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Everyone has a favorite coffee shop in Manhattan. We each like to think ours is somehow better than everyone else’s, as if we would not be seen in any other spot. I doubt there is a single best coffee shop; there are too many great coffee places in New York (think Eddie Murphy grinning while showing off the “world’s best coffee” in Coming To America). That said Irving Farm is my favorite shop on the Upper West Side and the company from which I buy all of my coffee; it has become a second home to me.

The latest Nebbiolo releases have arrived. Here’s an up close look at 2011 and 2012 Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero at historic and innovative wineries in the Alba area.

At once beguilingly sweet and juicy, with a kiss of tartness, cherries are seduction on a stem. And the fruit’s appeal is only enhanced by its limited availability within a season that lasts just a few weeks in most locales, and less than three months overall across the country. Although most other fruits are now predictable fixtures in the food supply, the cherry’s appearance marks a moment for restaurants to enjoy—and exploit—one of nature’s special treats.

Many spirits enthusiasts not only are embracing the classic brands and styles but also are seeking out new tastes, often presented in cocktails made from an ever-increasing and dazzling medley of ingredients. To capitalize on these trends, suppliers have concocted a genuinely innovative and exciting generation of original spirits.

It is no secret that business is bubbling for Italy’s Prosecco producers. Total Prosecco sales here in the U.S. now easily surpass Champagne sales and are still growing at a 25% clip.  With a friendly, fruit-forward profile, lower alcohol content and moderate price tag, more and more customers are choosing to forego traditional Champagne and order Prosecco instead. It seems that Prosecco has carved out its own niche, a bubbly with a more informal, sprezzatura image, bucking the conventional notion of formality, celebration and splurge. In fact, along with a smaller, but undeniable Cava resurgence, Proseccos have boosted sparkling wine consumption in the U.S. by nearly 50% in less than a decade.

At a handful of restaurant bars around the country, you’re likely to find the bartender in the kitchen—well before prime bar time—using a Vita-Prep or a Cryovac. He or she may be taring a laboratory scale to weigh out precise amounts of gelatin or xanthan. or maybe the bartender is rolling out a liquid-nitrogen tank to perform a spherification or clarification technique for a component of a libation in progress. What’s going on here?

Americans love lamb, but they rarely prepare it at home. Perhaps because it is more expensive than other red meats or because of its traditional reputation as a food reserved for holidays, Americans have left cooking lamb largely to the restaurant experts. It’s not surprising that 75 percent of white tablecloth restaurants feature some kind of lamb on the menu.

Kyle Branche

 et al.

If you are breaking into the bar business, you must recognize your weaknesses and seek expert advice. Hiring a professional bar consultant from the beginning can help your venue get off to a flying start and keep it soaring.

At its best, cocktail mixology is truly an art, engaging each of the human senses—for example, the feel of the proper weight of the glass and the thin rim, which delivers an elegant sensation to the lips; or the aromas of fresh mint and nutmeg, which transport the recipient of these scents to remote lands or memories of childhood. And just as sweet or pungent smells differ from each other by virtue of their different stimulation of the senses, so also do colors vary and evoke different emotions. A drink becomes impressive when it succeeds in touching the sensibility of the guest by finding the avenue to his or her brain and heart.

Just as real estate professionals have their mantra, “location, location, location,” when describing the properties that are valued most, restaurateurs have their own dictum for success: “staff, staff, staff.” Without a committed, hardworking staff, even the best of fine establishments will falter. And it’s no secret that dissatisfied or dishonest employees, prima donnas, and incompetent managers can and do wreak havoc in both the back and front of the house.

Too many wine buyers approach the buying process without a concrete plan in place. Buying decisions are often made on a whim, driven by supplier, score, or perhaps sommelier ego. To make the buying process more objective, I created a concept that I call “list mapping.”

Despite an interest of specialty cocktails in restaurants, there are probably a few lonely bottles of timeless aperitifs on your backbar that haven’t been touched in months. That’s a shame, because Lillet, Pernod, Punt e Mes, Cynar, and fino Sherry are perfect before-dinner drinks, filled with classic flavors that inspire the taste buds for the meal ahead.

Choosing which rums to stock is similar to selecting candidates to fill a particular category on a wine list (e.g., Zinfandel). Like wine, rum is made in many different styles, with each well-made product possessing singular qualities and characteristics. A worthy goal is to develop a selection that will intrigue your clientele and adequately cover the spectrum of possibilities.

What Is an Añejo Rum?
Fermentation, alembic-still distillation, and barrel aging all contribute to making aged rums exceptional spirits—aromatic, full bodied, and full flavored, with long-lasting finishes.

To ensure heightened wine sales now and for years to come, it would be wise for hospitality professionals to create sales-building programs that cater to these extremely stable—and thirsty— consumers.

All restaurateurs would agree that controlling food costs is a primary constituent of any winning operating formula. Culinary schools cover the subject in detail, and self-taught chef/owners develop a working system or quickly go out of business. At Toulouse and Portofino, my restaurants in Atlanta, we’ve developed a method of costing out each menu item plate we serve.

It’s been said that you can tell the mood of a chef by eating his or her food. Similarly, it’s been argued that winemakers and their wines resemble one another. In the case of restaurant staffs, the attitudes of managers are reflected in the demeanor of employees under them.

Kyle Branche

 et al.

Each night you brace yourself for that moment of the evening when the pace of activity behind the bar shifts from a comfortable cruise-control to pedal-to-the- metal overdrive. In anticipation, you’ve prepped during the shift’s quiet time so you can deliver your best-selling cocktail with ease. But what quality of drink will you be serving?

Geographically, Latin cuisine covers an enormous stretch of the globe. But philosophically, it can be reduced to one simple idea: flavor definition. At least that is what Guillermo Pernot, chef-owner of Cuba Libre restaurants believes and strives to achieve. When it comes to Latin food, he claims, “Cooks tend to overdo, rather than allowing the essence of foods to peek through . . .

You’ve probably heard the adage that the only constant is change. It’s especially true in the beverage industry, where manufacturers continue to introduce new products to capture the imagination of spirits enthusiasts.

There was a time when wars were fought, continents discovered, and fortunes made all in the pursuit of spices. This is what it is like in Chef Floyd Cardoz’s kitchen. His kitchen is a veritable court of flavor, spices gain a fine measure of their former glory, as well as much of their old-world appearance.

Essentials of Indian spices.

Monterey. The name evokes so many vivid Californian and American images . . . John Steinbeck and Cannery Row, a beautiful bay teeming with deep-sea fish and mammals, abalones, seaside golf, a picturesque Carmel artists’ colony, a rugged coastline of surf-torn rocks and steep mountains . . . and wine. Yes, Monterey County’s wines deserve acclaim on the order of every other magnificent Monterey attraction.