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NYC’s Next Flight to Saigon: Tracie May Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie Shines Global Spotlight on Asian Flavor

NYC’s Next Flight to Saigon: Tracie May Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie Shines Global Spotlight on Asian Flavor

Tracie May made a name for herself in Los Angeles for 25 years as a luxury publicist and event planner leading hundreds of Opening Night parties, events and red carpets.

Then in an “Eat, Pray, Love” – inspired move, she decided to take a leap and move across the world.  

In 2020, she relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and became the Senior Editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine, the most prestigious culinary and hospitality publication in Asia.

Today we catch up with Tracie to talk about life in Vietnam.  The people, the culture, and of course the food.

Tracie May Vietnamese Publicist Foodie Indulges in Delicious at her role with Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger: 

What’s the most important thing that you want to share during this conversation?

Tracie May: 

Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith. Honestly, I took a massive leap of faith, uprooting my entire life.  

I had a big life in LA.  I was there for 25 years, and to take that leap of faith to relocate to Vietnam.  It was never even on my radar.

People thought that I was insane when I said I was doing this. It was not supposed to be for the long term. But the whole point is, you never know where opportunity is going to come. You don’t know what your future looks like, until you write your own story.

I am proof positive that anything is possible if you just take a risk for yourself and your happiness, because the energy or the universe will provide for you if you’re truthful, connected and really get specific about what you want.

Tracie May Vietnamese Publicist Foodie with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Tracie May with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger:   

You are now the senior editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine.  Tell me a bit about the magazine and your role.

Tracie May: 

It’s a really beautiful, glossy print publication. They also have online and social [media presence].

It’s available in every VIP lounge, every business lounge at every major hotel, airline and club lounge. It has a lot of subscribers. 

Focuses on culinary, luxury travel, hospitality, wine, chef profiles. [Food and beverage] business profiles as well as features on certain resort properties.

I was really lucky to [connect with] the publisher.  I sent her a bunch of my writing samples. I joined the magazine about 17 months ago. 

My main focuses are editing content, making sure the English is perfect, and dealing with editorial and the marketing teams.

But my favorite part is running the news section.  [It’s] basically my curation of what’s hot in [food & beverage] in Saigon and all over the world. 

I get to eat the best food all the time. 

The majority of the restaurants that we cover are very high-end, gorgeous, [food and beverage] in town. So I get to eat a lot of amazing food which is awesome. 

The food in Vietnam is extraordinary.

Joe Winger:

As a USA foodie, what’s a lesson you’ve learned about Vietnamese cuisine that you want the world to know about?

Tracie May: 

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned, and it is evident in my extreme weight loss of 75 pounds in 2 ½  years, is it’s whole real food.

They are not jacking up their cows and their pigs with hormones. Organic is actually a thing here. The quality of the food, it’s not processed crap in a box that is run by Monsanto.

Because of the climate here, Dalat, which is the region in Vietnam where most of the produce is grown, some of the most unbelievable tasting produce is grown there. 

The fruit is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. 

A watermelon is the sweetest, juiciest, delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth; and it’s available from every little fruit stand that is on Quốc Hương.

I walk to my local [stores] because I like to support locals here and have my little bag and pull my produce and all of it is grown on their farm, 

It’s just that’s how people eat here. There is no Kraft macaroni and cheese. There is no processed, boxed chemicals here. 

Because of that, the quality of the flavor profiles is so superior. 

So that is the biggest difference.

The reason why there’s such an obesity problem in the U.S. is the abundance of processed food.

[Here in Vietnam], even fast food.  We’ve got McDonald’s and Popeye’s and KFC. But the taste of a Big Mac or a Whopper with cheese is far different than anything you can get in the States because of the quality of the meat that they use.

That is the biggest difference of why Vietnam is so globally recognized as such a foodie hub.

Joe Winger: 

You’re doing a lot to bring attention to Vietnam as a foodie hub.

Tracie May: 

I was the guest judge on Top Chef Vietnam, and I was the guest judge on the finale of this show called Super Cake, Banh Xeo, which was basically, Build a beautiful cake. And these Vietnamese national TV, reality shows which showcase culinary.

So that was fun.

Joe Winger: 

If somebody from the United States comes to Vietnam for a few days, from a food point of view, what must we try? 

Tracie May: 

Saigon is incredibly vibrant and there’s too much to do.  For the best Vietnamese food hands down It is in district one, which is basically the city. 

Mạ Quán 

Mạ Quán

Mạ Quán 

It’s gorgeous. A restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine that focuses on historical dishes from the imperial city of Huế to the north and in Hanoi to the Mekong Delta and is visually stunning.

The flavors are unbelievable. For sure if you want to eat an extraordinary Vietnamese meal, that’s a place, hands down, highly recommended. 

Lesung

Lesung

Lesung SGN 

In the last 3 months I was introduced to Malaysian cuisine.  Spicy,  sambal based, chili based. The chef / owner is a fine dining chef, who’s a celebrity chef here. He wanted to get back to his roots and he opened this restaurant that’s very reasonably priced.  Fine dining, but in a casual setting, not expensive and truly authentic Malaysian cuisine.   All of his grandmother’s recipes and it’s home cooking at its best. That is a must go. 

Noriboi Omakase

Noriboi Omakase

If you love sushi, Noriboi is an extraordinary omakase restaurant in Thảo Điền, in the town where I live. 12 to 18 tastings of caviar, and the best uni flown in from Japan, and extraordinary toro, and you can’t imagine how good, it’s insane.

Joe Winger: 

You took a very dramatic pivot a few years ago and it turned out so well. 

Tracie May: 

I knew that I had to make a change. I knew that I was unhappy.  Even though I had great friends and a great life and did really cool stuff in LA, I felt like I was just trapped in a hamster wheel.

I was bit by the “Eat Pray Love” bug. 

Decided that, life’s too short to be unhappy.

There is a big, wide, beautiful world out there. Why not explore it while I have the chance?

I happen to have family who live in Saigon, and we conspired together.

I sold my car, put everything in storage, all the paperwork, packed my two dogs and three suitcases and got on a plane.

The original plan was to hang out in Southeast Asia for three months.

Leave my stuff with my family, get a backpack and travel throughout Southeast Asia and go pray with some Buddhist monks.  Have my Tomb Raider moment in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and go do a lot of scuba diving.  Then three months later, go home [to the United States] and face the music. 

But COVID happened, my life shifted. So I stayed. 

I couldn’t have imagined a more incredible life that I’ve been able to curate for myself than I have been able to in Saigon.

Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party

Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party

Joe Winger: 

Your background is a world class publicist in North America.  Because of the pandemic, you went from a publicist to a “stay at home mom” figure.

Tracie May: 

I did, but I still had to pay my bills, right?

So I had a free place to stay because my family was paying the rent. When [my family] got stuck in the US during COVID, when Vietnam closed their borders, they got locked out for 10 months. 

Suddenly I’m a mother to 2 kids in an international school. I’ve got to take care of their three dogs, my two dogs, their villa, all their stuff, in a country that I didn’t know and a language that I didn’t speak.

It was all about pivoting.

At the time I had hot pink hair.  All the expat moms, they’ve got kids and they live in a compound because their husbands run Nike or Adidas or…[some huge company]

There’s me, this newbie from LA with my fuchsia hair riding my family’s electric bike with the kids on the back taking them to school.

The [expat Moms are] like, who and what is this? 

Originally I became the talk of the town. 

I live in a bubble, a little enclave within the city, it’s expat land. 

I really think in the beginning I made friends out of total pity.  Suddenly they were like, “Let’s take you to lunch.”  So there were several luncheons introducing me to society and I created my clan. 

The one thing that’s hard about here is that the expat life is very rotational because a lot of the families are on contract.

If you work at the consulate, you’ve got a 2-3 year contract. 

Once the contract is done, you’re back home. I don’t want to leave. 

So one of the hardest things about making really close friends here is that they leave. So it’s a lot of continual rotation.

I have friends who’ve been here for 14 years up to 35 years who felt the bug like me and decided no, this is where you want to be right now. This is a good place to be, but yeah, that’s basically how it happened.

Joe Winger: 

A minute ago, you used the phrase “talk of the town.”  Let’s dive deeper.

You’re getting huge growth on social media. Food and dining, lifestyle, travel in this genre. Your face is everywhere. Your voice is everywhere. Your name is everywhere. 

What’s it like living your life, when someone sees your face, name and recognizes you? 

Tracie May: 

It is bizarre. 

I have no idea how it happened, especially in Vietnam.  Local Vietnamese don’t speak a word of English. 

There’ve been so many times that I’m walking my dogs up my street or [I’m] on the back of a “Grab” bike, which is our version of Uber and they see me, look at my picture before and say:

 “Sorry, Madame. Are you Madam Tracy?”

And show me a picture of myself. 

I’m sure it’s due to doing TV appearances on Top Chef Vietnam and other major, national primetime TV shows here with millions of Vietnamese watching.

It’s bizarre, especially coming from Hollywood where all my focus has always been the promotion of others and the promotion of brands.

Suddenly I’m the [one being] promoted and I just find it really funny. But I’m grateful. 

Joe Winger: 

How has publicity changed from LA to Vietnam?

Tracie May: 

I wear a lot of hats here [in Vietnam].   I’ve become the “go to” event producer.

I was a pretty major event producer in the States and produced [around] 250 fashion shows in three continents around the world, a bunch of parties in LA, and red carpets.

There’s tons of talent in Vietnam.  So now I’m doing it for major Western companies who want a sprinkle of American or they want a real Western perspective for [their event], I’m the girl they call.

One of the events I produced was the 25th anniversary of the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel

That was a huge event inviting every government official, major CEO, all of their massive VIPs. 

Tracie May with Artist Jerome Pichard

Tracie May with Artist Jerome Peschard

I’m actually about to produce another event with Sofitel for one of my clients. One of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life, Jerome Peschard

He’s a French artist with the same story as me, except he got here, fell in love with Saigon and just never left .  He met his wife and has a bunch of kids.  He has become the most collected artist in Asia globally, for specifically pop art related to historic, historic Vietnamese French and machine and pop art and he does it all.  Composite art. 

I brokered a deal with Sofitel on June 21 in celebration of the 60 year anniversary of the Sofitel Hotels and Resorts global brand, their Diamond Jubilee.

We are doing a two month installation, exclusive installation of his works being some are 2.6 meters x 1. 5 meters  – large scale, which are going to be in the lobby as an installation in collaboration with the hotel.

It’s a massive thing, and they called me, so I’m really honored. 

I get to work with him every day and he’s a total rock star.

Tracie May living her best life in Vietnam

Joe Winger: 

What’s the theme at this point in your life?

Tracie May: 

The moral of the story is “Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith.”

Joe Winger: 

It sounds like you crossed your fingers, closed your eyes and took the jump. 

Was there a big concern before taking that jump? How did that big concern work out for you?

Tracie May: 

It’s very personal.

The concern wasn’t about work. I knew that I could work internationally. I knew I could do PR online and still service clients abroad. No matter where you are in the world, the cream rises to the top and you will figure it out.

On a personal level in the sense that I have always been a serial monogamist. I had a really petrified, paralyzing fear of being alone.

The idea of being 50 and alone again, scared me. Having to start over again, scared me. 

What I’ve learned from that is, I have no problems dating. I have no issue being alone. I actually revel in it because my life is so public now. When I get to be in my underpants, watching Netflix with my two dogs, eating a ham and cheese on freshly baked sourdough baguette with some tomatoes and lettuce; and some truffle aioli from my friend’s company. That’s my happy place. 

That has been the biggest lesson that being alone is okay. Being alone is actually a good thing. 

I don’t need to have a partner or a marriage to justify and qualify who I am. I’m just fine on my own. 

Joe Winger: 

What are the ways to find you and follow you online? How do you want people to find you?

Tracie May: 

It’s all about the gram, right? My Instagram is @_TracieMay_  

Or you can find me as Tracie May on LinkedIn.

My blog is here, but I rarely update it because I never have time.

Ordering Chinese food in NYC? HungryPanda want to Help

Ordering Chinese food in NYC? HungryPanda want to Help

Leveraging their industry-leading delivery services, the HungryPanda app seamlessly connects food, people and culture.

HungryPanda goes further with Asian food culture

The ‘Golden Panda Award’ is a symbol of excellence in the global overseas Chinese food industry, setting the highest standard for culinary achievement.

It stands as the world’s exclusive international honor specifically dedicated to recognizing restaurant businesses in the food delivery sector. This prestigious award embodies commitment to promoting and celebrating outstanding achievements in the realm of international Chinese cuisine.

Kitty Liu from HungryPanda

Kitty Lu from HungryPanda

Joe Winger: 

We are here today with Kitty Lu from HungryPanda. 

Help me get to know HungryPanda.co 

Kitty Lu: 

HungryPanda serves a niche market for Asian communities.  We were established in 2017, founded in the UK when our CEO and the founding team were studying in Nottingham University.

The platform was born from a very simple, but compelling need experienced first hand, by the founders as international students, struggling to find authentic Chinese food in the UK. 

From that outset, HungryPanda started to really focus sharply on that particular niche market, tailoring our user experience with Chinese interfaces to overcome culture and language barriers.

That’s how our app got started.  We are very lucky enough to be growing really fast within the past six years. 

Now we expanded into 10 different countries, including: US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.

Hungry Panda

Joe Winger: 

Different cultures, maybe different ways people use their phones, different apps.

What challenges has HungryPanda faced as you enter the very competitive North America market?

Kitty Lu:

Local regulatory requirements that we need to meet.  Every country, every region has different regulations, and especially with food delivery.  

The U.S. is actually coming out with all the new regulations lately, therefore that’s one of the challenges as well.

Also intense competition from established local and global brands. 

When we entered the North American market, Door Dash, Uber, the giants, had already occupied the mass market.  In the Asian food delivery market, we also have competitors like, Chow Bus and others.

Obviously we were the new brand going to the market. 

