Kentucky has a hearty appetite for the food and beverage industry. More than 270 food and beverage operations employ nearly 43,000 people in Kentucky, and the past five years have seen almost 150 food and beverage operations move into the state or expand. 14% of Kentucky’s manufacturing is related to the food and beverage industry. In Northern Kentucky alone food manufacturers have created $250 million in capital investment since 1987.
“Kentucky Proud is the trademarked brand for Kentucky’s agricultural products that are grown and produced in our Commonwealth. The label tells consumers they are supporting our local farmers and they are buying the very best.” Kentucky ranks fourth in the country for number of farms, with over 85,000 and nearly 14 million acres of farmland. Farm sales in the Commonwealth average $5 billion a year. Kentucky’s borders are within 600 miles of more than 65% of the nation’s population. There are two international cargo hubs located in Kentucky- UPS Worldport at the Louisville International Airport and DHL at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.
A number of well-known food and beverage products are made in the Bluegrass State, from Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets, produced by Nestle Prepared Foods in Mt. Sterling, to Kellogg's Snacks, which makes baked goods for Keebler in Florence and Pop-Tarts in Pikeville. J.M. Smucker Co. produces Jif peanut butter in Lexington. Bel Brands USA has operations in Leitchfield that produce The Laughing Cow cheeses and Sara Lee pastries to megabrands such as Pizza Hut and Papa John's.
Ninety-five percent of the world’s supply of bourbon is made in the Bluegrass State. In fact, the current 4.9 million barrels of aging bourbon outnumbers Kentucky’s population of 4.3 million. More than 9,000 jobs in Kentucky are connected to distillery-related enterprise. One of the ways the world knows Kentucky is through its bourbon.
In 2013, whiskey sales increased faster than those of vodka, gin, tequila and other spirits. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the alcohol industry trade group, last year's 3.6% growth in sales of U.S. whiskey was the biggest increase in 30 years. Bourbon surged 11.9 percent last year, the second year in a row for double-digit gains. Combined, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey exports grew a projected 5% to more than $1 billion last year. The industry lumps bourbon and Tennessee whiskey into one category. Both are produced in the same way and with similar ingredients.
Bourbon distillers are meeting the increased demand with new investment in their Kentucky operations. Gruppo Campari plans to invest approximately $48 million and add 62 jobs for a new packaging facility at its Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg. Fortune Brands’ Jim Beam spent $18 million to upgrade its visitor center and make other improvements at its Clermont plant to accommodate the increasing visitor traffic to the six distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The company invested another $28 million to expand its bottling operation in Frankfort. Maker’s Mark, known for its iconic red wax seal, undertook a $70 million expansion to boost production, expand bottling capacity and make visitor center improvements at its operations near Loretto in central Kentucky. Woodford Reserve, which is owned by Brown-Forman, opened its expanded visitors center in Versailles to capitalize on the popularity of bourbon consumption and tourism. It is both the oldest and smallest distillery in Kentucky.
I was recently invited, along with six other journalists, to spend almost three days on a Kentucky Food and Beverage Tour sponsored by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. Our first stop was the Distilled Spirits Epicenter. It is an artisan distillery and education center for small-batch distilling. Housed there are: Grease Monkey Distillery, for testing formulations to running full productions; Moonshine University where one studies the methods used to derive, hone and layer flavors; and Challenge Bottling, a small production bottling line. Several artisan bourbon producers sampled their wares, along with ample hors’d’ouvres. ds-epicenter.com
We had an inside look (the track opened just for out group) at Churchill Downs only 5 weeks after the Kentucky Derby. I was most impressed by the world’s largest (9 stories tall) Panasonic ultra high definition video screen that they turned on for our group. Newly appointed Executive Chef David Danielson regaled us with stories of preparing food and drinks for 160,000 people (120,000 Mint Juleps). We then sampled many of the desserts served at the Derby. churchilldowns.com
We started out our first full day very early with a tour of Clearwater Fine Foods. They are a subsidiary of a Canadian company of the same name. The lobsters are caught in Nova Scotia, packed and shipped to Louisville where they live in massive indoor salt tanks (the largest in the US) that resemble their native environment. By minimizing stress to the lobsters they can maintain the quality of fresh-caught lobster. They are shipped alive in containers that maintain their cold environment. Because of the UPS air hub they guarantee 99.9% on-time delivery to your favorite restaurant. clearwater.ca
We next toured the KFC Test kitchen at their corporate headquarters. There are more than 15,000 KFC outlets in 109 countries and around the world serving some 12 million customers each day. KFC is part of Yum! Brands, one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with over 40,000 restaurants in more than 125 countries. Yum! Brands is ranked #216 on the FORTUNE 500 list with revenues of more than $13 billion. Their restaurant brands are KFC®, Pizza Hut® and Taco Bell®. We saw Colonel Harland Sanders' original desk and memorabilia from his early days with the company.
