Friday, January 23, 2015

Cocktail du jour: The Hot Toddy

March is the new January I've decided. There's no sticking to resolutions, no matter how well intentioned, motivated, or inspired I am in the beginning of the new year. The days are just so dark and polar vortex cold that it feels like I'll never see the sun or the thermometer hit double digits.

The return to school inevitably exposes the little C&Gs to all sorts of fun germs and already one of them has missed a week of school. Which explains why I give up right around the mid-month mark every year and dust off the martini glasses. January just doesn't work for me and February is a short month with yet another school vacation to look forward to, so March will be my month to swap out the cocktail shaker for the Vitamix.

With all the illness going around (I've stopped Facebooking, too many posts about friends with flus) Mr. C&G and I have been boosting our immune systems with nature's Nyquil, the hot toddy. Whiskey is an excellent decongestant and germ fighter, which we learned from this great article on Vinepair "Your Drunk Aunt Was Right: The Hot Toddy Is The Cure To The Common Cold". Whatever whiskey or bourbon you have on hand will work to ward off the winter chill and any cold germs your kiddos have brought home. Plus it certainly tastes better than vile cherry flavored Nyquil!
Hot Toddy
2 oz whiskey
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 cubes of sugar
6 oz hot water

Add all ingredients into a heat-proof glass, stir, enjoy, and stay healthy!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cocktail du jour: Mexican Manhattan

There's nothing like a little tequila to take away the chill of winter. And by chill I mean arctic blast. Last week it wasn't just us Mainers freezing our Bean boots off, even our friends in the South were approaching single digits.

This recipe comes from Mr. C&Gs (other) favorite cocktail resource, Kindred Cocktails and it's a very tasty winter warmer. The sweet orange of the Cointreau cuts the bite of the tequila and the few dashes of chocolate bitters add an unexpected finish. I'm not a huge fan of tequila (there's only one other tequila cocktail here on C&G) but waking up to -11ºF is enough to make me reach for the Sauza around cocktail hour.

Mexican Manhattan
1 1/2 oz añejo tequila
3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)
1/2 dry vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Aztec chocolate bitters

Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice
Shake and strain into a martini/coupe class
Cheers & keep warm!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Other Guggenheim (Venice On My Mind)

It was 2°F this morning on the school run. So I haven't left the house since and instead have been dreaming of warm sunshine and an Aperol spritz on a canal-side palazzo. I'm re-running this post from last January, clearly this "summer in Venice" movie has played in my head before . . .     

A Kandinsky in the living room
An unfinished palazzo directly on Venice's bustling Grand Canal hides one of the most magnificent collections of 20th century modern art. Bohemian socialite Peggy Guggenheim opened the doors to her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1951 to share the works of her friends, unknown artists named Pablo. And Jackson. And Salvador.

After her death in 1979 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (yes, that would be Peggy's uncle Solomon) turned the palazzo into a museum and opened it to the public. All of the artworks were left in their original places, which makes for a fascinating museum experience. It's a perfectly manageable size for your kiddos and the rooms are filled with iconic works that represent the best of modern art.

No doubt he's wishing for a return visit
Strolling across the peaceful courtyard is a wonderful way to escape the tourist crowds on your trip to Venice. Be sure to say hi to Peggy and her dogs (buried in the corner) and stop by Yoko Ono's Wish Tree, where you can write down your own wish and attach it to the tree. See how many languages your kiddos can find on the paper "leaves". Sculptures surround the courtyard and gardens and it's fun to have art the kids can interact with and contribute to.

Pull open the heavy iron scrollwork doors to enter into the palazzo where you'll be greeted by a few Picassos and a hanging mobile by Alexander Calder. Can't you just imagine the elegant Peggy greeting you at the door, wearing a flowing caftan and bearing champagne glasses? She was known for her elaborate parties and eclectic guest lists, with artists, actors, composers and dancers all gliding across her terrazzo floors. I would have loved to have had a few cocktails with her.

The collection is displayed mostly in chronological order but let your kiddos lead the way to things that spark their interest. Enthusiastic art students can be found in almost every room and they're very happy to answer any questions or share their knowledge. We had a charming young Italian student approach the boys to ask if he could tell them something about a Chagall and to practice his English. I'm sure the boys didn't understand a word, but I was very proud that they remained attentive and even asked a few questions.

Don't miss the excited boy sculpture
When your crew is done with art head out to the canal side terrace for a stunning view of Venice. You can see why Peggy chose to remain in Venice until the end of her life. Be sure to share the story of sculptor Marino Marini's The Angel of the City with your kiddos. The figure on the horse is very excited (I would be too if the Grand Canal was my permanent view) and a certain body part stands at full attention.

