May 27, 2010

Wine and Gourmet Food Class at De Gustibus Cooking School in Macy's

Macy's in Herald's Square is known for many things: the Thanksgiving Day parade, hoards of shoppers, and Santa's workplace in A Miracle on 34th Street. But did you know that it also houses a cooking school?  Just beyond the swimsuits and coats on the 8th floor sits the De Gustibus Cooking School.

We recently won 2 tickets to a wine class by correctly answering a question via Twitter (they often have contest so follow them @degustibusnyc for your chance to win).  All we knew was that we would be treated to a few wine pairings of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards wines with food from  We ended up thoroughly enjoying (and completely stuffed from) our tastings of 10 wines, multiple cheeses, cured meats, and pates.
Walking into the classroom, we are immediately hit with the history of the cooking school.  De Gustibus has been around for 30 years and on its wall are chefs who had taught in that kitchen, including Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud (look how young they look!)

Before beginning our tasting, we found out that everyone received a free subscription to Food and Wine or Travel + Leisure.  We also received a few coupons/discount codes from a number of vendors including Macy's, igourmet, and Miele.
The presenters were Spencer Chesman (left, CEO of and Christopher Silva (right, CEO/President of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards).  Christopher gave us an easy acronym on how to taste wine:  ANTF for Appearance, Nose, Taste, and Finish.
The series comprised of St. Francis' more accessible and more widely distributed wines.  The first pairing started off with a clean, crisp (and affordable) 2008 Sonoma County Chardonnay.  We really enjoyed the 2006 Sonoma County Merlot (wine #2) and 2007 Old Vines Zinfandel (wine #5).  It's great to taste reds that are not too fruity yet still have some structure to them, especially at these price points (approx $17-$22).  The other wines were the juicy 2006 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (wine #3) and the party-friendly 2006 RED (wine #4), a blend of several grapes.
Cheese plates are deceptive - though it doesn't look like a lot of food, we both quickly filled up!  Our Chardonnay was paired with a non-pasteurized Gruyere de Comte from France.  It was nutty with a mild sharpness. Our Merlot was paired with both a cheese and a meat.  The cheese was a delicious sheep's milk cheese from Holland called the Lamb Chopper.  Unlike other sheeps' milk cheeses, this one was sweet and creamy.  The meat was the Rosette de Lyon which was a French salami with large pieces of spicy black peppercorn. 

 We also had two items paired with our Cabernet Sauvignon - the Asiago d'Allevo Oro del Tempo and the Mousse Poivre Noir.  The firm Italian cheese was savory and would've tasted nice shredded on a bowl of pasta.  We liked how the nice spice from the black pepper made the mousse pair well with the Cabernet.

The Pleasant Ridge Reserve and D'Artagnan Smoked Magret Duck Breast were paired with the RED wine.  The duck was tasty while the American cheese (WI) was from a grass-fed single farm herd whose accessible mild flavors makes it easy to pair.  Lastly, the Zinfandel was paired with the blue cheese, Smokey Blue by Rogue Creamery.
After a short break, we started up again with a second round of wine tastings.  These wines included the Wild Oak series, a higher-end (but still affordable) line from St. Francis.  Once again, we started with a white, their Wild Oak Chardonnay, which is more round and full than the Sonoma County bottling and was quite delicious.  As with the first group, we really enjoyed the Merlot (wine #2, 2005 Wild Oak Merlot) in addition to the old-school 2006 Pagani Zinfandel (wine #4).  The Sonoma wines are a little more restrained (in a good way), and not the typical full-throttle, fruity wines most people associate with California reds.  The other wines we had were the richer yet balanced 2005 Wild Oak Cabernet Sauvignon (wine #3) and the dark 2006 Wild Oak Old Vines Zinfandel (wine #5) that was a fantastic match for the truffled cheese below.
And with more wine comes more charcuterie from!  We loved our chardonnay with the Abbaye de Belloc, a Finnish sheep's raw milk cheese.  The Beemster Classic 18 month Gouda  and Pheasant Pate with Herbs were both paired with the Merlot.  With its granular texture, this gouda tasted so much better than other goudas we've enjoyed (and when you buy a wedge, its label peels off for easy signage!).  The meaty and rustic pate was also from D'Artagnan and had a subtle fennel flavor.  The Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with a Fiscalini 18 month Bandage Wrapped Cheddar

 The Pagani Vineyard Zinfandel was paired with the salty Mahon Reserva and Lomo Curado (cured pork loin).  And if you like truffles, you'd love the Boschetto al Tartufo Bianchetto cheese.  Along with the Alpen Schinken (German cured ham), the Tuscan cheese was paired with the last Zinfandel. 
The class had a nice mix of people:  tourists, industry folks, media, and locals.  The guy seated next to me was a server at ABC Kitchen (so of course, I asked him for tips on when to check out Jean-Georges Vongerichten's new restaurant!)
This was a fun Saturday afternoon date for the two of us.  Owner Salvatore Rizzo made sure to ask the questions participants were probably thinking but were too shy to ask.  With a lot of classes held by celebrated chefs and industry experts (about $95/person), it's like going out for a really nice meal but with a knowledgeable and engaging host to guide you through the experience.

De Gustibus Cooking School is located on the 8th floor of Macy's (Broadway and 34th St) in NYC.


  1. GREAT POST... on my list of things to do next time i am in the city!!!

  2. Thanks Dave! Hope you'll let us know the next time you're back in the city and we can suggest more things to do (and places to dine!)

  3. Andrea! This is wicked. You are really a very fortunate gal to be able to take advantage of these incredible foodie opportunities. I am in awe of them. I get mine in when I travel, but don't live in a densely populated local - which does have its perk... but not having this kind of class availability is a downside. I love living through your experiences.


We love reading your comments! Don't worry if you don't have a Google account or website - just select Name/URL.