Wine We Drink: Shinn Estate Vineyards – Six Barrels Reserve Merlot 2002

I think this bottle is from one of our first visits to Shinn in Mattituck on the North Fork of Long Island. We were lucky enough to arrive on a slow day and Barbara walked with just Liz and me out into the vineyard to chat about the types of grapes planted and planned and the biodynamic grape farming processes they employ (She does this as a paid tour now and so worth it)

Wineries: Bodegas Ysios: Calatrava’s Riojan castle is crumbling.

Bodegas Ysios was one of the first wineries to be completed in the Rioja region by the parade of starchitects - designed by Santiago Calatrava in 2000 and opened to the public (by appointment only) in 2003. Liz and I visited the winery grounds during our first trip to Spain in 2003 when the estate vines were just tiny clusters of leaves on the ground. We actually stumbled upon this stunning structure as we peered across the valley from the hill town of Laguardia and since we were rushing from one town to the next (as always) we didn't have time to inquire about a tour. We did drive up to the building - drawn in by the contrast of the glittering aluminum roof and the bleached cedar walls with the granite and green mountain range behind.

Restaurants: Pic: Ultimately, more excited to meet the chef than to eat her creations.

Valence, France / July 14, 2009 / dinner Winederlust Rating (details below): 6.75 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: No We were looking forward to eating here because Anne-Sophie Pic was the only female chef in France to crack the male-dominated French chef culture and be awarded three Michelin stars. (Plus she’s young – 39 – and petite, like me.) But we were also scared because when we looked up her tasting menu online the night before we visited, it said it was 395 euros.Per person.

Restaurants: Troisgros: And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.

Since it was lunch and we'd need to drive back to Lyon afterward (plus we were hoping to hit some wineries in Beaujolais and were still pretty jet-lagged and not feeling 100 percent), we opted for a half bottle of the 2005 Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage, a red from an up-and-coming producer in the Northern Rhone, to go along with our tasting menu of 147 euros each, not very creatively titled “Impressions d’été” (impressions of summer). As we would come to realize was commonplace at these types of restaurants in France, Jay was given the menu with prices while I, the innocent female, received the one without. (Jay also thought that the waiters, all men, didn’t look me in the eye while describing or presenting the dishes, but I honestly didn’t notice. If so, it was more subtle than when we went to India last year!)

Restaurants: Fat Duck: How about a nice cup of tea?

Getting into Fat Duck – thought by many to be the “second best restaurant in the world,” narrowly trailing El Bulli, outside of Barcelona – was a huge surprise, to say the least. Eating here was really the only reason we had decided to go to England at the beginning of our culinary trip instead of straight to France. We called two months earlier to try to get in, in the middle of the night U.S. time, at first getting nothing but a busy signal for 45 minutes and then being put on hold for half an hour, forced to listen to a reading of “Alice in Wonderland” (more on that theme later). Finally, after Jay was able to speak to a real, live person, we were put on the waiting list; however, they could not tell us WHERE we were on the list. Jay was optimistic that we would get in and still wanted to go to London, but I thought that our chances were slim to none. Jay even called Fat Duck the day before we left for our trip to see if there were any cancelations, but no luck.

Restaurants: Yauatcha: Modern dim sum plus decadent desserts.

We weren’t sure what to expect when Jay reserved this (one-star Michelin) London restaurant as the first meal after our trans-Atlantic flight from New York. We talked about getting traditional British tea, but the menu here – creative takes on the old-fashioned tea service with dim sum with or without sandwiches, green tea scones, and Asian-influenced French desserts – sounded intriguing, and the atmosphere looked like it would be hipper than a stodgy old tearoom.