April 21st, 2008

arrogance

The Scofflaws' Trip to NYC (SeanMike's recap)

We lucked out in terms of weather this weekend.  While it stormed and rained down here in Washington, DC, we had pretty much beautiful weather while in New York.  We also seemed to have followed the Pope up there, so we got to deal with that distraction, and I also was reading today that the New York Comics Convention was going on, and we probably weren't too far from where Neil Gaiman was doing stuff on Saturday night (as per his picture and notes on officialgaiman).

Me and myself, I kept track of most of what was going on via constant use of Twitter texts.  Thus, I put things back together before time renders what is already a bit fuzzy even fuzzier, and try to say hi to some of the really cool people we met.

Friday: Amtrak, Brother Jimmy's, Death & Company, Elettaria

The day started too damn early on Friday.  I didn't get to bed until after midnight, and that alarm went off at 7 AM.  I packed up my stuff - leaving my cigars on the counter, darn it all - and hit the Metro to get down to Union Station.

Once there I met up with tmfiii and tried to get right, as I'm often wont to say in the morning.  I'd had a Coke Zero on the way to the station, and so while there I grabbed some McDonald's.  It was tasty, but I'd forgotten how greasy it is.  The large coffee wasn't bad, though, and I had a couple of miniatures of Michael Collins Irish whisky and Bailey's Irish Cream in my bag (one regular, one caramel).

We boarded the train where we quickly discovered that business class was indeed the way to go.  Marshall had his bottle of pre-made cocktail (a combination of applejack, grapefruit juice, and grenadine if I remember correctly) and as my coffee cooled off - and later when I got my free coffee for being an elitist business class bastard - I made a couple of Irish whiskies.

Those down the drain, it was time to break out my flask of Jameson's, which has languished for a while in there and needed to be refilled with Creole Shrubb for a NEFARIOUS PURPOSE later this week.  I made up what I called an Amtrak drink, with equal parts apple juice and Irish whisky topped with ginger ale.  It needed bitters.

It's cool though that Amtrak really doesn't care about you making up drinks on their trains.  Coupled that with the fact that Marshall and I had a table, and power plugs, it was a very pleasant train ride.

Our first stop in Manhattan, obviously other than Penn Station, was at Brother Jimmy's Barbecue.  Marshall had the burnt ends brisket sandwich - a very good choice, though my sliced brisket sandwich wasn't bad.  My sweet tea did quite suck, though, and I was rather disappointed with the baked beans and the fried pickles (the frickles were only really saved by the horseradish sauce that came with them).

What's a bit funny to me, still, about Brother Jimmy's is the amount of ACC related memorabilia on the walls - including UVA, though they do have way too much (in our opinion) UNC stuff.

Leaving from there, it was cab time to head over to the west side, where our friend chef_ed lives with his beautiful fiancee Francoise.  They're up on the 7th floor, which gave us a nice view of the Hudson River and New Jersey.  It also gave us a chance to drop off our bags, change clothes, and leave out the bottle of Creole Shrubb we'd brought as a gift for them.



A bit of a nap later, and some other recuperation time, it was time to brave New York's famous subway system as we headed out to Death & Company.

It took a bit of searching - we had to figure out the subway, obviously, and we got turned around a couple of times.  I regretted not having brought my GPS system.  However, when we got there, it was definitely worth it.

Marshall started off with a traditional cocktail de la louisiane.  I hit a couple of apple brandy related cocktails to begin with, such as the Little Sparrow and a Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree.  He moved on to a Cynartown, since he's wanted to try out the artichoke based liqueur for a while, and I had a Schruff's End, which used the Compass Box Peat Monster scotch as well as applejack, benedictine, and Peychaud's bitters.  Marshall moved on to a China Fizz while I had a Buffalo Soldier (or did he have both of those?) before we got ready to depart.  Actually - I do believe he had both of those - I went with a drink called "The Conference" which featured a good number of different liquors and chocolate bitters.

One of the bartenders (I believe) from Milk & Honey came in while we were there, though we didn't realize it until after he'd left.  So we missed a chance to get on the list for Milk & Honey, but that hadn't been on our list to begin with (probably because we didn't think we could get in) and there's no use in crying over, uh, spilled Milk (& Honey).  But maybe next time, if he needs an ice pick again and we're at the bar again.  I'll hold my breath.

Physically, Death & Company was a quiet, well furnished bar which I immediately fell in love with in terms of decor and atmosphere.  Our bartender - I call him that since we sat at the bar and talked a good bit with him - was named Phillip, and he did a great job answering our questions, talking about cocktails, making of the cocktails, and in general helped us have a great time.  It was ultimately an incredibly relaxing and fun experience, and right there the whole trip was worth it.

But, really, we needed to move on.  Next time - next time - I'm willing to spend a whole night just there.  But that's just me.  I can get quite sedentary when there are great drinks to be had right where I am.

