Cathy Erway

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October 6, 2011 1 comment Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot and Google Bring About Revolution

Left to right: Christine Wells, Greg Grossman, Rob McCue, Michael Cirino, Jonny Cigar. The Noble Rot Presents: The Culinary/Libation Revolution in collaboration with Google. Photo by Katie Sokoler.

On Tuesday, September 27th, 2011, just days before the New York Food and Wine Festival the Noble Rot teamed up with Google Places to present a revolutionary event: The Culinary/Libation Revolution.

This was the big idea: discuss the prevalent culinary and libation movement sweeping our nation dinner table by dinner table. What movement, Jonny? Why the very movement that in recent year has seen the uprising of supper clubs and inventive chefs, the uses of “modern cookery” in the home kitchen, an emphasis on local, fresh, organic ingredients, the use of liquid nitrogen! and sous-vide cooking techniques, the madness of the wine trade and the emergence of thousands of brands trying to carve out a niche in organic, biodynamic boutique productions. Why man, the list goes on and on! Why woman, the list goes up and up!

40 terrific people were granted a ticket to this event. They worked hard, writing reviews of food and drink establishments in NYC. They were rewarded with lively entertainment, which thrilled and revived the senses.

Amanda and Leiti posing with Swanson Vineyards 2009 Pinot Grigio. Photo by Katie Sokoler.

The incentive to win a coveted spot fell on the chance to hear from and meet our panel of super-star guests. I invited Michael Cirino (a razor, a shiny knife), Cathy Erway (Not Eating Out in NY) and Rob McCue (celeb Chef from Hell’s Kitchen) to take part in a discussion at the top of the evening. We created a mini-theater inside 16 Beaver Street Studios in downtown Manhattan and engaged in wild conversation, which we recorded as our inaugural “Noble Rot Talks” podcast. You are encouraged to listen by visiting:

Left to right: Michael Cirino, Rob McCue, Jonny Cigar, host of Noble Rot Talks podcast series. Photo by Katie Sokoler.

Cathy Erway sadly was pulled away last minute to Germany for some kind of beer thing and who wouldn’t pass up a beer thing in Germany, ya know? Conversation with Michael and Rob was thoroughly engaging, though Mr. Cirino was a bit antagonistic, which is his per usual. That’s why we love Michael. Or perhaps we love his mustache. Either way, think of it like this: Cathy has authored a book called, “The Art of Eating In” and thus her world revolves around not eating out; preparing meals at home using fresh locally-sourced ingredients. She is an absolute locavore. Michael’s cooking focuses on the use of modern techniques, i.e., sous-vide, vacuum marinating, thickening agents and frighteningly long words to describe salt. Rob McCue is a celebrity chef from season eight of Hell’s Kitchen, who admits that he, “Went through hell,” battling it out on the program. McCue’s hell however is distinctly sandwiched between Cirino and Erway’s culinary realities. As a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen, Rob performed under intense stress and pressure in a national spotlight. Reality cooking shows have inspired a “think-fast” society of foodies, where chefs are challenged to use only the ingredients that are available on the chopping block. This kind of cooking requires a talent that spans a mastery of home cooking to working in a fast-paced professional kitchen. McCue has to be able to perfectly execute a meal for two or two hundred where consistency is the mark of his skill.

I certainly missed having Cathy’s take, but Rob and Michael provided a brilliant dialogue and guests were entertained by the notion that modern cooking is a bit on the dark side right now and simple cooking with that focus on fresh and local is representative of the lighter side of this revolution.  I posited the notion that inventive supper club cooks and chefs are helping pave the way for change in the way Americans approach the dinner table. The more people engage online, sharing and talking about their food and drink experiences at these clubs, with impassioned bravado, the more pop culture Chefs are having to sit up and pay attention. That kind of interaction is changing the way many Chefs approach food service in their restaurant spaces.

Noble Rot Chef, Christine Wells and assistant Greg Grossman, helped to execute the menu below, which was designed by Mr. Rob McCue. They did a stellar job. The food was revolutionizingly delectable.

