Monthly Archives: May 2011

Salty, Bitter, Flowery and Sweet

Congratulations to Amy Green of New Jersey, the winner of our giveaway! Amy wins a copy of Mark Bitterman’s James Beard award-winning book Salted! Thanks to all who entered, and be sure to keep reading—we have a few more fun giveaways planned for this summer!

While walking down the West Village’s Hudson Street one day last fall, a new shop caught our eye.

A formerly vacant space was once again full of life—bursting forth with brightly-colored flowers and tall shelves filled with, of all things, chocolate and salt. Once we actually entered The Meadow, we discovered that it was even better than we had initially thought!

The Meadow sells more than 100 (yes, a hundred!) varieties of salt, some of the most beautiful and unique flowers I’ve ever seen, an amazing variety of chocolates, and, in the back, an extensive collection of cocktail bitters. We were instantly in love.

The store, owned by Mark Bitterman and his wife, Jennifer, is the younger sibling to their Portland, Oregon, outpost that they founded in 2006. With its reclaimed wood shelves, vintage vases, and simple, but elegant displays, customers are invited to touch, taste, and simply enjoy everything within.

The salts range from the simple, like fleur de sel, to the unique and rare, such as maboroshi plum from Japan or lemon flake from Cyprus. And, yes, lemon flake salt does actually taste like lemons!

The chocolate and bitters selections are equally diverse, so if you are in the mood for some ramen noodle chocolate or Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters, you won’t leave empty-handed.

Mark traveled the world far and wide to discover all he could about the salt he carries—he is immensely knowledgeable about every product he sells, whether you are looking for regular table salt or how to perfectly season your steak tartare.

His travels and vast knowledge came together last year with the publication of his recent James Beard award-winning book, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral.

The book, a massive hard-covered volume, is an encyclopedia of salt, complete with recipes, beautiful photography (all photographed by Mark and his wife!), and tales from around the world.

It remains approachable to the home cook—learn just how salt can push your roasted chicken over the edge—without being dull or uninteresting.

Did you know that cucumbers are the perfect vehicle to taste salt with, or that Kala namak, an ancient Indian salt, was used in 300 BCE by Maharishi Charak, the father of Ayurvedic medicine?

Like I just told Ryan, the book has all the style and panache of Anthony Bourdain’s writing, but with beautiful seriousness to it, complemented by the recipes and lush photos.

Now that you’re clamoring for your own copy (as you should be), I bring you the good news: Ryan and I have a signed copy of Salted that we’re going to give away to one of our lucky readers. We’ve been so flattered by every comment, view, and click, that we thought we would share something that we love with you.

You can have up to two chances to win. For one entry, you can simply leave a comment below. If you really, really, want to win, you can enter a second time by following us on Twitter and retweeting our contest tweet.

The contest will be open until Sunday, June 5, 12 a.m. EST, at which time we will randomly choose a winner from both our comments and retweets. Make sure that you leave your e-mail in your comment or leave us some way to get in touch.

Enjoy, and good luck!

– Laura

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The Hidden Gardens of New York City

Living in New York, we tend to be a lot more appreciative of the limited amount of green space we have available for our everyday use.

Aside from the major parks, we have tiny community gardens sprinkled throughout the city, which are entirely volunteer run. These gardens provide a beautiful addition to the neighborhoods they serve, but more importantly, they make much better backyards than our fire escapes.

One of these gardens—the Laguardia Corner Gardens—is just a short walk east on Bleecker Street. The garden has been open since 1981 on the corner of Bleecker Street and Laguardia Place, just steps from NYU.

Their website has really great vintage photos of the construction and first plantings—they’re worth checking out.

The garden, which is adjacent to a Morton Williams grocery store, is an anomaly for the neighborhood, which is mostly known for the gargantuan Silver Towers complex and rows of tenement apartment buildings.

