Cuddle UP: Sandeman Port Cocktail

The cooler temperatures call for warming, deep flavors and aromas. A soothing glass of port is much welcomed to melt the winter blues. Surprisingly, it was an ambitious Scotsman who put Sandeman’s Port into the marketplace in the 1700s. So ahead of his time—he was the first to come up a branding platform for his imported port—which I do appreciate, being a graphic designer! Check out the website to see the succession of artwork associated with the brand plus the groovy advertising from the 60s onward. And do try the recipe from Jason Litrell below. Suggestion: heat up the dry apple cider to create a warming welcome for frozen guests, and serve in a mug. 

3/4 parts raspberry syrup
3/4 parts fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 parts Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto
1/2 part apple brandy
Top with 2-3 parts dry apple cider

To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan combine 4 cups sugar and 1 quart water. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. In another saucepan, muddle a small container of raspberries (about 6 ounces), and combine the syrup and raspberries. Let rest for a day, then strain. Keeps for about a month.

To create the cocktail: Pour all ingredients in a shaker, except cider. Shake quickly and strain into a Collins glass. Top with cider, garnish with raspberries and dust with nutmeg.

Cuddle UP: Goat Cheese from France

“Original Chèvre” is made with local French goat’s milk and crafted following centuries-old tradition, often coming in cool shapes and covered in ash, leaves, herbs or varieties of pepper, thus creating a cool display on your cheese board. Set out the range of flavors from mild (Valencay-style or Brie) to heavy hitters (Chabichou or Bleu de Bocage). Or treat your guests to mini bites, like the pretty stuffed pumpkins or the itty bitty portions of mac ‘n’ cheese. Recipes follow below. Check the website for future recipes (work in progress).
Yield: 6 servings
6 mini pumpkins
1 1/4 cups cooked rice
2 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp salt,
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs pine nuts
1 1/2 tbs sliced dried cranberries
1/2 lb French Goat Brie (cut into 12 pieces, rind can be removed)
Cook Pumpkin: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the top off each pumpkin, and scoop out the seeds from each. Place in an oven-safe dish cut-side-up. Cook in oven until pumpkin flesh is tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven.
Add stuffing: When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh from each pumpkin into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese. Mix until combined. Place 1 wedge of cheese in each pumpkin, fill with rice mixture and top with another cheese piece. Transfer to oven, cook 10 minutes and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
8 oz pasta (like cavatappi)
1 1/2 TB butter
1 1/2 TB flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz French goat tomme, rind removed, cut into chunks
4 oz French Goat cheese log, cut into chunks
dash of hot sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
In large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat, stir in flour until combined. Gradually add milk and cream, whisking until mixture is smooth and has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and add chunks of cheese, hot sauce, salt, pepper and chives, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat, stir in pasta, and serve in bowls. Or, to create the mini servings: portion out in a mini muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes at 425º

Year-End Outings: brunch at Park Avenue Winter

I met my cousin at Park Avenue Winter for brunch and was nicely surprised. The $35 prix fixe included a tray of pastries and unique selections well worth the price. We also indulged ourselves with a couple of cocktail offerings, which were finely crafted, and full of surprises. See photos below. So far I have been here for dinner in Summer, lunch in Autumn, and brunch in Winter, so must return in Spring to complete the experience.

 The pastry tray includes: Spiced Sugar Doughnut, Golden Raisin And Walnut Roll, Pistachio Scone, Winter Cranberry Muffin, Brioche & Pecan Sticky Bun, Glazed Banana Bread
 Preparing the Cloud One with surprise ingredient (cotton candy...)
which melted into the drink
the finished Cloud One: absolut vodka, pimm’s no. 1, lemon curd, surprise

 Park Avenue Hot Apple Cider: gosling’s rum, apple cider, fresh ginger, orange zest, cinnamon, pears, maple syrup
 Cured-Lemon Caesar Salad
 Lyford Cay Chicken Soup tortellini & bahamian spices
 Breakfast Risotto which included mushrooms and pork bits under the fried egg

 Open Face Omelet wild mushrooms, aged gouda
A side of Breakfast Sausage

Year-End Outings: bar snacks at STK Midtown

Been meaning to check out STK since it opened in midtown, and was glad that out-of-town friends gave the perfect excuse to visit. I will say unwaveringly: best steak tartare I’ve ever had. I was told they had just adjusted the recipe, so my timing was perfect! The sliders and parmesan fries also proved to satisfy our munching needs. See the tantalizing photos below.

Year-End Outings: dinner at l’Apicio

My new favorite spot, l’Apicio, boasts rustic Italian fare, really nice wines by the glass and a lively crowd. Perfect for eating at the bar and trying the different wines with your dinner. Expect to wait, as this place is very popular. See photos below. 
 Radicchio with grilled pear, blue cheese, walnuts
 Quail “A La Plancha” with butternut squash, pumpkin seeds
 Ravioli with sweetbreads, mascarpone, condimento

 not sure if this is the Grilled Arctic Char with pickled garlic, hen-of-the-woods
another visit: Escarole pecorino-buttermilk dressing, almonds, cucumber, feta
enjoyed this red wine with my steak (which was fantastic and a super deal at $22)

Year-End Outings: tasting at Sotto 13

November and December brought with it a myriad of outings, reconnecting with friends. I went to Sotto 13’s opening, and promptly made a reservation for that Friday night. It’s a fantastic spot to head with a bunch of friends to enjoy no-nonsense, classic Italian fare. Plus it boasts a huge space, so no waiting. Heard that the Wild Mushroom Pizza with mushroom duxelle, ricotta, mascarpone, bel paese, chives, and truffle oil was the best, will have to try it next time! Check out the  goodies sampled at the opening below. 
  Sweet Brazilian: leblon cachaca, given liqueur, figenza vodka, lime juice
 Ricotta, Lemon & Truffle Honey Toasts
 Eggplant Caponata Toasts
Fig Jam, Prosciutto & Gorgonzola Toasts
 Pollo Pizza bel paese, spicy braised chicken, ricotta
 Speck & Mozzarella
 Rigatoni Veal Ragu (loved this)
Lamb Spiedini with port wine reduction