We spent a fascinating hour at Brown-Forman (Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Early Times, Old Forester) cooperage where they produce over 1,500 barrels a day for their many products. The cooperage was opened in 1945 and even though much technology has been added I felt I had stepped back in time. We had lunch at Brown-Forman corporate headquarters. brown-forman.com
We left Louisville for Clermont, KY and the headquarters of Jim Beam Distillery. Jim Beam is the best-selling brand of Kentucky straight bourbon and the 14th-best selling spirit in the world. This past April it merged and is now known as Beam Suntory with sales of $4.6 billion. It is the world’s third largest premium spirits company. Thirty family members of the Beam master distillers have worked at the company. After our tour we had a tasting with Fred Booker Noe III, a direct descendent of founder Jacob Beam. Other brands include: Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Old Granddad. jimbeam.com
I had been looking forward to tonight’s dinner event since I was invited on this trip. Governor Steven Beshear and his wife Jane welcomed our group to dinner at the Governors mansion, built in 1914. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association served several brands of bourbon during the reception. In 2013 a record 571,000 people visited the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The governor and his wife made us feel so at home we felt as if our group had known them for years. They even posed with a copy of my bourbon article in Cheese Connoisseur Magazine. Governor Beshear is term limited and will be retiring in 2015. One of his great successes has been the signing of 413,000 Kentuckians for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). governor.ky.gov
Our first stop on our last day was at Ale-8-One bottling facility. Ale-8-One is a soft drink unique to the state that has been bottled in Winchester since 1926, and its sodas are sold in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. “It’s like the loyalty shown to University of Kentucky or University of Louisville basketball teams. Kentuckians back Kentucky products.” The name Ale-8-One was the result of one of the nation’s first slogan contests. Still family owned the drink formula is on hand-written notes.
The Kentucky Horse Park is Kentucky’s largest state-owned tourist attraction. The park is dedicated to sharing the Commonwealth’s love of horses with the world. Featuring dozens of different breeds of horse at work and at play, the park showcases the horse in daily equine presentations, horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, a movie presentation and an exciting array of horse shows and special events. The International Museum of the Horse, an affiliate of the renowned Smithsonian Institution, is the largest of its kind in the world. Other popular activities include trail rides throughout the park’s beautiful countryside and pony rides for youngsters. After the tour we had a buffet lunch there before heading for Northern Kentucky. kyhorsepark.com
In the late summer of 2014 Newly Weds Foods will complete a 326,000-square-foot food production facility in Northern Kentucky. We toured the unfinished building. Here is what I found on the company. Newly Weds Foods recognized the potential of the frozen food industry in the early 1950s and pioneered bakery-based technology that could withstand the rigors of freeze-thaw and longer distribution cycles in batters and breading. They became the top producer of customized food coatings in the United States. In 1977, they introduced Japanese-style bread crumb (Panko) technology to the U.S. This crumb’s unique “slivered” appearance and crispy, yet tender bite quickly made it the go-to breading of culinary professionals as well as the preferred breading for home chefs. In 2014 they launched Kitchencounters, the global culinary connection to key taste centers around the world. The Kitchencounters program will allow customers to conduct real-time discussions with leading chefs throughout the world. newlywedfoods.com
Our last stop was Zoom Essence. Founded in 2008 it manufacturers dry flavors and food ingredients, with more than 300 types in various snacks, vitamins, supplements, soups, coffee and tea. The company provides flavors for beverages, confectionery, snacks, sweets, soup, sauces, baby food and pet food. Spray drying is the production of highly dispersed powders from a liquid emulsion. These powders are commonly used in the food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries. Utilizing our patent pending DriZoom™ technology, ZoomEssence delivers liquid quality flavors & ingredients in a powder form. If you think I understand any of this you are mistaken. zoomessence.com
Some of us were dropped off at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport and the rest were driven back to Louisville. I should have chosen the later since I did not get back to NYC until the next afternoon. But that is for another article.
I thought I was a AAA person until I met Tania Dougherty, the owner operator major domo of The Little Wine Bus. I received a press release about their Memorial Day Saturday tour of Hudson Valley wineries and was accepted as her guest. She liked what I had written about her friend Tony Muia and his Slice of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Neighborhood Tours.
I was early for their 9AM pickup at 47th off Broadway across from the W Hotel. Eventually the bus filled to capacity with 52 people. Tania also had several other smaller buses from New Jersey and Westchester going to the same wineries. The average age in my bus was probably mid to late ‘20s which included a bachelorette group. Most were New Yorkers and several had been on previous tours. The Hudson Valley wineries visited change based on availability due to private parties and concerts.
