Friday, October 10, 2014

A weekend getaway packed with good wine, food and nature - The North Fork

Summer is finally giving way to fall, but the desire to be outside remains strong. Trips to the beach and backyard barbeques give way to apple picking and leaf peeping. We all know winter is just around the corner, so the desire to eek out a few more fun filled days outdoors is strong.

One of the best excursions I can recommenced is a wine tasting tour of the North Fork of Long Island. The North Fork is home to more than forty vineyards, producing everything from Chardonnay to Cabernat Franc and Sparkling Wine. Almost all of the vineyards have tasting rooms and on the weekends a number of them feature music and food along with their wine tasting. There are some really nice wines being made on Long Island. The following are a few favorites, some well known, some out of the way. Use them as a trusty starting guide then feel free to experience others. The worst thing that will happen is that you have some okay wine with friends in a beautiful setting.

In addition to the vineyards, you will find fantastic farm stands brimming with local produce, good restaurants and some of the prettiest countryside you will see. If you have spent any time on the South Fork and wondered what East Hampton or South Hampton looked like before the mansions, money and celebrities rolled in, the North Fork will give you a sense. It will send you back in time. It has that kind of magic.

Shinn Estate Vineyards

Shinn Estate Vineyards, one of the most well known and well regarded of the North Fork Vineyards,  was started By Barbara Shinn and David Page in 1998.  The couple had found success in New York City with their restaurant Home when they decided to buy twenty acres and an historic homestead in Mattituck. Not content to just try their hand at making wine, they wanted to use sustainable farming practices to do it. Today the vineyard is certified sustainable and is completely powered by solar and wind. But make no mistake, the wine making comes first.

Shinn Estate has a lovely patio and tasting room. Tastings are available by the glass or in flights. Small snacks, like a nice cheese plate, are available as well. In addition to their wines, Shinn makes an eau de vie, alembic brandy, grappa and grape vodka. 

Shinn Estate 2013 Coalescence, 2013 Rose & 2010 Cabernet Franc. This was not taken at the Vineyard.

Of the wines I have tried my three stand outs are: the 2013 Coalescence, a light and drinkable blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, the 2013 Rose, dry and light with nice character and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is one of the best Long Island reds I have had and begs for a grilled steak

In addition to the vineyard and distillery, Barbara and David run The Farmhouse, an Inn on the grounds of the vineyard in the historic homestead. If all this is not enough to entice you there is one more thing. Shinn Estate Vineyards sits at one end of Oregon Road, perhaps the loveliest stretch on the North Fork, which runs past farms, vineyards, old houses and some of the last potato trucks on the East End. You will be hard pressed not to find the beauty of the North Fork here.

Shinn Estate Vineyards - 2000 Oregon Road, Mattituck, NY, 11952 -

The Old Field

The Old Field is aptly named. It sits on land that was farmed for hundreds of years by Native Americans before European settlers bartered for it in 1640. The Baiz family has been farming the land since 1918. In 1974 Christian Baiz, the fourth generation to farm the land, decided to plant the first grapevines and transition the land into vineyards. Today The Old Field produces ten wines, all available to taste at the vineyard. This is a family affair, with the fifth generation joining their parents in running the vineyard. This family dynamic makes The Old Field one of the most welcoming vineyards you will ever visit.

The setting of The Old Field feels more like a family friendly farm than serious vineyard. The grounds are dotted with picnic tables that play host to big family gatherings. Small children run around, playing games and chasing the chickens that call the vineyard home. The tasting room is in one of the several picturesque old barns. It is as comfortable and bucolic a setting for tasting some wine that you will find.

Meandering toward the Tasting Room

Tasting options

Tastings are done by flight. Each person can choose the wines in their flight so if you come with a few people and you are willing to share you can taste all the wines The Old Field has on offer.

My favorites are the 2010 Cabernet Franc, The 2011 Chardonnay and the 2007 Blanc De Noir, a sparkling wine made with the Pinot Noir grape. 

