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Entries in New York City (4)

Thursday
Sep062012

The ABC's of Beer with Alphabet City Beer Co.

Home page & logo I designed for ABC Beer Co.
Sometimes I get really lucky. That penny on the ground is heads up, my hair dryer decides NOT to blow a fuse for once, I remember I have just a titch of ice cream left in the freezer...
 
But sometimes I get lucky with clients. Recently, I've had this experience with David and Zach of ABC Beer Co. I was introduced to the duo through a friend. Did I want a food/drink design client, she asked me? She may well have inquired if I wanted stracciatella cheese on my Margherita pizza. Duh. Of course I do.
 
And lo! I was hired on to design the logo and website for ABC Beer Co., a newly opened gem of a beer bar in Alphabet City. ABC Beer Co. is not just a beer bar. They also have eatables—good ones (I'll get to that), including an official cheese counter, and they hock other tasty wares such as Grady's Cold Brewed Coffee, freshly made breads and beer to-go!
 
I took a stroll to see their place one evening and was suitably impressed. So impressed was I, that I wanted to post a more informative review in the form of an interview. Below, Zach answers my sometimes silly questions on opening their own business in beer.
 
1. What inspired you to open ABC Beer Co?
The idea kind of came to us gradually. One day I got a phone call from David about wanting to open a beer store and bar in the East Village. I wasn't particularly happy in the 9-to-5 world and I'd worked with David at his other business before, so I instantly knew this was a good idea. Soon after that phone call, we were diving into beers and tasting new things, looking for a storefront and funding, and getting things in order. Before I knew it, we were days from opening and its been pretty amazing since.
 
2. Who handles which parts of the business - and how do you keep it all balanced with life?
I tend to handle the more day-to-day side of the business, such as ordering, marketing/social media, and staffing, while David tends to handle finances and more overseeing. But that's only true part of the time: Neither of us have job titles, and neither of us is above getting our hands dirty when it comes to keeping the place running. Being in business with a partner like David is a lucky situation. We can count on one another to get things done if one of us has to leave town or gets bogged down with work from other businesses. Balancing it all with life just seems to fall into place: There are slow weeks and there are crunch times, but having a well-trained staff makes a lot of the day-to-day upkeep much easier to stay on top of.
 
3. This may be like picking a favorite child, but what are your beer favs for the summer....
I absolutely love Carton Brewing Company's Boat Beer. It's an IPA with very low alcohol, light body, and super easy drinkability. I'm also pretty big on saisons, particularly Jack D'or from Pretty Things Brewery up in Massachusetts. Saisons are literally made for summertime, and this one has depth in its acidity, body and long finish.

 

4. And while you're at it, can you give us a few recommendations going into fall?
I hate to jump on the pumpkin beer train too early (although the taste of it while watching football is the fall-iest thing in the world to me). The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and the Firestone Walker Reserve Porter are two beers that people might normally shy away from in warm weather but feel perfect for autumn. Southern Tier PumpKing is another one we enjoy.
 
5. I noticed you have other non-beer products in the "shop" section of your place: Grady's Cold Brew Coffee, bread, even and entire cheese counter! How do you select the products that you sell?
The cheese counter was carefully curated by Martin Johnson, the founder of the Joy of Cheese. He's a fantastic cheese monger and is as passionate about educating customers as he is about getting them what they want. Things like Grady's and the bread all came from careful research and our own personal preferences!
 
6. When I visited, I enjoyed a vanilla porter that was on tap. What was that (it was a lovely combo with the fig and turkey sandwich....)
The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter that I just recommended! Ha...Yes, that's a great combo. Smokey turkey with the dark, malty porter.

 

7. The design of your place is one part rustic, one part market, and also one part industrial-cool. Who did you get to help you with the interior design and layout?
David and I worked with his cousin Roxy and an architect to draw up the initial layout of the space, but actually decorating was probably my favorite part of setting up shop. We drove to Philadelphia to meet with furniture makers, light makers, and antique glass suppliers. We pilfered antique shops throughout New Jersey. We went to auctions. I think part of what makes our design unique is that it was all hand picked from very different places. The table in itself is a huge statement that immediately catches everyone's eye. But like everything else in the shop, it's never over the top or "trying to hard." That understated approach is I think what makes the place so comfortable and inviting.

  
8. You don't have a TV (thank goodness), but you do fire up the projector from time to time, which I like. Any plans to do a Big Lebowski screening? I know the Dude would abide.
Are you kidding? That's like, the best movie ever. I'd totally watch that on the projector.

 

9. What are your plans for the future? Home brews? Taking over the world via beer?
We're still so young, so who knows! It's good to feel like we have so many possibilities in front of us.
 
10. Anything else we should know about ABC Beer Co. that we don't?
Our Twitter account is hilarious. Also, we have a very talented staff who all come from a diverse background. Chat them up! They'll talk to you about pretty much anything.
 
