Head to the Downtown Oyster Fest

New Amsterdam Market will be officially opening on Sunday, May 1st, but you can get a jump on the festivities—and give the market your support by attending the SouthStreet Oyster Saloon, a fundraiser and revival of Oyster Saloons once found in all of New York’s public markets. Enjoy fresh-shucked regional oysters from special guest vendors like: April Bloomfield of The John Dory Oyster Bar, Alejandro Alcocer of green brown orange, Patrick Connolly of Bobo Restaurant, King Phojanakong of Kuma Inn, and the creative teams from Great Performances, Luke’s Lobster, and Neuman’s Caterers. Other goodies will also be on hand, including cask beers sourced by Beer Table. Saturday, April 9 on South Street (betw Fulton St & Beekman St) from 5:00 to10:00 pm. Tickets to the Oyster Saloon are on sale now at an early bird price of $50 for General Admission. If shucking is on your list of skills, the market is looking for volunteers, email: volunteer@newamsterdammarket.org

Say hello to Bai the superfruit energy drink

Owner Ben Weiss, immersed in the coffee business, discovered that the fruit encasing the coffee bean, normally discarded in processing, was loaded with antioxidants. This discovery inspired him to create Bai, a line of fruit drinks that have a little bit of caffeine, a little bit of sugar, and a little bit of exotic juice. About half a gram of the superfruit averages 2000 orac units which is 40 to 50 times more antioxidants than pomegranate or acai. I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but at a recent gathering, when mixed with Prosecco, I found the juices put me in a euphoric mood. The mixes are slightly sweet, much like a VitaminWater, and come in 140 calorie 16 oz bottles, or 10 calorie versions sweetened with organic Stevia. Usually, I cannot stand the taste of any of the low-calorie sugars, but these are quite palatable, and a great choice if you are looking to cut a few calories. Exotic fruits featured: Tanzania Strawberry, Mango Kuai, Jamaica Blueberry (the crowd favorite), Kenya Peach; and the low-calorie versions: Panama Peach, Sumatra Dragonfruit, Costa Rica Clementine, and Congo Pear (sophisticated). I mixed up vodka, the juice from a tangerine, a dash of Urban Moonshine organic citrus bitters, and filled the glass with the Costa Rica Clementine (see photo). At around 70 calories, I was feelin’ guilt free!

Quorn: meaty non-meat

I am a hard-core meat lover, but still am always on the lookout for meat substitutes for myself, and especially for my guests. Quorn makes a line of meat-like products, made from mycoprotein— a member of the fungi family, that’s high in protein, plus low in fat and calories. This ingredient successfully disguises itself as chicken, meatballs, and burgers, and can be found in the frozen food section. The texture is actually quite similar to meat, and has a surprisingly enjoyable taste. I grilled the Chicken Cutlets version for 7 minutes on each side, and chopped it up with herb salad, sprouts, yellow peppers, zucchini, scallions, and added mayo. After stuffing it into some puff pastry, I would defy anyone to say that it was not the real thing. (The buttery-ness of the puff pastry crust gave me the idea to do a chicken-pot-pie-type appetizer—will have to work on that.) The Meatballs could totally come in handy for impromtu gatherings, just heat them in tomato sauce, or sauté with onions and peppers in garlic and wine, and add to pasta, like I did.

Go Slow: Hurom Slow Juicer

If you have experience with juicers, as I have, you might have been frustrated by the amount of vegetables you had to have on hand to produce one measly glass of juice. Then came the ordeal of cleaning. I was convinced that paying $6 at the health food store was a simpler alternative till I encountered the Hurom Slow Juicer. What makes it a great appliance at a gathering is that in between uses, you can just run water through it to clean it, without having to take the whole thing apart, thus enabling fresh—and different—juices to be enjoyed throughout the party. Plus, since the juicer works at a slower speed, it does not destroy vitamins with heat, and takes EVERY BIT of juice from food, leaving the pulp virtually dry. The mechanism inside works more like a mortar and pestle, crushing and pressing foods—releasing the nutrients, enzymes, and phytonutrients—resulting in a rich-colored juice that does not separate. Put in your favorite fruits, vegetables, even soybeans, walnuts or wheatgrass, to make super-nutritious drinks in an instant. Watch the video (it has a hypnotic quality) and review the nutritional tests on their website. $349.  A good excuse to try this super-fresh cocktail from Joseph Shuldiner, soon to be appearing in his upcoming cookbook “Pure Vegan” coming out in Spring 2012 from Chronicle Books.

Makes 1 drink
Preparing this cocktail is like bartending in a citrus orchard. The floral scent of lavender with the bright, fresh taste of tangerines is positively Mediterranean. The gorgeous color of tangerine juice is also such a welcome change from the usual palette of pinkish Cosmopolitans and greenish Appletinis. Your “Trend Meter™” will enjoy the evening off. To prepare enough for a party, juice tangerines and lemons in a Hurom Slow Juicer by peeling the fruit, cutting in half, and dropping in to the juicer.
2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur
2 ounces fresh tangerine juice
1 ounce lavender simple syrup, (recipe below)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Lavender sprigs or a twist of fresh tangerine peel for garnish
Place all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lavender sprig or fresh tangerine peel twist.