Despite its somewhat drab surroundings, the garden is truly a haven for beauty. At the moment, it’s full of daffodils, tulips, irises, peonies, roses, gigantic clusters of mint and other herbs (chives or rosemary, anyone?), as well as a few fruit trees. We even found some earrings:

It is a pleasure to discover these little urban oases—another favorite is St. Lukes Garden—in a city packed with concrete and steel.

– Ryan

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A Look At Kings County Distillery

Bottles clank and the smell of hot, mashed corn permeates the air. A lazy fan whirs, complimenting the constant hum of the stills that are directly behind me. In front of me stands Colin Spoelman, moonshiner.

Colin Spoelman

I may feel as though I’m in the back woods of Kentucky, but I’m actually standing in the middle of a Bushwick, Brooklyn, warehouse—the 300 square-foot stifling hot space is home to Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn’s first post-prohibition distillery.

Kings County Distillery

Kings County Distillery II

The distillery is young—about a year old—but has already been wildly successful, selling their small-batch corn whiskey and, more recently, bourbon, to New York City bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.

In fact, when we first learned of Kings County back in December, we had to wait for more than two weeks before Astor Wines & Spirits had the moonshine back in stock.

Tasting Room

“Nobody is a moonshiner if they’re just doing it as a hobby,” says Spoelman, a thin, blond 30-something, who is one of the distillery’s co-owners. “I think a moonshiner is always scheming some way to do business.”

Spoelman, a Kentucky native, grew up fascinated by the stuff and knew that it would have a viable market in the big city. In fact, prior to purchasing his own still, Spoelman even contemplated a moonshine importation business.

“That is so illegal,” he says, laughing. “Taking something that was already illegal and then transporting it across state lines seemed like a really bad idea.”

Testing Alcohol Content

Percent Proof

Spoelman, who has worked professionally as both an architect and a filmmaker, later purchased his own still off the Internet and, with the help of a book, set out distilling. He first distilled wine, and after making some admittedly “gross stuff,” he finally created what he thought to be pretty good moonshine.

David Haskell, a friend of Spoelman’s and a senior editor at New York Magazine, happened to agree and Kings County Distillery was born shortly thereafter.

Running The Stills

Mashing Corn

At the time the duo began, laws had just changed that allowed them to purchase a farmer’s distillery license and set up shop in Brooklyn. Their first (and current) two-room set-up is nestled in an industrial area of Bushwick, on the fringe of Williamsburg.

Their light-filled space is small, but it does allow Spoelman, Haskell and their small staff just enough room to store their corn—they go through about 3,000 pounds per month, run their stills, age their bourbon and bottle their moonshine.

Aging Bourbon

The bourbon is aged for nine months and is currently only available directly from the distillery, which is open to the public for tours and tastings on select dates. It’s not for sale, but you can also taste a distiller’s proof—moonshine aged for five weeks, rather than 36 weeks.

Chalkboard Walls

Tools & Bottles

It’s apparent from the moment you step into Kings County, that every bottle churned out is meticulously- and expertly-crafted. The tables are strewn with tools you may not have seen since your 10th grade science class—funnels, beakers, test tubes, and thermometers are among them, and all are used to make sure that each batch of whiskey or bourbon is exactly the same.

The impressive dedication to detail continues right down to the thick, industrial-style glass bottles and typewriter labels, affixed by hand to each bottle.

Tasting

“It’s a lemonade stand, in a certain sense,” says Spoelman. “You buy lemons and you buy sugar and you figure out where to put the stand so that more people come visit it.”

Spoelman’s so-called “lemonade stand” is well worth the visit.

– Laura

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Sunday Brunch At Double Crown

DIY Bloody Mary Bar

Despite the grey morning, our adventurous spirit was intact as we headed to brunch in the East Village. Today, we tried Double Crown, the sister restaurant of our perennial favorite, Public. Double Crown is nestled on the Bowery, just a few steps away from another favorite, Peels, and only a few blocks away from Public.

