March Un-Madness: Alison Eighteen

The crazy month of March included 80 degree weather and many adventures. One of my favorite new discoveries is Alison Eighteen. I stopped in early one evening on my way home and was delighted to find an expansive, subtlety designed space and a wonderfully-warm staff. My eye did catch the charcuterie carving station on my way in, so I made sure to have a sampling, including some Mortadella (one of my favorite indulgences). This is definitely a spot where you can chill out after work in a low key environment, and enjoy some excellent food. Appetizers include an ample portion of mussels in a slightly creamy broth—the perfect bar snack. The front of the restaurant has a lounge area in front, long bar with banquettes opposite (and enough space in between). The dining room in the back (photo above) has perfectly spaced tables and sweet appointments. The crowd seems to like to dress up a bit, adding to the elegance of the atmosphere. Opening soon, is an enormous downstairs lounge with piano, available for private parties or for just hanging out. Also in this month’s report: a super dinner at Super Linda, Bob’s birthday at A Voce, a delightful diversion at Bowery Diner, an excursion to Darien, CT, and a viewing of fabulous art. See more photos at this link. Photo below: 18th street between Irving and Third Avenue in full bloom.

Austin in 4 days

A wedding brought me down to Texas in mid-March, the same time the SXSW festival was going on. Loved the area and plan to go back when I have more time to explore—and when there is less craziness. Due to hotels being booked a year in advance had us to staying outside the center of the action, so we were only able to catch a few glimpses of the downtown, but managed to squeeze in a few treats around the wedding festivities. A pre-wedding Latin dinner was had at La Condesa (photo above). Rehearsal dinner was held at Chez Zee, a cute spot north of the city. Recovery brunch was appreciated at Moonshine (photo below). It was a beautiful time to visit, the weather was ideal, just warm enough to not wear a coat, just cool enough to make it comfortable. Pretty Bluebonnets (the Texas state flower) were seen all over the place. See more photos of the trip at this link.


Forager’s City Grocery

This little grocery makes me wish I still lived on the west side. I popped in on opening day (March 9) to investigate what goodies would be available and was not disappointed. There is a fantastic array of fresh organic vegetables from the Foragers’ micro-farm in Canaan, local meats aged in-house, charcuterie, pantry items, cheeses, herbs, and teas. But, like most New Yorkers, I was delighted to see a vast selection of prepared take-away foods, like rotisserie chickens, foccaccia (the mushroom came home with me, as I had guests stopping in for a glass of prosecco later), and lots of cute sandwiches. Adjacent to the grocery is Foragers City Table. Chef Douglas Monsalud, known for his whimsical approach to farm-fresh cuisine at Kitchenette, Fog City Diner and Betelnut in San Francisco is taking advantage of all the grocery has to offer. He and Executive Chef de Cuisine Ross Gill will focus on a modern interpretation of classic Asian dishes. Inventive cocktails, local beers and an eco-minded selections of wines on tap will be on hand to go with the food. Foragers City Table is now open for dinner only, but is gearing up to serve breakfast, lunch and post-work bar snacks soon. See more photos of the grocery at this link. I will follow up with the cocktail report asap. Located at 300 w 22nd st @ Eighth Avenue.

Le Palais des Thés Cocktails for Spring

I love the idea of using tea as an ingredient in cocktails. First off, you have the ability to create gallons of mixes, straight out of your cabinet. Secondly, the antioxidants and subtle flavoring make for really nice combinations. As a bonus, the teas from Le Palais des Thés come beautifully packaged, and would be a standout presence on your bar or table. The company Le Palais des Thés began life with fifty tea enthusiasts wanting to guarantee the freshness and quality of their teas. They make regular visits to their tea estates to maintain local farming methods and to appreciate the rich cultures surrounding them. While traveling the world in search of rare teas, they discovered the leaves for making Fleur de Geisha in Japan, a refined green tea flavored with cherry blossoms, and Thé du Hammam in China, a green tea flavored with berries, rose, orange flower and green dates. Both these teas have a delicate balance of fruitiness, and work well in a cocktail. Important note: when brewing the teas, do not let the water come to a boil, as it will create a bitter tasting tea. If you are a tea enthusiast, I highly recommend purchasing Cuisinart’s temperature controlled tea kettle. Otherwise, keep an eye on your pot. When bubbles just start to form at the edges, remove from heat and prepare your brew. Photo above: the Fleur de Geisha cocktail, below: Champagne with Thé du Hammam

Fleur de Geisha Cocktail
This tea was inspired by the Japanese Hanami tradition of viewing cherry trees in bloom. Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo Sake was used to make this cocktail, but you can substitute any other that is meant to be chilled, with a fruity smooth taste. The bottle does have the cuteness factor. 
About 5 servings
4 rounded tsp (or 4 tea bags) Le Palais des Thés “Fleur de Geisha” tea
12 oz spring water
2.5 oz sake
2.5 oz pink grapefruit juice
3½ TB cane sugar
1.5 oz Triple Sec
pinch of ground ginger
Infuse the tea in the simmered water for 3 minutes. Filter the leaves, let cool, then chill in the refrigerator for a half hour. When the tea is chilled, place into a cocktail shaker along with the sake, pink grapefruit juice and cane sugar. Shake. Add Triple Sec and a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously until the outside of the cocktail shaker appears wet. Garnish each glass with a tiny pinch of ground ginger and serve immediately.

Champagne with Thé du Hammam
The flavors in this tea evoke the characteristic fragrances used in a hammam.
About 5 flutes
3 rounded tsp (or 3 tea bags) Le Palais des Thés “Thé du Hammam”tea
10 oz spring water
10 oz Champagne
2 TB  peach liqueur
Infuse the tea in the simmered water for 3 minutes. Filter the leaves, let tea cool, then chill in the refrigerator for a half hour. Put chilled tea and peach liqueur in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into flutes about half way, and top off with well-chilled Champagne.

FFerone Glasses: The Revolution Collection

Place your beverages on a different kind of pedestal. The award-winning glasses and bowls from Felicia Ferrone’s Revolution Collection create perfect geometric worlds for wine, water, soup, or ice cream. Flip each one over to get a different capacity (one way to assert portion control!). The pieces are hand-blown borosillicate glass, made in the Czech Republic, a material which is oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe. Items can be purchased directly through the website, via an ultra cool interactive photo. Wine glasses, $84 for a pair, Champagne Flutes, $79 for a pair. Photo above shows part of the collection, photo below, Felicia Ferrone at the Gift Show standing before her design.

La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life

Want to escape to an ideal world where all the food is pretty, and the landscapes are to-die-for? Take a look at La Tartine Gourmande for inspiration on cooking (and for taking a trip somewhere!) Béatrice Peltre, a photographer, stylist, and food lover, brings all her talents together in this lovely book. Her recipes typically focus on one amazing ingredient, and are healthy, and simple to create—but mostly, look tantalizingly delicious. Take a peek at this piece in the New York Times, which highlights the video created to promote the book. Well done. You can see a sampling of the book on Amazon, or visit the blog for sample recipes and tons of beautiful photos. Enjoy the trip!