starring Danny Burstein and Jessica Hecht at the Broadway Theater at 1681 Broadway (near 53rd Street) and at FiddlerMusical.com.  Previews are already in progress, and the show’s official opening is December 20th.


For discounted tickets, download our new favorite app TodayTix.com — and if you use discount code CVSWG, you’ll get $10 off your first purchase.  (You’re welcome.)


And to help refugees around the globe this holiday season, visit the UNHCR Donation Page:  “UNHCR helps refugees and other displaced people around the world survive, recover and rebuild better futures. Your gift will go toward providing life’s most basic needs and rights – like shelter, water and food, and safety and protection from harm.”

Citymeals-on-Wheels’ 29th Annual Power Lunch for Women Raises $1.2 Million to Feed New York’s Homebound Elderly


Top left: Karen’s fellow Northwestern alumna Mamie Gummer (who was born the year Karen graduated!) and her mother Meryl Streep arrive at The Plaza Hotel ballroom; Top right: Karen Page; Bottom left: Karen Page and Citymeals Executive Director Beth Shapiro; Bottom right: Citymeals co-founder Gael Greene

“The isolated older New Yorkers we nourish may not see friends or family on a daily basis, but they know they will see their meal deliverer each day. Thanks to the generosity of the women – and men – in this room today, our most vulnerable neighbors can take comfort in knowing Citymeals will always be there to provide a nourishing meal and a warm visit. These seem like small things to most of us, but for thousands of frail aged New Yorkers, your support means they will never be forgotten.”
Beth Shapiro, Executive Director, Citymeals-on-Wheels

If the pulsating energy in the grand ballroom at Citymeals-on-Wheels’ Annual Power Lunch for Women this past Friday at The Plaza Hotel was channeled through a generator, it could easily run New York City for a year.

That’s what happens when 400+ of the city’s most powerful women — from the realms of business, cosmetics, entertainment, fashion, food, government, law, media, non-profit, and Wall Street — are gathered under the same roof for a lunch that raises more than $1.2 million to feed New York’s homebound elderly.


Top left: Citymeals Board member Suri Kasirer draws a table number from the silver bowl; Top right: Robin Green, Ruth Reichl, and Karen Page; Bottom Left: Karen Page with 2015 emcee Norah O’Donnell; Bottom right: Jenifer Harvey Lang, Laura Day, Barbara Lazaroff, Lauren Vernon, and Karen Page

Co-founded by the late James Beard and the very-much-alive Gael Greene, Citymeals serves more than 2 million meals a year to more than 18,000 senior citizens under the leadership of Executive Director Beth Shapiro.

At Friday’s event, Yusi Gurrera was honored for her commitment to Citymeals as a Board member for more than a decade.  She established Citarella as a tireless supporter of Citymeals via its annual in-store Round-Up — a program through which customers can donate to Citymeals at checkout — which has raised more than $620,000.


Top left: Beth Shapiro, Dr. Patricia Wexler, Bernadette Peters, and Karen Page; Top right: Emcee Norah O’Donnell introduces Gael Greene; Bottom left: Francine Farkas, Georgette Farkas, and Karen Page; Bottom right: Pamela Morgan’s shoes

Guests attending this year’s 29th annual lunch included Sharon Baum, Alison Price Becker, Bobbi Brown, Laura Day, Francine Farkas, Georgette Farkas, Kathie Lee Gifford, Robin Green, Gael Greene, Mamie Gummer, Yusi Gurrera, Dana Ivey, Rita Jammet, Jenifer Lang, Barbara Lazaroff, Laura Maioglio, Zarela Martinez, Pamela Morgan, Norah O’Donnell, Karen Page, Bernadette Peters, Ruth Reichl, Shari Scharfer-Rollins, Dee Soder, Linda Stasi, Marcia Stein, Meryl Streep, Kathleen Turner, Lauren Vernon, Lillian Vernon, Melanie Young, and Donna Zaccaro.


Top left: Les Dames d’Escoffier members Melanie Young, Karen Page, Laura Maioglio, Jenifer Lang, and Rita Jammet; Top right: A carved pumpkin pays tribute to 2015 honoree Citarella’s Yusi Gurrera; Bottom right: Victoria Amory, Karen Page, Pamela Morgan, and Alison Price Becker

Citymeals-on-Wheels Sponsors

The official sponsors of Citymeals-on-Wheels are American Airlines and FIJI Water. Major sponsors included Absolut Elyx, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomingdale’s, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Citarella, Citi, First Republic Bank, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, Landmark Vineyards, Sabatino Tartufi, Specialty Food Association, Tao Group, The Travelers Companies, Inc., and Zabar’s and Zabar’s.com.

