The Art of the Home Bar (or, Low Grade Hoarding of the Spirited Kind)

01/07/2015 § Leave a comment

Quite Continental: The Art of the Home Bar

While I have yet to use the oven in the apartment I’ve lived in for over two years, one area of my kitchen that gets a fair amount of attention is my home bar.  What started out as a few bottles of my favorite spirits — no obscure liqueurs, no tools, no doo-dads — has gradually evolved into one of my favorite places in my apartment.  Its remarkable growth can be explained partially by the fact that I currently work in the spirits industry, but it’s also true that few things bring me more pleasure than collecting.

For spirits, my first look is Astor Wines.  They’re humongous.  But it’s definitely worth exploring your neighborhood to find a local shop you like.  They’ll be able to order you pretty much anything — as long as you ask them nicely.

For tools and glassware, check out Cocktail Kingdom.

For how to bring it all together, refer to the Death & Company Book.  Written by the folks behind one of New York’s preeminent cocktail bars, this tome is no joke.  Be prepared for indulgent discussions about the bar itself and the folks who work and drink there, and on how to make over 500 cocktails.  Mind you, “indulgent” in the best possible sort of way.

And if history is more your thing, David Wondrich just re-released his classic IMBIBE!, which traces the beginnings of the great American invention: the cocktail as we know it today.

Where to keep it all?  If you’re like me and have no space (hello teensy Soho apartment life), make due with the best surface available.  In my case, as shown above on Instagram, the bar is perched atop my midcentury modern dresser…which is technically in the kitchen.  I told you my apartment was small!  If you’ve got a little room to work with, I love bar carts like this one, this one and ESPECIALLY this one.

Lastly, I’m personally a big fan of straws and vintage swizzle sticks.  Add something personal or original to the mix to truly make it your bar.

Did I miss anything??

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Start ’em Young

22/06/2015 § 2 Comments

Quite Continental: Start 'em Young Quite Continental: Start 'em Young c0b065d3b665bf4f_large Quite Continental: Start 'em Young Quite Continental: Start 'em Young Quite Continental: Start 'em YoungI hope everyone had a lovely Father’s Day!  I spent it a bit far from my dear old Dad, since he lives out west and I’m in New York, but at least we had the chance to talk on the phone.  I’ve been sitting on these photos, of Arizona rancher James A. Shugart and his children, for some time — but perhaps I was actually waiting for Father’s Day.  Taken in 1954 by Allan Grant for Life Magazine, my favorite image is probably the one of James Jr., pouring his morning coffee.

These photos are similar to an older post of mine, The Youngest Cowgirl, also featuring Allan Grant’s work for Life.

Slide Into Spring

23/04/2015 § 2 Comments

gap slides

In reflecting upon how much desire these simple sneaks from Gap have just inspired, it’s entirely possible that New York has finally tipped my internal balance to 51% NY, 49% CA — because when I look at these I think SPRING!!!  Which is hilarious because they are black leather sneakers, says California me.  No, no, says New York me, can’t you see??  Shoes that aren’t boots that you can wear without socks? That’s practically a tropical vacation for our feet!

Controversy aside, these babies are a perfect transition from the recent winter of our collective discontent AND a perfect price to boot — $49.95 and an additional 35% off until tomorrow, 4/24 — so get while the getting is good, and we can be spring twins.

An Undiscovered Musical || Karen Elson for Vogue Italia April 2015

15/04/2015 § Leave a comment

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Pretty damn speechless, I must admit.  This editorial by Steven Meisel for the April 2015 issue of Vogue Italia completely caught me by surprise — it took me a moment to realize I wasn’t actually looking at something from decades ago!  Styled by Karl Templer and starring Karen Elson and Christopher Niquet, this glamorous silver-screen vision of fluid dance steps and gowns that appear to float on air is a treat indeed.

Images via Visual Optimism.

Rabbit Hole || Dinner de Luxe at The World Famous Cotton Club, 1938

04/04/2015 § 5 Comments

Cotton Club 1 - 1938 Cotton Club 2 Cotton Club 3 Cotton Club 4 Cotton Club 5

I’ve recently been spending quite a bit of time in the NewYork Public Library’s digital collection of menus.  An incredible collection of documents from around the world, dating from the 1850s through the 2000s, it is fascinating to observe trends in cuisine and cocktails – and prices!

I am always the most excited to find menus from storied New York establishments, those still standing like the New York Athletic Club and Tavern on the Green, and others that have since shuttered, like this one, from The Cotton Club in 1938, when it occupied its theatre district location at 48th Street and Broadway.  The Cotton Club was a nightclub that featured and launched the careers of some of the most notable black musicians and entertainers of the era, but served an all-white clientele.  At the time of the menu, Cab Calloway and his band headlined a twice nightly musical review that frequently included overtly racist themes similar to the images on the menu cover — as you can readily observe from the show program. **Be sure to click to enlarge the images.

Also interesting is the expansive cocktail menu.  Most other menus in the archive from this era mention only a few classic drinks and possibly a wine list, but because its primary function was as a nightclub and not merely a restaurant, The Cotton Club’s menu features all sorts of cocktails — separated from “Fancy Mixed Drinks,” mind you.  Nestled among the classics I already recognize, I was happy to find more obscure cocktails like the “Horse’s Neck,” the “Bronx,” the “Pink Lady,” and the “Jack Rose.”  All of which prompted a quick search and mental note to try out in the near future.  You’ll also notice a drink called the “Tall, Tan, & Terrific.”  A signature cocktail if ever there was one, the phrase is a nod to the Club’s chorus girls, all of whom were required to be taller than 5’6,” light-skinned and under twenty-one years of age.