As per some suggestions from Phillip we ended up going to Elettaria.  Originally our plan was to go there and then to Pegu Club, but we needed some food and we were talking with Lynnette (whose name I'm betting I'm misspelling) there, and ended up wrapped up into another great conversation.  I started with a Quimby Fizz, which I got for two reasons - the name (I kept quoting Diamond Joe Quimby from The Simpsons) and the fact that it had Aviation Gin in it.  Marshall got a mai tai and I switched to an 8th Wonder, which was an amazing drink featuring cardamom and chai infused Buffalo Trace bourbon.

I mean - seriously - it was fan-fugu-tastic.

We needed to eat, and as per Phillip's suggestion we went with the lamb sausages.  Those were quite good, but we really liked the stuffed pig's feet, and we even gave the veal sweetbreads a chance.  The night continued on - I had a Jane Russell (which used mole bitters of the same brand as the chocolate bitters) and Marshall got an Aviation gin Aviation.

The restaurant itself was kind of a trendy looking place, with awkwardly placed restrooms (you're almost in the kitchen as you walk down to them).  Still, the bar was a very comfortable place for a couple of guys to hang out and have a few drinks - definitely helped too by the friendliness of the bartenders and some of the other patrons.

We had another drink or two - I had another 8th Wonder, that really was a rockin' drink - and decided to take off for the night.  It'd been a long day for both of us, and really, we should've eaten more for dinner.  We thought about hitting Gray's Papaya, as there was one right on the corner and Marshall had really wanted to try it, but we decided not to do so.  Ed was getting ready to head back to his place, and we tried to grab a cab back there.

Unfortunately for us, no cab would pick us up, and we weren't the only ones having that issue in that area.  It was very frustrating, and the first time I'd had that issue on a trip to NYC.  We eventually ended up going to the subway, went down the wrong side of the station (and thus had to pay for a second trip to get to the right place after a subway employee hemmed and hawed about different ways to do it), and found our way through the combination of trains to get back to the west side (the 4-5-6 to the 7 to the 1).

There we finally caught up with Ed and I, at least, ended up staying up until about 4 AM chatting away.

Saturday: Aquavit, Museum of Modern Art, The Modern, Nat Sherman's, Pegu Club, Stand, Tailor, PDT

Ed works at Aquavit, so we dodged the roped off portions of Manhattan thanks to the Pope and made our way to Aquavit.  It's a fascinating Swedish restaurant, and we would've had a hard time finding it if we weren't with a cook there.  Still, it took us a cab ride and a subway trip to get there after a couple of morning mimosas.  It's a nice place, the bar area kind of stark but it felt kind of Scandinavian, at least, to someone whose closest tie to Sweden is knowing a guy whose family is Swedish (I haven't even been to an Ikea!).

The big thing we wanted to try was, obviously enough, the infused aquavits.  Marshall was excited to try the white cranberry, while I had to try the horseradish and Ed was determined to get the Thai basil.  We each got a flight of three and tried each others' flavors.  The white cranberry ended up actually being a bit disappointing, but I enjoyed pretty much all of them - I just forgot to write down all the ones we got!

(I've been trying to dig these up off the Aquavit website, but unfortunately, it's being rather unresponsive.  Maybe Ed will read this and follow up with the list or something.)

We also tried out the food there.  The various herrings and gravelax were good.  The meatballs were really good, and so was the salmon roll.  Our bartender, Alex, was very cool, and we had fun chatting with her - and laughing when Ed got a bowl of potato leek soup (which he makes tons of, it seems).

We were seriously lacking in the caffeine department, though, so we went over to the Museum of Modern Art.  Grabbing our guest passes, we explored the area, and went over to the cafe for a charcuterie plate (I think that's how you spell it) and a cup of coffee.  That also led to my own celebrity sighting for the weekend - Meryl Streep was walking around in there, with a couple of Asian girls giggling and talking about her nearby.

It was pretty cool to see some of the exhibits there, but we wanted to try drinks, and so we headed over to The Modern, which is a (very modern looking) bar and restaurant next door to the museum.  I got a Route 5 Cooler, which was a nice refreshing drink.  Ed got his usual cucumber caipiroska, and Marshall got a "Coming Up Roses", which was a bit sweet at first but as the bartender added champagne to it Marshall thought it got better and better.

We had fun talking to the bartenders here, too, and we split a Twilight's Clearing three ways as a final drink.  That's Buffalo Trace bourbon - a bourbon I was surprised, honestly, to see as much in use as it was this weekend but it's well worth it as a mixing bourbon - plus pear, basil, and lime juice.  Tasted like a nice summer drink for me.