The VIP “$10,000 Men” supporting this year’s lunch included Daniel Boulud, Bill Fischer, Robert S. Grimes, Michael Lynne, John Shapiro, Bob Shaye, Jonas Tåhlin, and Donald Tober.

A Silent Auction chaired by Citymeals Board members Bobbi Brown and Lizzie Tisch featured coveted items such as lunches with actresses Jane Krakowski and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as tickets to the Broadway hit “Hamilton.”  Also in attendance was actor David Burtka, a fellow food enthusiast we’ve had the pleasure of seeing at the Union Square Greenmarket, shopping with his husband Neil Patrick Harris with their adorable kids atop their shoulders!


Citymeals-on-Wheels is at 355 Lexington Ave., New York, NY  10017.  Web: citymeals.org.

Note:  It literally takes just 2-3 minutes to make a donation online, and your gift will help thousands of homebound elderly New Yorkers receive hot, nutritious meals this holiday season and into the New Year.  Please consider making a donation of any size today here.

Robert Mondavi Winery Kicks Off Its 50-Year Anniversary Celebration With A Wine Tasting Dinner Last Night in NYC


Top Left: Christy Canterbury, MW; host Mark Oldman, Karen Page, and Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave; Top Right: The evening’s menu featured five decades of Mondavi wines; Bottom Left: Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon; Bottom Right: Mark Oldman’s Wine Sanctuary served as the setting for the Mondavi Winery’s 50th Anniversary kick-off dinner in Manhattan

Robert Mondavi, the California vintner who set in motion the rebirth of the Napa Valley wine industry and, to a generation of Americans, championed the idea that fine wine was an integral part of the good life.”
The New York Times

BECOMING A CHEF is a marvelous book for the interested home cook as well as the aspiring chef.  Like great wines with great food, there are great dishes and a great education here.”
Robert Mondavi

“What a great idea! WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT is enormously educational and entertaining, and should fit with anyone’s lifestyle!”
Robert Mondavi

When we were invited to a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the famed Robert Mondavi Winery, we knew the answer would be an immediate YES — just like the answer we’d received from its legendary founder Robert Mondavi (1913-2009) when we’d asked him to consider providing a back-cover blurb for our first book BECOMING A CHEF (1995), and again for our 2006 food-and-drink pairing book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, which prominently featured wine.

That last night’s wine tasting dinner hosted by the winery at the beautiful Manhattan home of a fellow winner of the Georges Duboeuf “Wine Book of the Year” Award Mark Oldman — author of Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine and Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, both as enjoyable to read as they are masterful at simplifying the world of wine — was simply icing on the cake, as was the presence of wine-world colleagues such as (to name just a few) Christy Canterbury, MW; Champagne enthusiast and Karen’s fellow Dame Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng, Hamptons Cottages and Gardens’ wine columnist Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave (who is celebrating her birthday today), wine writer Peter Hellman, radio host Akiko Katayama, and Wine for Dummies co-author Ed McCarthy (whose wife and co-author Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW, was traveling).


Top Left: Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg; Top Right: Robert Mondavi Reserve Fume Blanc; Center: Centerpiece; Bottom Left: Mark Oldman describes a wine memento to Peter Hellman; Bottom Right: Pouring five decades of Mondavi wines

Visionary Robert Mondavi founded his eponymous winery in 1966, inspired by the idea that he could make world-class wines in the Napa Valley on a par with the great wines of Europe.  Indeed, today — seven years after his passing at the age of 92, his name is an icon of American wine known around the world, and his winery remains the region’s most popular tourist attraction.

Last night we were welcomed by veteran wine world publicist Lisa Klinck-Shea and Robert Mondavi Winery’s Director of Winemaking Genevieve Janssens.  The evening found us tasting our way through five decades of Mondavi wines, beginning with the 2006 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Fume Blanc.


