Unlike most sisters, Nicole and Kim Carosella’s first business wasn’t a lemonade stand. They decided to do something a little more serious. Sorellina, their recently launched jewelry company, offers pieces ranging from a few hundred bucks all the way up to 75 grand.
Last week I took a holiday wine class at Paris’s L’Atelier des Chefs. I drink a lot of wine, but with little discretion. Whether it’s this year’s Beaujolais from the corner alimentation generale, or something a little more aged from Nicolas (a liquor store as prevalent here as Dunkin’ Donuts is in Boston), I will happily take a glass in hand. But since moving to Paris, I’ve decided to become an ever-so-slightly more knowledgeable enthusiast. The class was a success on several fronts: I learned the seven basic steps to wine tasting, avoided the chunky deer pâté without being detected (sorry, I’m not so French yet that I can eat Bambi), and — the best part — I discovered the most brain-erasing dessert wine (it’s 17% alcohol) I’ve ever had in my life.
Toro Albala Gran Reserva Don PX is a little-known and under-appreciated sweet sherry with a black-red color. Made in the south of Spain from grapes that have shriveled up under the hot Andalusian sun, it has an orange-y, dark caramel taste that reminds me of Sabra liqueur from Israel. It was the last wine we tasted and the only one that made every single student scramble to jot down where to buy it (in Paris at Le Taste Monde, owned by our convivial and impressively informed teacher Sylvain Albert). No worries for those outside of the City of Light: you can ship it via wine.com. I plan on getting bottles for the adults on my gift list, paired with some smooth, ultra-dark chocolate truffles.
One of Paris’ coolest boutique design hotels, Hôtel Sezz, somehow ended up smack in the 16th arrondissement—which, with a bounty of residents who wear 19th-century-style scarves and boat shoes without any hipster irony—is as if 60 Thompson were on Sutton Place. And yet, it works. With a central location in a residential neighborhood, Hôtel Sezz is a chic oasis amid classic, stone-architecture surroundings. The hotel’s bar, La Grand Dame, is one of the few Veuve Cliquot bars in the world, and the only one in Paris. The name comes from the champagne house’s best vintage (La Grand Dame is to Cliquot what the much-more-marketed Dom Pérignon is to Moët et Chandon). Actually, there’s not even a real bar here; the approach is super-personal, with the barman servicing the handful of small tables individually. We asked our mixologist for the evening, Pubba Kannangara, to craft us an improvised champagne cocktail. What he came up with was something strong but slightly sweet, with neon-green Midori and a punch of dark-red griottes (French sour cherries) turning things Technicolor. Thanks to the bubbles, an extra vodka kick, and Christmas-shades-on-drugs color scheme, we deemed it perfect for a rowdy holiday party. In fact, the drink was such a hit that Pubba’s going to add it to the menu—once its name has been picked.
TBD from Hôtel Sezz’s La Grand Dame 1/3 oz Midori 1/3 oz vodka 1/3 oz pineapple juice Champagne 2 griottes
Stir the Midori, vodka, and pineapple in the glass. Fill the rest up with champagne. Plop in the griottes and serve.
Secret supper clubs are nothing new in NYC (Whisk and Ladle; Jack; A Razor, A Shiny Knife), but they’ve yet to cross the Atlantic and make it over here in Paris. Perhaps it’s because the French care more about keeping traditions than being in-the-know, or because culinary speakeasies make no sense to people who never lived through Prohibition, or maybe it’s that the French just don’t need the help of hidden spots to create a mysterious romance (what with sites like the Opera House right outside the Metro, and that je ne sais quoi running through their veins, they can’t get away from it). But there is one secret supper club in Paris — run by a young American couple — and it’s a dining experience that tops all the others.
Hidden Kitchen is held at the elegant apartment of Laura Adrian, 26, and Braden Perkins, 31, who work full-time as food consultants for brands like Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods. On the weekends, they welcome 16 diners to indulge in a 10-course menu tipped off by a mixed drink that hints at how amazing the meal will be. Their latest apéro experiment is a Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail, and it serves some hidden purposes: “It’s best to start the evening with a drink that is slightly sweet, surprising, and bubbly,” says Laura. “The effervescence makes people feel festive and puts everyone in a good mood. A surprise element — in this case, pomegranate seeds and a ‘hidden’ apple flavor — gives people something to talk about, especially key for guests if it’s their first time meeting each other, which is typical at Hidden Kitchen. And being slightly sweet makes the drink, well, very drinkable. But be careful not to make anything cloyingly sweet as that can ruin the appetite.”
Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail 1/2 cup sugar 3/4 cup water 1 Granny Smith apple 1 pomegranate 1/4 cup vodka 1 bottle sparkling wine (Cava, Prosecco, or Cremant de Loire)
Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Thinly slice the apple (without peeling) and place the apples slices in the simmering syrup. Bring back to a rolling boil and cook for 1 minute. Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed strainer. Discard the apples slices and set the syrup aside to cool. The syrup will have a crisp, but subtle, apple flavor. Remove the pomegranate seeds from their fruit and place in the syrup. Keep the syrup in the fridge until ready to use (it can be made up to 3 days ahead of time). In a champagne flute, place an ounce of the pomegranate/apple syrup (including around 10 seeds per flute) and half an ounce of vodka. Fill the rest of the flute with sparkling wine. Enjoy!