The Little Wine Bus was founded in 2007 by Tania who also owns and operates Hudson Valley Wine Tours and Events, The Little Beer Bus, Hudson Valley Brewery and Distillery Tours, and The Little Beach Bus, New York and New Jersey shore Beach Tours. Her tours are all about fun, especially when she puts on the Karaoke machine. There are day tours, special events, corporate events and team building, wine/beer dinner parties, bachelorette/bachelor parties, wedding showers, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, family reunions, birthdays, etc. Tania has over 18 years of experience in the travel industry with a background in planning special events, corporate meetings and outings for some of Wall Street’s most prominent firms. She grew up in the Hudson Valley and still resides there with her new baby daughter.
My Take Me To The Vino tour cost $145 per person and included: three winery visits, all wine tastings at each winery, a grand cellar tour, wine education, full buffet lunch, dessert, afternoon snacks, water, raffles, wine trivia, cheese, cracker & fruit platters, great music and fun on the bus with a movie for the way home, a signature wine glass to take home, and Fun! Fun! Fun!
Our first stop was a familiar one to me- Benmarl Winery in Marlboro, the oldest vineyard in America. I had interviewed the late owner and famed magazine illustrator Mark Miller many times. Victor Spaccarelli purchased the winery in 2006 and his son Matthew is the GM and winemaker. There are 37 acres with sales of about 4,000 cases with 30% from their own grapes. I particularly enjoyed the Seyval Blanc, the estate grown Baco Noir and Cabernet Franc, the Merlot sourced from grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and the Riesling sourced from Seneca Lake. www.benmarl.com
Glorie Farm Winery was also located in Marlboro in a 1913 barn at the top of Mt. Zion Mountain (great views of the Hudson Valley). Doug and MaryEllen Glorie had a fruit farm of 20 acres, with 7 acres devoted to wine grapes. In 2004 they decided to open their own winery instead of selling their grapes to other wineries. They are small with sales of about 1,000 cases. My favorites were their whites including: Seyval Blanc, semi-dry Riesling and Rumple Pumpkin, plus the semi-sweet Peach wine. www.gloriewine.com
By the time we got to the last winery, Palaia Vineyards in Highland Mills (only 5 miles north of the famed Woodbury Commons Premium Outlet Stores), I had made friends with quite a few of the participants (wine will do that). They all seemed to be enjoying themselves without worrying about drinking and driving. The tasting room was inside a 200 year-old barn on land that, in 1784, was owned by Aaron Burr. Jan and Joe Palaggi both were musicians when they bought the property in 2006 and opened the winery. There are 10 acres of vineyards, all vinifera, producing about 2,00 cases. Four times a week there is live music, either in the outdoor space or in the “treehouse” music room. There is an outdoor BBQ in the summer and NY beers on tap. I recommend the Cabernet Franc, the semi-sweet Pearl, made from Cayuga varieties and the Honey mead. www.palaiavineyards.com
My snooty wine snob friends are going to take me to task for not discussing PH, residual sugar and malolactic fermentation. Sorry folks, this is a story about a 8 ½ hour fun day where no one got sick or drunk and everyone, including yours truly, had a fabulous time. Tania- you did good.
EDITORS NOTE- In the 10 years I have been using the internet to post my stories I have NEVER had anyone not proof an article, when requested. I sent 3 notes to Tania asking her to please fact check this story. She has a new born child and is a very busy business woman BUT, she certainly could have taken 10 minutes to check my story for additions, deletions or corrections. I waited 10 days and never got a responce. This story has been posted WITHOUT the facts having been checked.
I was invited to participate in the 4-day festival known as Culinaria on behalf of the San Antonio CVB. This may have been the best-organized press trip I have ever attended. Great hotel, meals, on-time departures and arrivals and enough free time to allow me to swim, use the Jacuzzi, fitness center and rest.
I like very early flights out of New York. It is easy to get to the airport; the crew and plane are already there and the airport is not crowded. Each of my 4 flights- LaGuardia to Dallas & Dallas to San Antonio- left and arrived early. It was the same for my return trip. I had several free hours before the opening event. The weather was perfect- mid-80’s and sunny. The only problem was American Airlines broke my bag and claimed non-responsibility because it was the wheels that they ripped off. It was time for another bag anyway.
