Friday, February 7, 2014

The 200th Post Round-Up: Vodka and Ginger's Favorite Cocktails

Well, here it is.  Forging through bouts of indigestion, tipsy stumbling, and frequently-lost-forays to other states (up to and including a couple of boroughs), we have reached our 200th post.  Rather than putting together another list of our Best of Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes, as we did to mark our 100th post anniversary, we have instead decided to concentrate on the important things: the cocktails we drank alongside our Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes.  Which ones did we love the most?  From what we can remember (ahem), here they are:

1. Buena Vista Cafe -- Irish Coffee
The Best Part of Waking Up
We love an excuse to drink whiskey at 9:00 in the morning -- don't you?  Only trouble is, we have to haul ourselves all the way to San Francisco in order to do so.

2. The Modern -- Kina and The Heights
Our Favorite Kind of Modern Art
In what will become a running pattern, we tend to enjoy our own beverages and not the other one's.  But we loved our respective gin cocktails at The Modern so much that they now enjoy equally high placement on our list.

3. Barrio Chino -- Grapefruit Margarita
The Lower East Side's Greatest Invention
We are notoriously hard on the Lower East Side, but Barrio Chino's grapefruit margarita is one thing that had us singing the neighborhood's praises.

4. Employees Only -- The Vesper and Ginger Smash
Mood Lighting Courtesy of Bar's "Secret" Ambiance
We're not fond of speakeasy-type locales (we have no shame drinking our booze out in the open), but even we have to admit that Employees Only serves up a rather delicious cocktail.

5. Wassail -- City Tavern
Ben Franklin Would Be So Proud
Undisputed proof that we were meant to live in the 1700s: our deep and undying love of heated wine.  Thanks, Philadelphia.

6. Dandelion -- Tartanka and Pimm's Deluxe
The Brits Do Booze Right
We Do Love a Decorative Garnish
In contradictory news, besides being members of the Continental Congress, we also apparently should have been born British, as we love an English pub.  Once again, these drinks are highly worth the train ride to Philly.

7. Clover Club -- Gin Blossom
We Like Any Drink That Comes with Free Refills
Early on, it was not easy to get us to Brooklyn (and to get us around once we were there), but if we are promised gin at the end of our venture, we'll make the trek over the East River.

8. Stanton Social Club -- Martinis
The Drink That Launched 200 Blog Posts
Admittedly, we have no memory of what we drank here, and our usually thorough blog notes fail to provide any insight.  But these cocktails gave birth to our catchphrase, "It's Not Even Noon Somewhere," so they must have been doing something right.

9. Caffe Dante -- Americano and Cappuccino with Kahlua
Starbucks Could Learn a Thing or Two
The cannolis in this place were not great, and their cappuccinos and americanos probably weren't much to write home about either.  But add a burst of kahlua to anything?  Instant improvement.

10. Hill Country Chicken -- Bandit Boxed Wine
High Class on a Tray
It's wine.  It's in a box.  It's hilarious.  And it is the best way, as we see fit, to cap off our Top 10 drinks.

Happy 200th post to us.  May many a calorie and many a cocktail lie ahead.

Yours in Best Thing I Ever Eating,
Vodka and Ginger

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let's Eat the Stupid Soup and Then Go Drink

Soondubu Jjigae Soup -- Cho Dang Gol
Cho Dang Gol

"I'm concerned about the drink options at this place."

This, ladies and gentlemen is the perpetual story of our lives.
Our Booze Choices Always Remain Our Number One Concern
We are on our way to Cho Dang Gol to consume something we don't know how to pronounce (soondubu jjigae soup), which Judy Joo featured on the AS GOOD AS MOM'S episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, and we are preemptively hostile.  Generally speaking, Asian restaurants are the homes of some things we love (namely noodles) and other things we hate (a terrible cocktail menu, if such a menu exists at all).

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Ginger texts Vodka a picture of Cho Dang Gol's drink menu, featuring such gems as "plum wine," and even worse, the highly dreaded "rice wine."
Well, THIS Will Never Do
"Let's eat the stupid soup and then go drink," is all Vodka texts back, and minutes later, when she is lost in Koreatown, she is heartened to find an Irish Pub located just down the street, a place that she is certain will ply us with gin, or at the very least, normal wine.

When she finally manages to stumble into the correct restaurant, Vodka finds a solitary figure in the corner, drinking stoically out of a large wine glass.

