More Stories

Broadway Hit “Mrs Doubtfire” at Philly’s Academy Of Music Feb 6-18 2024

Broadway Hit “Mrs Doubtfire” at Philly’s Academy Of Music Feb 6-18 2024

Everyone’s favorite Scottish nanny is headed to Philadelphia!

Rob McClure will reprise his Tony-nominated Broadway performance on tour alongside co-star (and real wife!) Maggie Lakis in this internationally acclaimed hit musical critics call “wonderful, heart-warming, and laugh-out-loud funny” (Manchester Evening News) and “a feel-good, family-friendly comedy that delivers” (The Hollywood Reporter). Based on the beloved film and directed by four-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Zaks, MRS. DOUBTFIRE tells the hysterical and heartfelt story of an out-of-work actor who will do anything for his kids. It’s “the lovable, big-hearted musical comedy we need right now,” raves the Chicago Tribune – one that proves we’re better together.

Recommended for ages 8 and older.
The listed age is a recommendation, but please use your own discretion when making a decision for your young theatergoers.

Ultimately, the recommended ages are guidelines. Only you will know how your child will respond to the live theater experience. Please consider the following factors when making your decision: the content in the show, age recommendations, the age and personal development of your child, and previous experiences. All patrons regardless of age require a ticket, including babes in arms.

Tix and more info for Mrs Doubtfire at Academy of Music

“Aint Too Proud” at Philly’s Academy Of Music Jan 3 – Jan 21 2024

“Aint Too Proud” at Philly’s Academy of Music Jan 3 – Jan 21 2024

AIN’T TOO PROUD – The Life and Times of The Temptations is the electrifying, new smash-hit Broadway musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and silky-smooth harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits with 14 reaching number one.

Nominated for 12 Tony® Awards and the winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography, AIN’T TOO PROUD tells the thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal, as the group’s personal and political conflicts threatened to tear them apart during a decade of civil unrest in America.

Written by three-time Obie Award winner Dominique Morisseau, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys), and featuring the Tony-winning choreography of Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, On Your Feet!), the unforgettable story of this legendary quintet is set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and so many more.

Recommended for ages 13 and older.
The listed age is a recommendation, but please use your own discretion when making a decision for your young theatergoers.

Ultimately, the recommended ages are guidelines. Only you will know how your child will respond to the live theater experience. Please consider the following factors when making your decision: the content in the show, age recommendations, the age and personal development of your child, and previous experiences. All patrons regardless of age require a ticket, including babes in arms.

For tix and info: https://www.ensembleartsphilly.org/events-and-tickets/2023-24/broadway/aint-too-proud/

Football fans: 12 Easy Recipe with Wine Pairings Score Big for Super Bowl LVIII

12 Easy Recipe Options with Recommended Wine Pairings Score Big for Super Bowl LVIII and Playoff Parties

The big game is just around the corner.  Your guest list is set, and you’re facing the perennial challenge: what to serve?

What to serve for Super Bowl LVIII? Game Day Appetizers collection

Meal planning service eMeals comes to the rescue with a Game Day Appetizers collection featuring 12 easy-cook recipes ranging from Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites to Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies – each paired with liquid refreshment from California winery Sutter Home and complete with fast online shopping options. Problem solved!

The game plan is straightforward. Simply:

  • Check out eMeals’ Game Day Appetizers landing page or the Occasions Plan section of the eMeals app if you’re a subscriber to explore the fun finger-food recipes created by the eMeals team to feed you and your guests from kickoff to the final buzzer.
Hummus Board

Hummus Board

  • Assemble your menu. In addition to the collection’s pizza dough-wrapped meatball sub bites and classic frosting-filled snickerdoodles, you’ll find options like Nashville Hot Chicken Dip served with crostini, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders nestled in Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls, Twice-Baked Dill Pickle Potatoes made with miniature Yukon golds, and seven others including a Smoky Snack Mix – each assembled in a snap and serving 10-12 hungry football fans.

Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites

Pull-Apart Meatball Sub Bites

  • Accept the wine recommendations. Whether it’s a Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Grigio for the main event dishes you selected or the same winery’s Sweet Peach or Wild Berry fruit infusion for your dessert choices, you’ll get the perfect pairing for less than $12 per bottle. No need to waste time and no chance of choosing the wrong wine.

  • Auto-generate your grocery list for easy in-store or online shopping. Click on the recipes you’re planning to make, and eMeals will create a shopping list you can use to self-shop at your local grocery store or tap for online grocery fulfillment at major retailers. It’s fast, easy, and ensures you won’t forget an ingredient.

  • Cook, serve, and get your game on (TV, that is)! Every dish is tailor-made for grazing while you and your guests are glued to your big screen, so you’ll be the toast of the party – no matter which team wins.

And speaking of teams, eMeals can be a great addition to your cooking lineup. The company’s weekly meal planning service saves an average of two hours of meal planning time every week, helps reduce grocery expenses by utilizing ingredients efficiently and avoiding impulse purchases, and provides meal inspiration and variety with less stress and more family time.

For as little as $5 a month, eMeals subscribers get a choice of meal plans for 15 different eating styles including Quick and Healthy, Clean Eating, Low Calorie, Low Carb, 30 Minute Meals, Kid Friendly and Vegetarian. Users also receive Occasions Plan and Bonus Collection menus for recipes that may not fit into the nightly dinner category; have the option to mix and match menus from any style and substitute favorites from previous weeks; and can take advantage of eMeals’ web-shoppable functionality for fast one-click shopping from major retailers. Free 14-day trials are available here.

 

eMeals is a meal inspiration, planning and shopping

eMeals is a meal inspiration, planning and shopping platform that operates the subscription-based eMeals digital meal planning service, the free RecipeBox app enabling home cooks to create personalized digital cookbooks, and the Grocery Connect SDK providing online grocery shopping functionality for third-party apps and websites.

eMeals has helped millions of families relieve the daily stress of putting healthy home-cooked meals on the table quickly, easily and affordably since the launch of its digital meal planning service.

For more information, visit https://emeals.com and https://recipebox.com.

Sutter Home revolutionized the way Americans enjoyed wine

When the Trinchero family bought the Sutter Home Winery in 1948, they had vision, passion and a keen insight into consumer tastes.

In the early 1970s, Sutter Home revolutionized the way Americans enjoyed wine when it created the first-ever White Zinfandel, introducing a new, sweeter style of wine—along with several other crowd-pleasing varietals—at an affordable price.

By the 1980s and 1990s, Sutter Home became a household name as the second largest independent, family-owned winery in the United States. In 2005, the winery was the first to produce the groundbreaking single-serve, 187mL package in lightweight plastic bottles.

Today, Sutter Home continues to reflect the evolution of its consumers, offering 21 different varietals in 750mL, 187mL and 1.5L bottles, plus 500mL Tetra Pak® packages.

For more information visit www.SutterHome.com.

Pasta Sauce Gets Sensitive: All-natural, Best-selling Yo Mama’s Foods Launches Sensitive Marinara

All-natural, Best-selling Handcrafted pasta sauce: Yo Mama’s Foods Launches Sensitive Marinara

Yo Mama’s Foods, the all-natural, best-selling handcrafted pasta sauce company, is adding Sensitive Marinara to their collection of fresh tomato sauces.