I learned that San Antonio is the seventh largest city in America and the second largest in Texas (behind Houston but ahead of Dallas/Forth Worth) with a population of 1.3 million (2.23 million in the greater metropolitan area). 63% of the population is Hispanic. It is located in the south-central part of Texas. Named for Saint Anthony of Padua the city is best known for River Walk, The Alamo, The Tower of the Americas, Spanish missions and is the home of the four-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. There are several armed forces facilities nearby including Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base. Several Fortune 500 companies make San Antonio their home- Valero Energy, Tesero and Nu Star Energy. My host, the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, informed me that around 30 million tourists come to San Antonio every year (NYC drew over 54 million in 2013).
photo- San Antonio CVB
Many of you know the history of Texas and the conflicts with Mexico. San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas and the capital of the Spanish (Mexican) province of Tejas. Mexico allowed European & American settlers from the United States to move into the territory. The Texian Army was a military organization consisting of volunteer and regular soldiers who fought against the Mexican army during the 1835 Texas War of Independence and captured San Antonio. History books, TV shows and motion pictures informed us that in February of 1836 General Santa Anna attacked the Alamo mission and the Battle of the Alamo took place. All the Alamo defenders were killed and “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry when the Texian Army eventually defeated Santa Ana. In 1845, the United States annexed Texas as a state in the Union. This led to the Mexican-American War which the US eventually won. The Alamo is one of the most popular tourist sites in Texas.
NOTE- Remember the Alamo-2003 TV
The Alamo-13 Days to Glory- 1987- TV (James Arness)
Davy Crockett- King of the Wild Frontier- 1954- TV- Fess Parker told me years ago that he preferred to be known for his winery rather than the TV show.
The Alamo- 2004- Motion Picture
The Alamo- 1960 – Motion Picture (John Wayne)
Culinaria is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to benefiting the San Antonio community and promoting San Antonio as an ideal wine and food destination. It showcases the culinary talent found in San Antonio, with its Latin and European roots. They provide culinary scholarships and aid to San Antonio’s chefs. The total attendance for the 2014 Culinaria Festival Week (May 14-18) was 17,000.
I can only comment on the events that I attended. There were 17 Journalists in our group from all over the US and Toronto. Our hotel for 4 nights was the Eilan Hotel Resort & Spa. Here is my Trip Advisor Review of the hotel.
This is a new concept for Marriott known as the Autograph Collection. They refer to it as a luxury boutique Hotel. The hotel opened in July 2012 with 165 rooms. It is part of a development that includes office buildings, apartment rentals and condos built to resemble a Tuscan village.
There are two shopping centers on the property, covering both luxury and budget shopping. Six Flags Fiesta Texas is just around the corner and both the River Walk downtown area and the airport are 20-30 minutes away.
While I waited for my room to become ready I checked out the hotel fitness center and indoor pool. I had lunch in their small market, which also serves the nearby property owners. The salad was similar to what I would get at any takeout airport restaurant. But $3 for a 12oz. can of Coke is way too much.
My room was fine except I could not figure out the lighting system and the doors to the bathroom would not stay open. I did meet the general manager and he agreed both needed to be redone. The bed was very comfortable and both the AC & TV worked perfectly. The chair next to the desk had no levers to raise or lower it so I used the extra pillow when I wanted to work at the desk.
I loved the outdoor pool. It was large, with a hot tub and plenty of lounges.
Have lunch or dinner at Sustenio their farm-to-table restaurant, using local and sustainable resources. Check the breakfast prices. I had an omelet (excellent), juice, coffee and a breadbasket and the bill was $37. The other mornings I chose the continental breakfast, which included juice and coffee for $16.
Our first function was a sampling of foods from Sustenio Restaurant with Chefs Stephan Pyles and Mike Collins. The restaurant is founded on the principle of using local and sustainable resources- i.e.- farm to table. This was one of the best “tastings” I had during the festival. But dinner was to follow (a trend that resulted in a 3 pound weight gain). Some of our group went to the Food Truck Competition while I joined 4 others from our group at the Pearl restaurant area of town (we went back there several times during Culinaria). The Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden served as the venue for the Blackbird Vineyards winemaker dinner. The wines from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux- Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the inspiration for this Napa Valley wines. Unfortunately, the lady presenting was a sales person and not a winemaker. Once she realized that several of us really knew wine she backed off and let us lead much of the discussion (there were 6 other people at the dinner that had purchased tickets and were not part of our group). Not my favorite event.
Friday morning was a late sleep-in day so I cajoled the General Manager and Front Desk Manager to give me a golf cart tour of the property. Our early lunch was at Cured Restaurant with Chef Steve McHugh, housed in the administration building of the original Pearl Brewery. He had been Chef de Cuisine for Chef John Besh’s restaurants in New Orleans (the last time I was in New Orleans I went back to his restaurant twice). Cured is a gastro pub with a Hill Country feel featuring craft beers and artisanal house-cured meats. I loved it.