Le Menu. Photo by Katie Sokoler.

Alright, Jonny! All this food talk!?!? What about the wine? I know. I know. But here’s the deal: food and wine go together like a horse and buggy. Ya know? Food is augmented by wine and wine is transformed by food. Do not, young squire, get me wrong: I absolutely love to drink wine on its own – but I really love wine when it is shared over a meal and over good conversation. And wine elevates conversation just as it does the meal.

We poured wine from Swanson Vineyards, where I’m currently hosting “Salon” tastings as part of my #Harvest experience. Winemaker Chris Phelps makes structured wines that have bright acidity and fabulous mouth-feel. We tasted his 2009 Oakville Pinot Grigio ($21),  2007 Oakville Merlot ($38) and a late harvest Chardonnay called Tardiff ($80). We also poured a 2009 Shaya, old-vine Verdejo Spanish white wine ($12), and a Portuguese white, the 2009 Gazela Vinho Verde ($6).

The lovely Laura Huben poses with Swanson Vineyards Late Harvest Chardonnay "Tardiff." Photo by Katie Sokoler.

In the light vs dark scenario, price was our focus for the wines and people enjoyed the $6 Vinho Verde as much as they enjoyed the $38 Merlot. Yes, we’re talking apples to oranges with respect to the wine, but in terms of enjoyment, the feeling was mutual. The Merlot paired beautifully with a rich, sous-vide Short Rib and generated moans of absolute satisfaction while the Gazela was the perfect sipping wine that we poured during the podcast recording and gave people a certain kind of pep in their walk.

To my great satisfaction a dear friend, really a criminal, performed a few musical numbers that inadvertently involved…me. Mr. Jonathan Samson – perhaps one of the most talented musicians I know – and who teaches music therapy to children, is himself a child of notorious proportions. Well, apparently so am I. So we entertained ourselves and several people who were watching from five feet away, while others continued to drink and be merry in the recesses of the room.

You had to be there to understand this. Jonathan Samson ladies and gent. Photo by Katie Sokoler.

Many thanks to Google Places and our friend Esther Brown for inspiring us to host this event. Check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll be back in New York as of November 2. Until then, you can “tune in” each Wednesday to hear another Noble Rot Talks podcast — which will very shortly (hopefully by next Wednesday) be available via iTunes, where yee may subscribe and listen upon yer leisure.

Finally, I’d love to see some comments and thoughts from you good readers about your take on the “light and dark” side of the current state of our culinary and libation based affairs. Cheers – Jonny. All photos by Katie Sokoler.

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August 31, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Radio Silence: Broken

Two vines diverged in a yellow wood... and I... I took the one less trav....

Feels like August, but could be September. I’ve lost track. Hard to tell, what with the oddities in temperature. The grapes are still trying to ripen – the longest Veraison in a long time, is what they say. Time falls away from me out here; the remnants lie in heaps of torn vegetation like tiny monuments in between blocks of grape vines. You look up and the sky is blue again. You like down and the earth is red, or brown, or white. I’m never too hot, I’m never too cold.

The simple truth is that in a twenty-four hour period there are not enough hours to keep up with the demands of this world. And it’s fun, I think, to be realistic and place blame. A lot of people like to say that you can’t blame others, that you’ve got to blame yourself! We’re a culture of responsibility-takers. “I take responsibility,” we all [like to] say. What a bunch of idiotic rhetoric. So I’m placing blame… but I’m gonna be vague about it and say simply that I’ve been distracted – here in the golden state of California, amidst the vineyards of the valley, because of a programed mentality and not a human mentality. I’ve been backed into corners, my creativity depleted, my existence stifled.