"They have red," Ginger says by way of greeting.  "It's just labeled as 'red.'  But it serves the purpose."
If Nothing Else, We Appreciate the Relatively Large Pour
We quickly become overwhelmed by the menu, and set our sights on words we understand ("dumplings" and "noodles").  
They Spend A Lot of Time "Distressing" The Menus at This Place....
There is some confusion about the soup we're supposed to be consuming, as it is called by a different name on the menu, but we are assured that it is the soft tofu stew we are after (and we order the seafood variety, because, why not?).  
In Truth, This Decision Was Made Like This: "Fish?" "Sure."
We also choose the dumpling appetizer and the jap chae (again, merely because it has the word "noodles" in it).  
Look, We Know What We Like
All of our food arrives within minutes (we know this only because our wine is barely gone), and it is all hot.  Not just spicy hot (although it is that, too), but HOT.  So hot that the soup is actually boiling.  Never one for patience, however, we dive in.

And are promptly spitting out our food onto our plates while fanning our tongues.
Sorry, We Forgot to Mention, Cho Dang Gol, That We Like Our Food COOLED OFF
First things first, the tofu stew is, besides being scalding, quite spicy.  "Unbearable," in the words of Ginger, until we decide to stop eating it as a soup at all, and begin ladling it on top of white rice as if it is General Tso's Chicken.  
We Make Korea So Proud
With the rice cutting down both the temperature and the spice level, we find the flavors of the stew itself rather pleasing -- the tofu itself, which neither of us is a particular fan of, is especially appealing.  Soft and mushy in texture, it has succeeded in taking on every taste inherent in the soup.  
In Truth, This Is Just About the Only Tofu Vodka Has Ever Enjoyed
The seafood in this cauldron is a bit of an afterthought, and when we are halfway through the serving, Vodka asks Ginger what she would rank it.

"4 stars?"
"We didn't even eat it like a soup."
"But it tasted good with rice."
"I would never order this again."
"Right, me neither."
"3 stars."

Sorry, Cho Dang Gol, but we really prefer our food "tepid" to "lukewarm."
Excellent Rice Though. Truly Superb
The dumplings, which are among the largest varieties we have ever seen, are good if unremarkable (and come with barely a thimble-full of accompanying sauce.  Look, people, we only eat for the condiments -- you're going to have to serve up more than that).
How Exactly Are We Supposed to Fit THESE... THAT?!
The jap chae is by far our favorite item on the table, featuring a large pile of glass noodles sprinkled with assorted vegetables and beef.  
In General, Stuff Noodles In Our Mouths, and We'll Stop Complaining
Our entrees also come with an array of assorted side dishes, which the waitstaff does not bother to explain to us (they're obviously quite aware that all such descriptions would be lost on two fools whose main concern in this place is how high their wine glasses are filled).
So Many Sides, So Little Idea What We're Eating
When our table is cleared, we are presented with two (paltry servings of) ginger tea, which may just be our favorite thing on the menu, meaning it is a shame that there is so little of it.  
One Swallow's Worth of Tea
By the time we each make our way to the walk-through-the-kitchen bathroom (note: not the best restroom set-up we've ever seen, being that we are almost run over by various trays of boiling stew), the place is a flurry of activity with each and every table full, and a few guests lingering at the door.
Maybe We Could Ask Some of THEM to Explain the Side Dishes to Us
And at this point, Cho Dang Gol has clearly decided it is time for us to go.  As Ginger spends all of thirty seconds tapping at her phone in order to determine where her train is, we are accosted by a host mumbling something about "needing the table."

"Yeah, yeah, we're going," Ginger dismisses him, still poking at her phone, and we make not-so-pleasant faces at the waitstaff as we mosey out on our own terms.

"I believe we were just kicked out," Vodka says to Ginger when we hit the sidewalk, and for this reason alone, we have no plans to make a return trip to Cho Dang Gol any time soon.  Instead, we'll frequent the places that will serve us gin, blow on our soup, and allow us to linger at our bar stools for however long we please.

Cho Dang Gol's Soondubu Jjigae Soup: 3 stars

Monday, January 27, 2014

Into the Boroughs: Lost in Brooklyn -- A Memoir in Gin

Gin Blossom -- Clover Club
Clover Club

It never fails: send Vodka to Brooklyn, and she is bound to get lost in ten seconds or less.
What Is This Foreign Land?
Being that Ginger has recently moved to the oh-so-distant borough, we have been spending a tad more time in the place (read: Vodka has been here twice in six months).  A half hour after exiting the subway stop (a "five minute walk" from Ginger's apartment, unless you head in the COMPLETELY WRONG DIRECTION), Vodka stumbles into Ginger's new abode.

"Do you ever get lost here?!"