Therefore, that’s the main challenge that we faced. But, we were actually quite confident and, lucky enough because we have a very good team structure. All of our team members have experience opening markets in different countries.

So unlike Uber or DoorDash, when they are opening a new market, for example, North American market and Australian market is very different. People have different consumer behavior. But for us the good thing is, although we are in different countries, we are serving the same type of people, which is the  overseas Asian customers, therefore the consumer behavior is rather similar.

Although we have the challenge, it’s easier for us to actually dive in and then adapt in a rapid rhythm.

HungryPanda

HungryPanda

Joe Winger:

Is North America the toughest audience when it comes to regulations?

Kitty Lu: 

With regulations, we’re talking more towards the drivers, how do we protect them?

Obviously there are minimum standards. Because what we call the “gig economy” is still considered a new industry, no matter what part of the world.  

North America, Australia, the UK, all the countries are coming out with new regulations to actually protect this particular industry.

We are all at the same stage, growing from a new industry to a more mature industry.

Joe Winger: 

Your company released a food trends report from 2023.  What’s the biggest takeaway? 

Kitty Lu: 

Consumer interest in the authenticity and quality in food.  

When you talk about Chinese food in North America or  the UK, the first thing you think of is actually Cantonese food because [it] arrived first.

Now we can see all the hot Sichuan hot pots and malatang, all these are more modern and, trendy or more northern cuisine start to really get in the picture. popularity. 

This is something that’s blowing our mind as well.

It’s a strong signal to the food industry to really focus on the authenticity, offering high quality ingredients. This is something I think is actually quite interesting.

Joe Winger: 

Talking about trends, anything was surprising?

Kitty Lu: 

The most popular category is definitely Boba tea.  Now, as.

As we can see the hot pot, stuff actually, coming on top of, all this fried chicken, bubble tea and stuff. That suggests our local consumers start to really adapt into a more authentic flavor Chinese food instead of people always ordering honey chicken, spring side pork. 

They learn to really understand, oh, that’s you know, Chinese people eat in China, they really start to learn and understand and admire about the spice actually in the food.

This is something actually I find quite interesting.

Joe Winger: 

That’s really a big change. 

Based on your 2023 report, any predictions for 2024?

Kitty Lu: 

The rise in the family demands, so AOV ( average order value) keeps growing. Food delivery is not growing accommodating only for one person, two person, but it’s starting to expand, for more towards a family’s demands. 

We can anticipate the age group that actually accepting or keep using the food delivery services actually start to grow and expand as well. 

Also predicting new services for delivery companies. We can actually see the trend that many people start to order.

Pick up orders from the app and you can go straight to the restaurant to pick it up without waiting.  It’s helps you jump the queue.

When you order a pickup it’s actually cheaper than ordering at the shop itself.

Therefore, this is actually one of the trends that we can see. It’s actually start to grow.

Joe Winger: 

How do your users want the experience to go for them?

Kitty Lu:

During the pandemic, everything had to be contactless. Therefore the pickup feature was actually created during that period and blossomed afterwards.

Joe Winger: 

Now you just mentioned the pandemic. Your company learned a lot from that experience, like how much packaging matters. 

Can you talk a little bit more about what you learned about packaging?

Kitty Lu: 

First thing we need to discuss is the difference between Asian food and Western food. 

When it comes to Chinese food, generally it’s very heavy on sauces. Therefore, restaurants have to elevate the packaging standards to ensure the food quality can remain consistent.

When you order Chinese food, you expect it to still be hot, to have the best of flavor. Iit often [comes] with soup and if the packaging is not good, it actually leaks. 

That has always been a challenge that Asian food delivery faces.

China created a new trend with laminate packaging to make sure all the packaging is sealed and kept warm. That helped the whole industry globally to maintain higher standards.

Joe Winger: 

There’s nothing worse than when you get the package to your house and it’s broken,  ripped, it’s spilled.

The superior packaging isn’t about looking pretty necessarily. It’s about keeping your food secure.

Kitty Lu: 

That’s right.  Another thing we have to consider is [being] environmental friendly.

The Chinese food industry has been blamed for using too much plastic to begin with. Therefore, the new packaging uses aluminum.

Joe Winger: 

So your HungryPanda app itself has a lot of features. Can you let’s talk through some of the most popular features?

Kitty Lu: 

Comparing with other apps, one thing we find quite convenient is that on the front page we have a very full restaurant list with tabs: by distance, by popularity, by discounts, by reviews, by delivery times. So it’s very easy for you to access. 

Other apps  have the categories but limited restaurants. 

Joe Winger: 

What’s the best way for an Asian restaurant to make the most of this opportunity of this new food trend?

Kitty Lu:

I think In the age of technology leveraging online platforms for visibility, working with a food delivery platform is definitely one of the ways to help them really engage with consumers.

When we talk about foodies, they are young, they’re always on social media. They’re always online. Therefore, promoting yourself in front of them is very important. 

We use our channels to really promote different restaurants to help them to expand their reach within their comfort zone.

Joe Winger: 

What’s your favorite food? What would you order on your app?

Kitty Lu: 

My favorite food is [the same as] the trend report.  Sichuan malatang.

So that shows the report’s authenticity.  The audience like the food like a real Chinese person.

The reason why I like the malatang is because not only is it delicious, but it’s actually quite healthy as well.

It’s a hot spicy soup, but you put in fresh vegetables, fresh meat, it’s like you’re cooking your own hot pot

And it’s a very balanced and nutritious meal. Flavorful when you put all these different ingredients into one pot of soup. Brings you more flavors and it’s very fast [to make].

Joe Winger: 

What is HungryPanda’s user coverage look like?

Kitty Lu: 

We have about 30 cities covered in the U. S. Obviously, New York, L.A., all major cities itself. I would be more than happy to provide you with the full on city list. We’re in Canada as well and just over 80 cities all around the globe.

Joe Winger: 

For the audience who’s watching and listening right now, what’s the best next step? How can they enjoy this app? 

Kitty Lu: 

If they haven’t downloaded it yet, give it a try.

For new users, we actually have new user vouchers available for them to have a few free deliveries. 

You can order to deliver, you can order to pick up it’s very convenient to use, very simple.  Obviously we have a much wider supply for Asian food.

Therefore, if you are a Asian food lover, you should have HungryPanda on your phone.

 

NYC Foodies Head to Colorado: Winemaker Ben Parsons from The Ordinary Fellow reveals Wine, Food and Nature in Palisade CO

NYC Foodies Head to Colorado: Winemaker Ben Parsons from The Ordinary Fellow reveals wine, food and nature

Ben Parsons, Winemaker and Owner of The Ordinary Fellow in Palisade, Colorado

Ben Parsons, Winemaker and Owner of The Ordinary Fellow in Palisade, Colorado

Today’s conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit our YouTube channel here

Joe Winger: 

Just to touch on background a little bit, you were the winemaker and founder of a very successful urban winery, the Infinite Monkey Theorem

Then you chose to move on to where you are now at The Ordinary Fellow

What was that transition like for you?

Ben Parsons: 

The Infinite Monkey Theorem was really about disrupting the wine industry and trying to make wine fun and relevant and accessible. 

We were the first ones in the U.S. to put wine in the can. We started kegging in 2008. 

It was really about creating these urban winery spaces, just a tap room for a craft brewery in a city where everyone could come down and enjoy. 

After 11 years of taking that to a 100,000 case production distributed in 42 states, there was a really good opportunity for me to get back to what I wanted to do, which is being in a vineyard.

Even though that might sound like a cliche, there is something quite romantic about farming and being surrounded by nature and really trying to make the very best wine you can from Colorado fruit that you grow and putting it in a bottle versus buying someone else’s wine and putting it in a can, they’re like two very different things.

I had an opportunity to take over a vineyard in southwest Colorado down in the Four Corners just outside of Cortez, where the Four Corners meet. 

It was in disrepair and hadn’t been pruned in four years. So I got back in there and now it’s looking really good.

So that’s taken 4 years.  Yeah it’s relatively small. It’s 13 acres of Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Sits at 6,000 feet elevation. So very high for a commercial vineyard. And it’s beautiful. 

It sits on a national monument called the Yucca House, which is an un-excavated ancestral Pueblan ruin from between the 10th and 12th century.

Starts at Mesa Verde, which most people are familiar with for the ancestral cliff dwellings from the Pueblans down there. It’s just a beautiful location. 

Yeah, two very different things, but kind of coming full circle almost as to what I got me into the industry in the beginning, back in the late 90s.

And now back there, but doing it on my own.

 

Palisade Colorado Winemaker Ben Parsons takes a Vineyard Tour

 

Joe Winger: 

Your famous quote in the wine world: “I miss being in the vineyard”

So for our audience, who’s going to go to wine country this weekend or this summer, when they take a vineyard tour, what should they be looking at?

Ben Parsons: 

As to how wine gets from a vineyard and a grape to a bottle. Most people think it just ends up on a grocery store shelf and that is not the case.

It’s really the idea that you could grow something from rootstock, farm it, suffer the vagaries of agricultural production, deal with all of those challenges,  do it in a sustainable way. 

Ben Parsons, Winemaker and Owner of The Ordinary Fellow in Palisade, Colorado

Ben Parsons, Winemaker and Owner of The Ordinary Fellow in Palisade, Colorado

Determine when you’re going to pick that fruit. Take it into the winery. Ferment it. Turn it into wine. Age it in a barrel. Bottle it. Decide on the branding. Decide on the naming. Come up with a label design. 

Take it to all of those small awesome restaurants that everyone wants to hang out at because they’re making great food and getting good press.

You see my wine or I see my wine on someone else’s table, drinking it and to think where that came from.

And how many times those grapes got moved from a to b and then back, from b to c and then c to d whether it be like shoveling grapes with a pitchfork for a destemmer. 

Or shoveling fermented grapes into a press with a Home Depot bucket.

Or picking that case up and taking it from here to here, that got handled so many times, so much went into that, that I think there’s a huge disconnect amongst most consumers. 

Palisade Colorado Winemaker Ben Parsons on the Area’s Natural Beauty

Joe Winger: 

You chose to be in Palisade, Colorado making your wine. 

Tell us a little bit about the region and why someone should come visit you in Colorado?

Ben Parsons: 

Palisade is beautiful. It’s on the Western slope of Colorado. It’s about a 4 hour drive West of Denver over the mountains.

About 4 1/2 hours East of Salt Lake City. 

It’s an American Viticultural Area designate called the Grand Valley and it’s pretty stunning. 

You come through this Canyon called the Back Canyon on the North side, you have these book cliff mountains that  rise above you on the South side, you have the Colorado River, and it’s a very niche microclimate. It’s definitely an agricultural community.

What a lot of people don’t realize, because they just drive straight past on I-70 is it’s proximity to all things good, outdoorsy. 

Within 28 minutes I could be at a local ski resort called Powderhorn. It got 32 feet of snow last year 

I’m an hour and a half from Aspen.

I’m an hour and 20 minutes from Moab. 

I’m a 10 minute drive from Fruita, which has the best mountain biking in the world. 

It’s all old Indian territory. There’s wild mustangs up on the book cliffs. 

It’s known for its fruit. It’s actually known for its peaches, believe it or not.  Some of the best peaches grown anywhere in the United States. Arguably the best. 

But it’s a very small microclimate. 

Palisade is around 4,500 feet elevation. There’s about 26 wineries you can tour and visit. Take a few days, spend a weekend. 

There’s some good local restaurants, growing their own produce and making real good farm to table food.

Grand Junction is a city that in the last 5 years has really exploded. 

And Grand Junction is 10 minutes from Palisade. It went through a series of boom and busts during the oil shale boom business back in the day, but now it’s strongly focused on tourism.

Lots of people are leaving the front range of Denver, Colorado Springs and  moving to the Western slope for a kind of quality of life.

Also we have a lot of California transplants because it is cheaper to live. You are outdoors all the time. You can travel long distances very quickly.  I put 42,000 miles on my car this year delivering wine all over the state of Colorado. 

I feel like the state and this particular area has a lot going for it.  Definitely more than enough to fill a long weekend or a week’s trip. 

Exploring vineyards, food, farms, outdoor opportunities. 

Taking a trip to Moab, it’s really pretty. It’s one of the reasons I moved here. 

I’d been in the city for a long time. I grew up just South of London in England, but I lived in London for some time and I loved it when I was young.  I love Denver as well.

When I started the Infinite Monkey Theorem, that was really when a lot of people were moving to Denver and it was becoming something substantial. 

It was one of the fastest growing cities in the country at that time. 

I feel like we were a big part of pushing that growth and in tandem with the other food and beverage scene, like craft breweries and good restaurants.

Joe Winger: 

You’ve mentioned different restaurants and food and dinner.  Our audience primarily are foodies.   We’re in Colorado for a wine weekend, we come to the Ordinary Fellow for a wine tasting.

Can you suggest a few places and different cuisines that are a must visit within 20-30 minutes of you?

Ben Parsons: 

In Palisade there’s a good restaurant called Pesh. One of the former line cooks at a linear in Chicago started it with his wife, maybe 5-6 years ago. It’s excellent. 

In Grand Junction, where most people stay there’s a few good restaurants started by this guy, Josh Nirenberg, who has been nominated for James Beard award several times for best chef and has one called Bin 707,  Then he just opened a third called Jojo’s. He also has a kind of trendy taco spot called Taco Party, which is a fun name. 

If you like craft cocktails, there’s a new place that opened called Melrose Spirit Company. Guy opened it in a hotel that was recently renovated. Really cute, really excellent cocktails.

Joe Winger: 

Let’s get into the wine geek stuff now and talk about your vineyards. You have Colorado Box Bar, Hawks Nest.

So let’s talk through terroir, soil type, elevation. 

Ben Parsons: 

So Box Bar, It’s in Cortez, sits around between 6,000 feet elevation.

It’s on this weatheral loam that has some clay in it, which has these water retention properties. It is essentially a desert. So you do have to drip irrigate, there’s less than 7 inches of precipitation a year. 