This Mama-approved recipe is specially designed for those following low-FODMAP diets or sensitive to alliums and is low-sodium, preservative-free, Paleo-friendly, low-glycemic, and without added sugar.

Yo Mama's Foods Launches Sensitive Marinara

Yo Mama’s Foods Launches Sensitive Marinara

 

Pure Tomato Sauce Perfect for Sensitive Systems
Amazon’s Favorite Sauce Brand Delivers
a low-FODMAP Marinara packed with Fresh Flavor

 

Crafted without onions, garlic, and oil yet with all of the fresh flavor Yo Mama’s Marinara is known for, the Sensitive Marinara is a delicious and considerate choice for individuals with dietary sensitivities.

“So many of our customers have requested an onion and garlic-free marinara that we knew he had to develop a fantastic one…”

David Habib

Yo Mama’s Founder.

“…Crafted from fresh tomatoes, fresh carrots, white wine and fresh spices, this allium-free sauce is bright in flavor and a great swap in your favorite recipes,” said David Habib, Yo Mama’s Founder.

Yo Mama’s Foods crafts sauces that recreate the homemade, authentic tastes that would typically take hours over a stove to prepare, making it easy for home cooks to enjoy healthy, quick-to-prepare dishes for their loved ones every night of the week.

In 26-ounce jars with a suggested retail price of $9, Yo Mama’s Sensitive Marinara is available at H-E-B and Amazon, with additional retailers to be announced soon.

Yo Mama’s Foods is on a mission


Yo Mama’s Foods is on a mission to bring the world back to the table through healthy and delicious foods. Yo Mama’s Foods proudly crafts all pasta sauces, salad dressings, and condiments using only ingredients that Mom has in her kitchen. Since our launch on Mother’s Day 2017, Yo Mama’s distribution has grown to more than 24,000 retail stores nationwide.

You can find more information at www.yomamafoods.com and follow them on Instagram @yomamasfoods.

Philly Wine: Wine Pro Alan Tardi Returns to NYC for Beyond Bubbles Class December 13

Philly Wine Lovers!  Wine Pro Alan Tardi Returns to NYC for Beyond Bubbles Class December 13

Alan Tardi has worked as a chef, a restaurateur, a sommelier, a consultant to some of New York City’s biggest and best fine dining restaurants.  He’s also written for magazines and publications, such as Wine Spectator, Wine and Spirits, Decanter, of course, the New York Times.

This past fall, Alan Tardi taught his very popular Italian Wine class, The Many Faces of Sangiovese.

Today Wine Expert Alan Tardi returns for a conversation about his new Champagne, Prosecco and Lambrusco sparkling wine class Beyond Bubbles on December 13 at New York Wine Studio.

NYC Wine: Wine Pro Alan Tardi Hosts Popular NYC Wine Classes: Beyond Bubbles on December 13

NYC Wine: Wine Pro Alan Tardi Hosts Popular NYC Wine Classes: Beyond Bubbles on December 13

Alan, thank you so much for coming back. You have a new class called Beyond Bubbles.

Can you just give us an idea of Beyond Bubbles about the class itself?

Alan Tardi:  The class is going to take place on December 13th. That’s a Wednesday from 6 – 7:30pm. And the venue is  the New York Wine Studio located at 126 East 38th Street between Park and Lexington, so a couple blocks away from Grand Central Station in New York City.

It’s going to be called Beyond Bubbles. I’m really focusing on three archetypal sparkling wines. Champagne, Lambrusco, Prosecco.

And I have to say Prosecco from the original growing area, Cornigliano Valdiviadene, not the extended one right now.

These are the sparkling wines that, to me, took their own path and they can, in the case of Lambrusco and Prosecco they’re really ancient grape varieties that have been going on for a very long time. 

Champagne, they’ve been making wine for a very long time. But as we’ll talk about, which is really fascinating, they’re adjacent to Burgundy and they’re both in close proximity to Paris where the King and the royal kingdom was. They were very competitive with their wine.

The counts in Champagne and the Dukes in Burgundy. They were really vying for their wine for the favor of the King. But Champagne, like Burgundy, began making it for a long time, hundreds of years, still wines. And when, and that was what they made for a long time.

 

Pouring sparkling wine

In your class Beyond bubbles, can you give us an idea of how many bottles are going to be tasting from and learning about, and maybe one or two that are extra special to you?

Alan Tardi: We’re going to be tasting 10 wines. Three from Lambrusco, a very misunderstood wine.  The grapes for Lambrusco are wild. Prosecco and Champagne.

The class is Beyond Bubbles. Wednesday, December 13th, tickets are on sale. Now it’s coming up very quickly. 

Let’s really dive deep for a second and just get to know champagne’s history.  The whole idea of sparkling wine was an accident.

 

Alan Tardi: Yes. It was originally considered a flub because they were trying to make still wines to be in competition with Burgundy and they were very good at it. The still wines of Champagne were highly regarded.

So it did happen by accident.  What happened is that Champagne is much further North than Burgundy. It’s at the breaking point beyond 45 degrees North where grapes can’t grow anymore. So they had a hard time making wine.  it got very cold after harvest. One of the big customers for champagne was England and they shipped a lot of wine in barrel to England.

They were put into barrels once the fermentation stopped, because it got very cold and then they would ship them to England eventually in the springtime..

Because they finished their fermentation too early because it got cold, the fermentation stopped. Once it got warm again, the ferment: the remaining sugar went to work on the remaining yeast and it created bubbles in a closed container. 

So when people opened up the barrel, it was fizzy.

When that happened in France, people did not like it because it was considered a flaw. England didn’t have a problem with that. 

Eventually the producers said, wow, these people really want to have the bubbly wine. The King of France became very fond of this wine.  So it really took off from there, but it happened in England first. 

 

Talk a little bit about who “The Father of Champagne” was and how he tried to prevent this from happening.

 

Alan Tardi: It’s a really great story. Dom Perignon is considered to be the father of champagne. He was a chef and while he was a monk, he took over as the steward.

The convent had a lot of land given to them as dues to the church. He was managing the winery there in order to sell wine to support the monastery. 

He would select different grapes from different places. He created fractional blending and fractional pressing of the grape so it’s very gentle and soft, which is very important for the development of champagne. But this was a still wine.

He was trying to make a still wine. When it spontaneously started sparkling, he considered it a flaw.  He tried to avoid it with everything that he could possibly do. 

It became extremely popular.

Dom Perignon champagne

He said, “Brothers, I see stars in my glass.” And he was supposed to be blind by that point. 

This whole thing of Don Perignon being the the father of champagne and seeing stars was made up as a marketing ploy by Robert de la Vogue, who was the head of a major champagne house.  So they created this story around it.  It’s a great story. I love it.

I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why champagne does swell during the holidays. When there’s decorations out and it really is a celebration.

Alan Tardi: I think it is. Sparkling wines bring something with them. There’s this effervescence, It’s like shooting stars. When they’re in the glass and you’re, you put them in your palate and they’re tingling and that’s all good.

Once the sparkling version was approved around 1725 by the King, it expanded throughout the world, it was a worldwide phenomenon.