We had a private 1½-hour cruise down the San Antonio River to take in the sights and sounds of River Walk. The city recently completed a $384 million improvement project to lengthen the River Walk to 15 miles. Perfect weather (mid 80’s and sunny) and I was at ease with the world. Most of our group split off to visit the Mission San Jose while 6 of us found foodie bliss with Chef David Gilbert. His Tuk Tuk Taproom featured Southeast Asian street food partnered with 60 craft beers. Chef traveled extensively in Burma, Vietnam & Thailand for many years and wrote a book called Kitchen Vagabond Sabout his travels and career as a chef. This was a new experience for me and I learned a lot.
I really enjoyed the rest period as all of us journeyed to the nearby Shops at La Cantera for the Best of Mexico walk around tasting. Guest chefs from Mexico and San Antonio presented their take on the cuisine of Mexico. There was Tequila, wine and beer to match the food. I liked the food but found it tiring and somewhat difficult to balance the plate and alcohol. I looked for a place to sit after each serving. Most of us were ready to return to the hotel by 9PM.
Saturday morning we headed to the Pearl Farmers Market on the grounds of the former brewery. There is now a campus of the Culinary Institute of America, apartments, shops and restaurants there. The market is a producers-only farmers market so all the goods found there are hand-planted, raised and harvested within 150 miles of San Antonio.
By 10AM we had gathered at the Culinary Institute of America’s third campus (Hyde Park & Napa) for our 4-hour mini-boot camp in Latin cuisine. I rarely cook but under the guidance of Chef Sergio Remolina (he moved here from the Hyde Park campus) and his two assistants our group prepared a glorious luncheon. We had so much fun that we cancelled our wine seminar attendance. Many of us returned to the hotel for some rest time. I went out to the pool and made use of the hot tub. During the Thursday afternoon time at the pool I was one of 5 people there. Saturday afternoon I had a tough time finding a lounge. I learned that the people who lived in the complex had use of the pool.
Photo Veronica Luna
Next it was off to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for the grand tasting. We were afforded early entrance and use of the Bubble Room (as in bubbly stuff) with tables and chairs. This worked out much better for me. I went out to find food and brought it back to try with the Champagne and sparkling wines. There was even a separate dessert area. Yummy. A few members of our group chose to go to the VIP after party for chefs and VIP’s. I chose, along with half our group, to return to the hotel.
Sunday morning we took a private tour of the Alamo with an expert guide. Most of had heard the story before but it was great to see the actual site. It was brunch time at Casa Herman. We had a traditional Mexican barbacoa brunch with Chef Johnny Hernandez at his hacienda. I still can’t believe I ate all that food (see the trend). We departed for the new (2013) Briscoe Western Art Museum. The three story building houses artwork, sculptures and photography created by renowned Western artists.
Remember I mentioned the huge amount of food at brunch. We were then back to the Pearl District for a walk-around Burgers, BBQ & beer tasting. I had one burger and half a beer and was ready to go back to the hotel (almost all of did choose the same early return).
A change of clothes and a shower and I was ready for a private event (not part of Culinaria) at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Chef Elizabeth Johnson prepared a pop-up dinner made from local and seasonal foods that are nourishing and healing, bringing our bodies into balance. She encompassed the “root to stalk” usage of plants and food and served her Crave Market juices to help us eat, quench and thrive. After eating all that food for 4 days I was ready for her meal and felt satiated.
The next morning our group had many different departure times. Everything went off smoothly and I returned to a normal eating pattern of three meals a day. Thank you Geiger ladies and CVB folks for planning and executing the perfect trip.
Last month I wrote about A slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour. I was so impressed with both the tour and Brooklyn that I asked Tony Muia, the 50-year-old owner, if I could take another of his tours. On a beautiful sunny Spring Sunday morning I met Tony and the 25 participants from various parts of NYC as well as Canada, Holland, Hawaii and England (Adults- $75 and Children under 12- $65) at 13th Street off Union Square for a 4 1/2 hour whirlwind tour of part of this vast borough. Several of the participants had also taken the pizza tour and loved it. The out of towners checked Trip Advisor and saw a great rating.
Tony Muia, a proud native Brooklynite who, for over 25 years, has been showing people around his beloved hometown, started A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours in 2005. After hearing complaints of not being able to find good pizza in Manhattan, Tony started A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour (2005) highlighting the incredible pizzerias, landmarks, movie locations and points of interest that have made Brooklyn world-known. Two years later, he started A Christmas Lights Tour of Brooklyn showcasing the famous Christmas decorations of the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. Soon after, he launched hisBrooklyn Neighborhood Tour highlighting the other foods, unique neighborhoods, landmarks and famous movie locations of Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs with about 2.6 million people and the second largest in area (71 square miles). Today if it were an independent city, Brooklyn would rank as the fourth most populous city in the U.S. behind only the other boroughs of New York combined, Los Angeles and Chicago. Brooklyn was an independent city until 1898 when Brooklyn was consolidated with the other boroughs to form the modern "City of New York".