So very little rainfall which is good in some ways in that there is very little disease pressure.

You’re not having to spray. There’s no necessity to spray for powdery mildew or anything down at our vineyards. 

It’s essentially farmed very minimalistically. 

Lagging very sustainably, which I know people appreciate. 

Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay. We’re just planting some Chenin Blanc and some Charbonneau, which is an italian red varietal as well. 

Hawk’s Nest is not my own property, but I work with a grower called Guy Drew who planted four different kinds of Pinot Noir and two different kinds of Chardonnay there.

That vineyard is at 6, 800 feet and that is the highest commercial vineyard in North America. 

Similar soil properties as the Box Bar. Making some really good Pinot Noir. 

I think what’s interesting about Colorado is we have a very short growing season, 155 – 165 days.  Napa has 240 days. That’s frost free days. 

So the thing is that we have such high sunlight exposure because of the elevation and the ultraviolet light that we have the same number of degree days as Napa Valley. So we can ripen like Cabernet Sauvignon, but we’re ripening it in a shorter period of time.  That’s fairly unique. 

The Ordinary Fellow is really focusing on traditional French varietals from Chenin Blanc Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah.

Most recently we took over a vineyard in Utah so I’m actually farming a vineyard about 1 ½ hour drive from Moab called Montezuma Canyon Ranch. 

That’s this ancient sandstone with a little bit of clay in there that was planted in 2007. 12 acres of Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Riesling Chardonnay.  We made an awesome Utah Rosé vineyard last harvest 2023, which we just released. 

You don’t see that many wines from Utah so that’s why I’m excited about it. 

I think there’s only 6 wineries in Utah and I’m not sure that many of them get their fruit from Utah.

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned that you have one of the highest peak elevation commercial vineyards in North America.

What are the benefits and the disadvantages to such a high elevation?

Ben Parsons: 

If you think about spending any time on a mountain, it can be really warm, but as soon as the sun goes down, it gets very cold. 

So having high elevation vineyards, even though you might be in a quite a hot growing region as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature does drop.

You have a large diurnal temperature shift. 

So in Cortez, in the growth, during the growing season or during ripening, say late September, mid September, late September. We could be 85 to 90 in the day, but 45 to 50 at night, which is a really big temperature swing. 

It basically means that the vine has a kind of chance to just shut down and rest.

From an enology perspective, you can retain more natural acidity in the fruit because it’s not being metabolized by having a lot of sunlight constantly and higher temperature. So we don’t have to make any artificial acid additions or anything like that you may have to do in more established wine regions in the United States. 

Our wines all have really great balance to them and really good acidity. None of them are overdone. They’re not big, jammy, overly alcoholic. 

They’re all well balanced between acids, tannin, alcohol, sugar, but they’re all bone dry. 

There is no fermentable sugar in any of them, which leads to palate weight and mouthfeel, but but they’re not sweet per se. 

Even my Riesling is bone dry.

Joe Winger: 

During the Infinite Monkey Theorem days you led the canned wines movement.  

How does it feel seeing it become so incredibly popular and any big lessons you learned from that experience?

Ben Parsons: 

I genuinely believe that [we led with canned wines].  In 2009 we entered into a R and D project with Ball Corporation, the largest supply of aluminum cans in the world. 

To figure out how to can wine and everyone thought it was stupid and everyone just turned their noses up at it and thought that RTD wine and RTD drinks were stupid.

It’s a tough question because I think that canned wine is good because of its use application, primarily.  Where you can take it and where you can drink it. 

Now, very rarely do I see people putting the best wine they’ve ever made in a can. So I think it’s all about where you want to drink it, who you want to drink it with.  There’s definitely this kind of utility aspect to it. 

Also price point wise, you don’t see that many canned wine, four packs above $16,

I would say so. Yeah, price wise, it’s fairly economical from a sustainability perspective. It makes a lot of sense.

But from an absolute quality perspective, you’re probably still going to be buying bottled wine over canned wine. 

It’s all about where you’re going to consume it. 

Sometimes when I see it I think about when you start any category, there’s always those people that are out there doing it way before anyone else is doing it.  It’s those people that usually don’t reap the benefits of it because they put all of the effort into it. 

I look at LinkedIn occasionally and I’m just baffled by people that think that it’s a new thing.  It just blows my mind. 

Joe Winger: 

You have an excellent sparkling wine and you’ve mentioned England’s excitement about the sparkling. 

Why is England falling in love with sparkling wine? And why should all of us be falling in love with sparkling wine?

Ben Parsons: 

Historically, England has consumed a lot of sparkling wine. 

But in terms of actually growing grapes and making their own sparkling wine, that’s happened in the last 20 years. 

That’s one of those unfortunate advantages of global warming in a kind of isolated geographical area that previously, you wouldn’t have been able to ripen Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier.

It would have been a challenge making really good sparkling wine in Kent and Sussex and Southeast England where a lot of it is made. 

But with a few degrees temperature rise, that’s now possible. And it’s the same chalk escarpment as champagne. They’re very close to each other.

They’re just separated by 24 miles of the English Channel, right? 

So they’re actually geographically very close to each other a little further than 24 miles, but climatically very similar. 

So actually, a lot of French champagne houses have bought up land in Kent and Sussex over the last 20 years and have been planting that, and now some of the bubbles are coming out.

Joe Winger: 

When I have an opportunity to speak with an Oregon winemaker, we often talk about the challenges based on their region. Do you feel like you are also in a region [Colorado] that’s more problematic?

Can you share a lesson you’ve learned from solving some of those problems?

Ben Parsons: 

The whole industry because of the shortness of the growing season, it’s always on a knife edge because you can have late spring frosts that can come through a bud break and just wipe you out.

But you can also have these freak-like early winter freezes in October where there’s there’s still fruit hanging or maybe it’s just come off and it goes from 70 degrees in the day to 8 degrees suddenly, and the sap still flowing in the vines and then all of the vines, the trunks split, the cordon split.

That’s what happened in Palisade maybe 3 or 4 years ago now. 

Then in Cortez where Box Bar is, last year we had a hailstorm come through just after the bud break. So our Chardonnay was out and got wiped out. Then the secondary buds pushed and we went from a crop of 36 tons to 10 tons overnight.

That’s just agriculture anywhere. Unfortunately that’s just one of the risks.

Joe Winger: 

Let’s talk about wine. Their flavor profiles. The different bottles you offer.

When we come visit your tasting room in Palisade, Colorado any hints about what they should be excited to taste?

Ben Parsons: 

 

Blanc de Noir

Yeah the sparkling wine, that’s Blanc de Noir, so that’s 100% Pinot Noir. That’s about as geeky as it gets, because that’s single vineyard, single grower, single clone of Pinot Noir. only 8 months in barrel.  The base wine was barrel aged for about 6 months, and then it was entourage, lying on its utilise in a bottle for six months.

Then it’s put on a riddling rack and hand riddled one bottle at a time. Then disgorged by hand, just take the top off, put your thumb over the top of it so nothing comes out and then no dosage.

So again, just super geeky, like really bone dry, like really crisp, great acid. So that is that wine is super hands on.

It’s delicious. It still gets those more developed, brioche-y notes. Texturally it’s very pleasing on the palate. I think we make really good method champignons, bottle fermented sparkling wine. 

 

Chardonnay

A lot of people these days think it’s trendy to not like chardonnay, because they heard somewhere about that, but there are actually some really good Chardonnays out there, which aren’t all aged in new French oak and haven’t all gone through like a creamy buttery secondary fermentation. And I think mine is one of them. It was aged in 8 year old barrels.  So there’s really no influence on it at all. 

It’s all hand harvested or whole cluster pressed. I think that wine has a really pretty texture, like this palette coating texture but it has really good acidity and it smells like a ripe peach or a dried apricot. It’s really pretty.

Pinot Noir

Our red pinot noir.  Again that spent just 9 months in neutral barrels so I think there was a trend like 20 years ago to put everything in a brand new barrel and every winemakers thought it was cool, but you know in the last 5 – 6 years, I think that has changed 

Winemakers are really trying to let the soil and let their vineyards speak for themselves.

Minimal kind of intervention to a certain extent. It is the trend.

Our Pinot Noir has done really well. It’s on the much lighter side. I would say it’s more like a German style Pinot Noir, like lighter with really good acidity, firm tannin. Beautiful aroma.

I think all of our wines are just very well balanced. Very food friendly, very clean. They’re not funky. I’m very proud of that.

Joe Winger: 

I’m assuming balance and the clean is a style choice by you? 

Ben Parsons: 

Balance is easy because it’s done in the vineyard because of the elevation and the retention of acidity.  It’s just about when you pick it. So you’re tasting [the grapes] for flavor and like phenolic ripeness and the seeds being brown, et cetera, but you’re also testing a few for your pH, your titratable acidity and your sugar levels. Then you make an informed decision as to when you’re picking it. 

The cleanliness part of it really just comes down to the fact that I feel like winemakers, even though this doesn’t sound very romantic, you’re almost just like an insurance manager in that you don’t want to mess it up.

So you make informed decisions, preemptively.  You top your barrels, like every 2-3 weeks, you do things to make sure the wine, does not end up flawed  through a secondary characteristic developing.   

Sometimes that’s a flavor enhancer and sometimes that’s good, but when it’s overdone…  I believe there are a lot of wines that they get away with it these days.  To me it’s just bad winemaking.

I’m definitely kind of a minimal interventionist 

Joe Winger: 

I always feel like white wine doesn’t get enough love and respect. People love talking about the complexities of reds.  You make a phenomenal Riesling

Ben Parsons: 

Interestingly I really don’t drink red wine anymore. Occasionally I’ll drink some Pinot Noir, but I much prefer drinking white wines. I think a lot of people in the industry crave acidity, and yeah, my reasoning is a good example.

The general consumer in the U. S. still thinks that all raisins are sweet. I think that’s just a common misconception, that’s purely a stylistic choice from the winemaker, and my choice is to allow the yeast to ferment all of the sugar until there is no residual sugar.

To have a wine with high natural acidity that pairs well with food. That’s my choice as a winemaker. Those are the wines that I enjoy most that kind of just leave your palate just like this rasping acidity. Take the enamel off your teeth, and but have beautiful aroma.

Our Riesling is starting to show some characteristics from being in the bottle for 18 months. Where it gets those kind of, it’s tough to say about making it sound bad, but those more kerosene-y , kind of petroleum, kind of eraser like notes, which are very typical of Riesling, intertwined with really nice citrus and green apple.

Yeah, and like really just good structure. That benefits from growing at elevation here for sure.

Joe Winger: 

Petit Verdot is probably lesser known, less popular, but it deserves all the love anyway. 

Ben Parsons: 

Petit Verdot, interesting, like one of the six red Bordeaux grape varieties. Bordeaux is maritime climate. It’s much cooler than Colorado.

It doesn’t really get the chance to ripen as well as it does here. So when it can ripen, it doesn’t just need to get blended into Cabernet Sauvignon or something to just give it more tannin and more structure. 

Here it can stand alone as a single varietal. 

The greenness is gone. The tannin is not like just rip your face off tannin.  It’s well developed. Like silky, velvety, firm, but not like really dry and like Petit Verdot can be.  Aromatics are very lifted on it, and it’s not a massive red wine by any means.

That’s grown at a vineyard about half an hour from Box Bar called Canyon of the Ancients and that vineyard was planted in 2006.

Unfortunately we only made about 99 cases of that wine. It’s fun to introduce people to wines that they probably haven’t heard of, but wines that that can stand up to any good red wines that you may have heard of.

Palisade Colorado Winemaker Ben Parsons reveals his Favorite Food

Joe Winger: 

Do you identify yourself as a foodie?   Can you pick 1-2 of your bottles and your favorite dish for dinner tonight?

Ben Parsons: 

Yeah I would definitely pair my Riesling with a Thai curry or even a panang curry. I think it does really well with oriental food that has some level of heat to it. But also I think it does really well with a charcuterie plate, some almonds and some cheese. I think you can’t go wrong with that. 

Then my Petit Verdot, for example I think there is more tannin in there.  For those of us that like the light grilling you couldn’t go wrong with serving that with a ribeye. It’s delicious.  Or if you’re cooking a little heartier food in the winter, maybe a lasagna.  Something that can really work with that tannin.

I think my wines do well with a lot of different food just because of the balance that they have, they’re not going to overpower the food and vice versa, which is what it’s all about. 

But I also enjoy them, just having a glass on its own, to be honest.  When I get home from work, sometimes I love that.

Joe Winger: 

I’m watching your Instagram videos quite a bit, and it seems like you’re having a lot of fun sharing knowledge, showing your vineyard, showing what it’s like day to day.

Ben Parsons: 

The one time that I do enjoy social media is when you’re in the vineyard or you’re doing something that seems that other people might never have seen before.

I’m in awe of where I am because I feel like it comes across in those videos. It’s pretty down here today, and those are beautiful vineyard sites.

Or if you’re filtering a wine or racking a wine or, trying or shoveling grapes.

Just the imagery comes across and really shows how much work is involved in it. I always struggle when it’s like go take a photo of a bottle of wine in front of a restaurant.  I don’t know how you make that look cool.

Find more about Ben Parson’s The Ordinary Fellow website, instagram

More about Palisade, CO

 

NYC Demands Better Coffee, They Traveled the world to find it, Dr Christina Rahm from Rahm Roast Coffee

NYC Demands Better Coffee, They Traveled the world to find it, Dr Christina Rahm from Rahm Roast Coffee

Today we’re talking coffee!  The rich and delightful taste of Rahm Roast, crafted from carefully selected coffee beans straight from Guatemala.

Dr. Christina Rahm is a scientist, supermom, devoted partner, and the ultimate coffee aficionado! 

With a passion for detoxing and a mission to uplift lives, she’s not just about the lab coat life; she’s out there exploring the globe in pursuit of both science and the perfect cup of joe.

