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Being served wine at a restaurant can sometimes seem more like the Tour de Franzia than a relaxing evening out.
The sommelier watches over. You sniff. You swirl. You sip. You gargle. You nod. It's mostly because we’ve seen the ritual played out in movies and by oenophiles at neighboring tables, and it just seems like the appropriate thing to do at the time.
Let's face it: there's a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding wine service, and very few of us know what the heck the formality actually aims to achieve. That's where Talia Baiocchi comes in.
Baiocchi is the editor-in-chief of WineChap.com - a Web site that delivers reviews of more than 150 New York City restaurant wine lists. Now, she’s here to debunk those age-old restaurant wine rituals - no pretense required.
Demystifying Five Restaurant Wine Rituals: Talia Baiocchi
Gordon Ramsay, she is not. Cooking instructor Miyoko Isamura is a sweet Tokyo grandmother, always smiling and encouraging her students to gambatte (“try your best”).
Her Joy Cook and Culture Studio is an adjunct to her home, decorated with family photos. And her students are not budding Top Chefs, but shufu: Japanese housewives in their late 20s to late 30s.
There’s a class for young brides, and another for impressing dinner party guests. When we arrive for the Chinese home cooking lesson, Isomura has the ingredients primly sorted in trays for her five students.
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I've grown a lot as a person since yesterday afternoon. I'm not the same girl who strode optimistic and hungry-eyed up to the bar of a celebrity chef's eponymous outpost at JFK's Delta terminal. I had time to kill, several dollars to burn and I believed...BELIEVED (okay, sort of) in the notion that if a chef has his name on the door (or, uh, the bar overhang thingy or host podium), it's a tacit agreement with diners that even if he's not there, the standards of his flagship restaurants will be upheld.
Now I'm just another sucker who shelled out $35 for a glass of middling Tempranillo and a bewildering stack of crabmeat nachos in an airport bar that smelled of janitorial products and soggy tomatoes - and was nearly late to the boarding gate, for the privilege of it.
It does not have to be this way. Other chefs branch into quicker, lower price point service, separate from their mothership, and diners' socks can be substantially rocked.
Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery turns out the smashing ham and cheese baguettes and heirloom tomato and brie sandwiches that keep the Eatocracy machine a-churning along (at approximately 1/27.5th the cost of dinner at his other eatery in the Time Warner Center), and Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft sandwich chain reliably vends an audacious, pungent, anchovy and egg sandwich that I think of fondly, wistfully in the rare moments that there's not one actually entering my face.
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