 

You’ve mentioned the words method and process, share more about traditional champagne method?

Alan Tardi:  It is a very stable process. You have to make a base wine. So you ferment grapes. They started sourcing different grape varieties from different areas throughout the extensive Champagne area. They would blend them together to make a decent wine.  That’s the first fermentation.  

Then they add a liqueur, called the tirage in French, it consists of primarily sugar, could be beet sugar or cane sugar; and yeast. 

They’re put in individual bottles and then the bottle is sealed with a crown cap to keep the wine in the bottle.  They would sit in a cellar for a period of time to create the secondary fermentation in a closed container. Like the initial fermentation process where the sugar goes to the yeast that is added to it. That creates a combination of sugar and yeast creates alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The carbon dioxide goes up, the alcohol stays in, and that’s how wine is made. But because [in still wine] it’s in an open container, the carbon dioxide goes out. 

In a closed container [like in sparkling wine], in this case, a bottle, the carbon dioxide that was given off from the second fermentation was trapped inside the bottle. So once you open the bottle, the carbon dioxide would come up and out. And that’s where it comes from. That is what gives it the sparkle. 

In Champagne, their method is known as the Method Champenoise

Pouring sparkling wine at Popular NYC Wine Classes Beyond Bubbles

They carry out the secondary fermentation in a closed bottle. Then, in the third part, they make the method Champenoise. It’s removing the sediment from the wine.  There are many different ways to do it. 

The most important common grapes for sparkling wine are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meurnier, Chardonnay.  But your class reveals “lost grape varieties”.  Tell me more about that.  

Alan Tardi: These were grape varieties, typical of the area, that were used initially, but then people just put them by the side. The most important grape varieties were Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Meunier was used as a workhorse, a filler, but it didn’t have the same identity that that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir had.  Those are the three principal ones. Then [there was] these other varieties.

There’ve been major changes in the past 10 – 15 years in Champagne.  It was driven by the Maison.  Thousands of growers who supplied grapes to the Maison.  Many times they would actually press the grapes, vinify the wine and then send the wine to the Maison.

They produced it for the houses. They didn’t have their own labels.  That changed. A lot of the grower producers started labeling and selling their wine on their own. They got a lot of attention.

Some of these people were very loyal to the old grape varieties that were left on the side – they like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris – not very rare grape varieties, but people are not aware they are part of the grape varieties of Champagne.

Some people are really trying to promote those because it’s part of their culture. It’s part of their history. 

There’s two others, Petit Mellier and Arban. It brings a whole new aspect to Champagne.

So we’re talking with Alan Tardi. On Wednesday, December 13th he hosts his new class Beyond Bubbles.  One of those bubbles we’re going to be talking about is Prosecco. Frizzanti, Spumanti. Help us understand what these words mean, the region, how it all relates 

Alan Tardi: Prosecco is one of the most misunderstood wines out there. There’s a lot more to it than most people are aware of. It’s not just a base for a Bellini or a cocktail, or just a cheap fix. There’s a lot more going on there than often meets the eye.

It’s a very old wine growing area.  The original area is Conigliano Valdobbiadene. Fifiteen towns that make up the area in the hills just at the foot of the Dolomites in Veneto. They’ve been making wine there for a long time.

I have a feeling that the people who originally planted grape vines there were members of this  Celtic Ligurian tribe that were up in Northern Italy, like in the Botellina and over in Liguria. They have this amazing capacity to plant vines in places where it’s very difficult.

Prosecco is very different from Champagne.  I was living in Italy. I was going to Prosecco a lot because I did a story for Wine and Spirits Magazine about the Cartice area in Val di Biadena.

It blew my mind away. At the same time, I was starting to go to Champagne to research my book and I spent a lot of time there. I was finding a lot of similarities between these two very different wines.

Champagne began as a still wine called Coteaux Champenois.  It had another wine in between. A sparkling wine, but a softer, lower amount of pressure called Cremant de Champagne. 

In Prosecco, the traditional way of making wine was fermenting the wine.  Then, they would put it in a container, either a barrel or a cement tank or in a bottle. The same thing happened. The fermentation would stop prematurely because it got too cold. Then, in the spring, when the temperature rose, the wine would wake up and the sugar would go back to work on whatever yeast was left.

Being in a closed container it would be fizzy. Now, in the bottle. The Italians had no problem with the sediment in the bottle. 

I remember going there in 2013, I heard about this kind of Prosecco where the sediment was left in the bottle and people were a little bit embarrassed to show it. 

This is actually called the Method Ancestral like they did in Limu. 

They left the sediment in the bottle. It was just part of the wine. m In 1895, someone at Vinicultural Research Research Center in Asti named Martinotti, figured out they had a lot of sparkling wines in that area like Moscato.

Martinotti invented a system instead of having to do this process in the bottle, he created a large container with a top under pressure where the second fermentation could take place under pressure and then bottle it from there. It’s called the Martinotti Method that he created and patented in 1895. 

Then 15 years later, in France he applied a sterilizing system.  It’s referred to as the Sharma Method. That is the typical Way to make Prosecco not the traditional way.

Most producers in the area did not advance their methods until after World War II happened.

Mionetto, a very big Prosecco producer, only started using autoclaves in 1987. 

At my tasting in New York on December 13, we’re going to taste three Prosecco’s. One is a still version from a winery called Bortolomeo, one of the most significant wineries of the area

After World War Two, he was very instrumental in creating a small group of producers and protecting their tradition of making wine in the area. 

Now their daughters are running the winery. They’re still making a Prosecco. It’s part of the disciplinary of the rules for Prosecco Cornigliano Valdobbiadene

That used to be the same with Coteau Champenois, the still wine of Champagne. You would not find those around. 

While we’re talking about Prosecco, tell us about their growth —  between the DOCG and the DOC?

Alan Tardi: One thing I want to say is that in the very small area of Corneliano, Corneliano about to be out in a Prosecco, DOCG.  In about 2009, because of the large demand for Prosecco, and because of the fact that people were growing grapes and making wine outside 

That appellation covers the entire region of Friuli and three quarters of the region of Veneto. So it’s a huge area, mostly flat. Higher yields, most of the vineyards can be worked, can be harvested mechanically. It’s a very different wine and that accounts for the vast majority of the 500 million bottles that are being produced.

The little area up in the hills has a much more complex growing area, soil to topography. 

It hasn’t really been touched since the earth rose when that, when the sea and the sea receded on the other side of Cornigliano, there was a glacier that happened up in the north and it came down and just took all the land with it.

If you look at the map, the part is very narrow and the Cornelia part spreads down and is very wide and lower altitudes.  So you have two very different soil makeups and different sections within the area.  So it’s much more complex. 

In 2009, they created the DOC and that’s when the original area, called Prosecco, changed its name to Corneliano Valdobbiadene and they were elevated to a higher level, a DOCG category.

They created subzones within this very small area. 43 different areas within the overall territory. If grapes come from one of those areas, they can have the name of that on the label. 

At Beyond Bubbles on December 13, we’re going to be tasting the Tranquilo Prosecco from Botolomeo.  We’ll taste a Colfondo from a young guy who’s been carrying on his family’s winery.

He always made wine in the cofondo method, and he just also started using the method traditionnel as well.