Today’s conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit FlavRReport’s YouTube channel here

Joe Winger: 

So what I love the most is your introduction, Dr. Christina Rahm, “Mother. wife, scientist and coffee lover.”

Dr. Christina Rahm: 

Thank you. Yeah I always start with mother. Now my kids are older. I’m like, am I supposed to say mother to adult children? They were such an integral part of my life. And hey, that was the reason I started drinking coffee. Just to be honest, I had to stay awake to take care of them.

Joe Winger: 

Do you remember what first inspired you to get interested in coffee?

Dr. Christina Rahm:

Motherhood, basically.. 

I grew up in a home where everybody loved coffee but me. I remember when I had my 1st child, and I was thinking, how do all these mothers stay awake? 

I worked back then too. It was a lot, working and taking care [of my first baby].

I was delusional because I thought I’m going to have my son, and I thought, I’ll go back to work on Monday. Cause you don’t know. I remember that Monday getting up and calling my mom and saying, “This is not doable.  What am I going to do?”

I had a job where they let me take him to work, but still it was a lot. And my mom was like, you’re going to have to drink coffee. 

So I started drinking coffee. 

My parents loved it growing up. They would offer us coffee with cream and sugar when we were little.

I grew up on a farm and  they would offer it and I’d be like, no, I don’t like it. I was the only one in my family that didn’t like it, but I learned to love it after I had a child. 

Then I three more [kids]. But I love the taste of it. 

Also, as a scientist, I had a pituitary tumor and different types of cancer.

When I started researching, you can’t ever claim that a natural substance cures anything, but I did notice there were certain types of coffee and coffee beans that caused cancer cell death, apoptosis. 

So it was one of the things that I added to my regimen. 

What happened was, the cancer metastasized and I was trying to eat everything from spirulina to coffee to resveratrol.

I did give up alcohol for a while. 

Then someone said one glass of alcohol is good because of the resveratrol. 

So I  added wine back in [to my diet].

But like I learned to love [coffee].   The more I researched it, the more I understood that it had mold and mitotoxins and it had all kinds of things.

Even though the pure bean could help from a physical perspective and from a healthcare perspective because of the pesticides and GMOs in the land, air and water that we have. 

I hate bringing up the topic because people [think] the environment’s not that bad. 

The problem is, regardless of your political stance, our environment is not healthy like it used to, because we’ve had so much pollution/

Nuclear war and when a nuclear war happens, it does not leave the stratosphere. 

It disseminates across our world. 

So a our things – plants and herbs and roots and seeds – you have to be very careful where you get it. 

Most of my career I focused a lot on detoxification and really helping clean out the environment.

Things I’ve worked on… You can go to the store and buy coffee or buy vitamins and they can have heavy metals, lead, mercury, horrible things in it. 

I don’t want to scare people.

Instead, I’ve worked on creating some things that hopefully will help people feel, look, and be better because we just all need to be as great as we can be. 

There’s no easy, one pill solution, right? 

Coffee was definitely something for me.  

People drink [it] every day, and if they’re going to drink it, I’m hoping they drink something that’s, free of mitotoxins, that has a good pH level, that is fair trade.

I had a whole list of things that were so important to me.

When Rahm Roast launched I was very happy because we ended up getting a 91% cup score. We worked really hard for that. Only 1% of the coffee in the world has a score that high.

But I think what was more important than a score, what’s that going to do for you? 

What really matters to me is that the coffee did not have toxins and the coffee did not have heavy metals and it hadn’t been exposed to GMOs or pesticides.

If my name was going to be on it it better be something that’s really helping people and making their life better. That was important to me.

Joe Winger: 

Two words you said a second ago, let’s connect them: coffee and detoxification.

What does that process look like for Rahm Roast?

Dr. Christina Rahm: 

I went all over, even to Ethiopia because [they] have great coffee.

I would meet with different coffee plantations and different owners trying to find a really good place. We ended up being able to find a place in Guatemala that was on top of a mountain, which had never been exposed to GMOs and pesticides.

The water’s clean, the air’s clean. 

It was a very isolated place.  We decided we wanted to partner with a business that was small.  All they cared about was making something that was just really unique and special.  [Unlike most other businesses] they were not worried about mass production.

They’re worried about making sure that it tastes good, which taste was important to us. 

But the biggest issue was let’s make sure that everything is fair trade, the organic, the vegan, we wanted everything. I wanted to be sustainable. 

For me, sustainable is not enough. 

We need to remediate things because you can to be sustainable. It’s not completely accurate, right? 

I have a lot of patents based on remediation of things and making sure that you’re not just detoxing, but you’re helping the plants and you’re helping everything grow.

Because we should have this much top soil [gestures to 6 inches] and now we have this much top soil [gestures to 2 inches] and there’s not enough nutrients in it that help the plants and the roots and the seeds.  They’re just not the same. 

We explored all of that and came up with a process to clean the beans and detox the beans of any kind of monotoxins, mold, fungus, bacteria, viruses, anything surrounding it. 

I developed that in 2015. I started by basically writing a series of patents that had to do with getting rid of nuclear waste.

The regeneration of land, air and water and the human body and also the reversal of aging.

What I’ve learned as a scientist and as a human being is to admit failure every day, and then to admit that I’m going to try to be better every day. 

And that’s what happened with the coffee. 

It was a one step process that involved a four day process to make the cleaning and it’s made from basically a zeolite silica trace mineral vitamin mixture which goes in and cleans the beans.  

I think that’s the reason our cup score is so high because the PH level basically getting rid of all those minor toxins, all the things, the beans that are harmful or could be harmful creates a ph level that is very conducive to our body.

I don’t know if you know this, but our Earth is composed of silica and water, right?

As humans, we are too. 

So when you put something in your body, you want to make it compatible bioavailable to the body. And I would say that’s another proprietary thing that I do. And I work on things I’m working on. 

Understanding the DNA of a coffee bean, and understanding our DNA and then understanding how they would work copacetically together.

Another thing that was really close to me that I actually have not talked about in any interview is the fact that. With coffee and coffee enemas and different things that people have, there’s like a 70 percent increase right now in colon cancer. It’s horrible. And I would credit that to the environment and to all the things we’re being exposed to.

And even vegans are getting colon cancer. Even younger people. You can look it up. 

It was in the New York Post, everything else. So I wanted a coffee that a doctor decided functional med doctors or doctors in other countries wanted to help with this area that could use it as a colon cleanse as well.

Again, I have not talked about that anywhere, but for me, it was essential because as a person that’s had so many different types of cancer, I want to put things in my body that will help my body. 

What’s interesting about what I do for a living now, I used to work in pharmaceutical and biotech and we could say.

We don’t cure bronchitis, but here’s zithromax to help with bronchitis and it does right from my perspective. 

Giving people things that make their body, make them achieve the greatest thing they can, that, which is to be their best self, it’s so important.

And if those things that we give them can also improve the cellular health of their body by making the healthy cells healthier and making the cancerous or the sick cells not even wanna be there, then that is a goal. 

There’s been all kinds of studies, there’s all kinds of information which shows that could be possible.

But again, the problem is in theory, yes, that can help people in different areas of health. 

But in reality, I don’t feel like it has because I think the coffee beans and coffee has been exposed to so many things in our environment that then sometimes we’re putting more toxins into our body. 

So that was really a major focus for me when I worked on the coffee.

We drink coffee every day and we deserve to have really good coffee. 

I’m not saying,me making spaghetti and saying my spaghetti is the “best spaghetti in the world.”

I will tell you that I’ve traveled to 89 countries and I’ve studied this for years and this has been a topic of mine since I was in my twenties, that has been important to me. 

Then my oldest son, my Mom used to give him the coffee with the sugar and the cream and he would just keep drinking it.

And I would get in an argument with my Mom about why are you giving my Son coffee now? 

He’s bouncing off the walls. He just loves it. 

So he put fire under my feet on it. I was like, I’m too busy working on all these other projects. 

He was like, “Mom, you have to make good coffee.”

Because some people drink four or five glasses a day. So it needs to be healthy for you. 

It’s just like water. If you’re going to drink water, you want to drink healthy water; and water is part of the process when I make the coffee too.  It’s a specific type of water that helps clean the beans. 

It’s interesting. I tried to do it in the United States. I could not find a master coffee maker that could do what I wanted.

I found one in Cyprus [Greece]. 

So I was in Cyprus introduced to an award winning coffee grinder coffee maker.

He’s won awards all over, [ he] understood my process, understood how to do it. 

Then after you tasted it, after it went through the process, he was like, this is amazing. This is the best coffee ever. And again, it makes sense.

Like when we’re healthy, we look better, right? 

When coffee beans are healthier, they taste better. They’re better. 

It’s just simple and I love it. 

I think it’s magical how science works and how all of our DNA is connected. We’re connected to a leaf on a tree. We’re also connected and able to bring coffee to the world that’s going to help people.

I think it is probably one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most in the last three to four years of my life.

Joe Winger: 

That’s beautiful.  Obviously you have a huge scientific background.  Our audience is into the flavor. Food, spirits, wine, coffee based on flavor. 

I’m sure you can understand how science can intimidate so many of us.

Is there a very simplified way of explaining what makes Rahm Roast good for the body, good for the planet? 

Dr. Christina Rahm: 

It’s like going to an organic farm up in the mountains where everything’s perfect and tasting a bite of a watermelon and it just tastes so great. 

Or of strawberries. 

When you go to these places on these islands that have never been exposed to GMOs and pesticides.

And you’re like, why does this taste better? 

Sometimes in the United States, you’ll buy a rose for someone and it doesn’t even smell like a rose, but then you’ll go to a tropical island where they don’t use GMOs or pesticides and it smells so beautiful.

This is the most beautiful rose. It smells so amazing. 

The coffee was made and sourced from a single source in a place that was the perfect environment that we could find. We looked everywhere. 

Then the process. That was made basically cleaning it until it was beautiful and perfect. It’s like you brush your teeth, you take a bath, you look better.

If you don’t shave or brush your teeth or take a bath for two years, then you may not look the same as you look today. 

This coffee has been cleaned in a very holistic way, organic way using only natural.

It tastes amazing. It tastes almost like chocolate.

It’s very smooth.

Using zeolites [like they] used to line the ducts of the Aztec and Incas and Mayas and the pyramids. It’s documented throughout history and all I did was take a process and make sure it was cleaning so that it would look beautiful.

I think it’s simple.

I sourced it from the most amazing place that had not been exposed to pesticides and GMOs, that was fair trade, that everything was a sole source farmer.

We knew everything about the history.  I want your audience to also know this. 

It’s not just the beans and the plants.  

It’s the parent plants and the genetics behind it. 

When you see race horses. They breed, right? You pay a lot of money if you have a winner from the Kentucky Derby.  Because it’s genetics. 

There’s a genetic component and there’s always this debate about genetics and the environment.

Which one’s better? 

And so to me, both are important. 

So I looked at the genetics of the plants and the seeds

I made sure the environment was a really good environment to raise a healthy environment to raise these amazing coffee beans. And then we just cleaned them and made them even more beautiful so that everyone could taste how amazing they are.

Scientists made GMOs to try to make plants bigger, better, right? That failed. 

So as a scientist I went back to school, I went to Harvard and studied nanobiotechnology for a very different reason than most people think. 

I studied to see how we could reverse it.

Things naturally from things that we’ve put into our world that weren’t natural, that have hurt us. 

Joe Winger: 

Incredibly inspirational.

From a corporate point of view, can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to pursue the social responsibility of the company?

Dr. Christina Rahm: 

In my career, I worked for the government. I’ve worked for a lot of the top pharmaceutical and biotech companies. 

I would say I failed at that in many ways.

Our economy depends on spending a lot of money on health care.

It was a hard time for me, but I never gave up. 

From my perspective. Since I had cancer, since I had Lyme’s disease, since I had a child that had cancer, I’ve devoted my life to trying to do the right thing.  I have an opportunity to be alive for a reason.

It was a blessing, even though I didn’t feel like it was a blessing when I was diagnosed. I have a warrior strength of fighting anything.

We’ve just got to be better humans, right? 

My goal is to make every person have the longest, best life possible.

That means mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And as a scientist, I feel like it’s on my shoulders and my responsibility to tell the truth and to do it in a positive way instead of being a whistleblower blowing things up. 

I want to offer these things that can help people.

About 8-9 years ago, I started really stepping up and talking about social issues, working on female empowerment. I just always try to talk about how we can empower.

When you have gifts, if you have influence, if you have money, if you have power, your job is to protect those weaker than you or that need help.

And somehow we’ve lost that in our move for success.

We think we don’t we forget about that. But for me, that’s my motive to make social change is to it’s my responsibility to be a good human. I’m going to die someday. And I’m going to have to answer for everything I’ve done on this earth.

So I have to try every day to be better. 

The coffee was something that was for a social change that I think we need to be aware of without scaring everyone. 

And so that has led me to move past that. To run companies. I have 22 companies actually under DRC ventures and a lot of people don’t know that. So there’s 22 companies that I’m actually in charge of right now, trying to make some good social changes in the world.

Joe Winger: 

For our audience who wants to learn more about your and Rahm Roast Coffee, what are the best ways? 

Dr. Christina Rahm: 

DrChristinaRahm.com is my website.

I’m on social media at Instagram, LinkedIn

The root brand sells Rahm Roast at RahmRoast website.  We also donate from every bag of coffee to philanthropy as well. 

Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities in His newest Book

Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities wants to Give You a Taste at his next dinner party.  Read all about it in his new book.

Thaao Penghlis has starred in some of the biggest TV shows of all time – including playing on daytime TV’s “Days of Our Lives”.

Thaao Penghlis new book Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

Now in Thaao’s new book, Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time he reveals seduction in the dining room by creating incredibly delicious for his famous friends.

Today’s conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit our YouTube channel here

Joe Winger

Congratulations on your new book.  It’s a tasty read and a fast read. 

Thank you for joining us for a conversation today.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Thank you for inviting me.

 

Joe Winger: 

You’ve done a lot of work in your life. We’re going to go to food and books as quickly as possible. 

