cobbler-ing with the ‘rents

Summer is for fresh fruits and cobblers. This Southern girl will never feel like a Northern zip code means changing anything about that. This weekend, thankfully I was able to get my fill.

My parents went this past week and picked some fresh peaches at a spot in New Jersey. Peaches from the local store – or, better yet, local market – works as well.

The best thing about cobbler is it is incredibly easy. You don’t need to spend a ton of time perfectly rolling out or chilling your crust layer. Nope. Skip that silliness. Cobbler has you covered. And the end result is equally tasty.

My mom found this easy recipe from Southern Living. The longest part of this prep time was peeling and slicing up the peaches (you want to make sure to cut out any bad spots and, of course, the tougher spots leading up to and including the pit). Once that was ready to go, the rest went quickly.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

First, melt the butter in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

Separately, mix up the batter by combining the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and then adding the milk. You will want to stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Then pour batter over butter, but do not stir.

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Finally, bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Then pour over the batter (again, do not stir). You can then sprinkle with cinnamon if you want (or, as we chose to do, put a lot on top!).

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Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

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(If this post had its own soundtrack, it would be this, since I couldn’t stop singing it on Sunday while we baked this.)

an unforgettable night at la vara and clover club

I first went to La Vara not too long after it opened, and enjoyed it so much what we vowed to come back before too long. At the time, T lived close by, so in my mind, it was a no-brainer. As is often the case though, time continued to pass by and we didn’t return – not until January 14th, a day I’ll never forget.

Small plates are the focus at La Vara, which we enjoy since it means we really get the chance to try as many different menu options as we’re prepared to eat. They change them up often, which can be good (yay, more things to try!) or bad (wait, where’d my favorite go?), depending on your POV. We’d recently started to do one “fancy date night” a month, and January, our destination was La Vara.

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Even though we had it last time, we had to start with the Berenjena Con Miel, which is crispy eggplant with honey, melted cheese, and nigella seed. I love this dish. It’s just fried ever so slightly, and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen eggplant and honey paired up. It’s a winner.

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Since we so enjoyed duck hearts on our San Francisco trip, we decided to try their Pincho de Ceuta – which is Gibraltar style grilled chicken hearts served with a fresh herb salad and a lime-date vinaigrette. This was pretty good, though our duck heart king is still Alembic.

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One of the specials of the day was cauliflower fritters. These were super flavorful and much more substantial than we’d expected.

Gurullos

For one of the heavier plates, we had to order the Gurullos, which is a handmade Murcian pasta with goat butter and ground goat. The ground goat is optional, but oh my, it’s delicious. This was one of our favorites from our first visit and it didn’t disappoint. The noodles and the butter just melt in your mouth and the flavor of the goat is always on point. So so good.

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To end the meal, we ordered the Torta Santiago, which was a Galician almond cake topped with fruit. T seemed a bit iffy on the dessert, but I didn’t think anything of it (he’s never big into sweets, so I wasn’t entirely surprised by his lack of enthusiasm). This was essentially a thicker short bread. Next time, I think I’ll instead try their homemade olive oil ice cream.

After leaving La Vara, T thought we should make our way over to another fave of ours, Clover Club, for a quick night cap. I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we’ve been there a number of times. When we walked in, I was excited to see that Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra were playing. We’re huge fans of theirs, and we always seem to forget that they play Wednesday night every week over at Clover Club.

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When we walked in, we instantly saw Clay up by the bar. Again, I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we often run into Clay out and about in Brooklyn. T had to run out for a minute, so I sat for a bit chatting with Clay. I was talking so much with my back to the band that Clay finally interrupted me to ask something along the lines of, “You guys are fans of the band, right? It looks like they have a new lead singer.”

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Puzzled, I stopped and turned around to find Michael had let Topher take the mic as he sang Adele’s jazzy rendition of “Love Song”. I’m pretty sure I instantly froze, slowly processing what was happening and what this might could mean. The band continued to play in the background as he made his way over and got down on one knee. My mind was a blur as he reached into a box and pulled out the ring. In the moment, I was so excited that I seemingly grabbed the ring and put it onto my finger. (Ooops.) I gave him a huge hug, then a kiss. Later, he would tease me I never actually said “yes,” but I think he got the idea. It also turns out that running into Clay was not such a coincidence, as he was there to catch the entire thing on camera.

