The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2011

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Page 35 of 128

SIPPED & SCENE JETTING FROM NEW YORK TO SAN FRANCISCO, WITH A COUPLE OF PALATABLE LAYOVERS IN LAS VEGAS—BLAINE ASHLEY HAS The Energy To Do It All L et's face it: I love to travel, wine and dine! It's been no secret in my slew of Sipped & Scene columns this last year. So, I was thrilled when August and September afforded me the opportunity to spend some serious time drinking and eating my way through Las Vegas and San Francisco, but not before get- ting a delicious head-start in my home-base of New York. Joe Teitelbaum revamped the drinks list at Harry Denton's Starlight Room in San Francisco. Kevin Venegas of Don Julio with Blaine Ashley and Don Julio Master Distiller Enrique de Colsa. After about 30 days of dry hibernation following the infamous Tales of the Cocktail, I happily obliged to a pre-hurricane dinner invitation with fellow journalists at the posh Pierre Hotel. The intimate group enjoyed bottomless champagne, a revamped seasonal cocktail menu that included a New Fashioned (an apricot and whisky infused twist on the classic Old version) and succulent appetizers and entrees ranging from charcuterie to truffle- laced tagliatelle to Colorado rack of lamb. A few days and a hurricane scare later, I boarded a plane to Las Vegas to judge a Cuervo Margarita competition with Sin City spirited players, Patricia Richards of Wynn Resorts, Drew Levinson of Wirtz Beverage, Brand Ambassador Kevin Venegas and Vegas Seven Magazine's spirits writer, Xania Woodman. But before tasting my way through more than a dozen Margarita variations, I paid a visit to Charlie Palmer's Aureole, known for its impressive wine program featuring "wine angels" who zip up and down the skyscraper- style cellar. Sommelier Willi Sherer made certain that we try some seriously impressive wines. A bottle of honeycomb-laden, fig-on- the-finish Tarlant Traditional was the hit of the night, along with a five-plate dessert course coupled with a unique icewine. Less than a week later, I hopped on another plane to the City by the Bay and there enjoyed a delightful Sunday evening at the recently re-opened Harry Denton's Starlight Room, where mixologist Joel Teitelbaum revamped the famous haunt's cocktail menu. This is the place that put industry greats like Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim and cocktail evangelist Julie Reiner on the map. Teitelbaum's swagger and spirits knowledge The climbable wine cellar at Aureole at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. also preps him for star power, and the diverse menu certainly left me thirsting for more. I had to head back to Las Vegas just two- days later, although it was alright with me as I was invited to a very special dinner at Palms restaurant Nove, celebrating 70 years of Don Julio, once again hosted by Senior Tequila Ambassador Kevin Venegas with special guest (and last month's TASTING PANEL cover model) Enrique De Colsa in tow. The two- some pulled out all the stops, serving carne carpaccio paired with a Don Julio Reposado All'Abruzzese, Maine lobster with a Don Julio Blanco Paloma and uni risotto and market- fresh fish with a Don Julio Añejo Manhattan. The indulgent celebration was capped off with Don Julio Liquid Banana Bread coupled with honey and vanilla panna cotta. The spirited travel frenzy is to be continued as what's more, I'll be back on a flight to San Francisco for cocktail week, where I'll enjoy a pairing dinner at Taj Campton Place, a cock- tail date at the Four Seasons and the official launch party for The Starlight Room. A happy palate makes for one happy girl. october 201 1 / the tasting panel / 35

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