It's time for me to give you the real low down on Edible's annual pop-up cocktail party on February 28th. It took place on a Tuesday night in a well suited rustic meets industrial space, "Downstairs at 82 Mercer" in the heart of Soho. Nikki came across event by way of the St. Germain website and facebook page. (St. Germain is our current favorite liquor and you should check out their website for great recipes as well as boozy event postings). At $45 a ticket and just a short train ride into the city, it was an invite we could not pass up. Edible Manhattan and Brooklyn are part of the Edible Communities' Publications. So whether you are in Omaha or the Ohio Valley you can find an "Edible" magazine that will give you the scoop on what there is to eat locally and what new things are (literally) brewing and hatching in your neck of the woods.
Upon arrival we were issued a fork and a map of the venue, so we set off to start tasting. There were over 50 restaurants, bars and food producers representing a wide variety of flavors and cuisine and it was pretty crowded, but it never felt overwhelming and I never had to stand in line for more than a minute or two at any "booth."
I've been to many food tastings but this one was unique in it's specific intention of pairing food and spirits. Each bite had a neighboring drink to compliment or enhance it's trip across your tastebuds. The Edible folks said it best: "We've matched mixology-minded chefs and food artisans with spectacular, storied spirits and asked them to strive for liquid symbiosis." In my estimation it was a job well done with some restaurants bringing their own bartenders along to make a signature cocktail and other food purveyors teaming up with specific liquor labels, like Bacardi, Eden Ice Cider or Crop Organic Vodka. Perry Street (a Jean-George restaurant) and COMB Vodka (an artisnal vodka distilled from honey) made a dynamic duo with a rice cracker crusted tuna with sriracha citrus emulsion and a rhubarb cosmopolitan. Another smash coupling was a pierogi from Veselka Bowery & a maple vodka cocktail called the Golden Klenova from Vermont Spirits Distilling Company. The pierogi was filled with Vermont cheddar cheese, maple glazed bacon & potato topped with maple tinged sour cream. The cocktail was a combination of Vermont Gold Vodka with maple syrup, black tea and a splash of club soda. Quite an unexpected match for a Vermont maple product and a restaurant that's known as "Ukrainian soul food in the heart of the East Village." Whitehall Bar and Kitchen teamed up with St. Germain and featured a cocktail they call #19, with St. Germain, Gin, Apricot liqueur and Lemon Juice. You've got to love a place that has so many cocktails that they just number them! Plus, their bartender was super nice and put on a great mixology show. Our food favorite was Jo's Winter Pork Stew. My photos do not do this justice. Their table was displayed with bowls of the spices used to season this dish, most notably star anise, and it was the amazing depth of flavors that made this seemingly simple dish a winner. It also put Jo's at the top of my places to dine next time I'm in the city. I'm not much for venturing into Brooklyn, but the when I do I'm planning on paying a visit to Huckleberry Bar on Grand Street in Williamsburg. I was drawn to their spot by the sound of a sizzling grill and the smell of roasted vegetables. I was hooked when I saw their name...I'm a huge fan of anything with Huckleberries (ever since my trip to Montana). It turns out the only thing Huckleberry was the name...but their eggplant, fennel & sun dried tomato melt was delicious and the chat I had with one of their employees sold me completely. They are a bar. Period, stop, note the end. They also make great food, but it was clear they are in love with being a bar. Check out their website and you'll get the vibe, bar comes first...drink menu is listed first...vittles second. Their photos are also dominated with booze, bar and postscript: good looking eats. An event like this always puts several new restaurants on my list of places to go and eat. But here at the Good Spirits event there was also a great mix of funky foodie products. Fresh Ginger produces fabulous ginger sodas right in Brooklyn. They had a great handout with classic drink recipes using their sodas, including a mojito and a moscow mule. Rick's Picks were on top of Nikki's favorites with several pickle varieties as well as okra and beets to sample. They have a nice website where you can purchase the pickled goods. Also check out their section "events and updates" where you'll find some good brining tips and recipes. Rounding out the most appealing packaged products were SerendipiTEA who sell fair trade and organic teas and Uncle Jerrys Pretzel's which are produced in Lancaster County...where the Pennsylvania Dutch pretzel was born. Kate, our baker and dessert critic wasn't taken with Monument Lane's cookies. But, I was extremely impressed with the pairing: a Privateer Rum milk punch......made with buffalo milk and laced with coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg. I dunked my cookie and devoured every bit! I'm not sure this will be a drink I can recreate since I have no idea where one can procure buffalo milk. Our favorite sweet turned out to be from a chocolatier that was featured by Whole Foods. The truffles with raspberry and chipotle salt and honeycomb chocolates are only available through Whole Foods, and somehow despite my copious notes from this event the name of the chocolates eludes me...phooey.[It was Knipschildt Chocolatier - Ed.]
There was plenty to see and eat and we found ourselves chatting up vendors as well as other guests, all of which were genial. Coming from the enormous tasting village at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival I was struck by how extremely comfortable I was in this basement in Soho. Miami Beach left me sunburned, sandy and exhausted. This Good Spirits event was well planned, perfectly sized and put me in good spirits.
We were stuffed with food, drinks and new ideas for recipes and dinner dates. After about an hour and a half, we left our forks at the door and headed out to find a bar where we could chat, compare notes and savor our night out. We also discovered a common love of Soho...I feel a foodie adventure or two brewing. Cheers!