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Just Back: Tales of the Cocktail

This is one of my favorite stories ever. I'm so lucky to have it paired with images by the great Gabi Porter (Twitter: @gabiporter). She was shooting beside me when I snapped the above. 

“Did bartenders create civilization?” moderator Derek Brown asks a panel of “paleococktails” experts. The DC bar owner is playful but unsurprised by the response from Pat McGovern, a UPenn archaeochemist who helped discover a Neolithic fermented beverage in China (rice, honey and fruit; absorbed and preserved in pottery).

To paraphrase: quite possibly.

This is Tales of the Cocktail, the annual liquor convention in New Orleans, perhaps better known for moments like hottie spirits promoter Charlotte Voisey on an elevated stage, above a crowd of 600 at the William Grant & Sons Cocktails in Film Festival, joining a band to play the bass tab of “Seven Nation Army” on a tuba.

To illustrate: blonde, with a British accent, in a red dress, straddling a large horn.

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Napa Valley's Great Speakling Wines


There’s a good chance you’ve been to Napa Valley, this country’s second federally approved, geographically defined grape-growing region (the first was Missouri’s Augusta). You probably visited the winery that produces your favorite cabernet or chardonnay. And maybe, knowing your preferences, they led you to a wine you never heard of. That was the best part of the trip. But did that unplanned path ever take you to a house of sparkling?

Yes, the land of big, juicy reds is also the land of clean, dry sparkling wine.

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Grilling in Thomas Jefferson Park, NYC

Rodriguez extended family at Thomas Jefferson Park, East Harlem
The sounds of summer first draw you into East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park — live rumba music, laughter, soccer matches and splashing water from the public pool that fits 1,000-plus sweltering New Yorkers. But it’s the seductive seasonal smells — the burgers and kebabs and other foodstuffs on the grill — that lure visitors farther into this neighborhood park between First Avenue and the FDR Drive from 111th to 114th streets.

Down shady paths barefoot kids half-wrapped in towels weave in and out, while others in uniforms play baseball nearby. Beyond the large sculptures, wafts of smoke rise from scattered grills. Is that a breeze from the East River?

Nothing says the height of summer like food roasting on grills and picnic tables filled with people enjoying the great outdoors. For years New Yorkers have been clamoring to stake their claim on the nine grills and 16 tables in the 15 ½-acre park in what was once Manhattan’s original Little Italy but now is a more of a Latino neighborhood.

On a recent sunny Saturday, neighborhood picnickers and grillers arrived as early as 8 a.m. to secure their spot and start grilling...

Read complete story, with images and recipes, on It's summertime and the grillin' is easy!: Here's what's cooking at one NYC neighborhood park

Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry starts offering booze

This February, the French Laundry, one of the world’s most significant restaurants, did something new: Serve liquor.

Until last November, the Napa Valley restaurant that’s been open since 1994 never had a bottle in house. There was wine, of course, and beer, but spirits require a separate license and, given the proximity to both a school and a church, chef Thomas Keller did not think he’d ever get one.

But times change and Keller and his team started considering a program that might extend the guest experience. You won’t find aperitifs or cocktails at the French Laundry. Nor will you find scotch subbing in for sparkling as a pairing with any early course. Here, the spirits list is presented, via iPad, after the savory items (along with the cigar list, which the restaurant has offered for more than a decade). That’s generally six courses in.

Read complete story on That’s the spirit: Napa Valley’s famed French Laundry starts offering booze

Coolest Interiors on the High Seas

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Smeralda, photo by Klaus Jordan
Even if you’re landlocked, or feel that way, there’s no time like mid-summer to think about life on the water. We’re talking boats. Big, small, really really big, every one is the result of multiple designers. Architects, builders, and decorators all have a hand in making a vessel shipshape. And business is booming.

In June 2013 the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), whose members produce more than 80-percent of the boats, engines, trailers, etc used by boaters in the U.S., announced that recreational boating in the U.S. has an annual economic value of $121.5 billion.

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