We’re going to taste his Cofondo, and then we’re going to taste Prosecco, Brut Nature, no sugar added, from the Cornigliano side, different softer, denser soil, lower altitude.

You can taste the difference.

That sounds incredible. We’re celebrating Beyond Bubbles, Alan Tardi’s new class coming up December 13th. One of the bottles, the Lambrusco. Can you talk a little bit about its reputation? 

 

Alan Tardi: I think we should feel very excited.  In the United States people still think about Lambrusco as a sweet, red, bubbly wine.

Lambrusco has really changed and it’s very complex.  Usually wines don’t do well in flat areas, but in the Po Valley, that’s where they come from, they started out as wild vines.

They were cultivated by this old ancient tribe who lived in the area from about 12 to 6  BC, and then they just disappeared  There are 12 different Lambrusco grapes. Three of them are really the most important because they have their own distinct identity and growing area. 

Sorbara comes from the town of Sorbara, takes its name after it, and it has its own appellation. 

Grasparosa di Casavetro, down in the south, it’s flat, but it starts to go up a little bit into the hills. 

And then Salomino, in the north, which is the powerhouse of the three.

It’s really fascinating.  They’re considered to be the most elegant because they’re all red grapes. In Champagne, it’s mostly white grapes.  in Prosecco, the grapes are also predominantly white. There’s Pinot Noir that was one of these international grapes. It was permitted but only as a 

The Sorbara is very light, transparent, elegant.  There’s a lot of finesse to it.

The Graspa Rosa is dark red, juicy, fruity, floral, intense, foamy.

The Salomino is the workhorse, Sorbata is not self pollinating. And Solomino is often the pollinator for Sorbata.

At Beyond Bubbles on December 13, we’re going to be talking about unusual bottles.  Tasting a Salomino wine from a winery called Lini 910,  a wine is made using the method Traditionnelle.  This wine is going to be 2006 vintage, and it’s spent nearly 14 years on the lees.

At our Beyond Bubbles class, I’m going to start with the Lambrusco, the oldest of the wines. Then the Prosecco.  Then the Champagne. So there’s a buildup to that. 

After the champagne, there’ll be a still champagne from the Valley de la Marne from the Mounier grape, and the Philipponat Champagne vintage.

After that, I thought it would be really interesting to look at two wines from made by people who went to the champagne area in the turn of the 20th century and they fell in love with champagne and they were compelled to go back to where they came from and make a wine using the champagne style method in their own way.

A wine from Trentino, Giulio Ferrari.  And the other one is RTOs in in Catalonia in Spain, compare.

Alan Tardi’s class Beyond Bubbles will take place December 13, 2023 at New York Wine Studio.  126 East 38th Street New York, NY 1001. Readily accessible between Park and Lexington Avenue, just minutes from  Grand Central Station.

For tix and more information visit NewYorkWineStudio.com

 

The Holidays Just got Tastier! Fresh Victor Organic and Full Flavor Mixers for your Cocktails and Mocktails

Holidays 2023: Fresh Victor Puts the the drinker in charge with Fresh, Organic and Full Flavor Mixers.

Fresh Victor is how you make fast, delicious craft cocktails and amazing mocktails — Every. Single. Time. 

Fresh Victor is a line of premium mixers for consistently delicious and efficient cocktails (and mocktails too.)

H. Ehrmann knows his cocktails

H. Ehrmann is a bartender and drinks industry consultant who runs Elixir, one of the most influential bars in San Francisco.  In the industry for 35 years, owned a bar for 20 years. 

Recently he hosted a virtual mixer walking us through several cocktails using Fresh Victor as the mixer: from non-alcoholic, to low alc, to full alcoholic.

Cold-pressed juice-based cocktail mixers. They have added sugar, either organic cane sugar or agave nectar used to balance out citrus levels to hit the intended brix level for most cocktails.

Holidays 2023: Fresh Victor creates Fast, Delicious Craft Cocktails

For example, with the Lemon Sour, the base is known as a pretty simple flavor profile.  You can add another layer of flavor complexity (like a liqueur).  But the Fresh Victor mixer was designed to have more depth, a bit more bitterness to handle any additional sweetness added. 

Fresh Victor +1 or +2

All of the Fresh Victor bottles are designed to make delicious cocktails, but simply and easier.  How?  The amount of cocktails that can be made by adding just 1 or 2 ingredients plus the Fresh Victor mixer.

+1 is agave and tequila.  Lemon Sour and whiskey. 

+2 might be carbonation, frothing, aromatics, like:  tonic, soda water, champagne, egg white, bitters.

Fresh Victor creates Fast, Delicious Craft Cocktails

 

“2-3 pours and a lot of flavor”

H. Ehrmann

With those 3 elements and Fresh Victor’s 9 flavors, you can end up with dozens of drinks.  From classics, to a spin-off of a classics (including mocktails).

Mixing ratios: 1: 1 and 2: 1.  

1 1 / 2  oz of spirit to 2 ounces of mixer

2 oz of spirit to 2 ounces of mixer

If the drinker likes the taste of the alcohol, they want that taste to “punch” through, then then 2:2 is better for them.  If they want the flavor sweeter, iding behind the mixer, 2:1 is the answer for them.

Fresh Victor is a mixer, not a juice.  So it’s meant to take on dilution as you build your cocktail. Right out of the bottle, it’s a bit more concentrated, more dense.  Meant to be stirred, shaken, reduced down without watering down the flavor.   It can dilute 15-20% without losing quality. 

Using Fresh Victor, you can create a 32 oz, 64 oz or a gallon punch bowl for a holiday party in less than 5 minutes.  And it’s not a simple, lame flavor.  It’s complex.

Orchard Bliss Royale

Non-alcoholic.  When you add Champagne or Sparkling, it’s called “Royale” and today’s drink is adding Sparkling Cider.  

4 oz sparkling cider

2 oz Fresh Victor (Three Citrus and Mint Leaf)

Garnish with dehydrated apple slices

The nose is refreshing. Vibrant apple.  Effervescent on the palate, from the Sparkling. A balance of lemon, lime, orange.  Plump, but not overwhelming.  Mint notes that bring a tertiary element.

Suggestions include playing with adding a shot of vodka, rum or tequila, any of which would work well.

Fresh Victor mixers give a fruit-forward base that makes it easy to play and experiment with.

Winter Spice Tonic

“When mixed well, Gin impacts the overall character of your drink, but doesn’t get in your face”.

1 oz Tanqueray london dry gin

1 Oz Fresh Victor (Cactus Pomegranate)

4 oz Fever Tree Tonic

Aromatic bitters

Garnish with vanilla bean, All-spice berries, Dehydrated Lemon

The nose is immediately the charming, floral aromatics you’d expect from the gin.  Then slowly the baking spices express themselves.  Deep character layers and complexity.  A gush of tonic, then lingering vanilla and lemon.  

Definitely a gin drink for someone who’s not a gin fan as it showcases the best of gin without being overwhelming.

H. Ehrmann with the Fresh Victor Winter Spice Tonic

H. Ehrmann with the Fresh Victor Winter Spice Tonic

Love a standard gin drink?  Try Gin and Tonic with Fresh Victor’s Cucumber and Lime!

