Purity Vodka: a complex story

If you think vodka is completely lacking in complexity and dimension, this one could be the one that changes your mind. One of Sweden’s Master Blenders was summoned to come up with a winning formula. Thomas Kuuttanen, who had experience in blending whiskeys and liqueurs, created a unique production process to elicit the essence of the organic barley, wheat, and mineral-rich water from the lands of the 13th century Ellinge Castle. The result, Purity, has hints of grassiness, vanilla notes, and a whisper of chocolate. Check the website to see photos of the impressive pot still, made of copper and 24k gold, and the castle in southern Sweden. Mixologist John Pomeroy is doing some very creative cocktails with the flavors, and took a group of us on a tour of Tribeca’s hot spots. See photos and cocktails from our foray at this link. Photo above shows the view through the window of Compose, a new spot in Tribeca featuring creative cocktails and tasting dinners for 10.

Elevated Austrian at Seasonal Restaurant

It was already feeling like the Alps due to the high snowbanks everywhere, so I thought it would be a good time to try Seasonal on 58th Street. I was intrigued by the Michelin Star, and had enjoyed the Austrian delights at Edi and the Wolf, the chef team’s casual wine bar in the East Village. Wolfgang Ban and Eduard Frauneder have taken the flavors from their favorite dishes in Austria and come up with thoroughly sophisticated and modern versions, incorporating some very contemporary techniques and delightful surprises. The room has a toned down, minimalist decor, providing a serene setting for the inventive, exquisite dishes. Go to this link to see photos of our dinner and the space. Photo here shows the smoked mackerel appetizer that was truly out of this world.

Latest Releases from Bordeaux

The Soirée des Grands Crus triumphed despite having to compete with the aftermath of the snow storm. It was definitely 4 hours of pure decadence, with 29 wines to taste, chocolates from Francois Payard, and lovely little bites of food. The blind tasting competition had 9 winners taking home double magnums of the really good stuff. See photos of the event and my wine picks here.

Markt for a Seafood Craving

I was in the mood for oysters and a comfortable vibe, so made a reservation at Markt, an old favorite. I remember when it had its first incarnation as a pioneer in the Meatpacking District. It always had an exciting, busy vibe, like a train station. My friends and I had much fun, and many orders for oysters in that space. Now on the corner of 21st and Sixth, the vibe is quite similar. Once there, the lobster called to me, and ended up to be a wonderful choice. It had super sweet meat, and was not too much trouble to deconstruct. See more photos of our dinner here.


Notes of LOVE

Tell the people you love just-how-much, with finely engraved Valentine’s Day cards from Dempsey & Carroll. Each card is handmade, with a simple, sophisticated drawing and message wrapped in beautiful hand-lined envelopes. Buy one for $6, or spread the love with a box of ten for $50—alternatively, you can reinforce the message all year long! You’re a Fox. Bee My Honey. You’re a Hoot. We are Lucky.  Awww.

New Vibe at Veritas

Veritas is back, with a less polished, sexy-industrial feel. Surrounding the dining room are walls of wine, cozy banquettes, and a massive 70s-style corkboard. Tables are cloth-free, adding to the minimalism and warmth. If you’re looking to mingle, the bar in front has been extended to hold more diners plus adjacent to the window is a communal dining table. My friends and I were excited to sample co-owner Chef Sam Hazen’s new farm-sourced menu. From the artisanal breads, served with a superb olive oil for dipping, to the yin-yang saucer holding black and white salts, everything seemed hand-picked by a connoisseur. The menu felt classic and innovative at the same time—and perfect for the cold temperatures. See more photos of our meal and the space at this link. Photo above left shows the Farmer’s Market Tasting, which we ordered as a side to our entrees, a leek flan is surrounded by the day’s other picks from the Union Square Greenmarket. Photo right shows the walls of wine flanking the entrance to the dining room.

Cayenne: French Caribbean on Houston

What was the XR bar will soon be transformed into a cozy dance spot with a French Caribbean twist. I stopped in around 11 on Friday night and by 12:30 the space was quite lively. Stay tuned for more reports on the cocktail offerings and DJ nights. 128 West Houston/Sullivan.