Ask about the history of these cages in the tasting barn.

Sip some wine, meander down the farm road and take in land that has been cultivated since before Columbus completely missed the East Coast. These are the pleasures of The Old Field.

The Old Field - 59600 Main Road, Southold, NY, 11971 -

One Woman Wines

The one woman in question is Claudia Purita, a native of Calabria, Italy and a veteran of Long Island Kitchens. She started tending 16 acres of land in 2004 and her first vintage was 2007. The operation is small, with just a few hands helping Ms. Purita. The tasting room is the size of a chicken coop. A few picnic tables sit out front.

One Woman's tasting room.

One Woman's size allows Ms. Purita to be as hands on as possible and to focus on her wines. The proof is in the glass. One Woman produces, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot, but the reasons I keep coming back are her two wines with Austrian roots, Gruner Veltliner and Gewurztraminer.


One Woman is the only producer of Gruner Veltliner on Long Island and one of the few making Gewurztraminer. She has two vintages of each, the younger 2013s, which are light and drinkable, and the 2012s, which have more depth and character and are excellent. The Gewurztraminers are crisp with floral and herbal notes. The Gruner Veltliners are dry with tastes of fruit and citrus.  In fact, they are my two favorite whites from the North Fork. If you are unfamiliar with these grapes One Woman's wines are an perfect place to start. They would be welcomed in any restaurant in Austria and Germany. For proof I give you my mother, a native of Germany, who visited One Woman with me and walked out with half a case. Mom knows best.

One Woman 2012 Gr├╝ner Veltliner, 2012 Gew├╝rztraminer, Dessert Wine. Again, photo not taken at the vineyard.

One Woman also makes a delicious dessert wine from their Gewurztraminer grapes. Definitely try it while you are there. Tastings are by the glass or in flights. There is a standard flight and a reserve flight. In a nice touch, and one more vineyards should offer, tastings are free with the purchase of two or more bottles of wine. You will buy at least two bottles, I promise. One Woman also hosts tastings "Under the Stars" on Saturday Nights from Memorial Day to Columbus, with a free family friendly movie, bonfires and s'mores. One Woman is more proof that good things come in small packages (or parcels).

One Woman Wines and Vineyards - 5195 Old North Road, Southold, NY, 11971 

The Winemaker Studio

Tucked in an old house on a small lane in Peconic is The Winemaker Studio. The Winemaker Studio is a cooperative tasting room started by Anthony Nappa, the winemaker for Raphael Vinetards. The studio focuses on private label wines by local winemakers. Mr. Nappa's Anthony Nappa Wines are featured but wines by other local winemakers like Russell Hearn of Lieb Cellars, John Leo of Clovis Point and Erik Bilka of Castello di Borghese  are represented as well. . The Winemaker Studio gives you the chance to experience personal expression from some of the top local winemakers in a single, cozy setting. What's not to like?

In addition to the private label wines The Winemaker Studio also focuses on local, small production wines and unusual wine styles. It even offers a few local spirits and beers. If you are a wine geek, The Winemaker Studio is for you.

Mr Nappa and his wife Sarah, a chef, recently opened Provisions & Ingredients in the adjoining building. The store is stocked with gourmet food from New York and Italy and offers a small menu of tapas, plates and pressed sandwiches that are can be eaten in The Winemakers Studio. This is one stop shopping and the perfect place to relax for an hour with friends.

The Winemaker Studio - 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic -

A man's gotta eat, especially if that man (or woman) keeps tasting wine. There are a lot of good spots on the North Fork but, if you are like me, and you are this close to the water,  you want seafood. Luckily for you, Southold has one of the best seafood spots around.

