Monday, January 30, 2012

Michelin dishes and world class wine. ? Join us at DiVino Tuscany and indulge

How does 4 days in Florence Italy sound as you take in Michelin dishes and world class wine.  ?  Join us at DiVino Tuscany and indulge . In its second year ,  Divino Tuscany is a celebration of Tuscan winemaking excellence.  Join the world in Florence, Italy May 17 – 20, 2012 when the top winemakers from Tuscany promote, share and show off their top rated wines.
This  a a great opportunity to  visit Italy for a One-of-a-kind, 4-day celebration of the best Tuscan wines, food and culture. Guests will  enjoy a distinctive program that highlights premium wines , wine tastings with Tuscany’s top winemakers, seminars and grand tastings curated by James Suckling, former Senior Editor and European Bureau Chief of Wine Spectator and one of the world's most influential wine critics.

Special luncheons and dinners prepared by Michelin-starred chefs and entertainment organized by IMG Artists, one of the leading producers of cultural and lifestyle festivals are sure  provide an experience to last a lifetime. Participating winemakers include Marchesi Antinori, Frescobaldi, Mazzei, Ricasoli, Il Borro, Petrolo and Castello Banfi, and more.

Grand Hotel Villa Cora , photo by Alessandro Moggi
This 4 days of culture is highlighted by many world-class events . Join the Festive welcome dinner to open  with the Italian premiere screening of James Suckling’s and James Orr’s film Heart and Soul of Cuba, recently shown to rave reviews at the Sonoma Film Festival, live music from Havana’s hottest pianist, Ernán López Nussa performing with his trio, and Grappa tasting with Cuban cigars.
Enjoy a Gala dinner at the opulent Palazzo Corsini on the banks of the Arno.   Many of Italy’s most famous families have called this place home and some of its most famous artists have adorned the walls and ceilings of this Baroque style masterpiece with works of breathtaking beauty.  The grand spaces of the Palazzo Corsini remind us of an elegant time gone by.

Gala dinner at the opulent Palazzo Corsini , photo Alessandro Moggi

Elegant Grand Tastings at the Grand Hotel Villa Cora poured by the winemakers and proprietors themselves will provide all of the attendees a chance to meet many of these legendary men and women over a glass of wine.  After the  Grand Tastings  , plan to  enjoy  Saturday night dinners in the private Palazzi of the most well known Tuscan wine families.

Grand Hotel Villa Cora , photo by Alessandro Moggi

Education is always an important aspect of any event.   James Suckling will take guests through private tastings with winemakers he has personally invited for this intimate experience.

In selecting the wines to be showcased in this exclusive event, Suckling reviewed his ratings over the last two decades and based his decisions on merit and high-quality winemaking.  He has a great love for Italian wine having lived in Tuscany for over ten years.

James Suckling

Divino Tuscany will close with a relaxed country lunch at the private villa Il Palagio, courtesy of owners Sting and Trudie Styler.

Private Villa Il Palagio, photo by Alessandro Moggi
Their villa is rustic and provides a world-class retreat with stunning views that and invite in a simpler, more present state of being.  Located amongst the Tuscan hills, Il Palagio is the ideal setting for enjoying Tuscany in summer. Is there a better way to end a four day event like this? We think not!

The Full Pass Package for Divino Tuscany is €1900 per person, including applicable VAT/IVA. Our Readers are invited to purchase event tickets online at
Phone: +44 (0)20 7957 5800; Fax: +44 (0)20 7957 5801