When you’re at an airport or in public, what is the most common thing people remember you from?

Thaao Penghlis:  

Certainly Days [of our Lives]. There’s a big Armenian contingency out there who always comes at me at the airports, [Days…] was in 152 markets. Especially when you’re in New York and it’s an international port. When Mission [Impossible] was on. I certainly enjoyed that. I think it had a large male audience because of the action and that I liked it was interesting. That kind of prepared me for the masks that I did on Days [of Our Lives]. So it was a real challenge. Working in daytime; I think the biggest challenge is remembering all those lines and giving it some kind of conviction and taking those lines off the page.

And a lot of the time, because there’s too many lines, we’re just on the edge, and so because I have a certain intensity I’m able to cover. I think through all those years people, airports probably are the biggest. I’m going to do a PA [public appearance] at the Grand Canyon in August. 

It’s a very special train ride through the Grand Canyon with just 22 fans.  It’s going to be a very intimate affair. So over the years, you get the older people who are the real followers, because the youth today have different appetites.

Just like they do with food, they’re not always conscious about what they’re eating. Unless they’re educated about it or they’re raised on good food. And I think today food has become a convenience rather than a celebration. 

Joe Winger:  

You use wonderful words in your book. It feels almost like poetry. “Food is the magic of our universe.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Thaao Penghlis: 

We’ve been given such diversity as far as food is concerned, that we have that many choices, especially in countries that can afford food. But to me, once you’ve grown up tasting octopus – we used to hang it on the [clothes] line for three weeks until it dried out. There’s no blood in the octopus, therefore, it doesn’t rot – that was mouthwatering. 

Some of the fruits you have in life, like mangos.  When you can appreciate the way they’re being served.  It’s not like eating an apple. If you eat a mango and you slice it, then cut it up in quarters, there’s a different texture to it.  The flavor.  To the eye it becomes attractive. I think food, when you think about what you can control in your life and you are blessed to have it. I think food is magical because of that. 

Joe Winger: 

One more line of food poetry from your book.  “You discover your body’s secrets by the way you feed it and how it feeds you back. “

Thaao Penghlis: 

When we who are in the Greek Orthodox church, we go through a fast to the last day [of holidays like Easter] before we go to the church and get the bread and the wine.

You start to appreciate the food that you can’t have because of its limitations in the religion. The last day you’ll have olive oil on bread with some sugar, things like that. So when you get to food and understand it, when you stop eating and cleanse your body, sometimes it just juices, you become hungry.

You get to understand what food does to the body by emptying it out. If you don’t eat well, or if you eat late, then the next day, you’re not going to feel great.

So you get to understand what the body can take and what, and when, are the limitations to eating and at what hour, if you drink too much wine.  

As an actor, I don’t drink very much.  But if I have wine, the next day, my eyes are going to show it. So it tells me something about the kidneys, because the eyes are connected to the kidneys. So it’s understanding how the machine you’ve brought into life carries your soul. How does that express itself in the best way possible?

As actors, we have a responsibility because of that body being presented on camera as a certain responsibility to the producers to the show and to your audience. So you get to understand.  I would go through a four day fast with Bela’s broth, Celsius broth.  I would find that would cleanse me through the days I did like a liver cleanse, which got rid of stones.

You get to understand what the organs are, that you can do things naturally without having to take all those dreadful medicines and those pills. 

The body is all we’ve got. Why have I overcome certain things in my life? It’s always been through nutrition.

Joe Winger: 

Your journey, the things you’ve learned, and you touch upon that in the book a little bit, lessons you learn from different actors and producers and people you’ve worked with, but that’s another great lesson is as far as using it as a medicine.

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time. It is an enormous undertaking: beautiful pictures, recipes, Hollywood stories, your family. There’s a lot going on. 

What inspired you to write the book?

Thaao Penghlis: 

The hardcover has all the colored pictures inside. So it has a different dimension to it when you actually see it, because let’s face it, presentation is very important.

So when you see color, when you see something displayed you want to get into it. If something looks like someone just piled something, it’s not attractive to the appetite. 

My manager called me one day and he said, “You always talk about food. Why don’t you do a cookbook?”

I went, “Oh, I don’t know how to do a cookbook. Everything that I’ve caught has come out of my head.”

I remembered, I learned when I worked at the UN [United Nations] for a year when I was in the diplomatic corps. In my youth I went into kitchens where they had chefs. I saw presentation. I understood the etiquette of arriving there on time.

45 minutes later you’re having the hors d’oeuvres, maybe it’s champagne, maybe it’s some caviar or whatever they presented. 

Then it was time to go into the dining room and sit there. It became a ritual. And so you got to appreciate the time, the presentation that someone put in.

So all these memories came into my head. I said how would you think? How do you think about food? I said it’s really seducing people, isn’t it? 

By the way you create an atmosphere, by the way you look at a dish, and by the aroma. So I said, Let’s call it “Seducing.”

I said who have I seduced? 

How about celebrities that I’ve met and worked with? That’s how it came about seducing celebrities. One meal at a time.   

I always like to serve the first, second and the third course. But usually, I don’t join the guests on the first course, because I’m busy preparing the main course.

So I present the first course to them. Then I’m in the kitchen. The actor, Danny Kaye in the old days.  He used to be an expert of Chinese food and around the counter in his kitchen is where his friends sat and he just fed them.   That was something that was so gratifying for him. 

So I understand if it’s done well, and your friends leave.  They take it for granted.

People don’t cook these days, or they’re intimidated because of the way you’ve presented it.  So therefore let’s take you out instead. So you don’t get that personal touch that I think is so important.

When you sit around your watering hole, as I call it, that “table”, which is something if when I leave this country eventually and go home to Australia, that is one thing I’m going to take with me is that table because it has a huge history to it. 

To me the table and how you decorate it and how you present it is very important to the appetite of the person joining you.

Joe Winger:  

I’m thinking of your table, sometime in the future when you do move, that could be a heck of an auction item. The amount of people who sat around it and heard stories and shared stories. 

Speaking of those stories, you’ve named huge Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson George Clooney, amazing actors, Joanna Cassidy, William Hurt.

Your Hollywood life has been so many decades of work and amazing people.  What was the process like deciding who makes it into the book and deciding who you had to leave out?

Thaao Penghlis: 

You don’t like everybody you’ve worked with and everybody you’ve met, food is very personal

In the old days they serve you poison. In the French 18th century, you’d be sitting there and if you were an enemy, they’d serve you a dish with poison. That’s how they got rid of enemies. But I don’t know. 

Dame Edna, who I was best man at his wedding, which is Barry Humphries. He was very particular. He was also a person who loved art.  So he would walk around my house looking at what kind of a collection and made his judgment on it. 

The same thing with the food, he would taste it. He would give you that quite qualifying look that he approves. 

Omar Sharif was different. When I worked with him,  we had champagne and caviar every day, because that’s the way he lived.

[He would be] telling me stories of Lawrence of Arabia and many of his other films and I think, because I look like his son, he was very taken not in the beginning. In the beginning, he was quite rude and quite distant.  It wasn’t until I was about to start the first scene with him where he comes into the room and when I met him, he was distant, shook my hand and said, “Hello”.

So when he comes into the room, he’s supposed to slug me after something I say.

He says to me, by the way, “Please, when I hit you do not go over this 18th century table and break it. It’s very important that we are respectful about this table.”

And I said, Oh, I’m not going anywhere. And he says, what do you mean?

I said, “Oh, Omar. I said, if you hit me and I go flying off that table, where do you and I go for the next four hours?”

He says “What will you do? 

I said, “I’ll probably adjust my tie.” 

He started to laugh and that’s how it started.  

How do you infiltrate a person’s personality who comes in defensive working with Bill Hurt in “Altered States”.

I had some very difficult dialogue because it was very technical. How do you make it real?  I started to do this sequence and he says to me, “Is that how you’re going to do it? 

And I said, “Why is that how you’re going to do it?”

And from that moment, he goes, “You’re an arrogant son of a…,”

And I said, “So are you.” 

From that moment, we clicked.  When we joined hands in Mexico, away from Warner Brothers, we had a good bond. 

I never stood for his star attitude. You have to call it. So I don’t like it.  When someone brings that, I leave that, I go outside.

 

Joe Winger: 

Doris Roberts, after dinner once wrote you a note. I took that idea as an incredibly loving gesture.

if you could talk a little bit about that note, and then any other amazing gifts from you dinner parties?

Thaao Penghlis: 

When I approached Doris and she would write the introduction, her comment was, “Oh, darling, why don’t you do that?” 

I said, Doris, you’ve been coming here for dinner for years. So why can’t you just get in touch with your heart and write something pleasant?

And that’s what she wrote. 

Because every time she came, it’s like my friends who come over always know they’re going to get a good meal. I never go cheap on the thing. I’ve seen people come in the house with daisies in their hand. I said, “Does this house look like it collects daisies?” 

Or they’ll bring me Two Buck Chuck.

I said, are you bringing that so I can put it as a wine for the food, because it’s certainly not going on the table and things like that.

Where people are not experiencing you or contributing and also shows you how cheap it is. And even when Doris, who used to get crates of champagne from Dom Perignon for free, because she was connected to somebody who worked there, she would come in.

She would say “Darling, here’s some Dom Perignon, put it in the fridge.” 

I said, “Oh, okay. Thank you.” I think, Oh, this is a person who understands quality. 

Then five minutes later, she’s sitting at a chair. She says open the champagne for me, will ya?. So I realized it wasn’t for the house.  It was for her.  So she didn’t bring anything. 

Here’s this woman who makes an enormous amount of money. I’ve studied with her for over 20 years with Katsalis, the director, and then she would come in and sit at the table and she would look at the flowers and then she would look at the presentation of everything and then she would smell the food and so through that experience –  you don’t always get respect, you have to earn it.

With her, because of my work as an actor, and because of my success as an actor, and also now writing some people will say to you, “Are you writing another book? 

But they say it in such a derogatory way.

Whereas Doris said, “I’m so proud of you.“

I went out with Doris, just the two of us went to movies because she always had to have company.  She was like Joan Rivers. She had to have every night filled. She couldn’t stand just being on her own. So when she was invited to my home, she always remembered the presentation and the flavors of that evening. 

Joe Winger: 

Let’s talk a little bit about what was the process of writing the book like this time?

Thaao Penghlis: 

Recipes are in my head.

So I had to cook in my head. For six months I started to think, Oh,I never wrote anything down. 

I would call friends and say, “What was your favorite meal I cooked?”

Then I would say, Oh, okay, that’s good; and then I would just test my friends and they would tell me what they like the best.

So I got all these recipes that were still in my head. And I somehow remember what I put in it. My sister in law in Australia says to me, the difference between you and I as chefs is that I have to have a cookbook in front of me. You open the fridge and say, what are we going to eat?

I spent six months going through recipes. 

Then finally I said, what did my mother cook? The Greek traditional foods or the Greek desserts. And my sisters are very good at cooking desserts. 

Then slowly I collected the foods and started to make them. 

Joe Winger: 

That’s an incredible journey. 

We’ve pushed toward the idea of an impolite or a bad dinner guest.  How do we find an appropriate dinner gift? And then what would be a definite no?

Thaao Penghlis: 

People will ask me, what can we bring?

It’s a silly question because you can’t bring food. So you, what do you bring wine?  Or flowers? Or whatever enhances the atmosphere?

But something that’s not here, but sometimes when they keep asking me that, I say, bring cash. And that always throws them because they take it seriously.

So sometimes I won’t answer that question. I said, “Surprise me. But make it expensive.”

So I like to play with them.  

I said to a friend of mine once, your hands are always empty.  They never spoke to me for three years after that. They turned around and left. 

There’d been guests who arrived when you had a seven o’clock dinner and arrived at 9:30. I’ll open the door and say to them, “I’m sorry, we’ve already had dinner. We’ll talk another time.” And then I closed the door because I find it disrespectful.

It tells you who people are and their consciousness. I don’t like unconscious people, but we’re  going through a very difficult time in the world. 

And it’s all because people are not conscious of others. It’s always about them. And so to me, the wonderful thing about serving food and expecting something in return, something.

Even if it’s – we used to write notes in the old days, a phone call – but texts now have become such a convenience.

Why don’t you just call me and tell me where I spent two days preparing this, that you can’t afford a five minute phone call, but you’ll text me in one sentence and that’s it. 

Things like that I don’t approve of. 

I think that kind of communication short changes [the memory of the experience].  I want to be at times where you want to cook again. If you’re not gonna share something about yourselves, call me the next day and say, I had such a wonderful evening. Some people think it’s enough when they leave, or they got here, 

But they don’t understand how you complete things.  Completion is very important. Just as an actor, you have an arc in your character, it’s complete. 

The same thing with food. 

When I serve food, it’s complete. I have an order: I have hors d’oeuvres. I have a first course. I have the main course. And then I have dessert and maybe some Greek coffee or tea or whatever people need and the wines.

But I just find people are unbelievable. They don’t understand what it takes to put an evening together. 

If you don’t know how to treat me, I’m going to show you. So that’s what I said there.

Joe Winger:

Have you ever played with the idea of a cooking show? Is that something you see at all for yourself?

Thaao Penghlis: 

It’s a lot of work.  All that preparation. I’ve done it as a guest here and there. 

Joan Rivers used to join guests and everything, she always made some wonderful jokes.

Dame Edna would make wonderful jokes. 

I’m doing a book signing May 22nd at the Grove in Los Angeles at a Barnes and Noble.  I’ve got to do a cooking show. I thought what are we going to cook?  Something that’s not difficult. 

So I’m going to do a vegetarian dish, which is not in the book, but it’s with shiitake mushroom, truffle oils, mint, basil heirloom tomato, raw peas and pine nuts. Then I will mix that in with the pasta and some olive oil and then some truffle oil and with some herbs and that’s about it. 

That’s so convenient and it’s such a delicious dish with Parmesan cheese over it. 