Southold Fish Market

Formerly housed in the Port Of Egypt marina, Southold Fish Market, which has relocated to new digs just down the street, is a seafood store and restaurant in one. The market features fresh, locally caught fish and shellfish. If you are spending time in the neighborhood and are planning on grilling, this is your place. If you are just spending the day, or a weekend, this is also your place. The restaurant features all that great seafood on their vast menu. All the fried seafood staples, like fish and chips and fried clams are available as well as healthier but no less tasty items like grilled tuna sandwiches and fish tacos.

The front counter.

Inside seating.

An appetizer of crab bites, fried mini crab cake balls with a house made remoulade are not to be missed.

Crab bites.

If you are a lobster roll fan, Southold Fish Market's over sized roll, stuffed with lobster meat, is a must.

Lobster roll.

Did I mention the bacon wrapped scallop quesadilla? Daily specials are available, based on what is fresh and what creative spark comes to mind in the kitchen. In a nut shell, they know their way around seafood.

Southold Fish Market is the summer fish shack we all wish we lived near, but with even higher aspirations. It will not disappoint.

Southold Fish Market - 64755 Route 25, Southold

I have just scratched the surface of the joys that can be found on the North Fork. For beer fans, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has two tasting rooms. The original nestled in the heart of beautiful Greenport and their new, larger brewery, is conveniently located right on Route 25 in Southold, right in the heart of the wine trail.

There are hikes, historic sites, apple and pumpkin picking and much more. The starting point for the North Fork,  Riverhead, is only 75 miles from Manhattan. As you make your way along Route 25 through Jamesport and Mattituck, on through Southold and Greenport and all the way to Orient Point you will feel like you are a world away. Here are a couple of good resources for your trip:

So go and discover the bounty the North Fork has to offer. You will be hooked quicker than a hungry bluefish.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A little tip - Telegraphe Cafe, a hidden oasis in a retail desert.

The corner of 18th Street and 6th Avenue is one of those places New York City dwellers eventually find themselves. This is the heart of the mass of big box stores that run this stretch of 6th Avenue. At this intersection Old Navy, The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, TJ MAXX, Modell's, West Elm and a Chase Bank all stand. The real Mall of Manhattan. We have all stood there, exhausted, frayed and shopped out with kids who are tired, hungry and probably crying. All you needed was a spot to drop your shopping bags and have a coffee and get something for the kids. Sure, City Bakery is down the street, and we love it, but it is always packed. What else is there?

Telegraphe Cafe.

First the embarrassing part. I believe Telegraphe Cafe has been there for at least 10 years. I just discovered it. I can only wonder how many times I have walked by it, not giving it a second thought. I bet you have too. That is about to change.

Don't kick yourself like I did. Telegraph is tucked off on 18th Street, just west of 6th Avenue. The entrance is off what looks like a side entrance or employee entrance for The Container Store. There is a big red sign above the entrance that is less than appetizing. A glance through the windows does not reveal much. Step inside and things start to change.

The space is small. A counter with stools runs along the windows. Five two top tables are tucked into a corner. People are lined up to order. Then you get that first smile. The folks behind the counter are warm and welcoming. They take your order and pass you down to pay. Quick and efficient. The gentlemen at the register greets you like a friend. A French accent perhaps?

Coffee, tea and espresso drinks are at the heart of the cafe. Small and focused breakfast and lunch menus are available. How about an egg, ham & cheese sandwich? Sure. At Telegraphe Cafe the cheese is swiss and instead of ham they have prosciutto. It does not come on a roll. Your options are a croissant (of course), a bagel or bread. I actually went for the multi-grain roll. I never go for the mulit-grain roll. Something is going on here.

Egg & prosciutto on multi grain, I skipped the cheese. Yes. I took a bite. I was hungry. It was good.

A fruit salad at first glance looks like a bowl of grapes. Digging in you discover blueberries as well as strawberries and apple cut small. Then you notice the hint of mint and touch of honey. Delicious. Once again, there is more than meets the eye.

Not your average bowl of grapes. I may have eaten a little bit of this before the photo as well.

