At the behest of my friend Mike at @IceandNeat, we braved the nightmare that is getting to Brooklyn on a weekend and visited the Kings County Distillery for a tour of their whiskey-making operation and a taste of their output.
$8 gets you a $20 tour of the distillery, where you get educated on not only how whiskey is made, but on the history of NY State distilleries as well. The prevalence and notoriety of the Kentucky Bourbon producers might have you think that NY-based distilleries are an outlier, a fad folly assimilated into the hipster construct. You would be wrong.
As Kings County’s Master Distiller Nicole Austin told us, NY state has quite a bit of history hidden within. At its peak prior to prohibition, NY state contained over 1,000 distilleries- ranking 7th in the country, far outnumbering its Kentucky brethren.
As luck would have it, Kings County distillery has the honor of being NYC’s first operating whiskey distillery since prohibition went the way of the dodo.
The tour was an intimate showing of the intimate craft that is small-batch distilling. The distillery, whose aged walls reside in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, bears a connection to the past both in setting and history. Getting an up-close view of the process highlights the balance of chemistry and art that makes whiskey production so fascinating.
On the ground floor, a spacious room with tall ceilings contained vats of fermenting locally-grown grains, four modestly size stills used in current production, and larger equipment such as two massive bulbous copper pot stills, capable of producing 30 gallons of whiskey a day.
The second floor was the aging room, containing over 400 five-gallon American Oak barrels. these small barrels, while being more practical for smaller producers, also bring with them the advantage of needing considerably less aging time. A smaller barrel makes for a higher ratio of surface area exposure to wood by volume, and means that their whiskey only needs to age between 12 and 18 months to get to a good place.
We poked around in the aging room as Master Distiller Nicole Austin answered booze-related questions and shared her process and thoughts on Whiskey distilling in general. Afterwards we meandered into the next room where we tasted their three whiskies and toured the “Boozeum,” which expanded on the drunken history of Whiskey production in the State.
Their lineup includes a Bourbon, Moonshine made from corn, and a chocolate “flavored” whiskey, infused with spent Mast Brothers cocoa husks. The goods, contained in minimal and unpretentious 200ml bottles, can be purchased as a boxed set for $70, which is a pretty satisfying purchase.
Of the three, my favorite has been the chocolate whiskey. It’s about as far as you can get from what normally passes for chocolate-flavored alcohol these days. It’s a sipping whiskey, full of chocolate character without the sweetness. Think cocoa nibs instead of milk chocolate.
Our Kings County Distillery excursion will be the first of many, as we set on a quest to tackle the Brooklyn Spirits trail and beyond. So far, I think it rings true that consuming food and drink is a more encompassing experience when you learn about how it’s made, who it’s made by, and why it’s made the way it was. These whiskeys are no exception, and I’ll be sipping them more thoughtfully than I would have been without visiting their birthplace.
NOTE: I wrote this review on behalf of one of my clients, NYC Velo. I thought you guys would enjoy my review for a bag that’s perfect for day-to-day adventuring in the urban sprawl. -CJ
As advanced as we may think we are as a people, we’re still trying to figure out smart solutions to intrinsic, basic problems. Take carrying stuff for instance. Ever since starting off as drooling knuckle draggers millions of years ago, us humans have searched for ways to carry more on our persons.
Cut to 2011 and you’ve got myriad companies looking to solve the portage problem for those of us who enjoy two-wheeled transportation.
You may remember my review of Mission Workshop’s Vandal backpack a little while back. I was in love with The Vandal’s Size, design, features and versatility.
That being said, the bag was a bit too capable. It was gigantic. its bulk made it a bit cumbersome as a day-pack, and I would sit there in bed late at night wishing for the MW deities to create something similar to the vandal and rambler, but sleeker.
Wish Granted. The new Sanction Rucksack is the perfect daily commute backpack. Here’s why:
- Thoughtful, intuitive design throughout the bag
- 3 totally waterproof compartments, including one for laptops
- It looks awesome.
I got the sense that this is exactly what people were looking for. The fact that the shop sold out of them within the first week of stocking them was the big clue.
I’ve been using it for about 3 weeks now. I’ve worn it while riding bikes, while riding motorcycles, and while walking around the subway. My only minor gripe is that it’s not immune to sweaty back syndrome when it’s hot outside, but that goes for almost ever backpack I’ve ever used. The Sanction Rucksack is in stock at NYC Velo and retails for $179.99. Get one! -CJ
Sometimes its a bit fun to play into stereotypes. For the 4th of July weekend my girl and I headed up to Cape cod for the first time. We had nothing planned except for an epic combination of seaside relaxation and eating seafood.
I’ll be honest, I was sort of (ignorantly) expecting the worst out of people from that area. I thought it would be full of Mass-holes and “those guys” that go to Dorrian’s (the bar, not the fishmonger), wearing red pants and vineyard vines belts.
