SPIRITS OF THE HOLIDAYS: Best Bottles to Bring to the Party

Spread the holiday cheer with these unique choices, your host will thank you! (1) Spicy and sweet, with perfect flavors for the holidays, The King's Ginger was created in 1903 to warm and energize His Majesty King Edward VII. Delightful by itself as an after-dinner sip, or even more wonderful mixed with vodka or gin, the flavor is reminiscent of a candied, citrus-y ginger. Around $37. (2) No.3 London Dry Gin offers traditional gin lovers something to cherish. The No.3 refers to the address on St James’s Street, home to London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant (since 1698). No.3 also refers to its three fruits: Juniper, orange peel, and grapefruit peel—and three spices: angelica root, coriander seed, and cardamom pods. Check out the website for a beautiful cocktail video for making the perfect martini. You may leave the music playing while you are busy in the kitchen with holiday cooking. Around $37. (3) For those loving complex spirits, Bols Barrel Aged Genever fits the bill. Traditional genever, thought of as the original spirit, starts with a triple distillate of rye, wheat and corn, and is then blended with botanicals (hops, cloves, anise, licorice, ginger, juniper and many others). The barrel-aged limited edition is subsequently aged in French oak barrels, resulting in an an herbalishious-cognac-like taste. Around $50 (4) The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur is a preserved, sweet taste of world-class sun-ripened apricots—combining apricot juice and apricot schnapps together. Works as a fantastic addition to cocktails. Try the super Austrian mix of flavors in the cocktail below. Around $28.
1.5 oz Riesling Wine
.5 oz Gin
.25 oz The Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur
1 dash The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain in a cocktail glass.


Bolthouse Farms NOG: Low Cal Egg Nog at The Wayland

Bolthouse Farms NOG Your guests will thank you for serving egg nog with 60% fewer calories and 83% less fat—but that tastes just as sweet. Bolthouse Farms presents its limited-edition Holiday Nog with only 80 calories per 4 ounce serving. Available around the city, check the website for a store near you. I got to sample it at The Wayland, newly opened on Ave C, a cozy corner spot with bar bites by owner Rob Ceraso, and cocktails by Brian Hawthorne of Cocktails in Motion. See photos and cocktail recipe below.

1.5 oz Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog
1.5 oz light rum
1.5 oz pineapple juice
dash of Angostura bitters
sprig of mint for garnish
optional: teaspoon of dark rum
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake wll with ice, strain into a tall glass over crushed ice, garnish with a sprig of mint, and teaspoon of dark rum, if desired.

TREAT YOUR GUESTS: Liquid Chocolate

Cask & Cream Chocolate Temptation
Thrill and delight your friends’ sweet tooth, with an after-dinner sip of Cask & Cream Chocolate Temptation—an absolute taste sensation. This delicious cream liqueur blends rich, dark chocolate flavors and a touch of brandy. Serve it up straight, over ice, in coffee or over cake or ice cream.

Art in the Age organic SNAP liqueur: Ginger Snap in a Bottle

Art in the Age organic SNAP liqueur Following Pennsylvania Dutch roots, the makers of Snap created their organic liqueur with the taste of old-fashioned ginger snaps in mind. Warm up guests with Snap in a mulled apple cider (see recipe below), or wow your guests with a batch of Snap Caramels. Lots of other recipes and merchandise on their adorable, foodie website—learn more about this wonderful brand here.

1/2 gallon apple cider
Zest and juice of an orange
1 each piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
3 cinnamon sticks
6 anise pods
1 Tbsp of whole cloves
Combine all the ingredients, except for the Snap, in a pot, cover and heat over medium-low for about 20-30 minutes. Pour a shot of Snap into a heat-proof glass and top off with the warm mulled cider.