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The surprise continued when we walked to the back room, where I found so many of our closest friends waiting for us to join in the celebration.

Post Engagement

Some had taken planes, trains, or automobiles just to be there to celebrate along with us, which really did mean the world. Love really was all around. It was absolutely perfect.

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That night, we stayed until Clover Club closed. We were the last two sitting at the bar, chatting and grinning. We managed to grab a quick photo with the band, too, before they made their way out.

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So, that explains the hiatus here. It’s been a busy six months or so, but now that our wonderful wedding is done and we’ve returned from the honeymoon, I’m back behind the laptop, contemplating my last great meal. Good to be back, and to share the fun story of the reason for my brief “hiatus” with you all. Xo.

La Vara – 268 Clinton Street (at Verandah Pl), Brooklyn – 718.422.0065
Reservations Suggested

Clover Club – 210 Smith Street (between Baltic and Butler), Brooklyn – 718.855.7939

new year’s eve at rose water

I’m well-aware that I’m a tad tardy on sharing the food side of New Year’s. It’s more than justified, but that’s a story and explanation that will come later. Besides, I’m a believer it’s never too late to talk about a fabulous meal.

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True to what’s become our tradition, T and I made reservations for a nice dinner in Brooklyn. This year, we opted to visit Rose Water in Park Slope, having previously only been there for brunch. We were both big fans, so I took a bit of a leap of faith, booking us a spot for two menu unseen. Hey we’re serving a six course paired tasting menu just for the evening. A quick email to the manager confirmed that they could accommodate a mushroom allergy, so other than that, we had no idea as to what to expect when we arrived.

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The restaurant was nice and cozy when we arrived. We quickly received the first course – a Medjool date, stuffed with Fourme d’ Ambert and wrapped in bacon. It was paired with a Méthode Champenoise Brut from Domaine St. Vincent (New Mexico). For us, bacon wrapped dates are a fave, so this was a nice take on a staple

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The next course was fresh and super light – a simple raw scallop with finger lime. It took me out of the cold climate for a little bit as this one felt almost like a summertime dish (not that I was complaining). This has me excited to come back for dinner once the warm temps return as this bodes well for what the menu might include!

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We then were served a seared yellowfin tuna, accompanied by maitake, gold beet, and fresh wasabi. It was paired with a Muscat – “Exsultate” Domaine du Chapitre from S. Rhone. The sear on the tuna was nicely done and I liked the pairing of beets and wasabi with the flavors of the tuna. It was a slightly unexpected combination but worked perfectly.

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I believe the next course was my favorite – cider glazed pork pelly, with quail egg, cabbage, and mustard. From a prior brunch, I knew going in that their pork belly is delicious, so I was pleased to find it made the New Year’s Eve menu. The wine was also one of my favorite wines, a Riesling (Kabinett Halbtrocken “Zeltinger Himmelrich” Selbach-Oster from Mosel). If you’re ever lucky enough to be at Rose Water and pork belly is on the menu, this confirms it’s almost guaranteed to be a winner.

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The next course, the final of the savories, was seared venison, with chestnuts, black trumpets, and black truffles accompanied by a Barolo – Riserva Giacomo Borgogno from Piedmont.

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Dessert was a chocolate custard cake, with eggnog anglaise, vanilla ice cream, and hazelnuts, accompanied by a Quinta do Infantado LBV Port from Portugal. I only wished the eggnog flavor was a bit more prominent in the dish, but the mix of flavors here overall was great. The ice cream was a nice balance to the denser chocolate cake.

Following dinner, it was another lovely New Year at Amber’s… with many a fun photo to capture the evening. Here’s to more wonderful in all of the days ahead in 2015!

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Rose Water – 787 Union Street (at 6th Ave) – 718.783.3800
Reservations Recommended (No Reservations at Brunch)

3 ingredient wonder: eggnog pancakes

I’ve been looking forward to trying eggnog pancakes for some time and figured New Year’s Day was a perfect time to make them. I saw this recipe on The Daily Meal that gave me the idea. All you need is Bisquick, eggnog, and nutmeg. It really is that simple.

