Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NYC bites + Cucumber Martini

New York, New York!  You either love it or hate it -- but it never leaves you indifferent.  Being a city person to the bone, I had my hopes up high when I visited NYC for the first time.  But as it turned out -- I hated it at first.  The slow crowds of of tourists blocking your way and view, the stench of the food carts, rats, dirty streets and derelict buildings.  Just like McKayla -- I was not impressed.

Still, I kept coming back, drawn like a moth to... the Big Juicy Apple.  

There is a thin line between love and hate.  And soon my disliking started melting and transforming into a liking.  I used to live close to New York, and dropped by on a regular basis.  For a concert, Broadway show, party, dinner etc. or just some simple sight-seeing.  And I had a great time on every visit -- and great food.

It's no revelation that New York has some of the best restaurants, cocktail bars, bakeries, food markets and stores in the world.  Everybody can find something they like, or still want to discover.  

On the last visit we dropped by Magnolia Bakery for a taste of their divine baked goods.  We went for two kinds of cheesecake and a double-chocolate cupcake.  It was a beautiful, sunny day so we went to Central Park and sat down in the sun on one of the bridges.  A perfect lazy New York afternoon!

Speaking about desserts -- on one of my previous visits when I was doing some sight-seeing with friends, we stumbled upon a nice bakery somewhere near Washington Square Park.  I ordered a latte and a caramel pecan cake.  Both were delicious, and just what I needed after walking off half of Manhattan.

Before you think I only eat desserts when in New York: here come some main courses.  On our last visit, we went to a great steakhouse on Park Avenue South (Hillstone).  My boyfriend ordered a rib eye steak with a soy-ginger marinade, that since has become more or less legendary.  Every single person that saw our holiday pictures -- no, wait -- every single person that blissfully unaware asked us about our holidays -- was shown pictures of THE STEAK.  

And what a steak it was!  Perfectly moist, flavorful, and baked just right.  I'm not a big meat-eater myself, but had a few bites from my boyfriend's plate secretly wishing I'd have ordered the steak instead of my crab cakes (shhh, don't tell him though).  Don't get me wrong -- my jumbo lump crab cakes were very good too. But what is "very good" compared to "amazing"?

Finally -- the drinks.  New York cocktail bars have some of the best drinks in the world, and the bartenders are not stingy with the alcohol.  The cocktails are so good, that you have to be really careful if you want to keep track of how many you've had.
On one dinner/party in the Meatpacking District, I decided to try something else instead of the usual NYC drinks, such as Long Island Iced Tea or Cosmopolitan.  I asked the bartender to prepare his specialty drink for me, which turned out to be the Cucumber Martini.
Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me -- but the drink looked very simple and I didn't expect much of it.  Cucumber in a martini seemed a bit weird, if anything.  I had a small sip, and immediately discovered this was the best cocktail I had ever had!

If you're thinking: No thanks, no drink that tastes like cucumber gazpacho for me -- you could not be more wrong.  The only connection with the cucumber was the incredible freshness of the drink.  The martini was very well-balanced, sophisticated and simply amazing.  I ended up having quite a few more of those that evening.

Last weekend, I tried to recreate the legendary drink.  I made "great sacrifices" tasting all these alcohol mixes just so that you guys could try it too.  After quite extensive sampling, I found a very good combination of flavors.  Not exactly the same tas the one in NYC though -- that would simply be impossible.  But close enough to make a great drink.  Definitely worth a try!

Cucumber juice (not radioactive, despite appearances)

The amount of servings will depend on the size of your "unit".  The recipe only sets out the proportions.
  • 3 units of fresh cucumber juice (see below)
  • 5 units of cold vodka (you can also use gin if you prefer the taste)
  • 1 unit of cane sugar syrup
  • lime juice to taste (precize amount depends on the size of your unit + your own taste)
  • ice
  • For the cucumber juice: peel and finely grate the cucumber(s).  The finer you grate the better.  Squeeze out the juice (I used a very fine sieve and a sterilized cloth).  Cool down in the fridge.
  • Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker (the ice will cool the mixture down).  Pour in a martini glass (without the ice), decorate with a slice of cucumber.


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