What better time to get away to New York City than a freezing cold January weekend? This past weekend, my husband and I hit the road to check out a whiskey and beer tasting event in Manhattan and try some of the food and drinks the city has to offer.
We arrived Friday evening and checked into our hotel, The Comfort Inn near the Financial District. The hotel was right next to Chinatown, and my Best Parking app found a private parking deck in the same block, which made for a convenient, secure place to leave our car for the weekend. The Comfort Inn was a perfect value choice for a quick visit. The rooms are small but clean, the staff is friendly, the lobby and decor are modern and the hotel offers a complimentary hot breakfast. With rates around $100 a night and a location a block away from a subway station, this hotel was a great place to stay.
Earlier in the week I’d gotten an email from Blackboard Eats with a special deal on a four-course prix fixe meal for $40 a person at Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn. A few subway stops and a leisurely stroll later, we arrived at the restaurant: a laid back and rustic oasis in the midst of docklands, industrial warehouses and storefronts. Red Hook has a long and storied past, beginning in docks and seafaring (hence the great location for a seafood restaurant), and encompassing historical figures like Al Capone, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Miller, Harlan Ellison and more.
Our meal was, quite literally, the most delicious seafood meal I’ve ever eaten. It started with a cup of clam chowder, which was velvety-smooth, with chunks of potato and clam that were just the right size – not so big they choke you but not so small that you feel like the restaurant is cutting corners.
Next came peel-and-eat shrimp, steamed with Old Bay and served with house-made cocktail sauce. The shrimp were plump and tasty, and the sauce had just the right amount of kick.
The crown jewel of this meal was the whole lobster, served with an ear of corn, potatoes, cole slaw and plenty of drawn butter (bib and claw cracker on the side). The only thing to be said about this lobster was “Wow.” So fresh it was probably in the water that morning, huge and cooked perfectly.
Dessert was a carnival favorite: funnel cake a la mode topped with blueberry compote. The contrast of crispy and doughy, with the sweetness of the blueberries and the cool vanilla ice cream was just divine – the perfect ending to this amazing meal.
On Saturday, we had tickets for East Ville des Folies: Acte Quatre, a Prohibition-era beer and whiskey tasting event spanning four floors at historic Webster Hall. Dressed in our 1920’s best, we waited in the line that ran around the block for our VIP admission – an extra hour of tasting with a slightly smaller crowd than the regular three hour event.
Attendees received a complimentary tasting glass and could wander among the different floors to sample bourbon, scotch, whiskey, beer, cider and root beer. Citi card holders had access to a special “speakeasy” lounge with a victrola dj and complimentary appetizers. Burlesque dancers and aerialists performed, along with several different musical acts.
Standout drinks for me were: William Wolf Pecan and Winter Spice bourbons, Rekorderling Passionfruit and Strawberry-Lime ciders, Jonas Bronck pumpkin porter and Redemption Rye.
After the event was over, we headed back to our hotel to change out of our 20’s garb and into something a bit more modern before Uber’ing further downtown to world famous bar The Dead Rabbit. I’d been wanting to check this place out for years, and it did not disappoint. The wait for a spot in the upstairs Parlor on a Saturday night was nearly an hour, but we had beer and the lively atmosphere of the tiny Taproom to fill the time until our buzzer alerted us that there was space for us upstairs.
The Parlor was a bit more roomy than the Taproom, with The Dead Rabbit’s many awards displayed on a shelf behind the bar. The cocktail menu is centered around the life of Lewis Pease, a Methodist minister of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 19th century. The bound cocktail menu encompasses a range of cocktails from each of the four seasons, eighty drinks in all. An additional drink menu added about twelve seasonal cocktails to the mix. Each drink seemed to consist of ten or more ingredients carefully chosen to create drinks that rise above the typical Old Fashioned or Mojito.
I had the Moby Dick first: Remy Martin 1738 Cognac, Power’s John’s Lane Irish Whiskey, Pale Cream Sherry, Fig, Elderberry, Lemon, Orinoco Bitters, Vanilla and Vanilla Soda. It was delicious! Served in a teacup with a big hunk of ice (which I learned from eavesdropping on another customer’s conversation with the bartender comes from a local artisan icemaker), the drink was the perfect mix of flavors. This is what The Dead Rabbit does perfectly, and why they have received so many awards and accolades. They elevate the art of mixing cocktails the same way a James Beard award winner or Michelin-starred chef does with food. These drinks aren’t even in the same universe as the whiskey sour or mojito.
My husband had the Bloodlust first: Ron Zacapa 23 Solera Rum, Fernet Branca, Ginger and Raspberry.
For our next drinks, we both ordered off the smaller menu. I had the Sweet Talker: Bulleit Rye (my favorite!), Applejack, Cranberry, Rose, Ginger, Lemon and Grapefruit Bitters. My hubby tried the Poker Face: Chief Gowanus New Netherland Gin, Novo Fogo Aged Cachaca, Oloroso Sherry, Carrot, Paprika, Orange and Lemon.
At $15 per cocktail, the drinks are not cheap. But as the reigning best bar in the world, the masterfully created and mixed cocktails are worth every penny. Their burger is great too!
Sunday morning was spent decompressing from a day’s and night’s worth of drinking and packing to go home. With a six hour drive ahead of us, we waved goodbye to NYC until next time and drove through the Holland Tunnel to Jersey City to track down some White Castle before we got on the road.
All in all, we had an awesome time in New York City. We decided we have to make it back for next year’s East Ville des Folies.