Category Archives: General

In the Magazines: The Atlantan

Check out articles from the AG’s Robin Alix Austin in the December 2014 issue of The Atlantan, out now.

Atlantan December 2014Present Perfect
Luxe gifts for five unique occasions. Plus experts share their favorite holiday entertaining tips.
Page 46

Innovative Excellence
For the oenophile who has everything, check out the Coravin.
Page 124

What’s for Dinner?
Anne Byrn, UGA alumna and former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution dishes on her new cookbook.
Page 126

In the Magazines: Men’s Book Atlanta

Check out articles from AG’s Robin Alix Austin in the Winter Issue of Men’s Book Atlanta, out now.

Men's Book Atlanta December 2014Holiday Spirits
Mixologist Miles Macquarrie of Kimball House in Decatur shares some of this season’s top spirits.
Page 110

One to Try: Cahors Malbec
This big and bold red wine from southwest France demands a spot on your dinner table.
Page 110

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Welcome to the New Amateur Gastronomer

We’ve redesigned the site to make it easier to see the latest stories, view articles by category and find the best bottles of wine for your taste and budget.

Coming up in July: Cahors Malbec Days. Following a trip to Cahors, France, Robin Austin reports on the birthplace of Malbec with articles, photos and videos.

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Atlanta Wine Writer Wins Nationwide Cognac Writing Contest

Robin Austin, a wine and food writer in Atlanta, has been recognized by France’s Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) for her superior writing about Cognac.

An international panel selected Mrs. Austin’s article entitled “Cognac: Pleasing to Any Palate” as the winning article for a Cognac writing contest. The contest, sponsored by the BNIC and the Palate Press Advertising Network with the support of France and the European Union, was open to wine bloggers in the United States. Mrs. Austin beat out dozens of writers from around the country to take the top spot.

Mrs. Austin, 28, is the founder and editor-in-chief of AmateurGastronomer.com, an Atlanta-based online wine and food magazine.

“My aim is to make wine fun and approachable, no matter a person’s experience level,” says Austin, a Certified Specialist of Wine. “I am honored that the BNIC selected my article and hope it will encourage those who may not be familiar with Cognac to give it a taste.”

As the winner of the Cognac writing contest, Mrs. Austin will receive an all-expenses paid trip to France for the Cognac Blues Passions Festival and tours of Cognac.

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac is a private institution entrusted with public service missions to develop and promote Cognac. The BNIC represents all Cognac professionals including growers, merchants and members of other activities related to the Cognac trade.

Click here to read Mrs. Austin’s article entitled “Cognac: Pleasing to Any Palate.”

An Interview with Chef Eric Ripert

Chef Eric Ripert needs no introduction. A French native and world-renowned chef, Ripert is truly a master in the kitchen.  Just one visit to Manhattan’s Le Bernardin where Ripert is executive chef will turn you into a passionate and devoted fan. You may not need an entire meal — I was hooked after a few bites of my first course.

Chef Ripert has won many awards, published several books and made numerous television appearances, including his show Avec Eric on PBS. This February he’ll be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud at the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

I had the opportunity to interview Chef Ripert and found out he’s just as passionate about enjoying good food as he is about creating it.

The Amateur Gastronomer: I have been a huge fan of yours since dining at Le Bernardin years ago and have really enjoyed watching Avec Eric. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Chef Eric Ripert: Thank you!

AG: What is the food experience or dish that inspired you to become a chef?

ER: Since a very young age I spent time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers. I always loved eating and thought about becoming a chef since I was a child.

AG: Do you have a favorite dish to cook for yourself and your family?

ER: Since I eat fish during the week at Le Bernardin, I love to cook steak for the family on the weekends.

AG: What are your favorite and/or must-have ingredients?

ER: A good set of sharp knives, fine sea salt and black truffles.

AG: What is your most expensive yet best value ingredient in your kitchen, either at home or in your restaurant?

ER: I would say Kobe beef. While it is a very expensive product, a small amount goes a long way and can be the foundation of a great meal.

AG: What seasonal ingredients do you most look forward to using over the next few months?

ER: I always enjoy the black truffle season. It’s probably my favorite seasonal ingredient, favorite ingredient, period.