“I’ve taught cocktail classes for over ten years.  As much as students love it and geek out over cocktail details at the bar.  When they get home to their kitchen, they still prefer to have something easy.  That’s a huge part of when Fresh Victor is.”

“The 2 things that show us down when drinking cocktails, alcoholic strength and bitterness.  Those are things that help us drag a cocktail out 10-20 minutes. Like, intentional speed bumps to keep you from drinking too fast.  So removing the alcohol from a recipe, removes that speed bump.  Adding more bitters, adds it back.  It helps a non-alco drink feel more like a cocktail.”

“Just before Covid, we decided to focus Fresh Victor on bars and restaurants.  So Covid hits.  We decided to re-package into a 16 oz bottle.  Within 6 weeks we had these bottles available in 7 states direct to consumer. Within 2 months, we had 48 states direct to consumer.  I shifted to selling cocktail kits from home and Fresh Victor was the perfect partner for me.”

“Take a liter of tequila and a 64 oz bottle of Mexican lime and agave, you can make 32 margaritas.  I was selling those kits like crazy.  People were re-ordering every other day.”

“All the ways you can use Fresh Vector.  I went through the lexicon of cocktails.  What can I make with lemon sour?  What can I make with Mexican Agave? Then I’d look at more unique flavor profile and ask myself what can I make with that?”

Figtorious Celebrations

2 oz of Fresh Victor (grapefruit and sea salt)

2 oz VSOP brandy

1 / 2 oz fig syrup

Try thinking of Fresh Victor less as a mixer or a juice and more as an ingredient.  Think of it as an ingredient where you can use as much or as little as you want to make a more complex drink.

Explore from a culinary point of view.  What other flavors mix?

H. Ehrmann with the Fresh Victor Figtorious Celebrations

H. Ehrmann with the Fresh Victor Figtorious Celebrations

 

Fresh Victor Holidays Flavors

H. Ehrmann suggests a twist this cold, holiday season.  Think like a Hot Toddy. Simply warm up your Whiskey Sour, Lemon Drop, even your sangria.  Anything that would normally go with ice, this time heat it up warm and toasty.

 

Zayn Malik launches a custom Lychee Martini flavor, joins Mixoloshe as Chief Creative Officer and Co-Owner

Zayn Malik joins Mixoloshe as Chief Creative Officer and Co-Owner

The global superstar launches a custom Lychee Martini flavor, with a unique can design inspired by his own tattoos.

The fast-rising, award winning non alcoholic beverage brand, made with clean ingredients and nothing artificial will make its retail debut at Walmart, launching across the US with the retailer by end of October

Mixoloshe, a female founded and award winning non-alcoholic beverage brand, announces its partnership with celebrated award-winning artist and entrepreneur Zayn Malik, who has joined the company as the Chief Creative Officer (CCO) and Co-Owner. 

The partnership will center around reshaping the narrative of the non-alcoholic beverage industry, as well as deep creative collaboration on marketing initiatives and upcoming flavor launches. 

Additionally, Mixoloshe will launch in 500 Walmart stores across the country, marking the brand’s anticipated retail debut. 

Zayn’s first flavor launch is a non-alcoholic Lychee Martini, a refreshing and exotic drink, that is sweet, floral, and slightly tropical. The can design is also captivating and unique, featuring replica illustrations of his own most beloved tattoos.

Mixoloshe was founded in 2022 to redefine the booming non-alcoholic drink category with a clean, alcohol-free take on cocktails and premium spirits that taste like the real thing. 

Their collection offers a non-alcoholic range of popular cocktails, such as a Mojito, Old Fashioned, Gin & Tonic, and Margarita, as well as non-alcoholic Tequila, Whisky, and Gin, all made with real ingredients, and low in sugar, calories. 

 

Mixoloshe’s soft seltzers and non-alcoholic spirits have been recognized globally as best in class, and in 2023 they were honored with the Bartenders Spirits Gold Award, Ascot Award Gold for Taste, and the SIP Awards in Gold, Silver, and Bronze, to name a few. Their collection includes 8 canned non-alcoholic cocktail varieties, including the newly launched Lychee Martini flavor, and three bottled non alcoholic premium spirits.

 

“The non-alcoholic beverage market is ready for disruption, which can create immense growth potential. We see consumers already shifting preferences towards healthier and alcohol-free alternatives, which provides an opportunity for a brand like MIXOLOSHE to redefine this industry. I could not be more excited about the chance to make some noise in the category of non-alcoholic beverages and build one of the most talked about drinks in the world.” – Zayn Malik

 

“Zayn is a creative visionary both in music and beyond. His passion for innovation and his ability to captivate audiences will undoubtedly help us redefine the narrative around the non alcoholic beverage category, with a fresh perspective on making healthy lifestyle choices and living well, irrespective of your beverage preferences,” said Kristina Roth, MIXOLOSHE Founder and CEO. “I’m looking forward to working alongside him and shaping a future for this category where the glass is always half full of possibilities.”

Soft seltzers are available in a 12 pack, and retail for $29.99. Non-alcoholic spirits are available in a 750 ml bottle and retail for $29.99.

 For more information, please visit: mixoloshe.com.

Mixoloshe is a female-founded line of non-alcoholic seltzers and spirits that are formulated to taste and smell boozy without the booze. Whether you’re booze-free forever or just for the night, these drinks are the perfect inclusive answer to an age old question—what are we drinking? High in flavor and low in calories, MIXOLOSHE packs a party into every can of soft seltzer and bottle of non-alcoholic spirits. With a mission and ingredients that are anything but fake, the brand offers booze-free cocktail alternatives that taste like the real thing. Party tonight with no regrets tomorrow.

 

 

1000 Stories Wines delivers “Big, Bold” Flavor as the Ultimate Crowd Pleaser with Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel

1000 Stories Wines delivers “Big, Bold” Flavor as the Ultimate Crowd Pleaser with Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel

At 1000 Stories Wines, they share that same bold roaming spirit, which is why each of their wines tell incredible stories of exploration and discovery.

1000 Stories Wines delivers Crowd-Pleasing Big, Bold taste with Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel

In every bottle thy hope you’ll find journeys, encounters, people and places—stories that stoke the roaming spirit in all of us so that once your grass of wine is finished, you set out once again to create the next chapter in our stories.

Margaret Leonardi from 1000 Stories Wines

Margaret Leonardi from 1000 Stories Wines

Today we’re talking with Margaret Leonardi from 1000 Stories Wines.  The below conversation has been editing for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited version, check out our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

Just to get to know you a little bit better, can you tell us more about what inspired you to get into the wine business?

Margaret Leonardi: I’m originally from an organic dairy farm in Northern California, so just the county north of here.  We’re in Mendocino County. I’m from Humboldt County, so just the closest wine growing region from home. The wine industry is so much more glamorous and romantic than the dairy industry. I’ve been making wine since 2009. Now my whole life is the wine industry.

My husband is a winemaker too. We live in a vineyard. We’re in the middle of harvest right now. We’ve been harvesting for over a month now. We’ll harvest hopefully through Halloween.

How’s it going this year? Are the grapes looking good?

