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…