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

EMBERS in Boca Park Offers Up a Scotch Paired Dinner on February 1st

Paired Tasting Menu February 1
Embers, the new local gathering spot located in Summerlin’s Boca Park, will serve up a multi-course paired menu to take diners on a journey through Scotland on Wednesday, February 1.  The feast features a welcome cocktail followed by five courses with paired Scotch for $100 per person, including tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and the dinner will begin at 7 pm.
Guests will be greeted with a Blood & Sand cocktail before sampling the first pairing, Oban Highland Single Malt, accompanied by a Classic Scottish Sampling featuring a Scotch egg, House made Haggis, and traditional black pudding served with warmed Rye Bread and scotch infused Mustard.  Next up is Cock-a- Leekie Soup and Mixed Green Salad; the traditional Scottish soup with chicken, leaks, barley and julienne of prunes is joined by a mixed green salad with raspberry vinaigrette, candied walnuts, barley and Scottish Lanark bleu chez.  This duo will be paired with Glenkinchie Lowland Single Malt.  The first of two entrees is a Scottish Salmon, pan seared with tarragon, served with a side of Neeps (pureed parsnips) and broiled asparagus alongside Cragganmore Speyside Single Malt followed by Deconstructed Lamb Stew showcasing marinated and seared lamb chops served with fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, chipollini onions and scotch demi glaze, which will be accompanied by Lagavulin Islay Single Malt.  For the finale,  a Scottish Shortbread Pudding topped with Scottish caramel tablet and a raspberry whiskey reduction with a Not So Rusty Nail, an Embers specialty cocktail.
Embers Grille + Spirits opened in  Boca Park in Summerlin September 2011 and has quickly become a Summerlin neighborhood favorite with its approachable fare, modern atmosphere and welcoming staff.  This lovely independently owned restaurant and bar offers Angus steaks, ribs, seafood and new American classics, an accessible wine list and an extensive cocktail menu.  Embers, located in Summerlin’s  Boca Park, is open from 3 pm to 11 pm Monday –Thursday, 3 pm – 2 am on Friday and Saturday and from 1 pm to 11 pm on Sunday. For reservations or more information call 702.778.2160 or visit

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Dinner will feature dishes inspired by Chef Jet Tila and hand-crafted cocktails
by Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim
      Foodie alert!  Chef Jet Tila and The Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim are joining food & beverage forces on an incredible pop-up dinner at Origin India Restaurant and Bar on February 8, 2012.  The five-course menu (includes dessert) will feature a variety of authentic, regionally inspired Thai dishes, allowing Chef Jet to showcase his Thai upbringing around the family dining room table.  Each course will be expertly paired with a hand-crafted cocktail by Tony Abou-Ganim, inspired by drinks featured in his book “The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails.”  This special dinner will start promptly at 7pm and be served family style – just as they used to do it at Jet’s house.
Join Us at Origin India Restaurant and Bar  on 4480 Paradise Road Wednesday, February 8, 2012; one seating at 7pm; $65 (plus tax and gratuity).
This is a dinner what any Foodie dreams of and should not be missed!    Dinner reservations can be made via email (please reference Pop-Up Dinner in subject line).

Chef Jet Tila
Chef Jet Tila was  previously the executive chef of Wazuzu at Wynn Las Vegas, Jet Tila is a nationally celebrated chef and consultant known for his innovative Asian cooking technique. Also a teacher and a student in the art of food, Tila strongly believes in using a variety of authentic and regional ingredients to showcase his cooking talents. He has written for the Food section of the Los Angeles Times and has been featured in Los Angeles magazine. He has also appeared on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” Food TV's "The Best Of" and "Food Finds;" on HGTV's "Smart Solutions;" on PBS' "Visiting With Huell Howser;" and National Public Radio's "Good Food."  Learn more at

Tony Abou-Ganim , Mixologist
Tony Abou-Ganim , Mixologist and author, is known for creating cocktail programs at prestigious bars in San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas. Also known as the Modern Mixologist, Abou-Ganim believes in taking a culinary approach to cocktails and considers himself a bar chef. He has also appeared on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and the Fine Living Network’s “Raising the Bar.” Learn more at w

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vinegar, 10,000 Years Of Use And Still Alive And Well.

If you think about what is in many kitchens around the world one may not think about Vinegar right away. But yet, there is a very good change most all of us have a bottle or two of different types tucked away. For more than 10,000 years we have been using this multi-use product and show no sign of slowing down.
 The French call it “ vin aigre”  (sour wine). 

 Through the centuries vinegar has been produced from molasses, dates, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt and grains . The basics of Vinegar remain the same.  It is the fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to vinegar.

Our ancestors found out about the remarkable versatility of vinegar. Around 5,000 BC, the Babylonians used it as a preservative and as a condiment, and began flavoring it with herbs and spices. Roman legionnaires used it as a beverage. 

The beautiful Cleopatra dissolved her pearls in it to win a bet that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.  Even Hippocrates proved its medical qualities and was probably one of our earliest medicines.  The Greeks pickled vegetables and meats using vinegar.  Its military uses were found by Hannibal as he crossed the Alps with an army riding elephants. They used vinegar to open roads! Large boulders were heated and doused with vinegar, which cracked and crumbled the barriers. During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy, and as recently as World War I, it was being used to treat wounds.

The vinegar produced and used today is much the same way but with new flavors and uses.  New flavors like white distilled, cider, wine and malt can be found around the world as well as rice wine, raspberry, pineapple, chardonnay, flavored and seasoned vinegars and more.


