Friday, October 10, 2008

Wine - The Original Liquid Asset

The world has changed. Markets have unraveled, credit has all but dried up, and an interdependent global economy has been stunted by the concentrated greed and short-sightedness of certain members of the American economy. Now with governments scrambling to act but not knowing where to begin, and no end in sight, we the common people, must sit and wait as we helplessly bear witness to the onerous and precipitous freefall of wealth and home values across the world. Crisis looms just over the horizon…

With an outlook as grim as that, we need a drink!

Fortunately, wine has been providing a lively and cost-effective escape from human woes for centuries. Historically, it has been seen as a mere physical aide in the mental escape from earthly troubles (read: get drunk and forget). But in these trying times, people have begun to see more than just drinkability in wine. Articles are being written and funds are being raised to take advantage of the increased interest in “liquid assets”. Investor money has begun to see a new way to enjoy this heavenly nectar – ownership. In previous posts, the UE has highlighted to the reader the beginnings of what has become a new craze in an already mentally unstable investing world. Like fine art, fine wine appreciates over time, so whether you buy a case of wine today, or buy a family owned vineyard and winery, you stand to potentially make money in a market that has weathered several generations of ups, downs and burnings of Rome.

And now, thanks to a phenomenal woman by the name of Jerryanne Heath, CEO of the avant-garde event and marketing consulting firm ConceptLink
(, we have the opportunity to take part in both the consumption of and learning about investing in wine. She will be hosting a wine tasting event around the topic of “Investment Opportunities in a Down Market”, bringing together two important and often interrelated vices of life – wine and money. Wine has lasted through centuries of flood, famine, war and regime change - isn't it time you looked at wine with more than just a thirsty eye?

Join the UE, Jerryanne and the whole crew on Friday, October 24th from 6-8pm at the Penn Club on 44th St in NYC for a sampling of wines and investor knowledge.

this link for more details and early-bird ticket purchases. See you there!

-The UE

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Stream of Consciousness – A Departure from Reality

Recently, the UE’s travels have propelled him to beautiful, exotic locations, enticing sunset backgrounds for some of the best, and most disappointing, food in his gastronomic career. The trip, aside from being deeply relaxing and overall pleasant, was a springboard for incredibly deep self reflection. Whether it was peering into the night across a bay while enjoying the greatest mojito of all time, or sampling local cuisine off a cart after just finishing an intensely over-sized and equally flavorful omelet, the UE fell head first into a gushing of self reflection.

And what did he learn? To truly understand this, we must take a step back into the dark recesses of his mind and seek out the fluttering bats of truth hiding from the light

Once upon a time, the UE was a significantly different person. Apathetic to his personal success, indifferent to the influence his words could and do have on those around him, doping and boozing (which still happens on occasion), the Urbane Epicurean was more of a Directionless Jack – successful at everything, passionate for not.

The UE has always had a strong appreciation for quality, in every sense of the word. Growing up, my favorite dish would be the most simplistic ramen dishes my Pacific Island mother would concoct using whatever reasonable ingredients lay around the house. (Hint: add a little egg to the boiling stew of ramen noodles and it will increase your pleasure return ten-fold). Quality friends were always a large focus of mine, but not in the sense of people who are on “successful” track or were born in any specific circle. I enjoyed the people who were genuine, honest, and thought. Potheads, yes. Local juve convicts – wave them in. Hippies currently in school for a masters in tree hugging? All day, everyday. Foods come in all shapes, colors, and backgrounds, and I love them all differently and equally. Are you always in the mood to have pizza? No. Are you always in the mood to see the guys you watch football with? No. But just like breakfast, lunch and dinner, they all have their places and times, and to ignore the importance of balance would almost be a sin to the mantra of a foodist.

Demanding the best is a must. Who enjoys going to a restaurant and having bad service, or a less-than-fresh halibut steak? A good cook aims to do the best job serving his customers while balancing the duties of caring for an army of minions – cooks, dishwashers, runners, etc. He’s not always the nicest, but loyalty to him is always well rewarded. Something could be learned from the Italians about demanding the freshest quality ingredients to create the most amazing dishes. Life is no different.

Quality ingredients make for a quality dish. And if we can all agree that life serves us one dish after another, then why not control the quality of the people you use to season them?

But just because you have exceptional skill at masterminding a Rembrandt on a plate, are you then limited by your exceeding skill to just that? Are we not free beings that should be allowed to make and accept our choices and their consequences?

-The UE

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Urbane Adventure - Part 2

Our next stops were no more than a block away from each other, but couldn’t have been any more divergent in offering. Delhi Heights is a full fledged restaurant, complete with a stocked liquor bar and a tuxedo shirt wearing wait staff. In contrast, Delhi Palace, despite its name, was actually a small bakery, manned by two ladies and offering only to-go meals in small plastic containers. Both offered North Indian cuisine, which consists of the better known naan and paneer dishes most of us have sampled at one point in our lives.