"Not really, but I only walk from the subway to my apartment and back," Ginger responds, which explains quite a bit about our mutual tendency to "hermit" ourselves.
We Like to Stay At Home to Keep an Eye on Our Liquor Cabinets
Vodka tasks Ginger with the job of leading us to the Clover Club, where we are going to consume Ted Allen's Best Thing I Ever Ate BEST I EVER DRANK cocktail, the gin blossom ("In 'not shocking' news, I think we've tasted almost every one of the items featured on the BEST I EVER DRANK episode.")
We Like to Drink Things
With the confidence of a bonafide Brooklyn resident, Ginger finds the place for us, and we make ourselves comfortable on two of the largest bar stools this side of the East River.  
A Large Throne for the Bar Queens
We then discover that the gin blossom is not on the brunch menu, at which point Vodka instructs Ginger, "Use some of your flirtation skills to get the bartender to make it for us."  Ginger nods her head knowingly, and then proceeds to "flirt," with nary a bat of her eyelashes, by asking, "Can you make us the gin blossom?"

Luckily, bartenders in Brooklyn don't seem to care much for elaborate brown-nosing, as this one accepts Ginger's "pass" with a shrugged "Sure." 
"And Now May We Have a Plate of Your Bar Snacks?"
In the fifteen minutes (but more on this later) that it takes for our blossoms to make an appearance, we decide on our menu items: the lamb burger with goat cheese and the French dip sandwich, both of which we plan on splitting.  We place our order, just as the first of our cocktails appears before us, and instantly, it looks like our type of drink.
In That It Has Alcohol In It
Not fruity, spicy, sour, or herby (all qualities we hate to varying degrees), the gin blossom borders just on this side of "crisp."  It is apparently composed of half gin, half vermouth, a splash of orange bitters, and apricot eau de vie (whatever that is).  
Presumably, It's One of These Things
The texture is rather syrupy, though it thankfully refrains from becoming sweet, and though it comes in the smallest glass we've ever seen, we each receive a large thimble-full of "seconds" in an accompanying bowl of ice chips.
We Like a Cocktail That Automatically Comes with a Refill
Overall, the drink reminds us of a slightly less successful version of the gin drinks we had at the MOMA bar and at Employees Only, and while we enjoy it, we don't love it enough to make a special trip to Cobble Hill just to down it again.  Particularly because we have now been on these stools for forty-five minutes, and we have yet to see a single scrap of food.
Look, Bartender -- We Like to Eat, Too
Now, when our brunch entrees do eventually arrive, they are admittedly quite delicious.  The burger is juicy and slathered in an abundant amount of goat cheese, the roast beef is tasty with just the right amount of horseradish spice, and the homemade chips are perfectly salty and crunchy.  
So Much Wonderful Cheesiness
Clover Club Calls Them Crisps = They Think They're British
Heading to France with Some Sandwich Dipping Sauce
Where's the Beef?
We virtually lick our platters clean as we each ask for a second gin blossom, and then, once again, we wait.  
These Glasses Aren't Going to Refill Themselves!
We wait a solid twenty minutes -- so long that the bartender (seemingly off his game after Ginger's attempts at "wooing" him) apologizes for the delay -- before our drinks are replenished (with, might we add a decidedly less generous portion of "seconds" in our iced thimbles.  Clearly, the bar-back thinks we have had enough).  
Excuse Us, This Was Twice as Full Last Time
Beginning to see a pattern in the Clover Club's serving times, we order the bread pudding for dessert as soon as we can.  And nevertheless, it is a full half hour before the caramel-encased pastry is placed in front of us.
Have We Not Made Abundantly Clear That We Are Excessively Impatient People?!
Once again, the bread pudding is excellent -- truly the best we have ever tasted.  And we both agree that we would order every single thing we have eaten and drank today again -- but we would just have to designate an entire day to doing so.
Maybe Even an Entire Weekend, What With Vodka's Penchant for Getting Lost
When we are finally ready to leave, Vodka asks Ginger where she thinks the bathroom is, only to find her examining herself in the behind-the-bar mirror.

"Hey, narcissist!  Where do you think the bathroom is?"

"I really need to get someone else to do my make-up."

"It has to be behind that red curtain.  Like in the Wizard of Oz."

"I mean, where did these dark circles come from?"

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is gin's greatest effect on us: the ability to carry on two completely different conversations at the same time.
For the Record, the Bathrooms Are NOT Behind This Curtain
Eventually, we stumble out of the bathrooms, finding them quite nice, as far as Brooklyn basement bathrooms go.  Ginger then practically hand-holds Vodka back to the subway station, lest she stumble off in the wrong direction and end up in Queens.  And somehow, Vodka finds it ten-times easier to navigate her way back to Manhattan than she did finding her way to Brooklyn.

Such newfound navigation skills, we suppose, are gin's other great gift.

Clover Club's Gin Blossom: 4 stars

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is a Martini at 11am Inappropriate?