It was enough at that point so we wanted to go over and hit Nat Sherman's.  At the minimum, I wanted to pick up a couple of cigars, and as I browsed I saw that they had a "legendary cigar collection" of 8 cigars, with a built-in humidification system in the box (nice touch) for $67.  I picked that up, and it even came with a clipper and some matches, though I didn't get the very long matches that I wanted.

The four different cigars were a Metropolitan selection - Dominican filler, Cuban seed binder, and Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Metropolitan Maduro, a Host - Honduran and "Cubano" blend fillers, Connecticut Shade wrapper - and a Fifth Avenue, which was a Dominican filler and Cameroon wrapper.

We noticed that their new location has a lounge downstairs.  One of the guys took us down there after pulling out a free cigar for Marshall.  When we got down there they had a small bar as well and a number of people hanging out, just relaxing.  I gave Ed one of the Host selection cigars and took one of the Fifth Avenue for myself, while Marshall smoked his, and Ed and I both got Manhattans from the bar because, hey, you know, we're in Manhattan and we're smoking cigars in a quiet nice lounge so it just seemed appropriate.  I felt like we were back in the old days.  (Don't ask me WHICH old days...)

On our way out they gave Ed a free cigar, too!  That was very cool.  The smoke had a nice come down from the food, and got us ready for the next place - the famous Pegu Club!

When we got there it wasn't very crowded.  Marshall went traditional, as he likes to do, and got the Pegu Club cocktail.  I immediately homed in on the whiskey smash, and Ed went with a Gin-Gin Mule, a drink that I'd had over at PX in Alexandria and enjoyed the heck out of there.  We had a great bartender here, too, though I'm completely blanking on his name.  We went through a variety of drinks - a Jamaican Firefly, tantris sidecar, and a pisco punch, to start with, and later a cocktail de la louisiane, champagne apricato, and an amaro julep.  We also tried some of their food.  Ed and I split salmon deviled eggs, he and Marshall split some chicken satay, and the three of us split mushroom raviolis.

After we ate we got a chance to meet Audrey there and she was great, very nice and gracious and fun to talk with.  She told us about the raviolis (and how they're going off the menu), Ed told her about a restaurant called Stand that had a toasted marshmallow milkshake.

I loved the decor and the feel of Pegu Club - it was a great place.  And the waitresses were really rocking those kimonos or whatever they were wearing.

And thus, after Pegu Club, we ended up at Stand, a burger-and-shake joint.  I had a Blue Point Toasted Lager while there with my burger, which wasn't a bad burger but not super great, either.  Give me an Elevation Burger over one of those any day.  The milkshakes there, however, were stupendously good, though I'd also like to have a taste test between them and Elevation Burger - but I'm betting if you're a marshmallow fan, the toasted marshmallow one at Stand would deliver (must not make "stand and deliver" joke) in the clutch.  My chocolate milkshake was quite tasty - I thought of trying the peanut one, but decided to stick with the basics.  I did get a bit annoyed when they closed the window next to me, though, and I kept almost burning my leg on something in the wall.

If any of you would like to stand around and sing that milkshake song right now feel free.  Just don't let me hear you.

Finishing up there, we went to TailorMarshall went straight for the solids - a jello like cuba libre, a marshmallow-y Ramos Gin Fizz, and a White Russian that was like cereal in a bowl.  Ed and I later split the same thing, and they were good, but the White Russian was by far the big stand out to us in that trio.

I wanted to try something different and Ed had asked me to order him something, so I got him a mushroom margarita (Huitalacoche mezcal, triple sec, lime juice, lava salt) since he'd talked so much about mushrooms at Pegu Club while I got the violet fizz (gin, lemon, lime, creme, egg white, creme de violette).  Despite the fact that we'd been drinking cocktails averaging about $11-13 a pop, the $15 for each of the ones Ed and I got gave us a bit of sticker shock.

Probably the reason was that we weren't getting more traditional cocktails but newer ones, and at that, ones we were a bit iffy on to begin.  I knew, for instance, not to order the beet sangria for Ed, and I was curious about the kumquat caipirinha, but not curious enough to actually order it.  We were a bit safer with our third round with one exception.

Marshall got a Blood & Sand, a drink he'd made recently at his place and we surprisingly liked.  Here it was scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry ale, and orange head (whatever that is) and it wasn't bad, but I think I preferred Marshall's version.  Ed got the Waylon - bourbon and smoked Coke - and that was surprisingly good.  I really liked it.

I got the Agua Verde and that was the mistake.

The Agua Verde is listed as tequila, tomatillo, cilantro, and habenero.  I like all of those things.  It sounded like a good "cleanse the palette" combination.  However, the habenero was blazingly painfully hot.  So much so that neither Ed nor I could stand it at all.

I brought this up to the bartender and the first thing he said was that I probably missed the fact that it had habenero in it because it was at the end of the list.  That's not so, I replied, as I'd specifically picked it because of the habenero - I just wanted to know if it was just, maybe, a float of really hot on top and more mild further in.

