Birthday Milestones and NYC Speakeasies

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Despite the proximity of everyone living in NYC, work and life in general gets in the way of seeing friends.  Julie had reached out to me before my trip to Cambodia but unfortunately, I was tied up with the details of the trip and said I'd reconnect when I came back in New York City.

This year everyone was turning 30 so when Julie's birthday rolled around we made plans to catch up over drinks Friday night.  Julie's been my go-to-girl when we want to check out the speakeasies of New York City and we've definitely did some damage over the course of the few years: Apothéke, Campbell's Apartment, Dutch Kills Bar, 2nd Floor on Clinton, Employees OnlyExperimental Cocktail Club   (my fave), Lantern's Keep, and Pegu Club (Julie's fave) to name a few.

Julie made reservations for 7pm at Bathtub Gin and I actually arrived 30 minutes beforehand so I walked over to Billy's Bakery and bought myself a peanut butter icebox slice with milk as I waited.

Billy's Bakery peanut butter pie
Billy's Bakery peanut butter pie
We had to enter Bathtub Gin through a coffee shop and before we entered we were carded and the hostess asked I can leave the Billy's Bakery box at the coffee shop since they do not allow outside food on the premises which I obliged.

Bathtub Gin was dimly lit so I couldn't make out the decor but I knew people loved the Bathtub setting in the middle of the bar.  I've seen pictures of it before from others and we saw a group of women pile in as well to take pictures.

I started out with the Presbyterian Revenge which was a mixture of blended scotch, amaro, grapefruit bitters, pressed lemons, chilled perrier, served on the rocks with grapefruit oils.

Julie ordered The Hornet's Nest, the special drink of the evening, and based on our waiter, it was made with a limited edition Tanqueray Gin.

We also ordered a small plate of pork belly sliders with quail eggs and cheddar and during this time Julie told me about her week long birthday bash and called turning 30 is the new 21.

We talked about other places to check out and she recommended Flute for happy hour next time since I liked champagne. Julie also recommended Sweet Chick NYC since she was raving about chicken and waffles.  I recommended Julie join me for brunch in Astoria since at Sugar Freak they make some amazing fried chicken that I ordered a second plate.

During the course of the evening we talked about some places we would like to eat in New York City and then we ventured off into dining in other cities like Alinea or French Laundry.  However, I said we should try to take a trip overseas and again it boiled down to scheduling as I liked to travel around the Fall during my birthday.

Julie and I ordered a few more drinks and for the second round, I ordered the Hornet's Nest and Julie had the Death in the Gulf Stream which consisted of  bols genever, combier kumal caraway liquer, yellow chartreuse, pressed lemon, and angostura bitters. 

We went for a third round and during this time, Julie asked if I was hungry since it was nearing 9pm and asked what she had in mind.  She read on Grubstreet about èlan and the secret menu which has the foie gras burger.  I said I was game so after finishing up my champagne cocktail, we paid our bill and walked over.
Bathtub Gin It's about thyme
It's About Thyme (champagne cocktail)

èlan just opened on June 30 by chef David Waltuck and George Stinson and surprisingly, we were able to get a table for two on a Friday night.  We were seated next to a young L.A. couple whose tension seemed to permeate the air around us.  We made small talk with each other and was informed it was the young man's birthday!  Julie and I wanted to sing happy birthday but based on the party's sour mood, we kept our distance.

We ordered a 2010 Italian wine from the Piedmont region and started off with foie gras pops.
Depending on your location, certain cities in the U.S. have banned foie gras, specifically Chicago.
Foie gras pops
Foie gras pops at èlan

However, foie gras has deep seated cultural  roots specifically in France so it's unfortunate people in Chicago will have to travel outside the city to experience its lusciousness.

At least from my perspective, I love the way it melts in your  mouth and and how a good red wine can enhance the taste.  Depending on which restaurant you go to, my first experience of foie gras was at Corton in Tribeca which was headed by Paul Liebrandt, who then left to start The Elm in Brooklyn.

Yet, the star of the evening was the the foie gras burger from the secret menu.  Julie opted to split the burger in half since we've been indulging in cocktails, pork belly and foie gras for quite some time but you only turn 30 once so GAME ON!

The burger was served with potatoes on the side which kept my drunkenness at bay.  It was juicy with the right amount of seasoning.

However, if I was more sober, I would have appreciated it more but my palate was inundated with red wine.

Foie gras burger
Foie gras burger (off the secret menu)
Our waiter came back and offered the dessert menu and Julie wouldn't mind the three cheese plate but explicitly told me not to order any strong smelling cheeses.  She made a comment that people were perplexed that despite being a foodie, she abhorred strange smelling cheese.

I teased her that she will have a rough time in France however, they have over 300 variations of cheese so I assured her she can probably skip over the the foul smelling ones and not offend anyone.

We continued to observe the young L.A. couple next to us and it is always interesting to hear conversations.  They actually started talking to another couple on the other side who also seemed to be from L.A.

They were discussing renting cars and how expensive it was since they were driving down to Boston from NYC.  It made me wonder if they were too posh to take the bus down since Bolt Bus or Mega Bus are fantastic and Boston has a wonderful public transit system.

three cheese plate
Three cheese plate from èlan

Anyway, our 3 cheese plate came and I didn't remember the names correctly but I knew Julie chose a cheddar and I chose the last two on the list that our waiter read off to us.  As usual, it was an overall awesome night of eating and drinking with Julie and I promised to send her an email about brunch and the Salt and Fat link.

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