Garlic Shrimp -- Schiller's Liquor Bar
Schiller's Liquor Bar

We don't like to go to the Lower East Side.
To Be Fair, It's Not So Fond of Us Either
Our animosity toward the Lower East Side stems from its propensity for narrow sidewalks, non-hosed down streets, and an overflow of hipsters. It is no accident that even though there are two 5 star Best Thing I Ever Ate dishes on the Lower East Side (the French Onion Soup dumplings and grapefruit margarita), neither of us has returned once to have them again.

In other words, you're welcome, Schiller's Liquor Bar, that we have agreed to grace your establishment with our presence at all.
Oh, the Moral Sacrifices We Make for Best Thing I Ever Ate Purposes
Schiller's is the home of Tyler Florence's, he of widely-variable-San-Francisco-taste, Best Thing I Ever Ate WITH GARLIC dish, the garlic shrimp.  We arrive at Schiller's a full hour before our reservation time (in our defense, we tried to call ahead to alert them, but people on the Lower East Side do not seem to believe in ANSWERING THE PHONE).  
They're Too Busy "Not Having a Computer," But More on That Later
We are seated in the middle of the room without incident, and we get down to ordering.  And by "ordering," we mean "drinking."  It's nearly 11am already, after all.
The Term "It's Not Even Noon Somewhere" Was Born on the Lower East Side. We Better Do It Justice
"They have a wet ginger martini," Ginger states.  "Though maybe I should get something more appropriate for the hour."

"I'm getting an Old Man Martini," Vodka tells her.  And thus it is settled: martinis all around.
Old Man Martini = Stellar Name, By the Way
Along with the martinis, we order a side of French fries and a plate of the garlic shrimp (and thus make our waitress think that we are decidedly more hungover than we are).  Said waitress asks if we would like bread to mop up the garlic sauce from the shrimp, and who are we to deny ourselves any carbs?

Cut to: the bread arrives, and it is pretty much one serving of some questionable-looking loaf.
Well, THIS Will Never Do
"This is really all the bread they could spare?!" Ginger mumbles to Vodka as we take our first sips of the martinis, which are, in a word, sour.  And not that great.  But they contain alcohol, so, you know, down the hatch.
It's Not Even Mid-Morning Somewhere
"Could They Not Have Found a Less Hideous Section of the Peel?!"
Before we can drown our frustrations too deeply in second-rate booze, our food arrives.  Well, more specifically, a heaping cone of French fries (good portion) and a steaming dish of teeny, tiny, minuscule shrimp (bad portion) arrive.
Objects in Picture Are Larger Than They Actually Appeared
Naturally, we count said shrimp, just to prove a point.  And there are eleven of them.  Do you know how much this garlic shrimp dish costs?  $13.  By our calculations, that works out to $1.18 per (minuscule) shrimp.

Does this place think they're Le Bernardin?  We all know how well that place lives on in our memory (ahem).
Did They Ship This Shrimp In from the Pacific?!
The shrimp themselves are... garlicky?  Slightly.  Lemony?  OVERWHELMINGLY.  If anything, either someone made a heavy-handed mistake with the lemon in the kitchen, or this dish would more properly be called LEMON shrimp.  
That Yellow You See Is Not Butter. It Is Lemon
The garlic is playing second-fiddle here in a big way, and between this and the cocktails, Schiller's certainly seems to be fond of catering toward customers' sour tastebuds.
Have You Ever Heard of Salt? We Like Salt
While $13 buys you a few measly shrimp, what it does NOT buy you is any sort of plate on which to rest these crustaceans before placing them in your mouth.  Same goes for the bread and the French fries -- NO PLATES.  We are inconvenienced by this fact, if not enough to actually do anything about it (ie ask for plates).
We Prefer to Stew In Our Own Displeasure
The French fries are tasty, if nondescript, and if we ever came to Schiller's again (unlikely), we'd plan on ordering a burger, if only to get more bang for our buck.
Also, Because We Like to Eat French Fries
Our check arrives ("$46 for this nonsense!"), and Vodka, checking her phone, discovers that we have never been checked in for our OpenTable reservation.  One our way out, she inquires about this with the host:

"Could you check us in for our reservation on OpenTable?  I'll be penalized if you don't."
"We don't have OpenTable."
"But that's how I made the reservation."
"Right, but I can't check you in."
"Then how will they know if I showed up?"
"I tell them if you DIDN'T show up and we get $1 back if you don't."
"But we showed up."
"So can you check us in?"
"I don't have a computer."
Who's On First, Lower East Side-Style
Ginger, who is somehow understanding this guy's rationale more than Vodka, all but shoves Vodka out the door.  But between the puckering cocktails, lemony shrimp, and irrational reservation policies, Vodka looks like the undisputed sourpuss of the Lower East Side.

Schiller's Liquor Bar's Garlic Shrimp: 3 stars