Peggy had the sculptor make the body part detachable, just in case she had some prudish guests over for drinks she could simply remove it. I'm sure one night the martini glasses were overflowing and in the morning Peggy found it had been unscrewed and stolen. So a new one was quickly made and welded on and there it still is today. The little C&Gs thought it was the funniest story and I can't help wondering who has the bronze piece on their mantle.

There's an excellent gift shop with great kids activity and art books and a small but expensive cafe. We headed out for cocktails and gelato in Campo San Barnaba, the square best known for its library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The boys ran off to grab gelato at the highly recommended Grom Gelateria while Mr. C&G and I found the nearest shady table and ordered a few Aperol and Campari cocktails.

Lounging under the Pollock
Honestly I don't think the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was on our list of things to do on our trip to Venice, we were looking for a place to escape the heat and crowds and decided a cool palazzo was it. But it was truly one of our best adventures, the boys even listed it in their top three.

The building and grounds are gorgeous, and the artwork is a nicely curated collection. Plus who doesn't love a few splattered Jackson Pollocks? Check the website for opening hours and the schedule of family friendly art activities. Admission is €14 ($19) for adults, €8 for students ages 11-26, and under 10s are free.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Monday, December 22, 2014

Surviving The City, The Big Escape

With tourists five deep in front of the windows along Fifth Avenue the holidays are a perfect excuse to leave the city behind and venture off the island. I've got four great adventures to share, all just a MetroCard or MetroNorth ride away.

Take the 7 train out to Flushing, Queens for a little science and mini golf amongst the Cold War era missiles at the New York Hall of Science. Located in Flushing Meadow Corona Park (home to the 1964 World's Fair) the Hall of Science is the perfect place for your budding space explorers.

Search for life on Mars with the Mars Rover, climb aboard the Friendship 7 (a replica, of course), or play nine holes in Rocket Park. Sports fans can test their speed, agility, and learn about physics at the Sports Challenge exhibit. Step into the batting cage and throw your best fastball to a waiting Met (they play just a few blocks away) while the speed gun catches your game-winning pitch. Or build the day away in the new Design Lab, a totally hands-on space where the kiddos can make a creative mess all while learning to solve design challenges.    

What kid doesn't dream of adding in their own sound effects to their favorite television shows? Spend an afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens re-dubbing The Simpsons or doing your best Audrey Hepburn "the rain in Spain" dialog. I wrote about our adventure last spring (read it here) and it's just a M/R or Q/N train ride away. Time things right for cocktails at The Astor Room next door in the world famous Kaufman Studios and you just might see Big Bird on a break from The Street.

A ride on MetroNorth to Yonkers (get off at the Glenwood station) will bring you to the Hudson River Museum where you can explore the local ecosystem, reach for the stars in in the planetarium, or go back in time at the restored 19th century Glenview Mansion. The exhibits are small but the scenery is beautiful and it's just a little over 30 minutes from Grand Central. The planetarium has a good selection of shows throughout the day and it's cheap, just $4 for adults and $2 for kids.

For some swanky suburban strolling take the MetroNorth New Haven line to Greenwich and get a little culture in at the small but impressive (and kid friendly) Bruce Museum and lunch with the ladies at the Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidian. Across the street from the Bruce is a great playground, perfect as a bargaining tool if you want to get a little shopping done on Greenwich Avenue.

Exhibits change frequently at the Bruce Museum but they have an extensive collection of rocks and minerals that the little C&Gs love. If the security guard isn't busy ask him to poke around at the hermit crabs in the touch tank. He took a few slimy snails out so we could all get a closer look. Um, none for me thanks, I'd hate to ruin my appetite for the do-it-yourself hot chocolate and pain perdu up the street at Le Pain Quotidian.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Surviving The City, Holiday Edition

For the past three years we've headed to NYC for the winter break, staying at the very budget friendly Hotel Grandparents. They have the best cocktail bar in town and the most charming silver haired bartender. Mr. C&G definitely inherited his skills from his father (along with a full head of thick hair) and Papa C&G makes the best vodka martinis.

We just spent a week in Aruba with the C&G Grandparents and I think we'll give them a break this year. But I've learned a lot by visiting the city at the busiest time of the year and I'm going to share some tips and ideas for fun activities all while keeping your sanity. And finding cocktails.

High on your list of sights might be the Museum of Natural History, but with the Night At The Museum sequel coming out I would save this for another time. We had membership admission a few years ago and were able to skip the line that snaked down the stairs, up Central Park West and over West 81st Street (no exaggeration). Once inside the crowds made it impossible to see anything so we beelined for the Columbus Avenue exit and made it to Sarabeth's (Amsterdam between 80th & 81st) for food and Bloody Marys.