Margaret Leonardi: Pretty average yields. It’s a little later as a whole than normal harvest.  Not noteworthy, but maybe a couple of weeks depending on the region, the variety.  It’s tasting good. The chemistries are nice. Good acids. So far we’re happy but we’re only halfway done. 

The brand is called 1,000 Stories.  On your website it mentions each of your wines tell incredible stories of exploration, discovery. Where does the idea of stories come from?

Margaret Leonardi: There’s a lot of stories around how we came up with the name and how we got from point A to point B, but everyone has their own rendition, which is just ironic that it’s 1000 stories. Our consumer is adventurous, and likes to roam and wander and connect with people.  So all those people, each adventure you go on, and each new connection you make, you have new stories, and you have new stories to share, and you can share our wines together. 

 

You mentioned the word “explore”.  Up in your area is Yellowstone National Park, and a thousand stories that you guys partnered with Yellowstone Forever.

Margaret Leonardi: That’s a new partnership for this year.  The official non profit partner with Yellowstone, and their main focus is bison conservation.  With our label, our mascot is a bison.  The partnership promotes bison conservation, make sure their population is safe and healthy.

It’s a beautiful design. Tell me about how the bottle itself was created and how you decided what should be on that bottle?

Margaret Leonardi: We have three SKUs that are bourbon barrel aged. Our first is the Zinfandel, the OG of the portfolio, this came out first and then in the Bourbon Barrel Age side, we also have a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend.  

Then we have an American Barrel Aged section that’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so not Bourbon Barrel Aged, just American Oak.  That would be used for normal winemaking, and then we have our newest corn sku, it’s a Sauvignon Blanc, and this is just stainless steel and some concrete aging.

The Bourbon barrel aged [popularity] has grown. We have customers who want more diversity, more variety. So we’ve expanded the set. 

On the Zinfandel [label], we have our mascot the bison.  Another noteworthy thing with this is on the Zin, because it was our first.

Each time we get bourbon barrels, we go through a 3rd party broker. So we’re not working directly with any distillers.  We have a mix of the distilleries these bourbon barrels are shipping to us from, so they’re all different. 

We’re filling finished Zinfandel in these barrels and then we taste each one.

Some can be really bourbon-y, really potent.  A lot of fresh dill. Some can have less bourbon influence and it’s more smoky, toasty. 

So we have to really craft each one. We’re tasting a bunch of lots and crafting the blend for the finished product.

That’s when we decided to put the batch number [on the bottle]. Because as a whole, the backbone of the wine tastes very similar, but there are some little minute differences. We wanted to convey that to the consumer with the batch number because you can tell [each bottle] tastes a little different.

 

Bourbon barrel has become very popular.  How was that method chosen at your winery?

Margaret Leonardi: It was a practice from the original winemaker, the founding winemaker, Bob Blue, who just retired a couple of years ago. 

We were innovating, thinking of new wine ideas, and this is a practice that he used 20 plus years ago. [Back then] French oak wine barrels were pretty pricey, like a luxury commodity to use. So he was looking at different alternatives to age his wines here at Fetzer. 

He had this idea. Bourbon and whiskey barrels were cheaper.

We bought some bourbon barrels and tried it.  We were like, we should bottle this, not blend this into a bigger portion. This should be its own bottle. That was in 2014, our first vintage. 

I started with the company in 2015. I was here at the beginning, so I saw some of the evolution and then Bob has retired and he’s passed the torch to Sebastian and I.

Let’s talk a little bit about the different varietals. The process, the styles aromas, flavor notes.

Margaret Leonardi: The first original Zinfandel is our classic.  I say classic because Zinfandel’s kind of an American grape variety, it’s very Americana.  It goes with our whole spirit of the brand, and It’s what Mendocino County and Mendocino is known for.

We grow really great Zinfandel’s up here, it’s a nice and warm climate. We’ve also expanded, now we’re sourcing some of the fruit from Lodi as well, which is also a really great growing region for Zinfandel.  They’re also known for their Zin.

It’s blended with some Petite Syrah.  Just to give the color a little more enhancement. Some more tannin structure. We want the whole backbone of the blend to be bold. You’re supposed to match the bison. Big style, bold characteristics. We pick them when the fruit is really ripe. It’s pretty hot.  Then we finish it in bourbon barrels and we can  use a little bit of American oak, French oak in there too, just to give it some oak enhancement. Usually around 15 percent alcohol in the finished product.

The unique part of the Zinfandel itself is the blackberries.  It’s really juicy, some cranberry and then the bourbon barrel aging process is just where you get some like dried herbs, oregano, thyme.  Toffee characteristics from the toastiness of the bourbon barrel itself. 

The point is to have a really strong wine. We want to have a really strong wine. We don’t want it to waft bourbon and we don’t want the bourbon to sit on top of the wine.  We want them to be really integrated and just like a finish, not overwhelming or overpowering.

It’s very well balanced. Were there any challenges in finding the balance or was it pretty straightforward?

 

Margaret Leonardi: It’s not pretty straightforward. We wish.  The barrels coming from the distillers can vary.  They can be emptied the week before [and be very fresh]. They can be emptied a month [and be less fresh]. So how much has evaporated, how much has been absorbed into the wood.  Those are unknown factors. So it’s a bunch of trial and error. So it’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. We want some consistency, but we want a little bit of difference. 

You’ve mentioned Sebastian Donoso. Tell us about him. How the two of you balance roles.

Margaret Leonardi: He’s the winemaker for the Bourbon Barrel Aged Wines. Before we were both collaborating with Bob, it was more like a team effort.  When Bob stepped down, we also had the new American Barrel Aged Pinot and Chard and the Sauvignon Blanc’s brand new.

Sebastian took the Bourbon Barrel Aged because he was working on those more, and then I took the other half.  We work together.

Before we move on, I don’t want to forget the Sauvignon Blanc. Process, styles, aromas, the taste?

Margaret Leonardi: This just came out in April of this year so I’m really excited. I think it’s still working its way across the nation, but I’m really happy with this wine. I really like the way it came out and I got to make it from scratch. I made exactly what I wanted.  It’s nice when you make something that you really like to drink too.  The fruit that we source for this comes from the majority from the Arroyo Seco region, so down Monterey, central coast of California, which is just a really nice growing region, Bay Area influence.  Warm days and then cool evenings. A little bit comes from just up here in Mendocino County. Then the rest is from Lodi. 

A unique thing is it’s blended with 10% Viognier. The Viognier is an ironic blender for Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s like in the spirit of things bold, I have this Viognier that I really like.  It’s really concentrated, ripened flavors. A lot of peach and nectarine flavors, so I thought it could be really interesting in a Sauvignon Blanc.

I fermented them separate and then blended this percentage in there and It’s really interesting because the Sauvignon Blanc has a little bit of grassy, grapefruit, citrus aromas, 

The Viognier twist makes it almost a little floral, but you get those white peach, stone fruit flavors pop a little more because of that Viognier.

It’s all stainless steel, fermented and aged, so it has no oak contact. I do some concrete eggs. I think it enhances the texture and makes it a little more mineral-y.

 

Are you a foodie?  Can you please suggest some really delicious dishes that pair with these bottles?