I was supposed to write about wine, write about my everyday experiences out here in the vast western landscape, amidst the grapes and the receding mountain-scapes. I’ve let it go. Am I sorry for it? Only if readers grew bored and skidded elsewhere among the internet-O-rama-sphere. If this was 1861, and I was chronicling my experiences, you’d have to wait a damn long time for me to come back and tell you about everything. Well, look, I’ve made it back into town, my horse is near-death and I’ve been livin on wastewater. That’s life, ya know? So let’s get on with it.


Wine, I used to think was something you bought in a wine store, to be enjoyed with dinner, or on its own, glass after glass. Living in the Napa Valley for three months now, I’ve drunk more wine than ever before and paid for less of it than I ever imagined. There’s a barter system here. There’s also a “thank you” system and thanks comes in the form of many bottles O vino. Then, of course, there is the lucky luxury of happening upon the right situation. I think this bottle of wine fits that category:

"Is this the gold I came diggin' for?" - Jonny Cigar, September 31, 2011

I said I came out here to dig for gold, but no one told me I could find it in a bottle of Vin Gris. And with the price of gold at the moment ($1800 an ounce), I was a fool to drink this. Well, it wasn’t mine to begin with. It was a Sunday afternoon and down a dead-end drive in the town of St. Helena, CA, I met with new-found friends Josh Phelps and Ross Bentley. Ross makes wine with Jayson Woodbridge of Hundred Acre. Josh makes wine with his good friend Carlo Trinchero – they call their operation TAKEN Wine Company. We were playing a bocce-like game, but with bean-bags and wooden planks with a singular hole in the center. Rather than set the ball near the polina, the object of this game was to sink the bean-bags in the hole. First team to 21 points wins. We had a hell of time and drank a good deal of wine. Josh brought out a bottle of cider – 50 cases produced – for personal consumption, and why? Because it was fucking tasty and a friend had the apples and another friend had room to ferment. There may have even been a dosage involved, but who is keeping track?

But let me tell you what happened next:

Cathy Erway called to say that she’s in San Francisco and living on a boat, and we should put something together. Dinner on a boat. Okay. And we did. And I called Josh and told him we need his wine for this and I secured a case of his white wine, called AVAILABLE. A tasty blend of Sauv Blanc and Muscat. 10 of us drank the entire case. Cathy wrote about it here. And these are photos to prove it:

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And sounds to support: boatOrama

So then, my friend(s) it was the end of August. And that means the anniversary of the day when I promised to live with a lady until forever. We celebrated by lunching it at the due-michelin starred Cyrus in Healdsburg. That looked like this:

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Now moving forward — The podcast series will launch near the end of September. I have some great interviews to share – and the show Noble Rot Talks, will be quite fun, I assure yee. Also, my “Harvest” activities will include work at Swanson Vineyards and Alpha Omega. More on that later this week. Tomorrow is #CabernetDay and I’m hosting an event with James Stolich of Cook With James.

January 6, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Jonny Cigar’s Top 9 Wine Things of 2010

While the rest of the flogging community is intent on divulging their top wine picks of 2010, I would like to present to you, good readers, a list of the 9 Best Wine Things of 2010.

1. Murphy-Goode Winery’s “A Really Goode Job” contest (even though this happened in 2009, it still bothered me in 2010): However, an AMAZING turn of events occurred at 12:48pm ET today in researching any updates to this contest… the winner of the whole shebang, unbeknownst to moi, is a friend: Hardy Wallace. Please first, go watch this 60-second video: Now that you’ve seen Mr. Wallace, a little background is in store: I talked about Hardy in a recent post whereupon he joined us in San Francisco to pour his wines for an event that ranks number 9 in my list of Top 9 Wine Things of 2010. Hardy works at the NPA, or Natural Process Alliance. He’s a rowdy S.O.B. who has a mean sense of humor.

2. “A Luxurious Bubble Bath.” In March of 2010 this was an evening of covert-wine-induced operations. The Noble Rot hosted an all-champagne-get-dressed-to-the-nines event in one of New York’s finest hotels.  The gals were cool, the gents were mysterious and the bubbly was all-too-toasty. Cocktails rounded out the end of the night from a 600-square-foot marble-lined bathroom. Debauchery was eminent and the morning after, well… reminds me of my favorite Sinatra toast: “We feel sorry for people who don’t drink because when you get up in the morning that’s as good as you’re gonna feel for the rest of the day.”

