A Very VIP Night

On an ordinary Thursday evening in mid-April, a curated group of cocktail connoisseurs were invited to the mysteriously named Infused Night, with even more mysterious promises of fun and games throughout the city.

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Photo by Jenny Adams (www.jennyadamsfreelance.com).

Hosted by Cayrum, a blend of golden Dominican rum, fresh ginger root, and natural honey that recently launched in New York City, our night began at Haven, an airy rooftop bar in Times Square. Guests were served a modernized Manhattan and the pleasantly Spicy Kiki, made with muddled cilantro and serrano peppers. Both drinks highlighted the smooth sweetness and ginger spice of Cayrum in different ways.

After an hour of cocktails and gazing at the impressive view, we were whisked away in black SUVs to our surprise second location. We arrived at Keats to find karaoke, trays of Cayrum shots (mm, smooth!), and a ginger ale concoction that played off the spiced ginger notes wonderfully. Although shy at first, our group took over the karaoke stage to deliver rousing renditions of Britney Spears classics until the black SUVs showed up again.

group

Photo by Jenny Adams (www.jennyadamsfreelance.com).

The third surprise stop was Hog Pit in Chelsea, with a long wide table laden with fried pickles, succulent wings, savory sliders, deviled eggs, and fried frog legs. Our appetites thoughtfully satiated, trays arrived with more shots of Cayrum, and an announcement that we were entered into a darts tournament. Sharp flying objects and copious amounts of alcohol seemed ill-advised, but the fried frog legs had imbued us all with a sense of adventurousness. Or perhaps the free-flowing golden drams of infused rum did that, it’s hard to say.

After an intense no-holds-barred battle, during which three surprise bullseyes were scored (did this rum have magical properties?), we gathered for a picture to commemorate the moment. And then it was off into the SUVs again, and onward to our final destination.

Arriving at Stash, we were ushered in past the waiting line and into an underground cavern that resembled an ornately decorated subway tunnel. Rich red and gold tiles lined the curved ceiling, which was bathed in a warm glow. Our banquette awaited, with yet another table full of drinks, ice, and mixers, but nobody sat down. The music inspired us to dance away the rest of our Infused Night.

cayrum

Photo by Jenny Adams (www.jennyadamsfreelance.com).

Future events are being planned, and Cayrum selects their Facebook fans as guests. So like them and give it a try in the meantime. The awesome night they planned definitely sweetened me up to their cause, but honestly, it’s a great drink made the right way (aged for years in bourbon oak barrels and with real honey and ginger instead of powders). Delicious in straight up shots, on the rocks, or mixed into a cocktail, it’s an easy way to ease into the warm weather we’re finally having.

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The Road to Mulberry Project

Before living in New York, I imagined that everyone who lived there (here) automatically knew What To Do and Where To Go. Shows like Sex & the City made glittery promises of a nightlife filled with men and martinis. The first year I lived here, I actually lived in Hoboken. So I blamed the derth of glamorous invites on New Jersey (our nation’s favorite domestic scapegoat). By the second year, however, I had moved to a cozy five-floor walkup in Hell’s Kitchen and impatiently waited for my transformation into some sort of celebutante It Girl society fixture. I watched a lot of television while I waited.

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Many years later (last week), I finally got a taste of being hip and with it (phrases which those who are would never utter of course) when a benevolent friend invited me to sup at a speakeasy restaurant where she “knew the chef”. This was all imparted in a very cool, very nonchalant way. As expected, I ruined it by yelling, “Holy shit yeah, that’s so cool!!” and then trailing off into senseless gurgling. Luckily, said friend did not rescind her offer. And so it was, I got to dine (devour) a chef’s tasting menu at the underground Mulberry Project.

We were seated in the secret garden, next to a giant sneering anime girl painted on the picket fence. Our friendly waiter explained their bespoke cocktail experience: describe the flavors you like, let the experts behind the bar create a unique drink for you, have final approval. I was game. With the parameters “martini with a twist but not as alcoholey,” I ended up with a clean gin cocktail with hints of citrus, bitters and basil. Well met, sir bartender. My bubbly companions were equally well matched with champagne/St. Germain concoctions.