Those five tables tucked in the corner run along a surprisingly comfortable banquet.  Use of the free Wifi is encouraged. It is surprisingly tranquil. You envy the constant flow of people from the neighborhood who flow in. Clearly they come in all the time. How could you have passed by so many times and not gone in? A glance at the lunch menu reveals a nice list of sandwiches and salads. You notice the couple behind the counter. The gentleman with the accent who maned the register. Is that his wife running back and forth from the kitchen? You think so. French? Definitely. Maybe that explains it. Telegraphe Cafe would be a lovely little spot in any neighborhood, but in this retail zone, in a space that would more likely hold a crappy deli or dollar slice joint, it is a welcoming oasis. Now that I know it exists, I will never be hungry or thirsty in this chain store desert again. Neither will you.

Telegraphe Cafe - 107 West 18th Street, between 6 & 7th Avenue, Chelsea -

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Countryfied Lower East Side - Root & Bone

The continuous gentrification, rising rents and constant change in New York City is a daily, almost hourly topic of conversation for anyone who has lived in this city for some time, and it is an obsession for those of us that grew up here. This has only ratcheted up in the wake of the announced closings of Union Square Cafe and WD-50, the actual closing of Rodeo Bar and Jim Meehan of PTD fame announcing he is pulling up stakes and moving to Portland, OR. The East Village has been particularly hard hit. One of the many casualties in the East Village was Mama's Food Shop, a beloved local joint that served Fried Chicken and other Southern Food staples to the East Village for fifteen years. Its closing came with a letter from the owner decrying today's climate.

Despite the tough climate and odds against success in opening a restaurant there seems to be no shortage of chefs and entrepreneurs who want to take a crack at finding success in the Big Apple. Do I need to quote Sinatra here? The only question was what would open in the old Mama's space? A 7-11? A bank? A Duane Reade? It turns out to be another restaurant. So, who is foolhardy enough to make a go of it? Two photogenic, former Top Chef contestants, Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth. The cuisine they were going with? Southern food. The name of the Restaurant? Root & Bone. Better than a Chase, but I was wary.

A look at the website did not inspire confidence. The cover photo had an old pick-up truck and a meandering chicken in sepia tone. This was not a nod to the abandoned cars and backyard chickens of Avenue B in the 70s & 80s. The menu was straight out of an Eater spoof. New York has seen a proliferation of down market, southern comfort food spots with a farm to table aesthetic and possibly, some foraging thrown in. Here was yet another one. The website promised "soul nurturing," a craftsman's ethic" and "artistic culinary thought." And, my mistake, this is not Southern or Soul food. This is food from "rural America." Did I mention the place is called Root & Bone? My native skepticism was running high.
Mr. McInnis and Ms.Booth have set themselves an impossibly high bar.  Replacing a a local favorite is hard enough. Serving the same cuisine just adds to the pressure, and when that cuisine is becoming as common as wainscoting and reclaimed wood in restaurants you are setting yourself up for failure. The two chefs do have some bona fides. They both cooked at Yardbird, which was a James Beard Best New Restaurant, South semi-finalist and Mr. McInnis is a two time James Beard nominee for Best Chef in the South. The only chance of surviving beyond the initial hype and brunch crowds is if they can really deliver in the kitchen and separate themselves from the pack. Are we getting The Allman Brothers or Molly Hatchet?

Cue Duane Allman guitar solo.

To start, Root & Bone has a nice booze and cocktail list, which is mandatory these days.  A good test of any restaurant is their Bloody Mary.

The care taken with this brunch staple is a good indication of the attention to detail you can expect across the board. Chances are that Bloody Mary that comes with a garnish that includes and olive stuffed with a cornichon as well as a piece of bacon it will be good. To quote my official Bloody Mary expert, Karen; "Oooh. Wow. Try this." If you like a spicy & strong Bloody Mary the bar at Root & Bone has one for you. 