11. Can you teach me how to pour the perfect beer?
It's all in the wrist! Come by and we will pour plenty.
And finally, yes...I DID get a peek in the bathrooms. They're dimly lit in a comforting sort of way, not in a clubby-unnerving kind of way. There's modern art canvases on the walls and some exposed light fixtures that continue that industrial decoration flair from the main room.
So take a walk to Alphabet City and pull up a stool at the ABC Beer Co. bar. Go for the beer, stay for the food, stay longer for more beer (request the vanilla porter)...and potentially more snacks. Then get some goodies to go. And come back for the Big Lebowski viewing...once they put that one on the calendar, that is.
Alphabet City Beer Co.
96 Avenue C
New York City 
Thursday
Apr262012

Loopy for Lupa

Since John has been slugging away in the bowels of his law firm, I've needed a dinner partner. I mean, even though I CAN eat for two (because I have a large appetite) doesn't mean I should. At least not every day. So I called in reinforcements in the form of the IMOM: The International Man of Mystery to those of you who haven't been paying attention.

The IMOM prefers to stay shrouded in mystery. Can you imagine the paparazzi bombardment that would ensue if he were caught on this blog? Yeah...we'll let those crickets continue to chirp and I will talk about FOOD!

The IMOM and I made our way to Lupa. Can you believe I had never been? True story. Anyway, Lupa is billed as a Roman Trattoria, or "Osteria Romana", therefore the dishes served there are typical of food you would find in Rome. On the back of the menu, there's even a handy glossary of terms to help those unfamiliar with "Carbonara" and "Amatriciana". I liked that.

I also liked the simplicity of presentation of their dishes, which in no way compromised the taste. The IMOM was feeling a bit "hefty" or so he said...so we began light.

I ordered a Mixed Green Salad with shaved Peccorino (typical of the Roman region), and the IMOM selected the Octopus with Farro and Salsa. The salad was light and refreshing with a tangy lemon vinaigrette. The octopus didn't look like much (that's why there isn't a photo here). It was a bunch of chunky single tentacles balanced over salsa on a square dish.

Let me tell you, looks can be deceiving, especially where this octopus is concerned, as it was fabulous. The meat itself was perfectly tender and flavorful - not a hint of that gum-like chewyness that comes with over-cooking. The salsa was light and fresh - somewhere between a light marinara and a salsa, and there were bonus fried chick peas rolling around on the side for a bit of texture. A must order.

 

Moving on to dinner, the IMOM (who had pushed his extra Octopus off to me, distracting me with a lengthy and meaningful conversation about the benefits of me having my own in-apartment meat slicer) ordered the Spaghetti Pomodoro. I was about to reprimand him for being so dull, but that was before I tasted the pomodoro sauce. The tomatoes delicately enveloped each and every strand of spaghetti so delicately and entirely, you could never imagine them apart. The healthy addition (not too much, but noticeable) of red pepper flakes gave the sauce added heat and impact.

For myself, I was feeling some fish. I selected the Market Fish of the Day, which was a Red Snapper filet dressed with Sunchokes, Grapefruit and Broccoli. The palm-sized filet (kudos for appropriate portion sizing!) was pan fried to give it a nice crust on the top. The veggies loomed over it like blossoming Wisteria, adding some meatier texture (the sunchokes), tangy refreshment (grapefruit), and a bit of earthy greenery (the broccoli). 

Now, although the IMOM had sworn not to overdo it at this meal, I couldn't pass up the homemade Dark Chocolate Gelato, and so I forced some on him as well. Smooth, rich, velvety....and complemented by about three after dinner Amaretto's on behalf of the IMOM. I admit to stealing a few sips...

In parting, I will say this:

The Octopus: Get it

An in-home meat slicer: very tempting...consider it.

Pomodoro: Simplicity in a bowl...share it as an app at least!

Market Fish: Perfection in preparation and size.

Dessert: Make the gelato happen.

After dinner drinks: Know your limits.

The Bathrooms: Visit them.

I cruised into my apartment, humming something about a yellow brick road and wondering if I could store my new meat slicer in the bathtub when I wasn't using it.

Overall Eating Experience: Shawshank Redemption

LUPA

170 THOMPSON STREET NEW YORK CITY 10012  212 982 5089

Monday
Apr232012

A Perfect Perla 

For today's review, I bring you Perla, Gabe Stulmans' newest restaurant on 24 Minetta Lane in the West Village.

This dinner was celebratory - a birthday dinner for a friend. She and I were both excited to try Perla, as neither of us had been before.

The Scene:
Tucked off the main drag and on Minetta Lane, Perla offers a cozy eating area that is one part tavern and one part great-grandpa's library, with large leather tufted booths, turn of the century etchings and vintage mirrors. A bar at the front (operated by some very helpful bartenders and offering a range of exciting cocktails) is balanced by a warm wood-fired brick oven in the back.