Delhi Heights is fabled for its roti rolls, the offspring of a one-night stand between the teenaged burrito and the older, more experienced naan. The result – a sand-burrito-roll of lettuce, uniquely seasoned meats, and red onions.
Needless to say, the UE tossed half of his out ($10 / ea).

Delhi Palace was a little more eventful. I walked in and read through the menu, generally knowing I wanted to order samosas, but not sure which to get. The listings suggested a Samosa Maat, which I personally had never had, so I ordered those for the group. I returned to the troop with two plastic bowls filled with crumbled crispy samosa covered in a pepper and chole sauce, which gave a special contrast to the potato and vegetable filled crunchy base. If you rarely eat spicy foods, this would be a challenge. The sauce included bits of fresh jalepeno, minced into a puree of garlic, onions and several other dry powder spices. The resulting blend, though not the most aesthetically pleasing, turned out to be an enchantingly stimulating roux. For those spice-impaired, I picked up a mango lassi, a yogurt based fruit drink. The base dairy helped to calm the acidic spicy food in everyone’s stomach, and would later help with its departure ($12.81).

One of the most felicitous effects of food continues to be its ability to connect us with our past. A certain smell, a favorite dish, familiar sounds, and even just the sight of a chef (read: mother in the kitchen) can slingshot the eater back into his pre-adolescent state, when the only things we worried about were Saturday morning cartoons and beating the newest Nintendo game. Dining at Ihawan, the UE pleasantly experienced all of the above.

Ihawan is a Filipino restaurant near 70th and Roosevelt Avenue. Be alert when searching as the restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of an unspectacular building. But as we all learned as impressionable kindergarteners, never judge a book by its cover. My group of food-weary companions mustered enough courage and strength to attentively man the utensils at a table. My half-and-half brother and I debated the potential menu selections, and settled on an array of palobok and pancit (noodles), some lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), and lechon (roasted suckling pig). Excitedly, we tossed aside our utensil in favor of Filipino chopsticks, and dug in. The pancit immediately reminded me of days when my mother didn’t feel like cooking and would toss all she could into a wok with a bit of soy sauce and some rice noodles in hopes of satisfying a starving child. The lumpia rekindled images of the days when my Filipino family would sit around a dining table with wrappers, sautéed pork, vegetables and a water bowl, slowly stuffing and rolling small egg rolls for a party. The rice was the highlight, reminiscent of the days when I would grab a bowl only just rice and Filipino chopsticks to accompany my video game marathons (rice isn’t greasy, better for the controls). All in, I think this was the personal highlight of the trip. We ordered 3 plates of lumpia, and finished every bit of food to the last morsel ($60 total). Stuffed to the point of borderline sedation, we had only 1 stop left to make on the trip for which everyone found a small pocket of room in their stomachs.

Bohemian Beer Hall and Garden is technically located in Astoria, but given I could only muster support for one day, I decided that it was the perfect end to an already memorable round of food, fun and laughs. Beer gardens in New York are unique entities, habitually offering an array of specialty brews as well as Belgium and German favorites in a pseudo-outdoor environment. As the group approached the entrance way, we were hastily cut by some other people anxious to get in. We figured this must be the greatest treasure in all the land to coax rational people into irrational behavior. Stepping through the first door proved to be less than expected, as it was a totally empty bar room with a few benches and some people in line for pitchers. Over the loud groans from my compatriots, I urged them to remember this was a beer GARDEN, and there must be some outdoor space to enjoy. How little we were prepared for what we saw next.

Through the next door, we found an enormous outdoor seating area, complete with picnic tables and a stage area for performances. This place was packed full of everyone from the coolest hipsters discussing the latest strategies of fitting into the next size down of jeans, to the oldest of Yankees celebrating their milestone birthdays. We luckily found a table that could fit all 8 of us, and swarmed to claim it. One amongst us had been so kind to provide us with homemade s’more brownies. The chocolate, creamy filling and crunchy coatings provided a perfect pair with the dark, malty German beers we sampled ($45 / $15 per pitcher).


Total Spent: $188.61 / ~$24 per person

At one point during this trip, I reflected on the deeper meaning of what we were doing. Within our group alone, we had almost every race possible represented. The last 2 hours we spent time laughing, sharing our hopes and dreams, and eating great food with no quarrels. The beauty of the American dream shone through on our excursion, not only just in the group dynamics, but also in the wonder that within 20 blocks we managed to personally experience 5 distinct cultures, and observe countless others represented (on one block there was actually a Peruvian restaurant on one side of the street, and a Citibank with Chinese lettering on the other). How wonderful a country we live in where people, the real people, see past each others differences and pasts, and warm to each other’s truest self-worth. This trip was not just a successful food experiment, but an impactful social study as well.

The day ended with sunshine, blue skies, and full stomachs. Thank you to those who attended, without you, none of this would have been possible.

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