As for the food, start with their Southern Peach Caprese salad:

This hits all the marks promised by the restaurant. The salad is a southern riff on the classic Caprese salad. Heirloom tomatoes, at their summer peak, are joined by their southern cousin, a pickled green tomato. Grilled peaches add some summer sweetness and char and a few greens are thrown in for good measure. Molasses vinegar dresses the salad, another riff.  In case you missed the southern touches the stand in for mozzarella is a fried ball of pimento cheese. This is a little like replacing your Fiat with the General Lee and let's be honest, we all want to take a drive with the Duke boys in the General Lee. This salad combines the high and low, the healthy and decidedly not on one plate and is flat out out delicious.

Drunken Deviled Eggs:

Deviled eggs are quickly becoming the new kale salad. Everyone has a version. Being a huge fan of deviled eggs I am fine with this trend. Can Root & Bone's stand out from the crowd? That is a definitive yes. The menu describes the place and pedigree of the eggs (a farm in the Catskills) along with pickled roots and sunflower sprouts. They are holding out us. The filling is a mustard delight, topped with a touch of bacon. I may have used my finger to clean the plate.

Chilled Watermelon:

Another dish that is becoming more commonplace on menus is watermelon salad. Root & Bone's watermelon salad is lightly bathed in a nicely original celery & lemonade vinaigrette. The addition of sliced radish is an inspired choice, the tart crunch of the radish complimenting the soft, sweet watermelon. This is a perfect summer dish and, like the caprese, highlighting the best produce of the season.

Grandma Daisy's Angel Biscuits:

I don't know if there really is a Grandma Daisy, but any southern joint worth its salt better deliver a good biscuit. These are fine biscuits. They are served with a honey roasted chicken jus for dipping, toasted benne seed-sea salt for sprinkling and a dash of fresh thyme. They will go quickly.

The main event, of course, is their fried chicken - Crispy Free-Range Bucket of Bird:

Root & Bone's signature dish is their fried chicken. This city is awash in good fried chicken. Hell, the ten block radius around Root & Bone offers everything from Bobwhite Lunch Counter's Georgia fried chicken to Momofuku's Fried Chicken dinner. Mama's signature dish was their fried chicken. Forget swinging and missing, even a solid double here is not going to cut it. This has to be a home run.

The chicken is brined in sweet tea and dusted in pickled lemon and comes in two sizes, half or whole bird. It is served in a homey wire basket. This chicken is no line drive that finds the corner. It is a no doubt about it, second deck home run. It is, in a word, spectacular. Perfectly cooked, with crispy skin outside and moist, flavorful chicken inside. The quality of the bird shines through as do the ingredients. The brine and dust are no cute trick, they make this a dish to come back for, again and again. My Bloody Mary expert, who usually stops at one piece of chicken, demanded a second. No small praise.

The chicken is also served with a bottle of house made spiked Tabasco Honey. It took a lot of effort not to pocket it.

Cheese Grits:

Grits are another staple of the southern kitchen. Root & Bone gets theirs stone ground from a mill in upstate New York. They come "loaded with love" which means cheese and bread crumbs and other goodies. They are decadent, thick and rich. You may never go back to mac and cheese after trying these. 

House made Whiskey Maple Syrup. Perfect for waffles, biscuits or drinking straight from the bottle.

Root & Bone is not a big restaurant. You enter into a small space which houses their take out counter. A small entryway on the right leads to the first of two dining areas, both tightly packed. The design uses every possible inch for seating.  Small wood tables run down the center of the first room. A part of the kitchen is in the corner of the room. It has a counter with six seats. Stools run along the windows which have an oversize sill for dining. On a warm summer day the windows are open and these seats are perfect for eating and people watching. The second dining space runs perpendicular to the first. It has banquette seating along one wall and a small bar tucked in the back with a few stools. The space is warm, painted in whites and light tans. Wood furniture and fixtures have a sun bleached, washed out feel. The large windows on the street make the rooms feel bigger than they are.