Joe Winger: 

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One meal at a time 

You breezed over Joan Rivers for a moment and I wanted to touch upon it because In that chapter, you help us see her in a different way than what we always think of her as, especially being in the car with her daughter, Melissa as a young girl.

When I think of Joan Rivers, the stereotype, I think of outrageous, and you have one or two moments beyond her, Barbra Streisand, there’s a little bit of outrageousness there, are there any outrageous moments that you didn’t include that you thought about including?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I don’t I don’t mind telling stories, or privately telling stories.

There’s got to be a borderline, just like etiquette.  If I’m expecting for people to behave a certain way.

One time, there was a famous guest, which I won’t mention, who was having problems with their daughter, and they were sitting around the table. The phone rang in the middle of dinner, and he answered it, he starts screaming on the phone, and telling his daughter off.

I just lost it, I got up and I said, “If you don’t mind, take your bloody phone call outside, we’re not interested in your private business and how rude of you.”

Because I don’t like people bringing phones into the house.

The inner chatter that goes on with people’s minds, where they’re so distracted with life instead of just being there.  Being present. 

With Telly Savalas as well. There have been times also with people with Days [of Our Lives] and I couldn’t tell those stories because firstly, I have to work with him again. Secondly, I don’t think it’s everybody’s business.

There was a book that Hustler put out all the stories about those magnificent stars of the [1940s] and talked about their sexual proclivities. 

Someone said, “Why would you do that?”  Why would you betray your friends that way? 

You smash the myth. They spent years creating a myth.  But when you start getting into the nitty gritty, you make those people ordinary. And show business is not about being ordinary.

So I try to refrain from telling things that go beyond the norm. I want to be able to see these people later in some time, even though they’re gone,

I still believe we’ll see them on the other side that they did more good for me. Otherwise it’s a matter of respect and keeping someone’s dignity there.

Joe Winger: 

Your book starts almost like a love note or a Valentine to growing up with your family. Your mother, your father, their first trip to L. A., to your grandfather George’s herrings and olive oil tin.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Yeah, that was something to watch growing up.  

To see my grandfather bringing his knowledge of food from the islands of Greece. 

What I remember the most, even my grandmother, you’ve come down in the mornings and you can smell the cinnamon toast. She would be dipping wicks into wax and creating candles for the church.

Joe Winger: 

Seducing celebrities one meal at a time. 

Can you give us a tease about what you’re looking forward to in the future?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I just finished exploring the Holy Families. 

I did a two week trek up and down the Nile to these sacred places. So I’ve written a story because most of the things we see about religion are postcards or lovely paintings. What do we do when we explore it within ourselves and follow those routes? Something else happened.

I’ve written a teleplay. It’s very interesting the way it begins and where it begins and how it follows through into The Great Escape. 

Find Thaao Penghlis’ new book on Amazon at  Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

 

Kit Connor, Rachel Zegler are Romeo + Juliet on Broadway Fall 2024

Kit Connor, Rachel Zegler are Romeo + Juliet on Broadway Fall 2024

Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy now belongs to a new generation on the edge.

Seaview is thrilled to announce that Emmy Award winner Kit Connor (“Heartstopper”) and Golden Globe Award winner Rachel Zegler (Spielberg’s West Side Story) will star in the new Broadway production of William Shakespeare’s ROMEO + JULIET, directed by Tony Award winner Sam Gold, with music by Grammy Award winner Jack Antonoff and movement by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh 

 

“With the presidential election coming up in November,

I felt like making a show this fall that celebrates youth and hope,

and unleashes the anger young people feel about the world they are inheriting.”

Director Sam Gold 

 

Tickets for ROMEO + JULIET will go on sale to the public in May 2024. To sign up for early access and to be the first to receive updates, sign up at www.romeoandjulietnyc.com 

Romeo + Juliet on Broadway

Romeo + Juliet on Broadway

The youth are fucked. Left to their own devices in their parents’ world of violent ends, an impulsive pair of star-crossed lovers hurtle towards their inescapable fate. The intoxicating high of passion quickly descends into a brutal chaos that can only end one way.

 ROMEO + JULIET will open on Broadway in Fall 2024 and will mark the Broadway debuts of Kit Connor, Rachel Zegler and Jack Antonoff, who in February won his third consecutive Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, becoming only the second producer in history to win three years running. More information including theatre, dates, design team and additional casting will be announced at a later date.

ROMEO + JULIET is produced on Broadway by Seaview. 101 Productions, Ltd will serve as general manager. Casting is by Taylor Williams, CSA.

For more information visit www.romeoandjulietnyc.com

Kit Connor as Romeo

Kit Connor (Romeo). Screen International Star of Tomorrow actor Kit Connor landed his first film role aged eight in the lead role of Tom in Warner Bros. Pictures’ Get Santa (2014). Since then, he has had roles in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) and The Mercy (2018). Notably, he played Older Reggie in Rocketman (2019), taking on the role of young Elton John. He also appeared in Little Joe (2019) as Joe. Kit is well-known for voicing Pantalaimon in “His Dark Materials” (2019 -2020) and his TV work also includes “War & Peace” (2016). His theatre credits include Welcome Home, Captain Fox! at the Donmar Warehouse and Fanny & Alexander, where he played Alexander at The Old Vic. Kit is best known for his lead role of Nick Nelson in the global hit TV adaptation of Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper,” with the third season set to launch this October on Netflix. For season 1, Kit won the Children’s and Family Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Performance in 2022 and the RTS Award for Leading Actor Male in 2023. Kit voices a role in The Wild Robot for DreamWorks alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Pedro Pascal and Bill Nighy out in September 2024. Kit will also lead the mystery-horror film One of Us and also star in Ace Entertainment’s film A Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea And Tomorrow opposite Maia Reffico. He will film a leading role in Ray Mendoza and Alex Garland’s new film for A24, Warfare alongside Charles Melton and Joseph Quinn. Kit Connor is represented by Independent Talent Group and WME.

Rachel Zegler as Juliet

Rachel Zegler (Juliet) is a dynamic actress and singer who has already established herself as a trailblazer of her generation. At only 17 years old, Rachel earned the role of María Vasquez for Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of West Side Story out of 30,000 auditions. The film captured Rachel’s motion picture debut alongside Rita Moreno and Ariana DeBose, and earned her an NBR Award for Best Actress along with a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Rachel then starred alongside Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, and Lucy Liu in D.C. Comics’ Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the sequel to the successful predecessor, Shazam! She can currently be seen leading the highly anticipated prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes as Lucy Gray Baird, the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, and Hunter Schafer also star. In 2025, Rachel will be seen as Snow White in Disney’s live-action remake of the classic story, making her one of the first Latina actresses to star in a live-action Disney film. Director Marc Webb said, “Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts. Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairy-tale.” She will also be seen in the A24 disaster comedy Y2K, directed by SNL alum Kyle Mooney. In the film penned by Evan Winter, which is set on New Year’s Eve 1999, two high school nobodies decide to crash the last big party before the new millennium. When the clock strikes midnight, the night gets more insane than they ever could have imagined. Rachel stars alongside Mason Gooding, The Kid Laroi and Alicia Silverstone. Rachel has been featured on the covers of Elle, Town & Country, Who What Wear and The Hollywood Reporter and has been profiled by Vogue, Allure, and VMagazine. She is a Forbes “30 Under 30” recipient and has been recognized by Time magazine with inclusion in their Time100Next list, by Variety in their annual “Power of Young Hollywood Impact“ list, and by The Hollywood Reporter with their “Next Generation” list. She was also named one of “Nine Latinx Women in Hollywood Currently Changing the World” by Elle magazine. On Latin representation in entertainment, a subject she is passionate about, Rachel says, “We are not just the quirky side character who occasionally says a word in Spanish, we are the main character.“

Directed by Sam Gold 

Sam Gold (Director). Broadway credits include this season’s An Enemy of the People with Jeremy Strong and Michael Imperioli, Macbeth with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga, King Lear with Glenda Jackson, A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Tony Award Nomination), The Glass Menagerie, Fun Home(Tony Award), The Real Thing, The Realistic Joneses, Seminar. Recent credits: Hamlet (The Public Theatre), Othello (New York Theatre Workshop), The Flick (Playwrights Horizons, Barrow Street Theatre, National Theatre; Lucille Lortel Award nomination), The Glass Menagerie(Toneelgroep, Amsterdam), John (Signature Theatre; Obie Award, Lortel and Drama Desk Award nomination), The Village Bike (MCC Theatre), and Uncle Vanya (Soho Repertory Theatre; Drama Desk nomination), among others.

 Music by Jack Antonoff

Jack Antonoff (Music). Described as “anthemic, life affirming pop rock” by the New York Times, Bleachers are fronted by globally celebrated, eleven-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, Jack Antonoff. Both with Bleachers and as a songwriter and producer, Antonoff, who, in 2021, was credited by the BBC for having “redefined pop music”, has collaborated with the likes of Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, The 1975, Diana Ross, Lorde, St. Vincent, Florence + The Machine, Kevin Abstract and many more. In February 2024, Antonoff won Producer of the Year at the Grammy Awards for an incredible third consecutive year, becoming only the second producer in history to win three years running. Releasing their debut album Strange Desire in 2014, Bleachers have built a huge, passionate following across three studio albums, becoming renowned for their impressive live show and infectious camaraderie. The band’s last album, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night took them to new heights, showcasing Antonoff’s immersive songwriting and, as Variety testified, his innate skill at “supersizing personal stories into larger-than-life pop anthems”. Bleachers, the band’s fourth studio album, was released Friday, March 8th, 2024 via Dirty Hit and features singles “Modern Girl,” “Alma Mater,” “Tiny Moves” and “Me Before You.” There’s a rich depth to the band’s sound on Bleachers: it is laid out in bright, soulful technicolor. The album is frontman Antonoff’s distinctly New Jersey take on the bizarre sensory contradictions of modern life, on his position in culture, and on the things he cares about. Sonically, it’s sad, it’s joyful, it’s music for driving on the highway to, for crying to and for dancing to at weddings. There’s something reassuringly touchable and concrete about its sentiment: exist in crazy times but remember what counts.

 

Kosher Expert Reveals 2024’s Top Passover Wines

Wine Expert Jay Buchsbaum Reveals 2024’s Top Passover Wines for Passover 2024

Passover starts Monday April 22 at sundown and ends April 30th. But today’s conversation is about the flavors of Seder dinner.  

Jay Buchsbaum

Royal Wine and Kosher.com’s Jay Buchsbaum visits to talk about flavor, tradition, tastes for every family member and what’s exciting in the wine world for 2024.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

Joe Winger: Jay, welcome back.  I appreciate that you’re returning.  Last time was great and we learned alot.

Jay Buchsbaum: Thank you for having me. Wow. This is great. So getting invited back for a second date, that’s really cool.

Joe Winger: Passover is just around the corner and we want to talk about different over wines to enjoy during the celebration and some great wine pairings.

I wanted to start off with what might be one of the popular new bottles – Carmel Black Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Buchsbaum:  It’s very hot and the reason it’s very hot is because people want something that’s rich and flavorful, especially the American palate, what we call the New World style.  

Opulence, fruit forward, but they don’t want to spend a fortune like you’d have to from some fancy vineyard in Napa or from Judean Hills. When it comes to Israel or the Golan Heights, and this is one of those wines where they’ve put together this at the beginning of opulence, lots of fruit forwardness, 14 months in oak and about $25.

So it’s really one of those really wonderful wines. What I noticed, and they say they forgot to do it, but I noticed that it does not have an appellation specific, except for Israel.  The reason I believe the winemaker did that –  I don’t know for sure – he talks about it on the back [of the bottle] that they brought the grapes from some of the finest vineyards.  He chose small amounts [of grapes] from the best vineyards from different places and put them all together, carefully crafting it so that it’s big and rich and flavorful and still under $30 bucks.

Joe Winger: That sounds amazing. What are some good food pairings that you’d recommend with it?

Jay Buchsbaum: A roast would be great. On the first and second night of Passover, we don’t officially roast anything because we don’t want people to think that it was a sacrificial lamb that was done in Egypt because we don’t have it today yet.

Until the reestablishment of the temple on the Temple Mount at some future time. 

So people cook a roast in the oven, it’s not barbecued. That’s what they’re talking about from a historical, spiritual sense –  but a delicious roast, maybe chicken marsala, where you have mushrooms and caramelized onions, you have a really rich flavor to go with that.

A lot of the Sephardic foods are like that too. We talked about traditional foods. Traditional foods from where? Sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s Middle Eastern, and sometimes it’s Sephardic.

Lots of seders have a mix of all [cuisines] because you have melded families.

 

Joe Winger: Royal Wine currently has a wide roster of wine suggestions for Passover  Something for every adult at the table, from Grandpa to 25 year old Grand-daughter and her boyfriend.

 

Jay Buchsbaum: That’s a great point.  I’m going to give you the last one first only because I thought this was so much fun when I thought about it and I actually might do it. 

Let’s say the boyfriend is coming over. He wants to bring you something and he doesn’t know what to get you because, he’s not that observant..

So I thought, why don’t you end the meal with something Sparkling. The Momentous Rosé. That might be fun. You go out with a pop, so to speak. There’s Vera Wang’s  Prosecco Rose that’s also wonderful.   Both around $20.

But if you want to go really high end, why not go with the Rothschild Brut Rosé from Champagne, which is magnificent.  It’s 100% Pinot Noir, and about $100 a bottle.

So you have great diversity and  accessible and quite delicious sparkling wines.

Grandpa, or if you have a real fine wine guy. You have beautiful wines from the Rothschild vineyards, the Haute Medoc. which is in the upper $30s, and then you even have Grand Cru’s LesCombes, Grand Cru Margaux as an example, and some amazing wines from the Herzog Winery in California like the Alexander Valley Herzog Reserve, or the Napa Valley Herzog Reserve.  

We have a beautiful Lake County Reserve Cabernet from California. Big, opulent, delicious, mouth filling. 

