Six Degrees of Scott Vaccaro, Sake to me at Wine Geeks, LuLu’s Truly Baked Twinkies, and Congrats, Chef Gabrynowicz!

Beer Me Up, Scotty: Six Degrees of Scott Vaccaro

This week, we’re going to do six degrees of Scotty V. That’s Scott Vaccaro of Pleasantville’s own Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, which, PS, is celebrating its fifth anniversary in May. Weirdly, Scotty V has been on cosmic re-circ in my life.  Here’s how the whole thing started:

So, last month I go to the Stone Barns Annual Sausage & Beer {&  Grains} Dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and I meet Scott Vaccaro at the Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. table. I say “hi” and we exchange a few pleasantries (we’d spoken a few times), but then I instantly lose my husband to him in a dense conversation about worts and second fermentation and who knows what else.  Out of my beer league, I crowd-surf my way to the salumi table. Mmmmm.  I love you, ruby pane of bresaola…but, then again, you already had me at dead, dried pig.

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Reunited with my husband, we’re assigned to the Captain Lawrence table, which is hosted charmingly by Scott Vaccaro himself. He holds forth in his honest, straightforward way about beer and rye and hops and grains. I listen while laying the groundwork for an alliance with tablemates that ultimately wins me extra Kumamoto oysters. Score! While I’m scheming, I passively learn a lot about beer.

The following week, my beer-obsessed husband goes to our local DeCicco’s grocery for something essential–milk, toilet paper, you know… a necessity.  DeCicco’s was probably a bad place to send him. Westchester’s local grocery chain (with one in Rockland County and one in Putnam) is owned by equally beer-obsessed freaks, who cram their seven supermarkets with up to 1000 beers. In the Chester Heights DeCicco’s, near where we live, you cannot pause at the carefully curated beer shrine without some very eager employee popping out to help. (Is he chained there?) And Chester Heights carries the smallest of the DeCicco beer selections; its Ardsley branch has the largest. In fact, I believe it’s the only grocery store in Westchester that has a tap system for re-filling “growlers.” In case you don’t know, these are half-gallon jugs of beer—and, even in New York City, Whole Foods Market on the Bowery is one of only a few that can make the same boast–though Whole Paycheck carries only six taps to the Ardsley DiCicco’s 12.

Beer-obsessed husband returns from DeCicco’s with TP and Birra DeCicco, a bottled Captain Lawrence ode to the folks at Westchester’s local grocery store chain. The Birra DeCicco is brewed with chestnut honey and chestnut jam, which, as we learn from that beer boffin, Joshua M. Bernstein (with whom I recently shared the indescribable pleasures of feasting on woodland creatures), Italian beers made with chestnuts are currently all the rage. It’s too much. I gotta follow this beer up.

I call Joe DeCicco, Jr., and he gives me the whole story. Apparently, he has family connections in Avellino, Italy, where they produce a huge amount of chestnuts and chestnut products. And, to go back, DeCicco’s was an early supporter of Captain Lawrence Brewing, with Joe proudly suspecting that DiCicco’s was Captain Lawrence’s first grocery account, since young Scott Vaccaro gained the equipment to bottle. Joe, Jr., and his cousins, Chris DiCicco and John DiCicco, Jr.—all  young men who love their beer—were  in the process of expanding the family business, which was started in the Bronx by their fathers in 1972. In effect, the younger generation of DiCiccos and Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. grew together.  

Huh. Putting this story on the backburner, I stop by Restaurant North to congratulate Chef Eric Gabrynowicz on making the James Beard Award Semifinals for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Tucking into a sazerac (I confess, a passion), owner Stephen Paul Mancini tells me I need to have the “Scotty V” – it’s Mancini’s beertail composed to honor Captain Lawrence’s fifth anniversary. Why can I not shake this Vaccaro dude?

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Folks, Mancini’s Scotty V is like no salty michelada you’ve ever had. It’s beery and crisp, and heaven-scented with pork. Mancini’s potable poem to Vaccaro goes like this: 2 oz Ron Zacapa Rum, 2 oz Captain Lawrence “Golden Delicious” beer, .5 oz fresh lime juice, .5 oz local apple cider, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, with a powdered guanciale/brown sugar/cinnamon rim. Lick the sweetly porky rim, and drink the apple-scented beery libation. It tastes like apples roasted with rum-glazed pork, accompanied by cool, crisp beer.

Why? Mancini confesses (smelling slightly—though – not unattractively—of the prosciutto he’d just been hanging), “He’s just a nice guy!” Fate forces me to call Vaccaro himself.  I ask, as tactfully as I can, why a celebrated brewer (with beers in scores of great restaurants, Whole Foods, top bars like Blind Tiger, etc.), would bother brewing a beer to honor a small Westchester grocery chain. “Well, it wasn’t as well thought out as you think. For us, it was about getting together with some friends and eating a whole bunch of Italian food and brewing some beers!” Folks, to echo Stephen Paul Mancini, he is a nice guy and deserves his success.

 
Captions: (Here) The “Scotty V” cocktail at North
(Top) Captain Lawrence’s Birra DeCicco

Get Your Drink On

The weather sucks and St. Patrick’s Day is approaching. Get into shape with these drink-themed events.

Wines from A to Z with Westchester Wine School at Sam’s of Gedney Way
Eight Wednesdays through June 15;
for full description of classes and fees, see here.
Want to throw around phrases like “funky”, “minerality,” and “impudent” with confidence (when talking about wine)? Take these classes, offered by Westchester Wine School.

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Sake to Me! At Wine Geeks Armonk
March 9, 7pm
$35

They’re complex, varied, and miles beyond that swill you suck at teppanyaki tables. From the site: “Learn all about Japanese “rice wine” in this special class presented in association with Vine Connections!”

Suburban Wines and Peter Pratt’s Inn Spotlight on Emerging Washington State Wineries
March 4, 7pm
$60

From the site: “The Spotlight Series is our quarterly, informal gathering with friends to drink some great juice with some great food…..and maybe even learn a thing or two about an up-and-coming region or a talked-about vintage, etc. We will be limiting seating to keep this an intimate gathering where we can talk about the wine and truly enjoy!” Check site for menu details. 

Lulu Cake Boutique’s Twinkies!

Do you remember this crack from your childhood, whose crinkly plastic wrapper yielded soft, creamy, yellowy/white delight?  I’ll bet you also remember your mother hated the treats, and banned them from your diet because the suspicious cakes were “made in a lab!” Maternal scuttlebutt abounded that Hostess Twinkies weren’t even baked, and that the cake’s unnatural airiness came via some Jetsons-era chemical reaction. Okay, so you’re a big person now with your very own credit card. Stop by Lulu Cake Boutique for Jay Muse’s reverent version which, we swear, was actually baked in an oven. Here, you see both vanilla and red-velvet versions.

HotFlash

North’s Eric Gabrynowicz makes the Semis for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award.

Yup, local boy makes good–very, very good. Our own Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, (who came from Tavern at Highlands Country Club to Restaurant North in Armonk via Union Square Cafe) has made it to the semifinals for this prestigious James Beard Award.  Congrats!


Our Best of Westchester Elimination Ballot is open through March 6!

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

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