Balsamic Vinegar
The most well known Vinegar is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and classified as traditional or commercial grade.  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy is made from white and sweet Trebbiano grapes grown on the hills around Modena.  The grapes are harvested as late as possible to take advantage of the warmth of the region.   This traditional vinegar is made from the cooked grape “must” matured by a long and slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation, followed by progressive concentration by aging in a series of casks made from different types of wood and without the addition of any other spices or flavorings.

The color is dark brown and the nose is distinct, complex and sharp. The flavor is traditional sweet and sour in perfect harmony. Production of traditional Balsamic Vinegar is governed by the Italian Law, and provides that a specific Certification Agency (Cermet) oversees all production phases, from the vineyard to the bottle.  All of the product that is bottled must pass a sensory examination run by a panel of five tasting judges.  

The manufacturers adhere to two different Consortia:  Consortium for Protection of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Consorzio Tutela ABTM), with over 300 members, and the smaller Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Consorzio Tra Produttori ABTM).  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is only bottled in the distinct bulb-shaped bottle of 100 ml.  It has either a white cap (minimum age of 12 years) or gold cap (minimum age of 20 years).  The bottle comes in a box with a book describing the process of manufacturer and some recipes.

Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar
Natural raspberry flavor is added to red wine vinegar, which is the aged and filtered product obtained from the acetous fermentation of select red wine. Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar has a characteristic dark red color and a piquant, yet delicate raspberry flavor.

Rice Vinegar
Rice or Rice Wine Vinegar is the aged and filtered product obtained from the acetous fermentation of sugars derived from rice. Rice Vinegar is excellent for flavoring with herbs, spices and fruits due to its mild flavor. It is light in color and has a clean, delicate flavor. Used in Asian dishes, Rice Vinegar is popular because it does not significantly alter the appearance of the food.

White Wine Vinegar
White Wine Vinegar is the aged and filtered product obtained through the fermentation of a selected blend of white wines. It is clear and pale gold, almost colorless. The taste is distinctly acidic, and the aroma reminiscent of the wine from which it comes.

Vinegar has been a mainstay is almost every culture around the world. Each one has found a new use for this remarkable product. Even today, 10,000 years later new uses for Vinegar are being discovered all of the time. Why not experiment on your own as well?  And find your own special use for this very versatile product. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wholesale Approval of Genetically Engineered Foods On The Horizon

Over the holidays, the United States Department of Agriculture announced its approval of a novel strain of genetically engineered corn, developed by Monsanto, purportedly being “drought tolerant.”

Despite receiving nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to this particular genetically engineered (GE) corn variety (and only 23 comments in favor), the Obama administration gave Monsanto the green light to release its newest GE corn variety freely into the environment and American food supply, without any governmental oversight or safety tracking.

“President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack just sent a clear message to the American public that they do not care about our concerns with genetically engineered food and their questionable safety, adverse environmental impacts, and detrimental effects on farmers, especially organic farmers,” says Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst with The Cornucopia Institute.

“This is just the latest in a string of approvals of genetically engineered crops, and it is clear that despite campaign promises of change from Obama, he has not had the courage to stand strong against the powerful agribusiness and biotechnology lobbies,” Kastel added.

In addition to its announcement approving Monsanto’s newest GE corn variety, the USDA also opened a 60-day public comment period for two additional petitions – one for Monsanto’s GE soybean containing higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid, that does not naturally occur in soybeans, and the other from Dow AgroSciences for corn that has been genetically engineered to better resist the poisonous herbicide 2,4-D.

The public can comment on Dow's 2,4-D corn at:!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001

While the USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, scientists have raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War.

2,4-D is a chlorophenoxy herbicide, and scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma. Four separate studies in the United States reported an association with chlorophenoxy herbicide use and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"The concern is that, just like Monsanto's genetically engineered corn that is resistant to RoundUp™ (glyphosate) herbicide, the approval of a cultivar resistant to 2,4-D will cause an exponential increase in the use of this toxic agrichemical," Kastel stated.

Research by the EPA found that babies born in counties with high rates of 2,4-D application to farm fields were significantly more likely to be born with birth defects of the respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as defects of the musculoskeletal system like clubfoot, fused digits and extra digits. These birth defects were 60% to 90% more likely in counties with higher 2,4-D application rates.

The results also showed a higher likelihood of birth defects in babies conceived in the spring, when herbicide application rates peak.