Top Left: Discussing the night’s wines; Top Right: Chef Jubilee did not miss a beat in providing us with delicious vegetarian courses; Center: Robert Mondavi Winery’s Director of Winemaking Genevieve Janssens introduces the wines; Bottom Left: Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon; Bottom Right: Preparing to raise a toast to Robert Mondavi Winery’s 50th anniversary

Next year, the winery is planning to celebrate its 50th anniversary big time:  It has already designed  a commemorative 50th anniversary label for selected wines released in 2016.  In April 2016, it plans to release a 50th anniversary red wine called Maestro.   Two winery-only offerings will commemorate its founder’s first vintages:  the Gamay Rosé, in honor of the original wine produced, and a Harvests of Joy Cabernet Sauvignon (echoing the title of Mondavi’s 1998 memoir Harvests of Joy).


Top Left: Bestselling wine author Ed McCarthy raises a toast to Robert Mondavi; Top Right: Andrew Dornenburg with Akiko Katayama; Bottom Left: Publicist Lisa Klinck-Shea with wine writer Gabe Sasso; Bottom Right: Raising a toast to the winery’s Big 5-0

In addition, a series of 50th anniversary dinners will take place across the country, and the Oakville-based winery will offer commemorative tastings and other anniversary programs for visitors throughout the year.

The formal celebration at the winery will take place the weekend of July 16, 2016, where the featured event is the Robert Mondavi Winery 50th Anniversary Celebration taking place that day, featuring cooking demonstrations by some of the leading chefs who have collaborated with Mondavi throughout the years. There will also be wine lectures and tastings, as well as art exhibits and live musical performances.

Robert Mondavi did more than any other human being we can think of (with the possible exception of his friend Julia Child, with whom he collaborated on the founding of the American Institute of Wine and Food and other projects) to promote the enjoyment of wine with food in the United States.  In tribute to his incredible support of our work as authors, he was one of three wine advocates to whom we dedicated our 2011 book THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE.

We hope you’ll pay your own tribute to this path-breaking visionary’s efforts by enjoying Robert Mondavi Winery’s 2016 offerings and raising your own glass to his memory — at the winery in July 2016 and/or at home throughout the coming year.



Robert Mondavi Winery is at 7801 St. Helena Highway in Oakville, Napa Valley.   robertmondaviwinery.com

For more information on the Winery’s 50th Anniversary Celebration on July 16, 2016, keep an eye on the website’s Upcoming Events page.

Insider’s Secret: Aldo Sohm Wine Bar Is Great for LUNCH: Two Courses for $16 — Or Add a Wine Pairing for Just $9


Top Left: Aldo Sohm Wine Bar has a beautifully-designed interior — and exterior. Top Right: The Classic Chopped Salad — and the Avocado Toast. Bottom Left: Aldo Sohm himself — in his art-lined dining room; Wild Mushroom Soup; Bottom Right: Confit Tomato Panina with Basil Mozzarella

World’s Best SommelierAldo Sohm of Le Bernardin is as good at pairing wines as he is at charming customers.”
Food + Wine magazine

Your first thought for a perfect weekday lunch spot might not be a wine bar.  Until yesterday, ours wasn’t.  Despite our well-known love of wine, we don’t always like to indulge during our mid-day meal during the week.  But in the case of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, which is the namesake of “World’s Best Sommelier” title winner Aldo Sohm (who also oversees the 15,000-bottle cellar of Chef Eric Ripert’s acclaimed four-star Le Bernardin next door, where charming Ben Chekroun oversees the dining room), you don’t have to tip back a glass with lunch in order to enjoy a wonderful meal, as we discovered with a friend yesterday.

While we’ve loved dinner (with wine!) here a number of times, we hadn’t realized that the restaurant was even open for lunch.  But we’d made plans to go to a matinee with a friend in from out of town, and were searching for restaurants near 50th Street and Broadway — and happily discovered that it was.

Better yet, we learned of the restaurant’s steal of a menu: Aldo Sohm Wine Bar offers two courses (expertly prepared by a number of Le Bernardin-trained cooks) for just $16.  Or, you can add a wine pairing and still get out for just $25.

We enjoyed tasting our way through course options like Classic Chopped Salad with arugula, feta, and sherry vinaigrette; Crunchy Romaine Spears with Dijon mustard vinaigrette; a deeply-flavored Wild Mushroom Soup with Creme Fraiche; and a toasty Confit Tomato Panino with basil and mozzarella.  And we also loved the Avocado Toast on pumpernickel bread with radish ($11).