The Grub:

The menu starts off with a selection of "Assaggi" or "tastes" in Italian. We select some Potato Chips All'Amatriciana and a special - teeny weeny Porchetta Sandwich Bites.

The Chips are dusted with dried, dusted guanciale and Peccorino Cheese. This dried guanciale is some kind of magical synergy of science, cooking and pixie dust: as I bit into them, I could almost hear the maniacal laughing of a mad scientist cook in the distance....They are legitimately fabulous and we make very short work of them.

The Porchetta Bites (my moniker) are just that - bites. The moist and salty porchetta is sandwiched between two thin toasted baguette slices. I'm still on the fence as to whether these were the perfect "taste" of pork or slightly skimpy on the portioning, and they are, admittedly, nothing fancy, just meat and bread.

However, things look up from here are we are served a special Primi pasta of dark spinach spaghetti, an earthy pesto, and some chili flakes for kick.

This dish was wonderfully light and flavorful. We mixed it all up so that the pesto could mingle properly with the pasta. A slurp-tastic masterpiece, and a smooth opener for the headliner: The DUCK.

Or more specifically, the Saba Glazed Duck with delicata squash, cabbage and pancetta.

I might have to get all e.e. cummings on the description of this duck, because complete sentences will just deter from its greatness. It was...

when the duck is melty moist wonderful
    and the squash sweetly
dances and weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

and crispypancetta dances atop
tangysaba duck skin

Ok, so I might have gotten carried away. And apologies to Mr. Cummings. He is a poet, and I am just an enthusiast of perfectly cooked duck. To me, the two went together. Let it be clear: I loved this duck. And so would e.e. If he had the chance to sample it, he might just capitalize something in his forgetful enthusiasm.

But let's move on! To dessert: The Chocolate Tart with Banana Zabaglione, Peanuts and Caramel Drizzle.

A narrow wedge of dense chocolate is nestled into a cracker crust. A dollop of banana zabaglione oozes off to the side and provides a light, fluffy and just banana-ed textural contrast to the chopped peanuts. A drizzle of caramel takes the sweetness up a notch. I found this dessert to be very well balanced. Often in tarts like these, the chocolate can be overly dense. This one was light but still rich and dark-chocolately. I particularly enjoyed the banana zabaglione - something new and inventive to replace the usual whipped cream.

Finally, some Chocolate Chip Cookies:

A little American comfort food arrived to close our Italian meal in the form of homemade chocolate chip cookies. There's something so wonderful about chocolate chip cookies. For me, I become a child again, internally (or sometimes externally) squealing with delight upon spotting them. And if they're warm....and gooey on the insides (as these were), well so much the better and my inner little girl is all hair in pigtails awaiting the first bite. Perla's version were soft and warm with an excellent consistency - not too buttery and greasy and not too sugary crispy.

The Bathrooms:

The bathrooms were well-kept and homey with waist-high wood paneling and fixtures you might find in your own bathroom. I especially appreciated the marble slab ledge with added amenities and the grandma-style light fixture overhanging the spacious mirror.

I am veering toward reckless enthusiasm for Perla. I was mostly thrilled with my menu selections, and noted quite a few more that I am keen to try. Which means I will be back....maybe John will even come with me if I ask him nicely.

Overall Eating Experience: Napolean Dynamite

Perla
24 Minetta Lane, NYC

Tuesday
Oct182011

Pumpkin Scones from Alice's Tea Cup

I've been trying to explore the Upper West Side as I've just moved in and I need to find things. Mostly things to eat. Luckily, my new neighborhood is very helpful in this regard, and it seems that I can just roll out the door and stumble onto something delicious. For this I am very grateful.

As we're talking pumpkin this week, I thought I would mention the Pumpkin Scones at Alice's Tea Cup. Alice's Tea Cup is a teeny tiny bakery with a counter in the front and a seating area in the back. I've never actually sat down to eat there, I could never get past the counter with the GIANT SCONES in the glass case.

Scones as big as my head! Or as big as Alice after she magically enlarges and causes serious damage to that cute little cottage, bringing property values down everywhere in Wonderland.

As large as these scones are, they are also huge in flavor. Particularly the pumpkin variety. The rich pumpkin flavor, gives the scones both a beautiful amber hue and a moist texture. No dry scones here!

They are topped with a caramel drizzle that is both sweet and slightly salted – a wonderful (pun intended) pair for its bready base.

As an added bonus, you have the option of taking your scone to go with a little vial of cream and jam. REAL cream, not just butter. Please accept this option, if only for the cream, as it has a bland richness that completes a trio of fantastic flavor combinations.

This is the kind of scone you can share (mostly because of its size), although you may not want to. In fact, I would recommend you didn't. It might get rowdy. And no one wants to lose a head. Or a scone.

Alice's Tea Cup
102 W 73rd St
(between Amsterdam Ave & Columbus Ave) 
New YorkNY 10023
Neighborhood: Upper West Side