On our visit we sat at the counter in front of the open kitchen. We had a full view of the kitchen and staff at work. If you are under the belief that the life of a chef is a glamorous one, especially for those who have been on Top Chef, spend an hour at Root & Bone during prime Sunday brunch. This is hard, hard work.  The place was jammed. Chef McInnis was directing traffic, calling out orders, checking dishes, tables, calling for water bottles to be filled and having kitchen staff deliver food to tables. An hour earlier one of the restaurant speakers had fallen off the wall and directly onto his head, nearly knocking him out. Chef Booth was one of three in the tiny open kitchen, working at one stove, making Shrimp & Grits, Braised Short Rib Meat Loaf (both of which I plan on coming back to try) and a number of other dishes as the orders kept rolling in.  Before we finished our meal the credit card machine system went down. Chef McInnis personally apologized, embarrassed to ask us if we could pay in cash. A month old and still working out the kinks. This is reality when you own and run a restaurant.

The check, delivered in a namesake bone.

I will return to Root & Bone. I will return for the food and drinks, which are top notch. I will return in particular for the Bucket of Bird, my new favorite fried chicken.  I will also return because I am rooting for them to succeed. So go, eat, enjoy and support these fools that left Miami to open a small restaurant on 3rd Steet and Avenue B. This is a tough town. I hope they win and can play Frank's version of "New York, New York" at the end of the night. 

Root & Bone - 200 East 3rd Street (just West of Avenue B) -

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pinot Grigio Ramato, an introduction

Folks, just wrote a piece for The Daily Meal. I attended a wine tasting and pairing at Giovanni Rana in Chelsea Market and had my first taste of Pinot Grigio Ramato. You can check it out here:


Friday, April 25, 2014

One good looking candy store - Handsome Dan's

There is good news for candy freaks of all ages in the East Village. Brooklyn's Handsome Dan's has opened a new location on 1st Avenue. The store is a nostalgic tribute to candy stores of old with an excellent and diverse selection of candy. Jars full of classic candy share the shelves with Brooklyn staples like Mast Brothers and Liddabit Sweets. Regional candies like Abba-Zaba and Big Hunk are represented as are European and Japanese candies. The candy is available individually and by the pound as well as by the Mason Jar (they did start in Williamsburg after all).

In addition to candy, Handsome Dan's also prominently features SnoCones and Cotton Candy, which is spun to order right in the store. The small store and shelves are painted white so the brilliant colors of the candy and packaging stand out. The staff is friendly and welcoming to kids of all ages and yes, there is a Handsome Dan. This is a dangerous store, especially if your are hungry or have kids, or both. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Candy! Candy! Candy!


A taste of Brooklyn

A mix of the high and low, literally.

Make your own (I think)

Nostalgic or  hipster? Both? Certainly reusable.

My kind of street sign.

Handsome Dan himself.

Handsome Dan's Candy -  186 1st Avenue between 11th & 12th Street

Friday, March 21, 2014

The first signs of spring and a welcome rebirth: The Roost

I do not remember ever being happier for, or more skeptical about, the first day of spring. A part of me still does not believe the cold will ever go away. Not to state the obvious, but it has been a long, brutal winter. More than ever, I am looking for those first signs of spring. I need something that signals the time for hibernation is over and I can happily go outside again.

The ice skating rink near my house is finally gone. The green of the turf in the playground where the rink once stood is a welcome sight. I saw my first Cardinal yesterday and the first crocus are popping up out of the ground. Maybe spring is really here.

Spring is about rebirth and renewal.  Which brings me to another sign I saw recently. This one:

This sign is for a new spot on Avenue B called The Roost. It is a coffee shop by day and a bar at night. Stop for a moment and take in what this sunny little chalkboard says they have on offer.

Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee and Balthazar pastries starting at 8 am.