Soon, gorgeous plates started arriving at our table. Hot, crispy wonton sticks filled with mild Swiss cheese and paired with creamy guacamole. Lobster roll sliders made of fresh briny seameat and subtly sweet mayo stuffed into pillowy bite-sized brioche buns.

Just as we cleared those dishes, the second round appeared. Luscious tuna tartare with the taste of ceviche, served with tortilla chips. Perfectly al dente quinoa in a salad with crunchy croutons, feta squares and pleasantly bitter arugula.

Contemplating the soon-empty platters, we heaved satisfied sighs. On cue, the third course arrived. Double helpings of golden pan seared scallops, large and tender, with slightly caramelized crisp edges. Herbed miniature potatoes masqueraded as scallops, surprising us as our teeth sank into an unexpected texture. Bold green asparagus topped with a garlicky aioli provided a bright counterpoint, both in color and taste.

We leaned back in our chairs, our ravenous eating noticeably slower. That didn’t stop our friend, the chef, from sending out one last showstopper. Tender slices of salty pork tenderloin served with a fresh juicy salsa, a smooth creamy sauce and a pile of petal soft lettuce leaves.

After a puzzled moment, we realized this plate was interactive and busily assembled our warm lettuce wraps. The first bite released warm savory jus into my mouth, chased quickly by the tangy sauce and acidic salsa. We chewed in silence, eyes almost closed, enjoying the varying tastes and textures.

We made our way out quietly, lost in individual reverie. Between the garden and darkly gleaming bar, we stopped to thank the chef and study the framed pictures which lined the walls, depicting a high-class prostitute in various stages of committing murder. After years of waiting, my fabulous New York experience, as promised by film and tv, lived up to the hype.

A Day of Overindulgence

Oh dear. When I said I’d go out less, I guess I meant less days but somehow the same amount of actual out-ness. I managed to pack 15 hours of partying into Saturday this weekend. I swear I didn’t mean to.

It began with brunch and unlimited mimosas at 121 Fulton. Look at this gorgeous plate! I ordered the brunch sampler, which included a mini steak & egg (with the most adorable fried quail egg on top), bacon & hash, and baked eggs with tomatoes, spinach & bacon. Obviously, I had to toast my genius designer friend repeatedly over our delicious meal. Down the hatch, mon petit mimosa. Oh and there was a second reason for us to gulp down cocktails. We needed help to ignore the strange couple sitting next to us and making out noisily. At one point, I said loudly, “We are trying. To. Eat.” However, this statement seemed to turn them on because the kissing became even slurpier. Eeeeeeeww.

I took a break from the retoxing to meet another friend visiting from Londontown. We strolled along the Highline in the oddly springlike weather, sipped cappuccinos at a place so French that the service took forever (that’s how you know it’s authentic), and then played dress-up in the Anthropologie shop in Chelsea Market. Feeling virtuous (and super girly), we headed over to Basta Pasta for dinner.

It’s going to take me a while to wrap my brain around the amazing meal we had. When I do, I fully intend to do a complete write-up. For now, just feast your eyes on how gorgeous the plates are. Basta Pasta is an Italian restaurant with a strong Japanese influence. The food is comforting in that deep soul-satisfying way that pasta is, while the service and decor are so calm and clean that it felt like the world had come to a stop. In a good way. Dinner was a pocket of quiet enjoyment with some very good friends.

Well. Until we’d had a couple bottles of wine, that is. Then I think the staff gave up hope of maintaining a calm ambience in our presence. At the very end, they figured out how to quiet us down. This is a delightful slice of ricotta cheesecake getting sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. We watched in awe as the waitress covered the plate in what looked like fluffy snow. It may sound odd, but it was an utterly delicious combination. The saltiness of the cheese offset the light crumbly sweetness of the cake perfectly.

Glowing from that amazing meal (and eagerly making plans for our next visit back), we traipsed across Union Square and ended up at Pierre Loti for a nightcap. Or five. One by one, the ladies made their escape. Laura, draped in shiny Marc Jacobs accessories galore, was off to a party in the exclusive Soho House. We fawned over her until she told us firmly that she could not bring us with her (pout). Then Rits said something about not wanting to be hungover while skiing the next day. Wimp!