Luxury Suite – Parlor (Pamela Martinez at the Harp) Photo by: Brian Quinn

3. Jon Bonne’s article on “The Wine Blog Wars” from March 18, 2010. Mr. Bonne lives a fruitful life in California writing for the SF Gate and Chronicle about all things wine, and Mr. Bonne discusses Stephen Tanzer’s blog Winophilia (which is Latin for: “a degenerative disease of the wine.”) Mr. Tanzer is quoted as blogging:

“We’re not armchair tasters who pretend to speak knowledgeably about regions we’ve never visited. We’re not amateur bloggers whose coverage of wine is limited to a handful of random samples we’ve just received, a trade tasting we’ve attended, or a press junket we’ve just been treated to. We live wine.”

He goes on to say what he is however: “We’re cellar rats, with long tails and a mean penchant for wine-coolers. You think putting ice in your wine is for your grandmother? Guess again, mac, because we know that Jesus turned water into wine and so they go hand-in-hand.” He also demonizes Disney Land and accuses a tainted cork of ruining a family vacation to the tropics.

4. Saignee’s “32 Days of Natural Wine.” That’s right, 32-fun-filled days with nothing but the au natural. Natural Wine! What is it? What does it mean? How will it stain my carpet? Where can you buy it? Will it sue you for damages down the road? Does it pair well with Organic Oats? Alice Feiring is perhaps the most prolific writer and advocate of Natural Wine. She is a force of natural nature and I highly recommend reading her: The Feiring Line.

5. Jeff Morgan, winemaker and author-extraordinaire released a new cookbook: Domaine Chandon Cookbook; Recipes from étoile Restaurant. He even blogged about it on Winophilia! Jeff and winemaker David Ramey took part in an event in San Francisco with The Noble Rot and we served the very bubbly he discusses in the blog with the very same Gougères. Highly recommended:

Carla Ramey, Jonny Cigar, Jeff Morgan, Jodie Morgan, David Ramey, Brian Quinn

6. Eric Asimov replied to an email I re-forwarded to him on December 9th, 2010. I was honored and grateful for the reply. One day, perhaps our paths will cross and if I am lucky he will say horrible things about me in The New York Times. One of my life-long goals is to accumulate more negative press than any other living soul. So far, I’ve only written negative reviews about my own shows and events, and while wildly interesting and sophisticatedly funny, they lack an objective opinion, it turns out.

7. Kammerspiel! Dubbed “Jonny Cigar’s chaotic vaudeville/collage” by Martin Denton of, who goes on to describe the show as “100% goof and 99.9% completely serious” and boy he wasn’t kiddin’. It took me 35 years to produce the show and we ran for three weeks in a space called Dixon Place off Chrystie Street in downtown Manhattan. So each of the six performances was worth 2,129 days of rehearsal and mental input. During the run back in February of 2010, I drank nothing but Glenmorangie, while wine took a back-seat to my raging fits of lunacy and intense bouts of poetry-immersion, where I’d lock myself in a room with a pack of Lucky Strikes, two wedges of Cabot Cloth-bound Cheddar and a bottle of Nectar D’Or for three weeks on end. That, my friends, is the secret recipe that results in “Stardom.” I would encourage the reading of Mr. Denton’s review, even though it seems to be positive in nature.


8. Cathy Erway published: The Art of Eating In (Penguin Press) She’s simply a wonderful, terrific, outstanding gal who cooks up a mean dish O yum. Her book is the tale of her experience over the course of two years, cooking every meal—no take out, no restaurants. See this tasty YouTube video.

9. 2010 Michelin Guide release parties in New York City and San Francisco. Wine menu procured by The Noble Rot. I’d like to direct you to Heritage Radio Networks’ Snacky Tunes episode number 51, and be sure to also check out episode number 54.

