Secret Summer 2016 was a hot one. I’m not talking about the weather, which did get up there in the high 90s. I’m talking about Lucky Chops, a brass band whose sassy, high-energy performance was scorching. All six members played like they were having the time of their lives, and their positive vibe was infectious. The crowd went wild for the group’s spirited take on pop classics like Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There”, and band member Leo P really put his back into it with his crazy booty shakes. Whoever said band camp is just for geeks hasn’t been to this jam session, because all the cool kids were dancing to the beat of a horn and saxophone. Not even a little rain could stop this party.Read More
In less than two weeks’ time, Secret Summer NYC will be hosting its second annual farm-to-bar cocktail festival on August 14th from 4-10 pm at the Foundry in LIC, Queens. I covered last year’s event and was pleasantly charmed by how the industrial space had been transformed into a whimsical Shakespearean playground overflowing with the most delicious food and drink. I can honestly say it was the best summer party I’ve ever been to in NYC and would highly encourage you to buy tickets at this link before they sell out. Judging from the preview event I attended, I’m confident they can pull it off again. Artisanal cocktails crafted by Bespoke Solutions and featuring the stunning herbs of Farm.One, a hydroponic farm in Manhattan (my mouth nearly burned from trying their “toothache” herb!), will be like no drinks you’ve ever had. Plus this year will feature a good lineup of live entertainment–Coyote + Crow, Lucky Chops, Ida Blue, DJ Ryan Vandal, aerialists Roxie Valdez and Ellie Steingraeber, and the one I’m most looking forward to, the Secret Summer Street Ballet troupe! Van Leeuwen will be back with their ice cream truck, because nothing says summer like eating an ice cream cone outside. Take a sneak peek with the pictures below, get your boho chic on and buy a ticket today!Read More
Most commercial coffee beans frankly taste the same. They all have that trademark bitter, roasted espresso flavor that we have become accustomed to. But the flavor spectrum of coffee beans is much broader than that. If you’re ever curious to discover beans that can taste flowery, acidic, chocolatey and much more, stop by Parlor Coffee‘s roasting facility in Brooklyn and try the tasting held every week on Sundays at 12 pm.
Parlor Coffee started 3 years ago as a pop-up in Williamsburg and has expanded rapidly since then. The facility, which is near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, looks and feels like a beautiful and spacious start-up workspace. As you walk towards the “cupping” area, you’ll see cups of different ground beans being set up for the tasting. Hot water is poured to the brim in each cup and seeps for 4 minutes, and then each participant breaks the crust that forms, swiping three times to release the aromas. After cooling for another 7 minutes, the coffees are ready to be tasted, and similar to wine tasting, you really have to slurp and swish the liquid around to taste the different flavors.
When we were there, we tried 5 different beans–the Wallabout and Prospect, which were very drinkable, whereas the Kenya Kiumu, Guatemala Chimaltenango and Colombia San Sebastian were much more complex and unexpected. The Kenya Kiumu was probably the most distinctive of the bunch, in that it was so tangy and floral that I felt like I was drinking an oolong tea. I ended up buying a bag of the Prospect, as I like my coffees to taste a little more traditional, but I did appreciate how unique the single-origin beans tasted.
Parlor Coffee mostly does wholesale business, but I have seen their beans sold at Dover Street Market, and you can always order a cup at their original pop-up location in Williamsburg at the Persons of Interest barbershop, or at Tilda All Day in Clinton Hill. And of course, you can order them online or come buy a bag in person!
Roastery & Tasting Room
11 Vanderbilt Avenue (between Flushing Ave and Park Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
Sundays 12-4, cupping held at 12
Recently, on behalf of Slow Food NYC, I attended Taste Talks 2015 Brooklyn, a national series of festivals that was founded by brothers Daniel and Scott Stedman to celebrate and create a community for foodies. This is a really awesome event that covers a broad range of topics related to food, everything from sourcing, cooking, blogging and writing, and the organizers do a really great job of inviting interesting and high-profile people to serve as panelists. I was really interested in the panels that focused on sustainability, which I found to be really informative and engaging. Check out this link to read the post on the Slow Food NYC website, as well as information on how to learn more about Taste Talks and any upcoming conferences.
The best part about the conference was the All-Star BBQ at the end. Questlove was the DJ and mixed some catchy old-school beats that really set the tone for a fun block party. Every attendee got to try one featured dish from different chefs like Alex Stupack and Roble Ali, and the quality of food was fantastic. My personal fav was the grilled lobster from Luke’s Lobster, which was outrageously delicious. It was pretty sweet being able to jam it out while eating some tasty bites. Ruoxi’s awesome pictures definitely capture the spirit of this party!
