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The 16th Nantucket Film Festival

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Events, Nantucket, Vintage | Posted on 29-06-2011

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NFF Wordle

The 16th Nantucket Film Festival took place on Nantucket Island June 22-26.

I am a Nantucket Film Festival ninja.  A 16-yr veteran.  I strategize as to how to fit in the utmost and fill in every hour of every day, from morning til midnight each year.  I pore over the festival program and pencil in my film selections for the week.  That list may then be tweaked based on Artistic Director Mystelle Brabee’s picks, and yet, it will evolve daily, based on what I hear at “Morning Coffee” and ‘the Buzz of the Fest’–Nevermind the demands of my store!

Vera Farmiga & Rhys

Vera Farmiga & Renn Hawkey

This year, I knew that my film time would be short, so I concentrated on the events and programs that simply could not be replicated after the Festival, such as live events, short films, and screenings with a Q & A.  As much as I hate to miss anything, there is at least the possibility of catching the missed films on TV or in NYC or from Netflix or screeners, however Late-Night Storytelling only happens once.

“Morning Coffee With…” is a series I love–a one hour opportunity to begin each day eavesdropping on an honest discussion between writers (and filmmakers/producers) about how their films came to be and where they’re going.  Each day is a different moderator (Will Conroy, John Shea, Jonathan Burkhart) and a different panel.  There is no doubt that that the highlight (and biggest celebrity) was Kevin Clash and his puppet, Elmo–or should I say Elmo and his puppeteer, Kevin Clash–there wasn’t a person in the room that did not completely melt at the first words out of his furry red mouth.  This was an instance in which I quickly updated my schedule, via the new Nantucket Film Festival app on my i-phone, to include BEING ELMO–one of the star documentaries of the fest.

Jerry Seinfeld & Co

Jerry Seinfeld & Co

Another see-it-here-or-not-at-all program is “In Their Shoes”–a live conversation between two people you really want to hear from.  This year featured Vera Farmiga, interviewed by Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine on Thursday,  and screenwriter Paul Haggis, interviewed by Hard Ball’s Chris Matthews on Friday.   Farmiga was lovingly presented with the NFF Compass Rose Acting Award by Joshua Leonard (Blair witch Project ), her co-star in the new film Higher Ground (in which she starred and directed).  The montage of her many roles demonstrated why TIMEOUT NY called her “This generation’s Streep”.  Listening to Paul Haggis discuss the emotions and dynamics of his conflicted characters in CRASH is exactly why I move heaven and earth to attend the NFF.  Haggis was also honored on Saturday night with the NFF Screenwriters Award and a tribute by Brian Williams, who, by the way, is funnier than all the funny people in the world combined…and so very handsome.

Speaking of funny, the most coveted ticket this year, by far, was the All Star Comedy Roundtable–JERRY SEINFELD, BEN STILLER, SETH MEYERS, COLIN QUINN & AZIZ ANSARI–wonder why?!  And they did not disappoint.  Somehow, I landed in the second row–so close, it was like being in Jerry Seinfeld’s living room.  Seth Meyers opened by saying what an honor it was to play the Nantucket High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.  “For a musician, it’s Carnegie Hall.  for a comedian, it’s the Nantucket High School auditorium in the daytime.”

I managed to squeeze in these and a few others…

Opening Film:   BUCK

The beautifully filmed and shared story of the real-life Horse Whisperer, Buck Brannaman, who has the rare ability to teach all horses–and people– he encounters.  This was definitely the buzz of the fest.  Astonishingly, it is made by first-time filmmaker Cindy Meehl.



Closing Film:  HIGHER GROUND

The story of an overwhelmed young mother who turns to a fundamentalist community for answers, but after years of unfulfilling dogma, must find the courage to reclaim her life.  They intent was to to show a multi-dimensional religious character, which I feel they achieved, however the portrait of religion in general, was still one note.  I loved its attempt at the  complicated portrayal of religious choices and for the fact that it features 3 Broadway stars–Donna Murphy, Norbert Leo Butz and Dagmara Dominczyk!  Vera Farmiga stars and directs;  Produced by Nantucket Film Festival co-founder, Jonathan Burkhart.