Barney’s Version: the Genius of Paul Giamatti

I’m not a big movie-goer, but last Monday night my friend Peter invited me to the pre-showing of Barney’s Version, the new movie starring Paul Giamatti. Since then I have been spreading the news. If you enjoy movies with a twisting story that includes hilarity, suspense, mystery and scandal, you will eat this up. Based on a novel by Mordecai Richler, the story bounces around the life of Barney Penofsky, touching on his bachelorhood in the 70s in Rome, through three marriages and his success as a television producer in Montreal. Dustin Hoffman makes for a great sidekick as Barney’s endearingly outrageous dad. The movie is shot beautifully, and the characters age so realistically you feel as if you have spent a lifetime with them. After the showing of the movie, The Creative Coalition, who sponsored the event, had Paul Giamatti and director Richard J Lewis on hand to answer questions about the inspiration and shooting of the movie. I was already a Paul Giamatti fan, now this movie puts him on the top of my list. Go see it!


10 Downing: New Year, New Menu

Chef Jonnatan Leiva has created a super creative and artistic new menu to go along with the new year. I got to sample some preview bites this past week, some of which were more than divine. The menu has six sections. There are Shares, featuring cheese plates, oyster selections, and an assortment of house-made terrines and pates (I’m going back for those). The Greens & Vegetables section showcases a fantastic assortment of local produce, like winter lettuces from Satur Farms, and shaved pear and green bean salad. Grains & Legumes offers bean and kale soup topped with fried bread, plus grits with shrimp for staying warm. Tartare & Crudo includes a delicious duo of ahi tuna and salmon belly with house-made chips for scooping. A great selection of Meat dishes (including 10 Downing’s customers favorite of short rib or garlic pork burgers), and three Fish selections complete the offerings. For $49 you can do a 4-course tasting choosing from either the veg or grain sections, tartare or chef’s daily rolled pasta, a fish or meat entree, and dessert or cheese—a fantastic deal considering the extra special ingredients and loving care put into the dishes. Seen in the photo: the beautiful roasted baby beet tart with goat cheese came to the table as a work of art. See more photos of the dishes we tried here, incuding the most AMAZING dessert: Poached and Roasted Pear with Honey Roasted Granola and Lavender-Almond Cream. To die for. Also worth noting: acoustic material has been added to the ceiling that completely changed the timbre of the space—much quieter. 10 Downing, what was your resolution this year?

Soirée des Grands Crus: New Tastes from Bordeaux

Do you think you have a sophisticated palate? Put your taste buds to the test and chat up 17 chateaux owners this January 27th at the Soirée des Grands Crus. Guests will sample 29 of the latest releases at 82 Mercer Street in Soho. All ticket holders are eligible to participate in the blind tasting, which will have 9 winners taking home roughly $20,000 worth of wine, like the double magnum of Chateau Dassault 2008 (St Emilion Grand Cru Classe), and prizes, like the Chronomat B01 watch from Breitling, valued at $7690 . The Grand Cru Challenge begins with a brief written quiz to assess knowledge of Bordeaux wines. Then top scorers will participate in the blind tasting of six wines. Also on hand: fashion from Hugo Boss, and Chef Francois Payard with six chocolate pairings—one for each of the six Bordeaux appellations. A limited number of early entry tickets ($250) will get you into the event at 6:00. General admission ($185) ticket holders enter at 7:30.  Check the website to see who’s coming, what they’re giving away, and to purchase tickets.

eco Smart Fire: the instant fireplace

It’s the time of year when people long to sit gazing at a flickering fire. Eco Smart Fire has designed a line of freestanding fireplaces and grates that can be put inside a space without the need for ventilation or a gas connection. The steamlined models are fueled with eco-friendly bio ethanol, an alcohol made from sugarcane, potatoes, bananas, beetroot, and cereals. Check out their website to see a huge array of really sensational designs to make your space all warm and toasty.


abc kitchen: super tasty New Year’s Day dinner

I love the fact that I live just a few blocks from abc kitchen. Though its tough to just walk in and get a table, New Year’s Day proved to be lucky. My friend Bob and I languorously dined our way through toasts, salad, fish, and dessert. A perfect way to start the year, in my book! Photo shows a close up of the Crab Toast with Lemon Aioli. I don’t know how they toast the bread, but the texture is super soft and light, with burnt crispy crust, and comes to the table warm. Just sensational. See more of the meal we had, plus the new space added in the back of the restaurant here.

Gramercy Tavern: Work in Progress

I guess Danny Meyer took advantage of New Year’s Day to do work on the space, and give his employees a day off. I wonder what’s going on...these photos taken through the windows on New Year’s Day.