Many of us in New York have an affection for Astor Wines for their selection and knowledgeable friendly staff. Did you know there is a beautiful space above the wine-shop that is a haven for not just wine aficionados, but cooks, too?
Maxwell and I recently took a wine-tasting class with Andy Fisher, Astor's owner, which was a nice intro-level course on swirling, sniffing and sipping. I had the makings of my current sinus infection, so I was a bit hindered, but I can say that it was an entertaining two hours in a beautiful space. I loved that Fisher pointed out inexpensive wines, mostly under $15. It occurred to me that a tasting class is actually a great recessionary gift to oneself if you consider yourself a novice, but do buy wine regularly. You might just stop wasting money on wine you don't like after you know what you actually do like.
The Center has three areas. The Study is where the wine classes happen. It has a demonstration kitchen and stadium seating complete with spittoons and motion-detection faucets for wine tasting. The Gallery is the windowed event space where dinners, lectures and some tastings happen. The Kitchen is a full-on professional kitchen built for hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations.
I first encountered the Astor Center because they host many Slow-Food events. Take for example this upcoming talk on Local, Pastured Meats next Wednesday, January 14:
For $45, you'll meet local Greenmarket farmers like Dan Gibson, of Grazin' Angus Acres in Ghent, NY, and Mike Yezzi, of Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, NY, to learn about the animals they raise, their production practices, and the health and environmental reasons to eat sustainably and humanely raised pork and beef. Chef Caroline Fidanza, of Diner and Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg, Brooklyn will explain the culinary advantages of pastured meats and cook up some of the farmers' fine wares.
For cocktail lovers and followers of Nora's Straight Up column and other cocktail coverage, the Center offers classes like this Cocktail Lab; A Hands-On Workshop. Your dream of getting tipsy at school can come true.
For the more traditional, bookish learners, I can also recommend Gastronomica forums in the Gallery, the Center's event space. There aren't any on the calendar yet, but this series is definitely something to look for in the future. Keep in mind it's also a beautiful space to consider hosting a meeting or a party, even a wedding.
If this is the year you've decided to get serious about wine, even the under $10-$15 set, Astor Center might be a great place to start your journey.