In its petition, Dow AgroSciences states that 2,4-D is increasingly important for chemical farmers because of the presence of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, as a result of the widespread use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant crops.

When Monsanto introduced glyphosate, it was touted as a safer and less toxic alternative to herbicides like 2,4-D. Now, an emerging body of scientific literature is raising serious concerns about the safety of glyphosate as well.

“The concern that the use of GE crops, which are resistant to particular herbicides, leads to the creation of 'superweeds' is now shown to be valid and serious, as even the chemical companies now recognize and admit this is a problem,” says Kastel.

“In 2012 the USDA is proposing approving a new GE corn variety that is resistant to a different toxic herbicide, escalating the toxic treadmill in chemical-dependent agriculture,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. “This is nothing more than a band-aid solution to a serious problem, and will only give rise to more superweeds, more herbicide pollution in our environment, more herbicide poisoning, while likely leading to the need for even more toxic herbicides a couple of years down the line. This foolish circle has to end,” Feldman said.

Farm research groups like The Cornucopia Institute are also concerned with the impact of genetically engineered crops on organic farmers, whose organic crops are already at risk of contamination with Monsanto’s unnatural DNA, from pollen drift.

In its Environmental Assessment of the “drought tolerant” Monsanto corn, the USDA conceded that gene flow of corn pollen is likely to occur. It is well-established that corn pollen travels, and pollen from genetically engineered plants will contaminate natural corn plants.

“The irony, of course, is that organic fields and crops are much more drought tolerant, because common sense and field trials show healthy and biologically active organic soil retains moisture much better than tired and depleted soil on conventional monoculture farms, and organic crops are healthier and more robust than conventional crops,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia.

“But Monsanto cannot profit from healthy soil and healthy organic crops, while they can profit from genetically engineering, patenting, and owning new life forms,” Vallaeys continued. “It’s unfortunate that the Obama administration is equally misguided by supporting Monsanto and Dow’s petitions and ignoring citizens' demand for an immediate end to approving these genetically engineered crops in our food supply.”

The newest genetically engineered soybean petitioned by Monsanto is one of the first to claim a public health benefit, since it has been engineered to contain higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid, stearidonic acid.

“Genetically engineering a ubiquitous monoculture crop to contain higher levels of just one particular nutrient will not solve our public health crisis, and might even exacerbate it, since a healthy diet is about much more than simply increasing the levels of one particular omega-3 fatty acid,” said Vallaeys. “It’s another band-aid solution that will do little to address the root of the problem with our nation’s “nutrition” problem, which is people eating too many processed foods containing corn and soybean derivatives, and not eating a varied diet of nutrient-rich wholesome foods.”

The USDA surveyed 43 foods and compared their nutritional content in 1999 to original testing that took place in 1950. Half of the nutrients measured declined by 6 to 38%. "Industrial agriculture, as compared to organics, have relegated our diets to a lot of empty calories," Vallaeys added.

On the campaign trail in 2007, the President said that genetically modified foods should be labeled because Americans “should know what they are buying.”

Despite promises of change, Mr. Obama appointed former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as USDA Secretary, who had gained notoriety in agricultural circles after being named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Obama subsequently appointed two pro-GMO agrochemical company lobbyists to powerful positions in his administration. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist, became food czar at the Food and Drug Administration. Islam Siddiqui, a lifelong pesticide lobbyist and GMO advocate, was appointed Chief Agricultural Negotiator.

These appointments revealed the tight grip that Monsanto and other biotech corporations have on elected officials, and raised further doubts regarding the promises for change by the current administration.

The USDA’s timing for announcing notices related to genetic engineering mirrors the Bush administration's approach of burying the news and actively discouraging public participation. The FDA declared GMO salmon was safe, on the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend in 2010.

Then the USDA made their highly controversial decision to deregulate GMO alfalfa during the busy holiday season of 2010. Their decision is being challenged by The Cornucopia Institute, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and scores of other plaintiffs in federal court.

More recently, the announcement that Monsanto’s newest genetically engineered corn had been deregulated, and that Monsanto and Dow had petitioned for additional approval of GMO corn and soybeans, came the week between Christmas and the New Year Day holiday.

"When attempting to bury controversial news, it's not uncommon for the government to issue press releases on days when the public isn't paying attention and the news media is on vacation," noted Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel. "The Bush administration did the same thing when announcing that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) had entered the domestic food chain."

Citizens can comment on the proposed approval of Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn and Monsanto’s stearidonic acid soybeans until February 27, 2012.