Margaret Leonardi: That is a nice thing about our portfolio expanding,  because before we had the three reds. So it’s similar food pairings. Now that we’ve expanded, we can have almost a wine for any dish. The Zinfandel and all of the bourbon barrel aged wines go really great with barbecue or smoked meat, ribs, red meats.  It’s a good “occasion wine”, right? If you’re going to a friend’s house for a barbecue or somewhere where you want to grab a bottle of wine, but you aren’t sure what – it’s a crowd pleaser, it’s a perfect conversation starter.  Sporting events soccer games, Super Bowl, that kind of thing.

Then the Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with oysters, light sauce pastas, cream based pastas.  It’s also great just appetizer wine. I think the Viognier is different. It is fun to start with it. So if you’re coming over and not sure what to open or if you’re having a dinner party, it’s like a great wine to kick off the night with.

You can explore it and then it transitions well with food, especially as it warms up a little.

Where we can find you follow and find that all this stuff both to buy as well as on social media

Margaret Leonardi: The brand as a whole is available through our website.  They’re also available at any grocery stores around the whole country.

For our social media, our Instagram is 1000 Stories Wines. We have a Facebook, a YouTube, and TikTok.  

 

More Flavor for Philly! Chilli No. 5 Unveils Hunted Alba White Truffles for a Limited Time

More Flavor for Philly! Chilli No. 5 Unveils Hunted Alba White Truffles for a Limited Time

Chilli No. 5 launches a new batch of 50 bottles of magnificent White Truffle Hot Sauce to compete with Truff, the industry leader and USA truffle sauce master.

The only difference is Chilli No. 5 uses real white truffles from Alba in the Piemont and has won the Great Taste Award in 23.

Priced at £25/30€/$ per 100ml, it solidifies its position as one of the priciest and fanciest hot sauces in the global market.

 

Every October, Chilli No. 5 founder Rumble Romagnoli visits Alba in Northern Italy to hunt and handpick white and black truffles that are used to make a yearly batch of the Chilli No. 5 White Truffle Hot sauce.

Truffle Hunter - Renzo, and Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dog - Charlie

Truffle Hunter – Renzo, and Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dog – Charlie

The team has a dedicated Truffle Hunter – Renzo, and Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dog – Charlie to find the best truffles in the world. They also benefit from access to the truffle forest that has belonged to Renzo’s family for generations.

“Truffles are like diamonds. They cannot be made.

You have to find them.

Rumble Romagnoli

founder

“…Each one is unique. Close your eyes and bring the forest to life with this uber-umami white truffle sauce unmatched so far in the industry.” – Rumble Romagnoli founder says.

Romagnoli adds “You can understand that no expense was spared in sourcing the finest white truffles, carefully handpicked to ensure their unparalleled quality and aroma. Blended with a mix of fresh mushrooms such as Porcini, Ceps, Chantrelles, Girolles, and Morilles, this creation is a true culinary gem.”

According to the Great Taste Award Judges “It becomes clear very quickly that this sauce has been made with real skill. The truffle is very much present but tamed at all times. The additional mushrooms combine for a really characterful sauce that offers umami in spades but has some acidity, tang and sweetness too. On top of all this artistry, there’s the late and subtle arrival of chilli heat to round it all off. This is a very complex sauce, but very accessible too.”

This unique White Truffle Hot Sauce will be a versatile addition to kitchens, grills, and BBQs all over the world used not only as a condiment, but also as marinade, and a BBQ sauce. Traditionally, truffle is used on plain pasta, risotto, or grilled meats to enhance the complexity of this unique flavour. The intoxicating aroma and robust, earthy flavour of white truffles create a truly sensory experience that will transport you to a world of culinary luxury.

Chilli No. 5’s White Truffle Sauce is a limited-edition offering, available for a limited time as only 50 bottles are produced each season. This new batch left the Chilli No. 5 kitchens today, so don’t miss the opportunity to add this rare delight to your upcoming culinary repertoire.

Chilli No. 5’s White Truffle Sauce is the perfect choice for discerning home cooks, food enthusiasts, and those seeking to impress guests with a touch of decadence. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion, hosting an intimate dinner party, or simply indulging in a gourmet home-cooked meal, this sauce will leave a lasting impression.

This limited-edition White Truffle Hot sauce goes with everything and is perfect for a chilli sauce gift in its designer sustainable packaging.

To explore the rich flavors of Chilli No. 5’s White Truffle Sauce and elevate your culinary creations, visit Chilli No. 5’s Website.

 

Legendary Pittsburgh Restauranteur Joseph Costanzo Jr. Reveals all in Memoir with “On The Rocks”

Legendary Pittsburgh Restauranteur Joseph Costanzo Jr. Reveals all in his Tasty Memoir with “On The Rocks”

On the Rocks chronicles the real-life journey of restaurateur Joseph Costanzo Jr., from his rise to success in the 1990s as a owner of the highly acclaimed Primadonna Restaurant, radio host, columnist, and aspiring politician to his sharp fall in the early 2000s, ending in an investigation and a stint in federal prison.

Costanzo is a complex character, whom readers will admire for his confidence and rebuke for his arrogance, will love for his generosity and despise for his egotism, and will learn from in both his attention to detail and lack thereof.

This driven, not-your-average-Joe is an unforgettable character who achieves the seemingly impossible but can’t help getting in his own way. Come along with Joe for a bumpy ride on the rocks

On the Rocks: The Primadonna Story, co-written by Maria C. Palmer and Ruthie Robbins is available now on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart, Target.  Signed copies at the Heinz History Center. Also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Today, we’re having a conversation with all three: Joseph Costanzo Jr., co-writers Maria C. Palmer and Ruthie Robbins.

The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.  Find the un-edited conversation on our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

Something that I find amazing, this book has been 17 years in the process. Is that an accurate piece of trivia?

Maria C. Palmer: 100%. Yes, that is a very accurate piece of trivia.

So way back 17 years ago, what sparked this for you?

Maria C. Palmer: A couple of things. I think that because the restaurant was such a significant part of our lives, and it was always the highlight of my father’s life. Once it went away, the spark kind of went away, too. And I wanted to bring that back in my Dad. So I started asking him lots of questions about his life. Specifically for a family history. At the time, being a writer myself, in addition to grant writing, I’m also a writer and I can really spot a good story that has commercial value.

On The Rocks co-author Maria C. Palmer

On The Rocks co-author Maria C. Palmer

There were just so many wonderful elements to his story. So I started recording some vignettes of different things that had happened throughout his life. But not really knowing and or intending at the time that it would be a book. 

But as we went on, I saw that the potential was there and I was lucky enough to still be in contact with my former teacher, Ruthie Dines Robbins and brought the project to her and asked her if she would be willing to work on it with me.

It was really from there that we decided it would become a book and that we would work together diligently for probably 10 years together.

Ruthie Robbins: I’m only 7 years.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: They had it in Maria’s voice originally. Ruthie was in a book club and they said, “Put it in Joe’s voice and they had to go back and change the whole book.”  I watched 11, 000 emails back and forth. 

Ruthie Robbins: We were not primarily emailing. We were mostly talking and texting, and that year was the pandemic year. So I was off teaching that winter and the following fall.

 

Before we get into the restaurant itself, what was the writing process like?

