Before the Purge: International Spirits Competition, Veritas, 5 Ninth, Rouge Tomate

December, as usual, turned out to be a party-packed month with opportunities for feasting galore. Since I knew come January I would be operating in a different mode, I might have been a little extra indulgent with my choices. Here are the highlights of my adventures: tastings at the New York International Spirits Competition held at Brooklyn’s new distillery, where I discovered some unique spirits; Magnum Monday at Veritas’ dinner with $25 glass of exquisite wine; cocktail samplings from the launch of the new and SO improved 75th Anniversary Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, which should be mandatory literature at every home bar; a holiday party at Junoon; dinner at Rouge Tomate; and the finale, New Year’s Eve celebratory dinner at 5 Ninth (photo above)—where the Pan Roasted Black Cod served with Pureed Celeriac, Leek Veloute, Tarragon and Chili Jam was unforgettably delicious—and gets my vote for top 5 best tastes of 2011. See details below plus more photos at this link.
The New York Distilling Company, also has a bar connected to it. Stop in at Shanty for a full range of cocktails and a distinctive selection of craft brewed beers.

At Veritas, I chose the Maple-Brined Wooly Pig with charred tomato and wilted butter lettuce to go with my glass of Clos des Papes 2001.

This cocktail by Jonathan Pogash is one of the many found in Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. I made sure to serve a version of this to my guests around the holidays.
Candied Apple Martini
1 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz apple cider
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with apple.
(I just used ground cinnamon, but to make the syrup: Boil 1 cup Demarara sugar and water. As soon as water boils add 4 cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. The batch at the party also had a little bit of Amaretto in it. Very holiday-ish!)

The bread at Junoon is amazing! This one is the Garlic Naan. Head over to 24th street to try their seasonal specials. 

Rouge Tomate was probably the healthiest stop on my party-line. We ordered the Seasonal Toasts: Wild Mushroom cow’s milk ricotta, leek, thyme; Heirloom Cauliflower basil, pine-nut, beldi olive; Spaghetti Squash peekytoe crab, apple, jalapeƱo

Zutto: Japanese Pub and more

A neighborhood sushi spot that has served Tribeca for over 30 years has gotten a tasteful makeover. At Zutto, the friendly vibe remains, but the menu has been totally upgraded to cater to the sophisticated tastes of today. The streamlined space now holds a grand communal table, perfect for experiencing the new pub fare and other Asian specialties. I got to have an extensive sampling of Chef Josh Smookler’s new menu, and I was totally wowed! Whether you want to warm up with a generous serving of top-notch ramen, snack on tasty hirata buns with decadent slabs of short rib, pork belly, or kobe beef, (also portobella and tuna), or just cut into a juicy steak frites, you will not be disappointed. Get to this spot before everyone else hears about it! Photo above shows the Seafood Ramen, photo below the Portobella Hirata Buns. See more photos of our meal at this link, and do order dessert, if you are so inclined. I had a bite (or two) of all four, and especially loved the Fromage Blanc “Cheese Cake” with coconut milk and graham cracker.

Starting the Year on 1200 Calories a Day

Unchecked grazing over the last few months has taken its toll. Extreme measures were in order. Starting January 2 of this year, I have been on a health regimen, and am determined to reduce my weight, get in amazing shape, and come up with the least objectional way of doing it.
Here’s my plan:
Eat 1200 calories a day: To keep myself on track, I am photographing everything I eat and counting calories with the help of an iPhone app. I am also working out with my trainer Eddy 5 days a week and running in between our sessions. See photos below of my regimen, and I will keep you posted on my progress. To be continued...