Friday, March 21, 2014

3/21 MICHAELA BALTASAR, WASHINGTON STATE WINE, FRANK PELLEGRINO, RAO'S RESTAURANT, STEVE EVANS

MICHAELA BALTASAR -  COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON STATE WINE

Already the second-largest premium wine producer in the country, Washington State is poised to grow Washington State’s wine industry continues to grow, with a record-breaking harvest in 2013, reported the United States Department of Agriculture on Monday. The USDA’s annual grape crush report showed the state’s 2013 grape production totaled 210,000 tons, a 12 percent increase from 2012 and the largest harvest the state has ever seen.

“This is an exciting time for our industry,” said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine, which represents every licensed winery and grape grower in the state. “Wine critics and consumers alike are recognizing the consistent quality of Washington State wine, and we’re responding to that. Grape tonnage has increased steadily since 2011, and as more acreage comes into production, we expect this will be the trend for some time.”

Overall, production of red varieties grew 13 percent from 2012, compared to a 10 percent increase in the production of white varieties. Of the top four producing varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon showed the largest increase, up 19 percent from the previous year for a total of 42,600 tons. This was the first time since 2010 that production of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was higher than Chardonnay.

Chardonnay was the second-largest variety in 2013, with 40,500 tons. In third place was Riesling with 40,100 tons. Merlot ranked fourth with 36,000 tons.

The 2013 vintage in Washington State — the country’s second-largest premium wine producing state — was marked by a warm growing season, which accelerated harvest. However, a drop in temperatures beginning in mid-September slowed the remainder of the growing season, extending it into November. Wine lovers can look for powerful, intense wines from this vintage.

About Washington State Wine: Washington State Wine represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, WSW provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines. Funded almost entirely by the industry through assessments based on grape and wine sales, WSW is a state government agency, established by the legislature in 1987.

www.washingtonwine.org


FRANK PELLEGRINO SR. - RAO'S  RESTAURANT  

The Rao family arrived in New York from the southern Italian town of Pollo, near Naples, in the 1880s and settled amid the scattering of shacks and tenement buildings that were then beginning to sprout up in East Harlem. Charles Rao was a child when his mother and father arrived in New York, which meant he grew up with the distinct advantage of speaking English at the time most of the immigrant Italians were still struggling with the language. A bright and resourceful young man, Charles Rao bought a small saloon from the George Ehret Brewery at the corner of 114th Street and Pleasant Avenue in upper Manhattan. It was 1896. He called the place Rao's.

Charles Rao died in 1909 of a heart attack, and his brother Joseph took over and ran the restaurant until his death in 1930. By then Charlie's sons Louis and Vincent Rao had become the operating owners.

Louis and Vincent kept the bar open during Prohibition. One of the neighborhood families, the Caianos, made their own wine in their cellar next door, and it was pumped into Rao's basement through a hose. Rao's sold the wine for a dollar a bottle.

Louis ran the place until his death in 1958; then his brother Vincent took over. It was Vincent who turned Rao's from a local bar- a place neighborhood people used to call "the Hole" because it was (and is) four steps down from the street- into a restaurant where customers began to return even after they moved out of the neighborhood. Vincent loved food. He loved food. He loved to cook. He especially enjoyed grilling steaks and chops and chicken on a charcoal grill he set up on the street right outside the entry. The first Rao's regulars returned primarily for Vincent's steaks and chops.

By 1974, business had become so brisk that help was required in the form of Vincent's wife, Anna Pellegrino Rao, who arrived from their house next door with her pots and recipes. Anna was an unlikely restaurant chef. She was as elegant as her husband was homespun. Her look included a slim figure, a long gold cigarette holder, tightly upswept white-blond hair, white cashmere slacks and turtlenecks, gold sandals, monogrammed tinted glasses, and a single strand of pearls. When longtime regular Woody Allen made Broadway Danny Rose, he based Mia Farrow's look on Anna Rao's distinctive appearance. Anna's deft touch improved all the traditional Italian dishes, and Rao's became a favorite for a small army of steady customers.

Over the years, Rao's has probably survived because its owners have refused to change. They did not expand by filling the floors above the kitchen with additional tables, as they were advised. In the late sixties and early seventies, when East Harlem neighborhood began its decline, Rao's did not move downtown, as was suggested by many of its customers. As a result, Rao's has become a sort of time-capsule restaurant that allows its customers to dip back into an earlier period and experience a neighborhood restaurant as it was.

raosrestaurants.com

STEVE EVANS - "THE MOVIE GUY"

GREAT MOVIES OPENING THIS WEEKEND AND BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS AND HOPES. FIND OUT WHAT MOVIES ARE WORTH YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY. GET SET FOR THE WEEKEND.

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