TREAT YOUR GUESTS: Decadent St. André

Fill up your guest’s bellies with a cheesy-oniony dip. Incorporating St. André’s intense taste and rich offering of 70% butterfat will have the brie-lovers going wild. Or just put this pretty wheel out for guests to help themselves. (Let the cheese sit out for an hour before serving, to show off its melty goodness.) The recommended pairing: beer or bitter ales.

by Chef Ash Fulk
Serves 8
1 lb Saint André cheese
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Spanish onions, diced and caramelized
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 roasted jalapeno (seeded and diced, please use gloves)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, crushed
Dice Saint André. In a food processor, pureé cheese, sour cream and cream. Add caramelized onion and pulse until incorporated. Dip should be thick, but not so thick that it would break a celery stick. Fold in chives, jalapeño and scallions, finish with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top with toasted pine nuts. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks, asparagus, and green beans.


Say “Thank You” or drop an attention-getting personal note this holiday with Trina Turk’s collection for Dempsey and Carroll’s Blue Ogee. The clean, geometric shapes and fresh colors say “winter” and “holiday” without going the traditional route. Handmade cards feature a raised blue diamond on thick paper with beveled blue edge. A box of ten cards with gorgeous lined envelopes goes for $65. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these cards benefits PS Arts, a non-profit organization committed to improving children's lives through arts education.

HOLIDAY HELPERS: Nawgan—Drink to Think

Have a tendency to forget? Pass on the soda and put Nawgan on your list of items to help get you through the hectic holiday season. Created by a professor of neuropsychology, its blend of natural-occurring chemicals combine to enhance concentration and focus. The drink is also low in calories. Comes in caffeinated, Red Berry (my favorite), Tarocco Orange (mild-tasting) and caffeine-free Berry. Available online, $49.99 for a case of 24 cans plus $12 shipping. I was doing a little experimenting, and came up with this cocktail combo: No 3 Gin, plus a little Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur, and half a can of Red Berries Nawgan.


Gourmet Gifts:100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself and Wrap with Style
This book is loaded with great recipes for gifting, plus creative ways to package and present to your host. The recipes fall into a gamut of categories, like Hazelnut Brittle, wrapped to look like vintage letters, Whole Preserved Lemons stored in jars with instructions attached, and Rose Petal Vinegar (as seen in the photos). Dinah Corley takes into account foods that ship well over a long distance, and how long items will last. Check out the website for behind-the-scenes photos on her blog and more about the book.


The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food that French Women Cook Every Day
I saw tons of recipes that were perfect for entertaining in this book by Wini Moranville, who brings the spirit of the French lifestyle with her recipes inspired from spending summers at her house in France for the past 15 years. The easy techniques and speedy preparation will have you choosing to make one recipe after another. The following recipe would be a welcome hostess gift, or be great to have on hand for the holidays—the crackers keep for a week refrigerated (tightly covered), or up to one month in the freezer. 

Comté-Walnut Crackers
Makes about 24 crackers
1 cup shredded Comté, Gruyère, or Emmental cheese, at room temperature (about 4 ounces)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or chives, or a combination
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ice water, plus more if needed
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the cheese and butter on low speed until combined. Add the herbs, salt, cayenne pepper, and a few grindings of black pepper; mix briefly to combine. Add the flour and mix until crumbly. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts. Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and toss with a fork to combine. If needed, add additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough clings together.
2. Gather the dough into a ball, place the ball on a clean, flat surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or lightly grease them).
4. Using a very sharp knife, cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1 inch apart on the sheets and bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the crackers on the sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


Artisanal, reknowned for its cheese selections, has sophisticated packages perfect for sending to the turophiles in your life. Choose from one of their interesting categories—Best of Paris, Italian Collection, Exotic & Rare Cheese Collection, Red Wine Collection, more—or have a custom selection created just for you. Each package comes beautifully wrapped and includes not only a sampling of the world's finest artisanal cheeses, but also the perfect accessories and accompaniments. They also offer a Cheese of the Month edition, which you can subscribe to for 3 months, 6 months, or a year, for $55 a month.


Lobster lovers can get the best and sweetest specimens direct from Maine. GetMaineLobster.com specializes in overnight delivery of fresh caught live Maine Lobsters as well as a variety of other Maine goodies like crab or lobster cakes, lobster pie, mussels, clams, clam or seafood chowder. Now there’s an interesting package to recieve!