Lavender Simple Syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon dried or fresh lavender flowers
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lavender. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, then strain. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.

Graffit: Food in the Abstract

Spanish Chef Jesús Núñez, famous for his restaurants in Madrid (Polenta and Flou) was also a former graffiti artist, thus explaining the space and menu at this UWS spot, Graffit. I stopped in for a quick bite, and was quite intrigued by the menu, wishing I was with a couple more people so that I could try some more dishes without overeating. Luckily, I ran into fellow foodies, and was invited to sample along with them. That is one of the great things about living in NYC! See photos of the dishes I sampled, which were beautfully, and whimsically devised, like "Fake Truffles" Falafel with edible earth. Photos above show the communal dining areas near the bar, and the art in the ladies’ room.


LUPEC Women: Shake, Shake, Shake

March 8th is International Women’s Day, which has LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) inspired to honor women the best way they know how: with creative cocktails! In NYC, Astor Center will again feature the talents of NYC’s LUPEC team creating Scotch cocktails featuring the assortment from artisanal distiller Compass Box. These cocktails will be paired with chocolates from Rachel Zoe Insler, of the East Village’s Bespoke Chocolates and a selection of cheeses. Men and women alike attended last year’s event, which featured 12 bartenders at the helm. If scotch isn’t your thing, celebrate at home with this genever-based cocktail by Misty Kalkofen of Drink, Boston, and founder of LUPEC Boston. Her cocktail, The 1820, features Bols Genever, a spirit from Holland made from corn, wheat, and rye grains and blended with juniper berry distillate. This spirit pre-dates gin, and is very smooth—in between a whiskey and a vodka, and is fantastic in mixed drinks. In honor of strong women who drink strong spirits, I would like to repeat the story of Texan Guinan, a bartender from prohibition times. I hope you will laugh as much as I did upon reading it. Happy Women’s Day!!
“Hello, Suckers! Come on in and leave your wallet on the bar!” is how blonde bombshell Texas Guinan greeted guests at the speakeasies she manned in New York. She was famous for her wisecracking, running the hottest clubs in town, and being hauled off to the pokey on a regular basis. Upon re-opening after raids, she would sometimes sport a necklace of gold padlocks to show the cops there were no hard feelings.
THE 1820
1.75 oz Bols Genever
.25 oz Galliano L’Autentico
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Lavender Simple Syrup
1 bar spoon Del Maguey Minero Mezcal
1 dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
 —Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

LUCKYRICE Year of the Rabbit Festival

A week-long fest beginning May 2 through May 8, 2011will feature the talents of top chefs preparing Asian feasts all over New York City. For example, Chef Masaharu Morimoto will be creating an 8-course Omakase Dinner (meaning chef’s choice) at his restaurant, featuring a cocktail hour plus paired wines from Germany. The event’s culinary council has Tadashi Ono, Pichet Ong, David Chang, Susur Lee, and many more of the top talents in the world coming together. Last year’s event completely sold out, as did Anita Lo’s kick-off dinner for 2011, so it is advisable to get tickets soon. See the website for full schedule of events and to purchase tickets. I got a taste of what’s in store recently at Baotique with a 12-course preview dinner prepared by Chef Michael Bao Huynh. Photo above are the super tasty Nem Nuong Rolls: grilled pork meatball and vermicelli, wrapped in lettuce and topped with Peanut Sauce. See more photos at this link.

Zubrowka Vodka: Take me to the ZU

Yet another vodka, you say? I say, why not? Since the 14th Century, Żubrówka vodka has been savored by both Polish royalty and peasants venturing through the Białowieża Forest. Check out the images on Google, this ancient forest looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, and luckily has been protected under UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve since 1976. Here bison are allowed to roam freely and feed on the grass special to the area. This grass also gives the vodka its unique, herbaceous quality and light green color, matching up with notes of vanilla and chamomile. Zu makes its debut in the US with mixologist Daniel Undhammar who has been playing with the flavors in bars all over Europe. Grab a bottle and mix The Bison Republic for a tantalizing treat (photo). At $25 a bottle, you can’t go wrong.
THE BISON REPUBLIC by Daniel Undhammar
2 oz of Zu
Pink Grapefruit Juice
1 tsp Agave
dash of Lemon Juice
dash of St. Germain
top with a few drops of Pama Pomegranate Liqueur.

Share the Love Party

I always like to make a big fuss when it comes to my birthday. This year I hosted the post-Valentine’s Day “Share the Love” party which featured a menu of savory treats disguised as cupcakes, lollipops and flowers. The color pink was woven into the theme, with other shocking pastels, which made for an atmosphere of pure gaiety. My friend Derek and I worked for three days shopping and preparing the food. Nima helped inspire the cocktail, named The Blush, which I made ahead of time in pitchers, and topped them up on the scene. See photos of the food and decoration from the party here.

1 part Vodka
3 parts Pink Lemonade
.5 part Lillet
.5 part Aperol
1 part Cranberry Juice
La Fee Orange Bitters to taste
To serve: Fill a glass halfway with mixture, then fill with Prosecco.

February Highlights

It was a jam-packed month: MOMA, The Modern, lunches, tastings, parties. The usual. See photos from my adventures here. Shown here is the mushroom soup from The Modern, one of my favorite winter treats.