If you're up for braving the Metropolitan Museum of Art read my review from our visit last spring, the museum is so big (and admission price is only a suggestion, a little known fact) that it's easy to pick out a few things and then head out for snacks. The Temple of Dendur is a favorite and with the light streaming in from the wall of windows it never feels overwhelming. Plus there's plenty of spots to rest tired little legs (or yours) after some hieroglyphics deciphering.

Overlooking Madison Square Park (and convenient to Eataly) is the incredibly interactive Museum of Mathematics. Check out the past posts here and here for reasons why you need to spend a day amongst the polygons and tessellations (plus you'll sound extra smart). The boys love MoMath and with so many stations to check out it never really feels claustrophobic. Eataly can get just as crowded as the Natural History Museum so either stop there first and carb up or go after the lunch crowd for pizza and a glass or two of vino. La Pizza & La Pasta (a kid favorite) opens at 11:00 and it's at the opposite end from the 5th Avenue entrance. (fyi Shake Shack in the park is closed for renovations)

If your brood insists on checking out the lights and insanity of Times Square know that some calm and cocktails are only an elevator ride away. Just maybe not on December 31st. The Renaissance Hotel (48th St. at 7th Ave) has a 2nd floor lounge with cozy couches and floor to ceiling windows. Yes the cocktails start at $15, but I promise you ten minutes in Times Square and you'll be ready to pay double that for a quiet place to sit down. Order some pretzels and chips for the kiddos and everybody will be happy.

No trip to the city is complete (according to Big & Little C&G) without a trip to FAO Schwartz. I'm not sure why because the boys rarely buy anything (I guess it's the equivalent of my window shopping along Madison Avenue) but I don't argue because the bar at the Four Seasons is only two blocks away.

The line in front of FAO Schwartz moves fast and soon you'll be surrounded by life-sized stuffed animals. Lego fans should head right for the escalator to the 2nd floor and keep walking to the north eastern most corner. I always give the kiddos a 15 minute limit and a $10 budget before we escape to the bar at the Four Seasons. They'll stay occupied in the cushy banquets (sneak in the 58th St. entrance) with whatever cheap trinket they've bought while you enjoy the free snacks and overpriced (but always delicious and they leave you the shaker) cocktails.

Stay tuned for part two of Surviving The City, with four great adventures just a train ride away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weatherproofing Your Cocktails

Warm your cockles with Cognac and Chambord
Yes, the weather outside is frightful but even a fire inside can't make it delightful. Normally I love a good heavy Scottish style rain, if only it weren't sitting on the several inches of ice covering our driveway.

I came back from Aruba fully intending to take a break after all those frozen cocktails one must drink when one is in the Caribbean. No more drinks for me, at least until the weekend (save the detoxing for January). My plan lasted only 20 minutes, coming home from the airport we found our driveway unplowed and our heat not working. Mr. C&G silently handed me a wee dram of whisky after the boys were tucked into bed (buried under mountains of down blankets) and hasn't mentioned my lack of willpower since.

The forecast calls for a Nor'Easter
We're still having some ongoing heat issues but at the moment all is warm and toasty Chez C&G, if a bit stormy outside. I've got four cocktail recipes to post tonight, all with weather related titles, to ward off any chill as we swing into the holiday season. With a nor'easter howling outside it's only fitting that my cocktail glass is filled with Irish whisky, some Cherry Heering, and a splash of ginger beer, also known as The Nor'Easter.

I'm also researching a possible trip in the near future to France (for C&G or a friend, I won't divulge) so next up in the brandy snifter will be the Chilly Parisian. For something a little more tropical grab the Grand Marnier (flavored with oranges from the Caribbean) and mix it with coconut vodka for a Stormy Coconut. Or if you're more in the mood for a taste of the Highlands add some blended whisky to the Grand Marnier for a Stormy Scot.

Nor'easter: 1 1/2 oz Irish whisky, 1/2 oz cherry Heering, splash of fresh lime juice, ginger beer. Mix the first three in a glass filled with ice, stir and top with ginger beer.

Chilly Parisian: 2 1/2 oz brandy, 1/2 oz Chambord, mix in a glass filled with ice and strain into a brandy glass.

Stormy Coconut: 2 oz coconut vodka, 2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz pineapple juice, 1/4 oz fresh lime juice. Add all to a cocktail glass filled with ice, stir and enjoy.

Stormy Scot: 2 oz blended whisky, 1/2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino), dash of orange bitters. Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.