The Frost Family Farm Heritage, headed by Prescott Frost, great-grandson of the American poet Robert Frost, continues a centuries long tradition of family farming. Prescott is deeply committed to changing the current unhealthy factory-farm system in use today. Their USDA Certified Organic meats, come from animals fed on grass in the Nebraska Sandhills—not corn, and without hormones or antibiotics. These fine, flavorful meats can be ordered online. What meat lover wouldn’t be thrilled to receive the Filet Mignon (8oz for $21), or the NY Strip (12oz for $24) or the best All Beef Hot Dogs (12oz for $7.50). For those who are very deserving, there’s also a Gift Package which includes 2 Filet Mignon, 2 NY Strip, 4 Rib Eye, 6 Ground Beef, 2 packs Hot Dogs (at a savings of 24%) for $199.

hip HAPPENINGS: New talent at Lani Kai

Lani Kai, THE destination for tiki cocktails and scene has a new chef. Chef Sawa (formerly at Good Fork in Brooklyn, and sous chef at Annisa) has reimagined and elevated the menu, adding a Polynesian flair to her style of New American cuisine. You can practically taste the food looking at the gorgeous photos from Doron Gild. Why not sample the menu on a Monday night, and enjoy the latest cocktails from guest bartenders. Here’s the latest lineup:
DEC:12th—Damon Boelte; 19th—Brother Cleve
JAN: 9th—Jackie Patterson; 16th—Thomas Waugh; 23rd—Dale DeGroff; 30th—Rob Fuentevilla
FEB: 6th—Allen Katz; 3th—Tiki Monday All-Stars (Richie & Lynnette, Adam & Joe, Kearns & Phil, Wrigley & Menite, Julie & Brad); 27th—Eryn Reece.
MAR: 5th—Marcos Tello; 12th—Julie Reiner; 19th—Cabell Tomlinson

top photo: PuPu Platter: Okonomiyaki (classic japanese street food)—crispy pancake with cabbage, bean sprouts, and house-made spam, topped with bonito flakes and a drizzle of okonomi sauce; Char Siu Baby Back Ribs—roasted in chinese barbeque sauce, garnished with crushed macadamia nuts and scallions; Escabeche Tacos—red snapper, cabbage salad and grilled pineapple salsa, served in wonton taco shells; Crab Wontons—lump crab mixed with mascarpone cheese in a crispy wonton, served with mustard sauce; Huli Huli Yakitori—grilled chicken skewers marinated in a house-made huli huli sauce.

Loco Moco: Crispy Japanese rice cake topped with a spiced beef patty, fried quail egg and demi glace – a riff on Hawaii’s traditional surfer dish

Short Ribs: Pineapple braised short ribs served with purple rice, sauteed baby bok choy and fresh horseradish gremolata.

Oyster Sliders: Fried oysters on a brioche bun with spicy mayo and pickled ginger.

hip HAPPENINGS: New talent at Michael’s Restaurant

If you are in midtown admiring the windows on Fifth Avenue this holiday season, do stop in at Michael’s, whose menu and bar has gone through a complete overhaul. At the bar you will be treated to Michael Flannery’s repertoire of cocktails. My favorite, Eve’s Temptation, is a mix of Louis Royer VSOP Force 53 Cognac, Marie Brizard Curacao liqueur, Benedictine, fresh lemon juice, and an apple cider reduction (see photo). If you are in the mood for a great glass of red wine, I highly recommend The Malibu Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir, which is one of the nicest sips I have had lately that is available by the glass (remarkably, it is actually grown in owner Michael McCarty’s backyard in California). There are some interesting bar bites, such as spicy Korean tacos, and a crispy oyster trio, if you get hungry. Then, if these bites inspire you to order dinner, you can explore Chef Kyung Up Lim’s full menu, which adds a fine touch to classic dishes. For appetizers, try the Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad, or comforting Veal Sweetbread served with creamed spinach. A fantastic choice for the entree—the Grilled Mediterranean Branzino (photo) served with forbidden black rice, haricots verts, pesto, and a cabernet sauce. See more photos from our dinner at this link.