Everyone loves a good party, but it’s even better when it’s full of surprises. It’s this spontaneity that made Secret Summer so charming and memorable. The whimsical garden cocktail party was held at The Foundry on Sunday, August 2nd, where guests wearing their summer best were mingling amidst mischievous performers breaking out into song and dance. At first glance, it seemed like any other summer soiree, but not everything was what it seemed, and while curiosity killed the cat, here it paid to open Pandora’s box.
There seemed to be surprises at every corner, including the entrance to the party itself. The Foundry in Long Island City, Queens looks like a nondescript, industrial warehouse from the outside, but if you push back the green ivy, you’ll discover a beautiful, modern space with an inviting courtyard patio hidden inside. As guests strolled down the back entrance into the secret garden, they were met by a merry band of revelers called The Mechanicals, a reference to the six-man troupe that performs in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The band’s playlist certainly kept guests on their toes–a Beatles song could very well be followed by an 80s hit from The Cars.
In the courtyard, fairies were playfully running about, encouraging guests to join in on the fun. We stumbled upon the notorious Puck and his friend Cobweb, and I was a little worried that he might be up to his schemes. Would he put an ass’ head on me? Luckily the two of them were nothing but gracious and posed for some pictures. One of the dancers beckoned towards Ruoxi to join her in some impromptu moves, but he was feeling shy and declined the offer.
Maybe he needed to loosen up with some drinks, of which there were many! Six bars were set up inside, featuring picture perfect farm-to-table cocktails mixed by Andrew Maturana and his team from Rapt Affairs. The cocktails here were distinctive in that they didn’t rely on sugary mixers or bitters for flavor. Maturana’s Farm-to-Bar program utilizes all-natural and seasonal herbs, fruits, leaves and roots to extract the most from their drinks. There’s definitely a lot of skill and technique that went into mixing the cocktails. The “Filth & Villainy,” for instance, featured a fresh tomato water dashi clarified through a cheesecloth for several hours, and another drink used a fresh corn milk that the team made from scratch.
There was a good variety of liquors represented to please any palate–Queens Courage Gin, Cachaça 51, Herradura Tequila, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey and Stoli Vodka. The “Beast of Burden” cocktail with Queens Courage gin and ginger beer was especially refreshing, as was the “Morango”, which featured the cachaça mixed with tasty market strawberries. While the “Goin’ To the Country” drink wasn’t quite my cup of tea, the use of sesame oil was very unique. Even if things didn’t quite work, the taste was never boring.
There were even more drink stations set up outside. I absolutely loved the adorable, old-school Volkswagen that served as the bar for Rekorderlig Cider, a cider made from the pure spring waters of Vimmerby, Sweden. The fruity cider was vibrant, crisp and clear, particularly the Strawberry-Lime and the Pear. Drinking a glass really did feel like Sweden on a summer day. Those with a VIP pass received exclusive access to the Oyster & Champagne room, where you could enjoy fresh Montauk oysters with a glass of Perrier-Jouet. The room is definitely worth the splurge, as nothing beats eating sweet oysters and drinking endless champagne in a shaded area during the summer time.
One of the best surprises was discovering a face painting station in the main room. I decided to get into the country maiden fairy pixie spirit and had some pink flowers painted on the side of my face. This is something I normally wouldn’t do, especially outside of Halloween, but I just couldn’t help myself with all these wood nymphs and steampunk musicians running around. A not so pleasant surprise? A close call with one of the big, bouncy balls from the ginormous beer pong station. I was a little frazzled at first, but this was quickly remedied with another cocktail.
Naturally, with all this drinking and interactive experiences, you’re bound to get hungry, and there was plenty of food from Chef Varon Carillo‘s grill. The produce was sourced from local purveyors such as Eckerton Hill, Caradonna, Paffenroth Gardens and Bodhi Tree, and the quality and freshness of the grilled vegetables showed, as they were especially delicious.
The grilled meats and seafood were also fantastic, and of course, they were sourced locally and responsibly. It was love at first bite when I ate the chunky and tangy pork sausage, which was humanely raised and garden-fed by Joe the Grower in upstate New York. The chicken breast, a pleasantly tender and slightly sweet cut of meat, came from a private farm and coop called Goode Farm in Northeast Westchester. (I’m starting to sound like I’m on an episode of Portlandia, aren’t I? Being extra vigilant about where everything on my plate came from.) I’m not sure of the origins of the shrimp, but these spicy and sweet treats were easily the best items at the grill. The secret was out about the good food, however, and the line stayed ridiculously long all throughout the night.
After watching what fools these mortals be, performances courtesy of the Shrunken Shakespeare Company, and enjoying the delicious scoops of ice cream from the Van Leeuwen truck (that banana nut was to die for, and I loved how real and authentic the earl grey and ginger tasted), we awoke from our midsummer night’s dream and proceeded to head back to Manhattan. There was one more trick up Secret Summer’s sleeve, a free Lyft code to get you home safely! The show is over, say goodbye…