Perhaps attracted by the free samples of booze, you may have already visited Brooklyn Brew Shop’s stand at the Brooklyn Flea in Ft. Greene on Saturdays or in Dumbo on Sundays. The shop’s young, entrepreneurial owners — Erica Shea, 25, and Stephen Valand, 23 — started selling their DIY beer kits after Erica went home one Thanksgiving and spotted her dad’s home brewing equipment. “I thought it would be a fun winter activity,” she says, “so I dragged it back to my boyfriend’s — and we’ve been making beer ever since.” It takes some time to make a batch, so she recommends having friends over for a brewing party; then, after the jug “hangs out for a couple weeks while the yeast does the rest of the work,” you can invite everyone over again to sample it. Right now, Brooklyn Brew Shop is working on their new fall recipes, to debut at the beginning of October. There’s a Pumpkin Dubbel — “you rim the glass in cinnamon and sugar … it tastes like dessert” — and “a deadly Belgian triple,” says Stephen. “It’s light but, at 10 percent, highly alcoholic.” If you can’t wait until then to start experimenting, an autumn-worthy chocolate maple porter kit (it comes with everything you need to make a batch, or you can just opt for the grain, hops, and yeast) is out on their website now.
The brew kit.
“This is called mashing: the grain is basically steeping like oatmeal. That’s how the sugar gets extracted into the water.”
“Right after that, you put the grain into a kitchen strainer and remove the sugary water from the grain. It’s called sparging.”
The finished product.
As a follow-up to our flower-arranging conversation with Lea Ann Wells, floral designer at Williamsburg home and garden store Sprout Home, we sat down with shop owner Tassy Zimmerman to discuss indoor plants for urban dwellers. Sprout has tons of experience catering to citified folk, and Tassy — with her background in art — doesn’t just fall back on ”small” as a solution. She always keeps design in mind, stocking up on cool-but-practical items like rootless air plants and low-light maidenhair ferns. She shares with us some intriguing houseplant possibilities for city apartments.
● If you’re of the go-big-or-go-home mind but have a small place, try one giant plant — even if it means sacrificing a piece of furniture. “Having a large plant like a Ficus Lyrata or Rhapis Palm in the corner can transform the feeling of your space and improve the air quality of your home.”
● If you just want test out going green, “even spider plant cuttings rooting in a glass of water can make you feel excited … You feel that you’ve nurtured something and have contributed to its livelihood, even though all you did was stick it in your half-drunk glass of water.”
● The most important thing is to “be realistic when choosing a new plant. No one wants to kill their plant. It makes you feel guilty, like a bad parent.” Zimmerman tends to peg her customers as belonging to one of three categories: The Overly Attentive: “These people like to check and care for their plants daily. They often say they’re not having kids or getting a pet until they can keep their plant alive for at least one year.” Zimmerman recommends they invest in Baby Tears, Ferns, Fittonia, Hypoestes, Cordyline, or Jasmine. The Mondays, Fridays: “These people have BlackBerries or iPhones and actually put it in their calendar what day they need to water their plant along with plant instructions.” Their plant options range from the high-light spectrum (Borro’s Tail, Haworthia) to medium/low light (Pothos, Rhapis Palm). The Black Thumbs: “They haven’t kept a plant alive for more than a month.” Zimmerman even holds out hope for them, with the shroom-like Lithops (also known as “Living Stones”). It only needs to be watered once a month in the spring, summer, and fall, and never in the winter. Another possibility is the leafy green ZZ plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia), which takes a drink only two to three times a month.
All of the plants mentioned above can be purchased at Sprout Home.
“What do you do for a living?” “Where do you live?” “What did you study?” We all know the usual icebreakers. A more creative question — and sometimes a more revealing one — is: “What’s your favorite smell?” So rarely is the answer SJP’s Lovely, or Gaultier’s Le Male. More likely, with a bit of reflection, the response comes along the lines of “west Texas, where I grew up” or “my boyfriend’s skin” or even “gasoline, lavender, and Bounce dryer sheets.” Christopher Brosius, the “nose” who founded Demeter (and left before it started doing all those bizarre Jelly Belly-flavored scents), has made this literal take on scents the ethos of his company, CB I Hate Perfume. His range of accords — “single scents that capture very specific smells” — runs from Basil (Sweet, Holy, and Bitter varieties) to Mint Tea to Doll Head.
Perfumes also wear their creativity on their sleeves, with names like Memory of Kindness, Burning Leaves, and At The Beach 1966. Less intense versions of some favorite perfumes are available as home sprays. (We figured Brosius wouldn’t be one to light candles and stink up his Williamsburg apartment like a Yankee Candle Company outlet.) His tips on scenting your home:
● “The scent should be subtle, not that apparent. When someone walks in your house, you want the reaction to be: ‘Oh, it smells good.’ Not: ‘What’s that smell?’ ”
● “You can spray my home scents on curtains, upholstery, lampshades … Mist them lightly on any fabric. The scent will last until the next time the fabric’s cleaned.”