No, he told me, though it might water down a bit as the ice melts.

(Bang head on bar)

I am not afraid of heat but this was patently undrinkable.  The bartender then responded it might've been because the barbacks make it, and they're Mexican, and thus often make things hotter than a lot of people like.

Seriously.  The excuses that came kind of annoyed me.  I am not a wussy consumer of beverages or foods.  And I especially don't like excuses like that.

I replaced it with a Bazooka - that's vodka, bubble gum cordial, and house sours mix.  That was actually a really fun drink - it tastes just like bubble gum, to the point where you want to chew as you drink it, and it was light and fun.  I'd make that in a heartbeat for almost anybody.  It washed through my brain on a blast of nostalgia for the old days of chewing gum at little league games.

We left after those drinks, spying Eben Freeman at his crow's nest of a bartending station.  It was too bad we couldn't get a chance to talk to him like we had other people, but we were on a mission to try to get to PDT despite how comfortable Tailor was.

PDT, like PX, is a speakeasy type of joint.  You have to know the trick of where it is and how to get into it.  We didn't have reservations, however, and so when we got there they were full - and groups of three are hard to seat in a bar with 13 seats.

Damn.

After that we decided to cab it on back to Ed's.  We tasted some of his French absinthe while at home - an absinthe that turns blue over time - and laughed at Ed when he spilled some of it in his lap.  Then I spilled red wine in my lap and it wasn't as funny.

We stayed up for a while longer, drinking Glenlivet scotch out of Chinese take out soup bowls, until it was very late again and time for bed.

Sunday: deli breakfast, Brother Jimmy's again, Houlihan's, Amtrak again

We hit a little deli place for breakfast.  It was up near the Juilliard, but we'd decided that we didn't feel like going to where Ed had made reservations for breakfast.  After a bagel sandwich and carrot cake, Ed went off to work and we went back to his place to chill out.

We hit up Brother Jimmy's for dinner since I'd noticed that they have an "all you can eat ribs and all you can drink drafts" special on Sundays.  (Mondays are even better - it's rib tips and chicken wings.  We may have to stay through Monday next time.)  So I grabbed that, drinking down Bud Lites and having a single plate of ribs (I wasn't as hungry as I thought, particularly after eating some hush puppies with maple butter that were "eh").  We sat there, ate, watched some TV (and desperately tried to avoid the TV that had on Bridget Jones' Diary), and I drank a few beers.  Service was kind of slow, but it was getting close to time to go, so Marshall checked Amtrak's schedule for our train.

2 hours late.

CRAP.

We went over to the station and there it said "1 hour 20 minutes".  Marshall went over to the news stand to hang out and I hit Houlihan's, a bar in Penn Station.  It was warm and stinky in there, but a couple of beers helped that until finally we managed to get onto a different train (thanks to Marshall's keen ears - our train was listed as "1 hr 45 mins" at that point but I hadn't been able to hear announcements in the bar) that got us down to DC by about 11:30.

This time we didn't have flasks - well, Marshall did, but he wasn't imbibing of it - so I just drank a couple of Yuenglings and Bud Lites on the train, and hooked him up with a gin and cranberry juice when he started having issues with some of the gifts Ed had given us.

About half an hour and a $33 cab ride (for me, before tip) later, and I'm home.  Catch up with Matt & Cathy and it's off to bed.  God, it was nice to sleep in my own bed!

Highlights of the Trip

For me, the biggest highlights were Death & Company, Elettaria, and Pegu Club.

That's not to say the other places were that bad - it was just that these places were great.  Everywhere we went, for the most part, people were really cool and fun to hang out with.  I had a great time the entire weekend, except for a few minutes at about 5 AM Sunday morning when I was really regretting that last Glenlivet.

If I was disappointed at all, it was at not getting a chance to hit PDT, and a bit disappointed to have missed out on Milk & Honey.  I think we just really ordered the wrong drinks at Tailor, but the scene there wasn't bad, and I'd be willing to give it another shot (I would, however, check their menu online first).

I'm already excited about going up again.  We didn't try to squeeze too much in and that helped a lot.  I'd love to visit Aquavit again, too, especially in the atmosphere we had Saturday early - i.e. almost dead quiet, so we can just chill out and get to know the place.

The next time I go up, though, I do want to hit McSorley's again, and we still haven't hit Gray's Papaya.  And, honestly, even if it's just Bud and Bud Lite, I wouldn't mind all you can eat rib tips and chicken wings at Brother Jimmy's!

Ahhh, New York.  I have so much fun when I visit you.  If you were one of the people we got to meet up there, well, then, it was great to meet you (I can say without reservation) and hope to see y'all again - and if you make it down to DC, would love to buy you a drink down here.

And to the rest of you, cheers, I should probably get back to work!