Documentary:  UNRAVELED

Yet another mind-blowing tale of hubris…Marc Dreier’s $700 million Ponzi scheme was front page news–until the Madoff story broke 5 days later.  Marc Simon, a filmmaker and attorney in Mar Dreier’s firm seemed destined to film the story of his mentor.


The heartwarming  story of a dream come true against the odds.  I smiled and cried through the whole thing.

OVERHEARD…the verbal highlights of the NFF

“I said “altruistic” because I know in Nantucket you people know what that means.  If I was in Revere, I would say, ‘Yous good people’.”–Comedian Colin Quinn at All-Star Comedy roundtable

“As many shake shingles as there are on Nantucket, that’s how much I thank you.”–Vera Farmiga, on receiving the Nantucket Film Festival Compass Rose award.

“We all have a compelling story that needs to be heard…and so we do what we do.”–Amy Sultan, documentary filmmaker, TO BE HEARD (NFF Audience Award Winner)

“The last big gamble that took place here was when the architect said to the Nantucket High School wood shop class, ‘Surprise Me’.”–Brian Williams, re the oddly named Sconset Casino

“Tommy Lee Jones has a face that will hold a gallon of water–and with Paul Haggis’ writing, two gallons.”–Chris Mathews??  Not sure if he or Brian Williams or Ben Queen or John Shea said this!

“Having a writer in the family is like having an assassin in the family.”–Ben Queen, screenwriter of CARS2 at “Morning Coffee”

“If you ever write a memoir, you could sell the shit out of it.”–A Professor to Carolyn Briggs, whose autobiography later became the Vera Farmiga film Higher Ground

“People say you need to have balance in your life and a broad perspective. I’m against all these things.  I advocate for narrow and unbalanced. And that is the only possible route to becoming a comedian.”—Jerry Seinfeld, as told to the Track Gals, Boston Herald

“And if there’s a prize for festival-sponsored libations, Nantucket took it with Scholium Project white wine and homemade strawberry-basil lime rickeys.”–IndieWire, referring to wine donated by wine sponsor, currentVintage


“Elmo gets the rock star treatment in Nantucket”–Headline in the Boston Herald


photo compliments of Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey

photo compliments of Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey

Artisanal Curds

Posted by admin | Posted in Burgundy, California Wine, Culture, currentVintage, Food, Wine | Posted on 22-06-2011

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Wine and cheese pairing…is it art?  Perhaps, but it’s not that hard to create.  You are basically seeking a balance of salt and sweet.  Some are intuitive, some more cerebral, but all should bring great tastebud joy that you will want to replicate time and time again.  We start with artisanal cheeses À Point (at peak), or aged to perfection, rotating our inventory based on season and availability.  We taste a lot, and when a combo makes our heart sing, we write it down!

In cheese-plating, as in art, there are no rules, but there are guidelines, such as begin with the mildest and progress to the most pungent.  Ideally, a contrast of milks, countries and textures;  condiments, fruit and crackers are totally optional.  My standard cheese plate usually begins with a Goat and features Comte in the third or fourth position.  Beyond that, anything goes.

Here, we share some of our available cheeses and favorite pairings, just as we do with all of the wines in our store.  Consider a cheese course for your next dinner party–we would love to help you create a Masterpiece.

USA (Vermont)/Goat

The Coupole is a fresh, soft, young goat’s milk cheese that is shaped like a small dome and lightly dusted with vegetable ash. It hails from the ambitious new Loire-Valley-style production facility at Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, where they have been pioneering innovative dairy products for more than 25 years. As the Coupole ages, a slightly wrinkled skin develops, and the paste softens. Approximately 8 oz.