● “In the summer, you can spray curtains with CB Outside, my perfume that repels insects. That way you can keep the windows open and mosquitoes won’t fly in.”
● “CB93 is my signature in the summer; I wear it and I use it in my studio. I also really love Under the Arbor for warm weather. In the fall, try something a little darker, like The Fir Tree. And In the Library I’ll use year-round.”
● “Before I have guests over I’ll spray down the place with a home scent, but I rarely use a different scent than normal. This is my place! But for special occasions I might change it up. For holiday parties I love Walking in the Air — it’s the scent of snow.”
Just because you’re a dude doesn’t mean you can’t have flowers in your house. Or maybe you’re a woman who’s sick of roses and peonies and wants an arrangement both genders of her guests can appreciate. We challenged Lea Ann Wells, the floral designer at arty Williamsburg garden store Sprout Home, to create a one-of-a-kind arrangement that fits our ultra-picky bill. After a day at the flower markets, she came back with her arms full of fig branches, artichokes, croton leaves, magnolia branches, crocosmia, lucadendrums, acorn branch, iresine, and agapanthus — all of which went into this darkly gorgeous, lush arrangement ($150, including the smoke trunk vase). How did she choose each element? “Flowers most often are feminine, with soft scents and fluttery petals,” says Wells, “but certain ones read more masculine in shape, color, and size.”
These include the tulip (particularly queen of the night varieties, which are dark in color), calla lilies (they have a strong graphic shape ideal for a man that likes contemporary, clean lines), and bearded irises (unusual and beautiful). Not to mention lady slipper orchids, anthuriums, croton leaf, and bamboo — all of which are tropical and … phallic. Floral arrangements for guys can turn the whole concept on its head, since the less-fair-sex doesn’t even need that typically key ingredient: flowers. Instead, try a bouquet that’s straight-up woodsy and green. “Varying textures of leafs and shades of greens complemented with acorn branches in an architectural form is less literal,” says Wells, “and more of an outdoorsman masculine approach.”
So the next time you’re going to a guy’s house for a nice dinner party, think outside the box when it comes to your gift for the host. Instead of whipping up dessert or buying a bottle of wine, pick up a slick bouquet from a florist that offers unusual plants, or try your hand at your own original design.
Contemplating whether restaurants are indeed the new night clubs—Exhibit A being Minetta Tavern, with its “packed room, loud music, flowing booze”—got me thinking about the same concept on a DIY level: how home dinner parties can turn into home dance parties. For mixmaster tips I turned to DJ Jordan Kessler. Keith McNally himself contacted Kessler about setting the mood for his aforementioned youngest joint, as well as for creating new playlists for one of his old downtown standbys, Schiller’s.
What’s the difference between selecting music for a restaurant versus other events? I do a lot of private parties and corporate events like the Time 100 gala at Lincoln Center and the Dalai Lama’s visit at Radio City, and there’s often a list of rules: nothing too loud, too harsh, no disturbing lyrics. The great thing about Mr. McNally is that musically he’ll take chances. He’s not afraid to have the Sex Pistols playing at Schiller’s: it shows he’s fearless, has great taste, and knows his audience. They’re young, enjoying themselves, and they’re not going to be into sedate slow jazz.
Did he want the same kind of music playing at Minetta as at Schiller’s? No, at Schiller’s he wanted more of a hard-edge, punk-rock vibe. At Minetta, he was more interested in my personal taste. My specialty is soul from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I think he wanted well-chosen songs that I was passionate about. He didn’t want a CD of a genre he asked for, that I wasn’t really an expert on.
Do you need a real DJ setup to get a good party going? Nope. Mr. McNally doesn’t use DJs as far as I know in his restaurants, he just programs premixed music and plays it over his sound system. Actually, one of the best parties I ever DJ’d was at my house with music from one of those online streaming services you subscribe to for about 15 bucks a month. I wasn’t even planning on having a dance party, but people kept asking for dance music, so I just chose some songs and made a playlist on my laptop.
Should you choose the music based on your audience or on what you want to hear? It’s important to focus on your crowd; I’d definitely play different stuff for my family than for my friends. It’s actually pretty difficult to get people to dance at a party, but there are some rules to make it easier: choose up-tempo songs that people know and like; don’t start and end songs abruptly; and mix the music so the tempo from one song matches the tempo of the next. That way people will keep dancing.
What’s an easy way to brainstorm the songs for the evening? iTunes Essentials has playlists to purchase for any occasion, grouped in ways that make a lot of sense. You can find mixes from “dinner jazz” to “4th of July dance party.” If you want to take time and select tracks individually, you can look through genres on iTunes (‘80s hair metal, for instance) to get song ideas. Plus, there’s tons written about music on the web, so it’s surprisingly easy to find info on the most niche topics. Mr. McNally had asked me to find reggae covers, and I was surprised how easy it was to find them, especially of pop hits from the ‘50s and ‘70s. Also online I discovered a reggae band called the Easy Star All-Stars, who covered Radiohead’s entire OK Computer and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Pretty great stuff.