Brian Quinn, Jonny Cigar, Jean-Luc Naret (Michelin)

February 25, 2010 2 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Fine Wine and a Home Cooked Meal with Cathy Erway

In a room full of winos, Jonny Cigar and nobleman Paul Fawell emerge victorius (Photo By: Laura Huben)

It may be February 25th today, but let me tell you: we had an event last week, on February 16th, and it shocked the wine-world. The reverberations of our event will be felt for the next century, lingering like a wine with an infinite finish, in clandestine circles where handsomely dressed men whisper ideas of wine to beautiful, elegant women, in high heels sipping Sancerre.

Author of the recently published “The Art of Eating In,” Cathy Erway, joined us for an event we dubbed, “Fine Wine and A Home Cooked Meal.” (I really wanted to call it “The Day Your Dachshund Spoke To Me in French,” but this might have caused confusion). Erway’s book is based on her blog “Not Eating Out In New York,” and is an absolute delight, and must-read.

Cathy prepared an array of tasty bites while Damian from Cabrini, along with Ted Wilson, of Noble House Wines, helped us rock a killer set of wines:

  • Noble Rot “Cocktail” Hour served up NV Cavas Hill Oro Brut Reserva ($10)
  • Hearts of palm crostini paired with Florian Mollet 2008 Sancerre*, ($18)
  • French feta, arugula and pomegranate pitzas paired with Rosenere 2008 “Drei Dona” Blanc di Rosenere ($14)
  • Honey soy-braised pork belly and shiitake cabbage rolls paired with Tarrawarra Estate 2004 Pinot Noir ($55)
  • Chocolate-dipped fig pops with ginger paired with Noceto Michelotti 2008 Moscato d’Asti ($19)

Some background on why we chose the pairings: The Cava was bone-dry, like my humor. The hearts of palm are close in taste to asparagus and you need a wine that can match those vegetal notes–Sancere, with its green grassy notes does the trick. The Rosenere was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (which supplied more grassy notes, helping combat the arugula), Chardonnay (some oak to match the cheese) and some Malvasia for shits and giggles. Then there was the pork belly and with that we went with the Australian Pinot Noir, which had the acidic backbone to cut through the pork fat but the fruitiness and snootiness of cherry, plum, and truffle to pair well with the soy, honey, and shiitake. Hot damn! The Moscato, was simply magnificent and the right way to end this pairing extravaganza.

Hey, switching gears: just before writing this blog post, I returned from Sherry-Lehman with three bottles of Grgich Hills 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley and three French wines—can’t wait to uncork ’em.

Also, I was recently privy to this article in the SF Gate: I would urge you to read it, good reader, and be sure to let Ron know to read this blog. Also, tell him his friends are…and put this lightly…out of touch (then add): with Jonny’s blog. Then say: but seriously, they don’t get blogging. Then add: the way Jonny blogs. Give it five minutes and shout: I’m sick of all these individuals who think they can write about wine! Idiots! Morons! Fools! Then add: except for Jonny, because he’s a smart as a five-dollar jig.

Below, please enjoy photos from event. A special thanks to Nick Gray and to Elizabeth Stark for hosting our noble affair at their fantastically spacious apartment in Brooklyn. And if you don’t know Cathy Erway, get to know her buy seeking out “The Art of Eating In.”

Cathy Erway and a room full of Noble Rotters (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Cathy Erway reading from her book “Not Eating Out In New York” with Jonny Cigar looking on with approval (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Stardweller played a stary couple sets (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Noble House Wines (No pun intended) distributor, Ted Wilson (SVP), sampled the pork belly as Damian from Cabrini watched in shock and awe (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Brian Quinn featured in an ad for his upcoming film “Wine Country, Not God’s Country.” (Photo By: Laura Huben)

Pomegranate and Feta and Arugula Wow Wow – Thank you Cathy Erway! (Photo By: Laura Huben)