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I recommend using whole nutmegs and grating to get the best flavor. I can’t get enough of freshly ground nutmeg. I went very much overboard on the nutmeg, which made the pancakes, IMHO. I found the eggnog flavor a bit subtle for my taste. I left the batter on the thicker side. Next time, I would keep adding eggnog to a thinner consistency – just to maximize the eggnog flavor.

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Overall though, a fabulous treat. Now that I’ve realized how easy this is to do, I look forward to trying out some other flavor combos since Bisquick is such a quick and easy base. Happy 2015!

2014, it’s a wrap

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

One Republic

I always end up smiling after I sit down and pull this post together. It isn’t the quickest post I write every year, but it never fails to give far more to me in return than I put in. In going through all of this I realized that it’s no wonder I needed to recharge over the holidays. I crammed a lot into 365 days, and spent time with so many amazing people in so many amazing places across the globe. Grateful.

16158841942_376303b6e6_qThe year began with a visit to Queen of the Night. As big fans of Sleep No More, T and I shouldn’t have been surprised how much we enjoyed the show, which was part performance, part interactive theater, and part dinner. The aerial/circus portions of the show only helped to solidify that, as did the lobster dinner I accidentally scored us. Bam! We also went to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden as he kicked off his residency. I hosted a red carpet themed Golden Globes party for the ladies. At the end of month, we also bid farewell to one of my East Village favorites, 7A.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 5.54.12 PMIn February, the music continued as I met up with some friends to see Charlotte Martin perform at Joe’s Pub, one of my favorite NYC venues. I couldn’t get any closer to CharMar, as I sat directly against the show, keeping A’s seat warm (missed you). T and I celebrated our three year anniversary with an amazing dinner at the chef’s table at Aldea. For work, I attended the Cabaret Times Talks Event, which led to my first ever time taking photos along the red carpet. Hello, amazing Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams. And it wouldn’t be a February without a trip to Clinton Street Baking Company to partake in their annual Pancake Month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.01.41 PMMarch usually signifies winter that just won’t end in Manhattan, but T and I made the most of it and finally made it to Alabama for a visit in March, where we spent the week exploring the city, making trips out to places such as the Jack Daniel’s Distillery (only a relatively short drive from my hometown), and not eating at Rosie’s Cantina nearly as much as we should have. I joined Carrie Kerpen behind the mic for a taping for her All the Social Ladies Podcast, a first for me. We talked about my job at Citi as well as a bit of my nonconventional transition from human resources into social media. MF and I also had one decadent Friday afternoon, checking out the lunch menu at Per Se (post to follow shortly, but the picture at the left is us in the kitchen).

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.04.09 PMIn April, T scored us tickets to see Jimmy Fallon, where we got to see Samuel L. Jackson rap about Boy Meets World, Pitbull well … be Pitbull, and Minnie Driver. I joined some friends for a night of rap only karaoke, and discovered I can do JayZ, Pras, Eminem, and Outkast solo – and pretty darn good. This month was all about Gaga as I worked one of her shows (where she serenaded Tony Bennett) and attended the final one as well out of her series closing out Roseland. I also worked photographing April’s Billy Joel show at Madison Square Garden – taking in every last moment of what will likely be my only concert of his within the first eight rows. It was also a month for Tori, waking up at the crack of dawn to get general admission tickets to her show at Williamsburg’s Rough Trade and waiting in the rain for hours to see her on the Katie Couric Show.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.06.07 PMMay brought a trip to Hamburg, Germany as I flew over to speak at the Marketing 2.0 Conference. I lucked out as my friend Anna was speaking too, so we got to adventure around Hamburg, eating fair food and even dancing in the ran to end fascism (I have no explanation – it’s just what the sign said). S came back from Colorado for her wedding celebration. I went with J to a Beyonce dance class, where we learned part of the actual choreography for her song “Run the World”, and I gained mad respect for Queen Bey. That was haaaaard.