What I found was a gorgeous part of new england that largely didn’t stand up to the stereotype. I met wonderful people, relaxed along beautiful seasides, and ate the best New England seafood that I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaining weight over.
On Sunday we jumped on a ferry and headed to Martha’s vineyard to meet up with my friend (and chef extraodinaire,) Jake Klein. You may remember him from my Morrell Wine Bar Post. It seems that hanging with Jake automatically results in semi-hedonistic eating experiences.
We drove over to Menemsha, a little fishing village on the island. We walked into a little building right on the dock that housed a fishmonger-slash-seafood shack. Behind the building, fishing boats unloaded freshly-caught seafood directly into the shack. Literally ocean-to-plate.
We sat on lobster traps on the dock, and jake disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with 2 lbs of succulent steamer clams, oysters on the half shell, and 4 steamed lobsters. By the way, all of that only cost $100 buckos.
The four of us suddenly became a pack of ravenous seagulls and devoured everything in minutes. It was the best lobster experience I’ve ever had (sorry, Red lobster).
Apparently this little seafood foray was just an amuse-bouche for the rest of the day. We walked around a bit, check out fantastic antique shops ful of old salty seafaring equipment, and stopped by for some fantastic friend clams, which were eaten too quickly for a photo op.
Round 1 done. Onto round two.
We traipsed across the island picking up supplies for our early dinner at Jake’s parent’s place. Lo and behold, his stepdad is the BBQ master himself, Steven Raichlen. We arrived at their gorgeous house on Chappaquiddick Island and marvelled and the myriad grills and smokers Steve had ready to go.
Grilling was the perfect medium for the food we picked up: Freshly Harpooned Swordfish, Morning Glory corn, garlic scamps, baby leeks, asian eggplant, and more. The fresher and better the ingredients, the less you typically should do to it.
Everything came together wonderfully. Swordfish stands up to grilling rather well, and the simply seasoning on lemon, EVOO, capers, and other herbs I didn’t ask about complimented it to the max. The super-duper-ultra-mega-local veggies where amazing in their own right, and made me understand vegetarianism for about 4 seconds.
While this post makes the weekend sound like a food centric trip, it was more than that (that’s just my fat boy personality taking over). The weekend was a summer mix tape of great people, beautiful scenery, summer breezes, sunfish sailing, kayaking, amateur fireworks, the smell of the ocean, people digging for clams, drinking Dark ‘N’ Stormy’s, and swinging on a hammock while the world goes by.
Living in the city makes you a bit dull to simple experiences, and separating yourself from it for a few days lets you reconnect with the un-manufactured pockets of goodness that are still around if you’re looking for them.
Take a deep breath. it’s the weekend. Life is great (and delicious).
My blog has been a bit seafood-heavy as of late, and I promise that’ll change soon. That being said, you can’t really fault me for posting about seafood when I start to encounter dishes like the one above. This magical marine assemblage is an appetizer at Seafood upstart Fishtag.
Say hello to the Sea Urchin Crudo in Ocean Water. It’s a simple, naked dish that highlights the greatest characteristics of seafood. At its freshest (and you should only eat it at its freshest), Sea urchin embodies the flavor of the ocean: salty, briny, texturally interesting, and with a touch of sweetness. Bathing it in actual ocean water and kissing it with a touch of EVOO, lemon, and telicherry peppercorns rockets into the pleasure zone. Hello, mouth. Welcome to the ocean.
Fishtag has become my favorite non-sushi seafood restaurant of the moment. The concept rocks, the food is daring and the flavors are unapologetic.
They also have a fantastic menu design that bucks tradition in the face. Gone is the boring separation of appetizer and main. The key to the menu is the extremely accessible drink list. Drinks are grouped by type and flavor profile. It’s these types and flavor profiles that are the method to the madness of the menu. Apps are red, mains are black. It’s a great idea and points to a chef who wants to make it easy for you to drink something that compliments the dishes. Check it out here.
As for other dishes, eat the following:
The Roasted Salmon is perfect. Reminds me of Adolfo Garcia’s Unilateral Salmon at RioMar. The skin side is perfectly crispy, and the rest of the fish is perfect. The “Greek” salad sports a white anchovy vinaigrette and screams with loud and bold flavors that pefectly compliment the silky salmon.
The Tuna Confit and Baked Ricotta Bruschetta is a meal unto itself. It’s Rustic. It’s creative. It’s delicious. It’s only $10.
The other winner at Fishtag was the Grilled Branzino STUFFED WITH HEADCHEESE.
That’s amazing. It’s a Surf N’ Turf gang bang of epic proportions. The Branzino was crispy on the outside and moist with the juices of melted aspic. It was so good that I don’t have a photo of it. Sorry.
If you’re not a fan of head cheese, then perhaps you should head for greener pastures.
So if you’re looking for a little more “OMFG” in your seafood offerings, head to Fishtag.
More to come.