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


So proud and happy for you ....
Matthew on July 30, 2015 at 8:48 am —
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 —
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 —
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 —
wonderful! So exciting. I wish it was all closer to me :)
Tamika on July 30, 2015 at 7:54 pm —
Congratulations Laura! What a perfect, natural fit this is. Excited to visit one day~
Prairie on July 30, 2015 at 10:38 pm —
And what a wonderful event it was!! Wild sumac?! Want! Need! Tell us more!!!!
Natascha on July 31, 2015 at 1:26 am —
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 —
Wonderful, Wonderful. ............
Michael Barzda on July 31, 2015 at 11:02 pm —
Congrats Laura!
maria on August 1, 2015 at 1:12 am —
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 —
Though the product you like best is not strictly local! ;-)
laura on August 1, 2015 at 7:27 am —
Congrats on this exciting endeavour!
bonnie on August 1, 2015 at 7:43 am —