In June, I took my first ever trapeze class along the beach at iFly on Long Beach in Long Island. As much as I love flying at the TSNY rig outside at Pier 40 at sunset, I have to say that this beach-side view just might have it beat. I also spoke at the Useful Social Media Corporate Conference.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.31.32 PMJuly was a busy month. T and I were so glad to get the chance to see Once on Broadway before it closed. I worked the Justin Timberlake show for Citi / MasterCard / American Airlines, where I had the opportunity to meet the lovely Meredith Viera. I flew out to the left coast with my friend A for a combination of concerts and vacation, visiting Vancouver (and Victoria, where we had the most amazing fish and chips), Seattle, and Portland and seeing three Tori Amos shows / one radio show. T and I also joined our friends out east for a trip to the wineries in Long Island and went to see Katy Perry at Barclays for his birthday. I took part in Pat Kiernan’s Trivia Food Fight at the Bell House where I unexpectedly won an on-stage pie eating contest (and tickets to the Vendy’s!).

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.29.38 PMAugust was surprisingly cool for NYC. T and I went to see the Staten Island Yankees and made a trip over to Red Hook to do a whiskey tasting at Van Brunt Stillhouse. I went to visit JG in Boston to catch up and to see Tori Amos. I came back to Brooklyn and then hosted A for the two Beacon Theater Tori Amos shows. In the middle of all of that, we (along with PS) managed to see Bullets Over Broadway and snag a selfie with Zach Braff. I then flew south to catch the last three Tori Amos shows of the tour and catch up with JC and JP. The month ended on a positive note as we celebrated my sister’s wedding with her bridal shower.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.34.48 PMSeptember was one of the biggest months of the year, but I feel like that is usually the case. There was my sister’s wedding pre-party at Mabel’s and wedding at the Brooklyn Historical Society / Frankie’s, which was absolutely beautiful and where I gave my first ever MOH speech. The Monday following the wedding, I started a new adventure in a new job tackling a brand new role for the organization. I also celebrated my birthday, with T cooking me an amazing homemade Chick-fil-A dinner and later treating me to dinner at BLT Prime.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.37.38 PMWe returned out east again in October, making another trip to Martha Clara for a tasting. N came into town for a belated birthday trip and we enjoyed a perfect fried chicken dinner at Birds and Bubbles and a ridiculously decadent evening of desserts and champagne at Dominique Ansel’s Wonderland (part of the New York City Food and Wine Festival). MF and I finally went to see Pippin’, which featured some fun aerial stunt work. T and I also made it out to see Michael C. Hall in Hedwig, where we confirmed that yes, Dexter can in fact sing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.33.39 PMIn November, T and I joined some friends in Coney Island for a Brooklyn Bolt game, which was fun but confirmed that Coney Island and cold temps do not mix. MF and I went for pizza at Danny Meyer’s latest addition, Marta. T and I went to see Emma Stone (and, of course, Alan Cumming) in Cabaret, where we confirmed beforehand at our dinner at Maple that good food in the Theatre District is a myth. We stayed local for Thanksgiving, joining JP and CT for dinner out in Long Island, complete with post dinner Home Alone 2 in PJs. So much yes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 6.38.31 PMDecember ended up being all about writing. I skipped NaNoWriMo this year in favor of putting in some hard work on my existing manuscript. Many nights were spent just me, Dixie, and my laptop. I participated in two writing competitions (PitMad and PitchMAS) and began seriously submitting it out to agents. Still very much a focus for me, and one that will continue into 2015. To really do this, it requires lots of time and overcoming any sensitivity to constructive feedback. Slowly but surely, getting there on both counts. T and I put our remaining vacation days to good use, taking to the Metro North for a long-weekend trip out to Cold Spring, NY. And I joined JB for a third Billy Joel show at MSG, where surprisingly he proved to have all of the Christmas cheer as he performed mash-ups of carols with his staple faves throughout the entire show.

And, of course, this year meant lots of hours of hard work in the air at Circus Warehouse. I daresay that throughout this year, we’ve actually become friends.

There are already some exciting things on the horizon for 2015 that I can’t wait for, but I can’t talk about them here. No, this is all about 2014.