After driving over the Brooklyn Bridge past the Brooklyn Marriott Hotel and Metro Tech our first stop was Brooklyn Heights, the country’s first suburb with narrow streets, elegant brownstones and the Promenade, Brooklyn’s best view of lower Manhattan. We briefly stepped inside Plymouth Church, a site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. We drove along Park Slope, an area of beautiful Victorian homes. It was then past Grand Army Plaza, the Botanical Gardens, Eastern Parkway, The Brooklyn Museum and the 85-acre Prospect Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after they completed Manhattan’s Central Park. There is a zoo, boathouse, 60-acre lake and band shell for concerts and sports facilities. This was the only part of Brooklyn that I have visited many times. What was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers- Ebbett’s Field is now just a sign on the wall of a housing development.
Next it was time for lunch at World Famous Junior's on Flatbush Avenue (established in 1950) and included a half a pastrami sandwich, fries, cold slaw, pickles, as well as the famous Junior’s cheesecake and an egg cream for dessert. I figure about 5,000 calories but worth it.
Then it was back on the bus and a stop at Green-Wood Cemetery built in the 1800's and the final resting place of some of history's most memorable figures including Albert Anastasia, Boss Treed, Horace Greeley and Leonard Bernstein among its almost 600,000 residents. The cemetery sits on the highest point in Brooklyn with views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The Battle of Brooklyn was fought in this area. In August of 1776 British forces under General William Howe defeat Patriot forces under General George Washington.
As we headed back to Union Square we watched clips of the famous people born in Brooklyn and saw locations shots from movies such as Moonstruck, The Godfather, As Good As It Gets, Dog Day Afternoon and Sophie's Choice. I loved the tour and hope Tony adds a short stop at the areas around Grand Army Plaza. Perhaps cut 15 minutes from the Brooklyn heights walk.
A week ago Chuck Wagner, owner and winemaker of Caymus Vineyards which produces one of my favorite California Cabernet Sauvignon's, hosted a dinner in the private dining room of Craft Restaurant on East 19th Street. Caymus was started in 1972 by Charlie and Lorna Wagner with son Chuck, who was 19 at the time. Today Caymus produces 65,000 cases.
I sipped one of my favorite white wines Conundrum as we conversed. It's a blend of Sauvvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Viognier his son Charlie is the winemaker. What I learned was that the Wagner Family of Wines includes Mer Soleil, whose unoaked and Reserve Chardonnay is also made by Charlie Wagner. The winery is named after Joseph Wagner's grandmother, Lorna Belle Gros Wagner. Son Joseph is the winemaker at Belle Glos that specializes in Pinot Noir. Daughter Jenny is the winemaker at Emmolo where Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc are king. The winery is named after her great grandfather who first planted vines in California in the 1920's.
We finished the dinner with three vintages of Caymus including the 2003 Special Selection. It must be very gratifying to Chuck to have three children all making different styles af wine, and doing it it superbly.
I am a Manhattanite and proud of it. I have been to Brooklyn maybe a dozen times in the last 20 years. The borough is hot hot hot with prices for apartments equaling and sometimes more than Manhattan. It was with a sense of curiosity that I accepted an invitation to spend almost 5 hours on A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour. At 11AM on a sunny spring Saturday I met the bus at 13th Street and 4th Avenue, just off Union Square. Over 50 other passengers paid $80 (children under 12-$70) for the tour featuring Brooklyn’s many neighborhoods, parks and movie locations. The tour is run on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.
Paula was our guide and a Brooklyn native who really loved her job. She mixed stories with video highlights from movies filmed in Brooklyn such as Saturday Night Fever, The French Connection, Goodfellas, Scent of a Woman and Annie Hall. We saw video of John Travolta swaying down the street while we passed along the same street, with the same landmarks. This was repeated many times and made the tour most interesting.
After crossing over the Manhattan Bridge we drove along the area known as DUMBO. Down under the Manhattan Brooklyn overpass. It's a combination of warehouses, shops, restaurants and expensive high-rise apartments. The area has emerged as one of New York City's premier arts districts with lots of art galleries. Chef Jacques Torres has recently opened a chocolate factory.
Other culinary businesses in the area include the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, The River Café and Grimaldi’s. All of these businesses cluster in Fulton Landing, which is also home to Bargemusic, a floating venue for classical music.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, a joint state/city venture presently under development, has a great view of the Manhattan downtown skyline. Dumbo is also home to 25% of New York City-based tech firms. We arrived at 11:30 just as Grimaldi’s opened. They reserved a section for our group and out came the coal-fired brick oven pizza with its smoky flavor and crisp crust. Cash only and no slices. By the time we started eating our pizza there were already 50 people waiting to get into Grimaldi’s.