I start my Seder usually with a rosé.  The reason for that is because you’re starting your Seder, having eaten nothing pretty much since the morning. So you’re on an empty stomach and the tradition is to finish at least the first glass. So I try to start with a rosé.  It’s a little lighter, a little lower in alcohol, a little lighter in texture and, and I like to start with an Israeli wine first.

Joe Winger: Iis there a hidden gem as far as just high quality with amazing value?

Jay Buchsbaum: There’s a really wonderful wine from New Zealand.

It’s a white wine, not a red wine. It’s made by the Rothschild family, but it’s made in New Zealand, called Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc. Less than $30 for sure.  Fresh, sweet lemons, but with enough acidity and structure, almost like a palette cleanser.

Joe Winger:  Anything that you’re looking forward to in the next few  months that wine lovers should be getting excited for?

Jay Buchsbaum: We were missing rosés from Israel for a whole year because of the sabbatical year. We skipped that vintage of roses, and so they’re back for the first time in 24 months for this Passover.

I love some of the new Italian wines. One of them to take a look at is Cantina Giuliano.  it’s a boutique winery. They make 3,000 – 4,000 cases maximum. It’s run by a young couple and I just had them over at my house for Sabbath Shabbat.  His wines blew people away.

I think the most exciting thing is our new winemaker and what our new winemakers is doing with our grapes. His selection and his final product over at the Herzog Wine Cellars. And that could be

Our new winemaker, his name is David Galzignato. He’s with us about three years and he has a background that is with some of the finest and smallest, medium sized boutiques. 

He was going to be moving to France, going to go for his MW [masters of wine] and they asked him if he’d come and consider working with us and he did. He has been making literally blow your brains out wonderful wines so our Napa Cabernet, our Alexander Valley Cabernet are just up and down the line, the wines, especially the reds are just rich and opulent.

He got Joseph Herzog to buy a visual sorter, they range in cost between a $100,000 – 1 million dollar machine.

What they do is when the grapes come in [during harvest] and there’s something called sorting tables.

Done by hand [vineyard workers literally sorting through the harvested grape bunches, looking for]  damaged or a little beat up or whatever, and they only allow the perfect grapes to go through. 

This visual sorter does this electronically by computer, so nothing is missed, zero. As a result, the grape quality is much higher

Famously said in The New Yorker Years ago, “There’s only three things that matter in good winemaking. Good grapes. Good grapes. Good grapes.”

So, the fruit that we get and the fruit that we end up making wine out of is literally the most important thing.

By using these kinds of methods, which are not inexpensive. But the quality is through the roof. We’re looking to make a 100 point wine one of these days and I think it might we might get close this year. 

NYCs Tequila Lovers are searching for their Next Drink! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

NYCs Tequila Lovers are searching for their Next Drink! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Today’s conversation is with Ryan Fleming from Madre Mezcal.  The LA nightlife veteran reveals his time working behind the bar in some of Southern California’s hottest spots, as well as the inspiration that got him to travel to Mexico, discovering Mezcal. 

The aroma, flavors, science and food pairings for Mezcal.

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal's Ryan Fleming

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal’s Ryan Fleming

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our YouTube Channel.

 

“…I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever sold it…”

Joe Winger:  Can you share the behind the scenes or how the brand itself was created? 

Ryan Fleming: I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever even sold it or made a dollar doing that. So I got to actually meet Ron Cooper, who is the legend that started the Del Maguey label back in 2011.

I got to drink rabbit Pachuca with him and all these other amazing things. The reason I bring him up is he’s a kind of one of the people that we look up to, how to sustainably bring a brand and how to create culture that crosses boundaries in a sense. 

He has a beautiful book that I recommend anyone to read if you haven’t read Ron Cooper’s book.

But we share a similar story. One of our founding partners, Tony Farfalla and one of my good friends, Stefan Tony’s an artist and he was literally traveling through Oaxaca doing documentaries and embracing the art and culture. He happened to meet Jose Morales, which is the first family we ever worked with.

If you have original bottles of Madre [Mezcal] before the labels have changed, it used to say Jose’s name on the bottle. 

So Tony was bringing bottles back to Brooklyn in plastic water bottles and it snowballed. His friends in Brooklyn were like, this stuff’s great. Started out in plastic water bottles in 2014. I think it was 2016 when our first glass bottles actually came by and we became like of a more legit brand and company.  But it started with Tony and Stefan; and they brought on our CEO and COO, Chris and Davide.

Chris actually is one of the founding driving forces in the electronic scene in the 90s in Europe. Chris comes from a very artistic, music based background. Then he went on to work for some bigger alcohol brands in the vodka world. 

madre mezcal

Davide, who is our COO, my direct boss, who I love, is Italian and his whole family built furniture and he got his big break by importing and bringing furniture over [to the United States]. He also works with a beautiful high end apparel line. 

“…everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label…”

So everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label. Just not wanting to make a quick buck and actually make something we can stand behind and believe in.

As the families now blossom into four, we use three: the Vasquez family, the Blas family and the Morales family are our three main producers for our red and black label, which most people are familiar with. 

We just brought in Moises and he’s actually from Santa Catarina Minas.  That’s a little town where all they really make is their production. It’s a town known for nothing but clay pot distillation. So if you actually use a copper pot in, in Manera and Santa Caterina Minas, you’re looked at as what are you doing? That’s not what we do here. 

He’s our last and newest producer and he may be the most cowboy of them all, and he’s my favorite.

When you get to Tlaxcala, you have to walk over like a little rope bridge over like a river and stuff into the hills of Minas to see his production, and he’s got his grandfather’s old still, and he’s got his mom’s little kitchen that he wants to reopen, and it’s like a restaurant. But if you and I were to look at it, it just looks like a backyard set of tables and chairs with a cooking center.

No, this is a restaurant for the village. It’s really beautiful down in Minas. I recommend everyone, if you get a chance to go down there, it felt like the jungles in Costa Rica, cause it’s up near the hills and it’s just so green and lush up there.

 

“…I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years …”

Joe Winger:  What got you down there? Was it for a vacation or for Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

So I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years and I worked for the Houston Hospitality Group for over a decade, helping run programs and menus. I worked for a couple other restaurants, but I used to work for Stillhouse Whiskey, which many people remember the terrible flavored moonshine in a gas can.

Yeah I actually sold that. I did pretty well, there was always one flavor that someone loved. I had the mint chocolate chip and I would keep it in the freezer to take care of my sweet tooth when I didn’t have ice cream. So that’s how it started.

My buddy, Stefan, who’s one of the founding partners goes, “Hey, we got this Mezcal company.”  I was just basically consulting for free lunches. 

One day he goes, do you want to go to Oaxaca? And I went, absolutely. 

I familiar with going down to Mexico city, but I’d never been as far South as Oaxaca. So I jumped at the chance.

[Meanwhile] we all got an email from Stillhouse saying “Hey, I know things are being shaken up right now, but trust me, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” 

That weekend, apparently the whole team got laid off, but I didn’t get the email untll I came home Monday. They’re saying, “Ryan, are you going to be okay? Do you need help finding work?”

So I went down to Oaxaca, met the families, broke bread with Jose Morales, got to meet his mother who blessed the roast and cooked us dinner.  They offered me a job.

That was started my journey about six years ago with Madre [Mezcal ]and I’ve been with him since.

Fleming motions to tattoos on his arms and hands.

Discovering Madre Mezcal

I have it tattooed on my hand right here. I have it tattooed on my palm right here. And I think I have another one on the inside of my leg too. We do tasting events and we’ll have pop up tattoo artists all the time.

 

Tequila vs Madre Mezcal

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned the tastings and the education.  Are there quick lessons that you teach the most often?

Ryan Fleming: 

Basic production, culture, financial, environmental and economic sustainability. 

I don’t think people understand that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.  Everyone thinks the Mezcal boom must be bringing so many jobs, but it really only affects about 20 – 40,000 people that live in Oaxaca for the production, 

Mezcal is great because it does bring some financial sustainability to the families. Jose started off driving a taxi to pay his bills and now he’s making Mezcal in his family’s tradition.  His whole family, his cousin, his uncles, they all make Mezcal for a living now.

There’s so much culture behind it. Even the old argument of did the Spanish bring over copper stills and that started distillation or does it go back to the Aztecs and Mayans? Because they found distillate and pottery from 3000 years ago. It’s those little nuances.

People really like to talk about the environmental, but giving back to the people down there by not just buying product, but giving them some ownership, which Madre does do, so that everyone has a little bit of skin in the game.

So I think Sustainability, whether it’s environmental, economical, cultural, and production. Those are the things I really like to talk about.

Joe Winger:  What is the basic difference between mezcal and tequila? Or is it more complicated?

Ryan Fleming: 

You could say production techniques, additives, mass production are probably the three biggest differences. 

Tequila can only be made with one agave. It’s a blue weber.  Mezcal can be made with the other 47-ish varietals, and that number is always fluctuating, based on classification and family genius.

Production is the big one. Tequila is made in massive factories and made with either chemicals or steam for the most part. 

Whereas mezcal is actually made by hand, roasted in an earthen oven. The biggest thing that separates Tequila and Mezcal is the 1% additive rule.

Tequila can have up to 1% by volume additives, and they don’t have to tell you. That’s why certain large brands will say 100% Agave, but it’s full of additives, because it doesn’t take much  with modern chemistry. Just a couple drops of glycerin or vanilla extract to change the flavor and hide  all the nuances.

Mezcal can’t have any additives by law. 

Joe Winger: Can we walk through the roles and responsibilities between the families that produce Madre Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah, the four families. Let’s start with Jose Morales. Him and his brother both make mezcal. Now they produce for us in the US exclusively. We encourage all of our families to continue making mezcal to trade. They use it for a local economy.

Every time I go down there, [their operation is growing].  When they started, they had three stills. Now there’s 12 up and running and they have solar power.  It’s just so crazy to see how much the transformation has happened. 

The original recipe, the blend of cuishe and espadine at 90 proof, that’s his family’s recipe. So we expanded that and we brought on Carlos Blas and the Vasquez family. Unfortunately, Natalio the father passed away a couple of years ago.

His daughters are now producing in the family’s tradition and we take whatever we can from them. 

But what we do, that’s a little bit different is, we started out when it was just Jose, he was making the blend himself. Now we have them make the espadine and the cuishe separately.

All three families are part of the process. Sometimes we just get cuiche from Jose. Sometimes Carlos makes all the espadine, but Carlos is like a master blender. 

We blend a cold style like Scotch does. Even though it’s not the most traditional way, all the distillation and process is as true as it can be.

But by blending post distillation allows us to keep consistency, which was a huge problem because every batch with your wild fermentation, your wild yeast and all these beautiful nuances, it’ll be inconsistent as you grow as a brand.  It was hard for us to keep consistency.

But by blending multiple terroirs and three different families’ production, we can keep a consistent product that tastes the same as well as expanding and bringing on more families to help instead of just going to a large factory house and not making what I would call “traditional Mezcal.”

Joe Winger: So focusing on your background, you mentioned that you’ve been a bartender in the LA nightlife.  Any memorable adventures or lessons you can share?

Ryan Fleming:

There are some stories I could tell that I probably don’t want to share publicly. But there are some amazing stories I can tell.

One of the oddest experiences I’ve ever had, I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, which is one of the most famous bars in the Hollywood nightlife in the past decade. 

Paul McCartney showed up at our door. 

But because our staff is younger and our door guys are a little bit younger, they thought it was an old weird British man that just showed up and they turned Paul McCartney away from the door.

‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’?

He was like, do you know who I am? The guys [were like] ”We don’t care.” Like straight up, blowing Paul McCartney off. One of our managers came out and was like, ‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’? And they’re like, wait, the guy from the Beatles?! 

My manager ran out, “Please come back,” and Paul had a great time at the bar. We got him a special little area to sit down. It was a packed Saturday.  It’s not a nightclub where we have gated off [areas]. Even if you reserve a table, people are inches away from you where you’re sitting at your table. 

Justin Bieber showed up one time and everyone went nuts.  He comes in, walks around, does a loop, comes out and goes, “I thought this was a hip hop club.” and just left.

It was a 1970s themed bar and we played nothing but 70s music. 

The dichotomy between the two different generations and to see them all melt into one location was one of the coolest things about working at that bar. 

 

Joe Winger:It’s so crowded because it’s so popular.  The Houston Brothers always do such a good job.

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah.  The cocktails are still really good too. For as much volume as we used to do there, the biggest thing is how can I make a really beautiful cocktail that’s still cost effective and doesn’t take 12 steps. We got really good at batching stuff and figuring out how to infuse things.  Luckily our back of house was just the most amazing.  Mariano is the best barback I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s still there. 

He is just a workhorse that got all the infusions. He would cook, he would infuse all of our products and he was just great. Even if we just did a jalapeno infusion on our tequila, if it got too spicy, he could break down the ratio and water it down with more products so that we could keep the spice level approachable.

Joe Winger:

What is the secret to high quantity yet high value cocktails? 

Ryan Fleming:

Batching is definitely the way to do it. Any of your alcohols that are shelf stable, you want to put all of those in the proper ratios in a bottle.

Instead of grabbing a modifier and your base spirit and another modifier, you’re grabbing one bottle with a special tape at the bottom, so you know which cocktail it goes to and then all your fresh stuff. 

You can’t batch the fresh stuff. It has to be separated because you put citrus in something and it goes bad in three days.  Now the whole batch is bad. So keeping your fresh stuff separated.

Joe Winger: Back to Madre Mezcal.  Obviously the bottles themselves are where all the power is.  So let’s talk about labels and taste profiles.

Ryan Fleming:

People love our labels. Our branding is top notch. It’s one of the first compliments we always get. “Oh my God, I love your branding.” 

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Looked at Oaxacan culture and some other like medieval culture and combined the art from the two.

As far as the red label it’s the woman on the bull. It’s a really beautiful message of Mother Earth coming down and starting to share humanity and move across the world to plants and spread love.  That’s why she’s on the bull.  It’s the combination of animal, Mother Earth, and humans. 