Craft Beer, Bourbon and cocktails starting at 5pm.

Can you be all things to all people? I don't know. But it would seem The Roost wants to be all things to me.

Let's start with the coffee shop. It is a charming spot. The counter and coffee bar are white tile and marble. The small seating area has exposed brick with some painted wainscoting. There are a few stools by the big front windows. The space is warm and welcoming as are the staff.

They make a nice Cortado:

Behind the coffee bar there is a second room with the feel of a an old pub or library. Over-sized leather chairs and a couch sit in front of a fireplace with a faux-fire burning. It would be a nice place to have a cup of tea or a nice porter and whittle away the afternoon.

If The Roost was only this little store front coffee shop it would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. It isn't. At 5pm the back wall of the club room (pictured above) slides open to signal that the bar is open for business. What a handsome, nicely stocked bar it is.

During the day, sunlight pours in through skylights, original to the building, making the industrial chic interior feel warmer and more welcoming than most similarly designed spots. Light fixtures hung from old pulleys and bar stools that remind you of your old school room desks add to the charm. The best feature of the room is its size. It is long and deceptively wide which allows for a communal table and leather love seat up front and a deep bar and ample seating along the opposite wall in the back.

What this all adds up to is something familiar yet a little bit unique, especially for a new coffee shop and bar in the East Village. A true Local.

The coffee shop serves serious coffee, from a local roaster, well prepared, but without some of the more precious trappings of other well known shops. The sliding wall leading to the bar is not a gimmick. There is no bouncer, secret password or phone to call. It is just the door to the bar. Once opened it stays open and all are welcome. There will be a cocktail menu but this bar is meant to be just that, a really good local bar. It has a strong bourbon selection and some nice gins. It has a very good beer and craft beer list. The bartenders are pros and can make you a good cocktail. But if you are looking for house made bitters and shrubs you are in the wrong place.

The other night my wife and I stopped in for a drink. We ordered two Maker's Mark 46 Manhattans, up.  Matthew, our charming bartender, apologized that he did not have any Martini glasses and asked if it was okay that he gave them to us in an Old Fashioned glass. We replied that it would be fine. They were delicious and went down far to quickly. My wife pulled the cherry out, bright red and clearly store bought and said, "wow, I haven't had one of these in a while." She was right. I couldn't remember the last time I had a cherry that wasn't house made. Hell, I make my own maraschinos at home. Guess what? I loved it.

Don't get me wrong, I love all the temples to cocktails in this city and frequent them as often as possible. But sometime you just want to walk into a bar, sit down, order a drink from a smiling bartender and exhale.

What does all this have to do with spring and the idea of rebirth? The Roost is located in the former Luca Lounge spot. When Luca Lounge closed it appeared that yet another East Village stalwart was lost to rising rents and a changing neighborhood. I am happy to report that The Roost is owned by Vito DiTomaso, the former owner of Luca Lounge (and current owner of Luca Bar on St Marks). This is his reboot. Another great local bar with a coffee shop added, a smart way to maximize your income in a space that surely has ludicrous rent. It also turns out to be a smart way to ingratiate yourself to a neighborhood. They come for the coffee, and when told about the bar in back they are intrigued, not fearful.

The real genius of The Roost is the fact that it is a bit of a chameleon. This hit home for me when the wife and I stopped in for those Manhattans. The lovely Tanya welcomed us and informed us that the coffee bar was closed but drinks were available up front if we found the bar too crowded. We were able to find seats at the bar and enjoyed ourselves. I marveled at the different feel the three rooms at The Roost have. A fine bustling bar in back to drink with friends. A dark, intimate room in the middle to linger in with that special someone. A quiet front room to have a glass of wine and a real conversation. All of these exist behind a single store front on Avenue B. The Roost may not appeal to everyone in the neighborhood, but my guess is it comes pretty close.

The Roost - 222 Avenue B, between 13th & 14th Street.