The Bar at Double Crown

Upon entering, the first thing we noticed was how wide open Double Crown is, which is contrary to the twists and turns of Public’s space. Double Crown is a massive dining room, filled with Edison bulb chandeliers, rich teak wood, and neon lights, for good measure. The restaurant, in its British-Indio-Asian glory, was designed by AvroKO, the same design team behind S&R favorites Public and Quality Meats.

Downstairs at Double Crown

The lush design continues downstairs. When you descend, you’re greeted by a tranquil sitting room at the bottom of the stairs, complete with flowers floating in a vessel and a comfy red leather chair. There is also a large private dining room downstairs. The hallway leading to the restrooms is truly captivating, as it is covered, floor-to-ceiling, with the most intricately carved wood.

Wood Carved Walls

Sitting Room at Double Crown

The food served by Chef Brad Farmerie—a wild fusion of British and southeast Asian cuisine—is every bit as good as the space itself.

Flowers And Coffee

Double Crown Fruit Salad

We both started out with a bowl of mixed fruit salad which included blueberries, clementines, grapefruit, mangos, and pomelos, top with pickled watermelon. The fruit, served in a decorative bowl, was market-fresh and the perfect blend of sweet and sour.

Pork Belly With Fried Egg

Burger And Bottlerocket

For our main courses, we had the crispy pork belly, served on steamed rice with chili-caramel, mint and a fried egg, and the New York Strip steak burger, served with massive fries of daikon radish, cut into flawless rectangular prisms and stacked like Lincoln Logs.

The pork belly was fork-tender and set off perfectly by the chili’s spice, the caramel’s sweetness and the pungent mint. The burger was a tender, meaty puck, served on a bun that would put the most elaborate “everything” bagel to shame.

Scented Grapefruit Collins and Pimm's No. 1 Cup

For drinks, we had the Scented Grapefruit Collins and the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. If you can’t already tell, we are big fans of the Pimm’s Cup—this one, accented with strawberries, did not disappoint. The Collins had Belvedere pink grapefruit vodka, Campari, Earl Grey syrup, mint and lemon, topped with soda.

We also had a Bottlerocket, which was the favorite of the trio we sampled. Pernod Absinthe, layered with pineapple, white cranberry, maple-grenadine, and topped with sparkling wine—a really stellar combination.

DIY Bloody Mary

Lastly, we took a shot at their famous do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar, which greets you as you first enter the restaurant. They provide you with a glass of vodka and you proceed to add as much tomato juice, lemon juice, coriander, grated ginger, piccalilli, caper berries, celery salt, Chinese black vinegar, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, pink peppercorns, and star anise as you can pile into your glass. Did you get all that? (And that’s not even a complete list.)

We came away with a concoction that wasn’t so spicy that we had to sweat through it for half an hour, but still had some decent heat in it. It was entertaining to watch other patrons try to make exactly what they wanted, given such an overwhelming ingredient list.

Double Crown’s food and attentive service will absolutely be worth checking out again, and the space is worth the price of admission alone. Although it may not replace the sentimental spot that Public has in our hearts, we would definitely be interested in moving in permanently should a room ever open up.

– Ryan and Laura

In the interest of full disclosure, Double Crown kindly invited us to dine on them today. However, our food and service was still top-notch and we recommend them whole-heartedly, without reservations.

Double Crown on Urbanspoon

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Spring on the High Line

The weather in the city has been gloomy for the past four days, with no signs of letting up, much less improving. Even though rain is still a reprieve from the 20-inch high snowbanks we had just a few months ago, it’s still made me fondly remember some of the charming spring weather we have had thus far.

There is no prettier place to watch spring bloom than along the High Line. These photos are from a walk that Ryan and I took back in early April, just as blooms were escaping their winter cocoons and people were once again flocking to the great outdoors.

We’ve been back to the High Line many times since and have watched as even more flora has emerged along with the warming weather. We can’t wait until the next addition opens in June!

– Laura

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