Madre Mezcal Espandin

Madre Mezcal Espandin

The black label is a beautiful logo of a woman on the ground.  She’s planting and spreading the seed of life that gives us agave and flowers and fruit and vegetables and everything else.

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

The ancestral is this beautiful clay bottle with old clay vessels from Greece that carried wine with the fluid coming out and it’s supposed to celebrate the ancestral way of making mezcal and clay pots and clay distillation.

I always love telling the story of people who say mezcal is not supposed to be aged, which is a true-ish statement in my opinion. But back in the day, everything got transferred in barrels. So Mezcal would accidentally get aged in barrels because it would travel from town to town on horseback after the product was made.

So the idea that Mezcal was never aged is it wasn’t aged on purpose. 

Mezcal was accidentally aged in wood. The traditional way that people would age Mezcal is in glass and they would hide it underground. 

I always tell people, if you have a beautiful bottle of Mezcal, you should open it and take it out and put a wine cork in it, or at least crack the bottle and get some air because it really lets alcohol open up and aerate.

Mezcal benefits from a resting period. Pouring it in a nice open glass, like a snifter or a wine glass, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes will really open it up.

Madre Mezcal tasting notes 

Madre is designed to be less smoky. I really hate the term smoky. I like the word roasted because what you’re tasting is like barbeque.

You’re tasting the roasting of the agave and the charcoaling and the burning of the outside agave which will affect the sugars, the caramelization.

Madre really was designed to be a more approachable mezcal. We call ourselves ”The gateway to the category.” 

We want to bring people from tequila over to Mezcal so you can explore what agave spirits also have to offer. 

It’s bright, clean, and smooth. I always compare it to a really nice, made tequila.

Our Espadine is actually a close cousin of [tequila’s] Blue Weber. It tastes really bright, clean and smooth.  But you’re going to get some of that minerality and smoke in the end. 

Like easy drinking with some earthy aromas. 

Joe Winger:  That night when I met you, what you handed me was my first taste of the night. I love that it was so pure and smooth.  It didn’t clog up my mouth for the rest of the night.

Ryan Fleming: 

I’m like you. I want to have 2-3 cocktails a night. Not just one and my palette’s done. 

Our Espadine to me is a 2-3 second palette.  It clears up and you get like a breath and it’s fading.  Our Ensemble goes on for 10- 12 seconds.  From sweet vanilla to chocolate to mineral and then to smoke.  Then the smoke fades and you get just a really beautiful, crisp.  It’s viscous. You can feel the oil in your mouth when you swirl it around and it makes the best Negroni.

Joe Winger:  Let’s talk about food pairings.

Ryan Fleming: 

I want to know if this caught you off guard, but it’s Italian food.

Very rich foods. These beautiful Mezcals are light and almost floral and fragrant, It cuts through the richness and creaminess of food.

That’s why mezcal and chocolate are consistently paired together, but that was just way too easy. There’s always mezcal chocolate pairings, but like a really nice Italian dish, something creamy and rich, like an Alfredo or a really well done piece of pizza, like a margarita or a white sauce pizza.

“…I want to know if this caught you off guard, but…”

We are working on doing some [pizza] pairings with some places in LA.   Do a different slice of pizza with three different cocktails of Madre and then have a tasting at the end.

Chocolate has a big part of Oaxaca too. You can’t not have some chocolate and mezcal at the end of the night. 

Espresso martinis are so hot again right now. Try making one with mezcal instead of vodka and just [see] how coffee helps open up the agave and the notes, and you’re going to get so much more going on in your cocktail.

If you pair a nice espresso martini with  beautiful, dark chocolate from Oaxaca.  That is your final cocktail at the end of the night, it won’t let you down.

Joe Winger:  You mentioned replacing Mezcal with vodka in a martini, are there any traditional or more common cocktails we should also try replacing Mezcal in?

Ryan Fleming: 

When I tell you this, it may blow your mind. Most gin cocktails are a little bit better with Mezcal.

There are certain times you need botanicals, but a lot of really good classic gin cocktails, if you sub them for Mezcal, are absolutely fantastic. 

Joe Winger:  I’m shocked because most gins have such unique aromatics.

Ryan Fleming: 

Which Mezcal has so many of those same unique terpenes going on that it changes the cocktail, but it works.

So instead of having botanicals, you have all these beautiful vegetal and mineral notes that just come from agaves. 

Joe Winger:  What are the biggest misconceptions in the world of Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

A lot of people have a misconception, especially on the trade side, that we have grown exponentially. It’s been a lot of hard work. People think we have this massive team behind us.  There’s less than 20 of us on the whole team. That includes our team down in Oaxaca, who  watches over manufacturing and production for us down there. 

We don’t have an office.  We have a little tiny apartment in Venice for meetings.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating a small brand. It’s just a lot of people working hard to create beautiful Mezcal, especially the families. 

People [unfairly comparing it to] tequila.  What do you mean, we can’t get more? Why is it so expensive? We have people going out hand collecting wild agaves and harvesting espadine.  All of that is hand cut, hand chopped.   I’ve hand cut agaves with the families.

None of this is industrialized or mechanized like tequila. 

Appreciate every drop of mezcal you have, because someone put a lot of love and labor into it.

Joe Winger:  Ryan, as we wrap up, let’s talk about where can learn more about Madre Mezcal? 

Ryan Fleming: 

We have a beautiful Instagram.  Madremezcal.com is our website. 

We also have this Instagram called mezcal. Learning and it’s a little short videos and little blurbs to talk about production, families, history, and culture. It is focused on Madre, but it’s not just Madre, it’s Mezcal as a whole.

If you want to know more about our families who produce, where it’s made, you can find all that information on madremezgal. com. 

Our bottles are in most of your nicer bottle shops, liquor stores. In California, we’re lucky enough to be in Trader Joe’s for the Espadine and Whole Foods has our Ensemble.

If you can’t find it,  go to madremezcal.com and we ship bottles to almost every state in the U S.

We’re in nine countries, too. Australia. All over Europe, Costa Rica.  We’re working on Japan and South Korea as well. So I’m just excited to see the culture of mezcal just expand beyond just America and see how excited because I, when I talk to people that are in London or, people in Australia, and they’re so excited about the idea of being able to get mezcal.

Joe Winger: What is the future for Madre?

Ryan Fleming: I can’t tell you about the big one.

But, [exciting things for] our Ancestral, which is pretty new and every batch of that’s going to be hand numbered and labeled.

We’re going to start doing small batch productions that will be very limited. Then the desert waters, which we have ready for summer. 

To learn more about MadreMezcal, visit MadreMezcal.com. Find them on Instagram at MadreMezcal

 

NYers Need Caffeine: Nitro Black, Double Espresso, Flat White! Chameleon Organic Coffee Introduces Ready-to-Drink Cold-Brew Cans

NYers Need Caffeine: Nitro Black, Double Espresso, Flat White! Chameleon Organic Coffee Introduces Ready-to-Drink Cold-Brew Cans

Chameleon Organic Coffee®, the original purveyors of handcrafted bottled cold-brew coffee, today announced the expansion of its ready-to-drink category with the debut of four ultra-convenient 8 oz. cold-brew cans.

Handcrafted with 100% organic beans, Chameleon’s new ready-to-enjoy canned cold-brew line features four distinct flavors with sweetened and unsweetened options.

Each delivers unparalleled convenience by offering sustainably sourced coffee in a shelf-stable format, providing optionality for retailers and customers alike.

“We recognized the growing demand for variety and ease of convenience in the RTD coffee segment without compromising on quality and flavor,”

Andy Fathollahi

CEO of SYSTM Foods

“Our new canned cold-brew line provides our loyal customers with another delicious, no-prep option to enjoy their daily coffee ritual on-the-go, anytime.”

Each 8 oz. can contains approximately 130mg of naturally occurring caffeine, providing the perfect boost on the move or at home.

Flavors include:

Nitro Black: Chameleon’s first nitro cold-brew offers a smooth, creamy experience in every sip.

Double Espresso: Bold and smooth organic cold-brew made with dark roast espresso beans delivers a flavorful kick.

Sweetened Black: Black cold-brew lightly sweetened with just the right amount of organic cane sugar.

Flat White: Black cold-brew blended with whole milk creates a traditional flat white experience with a creamy, velvety finish.

The upcoming line complements Chameleon’s existing portfolio of award-winning products, including a variety of organic ready-to-drink 10 oz. cold-brews and 32 oz. multi-serve concentrate cold-brews; each handcrafted to match every mood.

Launching just in time for summer, Chameleon’s Nitro Black, Double Espresso and Sweetened Black 8 oz. canned cold-brews will be available for purchase online at ChameleonCoffee.com and Amazon, as well as at select retailers nationwide starting June 2024 with Flat White availability to follow.

For launch updates, please visit ChameleonCoffee.com.

About Chameleon Organic Coffee®
Founded in 2010, Chameleon Cold-Brew is Austin’s original purveyor of bottled cold-brew coffee. Providing a one-of-a-kind, completely customizable coffee experience, Chameleon uses certified organic, responsibly sourced coffee. Chameleon’s proprietary brewing process produces a super smooth, less acidic, highly caffeinated coffee that can be enjoyed hot or cold. The brand’s portfolio of organic coffee offerings includes ready-to-drink cold-brew varieties, cold-brew concentrates, and now whole bean and ground coffee.

For more information, please visit ChameleonCoffee.com.

L’Artigiano Gelato from Italy Makes United States Debut at NYC’s Columbus Circle

L’Artigiano Gelato from Italy Makes United States Debut at NYC’s Columbus Circle

L’Artigiano, synonymous in Italy with creamy, flavorful gelato and a long history in the region of Umbria, is making its debut in the United States at   NYC’s Columbus Circle .

L’Artigiano Gelato

Officially launching across 12 retailers at over 400 locations in the New York City metro area, L’Artigiano is now available to purchase at D’Agostino, Kings Food Markets, Gristedes, Garden of Eden locations, and more with the ultimate goal of expanding to nationwide availability.

 

L’Artigiano Gelato Origin

L’Artigiano’s origin began in the picturesque town of Assisi in the Province of Perugia, by visionary Antonio whose dream of sharing gelato led him to develop a secret recipe making use of the region’s best ingredients. His story started­ humbly in 1927, with nothing but his recipe and a small cart before quickly transforming into a popular shop in Assisi that drew customers near and far hearing the near-legendary tales of Mastr’Antonio’s gelato.

With his secret recipe passed down within his family for generations, in 2012 the L’Artigiano brand was established by Antonio’s great-grandson Francesco Annaloro.

Today, L’Artigiano continues to expand Antonio’s dream beyond the rolling green hills of Umbria toward a global audience while keeping its artisan soul firmly rooted in Mastr’Antonio’s traditions.

The original recipe from Mastr’Antonio is the basis for the brand’s gelato products. Manufacturing still takes place in the town of Assisi, and each gelato crafted, whether classic or new, bears the enduring legacy of his profound passion and unwavering dedication.

Featuring premium raw ingredients predominantly sourced from Italy including locally procured fresh milk delivered to the factory daily and fresh fruit pulp, L’Artigiano’s devotion to the artistry of gelato shines in their traditional and innovative flavors. From Sicilian Pistachio to a vegan Mango as well as classics like vanilla, chocolate, and Chocotella (chocolate and hazelnut), the breadth of gelato available at launch provides the right sweet treat for occasions big and small.

“There’s no place better to introduce Americans

to the rich flavors and history of L’Artigiano than New York City,”

Francesco Annaloro

L’Artigiano founder

New York City’s own history is so entwined with Italian American heritage and, of course, cuisine, that bringing our gelato with its own deep connection to tradition here felt like the perfect first step into this new territory.”

To help cement their introduction with this bustling audience, L’Artigiano is joining forces with another Italian icon, Fiat, to launch a spectacular pop-up this spring and summer. L’Artigiano will be selling their gelato from a custom Fiat 500 in signature L’Artigiano colors, starting April 1st and running until June — perfect for enjoying as the weather turns warm and the desire for something cold and sweet returns. Consumers have the option to choose their favorite flavor as a scoop or cone. Flavors that will be served include Sicilian Pistachio, Mango, Vanilla, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate, Strawberry and Chocotella. Visitors can check out L’Artigiano’s pop-up at the Ground Floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle Monday through Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M and Sundays from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.

Consumers can learn more and out find where they can purchase L’Artigiano at nearby retailers by checking out www.lartigianogelato.com/where-to-buy/.

L’Artigiano gelato

L’Artigiano gelato began in the town of Assisi in the Province of Perugia, Italy in 1927 by a man named Antonio. Mastr’Antonio’s secret recipe for rich and creamy gelato has been passed down for generations and is the foundation for the brand’s products today.

Since its beginnings as a humble cart ran by Mastr’Antonio, L’Artigiano has transformed over the years into a global brand, bringing its premium gelato, still made in Perugia today using ingredients sourced directly from Italy, to a continuously growing audience. L’Artigiano is available in flavors like Sicilian Pistachio, Chocolate, Vanilla, Mango, and more.

 The Shops at Columbus Circle

Developed by Related Companies, The Shops at Columbus Circle have served as the gateway to Central Park and Manhattan’s Upper West Side for more than 20 years.

This iconic lifestyle and cultural destination is home to some of New York City’s most beloved chef-driven dining destinations, including Per Se and Masa, both 3 Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as beloved concepts from Momofuku, Quality Branded and the award-winning Porter House Bar and Grill; an array of fashion and lifestyle retailers including the City’s only Williams-Sonoma; and public art icons “Adam and Eve” by renowned Artist Fernando Botero. The Shops are the heart of Deutsche Bank Center which includes the celebrated performing arts space Jazz at Lincoln Center; the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel; state-of-the-art commercial offices; luxury residences offering unparalleled views; and more.

For more information about The Shops at Columbus Circle, The Restaurant and Bar Collection and other special events please visit: https://www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com/

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