After a short walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park it was off to Bay Ridge and its million dollar homes. L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst was our second pizza stop. In the spumoni and ices business since 1939 it opened a Sicilian pizzeria in 1941. Again, our group was ushered in to a special section where the Sicilian pizza was waiting for us.
We then drove to Coney Island’s amusement park and spent 15 minutes walking the boardwalk past Luna Park and the famous Cyclone coaster. It was too early in the season for the park to be open. Next we returned to Manhattan and our drop-off back at Union Square. Great driver, fabulous guide and terrific food made this a 5 Star tour.
www.asliceofbrooklyn.com- (917) 678-9733
Ron’s Top 7 Brooklyn Pizza-
Grimaldi”s (Dumbo)- www.grimaldis.com L&B Spumoni Gardens (Bensonhurst)- www.spumonigardens.com Totonno’s (Coney Island)- www.totonnosconeyisland.com Di Fara (Midwood)- www.difara.com Best Pizza (Williamsburg)- www.best.piz.za.com Paulie Gee’s (Greenpoint)- www.pauliegee.comm Roberta’s (Bushwick)- www.robertaspizza.com
I want to thank everyone for their cards, calls & visits after my knee replacement. Dr. Fabian & his great staff at Roosevelt Hospital did their magic on December 13th. I spent 2 weeks on the orthopedic rehab floor at the hospital before returning home this past Saturday. It was good to be home. Many thanks to my neighbor & friend Helene who watched over Renoir while I was incapacitated. I could not have existed this long without my dearest friend Mark who visited, set up my new computer, took care of Renoir and idiot proofed my apartment for my return. No swivel chairs or throw rugs for me to deal with. Today is his birthday & he is with his wonderful lady Natalie. My family cared, visited and gave me the love I needed when I could not walk a step. Vedran visited me almost every day and always brought something I needed. They say ones worth in life is measured by ones friends. If that is true I am the luckiest man on earth. If I could have a drink I would toast all of you with a big THANK YOU.
In a few weeks I will resume writing my regular articles.
UPDATE February 6th- I am close to finishing my physical therapy. As of today I am at 2% having a straight right knee. Got to get to 0%. Also today, my degree of bending the knee is at 118% with 125%-130% ideal. I am almost there.
UPDATE March 6th- I was cleared to drive last week. Back to my yoga lessons from Adrienne (it will be 7 years in April that she has come to my place every week). My 9th grand niece/uncle was born on Monday- Marshall Michael Kapon (John & Dasha). Hope to start travelling in the next week or so. Thanks for all your good wishes.
Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and named after King Louis XVI of France who helped the Americans during the Revolutionary War. It was part of the Union during the Civil War but joined the Confederacy at war's end. The city is a major shipping port due to its central location. Its airport, located only 7 miles from downtown, is UPS’s worldwide air hub. The population is around 750,000 with 1.335 million in the metro area.
Conde Nast Traveler voted 21c Museum Hotel #1 hotel in the South. In the early days of Bourbon distilling Main Street in downtown was known as Whiskey Row and was recently named one of “America’s Top Ten Great Streets.” There are now 9 museums within 4 walkable blocks of Main Street.
Famous people who were born, raised or gained fame in Louisville include: Diane Sawyer, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Lionel Hampton, Victor Mature, Irene Dunne, Muhammad Ali. Bud Hillerich, Pee Wee Reese, Denny Crum, Rick Pitino, Paul Hornung, Hunter S. Thompson, George Rogers Clark, Zachary Taylor, Colonel Harland Sanders, Louis D. Brandeis and George Gavin Brown.
The Kentucky Derby has been held annually since 1875 on the first Sunday in May at Churchill Downs. Over 160,000 fans fill the racetrack on Derby Day. It was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr, grandson of William Clark (Lewis & Clark) and grandnephew of the city’s founder George Rogers Clark. The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Over 120,000 are made for Derby fans every year - 2oz Kentucky Bourbon, 1 tsp. Sugar, 1/2 tsp. Water, 2-3 mint sprigs, shaved ice. Fill 3/4 of cup with shaved ice. Add Bourbon, water and sugar. Stir gently. Add ice to fill cup. Garnish with mint sprig.
Located at the manufacturing plant and headquarters of Hillerich & Bradsby celebrating 120 years, with over 100 million bats sold. Over 60% of major league players use the Louisville Slugger bat. There is a 120-foot steel bat that rests against the wall of the building. Watch bats being made or swing a bat used by Johnny Bench or Mickey Mantle (I did).