AG: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to food?

ER: I have no guilt! I eat everything in moderation. I love dark chocolate.

AG: What food could you eat forever and never get sick of? Is there any food that you detest?

ER: Black truffle — I could eat it forever. And I must admit, tofu I tend to detest.

AG: Great food deserves great wine. Do you have a favorite bottle, varietal or pairing?

ER: I drink only Bordeaux!

AG: I know you’re a fan of tequila. Do you have a favorite style or brand?

ER: Lately I’m really enjoying Casa Dragones, really wonderful for sipping.

AG: How has your business been affected by the economy?

ER:
No question, the economic slump has been rough on restaurants but back in January 2009 when things were quite bleak, my partner and I decided to announce that we would donate $1 to City Harvest (a local food rescue organization) for every guest who dined with us throughout the year. We wanted to combat all the negative news we kept hearing about and try to do something positive. We ended up very close to our goal of raising $100,000 during 2009.

AG: What do you see as being the new dining trends?

ER: I think interest in Asian food is continuing to grow and in particular Korean cuisine.

AG: How do you feel about the movement to eat more locally grown and produced foods?

ER: I think it is critical that we continue to move in this direction.

AG: Is American cooking and are American diners getting more sophisticated?

ER: Absolutely, I think the interest in food in our country is continuing to grow and I love that American diners are really willing to try many things and aren’t tied to one culinary tradition.

AG: What are the differences between American and French diners?

ER: I’d say French diners may be slightly more traditional than Americans. Americans are very adventurous and there is so much diversity in food here.

AG: How has your profession changed with the popularity of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef?

ER: TV coverage of food is great, it gets people talking about food and ingredients and I think can only be a good thing for our industry.

AG: What has it been like to go from chef to celebrity?

ER: I always say, it doesn’t help in the kitchen!

AG: What other chefs do you most respect? Whose restaurants would you always want to dine in?

ER: A tough question. The list is endless — I’m constantly inspired by what other chefs do and create.

AG: At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival you will be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud. Why did you want to get involved?

ER: Daniel is an amazing chef and a dear friend. When I got the invitation to be a part of the celebration there was no question I’d be there!

AG: Do you have any favorite restaurants in Miami or South Florida?

ER: I love Casa Tua in South Beach for its great food and beautiful ambiance.

AG: Do you think you will consider opening a restaurant in South Florida?

ER:
You never know, but right now I’m really focusing my energies on Le Bernardin and the three restaurants we operate with the Ritz-Carlton (Westend Bistro in Washington, D.C., 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia and Blue in the Grand Cayman Islands).

AG: What advice do you have for home cooks and aspiring chefs?

ER: For home cooks, I always suggest investing in good knives (a chef’s knife and a pairing knife as a basis), and good quality cookware. And try to work with the best quality ingredients you can. If you start with good product, you are more likely to end up with something good.

For aspiring chefs, I recommend spending some time in a professional kitchen and thinking very carefully about whether it’s a life you want to lead. It’s very demanding physically and mentally and you have to be ready for it.

AG: I cook often at home but want to make a special meal for my husband’s upcoming birthday. Do you have any advice on ingredients or dishes?

ER: There is a recipe in my latest cookbook, On the Line, which is I think is quite simple but very luxurious and delicious. We call it for shorthand “pasta caviar” — kind of like a carbonara pasta topped with caviar, perfect for a celebration.

AG: Avec Eric is a great show for anyone who enjoys traveling or good food. Are you planning another season?

ER: We are locking in details for season two now and we hope to travel to Japan, Louisiana and the Grand Cayman Islands.

AG: How do your travels affect your cooking?

ER: Travel is one of the ways I find inspiration. It is a very important part of my life and influences my cooking heavily.

AG: Where in the world would you like to travel to, where you haven’t already been?

ER: I would love to spend more time in Asia, maybe Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan and Japan.

AG: What projects are you working on next?

ER: Continuing to evolve the menu at Le Bernardin and season two of Avec Eric.

AG: When you’re not working or cooking what do you enjoy to do?

ER: Smoke cigars!