This holiday season and beyond — while taking advantage of discounted Broadway tickets via the great new service TodayTix.com (an app deemed “the Uber of Broadway tickets,” you can enter discount code CVSWG at checkout to receive $10 off your first purchase) — you’ll want to keep Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in mind for your pre-theater and/or post-theater plans.

[P.S. For more about Aldo Sohm, check out our book THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE, in which he is prominently featured.]


Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is at 151 West 51st Street (bet. Sixth and Seventh Aves.) in Manhattan — just across the Galleria from Le Bernardin. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11:30 – 3 pm, reopening at 4:30 pm.  212.554.1143.  AldoSohmWineBar.com

Celebrating Some of NYC’s Best Veggie Burgers, Starting with Randolph Beer


Top left: Randolph Beer at 343 Broome Street, with its “Pants Optional” sign; Top right: One of the best veggie burgers in NYC comes topped with guacamole on a toasted bun; you’ll want to try the waffle fries with either aioli or ketchup; Bottom left: Joe remembered that we loved the veggie burgers the minute we walked through the door; Bottom right: Just to keep from becoming too predictable, we also ordered their popular mac-n-cheese and the delicious warm kale and grain salad with mushrooms and asparagus

Having just returned from a week on the road in New England, researching (read: tasting) and photographing our next book KITCHEN CREATIVITY, we’re happy to be home again, sleeping in our own bed, and enjoying comfort food.  While yesterday Andrew made a big pot of vegetable stock that’s perfumed our apartment all weekend, this afternoon we were jonesing for a veggie burger.

It’s no secret that we’ve been huge fans of Brooks Headley‘s veggie and vegan burgers at Superiority Burger — a place we’d been eating so often and so enthusiastically since its opening days this summer that we feared prompting a restraining order.  But as it has just six seats, it’s admittedly not the best place to send friends looking for a sit-down meal.

It’s been more of a secret that the place we recommend to those seeking to eat their veg burgers sitting down is Randolph Beer — which we think has one of the best veggie burgers in NYC, although it’s not written up nearly as often as other far less deserving spots.

Below we share some of our favorite places to go for veggie burgers around NYC — plus a few we’re hearing good things about that are still on our must-visit list.

But if you love veggie burgers as much as we do, and you’ve already checked out Superiority Burger, you’ll want to head on over to Randolph Beer first for sweet service (from Joe, or one of his equally sweet colleagues), a nice beer list that also features ciders (including one of the owners’ own ginger-noted Randolph Cider) and even dry root beer (from our beloved Forbidden Root, Chicago’s first botanic brewery), not to mention a craveable warm kale and grain salad with mushrooms and asparagus in addition to its worth-a-trip veggie burger with a side of waffle fries.

10 of Our Favorite Veggie Burgers in New York:

Blossom, 187 Ninth Ave., Manhattan

By Chloe, 185 Bleecker St., Manhattan

Candle Cafe East, 1307 Third Avenue, Manhattan

M.O.B., 525 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn

NoMad Bar, 10 West 28th St., Manhattan

Pickle Shack, 256 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn

Randolph Beer, 343 Broome St., Manhattan

Shake Shack, multiple locations (for the ‘Shroom Burger)

Superiority Burger, 430 East 9th St., Manhattan

Westville, 173 Avenue A., Manhattan

P.S.  While Bareburger (multiple locations) seems to end up on a lot of lists, we’ve sadly never had any luck with their veggie burgers.

P.S.S. We’ve never tasted Organic Grill‘s veggie burger, but it’s on our must-visit list.  And we’re keeping an eye out for April Bloomfield‘s meatless option at Salvation Burger when it opens next month.


Randolph Beer is at 343 Broome St. (bet. Bowery & Elizabeth), Manhattan.  646.383.3623.  Web:  RandolphNYC.com/Beer/

There’s No Better Way for a Foodie to Be Creeped Out This Halloween Than to See “Empanada Loca” (Through Nov. 15th)


Left:  “Empanada Loca” runs through November 15th; Right: Karen Page with actress Daphne Rubin-Vega at the 2015 SHARE event benefiting survivors of breast and ovarian cancer

“Gives a performance that’s as quietly mesmerizing as it is unsettling.”
The New York Times

Time Out Critics’ Pick


We can safely say that we can’t imagine any better way for a foodie to be completely creeped out this Halloween then to run, not walk, to see Daphne Rubin-Vega in her one-woman tour-de-force “Empanada Loca” at the Bank Street Theater in the West Village, as we did last night.

