7.30.15 Raising the Bar

Shop 790 xxx
photos by george billard

Last month I had a book-signing in Narrowsburg, NY. This charming village on the Delaware River is about 20 minutes north of where I live, one of the only real destination towns in my area. It's got many wonderful attractions, including a delicious restaurant, a great liquor store, a world-class women's clothing boutique and a popular home store. And then there is Maison Bergogne. Owned by Juliette Hermant, this unique antiques warehouse is a world unto itself. Juliette is French, with a rare eye for beauty and patina, and a personal charisma that knows no bounds. An accomplished painter, photographer, stylist and interior designer, all of her talents come together to make Maison Bergogne a wholly original emporium. And because I am lucky enough to call her my dear friend and collaborator, my book-signing was held in this magical place.

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first mate

Juliette's partner Anie, a filmmaker, designer and builder, has an equally refined aesthetic that informs her business, Woolheater Wares. She transformed the vintage kissing booth out front into a nautically-themed oyster bar and shucked mollusks for the event.

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soul on ice

Juliette is the consummate hostess, and our oysters were sparkling fresh. On the side we served a sprightly mignonette, freshly grated horseradish from our garden, and wedges of lemon. What else do you need?

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inner sanctum

The bar was set up amidst the many treasures in the smaller room off the cavernous main space of this 1920s industrial building.

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fast friends

The dress code was called by Juliette: French nautical. I did my best to comply. My hat is actually Japanese, purchased from Barneys years ago. The jacket is a great favorite, from Makié in New York City. The neckerchief is a vintage Yves Saint Laurent bandana I inherited from my mother. Underneath, I'm wearing a striped t-shirt and a long linen apron from Libeco, like this one but without the bib.

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vessels of perfection

Juliette is not a plastic cup kind of woman. (Neither am I, for the most part.) She is not afraid to entertain 50+ people using her gorgeous vintage glassware. (For the record, those silver goblets are mine, from India.)

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cocktail hour

Our local distillery, Catskill Distilling Company, was generous enough to donate the spirits for this occasion and I created a couple of refreshing seasonal cocktails with their wonderfully aromatic Curious Gin and their sweetly complex Otay Buckwheat spirit. The latter cannot officially be called a whisky, since buckwheat is not technically a grain (it's a pseudo-cereal), but it's in that family.

 

My goal was to make something hyper-local, so I was stumped with what to subsitute for the lemon or lime I would usually use to add a touch of sour to my drinks. Then it hit me: rhubarb. It's plentiful in my garden, has a wonderfully vegetal acidity, and happens to be in the same family as buckwheat! And so The Little Rascal was born: buckwheat whisky, rhubarb juice and a syrup infused with toasted buckwheat groats. Our guests sucked this down like there was no tomorrow.

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sealed with a twist

I did cave and garnish the cocktail with a lemon twist, though a bit of wild sumac would have been a more local choice. Wondering how I got them so perfect? I use this.

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message in a bottle

As an option, I made carbonated gin-&-tonics that I bottled using this technique. (Yes, I'm a cocktail geek.) They were flavored with Tomr's Tonic and a wild lime leaf.

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virgin territory

For tee-totallers, there was an assortment of homemade syrups—sour cherry, sweetfern (an aromatic plant that grows in these parts) and shiso—to combine with soda water.

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crowd pleaser

I tended bar, one of my favorite pastimes. It's a great way to connect with everyone at the party, to make guests feel welcome and to share with them a little of myself.

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spice of life

We sold out of all the copies of my cookbook (autographed, of course) and many people also bought a jar of The Shizzle, my spicy, garlicky seasoned salt, custom-blended for me by the amazing Lior Lev Sercarz.

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hey, bartender

It was a fantastic evening, a successful event and a harbinger of good things to come. Next May, Juliette and I, and our third partner, Eva Barnett, are planning to throw open the doors of Fish & Bicycle, a bar, café and small grocery store housed in Maison Bergogne. I'll be in charge of the bar. Things are still in the works, but this is the first time I have actually announced our intention so publicly. Please hold a good thought for us as we cobble together financing to accomplish our vision.

 

It's only Thursday, but I'll wish you a wonderful weekend, my friends! Soak up summer!

 

The Little Rascal

makes 1 cocktail
  • — 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • — 3 tablespoons toasted buckwheat groats
  • — 2 ounces Otay Buckwheat "Whisky"
  • — 1 ounce rhubarb juice
  • — 1 ounce toasted buckwheat syrup
  • Twist of lemon

To make the buckwheat syrup, combine sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in groats. Cover and cool to room temperature. Strain and transfer syrup to a glass jar. Keeps refrigerated for a week.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the Otay Buckwheat, rhubarb juice and buckwheat syrup with a generous handful of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with the twist.

Download recipe  Download Recipe
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13 Comments

So proud and happy for you ....
Matthew on July 30, 2015 at 8:48 am — Reply
Fabulous, Laura. Photos are gorgeous and your latest endeavor sounds like something that will definitely get me to cross over to your side of the river to check out. Congrats!
Ronnie Citron-Fink on July 30, 2015 at 8:57 am — Reply
Love it! Looks fabulous. Can't wait to try this. And we'll have to stop down to Narrowsburg sometime.
Rob on July 30, 2015 at 9:34 am — Reply
FANTASTIC! FABULOUS! FUN! I am so happy for you and so excited for what is yet to come. What a wonderful treat to read this morning. I also have to add that I love that neckerchief. xxx
Tanya on July 30, 2015 at 11:20 am — Reply
wonderful! So exciting. I wish it was all closer to me :)
Tamika on July 30, 2015 at 7:54 pm — Reply
Congratulations Laura! What a perfect, natural fit this is. Excited to visit one day~
Prairie on July 30, 2015 at 10:38 pm — Reply
And what a wonderful event it was!! Wild sumac?! Want! Need! Tell us more!!!!
Natascha on July 31, 2015 at 1:26 am — Reply
Love the new venture Laura, I want to make the pilgrimage over for a visit. Cocktails sound mouth watering, Maison Bergogne magical, whole presentation marvelous.
Anne Johnson on July 31, 2015 at 8:05 am — Reply
Wonderful, Wonderful. ............
Michael Barzda on July 31, 2015 at 11:02 pm — Reply
Congrats Laura!
maria on August 1, 2015 at 1:12 am — Reply
What a wonderful event! Eager to hear how Fish and Bicycle progresses. I'm a sucker for French nautical, Yves scarves, fancy hats and all! And all the local products. Narrowsburg is lucky to have you!
chris beck on August 1, 2015 at 5:41 am — Reply
Though the product you like best is not strictly local! ;-)
laura on August 1, 2015 at 7:27 am — Reply
Congrats on this exciting endeavour!
bonnie on August 1, 2015 at 7:43 am — Reply