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  • SALTY & SWEET —  This season’s culinary odd couple is dessert seasoned with sea salt as the city’s top chefs discover the magic of salt.  From Le Bernadin’s sumptous “egg” filled with milk chocolate crème, caramel foam, maple syrup and sea salt to david burke and donatella’s chocolate and caramel layers with a pinch of sel de gris and sea salt ice cream to boot, salt is getting the recognition it deserves as the quintessential seasoning, intensifying the flavor of just about anything.  Growing so popular in the art of pastry, this condiment is even showing up at trendier restaurants, like Butter, where a chocolate semifreddo is perfectly paired with Hawaiian sea salt and caramel.
  • FOOD & WINE – Many of New York’s newest and hippest restaurants are planning to bring food and wine pairings to the masses.  While pairings were once limited to ardent oenophiles and foodies, who frequented upscale establishments like Alain Ducasse or Veritas, they’re now showing up at restaurants that cater to a younger, less wallet-heavy diner.  Newcomer, Pair of 8’s, has just opened up shop on the Upper West Side, with the hopes of making sommeliers out of even the most wine-challenged patron where they serve tastings from an impressive 150-bottle list. This month, Suba, an underground tapas bar on the Lower East Side’s culinary scene, will begin weekend-only individual course pairings with the intention of making food and wine both more accessible as well as informal.  Marc Murphy’s, Tribeca outpost, Landmarc, offers 50 selections by the half bottle for just a few dollars above retail, where people who hate wine pairings, but like the idea of having different wines with different courses, can indulge in wines they might otherwise be unable to afford.
  • Side Door Restaurants – As nightlife entrepreneurs venture into the restaurant scene, eating has literally become a clandestine affair equipped with velvet ropes, bouncers, top secret reservation lines and windowless rooms.  The “secret speakeasy” is quickly becoming a global dining phenomenon in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles, designated exclusively for diners in-the-know.
  • Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas – Love is in the air and available on the web this Valentine’s Day.  Say it with a basket of “Willy Wonka-sized” sweets from Dylan’s Candy Bar or shower her in a “Bed of Roses” with one of L’Olivier’s all-too-perfect arrangements.  Make the evening unforgettable with a cocktail party for two, the Manhattan Cocktail Case from Gotham Baskets, equipped with shaker, martini glasses, cork screw and just about anything else you’ll need to stir up a romantic mood.
  • The Buzz on Sauerkraut – Ever since we discovered sauerkraut was packed with iron, fiber, proven to prevent cancer and even enhance the male libido, sauerkraut’s become the latest “superfood” making its way into cocktails, celebrity diets, and upscale kitchens.  While prominent chef Scott Conant dresses up sturgeon with sauerkraut at his new and wildly successful New York restaurant, Alto, supermodel Heidi Klum gives it a boost in her book, Eight Rules for Model Behavior, divulging her grandmother’s secret recipe for sauerkraut soup.
  • The Word on Wine – In the future, wine will say a lot – literally.  Moldulgraf, an Italian-based company, has just created a chip to be embedded in the paper wine label, that now provides consumers in upscale wine shops with an “onsite Sommelier” highly informed on the history of each wine, grape and vintage.  In other wine news, a team of woman Beringer has just developed White Lie Chardonnay, a low-calorie, low-alcohol wine designed just for women.
  • Chocolate Lounges – Why go to Starbuck’s to get a buzz when you can indulge in a mocha espresso at Moonstruck Chocolate Company in Chicago or one of countless other chocolate cafes springing up nationwide?  Grab a seat at the beverage bar at the ultra-exotic Vosges Chocolate Café in both New York and Los Angeles, where you can indulge in an Aztec elixir blended with chipotle chili peppers or get a lesson in chocolate at The Bittersweet Café while you sip a decadent chocolate cocktail.

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