Monday, May 30, 2011

Suddenly It's Summer

It's Memorial Day 2011. A scorcher in New York City, around 92 in the shade. A lazy day if there ever was one, which was devoted to a massive pile of newspapers and stacks of new books. On the menu is Rock Shrimp with garlic, parsley, and tomatoes - sauteed in olive oil, and served with a toasted french baguette, drizzled with olive oil.

Read a great article about the Negroni being a "foolproof cocktail" in the Weekend Wall Street Journal. The key is the easy 1-1-1 ratio: equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Even the lamest of bartenders in the lowliest of dives can get that right. Not only is the Negroni potent, it's also very refreshing, and a cool summer cocktail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Hour at Claret

A fantastic happy hour deal is now bringing in the crowds to Claret Wine Bar on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. A bottle of wine and a 3-course platter of meat and/or cheese OR a plain pizza can now be had for $19.95 - Monday thru Friday, 5-7pm and on Saturdays, 3-5pm. The wines on special rotate, but most recently I had a superb Gascon Malbec from Argentina, and an interesting - and very drinkable - Pinot Noir/Shiraz from C'est La Vie Vin de Pays d'Oc from Languedoc, France. Personally, I think the selection of cheeses and meats are the way to go; as the simple plain pizza leaves a lot to be desired.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trudy's Mexican Martini

Direct from Austin, here is my twist on a marvelous recipe for Trudy's famous Mexican Martini. It's served not only at Trudy's, but in other restaurant and bars around Austin.

2 fluid ounces tequila (Herrdaura Silver)
1 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur
1 -2 fluid ounce Sprite
1 lime, juice of

Shake all ingredients and strain into glass rimmed with salt; add stuffed olives.

The original recipe calls for an additional splash of orange juice, but I leave it out. This a very smooth and refreshing cocktail, and goes great with guacamole and chips and loud Texas music.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

LYON BOUCHON MODERNE in the West Village

The new French restaurant in the old Cafe de Bruxelles location in Greenwich Village is classically Lyonnias, and my first visit there on Saturday night was a great success. The restaurant has been made-over, but the three-room space is still in tact, with a window-filled bar area, and a small room off the door that leads in to the main dining room. Bruxelles was showing its age in recent years and the new owners have cleaned up the place considerably, adding wooden booths and a darker interior, and classic red-checkered tables.

Lyon Bouchon Moderne serves classic bouchon fare with a few modern twists. On the menu is Soupe à l’Oignon, a Beef Brisket and Onion Soup with Marrow Jam and Sourdough Rye; Escargots with Garlic Sausage and Watercress Risotto; Diver Scallops; and Lamb Shank with White Bean Stew and Merguez Sausage. There are also nightly specials, such as the Mussels and Frites ($21), which was delectable. The appetizer special was a lovely trio of Endive, Speck, and Lyonnais cheese dip (cervelle de canut). Other dishes we sampled were a stunning brussels sprouts hash with cippolini onions and bacon(addictively superb), and pike quennelles in a lobster sauce. Next time at Lyon, however, I'll be having that Lyon Hot Dog I saw being served. It's a foot-long Brooklyn weiner with black truffle and served on a pretzel roll with sauerkraut and mustard - my mouth watered every time it passed by.

The wine list is unabashedly French, and heavy on the classic bouchon varieties, including Cotes Du Rhone and Beaujolais along. We found a delicious cru Beaujolais: Chateau de Pizay Morgon 2009 for $36, served - correctly - slightly chilled.

Lyon also has an open atmosphere - quite busy and bustling when I was there, and the French waitstaff were very professional and genial. Our waiter was terrific, and shook my hand as we got up to leave, as did the two hosts at the door. It's not so hard being nice to customers, is it? Lyon is at 118 Greenwich Ave. near West 13th St.

p.s. There's also some buzz about the monumental "Hangover Brunch" being served on the weekends, so I'll be back to Lyon in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


As we head in to the annual St. Patrick's Day wind-up in New York, time to look at a few of the newer Irish-themed pubs around the town.

Lillie's on 17th street, just west of Union Square, opened in 2009. It's a handsome Victorian room with high ceilings, an antique, carved-wood bar, and furnishings that were acquired from a Victorian mansion in Belfast. The long bar is impressive and inviting, and when the lights aren't up high, Lillie's is a very atmospheric place for a drink. The name comes from Lillie Langtry, a 19th century celebrity: "an acknowledged beauty of her era, an A-list guest, an actress, a model, mistress to the future king of England, and an inspiration for poetry and plays by Oscar Wilde."

The bartenders I met were from Ireland, and they were efficient, friendly, and in one case, quite generous. Beware of the food - this is what gives the term "gastropub" a bad name. It gets busy with an after-work crowd during the week; on the weekends it's mostly tourists and sports fans.
Good selection of draught beer (Guinness was decent), and a big selection of whiskey and spirits.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


All the locals in Miami Beach will tell you to avoid dining on Ocean Drive. That famous stretch where all the beautiful, and not so beautiful, people gather has had its share of good restaurants, but nothing ever lasts. The old standbys are really diners: News Cafe and Front Porch Cafe. And occasionally you'll luck in to a good night at other places, Cafe Milano, for one. And worse is the aggressive hustle from all the restaurants on the street, begging people to sit down for an overpriced and dining experience.

Bice Ristorante and Cafe, part of the Bice chain, has taken over at the Hotel Victor, and I'm happy to report that it is a big bright spot on Ocean Drive. There's a dining room and bar inside, but I prefer the outdoor cafe that sits a few feet off Ocean Drive with a great view of the passing parade and the beach. The menu is mostly Italian, but with a few nods to Florida. I recently had a delicious Sunday lunch of fish and chips - $9.99 - that was perfection on a plate. The steak salad (with mango salsa) also looked terrific.

Located at 11th & Ocean Drive, Bice at the Victor is a good place to take in South Beach in all its glory. Afterall, South Beach is all about the people-watching. The patio service is prompt, and although the cocktail prices are sky-high ($19 mojitos), somehow they are worth it. One can do worse, I think, with a twenty dollar bill.

Friday, January 21, 2011

David Wondrich's OLD GUY MARTINI

I was reading a travel diary by David Wondrich, the mixologist, author, and Esquire drinks columnist, and came across his "Old Guy" martini recipe. Some times those extra dry martini's are just a bit too strong, especially if served in those big 5 oz martini glasses. Wondrich called for equal parts gin and vermouth, with a few dashes of orange bitters. Stirred and served cold. I tried it at home, and by God he's absolutely right. It looks a little orangey, but it's smooth and mild, and easy to drink. Bottoms up.