Maria C. Palmer: I can speak to the family history and just the overall process of it. It was really challenging. Because whenever you’re writing a memoir or a biography, You’re not writing a Wikipedia page. So it’s not from the time somebody is born until the time that they pass away.

You’re picking the most poignant time in their lives. Not only cherry picking all the good things that happened during that time period, but you’re picking some of the challenges too, because that’s what makes a good story. 

It was challenging to figure out what the storyline was going to be and sometimes to tell those hard parts of the story.

What was even more challenging, was just the nebulous nature of the publishing industry.  I just thought you wrote a book, it’s on Amazon and then people buy it. And that could not be further from the truth. Query letters.  Polished one page, a 90,000 word manuscript.  A whole book proposal.  An entire business plan of why we’re writing the book and why it’s going to sell into the market. Requiring that much to not even get a thanks,, but just no response whatsoever.

Ruthie Robbins: Totally agree. The writing was not arduous part because Maria and I get along so well.. We’re real partners, but this publishing thing.  We really didn’t understand the process, so it is difficult, and especially in this genre, [competing with] the celebrities and athletes and reality stars who wrote memoirs.  They want a name on the shelf that someone will pick up in a bookstore. 

 

Mr. Costanzo, one of my favorite parts of this book is the wine mentions.  Tell us your “Pin on the wall” story.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Yeah we’re in a tough neighborhood, but we brought in a lot of people outside the area and upscale people,  limos, what have you. 

I had a bus boy and he was a really good worker. He became a server and he came to me after he got the drink order and said, ”what’s a pin on the wall?”

I never heard of a “Pin on the Wall”. So we went to the bartender. He didn’t know either.  We looked it up, nothing. 

So I went out there to ask the customers, so we could make it for them  – and one of the most mortal sins at the Primadonna was making Joe Costanzo look bad – I said, excuse me what’s in a Pin on a Wall and they all started laughing. The guy said, “Pinot Noir.”

They’re laughing at me.  That’s bad. So I went in and I really did a job on this kid.  My wife grabbed me by my tie and pushed me downstairs to my office.

I was in this kid’s face because he really wasn’t real serious about the situation.  If you’re going to be the best at what you’re doing, you can’t be messing up like that.

He ended up being great.  Chris, who was the server, became a maitre’d and a great employee of mine.  He was very loyal. I really went overboard with him and I did feel bad about it. 

 

Reviews are incredibly important.  The amount of work and effort you put in to get your Four Forks Review. Tell us a little bit about what happened.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Because the area was an old steel town which had a reputation of a lot of fighting, a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs, nobody would come into that area to eat.

I knew I needed credibility, and the only way I would get credibility was through the Pittsburgh Post, because the dining critic, Mike Kalina,  who was a syndicated columnist, had tremendous credibility. KDKA TV, Post Gazette, New York Daily News.

For two and a half years, I kept reaching out to him.  This is in a time before cell phones and emails.

But I knew if he comes down and gives us a good review, people from outside the area, from the upscale areas of the city are going to come in.  That’s what happened. 

But he did say to me, “You deserve four, but I’ll only give you three because you’ll never handle the business.” 

That Friday night, June 3rd 1988, he was 100 percent right. People were lined up at the door. I was used to doing 10-15 dinners a night. We did over 200 dinners that night and it was a total joke. People waited two and a half hours. When food came out of the kitchen, people actually applauded. People were begging me to get him a bottle of vodka because they couldn’t get a drink at the bar. 

We were short of service. We were short of bartenders. I made it all work in the next couple of weeks and I hired people.

 

I don’t want to ruin the upcoming movie or TV series, but when you trimmed it down, how much heartbreak was there in cutting out so many stories?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: It was very tough. We had a book signing in August. I kept telling people they were in the book, and they were in the draft I read.  But there were final touches that I didn’t see and we lost a lot of names and alot of stories.  So I really felt bad. I found the actual early draft and sent copies to those people.  This should be in a book, but it will be in the movie, I guarantee you.

Ruthie Robbins:  It was so hard. We did a lot of fact checking when we wrote, because memories are so unreliable. We talked to people who were in the original book [draft] and they expected to be more.  And on top of that, you try to end the chapter on a cliffhanger.  When you take out a story that changes the number of pages in the chapter, it changes the pace of the book.  That was a terrible editing challenge.

Maria, what was that like for you as the author and the daughter?

Maria C. Palmer: Originally the book was written partially in my voice and partially in my Dad’s voice. It started chronologically for me in my twenties and [had] flashbacks because the story starts in 1986 and I was very young at that time.  It was confusing and it didn’t work.  Everything that I wrote and all that I put my heart and soul into  was all cut from the book. So now I have another book project that I’m working on.

But I will echo what my father and Ruthie said. It was hard because everybody did have a significant piece to the Primadonna story.  

 

Mr. Costanza, it would be an easy assumption to say you’ve lived a big life. Are there one or two things you would have done differently in the stories of the book now looking back on them?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: Sure. When you are hitting all home runs, you tend to believe that everything that you do is gonna be a home run.  I had the most popular restaurant in Western Pennsylvania. Maybe I’m going to do something else, maybe I’ll go into politics.

I spent about $300,000 of my own money to put my name out there. Most people loved Joe Costanzo, but now when you get into politics it’s not that way. So that was probably my biggest regret.

My wife begged me not to do it. She said, Joe, we have a miracle here and you’re going to try for another miracle. And she was right. You may or may not like Joe Costanzo when you read the book, but you will love Donna Costanzo.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: And that’s bottom line. Everybody says the same thing. Joe, it was great. What he did is impossible, but his wife was a saint for putting up with all this stuff that a restaurateur has to go through. 

The theme of hospitality comes out in the book, but you so clearly love people.  What has it been like getting all these people’s responses to this story?

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: This has been unbelievable for me. People are very happy that this all happened this way.  I treated people really well and people wanted to reciprocate.  So exhilarating to me. My life has been very boring, but now it’s really gotten to the point where it’s been great thanks to Maria and Ruthie.

Ruthie Robbins: It’s heartwarming. Especially from former students, the outpouring has brought me to tears sometimes.  It’s reconnecting with people over the book. That has really been so wonderful

Maria C. Palmer: This has been such a 17 year journey. I always believed that there was something special about this story.  Seeing that exactly what I felt in my gut for 17 years is actually playing out in real life.

Whenever we’re in Pittsburgh, it is almost surreal because people are talking about “On The Rocks and it’s really cool and crazy to know that something that you created means so much for people.

Joseph Costanzo Jr.: The big thing which is amazing to me is that the book came out August 8th, 2023. For two weeks, the book was the number one bestselling ebook on Amazon for culinary memoirs. Ahead of Anthony Bourdain’s, Kitchen Confidential and Stanley Tucci’s Taste “On the Rocks” for over two weeks was the number one overall best-selling ebook. Now that’s hard to believe because this was just a Western Pennsylvania thing and Bourdain and Tucci are worldwide known authors and entertainers.

Tell us where we can find the book and all the ways we can keep in touch with this story.

Maria C. Palmer: So the book is really wherever books are sold.  We’re on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart, Target. We’re also at most bookstores.   Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Ruthie Robbins: There’s also signed copies at the Heinz History Center

Scroll to top