European producers these days are able to produce mass quantities of good wine and sell it here in the United States at budget prices. It’s hard for wineries in California especially to compete because the cost of real estate in California is so high that a bottle of wine costs a lot to produce — before you put any juice into the bottle.

However, this does not mean that every bargain bottle of wine from Europe is a good buy. Recently, I had a chance to taste a sample of this wine, and it is worthy. Mionetto Organic Prosecco DOC is an Italian sparkling white wine that certainly works for Sunday brunch or to put some festivity into an afternoon gathering. At around $15 a bottle, this is a crowd pleaser.

As expected with a quality Prosecco, this is a slightly sweet, crisp, white sparkling wine. It has a light gold hue and a tinge of sweetness on its nose, along with pear and tropical fruit. The predominate flavor is pear, with a little sweet apple. The finish lingers, it has low acidity, and low-medium alcohol. Very refreshing, perfect for a hot day or a Sunday brunch. This could be a staple, all around, everyday sparkling white wine.

Mionetto’s line also includes white and rose sparkling wines that sell for a few dollars less than the organic one. And, through the end of October, the company is promoting Breast Cancer Awareness Month by hiding pink corks in some of its bottles. If you get a pink cork, you can send it in collect a pink mixer and enter a contest to win $10,000 for the breast cancer charity of the winner’s choice. (Residents of California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia can enter without making a purchase via the company’s website.)

Those of us who follow academic research have been following with intent controversies in the past year or so involving work from the lab of Cornell University nutrition professor Brian Wansink. While the university defended him and his work, its own review (http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2017/04/05/cornell-university-statement-regarding-questions-about-professor-brian-wansinks-research/) found errors.

Now, Retraction Watch points to a correction appended to a 2005 paper that showed how the name of a food influences how people perceive its taste. Apparently, on a re-examination of the data, “the correct values are impossible to establish.” Yet, the researchers stand by their conclusions.

Read more at http://retractionwatch.com/2017/07/04/correct-values-impossible-establish-embattled-nutrition-researcher-adds-long-fix-2005-paper/.

There aren’t many reasons to go to Atlantic City, N.J., but give MGM Resorts some credit for trying. The company’s latest addition to the Borgata Resort is Chef Michael Symon’s Sicilian restaurant Angeline, opening May 6.

“This restaurant is so close to my heart, and takes me back to sitting around the family table as a kid, chowing down on my mom’s lasagna. Angeline’s menu is a modern version of the Italian comfort food I grew up with,” says Symon, who named the restaurant after his mother, Angel.

The menu is set to include traditional Italian-American dishes like meatballs and linguini with clams, and there will be a wood grill for lamb, swordfish and other items.

Symon joins other celebrity chefs at the Borgata, including Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Geoffrey Zakarian.

Annual visits to Atlantic City have steadily declined since 2006. There are seven casinos still open in the New Jersey beachside resort. For an interesting review of the city’s shuttered doors, visit this article on Curbed.

 

 

Sacramento likes to call itself the “Farm to Fork Capital” because of its role at the center of California’s enormous agriculure industry. And, in recent years, the fine dining scene in Sacramento has mushroomed.

That’s why the region campaigned (and paid) to host the 2016 International Food Bloggers Conference, which runs July 28-31. I am looking forward to exploring the region, meeting farmers, chefs, and others who are helping bring great food to tables all over the country.

In a clever appeal to the seemingly growing interest (or at least conversation) among some Americans about moving to Canada if a certain person with small hands becomes president, Air Canada has launched a campaign inviting Americans to “test drive” their country now. 

“If you’re thinking of moving to Canada, it might make sense to #TestDriveCanada first. Try things out for a weekend or two and discover beautiful destinations while enjoying great value for your dollar.”
My friends in Canada tell me that immigration offices there have been swamped with inquiries. Many people are finding that although Canada is a very welcoming country, Americans may find that moving there permanently may be about as easy as winning a Stanley Cup.

But I certainly see why it may be tempting.

Air Canada’s “test drive” sale fares are available at http://bit.ly/29EfdC9.

Michel et Augustin cookiesWhen French bakery Michel et Augustin arrived in the United States in 2014, its founders brought with them what they describe as a “kooky” idea: Invite people to visit, send them away with cookies to share with friends.

It’s not really all that kooky. Lots of businesses grow by giving away samples. But for these people, it’s practically a religion. If you go to one of the monthly open houses at their modern space in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, you leave with a bag, several packages of cookies, and instructions on what to do with them:

“In your hands? 18 cookies to share. There’s 1 for you and 17 for your friends, family, roommates, neighbors, colleagues, grandma, cousins, bus driver, poney club…”

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French cookie maker Michel et Augustin welcomes the public to its Brooklyn, NY, home at monthly open houses. Guests leave with bags of cookies.

Odds are, giving one of these cookies to someone will make them a fan. The cookies are really good. Few other baked goods found on grocery store shelves have this much rich butter flavor. Even a commercial baker friend that I shared the cookies with was impressed.

“We want to bake very indulgent cookies,” says Antoine Chauvel, who heads the Michel et Augustin’s sales effort in the United States. “We try to use the best ingredients in the market, very simple ingredients, basic ingredients you can find in your own kitchen – fresh butter, wheat flower, intense chocolate. No weird chemicals.”

Decadence like this is not cheap: a package of eight cookies sells for $7 or $8. And the company has found some grocers reluctant to stock their products because their cookies have a shorter shelf life (about five months) than cookies with highly processed ingredients.

So far, Michel et Augustin cookies can be found in supermarkets in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Tri-State area, including Fairway, Gristedes, Westside Market, and CVS stores. The company’s dark chocolate and lemon meringue squares also are sold at Starbucks stores nationwide. (For an interesting account of how the Starbucks deal happened, check out this article from AdWeek.)

“If they like the cookies, they will tell their friends,” says Chauvel. “We believe in word of mouth.”