The media reviews above are no exaggeration:  In Aaron Mark‘s show inspired by “Sweeney Todd,” Rubin-Vega gives one of the best performances we’ve ever seen on a New York stage.*  It’s transporting, haunting, and utterly unforgettable.

Our admiration for Rubin-Vega’s talents spans decades:  Karen had served as a member of the board of directors of Naked Angels Theater Company (whose members then included the likes of Matthew Broderick, Kenny Lonergan, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Marisa Tomei) when it hosted a benefit performance (which Andrew catered) of Jonathan Larson‘s then-brand-new (and ultimately Pulitzer-winning) musical “Rent,” which starred Rubin-Vega in her breakout role as Mimi.  She easily acted, sang and danced her way to Tony and Drama Desk nominations, which she also received for her role as Conchita in the Pulitzer-winning  drama “Anna in the Tropics.”

But nothing prepared us for Rubin-Vega’s Dolores — drug dealer, ex-con, and masseuse — who commanded the stage for 90 minutes last night, relating tales all too convincingly of her time on the streets, on the “inside,” and in her restaurant-basement massage studio.

In fact, we were so creeped out that we doubt we’d have been able to sleep at all on Halloween Eve if we hadn’t stayed to congratulate Daphne on her performance and to remind ourselves that she’s truly the lovely, gracious actress with whom Karen’s been featured for the past decade at SHARE‘s annual fall benefit!

(*Right up there with Zoe Caldwell in “Master Class” and John Cameron-Mitchell in the original Jane Street “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”)


Daphne Rubin-Vega stars in Labyrinth Theater Company’s “Empanada Loca,” which is sold out for Halloween night (of course!) but has been extended until November 15th at the Bank Street Theater (155 Bank Street in the West Village).  For tickets, visit: LabTheater.org

Daphne Rubin-Vega‘s official website is DaphneRubin-Vega.com.

Hats Off to the Halloween-Loving Residents of East 67th Street in Manhattan


If Phil and Claire Dunphy lived in Manhattan, we know they’d feel right at home among their Halloween-loving neighbors on East 67th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, where year after year they go all-out in decorating the block in the spirit of the holiday.

We’re not sure how long they leave up the Broadway stage-worthy decor, but it’s worth a detour to take a look — everyone we’ve seen strolling along the block has shared our ear-to-ear grins….

Enjoying a Preview of “Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Week” in NYC: November 2-8


Top left: From whites to roses to reds, a line-up of wines from the Pays d’Oc IGP; Top right: Meredith Boyle welcomes us to Balvanera; Bottom left: Frederique Degueurce of Pays d’Oc IGP; Bottom right: Cauliflower and rice croquetas with quince puree

As authors of one of America’s bestselling wine books and regular writers on the subject of wine, we’re invited to countless wine tastings throughout the year.  During high season, we could probably have lunch and dinner with a winemaker visiting Manhattan every single weekday.  But because of our work and our own travels, we are only able to accept a very small number of the invitations we receive.

Having an opportunity to taste and learn more about wines over a meal is always appealing, given our passion for food and wine pairing, and our belief that one of the best aspects of wine is its ability to make food taste even better.

But having an opportunity to taste wines over a meal at a wonderful restaurant is even more appealing — as was the case yesterday when we joined a tableful of colleagues for a private lunch at Balvanera, one of our favorite restaurants in Manhattan, which was recently recognized by the Michelin Guide.


Center: The gorgeous label features the work of Ohio artist Kate Morgan; Bottom right: Balvanera chef-owner (and new father!) Fernando Navas greets our table

Just as important is the opportunity to learn more about the kind of well-priced wines that our readers are always asking us about — ones they can open on a Tuesday night that are gentle on the wallet, and both delicious on their own and food-friendly with dinner.

The occasion that fit the bill yesterday was a preview of next week’s “Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Week” celebrating French varietal wines from November 2-8 at more than two dozen participating Manhattan restaurants, which — starting Monday — will offer well-priced wines from the region by the glass, by the flight, or through special bottle offers.