Visit Chef Eric Ripert’s official site at aveceric.com.

For details on the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival visit sobefest.com.

Tasting Notes from the New York City Wine & Food Festival

When I think of New York City, I think of food. I think about great restaurants, amazing chefs and extensive wine lists. I think about pizza, bagels, the tempting smell of hot pretzels and roasted peanuts, those dirty water dogs I stay away from but my guy friends can’t resist, and even the tap water. New York is the city that never sleeps thanks to its eateries that stay open 24 hours, serving up at 3 am some of the best food you’ll have any time of day. It seems a festival celebrating food and wine in New York is long overdue.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. It was held in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, near the Food Network studios in Chelsea Market. The festival is organized by the same people who do the one in South Beach so there are many similar events. My favorite is the grand tasting. Instead of on the beach, this tasting was set up on a pier stretching out into the Hudson River.

Armed with my Waterford Crystal wine glass, I decided to start by finding a good white wine rather than going for my preferred reds. One of my favorites was a 2006 Chardonnay by Stonestreet from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. It’s made with grapes grown on mountain lots at an elevation between 700 and 1,800 feet and aged six and a half months in small French oak barrels. It’s crisp with fresh flavors of green apple and well balanced with just the right amount of acidity. The taste of French oak comes through with a smooth taste of toast and vanilla. Stonestreet has three other Chardonnays; they weren’t available at the tasting but I hope to find them at a wine store. The 2006 Chardonnay costs around $28.

My other favorite whites were from Carmel Road Winery, in Monterey County. They had two Chardonnays, one from a single vineyard source, the other from four vineyards. I enjoyed tasting them side by side to taste the differences between the two. The 2006 Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay is sourced from four vineyards. It’s crisp and fruit forward, with a taste of green apple, pear and citrus. It has a firm acidity and great minerality. It costs around $14, which makes it a great deal. The single vineyard 2006 Carmel Road Arroyo Seco Chardonnay took that great taste of green apple, pear and citrus to the next level, with a more elegant taste and a finish of hazelnut. It’s more expensive, around $35 a bottle.

On the red side, I was surprised how much I enjoyed two Portuguese wines. They were both made by Callabriga, a winery I’m not too familiar with. They’re made with native grape varieties, predominantly Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), and using the most advanced winemaking techniques. The Alentejo (with the orange label) is made from Tinta Roriz and Alfrocherio Preto grapes grown in the southeast. The terroir comes through with a great earthy taste from the area’s volcanic soil. It has a nice amount of tannins that give it a pleasant mouthfeel. My favorite of the two was the smoother and more complex Douro (blue label). Tinta Roriz grapes are blended with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes from the northeast; these two grape varieties are used to make Port. It’s bold and elegant, with deep red fruits, spice and a hint of smoke and tobacco. I’m not sure exactly how much these wines cost, but I believe it’s around $15 – $20, which make them a great deal.

Another wine I enjoyed was Escudo Rojo from Chile. A closer look at the label revealed it’s made by Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Apparently the Rothschild family bought land in Chile in the mid 1990s, which led to the creation of this wine. It’s a blend of Bordeaux varietals with a distinct Chilean style. The wine is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Chilean Carmenere. It has a spicy and complex taste with bold red fruits, a nice earthy taste and a good balance of tannins. It costs between $10 and $15, making it an excellent deal.

Many of the food offerings were so good I sneaked a second portion. There was freshly sliced prosciutto that melted in my mouth, with a great buttery and salty taste. Foie gras from the Hudson Valley was rich and creamy. My favorite was a carrot soup from Devi, an Indian Restaurant on East 18th Street. It was thick and yet still light, with a great taste of fresh ginger. My favorite dessert was a root beer float made with Stewart’s root beer, butternut squash ice cream, ginger cream and Amaretti cookies. I love root beer floats and would have never thought to try them with a flavor like butternut squash. It was sweet with some spice, a great fall twist on this classic treat.

As the sun set and the tasting came to a close, I left the tent with slightly purple lips and a full stomach. I really enjoyed tasting wines from wineries and regions I was not too familiar with, and hope there will be even more of those next year. I can’t wait to see what new wines I’ll get to try at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February.

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