Bitter and sweet, drinks and memories

The first time I tried a Negroni, I almost immediately spit it out like a geyser of blood orange colored booze.

It was worse than the mouthful of CK One I accidentally sprayed myself with in seventh grade. Worse than the bar of soap my grandma shoved in my mouth as a kid. (Because yes, old school grandmothers used to do that to foul-mouthed children.) Worse than the Tylenol I bit into, thinking it was a mint.

It was horrendous, an assault on my taste buds.

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Never thought I’d be excited about a frozen Negroni

Now every time I order one, something that happens way more than I might have ever thought based on that first sip, I think of that night, and how I almost lost all my cool points in front of the Italians I was drinking with, all of them casually, painlessly sipping away at their Negronis.

It took years— it’s been ten since that first stolen sip— but I finally came around. Maybe due to a changing palette or perhaps out of nostalgia for a special time and place in my life, or maybe even because the older I get, the more I appreciate a drink that almost forces me to drink it slowly instead of guzzling it down.

And a good Negroni, with its all-booze-no-mixer blend of Campari, vermouth and gin, all colorful and dolled up with a twist of orange peel, exciting and alluring, a little floral and herbal, bitter yet bright, pretty much demands to be drank slowly.

On a recent humid, sticky afternoon in Brooklyn, reminiscent of so many equally swampy summer afternoons spent in AC-aversed Italy, a frozen Negroni was the obvious choice for me. With frost on its little coupe cocktail glass, and more of a dusty red-orange than the candy colored original, the frozen counterpart was a cute, chilly play on the classic. In the blazing heat of our windowside corner at One Bedford in Williamsburg, it didn’t stay frozen for long, quickly melting into a clear, orangey red.

I knocked it down in a few gulps, remembering a time when a tiny sip had tasted so different.

Good breakfast is always a great thing

If there’s one thing I could eat tirelessly it would be breakfast. Well, no, really it might also be pizza, ice cream, mac and cheese, or pork buns but that’s besides the point. Today, for the sake of this post, it’s breakfast.

Eggs, bacon, pancakes, ALL of it— I. Love. It. And last week, on a day off in the middle of the week, I had a great breakfast (or brunch I suppose) at one of the best spots for it in town: Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant. On the weekends, people line up outside before the place even opens, but during the week, in the middle of the afternoon, you can just walk right in and help yourself to a table, which is exactly what we did.

Rosemary Salty Dog and Cucumber Cooler, fine company on a day off.

Drinks are a necessary part of the brunch experience so I went with the Rosemary Salty Dog, a rosemary-garnished, salt-rimmed mix of gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and rosemary simple syrup on the rocks.  It was citrusy and tart with just the perfect bit of herbal sweetness from the rosemary. Flaneur, always shying away from overly sweet drinks, went with the cucumber cooler, a crisp mix of vodka, cucumber puree, lime and mint with a refreshing bite to it.

Probably the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.

Earlier that morning, Flaneur had rolled over in bed and said, “I want pancakes,” so at Clinton Street, which is known for its pancakes,  he ordered the blueberry variety. They were perfect in their soft fluffiness and had big fat blueberries throughout with a delicious bunch of more wild Maine blueberries on top. But what really had me literally licking my fingers was the delicious maple butter these came with. Instead of just traditional maple syrup, these pancakes came with warm maple butter, a ridiculously good concoction that was simultaneously sweet and just a tiny bit salty.

Southern breakfast in all its glory.

But because we had agreed to split something sweet and something savory, I ordered the southern breakfast: two eggs (ordered sunny side up because I go bonkers over runny, orange yolk), cheese grits, sugar-cured bacon and fried green tomatoes. Yes, that’s right, fried freakin’ green tomatoes! It’s not every day I see those on a menu, and with cheese grits no less! The only thing missing was a biscuit, but that was ok because the bacon more than made up for it. The ideal thickness and crunchiness, it had a sweetness to it that made me want to eat plate after plate of it.

After eating at Clinton Street, I get why people line up outsides on the weekend, which makes me even happier to have days off during the week.

Where the wild drinks are

Fraise Sauvage at Employees Only

I’d heard lots of good things about Employees Only, the Art Deco-ish, non-descript-from-the-outside bar in the West Village but it wasn’t until out-of-town guests came to stay with us that I decided we should check it out. (I like to impress visitors with cool stuff so they don’t dwell on the fact that I live in a glorified matchbox.)

The ambiance was cozy and intimate, with that cooler-than-thou hint of exclusivity that pervades so many places in this neighborhood, but it was the Fraise Sauvage, French or something for “delicious and best smelling cocktail in the world,” that really sold me on the place.

Like almost everything else in New York, the drink was about three times the price I’d pay in a normal city, but then again, no one moves to New York looking for normalcy, now do they? Plymouth Gin shaken with wild strawberries and Tahitian Vanilla, topped off with Zardetto prosecco di Conegliano Brut. Fizzy, sweet, tart and with a bold taste and bright aroma of  juicy, fresh wild strawberries.

On top of everything, EO is literally two blocks from my apartment. Looks like this one’s getting added to the out-of-town-guests itinerary. (And to my personal delicious drinks itinerary.)

I’m telling

Hungarian Rhapsody

Growing up, my best friend used to always say, “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets are for everyone.” Really, she only said that when she wasn’t already in on the secret, which as it was, wasn’t often, because she was always in on the secret, but still. She didn’t like not knowing things, and either do I.

Which is why it was annoying me that I hadn’t been to Please Don’t Tell yet. I had been to Crif Dogs, the East Village hot dog shop with the phone booth that you have to go through to get into the not-so-secret speakeasy, but never actually inside the bar itself. The place is small so reservations, which can only be made by calling at 3pm the day of, go pretty quickly.

But recently, I got let in on the secret, and so now I’m gonna blab about it, because even though the name is please don’t tell, everyone knows half the fun is in telling. Continue reading