Pays d’Oc has been called “the territory of 56 grape varieties,” because unlike other wine regions of France that are mostly known for just a few grape varieties (e.g., Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc; Burgundy’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), it is known for a much wider array of wine grapes as well as its characteristic “liberty of style” embraced by winemakers.

The 56 grape varieties you’ll find in Pays d’Oc wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Syrah, and Viognier — and obviously dozens more — meaning that you could qualify half-way for membership in the Wine Century Club without ever leaving the region!


Top left: 2011 Figure Libre Cabernet Franc; Top right: Balvanera chef-owner Fernando Navas; Center: Sopexa USA Trade Relations Director Valerie Gerard-Matsuura; Bottom left: HauteLife’s Michael Goldman with Balvanera Wine Director Sebastian Koncurat Urondo; Bottom right: Balvanera-style bread pudding with fresh berries

Of the white and rose wines we tasted at Balvanera, we especially enjoyed the light, clean 2014 Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc that accompanied empanadas made with sweet corn and roasted red peppers, as well as the nicely-balanced (with just a hint of oak) 2014 Cave des Vignerons de Saint Chinian-Seigneur Jean de Roze Chardonnay and the crisp Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier blend 2014 Domaine de Nizas Le Mazet Blanc that accompanied assorted market mushrooms with soy-truffle butter and cauliflower and rice croquettes.

Among the reds, the juicy, smoky-noted 2014 Pierrick Harang La Rousse Malbec and the luscious (with notes of cherries and plums), organic and “free style” 2011 Domaine Gayda Figure Libre Cabernet Franc were our favorites, both on their own and with the pasta dishes Balvanera chef-owner Fernando Navas created for us to accompany them.

As Balvanera is one of the participating restaurants in next week’s “Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Week,” it would be our top recommendation for the one to visit November 2-8 — but you’ll find the entire list below in case one of your own favorite neighborhood spots is on it.

Restaurants Participating in
“Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Week”
November 2-8


Balvanera, at 152 Stanton in NYC

A.O.C. L’aile ou la Cuisse (314 Bleeker Street; www.aocnyc.com)

Babbalucci (331 Lenox Avenue; www.babbalucci.com)

Balon (245 E 81st St.; balonwinebar.com)

Balvanera (152 Stanton Street; www.balvaneranyc.com)

Banc Cafe (431 3rd Avenue; banccafe.com)

Bar Olivino (899 Fulton St., Brooklyn)

The Bounty (131 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn; thebountybrooklyn.com)

Bread and Tulips (365 Park Ave S; www.breadandtulipsnyc.com)

Cafe Luluc (214 Smith Street, Brooklyn)

Cubana Cafe (272 Smith St, Brooklyn; www.cubanacafenyc.com)

Edward’s (136 W Broadway; www.edwardsnyc.com)

Essex (120 Essex Street; www.essexnyc.com)

Eugene and Company (397 Tompkins Avenue, Brooklyn; www.eugeneandcompany.com)

Fish Tag (222 West 79th Street; michaelpsilakis.com/fishtag)

L’Antagoniste (238 Malcolm X Blvd, Brooklyn; www.lantagoniste.com)

Le Philosophe (55 Bond St.; lephilosophe.us)

Lighthouse (145 Borinquen Place, Brooklyn; www.lighthousebk.com)

Maison Harlem (341 St Nicholas Ave, www.maisonharlem.com)

Peque Vino y Tapas (231 W 145th St; www.facebook.com/PEQUE.nyc/info)

Prospect (773 Fulton Street, Brooklyn; www.prospectbk.com)

Provence en Boite (263 Smith Street, Brooklyn; www.provenceenboite.com)

Superfine (126 Front Street, Brooklyn; www.superfine.nyc)

TAVOLA (488 Ninth Ave.; www.tavolahellskitchen.com)

Ten Degrees (121 St Marks Place; www.10degreesbar.com)

VBar Seaport (212 Front St.; www.vbarandcompany.com)

VBar St. Marks (32 1st Avenue; www.vbarandcompany.com)

VBar & Cafe (225 Sullivan Street; www.vbarandcompany.com)

Westville (EAST) (173 Avenue A; www.westvillenyc.com)


For more information on Pays d’Oc IGP Wine Week in Manhattan, visit paysdocigpwineweek.com.