To get a sense of the sort of performance patrons viewed on the nights this menu was in use, I’ve found a great short film made by Paramount in 1934 of Cab Calloway, featuring some of his most famous hits.  Nicknamed the “Hi-De-Ho Man” after his success with his song “Minnie the Moocher,” you get to view a bit of Calloway’s distinctive singing style, his call and response technique with the orchestra, his inspired dance moves.  Love it.  I mean, his hair alone!

As an added bonus, a very famous clip from Stormy Weather (1943), featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra as well as an amazing routine by the Nicholas Brothers, another act that called the Cotton Club home.

Images via NYPL.

A Liquid Lunch at the 21 Club

28/03/2015 § 1 Comment

21 Club. 21 Club. 21 Club. 21 Club. In honor of the upcoming final (!) season of AMC’s Mad Men, a select group of New York restaurants — the sort of joints that Madison Avenue ad men probably would have favored — featured special lunch menus last week.  Priced at $19.69 — the year of the final season — patrons could treat themselves to the hallowed “liquid lunch” or opt for a prix fixe menu.  It wasn’t something I was prepared to miss, so I corralled a compatriot and made my way directly to the 21 Club.

The 21 Club, formerly a prohibition-era speakeasy, has been in operation since the 1920s and has occupied its current, jockey-decorated location since 1929.  Since its inception 21 has been a favored spot of presidents, celebrities, socialites, politicians, and titans of industry.  A four-story townhouse with multiple private rooms, its famed secret wine cellar has housed the private collections of folks like Ernest Hemingway, John F. Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra.  Today, 21 retains a sense of old-fashioned formality that has become somewhat unique – gentlemen are required to wear jackets to gain entrance to the dining room, servers are dressed in tuxedos.  The Bar Room, where we lunched, sports a ceiling decorated with antique toys, suspended in air.

If you know me at all, you already know I went for the cocktails: Manhattans made with Canadian Club, while my dining partner opted for gin martinis.  Feeling very Roger Sterling and Don Draper, we also ordered for a dozen oysters, and a fabulous, mid-century time was had by all.

21 Club
21 W. 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

Words || The Journey

11/11/2014 § Leave a comment

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A moment from my recent drive in the Hudson Valley, overlaid with a bit of wisdom from Papa Hemingway.  Fall is quite excellent at making one feel pensive and restless — I suppose it is mainly due to the spectacular demise of the foliage.

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QC Loves: Hi-Collar

09/11/2014 § 1 Comment

QC Loves: Hi-Collar QC Loves: Hi-Collar QC Loves: Hi-Collar QC Loves: Hi-Collar QC Loves: Hi-CollarQC Loves: Hi-Collar

Admittedly, this was a discovery I made some time ago, but with the return of the polar vortex next week, it seems like the perfect time to share.  Hi-Collar in the East Village is a darling of a tiny kissaten — a Western-inspired Japanese coffee house — by day and a sake bar by night.  Siphon coffee, tea and small bites, both savory and sweet, are served with a precision and ritual you won’t find at any of those other coffee shops around the city.  It’s the perfect place for a meandering late afternoon — and if you can stretch your visit into the evening changeover, even better.

Hi-Collar
214 East 10th St.
New York, NY 10003

Charming Spaces || Coastal Vibes

10/08/2014 § 3 Comments

Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes Charming Spaces || Costal Vibes

Lovely bit of inspiration by way of Robert McKinley’s apartment in Chelsea, as captured by Nicole Franzen for T Magazine/NY Times.  Unfamiliar with McKinley?  He’s the interior designer and creative director behind places such as the Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk and the downtown outposts of Sant Ambroeus.  I’m feeling inspired by the relaxed, well-worn and faintly beachy style of his space, especially the palm frond curtains and that amazing rocking chair.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be stepping out shortly to track down one of those hurricane plants  Please hold my calls.

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Disappearing Acts

08/08/2014 § 1 Comment

Porto RicoEvery morning on my way to the train at the West 4th Street station, I pass the Porto Rico Importing Co. at 201 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.  More of a coffee and tea store than a true coffee bar, it’s where I buy the coffee I use at home (try it out: Monsoon Malabar is my favorite).  It’s usually full of bench sitters and the usual bunch of parked cars, but today I happened upon a rare moment of quiet and a break in the traffic so that I could take the shot above.

As I took the picture, an eccentric-looking older gentleman ambled by and gruffly offered his two cents: “You know, places like that are disappearing around here.”  He then proceeded to point out the growing vacancies around Porto Rico, both new and old. I readily agreed with him and he eventually set off on his way down Bleecker, satisfied.

Vaguely familiar that Porto Rico has been around for some time — it does mention something about 1907 on the awning, at least — I did a bit of research and discovered that the ground floor of 201 Bleecker has been operated by the Longo family since the early 1900s, initially as a bakery and then later as the coffee and tea store we know today.  The current owner-operator, Peter Longo, is the third generation to run the store, the building having been bought by his grandfather in 1905 for $5,000.  Peter was born in the building, as well as his father before him.

For someone who’s only lived in the neighborhood for just over a year, it’s always exciting to learn more about longtime residents and businesses, but also to hear how the streets have changed.  The next time you find yourself on Bleecker, I definitely recommend that you stop by for a pound of coffee or perhaps a new tea — because it’s true, places like this are rapidly disappearing these days.

For a fuller story on Porto Rico, Alex Witchel at the NY Times wrote a great article on Peter and the store that you should also read.

Have a lovely (caffeinated) weekend!
M. xx

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    Hello September. Be kind. 🐇🐇#rabbitrabbit #broadway #soho It's good to be back.💛 #bankstreet #westvillage #380sl #soloparking Currently accepting adulation and gluten-free treats on the streets of Soho. #Bunnypig too. 🐰🐽 #goodmorning #nyc
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