Little cat Kif sniffing around my cocktail fixins’.
- The Negroni (vinotekablog.wordpress.com)
All around the web, people are reminiscing about Hurricane Sandy a year after it devastated Lower Manhattan. A decade and a bit after the same neighborhood took another critical blow from 9/11, it was just as hard for a lot of businesses to cope. The South Street Seaport, particularly the Fulton Street strip and Pier 17, were still ghost towns when we visited this past March
One of our favorite downtown pubs, the Heartland Brewery, was a cosy unpretentious destination for excellent craft beers and high-class finger foods, tucked underneath the overpasses of downtown. A flight of beers and some luridly multicolored nachos were an excellent way to pass a rainy afternoon.
Post-Sandy, the wreckage was extreme.
There are other Heartland locations throughout Manhattan, with similar menus and the same first-rate beers (try the Red Rooster Ale or the Not Tonight, Honey Porter) but they all fee more corporate and touristy, and none have the intimate neighborhood gathering-place feel of the Fulton Street one.
Thankfully, development has begun on resuscitating the Seaport, so perhaps some day it will be back its old glory.
You know what my favorite thing to do at the Seaport was? Sit and mellow out. On the upper deck was a row of lounge chairs, and you could veg there all day if you were so inclined. Reading, listening to music, or just watching the boats, the birds, and the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a small outpost of peace amid the commerce and touristing.
Over at Cocktails and Colognes, Harry is experimenting with making his own fig-cardamom-infused vodka.The sheer Indian-restaurant dreaminess of that put me in a cocktail-inventing mind: Iced Assam tea? Apricot juice?
But then I thought back to the “Proud Punjabi”, an $18 glass of sweet-tart bliss, and by no means the most interesting thing to be served at Digress Restaurant and Lounge.
Digress is definitely Canberra’s, probably Australia’s, and possibly the world’s only Indian-Italian fusion restaurant known to me. Where else can you get so-crazy-it-just-might-work mashups like chicken tikka carbonara and vindaloo pizza? But I think their greatest creation might be the “Proud Punjabi”, an addictively toothsome combination of mango lassi, coconut liqueur, and Tia Maria. Expensive, but worthy.
Anyway, if anything needs to be mixed up with homemade fig-cardamom vodka, it’s a mango lassi. Posthaste, young man.
Review of Digress coming shortly, as it occurs to me it’s been far too long since I’ve been there. Once last year, but prior to that was in the company of SMB’s Yuki in December of 2011, Yuki’s beautifully photographed review is here. (Full disclosure: Yuki used to work for me.)
It has been a quarter of a century (gulp) since I last ate Peruvian food, in the Lima suburb of Miraflores. We decided to check out the month-old Cholo’s in Dickson.
The dining room is spare but prettily furnished with Andean textiles. Peruvian synth-pop music is playing, thankfully not too loud.
We started with beers and a plate of chips, and pretty stock-standard ones they were too, except they were accompanied by a most curious yellow spicy sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was mustard, chili, horseradish, or some combination. The waitress was unable to enlighten me as to what it consisted of.
The beers were the esoteric Cusqueña and Pilsen labels, perfectly serviceable lagers, although the Cusqueña had a somewhat alarming vegetal aroma.
The main meal was a shared parrillada, or mixed grill in the South American style. The platter consisted of beef steak, lamb steak, chorizo (hot sausage), morcilla (blood sausage) and anticuchos (chunks of beef heart on a skewer).
I approached the anticuchos with trepidation, since offal is not really my thing. To my shock, they were phenomenal: tender yet chewy with charred edges and enormously beefy flavor. The beef steak and lamb were cooked medium, were nicely marinated and juicy, and not too fatty. The chorizo was sensational. Garishly red-orange and lumpy, it did not present the most appetizing picture but one bite presented a spicy, salty, porky flavor explosion. The blood sausage was…bloody. Crumbly and nearly black, it did not appeal to me, but connoisseurs of such delicacies may disagree. The yuca fries surrounding the meat were crispy and relatively greaseless.
Accompanying the meats were a trio of condiments: the aforementioned mustard/chili concoction, a greener and herbier/spicier version of the same thing, and a traditional chimichurri. All went well with the meats.
We couldn’t resist dessert: The Mr. got torta de tres leches, a Latin staple of sponge cake soaked with three milks (condensed, evaporated, and cream). Moist to the point of wetness, as is usual with this cake, it was creamy-sweet and iced with soft meringue. Mr reckoned it was closer in flavor to a pavlova than a tres leches, but that didn’t stop him from polishing the whole thing off.
My dessert was an off-menu special of picarones, described as “Peruvian donuts”. Just so.
They were accompanied by a cup of cinnamon-flavored honey syrup, and you better believe I snarfed these crunchy beauties down in about ten seconds. I can easily see picarones replacing churros as the trendy Latin fried pastry of the moment.
The prices at Cholo’s are not inconsiderable: most main dishes approach $30, and the parrillada for two is $65. But this might be your only chance to try some authentic Andean specialties in Canberra, and overall the experience is a pleasant one.
Smirniff Coconut Vodka.
Very excited to find this at Dan Murphy’s. I didn’t care much for Smirnoff’s apple vodka, but their vanilla is quite tasty and a staple at Rancho Self-Pollution. I immediately whipped up the following libation:
1 ounce Baileys
1 ounce coconut vodka
2 ounces cold milk
Dash of cinnamon
Shake in a cocktail strainer with ice. Strain and enjoy.
Kopparberg Elder Flower and Lime Cider.
What is it about Kopparberg and its compatriot brand Rekorderlig, that makes them so many leagues better than any other ciders? I’m guessing the firmly present (but not excessive) sweetness. More noticeable than other ciders but not syrupy at all. The only brand I’ve found to compare with the Swedes in tastiness are the two brews from the very fine Matso’s of Broome, but they can be hard to find, whereas the Swedish brands are easily found at Coles, BYS, Dan Murphy’s, etc. Stock up when they run 4 for $24 sales. Personal favorite flavors are Apple Blackcurrant, Orange-Ginger, Winter, and Mango Raspberry (Rekorderlig) and Pear and Elderflower Lime (Kopparberg).
Interestingly, I found both these brands exceedingly difficult to find in the northeastern USA. Only one restaurant I found (Five Napkin Burger) had pear Kopparberg for the princely sum of $12 per bottle. Neither brand was in liquor stores, specialty beer stores, or even the fabled Fairway.