It was up to me, Little Miss Hussy, and the Brit to keep the night going. Luckily, our friendly waiter was headed off duty and brought us along on his afterhours party crawl. At this point, the Brit threw in the towel. (To be fair, I think it was 5am in London-time at that point, so she was a trooper.) Not sure why this always happens when I go out with the Hussy, but we found ourselves dancing in the secret back room of a bar for a private party where bartenders were winning trips to Disney World (??). I know how surreal that last sentence sounds, but for once I am not hyperbolating (real word) for humor’s sake. We really were in a secret bartender party. I hope they don’t kill me for telling.

I’m realizing that it’s not realistic for me to stop going out. I mean, it’s just too damn fun and there’s always something amazing to be discovered in this great city. However, this week is most certainly devoted to eating veggies and cooking some homemade soup to recover. Cheers!

The Out and About Chronicles

I was good and didn’t go out tonight. Hooray for publicizing my intentions so that I’ll publicly shame myself if I fail. Now that I have the time, I can share what I’ve been up to. Yes, that’s right. I made the decision to not go out as much so that I could get home and blog about the times that I was out. It’s all so meta and ironic that my head has already exploded. Twice. (That’s actually how Asians stay so young looking. We regenerate our heads like lizards do with their tails. Pearl Cream is just a hoax we sell to white people.)

Less than two weeks into my new dream job at Fabby Fab Fab, we had a company post-holiday party. Mainly, it was for the team that had been there the previous 7 months, when they experienced something like 700% growth since launching in June 2011. The co-founders wanted to give them a celebration during a time when they wouldn’t be under the gun the next day. In fact, they wanted to make sure everyone would be able to relax and enjoy the party so much that they made the next morning a mandatory Come In Late day.

That kind of thoughtfulness is exactly why I love Fab. I guess you wouldn’t really start something that’s based around making people smile unless you have that mindset. I can’t say enough how fortunate I feel to have joined such an amazing team. And to get to know everyone on such a fun night! We scarfed down delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres at Market Table, detoured for cocktails at 10 Downing, then sang karaoke at some place called Boho or Bobo (?). I’ll admit it was hard to keep track of names, either places or people, after a few of the delish lavender fizzes you see in the picture above. It was the perfect way to be welcomed onto such an awesome team!

Last Friday was also intensely fun. I knew I’d be up to no good when the Princeton Madam commanded me to attend Muy Thai boxing with her. I can never resist a night she plans and boy, did she deliver! To set the tone for a primal evening, we had dinner at Meskerem, an Ethiopian restaurant. They set down a gigantic platter filled with food, tossed fluffy folds of bread in front of each of us, and provided no silverware. We just dug right in with our bare hands. It was my first time, and I loved it!

After we were uncomfortably full, I waddled after the group. Now, when I heard we were watching boxing, I imagined some dark basement filled with shadowy figures placing bets on vicious killers who would fight to the death. Instead, we ended up in an enormous rec center on the ground floor of a Catholic cathedral in midtown Manhattan. I bought beer from a lady who looked and sounded like a soccer mom. It would’ve been disappointing, but the multiple rounds of intense kickboxers, free-flowing beer (thank you, soccer mom) (and… Jesus, I guess?), and fun dance music during breaks really kept things lively. Who knew? I might do it again soon.

Oops, I mean, I won’t do it again soon. Because I’m supposed to be going out less. Sigh. Now you know why it’s hard to say no.

Only in New York!

Every year, I vow to have a less crazy December, and then December rolls around. Maybe it’s time to face facts. I not-so-secretly love to run around like a madwoman during the holidays!

On Tuesday, I went to the Roger Smith Hotel to donate toys via Tweet Drive and chill with fellow startup-aholics. They partnered with Pop Chips and SCVNGR for the event, so I spent a good part of the evening munching on yummy air-puffed chips and completing challenges like posing with one of the donated toys. The app was a great ice breaker and made meeting new people easier. Check out profesh party pics by talented photog Jesse Lash. Try to spot the one where I’m feeding Dora the Explorer a gin & tonic!

On Saturday, I visited my genius supermodel scientist friend (seriously, it’s like she took all the good genes) for a day of baking and bubbly. It was nice to put her years of laboratory training to good use in the kitchen. We made two different types of cookies, a light citrusy butter cookie and a lush rich cinnamon sugar cookie. I’ll post more photos and recipes as soon as she translates the Swiss cookbook instructions for me.

After I finished baking, I packed fresh warm cookies to bring to a dinner party (in a fancy duplex penthouse!) hosted by my genius supermodel designer friend (my goodness, I seem to hang out with a lot of genius supermodels). She made an amazing melt-in-your-mouth lasagne and a fresh arugula tomato salad. Paired with copious amounts of red wine, pink champagne, and views of the city skyline, it was one of those nights that affirmed why I love New York so much.

Ooh, holiday tip: champagne in a can is an awesome alternative to bring to a dinner party if you know other people are bringing wine. It adds an extra layer of festive fun. We all cooed over the extendable bendy straws (which were pink!) and danced around feeling like hipster Marie Antoinettes. Let them eat cookies!

Back to Basics, Shirley Style

It’s weird. I don’t think of myself as all that high maintenance, but when I break it down, I have some pretty high class tastes. Guess that’s why I’m a diehard New Yorker.

That said, I can be happy with very simple things too. Today was a perfect mixture of the two.

I spent the sunny, unseasonably warm day traipsing around Madison Square Park. Squirrels kept running really close to me, like they were challenging me to a race. Or maybe they were chipmunks. What’s the difference again?

After nature scared me back indoors, I spent hours writing at Birch Coffee inside the Gershwin Hotel. I’ve loved the place for years, and keep rediscovering it under different circumstances. About 5 or 6 years ago, I was walking by the hotel and heard strains of jazz and light laughter pouring out its doors. As I peeped in a window, a doorman came out. I thought he was going to scold me for smudging up the window, but he just wanted to encourage me to go inside to enjoy the show up close. “What, free?” said the country-bumpkin Shirley. It was, indeed. I stepped into the warmly lit lobby, settled into a spaceship shaped mod red couch, and soaked up the live jazz trio. I’d somehow wandered into a Fitzgerald novel with an updated design scheme.

Years later, when I was working in Union Square, my friend told me he was leading a meditation class in the newly opened Birch Coffee. “What, free?” I asked in my usual tactful manner. He nodded yes in a non-judgmental namaste kinda way. As I bought my gigantic cup of caffeine for meditation (yup), memories of that hazy jazz night came back to me. I had tried to find my way back but could never find the mysterious hotel again, so it was an electric thrill when I realized I was finally back.

Since then, I’ve sought out both the hotel and cafe when I’ve needed safe haven for reading, writing, and caffeine replenishment.

After a solid writing day there, a wonderfully talented friend whisked me away for wine and tapas at Pipa. We shared a bottle of yummy dry white (it’s called Whatever the Waiter Said, I highly recommend it), albondigas, pulpo gallego, and bolas de queso. Poor waiter. I insisted on ordering in my horrible Spanish accent, but the food itself was amazing and so was the company.

Here’s to a day of creature comforts, both humble and high!

Eat This Blog

Used to be, when I met up with friends for a night of drinking, nothing solid would cross my lips. I saw no point to eat when I could save money and remain svelte by staying on a liquid diet (as well as being suuuuper fun, right guys? Guys??). But the times they are a’changin. When I met up with the classic Penguin art crew (not to be confused with the Penguin classics crew) a few weeks ago at the Blind Tiger, I chased down my pints of Blue Moon with a few bites of grilled cheese. It totally stopped me from becoming a fall-down, gurgling drunken mess, weird! It’s still me though. I didn’t actually order a grilled cheese. I just sorta stood next to someone who did, and leaned over to take bites when the person wasn’t looking. Mm, graft is delicious! (I could make some sort of Graft Cheese & Macaroni joke here, but why work that hard?)

The crew meandered over to The Dove that same night, where I suddenly decided to get classy by ordering myself a bottle of Nero D’Avola to accompany my Mushroom Pâté and Pine Nut-Watercress Pesto on Pumpernickel tea sandwiches. As good as that was, I got super jealous when I tasted someone else’s Goat Cheese, Lavender Honey and Rosemary on Wheat tea sandwich (amaaaazing!!) and pulled the subtle lean-and-chomp technique again. My sneak attack eating is unstoppable!