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Fergalicious Syrah

Plus, star chefs support Citymeals-on-Wheels and cancer research at Dînner des Grands Chefs and Taste of Hope, and a Mother's Day treat: cookies created specifically for wine pairing

Posted: May 10, 2012

• Have you ever wondered what type of wine pairs well with Black-Eyed Peas? Fergie, lead singer of the band of that name, last seen in Unfiltered having served Frank Family wines to her wedding guests, has since proved herself a true enophile (or at least a savvy businesswoman). Having just purchased a vineyard in California's Santa Ynez Valley, Fergie (née Stacy Ann Ferguson) says she'll be making wine under the Ferguson Crest label, with production overseen by her father, Pat Ferguson, a horticulturalist who will live on site. The singer, who also owns a small percentage of the Miami Dolphins and an equity stake in Voli, a low-calorie vodka brand, has said that Ferguson Crest will produce about 1,000 cases of Syrah, and a smaller quantity of Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfiltered finds it refreshing that Fergie, unlike her musical colleagues Madonna, Slayer and Vince Neil, seems to have a long-term personal investment in making wine, and hasn't just slapped her name on a label.

• How many chefs is too many chefs in the kitchen? Unfiltered recently discovered that, if they are world-renowned kitchen whizzes like Daniel Boulud, Gary Danko and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, 45 is actually just the right amount of chefs. That's the number who aproned up at the recent, appropriately named, Dînner des Grands Chefs at Gotham Hall in Manhattan, hosted by the Relais & Châteaux franchise of posh hotels and restaurants. In addition to R&C, the top brass of Vranken-Pommery were on hand to pour a selection of Pommery Champagnes from their flagship Cuvée Louise bottling, from the '89 to the current releases ('99 for the brut, '00 for the rosé), as well as a 1947 Porto Rozès and the 2007 Peter Michael Les Pavots. The Grand Gilded Age hall is oval-shaped, which allowed teams of three chefs each to collaborate on menus at the periphery, after which waiters brought the food to the clusters of tables in the middle. Hence, 15 different menus, which, while intended to "honor the culinary heritage of our country" (France, that is), were all prepared with ingredients from "American terroir." (Unfiltered's table drew a menu of lobster with potato chips from Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, sea bass from Danko and rack of lamb from Patrick Henrioux of La Pyramide. You know, typical Monday night munchies stuff.) Vranken-Pommery co-owner Nathalie Vranken spoke a few words—"Champagne is dream and emotion, as is cooking"—and the chefs were duly feted. Then, out marched a cohort of waiters bearing imperials of Pommery, nearly the size of the waiters themselves. Proceeds from the affair went to Citymeals-on-Wheels, which delivers food to the elderly in need.

• Last Thursday, a stylish young crowd gathered in a downtown loft space for the Taste of Hope, a walk-around tasting to support the American Cancer Society. VinItaly supplied the extensive selection of wines from producers including Arnaldo Caprai and Castello Banfi, while New York hotspots Blue Ribbon Sushi and Alison Eighteen brought small plates for the attendees. Chef Todd English, the guest of honor, caused a commotion when he entered the event space. Fans swarmed the star chef for pictures and autographs as he made his way across the room, accompanied by his 19-year-old daughter Isabelle and his mother, Patrizia Arcuni-English. Looking on over the hubbub, English’s mother gave Unfiltered the scoop that he is looking to make wine in Italy and is currently scouting for vineyards, getting back to his family’s Italian roots. English himself told us that the night’s event also had a personal connection: “As with all causes,” he said, explaining that his sister had passed away from cancer-related illness, “it’s unfortunate that we have to be here, but hopefully by my children’s generation, we won’t have to deal with it.”

• Two of our favorite things are wine and cookies, so we were pretty excited when Auberge du Soleil's Kris Margerum sent us wine pairing recommendations for Girl Scout cookies this past March. Now we learn that there are cookies specifically created for wine pairing (just in time for Mother's Day—don't forget!). Cookies & Corks is the flagship product of CookieZen, a gourmet company started by Leah Kuo and Laura Englander, two mothers who met through their kids' playgroup. Cookies & Corks are boxed sets of mixed cookies, grouped into batches designed to pair with specific wine types, each including a handy graph detailing which cookies pair best with which wines—The Red Wine Pairing Box includes five each of three cookies: white cheddar rosemary (an across-the-board success with Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir, according to the chart), shortbread to snack on with Pinot or Cabernet, and espresso chocolate peanut butter, good for everything except Syrah, apparently (we imagine they'd taste just fine with a Syrah, too). The $8 mixed boxes are available at select supermarkets and at cookiesandcorks.com.

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