In Michael Idov’s debut novel, Ground Up, an idealistic young New York couple, Mark and Nina, is seduced by the idea of the Viennese coffeehouse: a sun-drenched room, witty conversation mingling with the sound of clinking porcelain cups. They’re eager to recreate it on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and so they launch Café Kolschitzky, a hip café loosely based on the real-life Café Trotsky, where Idov worked.
Mark is the son of Jewish Russian immigrants—he scrapes by as a humble book reviewer. Nina is a dissatisfied lawyer who comes from family money, and sees the coffee shop as a fun project that, as far as she’s concerned, can either make money or not. Ground Up focuses on the couple's idealistic journey, as a Starbucks competitor opens across the street and they cope with every form of coffeehouse disaster. As the café fails, their relationship starts to go with it.
Idov, a staff writer at New York magazine, is sagely wry in this book that is a portrait of modern New York and a lesson on young boho idealism all at once. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ground Up “couldn’t feel more timely. The strength of Idov’s satire is its explosion of the money-isn’t-everything moth that keeps so many artistic types tethered to their dreams.”
The Wine, selected by Gary Vaynerchuk
Interestingly this book hits home for me on a number of different levels. The character Mark is a Russian Jewish immigrant just like me. Moreover, the whole story centers around finding your passion and building a business around it, which is my whole M.O.! I also love that the mantra of “money isn’t everything” gets tested and debated; when you’re doing what you love, that is so true, even when things end up going south.
This is a fun read and is very much a real look at the world. In selecting a wine I aimed for something equally real, a traditional wine without lots of makeup. The 2005 Monti Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a real wine with a sense of place. It delivers the charm of a bright Italian red wine and also offers up a subtle coffee-bean flavor that, if only briefly, catapults me right into a neighborhood coffee shop just like Café Kolschitzky. But like the couple in Ground Up, it is also part Old World and part New World. The pure fruit and lengthy finish are more New World (like Nina) but the massive structure and complexity of the wine lean more toward the Old World (like Mark).
Most of all, it pairs amazingly well with a rich, nutty Parmigiano Reggiano, and I can envision plenty of you snuggling up with this book, a nice big glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and a generous hunk of the most classic of Italian cheeses.
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