Cruises the Ohio River from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Built in 1914 (100 years in 2014) it is the oldest operating steamboat in the U.S. and is a National Historic Landmark. Moored downtown, it is owned by the City of Louisville.
Provides an international educational and cultural center with exhibits, a five-screen orientation theater film, Civil Rights era media footage, video-on-demand of Ali’s fights, meeting and event space and two changing exhibit galleries.
Adjacent to Churchill Downs. There are racing artifacts, trophies, photographs, interactive displays and a simulated race where you pick one of the horses and move them during the race (I lost every time). The museum highlights thoroughbred racing and of course the Kentucky Derby, with videos of past Derby’s and a 360-degree high-definition multimedia introductory show.
The museum has a world-renowned collection of arms, armor and related historical artifacts, in collaboration with the Royal Armouries. View the family bible of Daniel Boone, the bow used by Geronimo and the pistols of General George Custer. Relive 5,000 years of historical events.
Founded in the 1930’s it is rich in history, geology, recycling and green building technology. Located in a 100-acre former limestone quarry, this natural wonder is one of only six places in the world with an underground tram ride and the world’s only underground zip line. Located under the Zoo, it is a constant 56 degrees and could hold 50,000 people (perfect temperature for a wine cellar).
Established in 1969 on 135 acres as the Louisville Zoological Gardens. More than 1,300 exotic animals. Ride the zip line, visit the splash park and interact with the animals. The zoo’s newest exhibit, Glacier Run, is a recreation of Churchill Canada, the Polar Bear capitol of the world. There are daily animal trainings and zookeeper talks.
Held in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts this 1/2-hour multimedia experience is a sampler of the beauty of the Bluegrass State, showcasing all the regions. Kentucky’s own Ashley Judd narrates it.
The stadium for the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds was opened in 2000 and seats over 13,000. It is located one block from Waterfront Park. There is a statue honoring Louisville’s own Pee Wee Reese at the entrance of the stadium.
This distillery and education center is designed to enhance the artisan distilling craft. It includes Moonshine University and Grease Monkey Distillery as well as Challenge Bottling that can be utilized by small production distilleries. Next-door is Flavorman, which was voted Louisville 2013 Small Business of the Year. It is not open to the general public. They are the source of many of your favorite flavored beverages.
This 22,090 capacity downtown arena opened in 2010 in the waterfront area. It is the home of the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinal men’s basketball team (woman also) as well as many concerts and exhibitions.
My trip to Louisville coincided with the opening of The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a multi-million dollar fully functioning artisanal distillery, which celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distiller. They have renovated their historic building in the heart of what was once called “Whiskey Row.” The façade of the building features a five story high Evan Williams Bourbon bottle as the neck of the bottle and a large glass in the lobby form a flowing “Bourbon fountain.” The tour takes one back to Evan Williams’ original distillery, Louisville wharf scenes and high definition video renderings of turn-of-the-century Whiskey Row. Those over 21 can enjoy a tasting of premium Bourbons in two different themed tasting rooms. There is a large retail store and a “speakeasy” themed event space in the lower level.
Opened in 2006 this 90-room boutique hotel was Conde Nast Traveler 2013 #1 hotel in the South; #8 hotel in the US and #46 worldwide. It is North America’s first museum dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting art of the 21st century. Maybe the best restaurant in town (I ate there) is their Proof on Main. The Brown family (Brown-Forman) has added museum hotels in Cincinnati Ohio and Bentonville Arkansas. Look for the giant statue of David outside the hotel.
Enjoy interactive and magical luminaries handcrafted by Chinese artisans. This is a spectacular setting for kids of all ages. I loved sitting with the Snow Fairy Princess and touring her Christmas Village. I hopped on Santa’s Sleigh and flew through the sky and then watched the video. Kids can learn to make snowflakes and can enter a Gingerbread House contest. Do your kids want to have breakfast with Santa or Tea with the Snow Fairy Princess? Don’t forget the Peppermint Express Train Ride. This is every kids dream visit (and the adults love it also).
This Beaux Arts Baroque 320-room 4 Diamond AAA property is located in the middle of downtown (I stayed here for 3 nights). It can’t become a 5 Diamond property because it does not have a swimming pool. However, their Oakroom is the only 5 Diamond Restaurant in Kentucky (I had brunch there). Built in 1903 by Otto & Louis Seelbach with bronze from France; hardwood from the West Indies & Europe; linens from Ireland; Turkish, Persian rugs and marble from all over the world. In 1907 they added the Bavarian-style Ratskeller that has recently been renovated along with the rest of the hotel. This was a favorite hangout of Al Capone and the 10th floor ballroom inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald when he wrote the wedding scene in the Great Gatsby.