I Found Fabulous Fare in Fun Philadelphia

20141203Philadelphia-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A1089273

I like alliteration. That is probably fairly obvious to anyone who reads this blog with any regularity. Indeed, I couldn’t resist the appropriate alliteration of the title above. Thankfully, though I thought about it and was tempted, I resisted the urge to utilize the cliched conceit of using “Ph” in lieu of “F” in that title.

Continue reading


Posted in Architecture, Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Hotels, Pastry, Philadelphia, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Making of My Favorite Cocktail of 2014 – Betony’s Milk Punch

Eamon Rockey at Betony

Eamon Rockey at Betony

I’ve enjoyed cocktails for a long time, but 2014 was a watershed year for me, both in making and drinking cocktails. It is fun to experiment creating new cocktails and it is even more fun to drink them, especially when they are well made. As much fun as I have making them, though, the best bartenders at the top of their games make me stand in awe. None humbled me more in 2014 than the Milk Punch at Betony as made by Eamon Rockey. Milk Punch appears to be in vogue nationally and I had and enjoyed a few at various venues around the country. While a number of them were very good, none approached the complexity, clarity, beauty and deliciousness of the ones I experienced at Betony. I asked Rockey, the General Manager of Betony if he would show me how they made the clarified cocktail. He graciously agreed and here is the result.  My editing skills being what they are, the video is not brief, but I suspect that it will be of interest to those who are curious about what goes into a truly artisanal bar program.

Betony’s Milk Punch from John Sconzo on Vimeo.

Original music, “Hey, B.B. (Take 2), is composed and played by my nephew, Lucas Sconzo for this video.


Posted in Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Music, New York City, Recipes, Restaurants, Slow Food, Top Tastes, Travel, Video | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yirgacheffe and Olives at Mockingbird Hill

20141122Washington-EF24-105mm f-4L IS USMBU4A0719020

This was entirely unintuitive to me. During a tasting of three different Ethiopian Yirgacheffe brews at Washington DC’s Mockingbird Hill, a fantastic sherry and coffee bar from Derek Brown and company, I was given a plate of olives to go with the coffee. I looked at Cory Andreen, the Mockingbird Hill coffee master and winner of the 2012 World Cup Tasters Championship, quizzically, thinking, “huh?” He assured me that all would be well with the world and to try the olives immediately after sipping the coffees. I was blown away by the combination, which paired seamlessly with all three coffees and especially with the wonderfully cheesy funkiness of the one naturally sun-dried coffee, the Wonago from London, England’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters. The other two Yirgacheffes, delicious with great depths of flavor in their own rights had been washed and lacked the tell-tale funkiness of the Wonago. As with the coffee procured from London, these expressed Mockingbird Hill’s efforts at securing top roasts from around the world. The first was the Hunkute from Oslo, Norway’s Tim Wendelboe and the second was the Chelba from Portland, Oregon’s Heart Coffee Roasters. The entire brewing and tasting process was a total pleasure and the added epiphany of the olive/coffee pairing catapulted the tasting to a special level worth sharing here. Continue reading


Posted in Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Food and Drink, Restaurants, Slow Food, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Washington, D.C. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rose’s Luxury – A Capital Treat

Chef-owner Aaron Silverman

Chef-owner Aaron Silverman

Major awards and honors can undermine what caused success to begin with. Bon Appétit Magazine recently named Rose’s Luxury, in Washington, D.C., the Best New Restaurant for 2014 in the entire United States. While certainly gratifying, that creates a lot of additional pressure to live up to the hype that goes along with the recognition. The demand on Rose’s Luxury has sky-rocketed and what used to be little or no wait for a table in this no-reservations establishment, now has blossomed into people waiting for an hour or more even before the restaurant opens for service. It would be understandable for a restaurant to wilt under that kind of pressure. At Rose’s Luxury, though, it helps one to more fully understand what garnered it the accolades in the first place. They have managed to make the very act of waiting for a table or a spot at the action-packed counter an actual positive. I arrived at about 3:45PM to find people already waiting for the 5PM opening. During the wait, I managed to make friends with a few people, including a noted Darwin scholar and her husband who chose to return to celebrate his 73rd birthday, while sipping hot cider handed out by the restaurant. Continue reading


Posted in Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Pastry, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Southern Food & Cooking, Top Restaurant Meals, Travel, Washington, D.C. | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking Honest: StarChefs’ 2014 Day One

Cooking Honest: The Power of Authenticity in the Kitchen

Paul Liebrandt focused on idiosyncracy, imagination and presentation.

Paul Liebrandt focused on idiosyncracy, imagination and presentation.