Off to put on all of the sparkles. Hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s and see you in 2015!

winner, winner chicken (and bubbles) dinner

I was just reading about Sarah Simmons’ new restaurant, Birds and Bubbles, as I received an invite from N to go check it out during her recent trip to NYC in September. The wait to get a prime time seat was a bit on the longer side, so I felt super lucky that my friend from Detroit was so on top of the Manhattan food scene. I went to one of Simmons’ City Grit dinners back in 2012 and had been planning on coming back. This was a good alternative!

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When T and I arrived, they had already been seated and were perusing the fabulous menu. The selection of bubbles to accompany your order is extensive. We had the H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose, which was a raspberry rose that was amazing. The list on their website gives you an idea.

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They started with an order of deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (not a fan) but as I have always heard, the verdict was that they were amazing (especially the flavor added by the sriracha flakes).

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For main course, we ordered several of the winner, winner, chicken dinners – which is a whole chicken, three sides, and a bread basket. They tried to dissuade us from ordering two for our party of six, especially since one was ordering their own dish, but we insisted. Note: their leftovers reheat fabulously, and make a perfect dish to bring to potluck brunch the next day. Just saying…

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The chicken itself was outstanding. Not greasy at all. The breading was not very thick and was slightly crispy, just the way it should be. Being from the South, you could say I am a bit picky when it comes to Southern food, but knowing Simmons’ North Carolina roots and passion for fried chicken, I did not expect anything but the best.

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For sides, the grits were good. The green chiles were a nice addition. I was not a big fan of the vidalia onion soufflé. It was somewhat runny and soggy. It was the only low point out of the dishes on the table. For me, the unexpected winner of the entire meal was the slaw. Slaw, you say? Yes, slaw! I’m not usually a big fan of slaw, usually avoiding it. This slaw though is amazing. Definitely a must have on the menu. The buttermilk biscuits were definitely the star of the bread basket, but I pretty much knew at buttermilk.

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For dessert, I highly recommend the banana pudding. It’s a perfect balance of savory (touch of salt) and sweet. It’s enough for two if you’re looking for a smaller dessert option. So good. We went shortly after the restaurant opened, which is likely why the service was on the slower side. I look forward to going back again to check it out again in the future.

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Much thanks to Ms. N on the reservation!

Birds and Bubbles – 100B Forsyth Street (b/w Grand and Broome Street) – 646.368.9240
Reservations Required

a hat tip to wd~50

Yesterday evening, the final meal was served at wd~50. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get seats for one of the final meals, which looked like a wonderful way to close out the restaurant’s over eleven and a half year run. I was lucky enough to get to go once back in February 2012, when T and I were celebrating our first anniversary. I never posted about it since even though the food and majority of the service was outstanding, our actual waiter for the evening was the worst I’ve ever experienced. It was one of the most innovative meals I’ve ever had – very varied in composition and featuring so many plays on the food that even in looking at the menu, I wasn’t expecting. Regardless though, looking back through the photos, it was quite a meal. I actually found the full paired tasting menu still sitting in my email drafts, so seems fitting to share it now. We didn’t do the pairings, but I’m leaving the details in the listing.

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Hamachi, lychee-buttermilk, asparagus, cashew
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)

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Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)

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Foie-lafel
Riesling Belle Pente 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

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Poached egg in the shell, pumpernickel, caesar dressing, bean sprouts
Assyrtiko Koutsoyiannopoulos 2009 (Santorini, Greece)

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Sweet shrimp, miso noodles, chicory, yuzu
Rosé ‘Ròdon’ Le Fraghe 2010 (Veneto, Italy)

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Monkfish, smoked barley, beet-mustard, nori
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)

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Quail, chartreuse yogurt, turnip, nutmeg
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)

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Lamb loin, ‘red beans & rice,’ chayote squash
Shiraz ‘Gundagai’ Eden Road 2010 (Gundagai, Australia)

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Mango, sake caramel, yoghurt, cashew

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Menthol, ginger, pomelo, chamomile
Muscat ‘Samos Nectar’ U.W.C.S. 2002 (Samos, Greece)

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Milk chocolate, black bean, plantain, soy, peanut
Porto Noval Black NV (Douro, Portugal)

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Rice krispy treats

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wd~50 – 50 Clinton Street (between Stanton & Rivington) – Closed