Suggested Pairing:
Saumur Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay, Maybe Viognier




(OH-ha SAHN-tah)
USA (Texas)/Goat

Hoja Santa was created by legendary cheese maker Paula Lambert, owner of the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas. Paula thoughtfully created a cheese that reflects its origins, as each of these young goat’s milk rounds is wrapped in a velvety, heart-shaped leaf from the local (and eponymous) Hoja Santa plant. The leaf imparts subtle notes of sassafras, anise, mint, and black pepper to this soft, fresh chèvre.
The Hoja Santas are dried and flipped, then left until a few spots of perfectly edible mold grow on the rind. These are aged for much longer than most fresh goat cheeses. This guarantees that the leaf has lost its chewiness and has infused the white paste with a light grassy note. Approximately 5 oz.

Suggested Pairing:
Sancerre, Beer, Pernod!

FRANCE (Burgundy)/Cow

A washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from the Burgundy region of France; it is very similar to Epoisses, which is made is actually made by the same creamery. Its name, Affidelice, comes from the marriage of two words: affiné (ripe) and delice (delight). Affidelice is soft, with a moist, terracotta-colored rind, and is contained in a small, wooden box.
The maturation process is continued at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center in New York, where they wash the Affidelice with Chablis. The resulting cheese has a soft, pungent, spoonable paste with a satiny texture.

Suggested Pairing:
Chardonnay, especially Chablis;  Champagne, Riesling

USA (Vermont)/Cow

The award-winning Old Chatham Shepherding Company’s Hudson Valley Camembert is a creamy, soft-ripened cheese made from the milk of Old Chatham’s herd of East Fresian sheep combined with hormone-free cow’s milk from a neighbor’s farm.
The result is meltingly smooth and buttery, with the texture of a triple-crème, it has layers of flavor and nuance. Approximately 5.33 oz.

Suggested Pairing:
Champagne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

(fluhr doo mah-KEE)

Fleur du Maquis is semi-soft, made in Corsica from the milk of the Lacaune ewes.
Its name means “Flower of the Maquis”–maquis being the local term for the typical thickets of rough underbrush where highway robbers and guerrilla fighters used to hang out.  During production, the smallish wheels are encrusted with rosemary, fennel seeds, juniper berries, and the occasional bird’s eye chile.

Suggested Pairing:
Pinot Gris, Beaujolais, Zinfandel


Manchego is a famous Spanish D.O. sheep’s milk cheese, made exclusively from the milk of sheep grazing upon the plains of La Mancha–the land of Don Quixote! This artisanal Manchego is made from raw milk and aged for several months. The cheese is nutty, sweet, and tangy with a firm texture. After 12 months, the semi-firm cheese becomes tastier, saltier and excellent for grating.

Suggested Pairing:
Quince Preserves + Albarino, Grenache


Taleggio is a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy. It is characteristically aromatic, yet mild in flavor, and features tangy, meaty notes with a fruity finish. The texture of the cheese is moist-to-oozy with a very pleasant melt-in-your-mouth feel. The combination of the soft texture, pungent aroma, and buttery flavors has proven to be addictive especially when spread on fresh crusty bread.

Suggested Pairing:
Warm Baguette + Chardonnay, Nebbiolo Bianco, Nebbiolo





Terraluna is produced in Utah from clean raw Jersey cow milk. This firm cheese is in the cheddar family, yet it has an even deeper flavor and a longer finish than most cheddars. The award-winning Terraluna owes its superior quality to the mineral-rich soil where the cows graze, as well as to the fine cheese making skills of its producers.

Suggested Pairing:
Pinot Noir, IPA

(Peh-co-REE-no DELL-eh BAHLT-zeh VOL-tehr-RAH-neh)
ITALY (Tuscany)/Sheep

A raw organic pecorino from Tuscany and is made with vegetable rennet of wild artichoke. The cheese is aged in oak barrels for 60 days, the rind covered in oak and olive wood ash. This imparts a unique green olive flavor and a long finish. This cheese is firm, toothsome and has a nutty texture.

Suggested Pairing:
Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese

FRANCE (Jura)/Cow

Comté is a firm pressed cheese made from the raw milk of red and white Montbeliard cows in the Jura Mountains of France in Franche-Comté. The cheese is produced in small, cooperative dairies, known as “fruitières” which collect the milk from farms within a maximum of 15 miles radius and only produce cheese in the summer months..
Comté is the most popular DOP cheeses in France, and it is claimed that there are more than 83 distinct flavors in Comté, including mountain flowers, apricot, chocolate, butter, cream, butterscotch and grilled bread. It comes in a 1/3 pound block and is tempting to snack on like a savory candy bar!

Suggested Pairing:
Savoie, White Burgundy, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Bordeaux Blends


Italy’s answer to Roquefort, from the region north of Milan. Its rough, reddish rind protects a tender, light yellow, blue-flecked paste that is firm, moist, and buttery. The flavor is sharp and sweet.

Suggested Pairing:
Sauternes, Vin Santo




(lah peh-RAHL)

SPAIN/Cow & Sheep

A gently blued pasteurized cow and sheep milk cheese from Asturias in northern Spain. Also known as Queso Azul Asturiano, La Peral has been made by the Lopez Leon family since the 1920s. The wheels are aged for sixty days just to the point that the blue begins to develop. La Peral resembles an Italian Gorgonzola. It has a slightly crumbly texture that leads to a refreshing finish on the palate. The sheep milk component gives this firm cheese a little olive oil flavor and a pleasant pungent aroma. Rich, moist, buttery, sharp, salty…

Suggested Pairing:
Atop a Medium-rare burger + Rioja & Other Spanish Reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, Amontillado

Spitting with Style

Posted by admin | Posted in Burgundy, California Wine, currentVintage, Nantucket, Napa/Sonoma, travel, Wine | Posted on 07-06-2011

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We always say that tasting is the best way to hone your palate and learn more about wine…but what about those situations where you don’t want to drink too much, have to drive home or attend a trade tasting with dozens or even hundreds of wines?  Well, you probably oughta spit.

There is, however, an art to spitting–which may seem a little unfair, in that in order to sharpen your wine skills you have to develop your spitting skills, too?!

Well, forget about fair and start developing your spitting style.  There are a few “correct” ways to spit;  some say a slow, steady stream, others say fast and furious.  I find that different methods are necessary in different settings.  While I love having a big sip and letting the wine cover every tastebud, rather than swishing it around like mouthwash, most of the time, a half oz taste is all that is safe when it has to be expectorated with precision.

British Wine Critic Jancis Robinson makes it sound downright regal.  Hers, we will call the “Royal Spit”:

“When it makes sense to spit, you should be proud rather than ashamed to do it. You may associate expectoration with rather seedy old men and pavements, but wine people have perfected the art of doing it with great style. ‘Spit with pride’ might well be the wine taster’s motto. The stylish spit is forceful, an elegant trajectory with not the merest suggestion of a dribble, aimed dead center of the spittoon.”

Royal wave optional.

While the goal here is to illuminate the reasons and methods of spitting, it should be noted that some don’t encourage spitting at all.

Teobaldo Cappellano is considered a legend and one of the last great traditionalist winemakers in Barolo. In 1983, he banished all journalists from his cellar unless they agreed to review his wines without scores.  As a result, he is not very well-known in the United States — but is held in very high esteem in the wine world.  In regard to spitting, Cappellano said, “If there is one thing that makes me crazy, it’s spitters of wine…the ones who taste a wine by rolling it around in their mouths and then they spit it out. I worked my butt off to make wine to drink, not to spit!”

I’ve heard that sentiment from many a French winemaker, too, but that philosophy can be trouble without a wooden leg,  I’m just sayin.

For more musings and demonstrations on spitting, check out these links. At least, if you do find yourself in a setting in which you need to spit, you will be prepared to do so with confidence, if not style.

The Fine art of spitting: