Monday, September 24, 2007

Brandy Library Lounge

After our dinner at Franny’s in Brooklyn, my friend suggested we return to Manhattan and make a stop at the Brandy Library Lounge for a nightcap. Brandy Lounge is the Library of Congress of spirits with one of the largest lists in the city of single malt scotches, bourbons, brandies, and rums to name just a few of its holdings. The servers are called librarians to keep the metaphor rolling and also, I think, because they really have to know their stuff. To complete the idea, you sit in comfortable lounge chairs facing stacks of gorgeously lit bottles.

Ethan Kelley, the spirit sommelier, came out to guide me through the single malt scotch selection. I told him that I like smoky and peety stuff so he brought me a 10 year old Benriach from Highland. As in Scotland, Brandy Lounge serves scotch with a little water or an ice cube to bring out the flavor. Ethan says he uses an eye dropper to control the amount of water. I’m sure he does. The Benriach was light but exceptionally intense. In short, I liked it a lot.

My friend ordered rum. They pour you a little taste of whatever you order so when Ethan tried my pal on a rum made with half molasses and half sugar cane which he did not love, he then brought him a 12 year old Zaya from Guatemala. This one hit the spot.

The spirits are served in the Riedel O series Chardonnay tumblers that really bring out the flavor. There’s also a dégustation menu that looks like it has the right idea about how to pair spirits with food.

When I started looking at the bourbon list and Ethan began pouring me amazing bourbons like the Elijah Craig 18 year old single barrel, and the AH Hirsch 16 year, I realized it was time to stop. Try it out for yourself, but make a reservation. It gets booked. And look for me. I’ll be back, checking out the bourbons.

Brandy Library
25 North Moore Street
New York, NY 10013

Monday, September 17, 2007


When I suggested to friends that I was craving pizza again and wanted to go back to Lucali's in Brooklyn, they suggested trying Franny's instead.

Franny's is located on Flatbush Avenue in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, and while it may look like a simple storefront, inside it's got a delightful vibe that reminds me of San Francisco.

The crowd is diverse and cheerful, the smell of wood smoke is delicious, and waiting at the bar (no reservations) has its own special charms: house-cured soppressata and coppa and the house cocktail, the Brooklyn, which is Franny's one up on the traditional Manhattan, made with Maker's Mark, sweet vermouth and fresh lemon sour. The Brooklyn certainly got the evening off to a brisk start, and the soppressata and the coppa were superb—moist and flavorful and distinctively different from any others I've had.

Once we got to the table our waiter took us through the menu with a winning enthusiasm that we all enjoyed. Franny's offers a selection of small plates for starters plus pastas and pizza. I wanted to order everything, but how much can three people eat?

We started with the Pork Cheek and Beef Tongue Terrine with Salsa Verde that literally melted in your mouth, the Sweet Corn with Sweet 100 Tomatoes Salad, which was the essence of the season and the Fried Rice Balls with Corn and Pancetta which had a thin crust and were full of flavor. We also had the Arugula Salad with La Quercia Proscuitto and Parmigiano Reggiano which was perfectly dressed. One of my biggest complaints about salads in New York, as opposed to California, is they are not composed and dressed well. They are either too big or too much of one thing. This one was perfect.

Finally to the pizzas: We ordered the Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil and Sausage, and the Clams, Chilies and Parsley pizzas. They brought us a Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Basil by mistake and before I could say anything, the waiter noticed the mistake fired off another pizza right away. The pizzas were served unsliced on a large dinner plate and they were sensational.

The wine list is great too with lots of good choices especially of Italian wines.

For dessert we ordered the Fior di Latte Gelato, the most incredible gelato I've ever had. When I asked our waiter about it, he told us about the farm that supplies the milk for it. Of course that was music to my ears as was the list of Franny's sources on the back of the menu—everything from the energy from ConEd solutions which is derived from 35% new Wind and 65% Small Hydroelectric to their espresso which comes from Counter Culture Coffee. I am hoping this kind of restaurant represents the future of food.

Further evidence that we are on the right track here: Franny's plans to open Franny's Larder within a year where people can buy all the wonderful ingredients they serve in the restaurant. If this is not the crest of the best New Wave I don't know what is.

295 Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Monday, September 10, 2007

Adieu to Summer 2007

On Labor Day I joined some friends for the last lunch of summer at Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. They love to take their boat over there, swim to shore, and have a lovely lunch. The idea certainly appealed to me, especially since the setting is much more like the Cote D’Azur than the nearby Hamptons.

After the choppiest boat road of my life, I was ready for what I had been told would be the best margarita of my life at The Sunset Beach Restaurant. We ordered a round and they were right. Edo, the bartender, made them with Gran Centenario Anejo Tequila. I've become a believer that using quality spirits in a cocktail does make a difference. The Gran Centenario Anejo Tequila added a complex and slightly smoky finish to my margarita, which made all the difference. When I asked for the recipe, he was nice enough to give me it to me so check it out below.

Later we sat down for lunch and I ordered Moules Frites Marinieres to start because I’d seen quite a few tables of people enjoying them. Good choice. The mussels were delicious and sweet, their sauce was tasty, and the fries were okay though not outstanding. We also had a couple of orders of fried calamari which came with both an aioli and a red sauce. The calamari called out for a rose so I checked their well edited wine list and ordered the 2006 Bedell Domaines “CC” Rose from Long Island, which was fabulous, crisp and refreshing. I had had it earlier this summer when I came out for a tasting at Bedell, and it has since become one of my favorite Long Island wines. After that I had the wild striped bass grille which was deliciously fresh but disappointingly meagre for something priced at $29.00.

Maybe the food here isn’t as wonderful as the fare on the Cote d’Azur, but I really don’t care. The atmosphere is wonderful and sometimes that is enough for me. So next summer I’d recommend a visit to my favorite new summer hangout!

Sunset Beach
35 Shore Road
Shelter Island, Long Island

Edo’s Margarita

1-1/4 ounces Gran Centenario Anejo Tequila
1-3/4 ounces Cointreau
1-1/4 ounces simple syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed limejuice

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously and serve over ice or straight up.