The 9th annual International Chefs’ Congress kicked off as they always do, with hands-on workshops led by some of the world’s best chefs. Right out of the gate, New York favorite Paul Liebrandt gave us “Idiosyncracy, Imagination and Presentation at the Elm”, in which he demonstrated how to make a favorite dessert: the Gold Bar. While he worked and taught at the front, this lucky auditor tried his hand at plating the coated ganache, gilding it with leafs of gold, green and violet. Continue reading


Posted in Amaris Galea-Orbe, Bistronomic, Cheese, Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, CVap, Family, Fermentation, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Food Events, LJ Sconzo, New York City, Pastry, Regional, Restaurants, Science, Slow Food, Southern Food & Cooking, Starchefs, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Week of Food and Drink in New Orleans

Soft shell crab in October

Soft shell crab in October

When the waiter at Commander’s Palace told me that the soft shell crabs on the menu in October were fresh and not frozen, I scoffed. Everyone knows that the season for soft shell blue crabs in the Gulf and along the Atlantic seaboard is spring and early summer! Or so I thought I knew. It turns out that when the weather is hot in the Gulf of Mexico, as it had been, the season can actually extend into the fall. This may not be widely known because there aren’t many that fit the bill and are caught. Those that are, however, tend to find their way onto the menus of the most well known and oldest restaurants in New Orleans, who have the most well-established and preferred supply lines. Commander’s fits that bill and the soft-shell crab that my wife had ordered was a true specimen. It was a giant fried crisp on the outside and served over a salad. It was indeed fresh. Continue reading


Posted in Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, New Orleans, Pastry, Regional, Restaurants, Slow Food, Southern Food & Cooking, The Southern USA, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Time at Atera

BU4A6878

My first time at Atera was shortly after it opened. It was excellent, but perhaps a touch derivative. My second time, last year, showed a more assured and refined voice, that I found to be exceptional, stating

That first meal was exciting because it was fresh for NYC and very, very good. This one, however, was even more exciting, because it showed that the voice of a top young chef has grown more clear, refined and personal as well as being even more delicious. Pair that with some of the finest service around, an intimate setting conducive to conviviality (each time we made friends with our neighbors at the u-shaped dining bar overlooking the open kitchen) and a great beverage program and one has a recipe for one of the very best restaurants in the country, let alone NYC.

Clearly, it was a restaurant that had spoken to me and one that I had enjoyed immensely. Sometimes those restaurants can be the most difficult to return to. Expectations can be so high, that they may be difficult to live up to. I need not have been concerned though, because my third time, and for the first time accompanied by my wife, somehow, actually exceeded my already high expectations, confirming and solidifying my view that Atera is one of the very finest restaurants in all the land, perched with but a hand full of others and not meaningfully exceeded by any. Continue reading


Posted in Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, New York City, Pastry, Restaurants, Slow Food, Top Restaurant Meals, Top Tastes, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Imbibe and Inspire – An Interview With Jeremiah Tower

Dewar's Ad 1989

Dewar’s Ad 1989

One can make a very strong argument that without Jeremiah Tower and his work at Chez Panisse and Stars amongst other places, American cuisine today, would have reached the heights that it has. The aptly named Tower has been a giant amongst chefs almost from the day that he first stepped foot into Chez Panisse and was one of the first “star” chefs in the country, but it is gratifying to see him now receiving the respect from today’s young chefs that he so richly deserves. He recently stood out at the MAD 4 conference in Copenhagen and next week will be honored at Stephen Torres’ Imbibe and Inspire: The Roots of American Food conference and dinners in Chicago at the Wyndham Grand Hotel and L2O restaurant. I recently had the honor of interviewing Chef Tower, who currently lives in Mexico, via email. Here is the transcript: Continue reading


Posted in Culinary Personalities, Food and Drink, Imbibe & Inspire | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Affair at Frankie’s 570

BU4A6611Why do people go to restaurants? The most obvious answer is to eat and that is certainly true. There is little point in going to a restaurant if not to eat, but one does not necessarily need to go to a restaurant to eat. On most evenings either my wife or I cook at home. The main reasons I choose to go to restaurants are for food superior and/or different to what we cook at home, to socialize with friends and family or  when we are simply too tired or lazy to cook or clean for ourselves. Fortunately for us, the last reason is a relatively rare occurrence. The vast majority of the time, we go out to restaurants to experience the cooking of chefs who really know what they are doing and do it very, very well. Even when the primary purpose is to gather with friends or family, it is important to do so at a restaurant that will provide a meal that is fulfilling and delicious with an environment conducive to enjoying the company of one’s dining partners. In those situations, the overall quality of the experience is more important than the novelty or creativity of the food. The food must be delicious, but need not necessarily be cutting edge. Such was the case this past weekend when my wife and I got together with several of my siblings and their spouses to honor our father for what would have been his 102nd birthday. Continue reading


Posted in Cheese, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Family, Food and Drink, New York City, Pastry, Restaurants, Slow Food, Traditional Ethnic, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Joy of The Journey – To Burlington and Back

BU4A6520It used to be that the journey was half the fun and something to be looked forward to as much as actually arriving at a destination. In today’s fast-paced, security obsessed, bottom-line oriented world, that has become less and less common. In most cases, the journey, because of events like my experience with Aero Mexico, as well as more tragic and nefarious episodes such as have dominated recent news headlines since 9/11, has become something to dread. Between security issues, airline financial woes and other problems, the actual act of traveling is rarely enjoyable in its own right, anymore. Every once in a while, though, the act of traveling turns out to have been great fun.

Continue reading


Posted in At the Market, Bistronomic, Cocktails & Libations, Culinary Personalities, Culinary Shopping, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, New England, Pastry, Regional, Slow Food, Top Tastes, Travel, Upstate NY, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment