Ron Zacapa 23 Rum

If you like to have a little sip every now and then, we enthusiastically recommend Ron Zacapa rum aged at The House Above the Clouds in the pristine mountains of Guatamala.

Simply delicious, deep dark sweet flavor. Highly complexed. Color that entrances the eye.

Me and Ms. Greene

Photo: Ethan Hill for The New York Times

Gael Greene you may know as a foodie. One of the first tier over the top originals of that species. She was restaurant critic for New York Magazine from 1968 to 2002 (Basta!). We share her aversion to foams, but mostly the lady strikes us as way too florid in her prose about what’s to chew. To put it her own way, a pen with butter for ink. Think, fussy finicky food fetishist. But, that’s us. Cooky Cat is finicky and fussy in his own inimitable way. So we won’t throw any more stones.

Anyway, we once had a nice lunch with her nibs. But, first some background.

I was an Ad Biggie in the Big Apple some time ago, around the Mad Men era. It was one of the perks of the job to get complimentary magazines delivered to your home. One day I arrived back to Casa Wronski to see in my latest New York Magazine a contest eligible to advertisers and industry types (not tipped into the regular newsstand editions). The challenge was to unscramble the letters to spell the correct names of ten of the magazine’s top ten restaurant advertisers. Then you would be judged based on how creatively you packaged your answers. The prize was lunch at the restaurant of the winner’s choosing; and, as it turned out, with Ms. Gael Greene herself and Mr. George A. Hirsch, the founding publisher of the magazine.

Always up for a creative challenge, one Saturday me and the little lady toodled off in our bouncy Citroen 2CV city car to collect match books from each of the restaurants whose scrambled names we previously had locked down. Then I constructed a colorful Paris style columnar kiosk complete with a pointed turret top and pasted the match book covers all around. This I placed inside a tall box with a top rigged so that when it was pulled off the four sides would drop away to reveal the matchbook decorated kiosk inside. Think voilà! And, Ta Da!

And, can you believe it, we won! Match that!

Our choice was Café Chauveron, then a top NYC restaurant. Here is the Insatiable Critic’s own review of that erstwhile great place, Cafe Chauveron as Love Object.

On the appointed day we met Ms. Green and Mr. Hirsch at the restaurant. I don’t recall what we actually ate, but two things I do remember.

If you have had the exposure you will know that Gael Greene was a shooting star celebrity critic in the New York City culinary world. One must pay proper due. She was the expert at our table; don’t make any mistake about it. While scanning the French language menu, I read out loud, “Champignons”. Gael, without a second’s pause quickly translated, “Mushrooms”. Well, I already happened to know that, but didn’t say so. It just struck me as her smart, perhaps sly way of, as they say, making me her bitch. Lovely. I’ve been a big fan ever since. Not. Maybe she was attempting to be helpful, and I am being not too kind. But, even so, one shouldn’t assume one’s guest is ignorant and (even worse) be too quick to enlighten. Word!

But the kicker came later at the dessert course. Ms. Greene ordered the chocolate mousse. To die for she said; and it was. A big dollop of dark airy creamy rich soft chocolate mousse served in a squarish shallow chocolate cup. After having a taste Gael called for the waiter. Per my approximate recollection, “This mousse, it seems different. Are you using the same chocolate?” When the waiter returned with the answer to that weighty question he smilingly reported that, indeed, the usual chocolate for the mousse was not available and this was made with a substitute.

OMG! Holy crap! That is one sophisticated palate. My first take was that it was a set up designed to shock and awe (I was a cynical adman, after all).  But, again, I performed my part like a gentleman and beamed my deeply impressed approval her way. But, come on, Gael.

What was the truth of it, we’ll probably never know. Nevertheless, dear Gael Greene, thanks for the memory.
Eat More Mangu!

Once upon a very long time ago we travelled down in Dixieland. When I saw a certain bumper sticker I had to have one for my own. Ours was the only Land Rover in the New York City area (perhaps, the whole wide world) with “Eat More Possum” prominently featured on its rear bumper. My then wife was a good sport. (But, maybe, not that good; she done up and left me.)

So, today, my bumper sticker of choice would have to be “Eat More Mangu!” It is made with boiled green plantains (let them fully ripen or buy them already ripe for Platanos Maduro), often served with breakfast garnished with pickled sweet red onions. 

Per the Urban Dictionary, “Mangu is a contraption of the expression Americans used when they first tried it during the USA invasion of the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century "Man Good", hence "Mangu".

You know why I like plantains? Because they have appeal.

Here is the ever effervescent and charming Daisy Martinez to take you all the way home.

Bols Jenevers

When in Amsterdam not long ago we ordered a draft beer with our supper at the SmallTalk Café late one rainy Autumn afternoon. When the cheeky waiter brought our beer, he saw to it it came in the smallest pony glass. Very good, let’s play get the tourist. We were quite charmed and he then came back with a pony of Jenever, on the house. Nice exchange, don’t you think? Those Dutch as such kidders.

 Anyhow, Jenever. The father to English gin, but smoother. Sippier. Especially the Corenwyn Jenever, one of the aged varieties from the old House of Bols. We brought back a bottle from the duty free shop and it is now only a fond memory. Alas also, it doesn’t seem to be available retail in the United States. We’re on the lookout, but it is available online from overseas distributors.

Shake It!
Shake It Good!
Shake It Right!

Finally we have learned how to properly use that most essential of cocktail making tools, the Boston Shaker. It's the one to have. We were totally nervous and mystified about how to open it up after shaking. Now we know.

Also, you'll need the de regueur Hawthorn Strainer as pictured above.

Lastly, if you lika the cracked ice, the Lewis bag, for the love of God. (Who put those names on?) Lastly, lastly (really) something what to smack the bag; a fine master joiner mallet, but of course.

Enough with the accoutrements, let's get movin'.

Look and Learn . . .

Orange Syrup for Homemade Soft Drinks

We always have a bottle of Lowicz Orange Syrup ready to make a sweet and tangy orange soft drink.

Insist on Lowicz brand, it is superior, with a true orange flavor; slightly bitter for an adult taste. Usually available in Polish food stores. (Distributed by Brooklyn Imports, Carlstadt, New Jersey.)

Polish Blonde not included.