I realize I’m a bit late to the trough but nevertheless let me heap high praise upon the meticulously crafted cocktails being concocted down at Death & Co., where quality is enjoying a triumphant – if expensive – ascendency over quantity. It’s the next best thing to firing up a Dunhill. (Though be warned: you know you’re chasing theÂ zeitgeistÂ when you find yourself on a SaturdayÂ lined up at 5:45PMÂ outside a blacked out storefront in the East Village, sandwiched between a quartet ofÂ hipstersÂ gents sprouting artfully sculpted facial hair and bedazzled couples from Long Island traveling in packsÂ of six – for safety’s sake, natch.)
According to sources, the first Irish coffee was invented and named by Joe Sheridan, head chef at the restaurant and coffee shop in the Foynes terminal building. (A precursor to Shannon Airport, Foynes was the last port of call for seaplanes on the eastern shore of the Atlantic. During Word War II it would become one of the biggest civilian airports in Europe) The coffee was conceived after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat one miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm them. After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was Irish coffee and the name stuck. In 1951, Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, tasted what had by then become the traditional airport welcome drink and was smitten. Returning home he told his friend Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista CafÃ© and the two set about trying to recreate the drink. Stymied by the Irish flair for floating the cream on top, the duo went so far as to seek help from the city’s then mayor, George Christopher, who also happened to own a dairy. He suggested that cream aged for at least 48 hours would be more apt to float, and so it did. In later years, after the Buena Vista had served, by its count, more than 30 million of the drinks, Delaplane and the owners claimed to grow tired of the drink. (And who can blame them, the currency had been cheapened: bastardized versions of a drink that wereÂ less hot toddy and more like hot candy had popped up everywhere.) A snark after my own heart commented that the problem with Irish coffee is that it ruins three good drinksÂ â€“Â coffee, cream, and whiskey â€“ but youâ€™d never surmise that from the crowds that still take the Hyde Street cable car toÂ MaritimeÂ Park inÂ searchÂ of the original elixir. In fact, if you’ve never tasted a proper Irish coffee, you have no idea what you are missing – two go down nicely on an afternoon, while three guarantee a lovely start to the evening.Â Here’s how it’s done: Fill a glass goblet with hot water, then empty. Pour in hot coffee until about three-quarters full. Â Drop in two sugar cubes. Stir. Add a full jigger of whiskey and top with a collar of lightly whipped cream. Do not stir. Drink piping hot in two or three sips. Okay, four at most.
Why would anyone opt for a plain old room when the Ritz-Carlton offers an amazing Club Level option? You get a dedicated concierge, plus a private 24-hour lounge stocked with an ample bar, multiple food offerings throughout the day, and oodles of homemade treats. And all gratis, of course. To wit, todays east-meets-west breakfast of champions: an egg white omelette, shrimp dumpling, steamed pork bun, vermicelli, toast, watermelon juice, and a chocolate donut.
By the time I left Cabo da Roca the light was fading fast, so it was no surprise when the bus dropped me off in Cascais in total darkness.Â My guidebook, alas, neglected to highlight this little seaside town, so I was in the swim without a map, so to speak.Â I had heard that Cascais was practically a suburb of Lisbon; a charming Hampton-esque escape for the moneyed classes.Â But in the dark – without a map or a clue – the charms of town were difficult to pin down.Â After a few minutes walk, I stumbled across the train station and yippie: a large map was posted on a billboard outside.Â Thanks to the trusty iPhone I was able to snap a picture and use it to navigate my way towards the seafront and the pedestrianized part of town.Â There I had the fresh fish dinner I’d been craving:Â a whole snapper baked in salt, along with two bottles of amazingly cheap – and delicious – wine.Â Belly sated, my curiosity for Cascais, however, wasn’t exactly satisfied. One day I’ll have to return and see it with the lights on.
We interrupt our sightseeing for a quick beverage break – yet again. Ginja is a Morello cherry liqueur popular across Portugal as an aperitif or midday pick-me-up.Â Here in Sintra I found it served in a chocolate cup, although typically it comes in a shot glass with an alcohol-soaked piece of fruit at the bottom. Tastier than Robitussin, you’re still not going to find it taking up precious space on my liquor shelf.Â As a taste of Portugal, however, I’ll raise a toast to anything served in dark chocolate.
What better introduction to a country than a fashionable and defiantly cool lunch?Â Relaxed and oh so chill atop the clubhouse at Penha Longa, Arola is chef Sergi Arola’s modern twist on Portuguese cuisine.Â A disciple of Ferran Adria, Arola spent eight years in the kitchens of El Bulli and it shows. His respect for tradition and heritage, while contrasting unexpected flavors and textures, is an obvious homage to his mentor. It begins with a bowl on the table that I at first mistook for the centerpiece: garlic cloves, cherry tomatoes, and small toast squares.Â I soon learned the trio is a classic Catalan tapa served DIY before the meal in every village in Spain: tomato toast. Halve a clove of garlic, making sure to leave the skin on so as to not get the smell all over your fingers.Â Rub the cut side across a piece of the toast.Â Halve a tomato and do the same.Â Drizzle with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and voila: ridiculously simple perfection that also happens be a convivial, participatory start to the meal.
The fun doesn’t end there either. Rather it’s delivered via the kitchen on plate – no work required: thinly sliced pata negra with spunkyÂ SaÃµ Jorge cheese, Royal and King crab salad, foie gras-topped oxtail ravioli, ethereal Bravas potatoes dolloped with crÃªme fraiche, John Dory on a puree of boletus mushroom with ox tail. I’m tempted to order the rest of the menu, but I’ve already devoured every tasting plate put in front of me – helped along in no small part by an unassumingly fresh bottle of red from Portugal’s Douro Valley. Partridge cannelloni, Iberian ham croquettes, and MassuÃ§a goat cheese will have to wait another day.Â I can’t even imagine dessert until something called Arola’s Sweet Moment arrives.Â It’s a petite timbale of custard with various textures of lemon that refreshes the palate and brings me back from the brink of a food coma.Â I fleetingly think I might be able to go another round but wisely opt instead for a cortado and a glass of muscadet, the lighter, honeyed cousin of port.Â Fresh off the plane, I am sated.Â And I know I am going to love it here.
You might think you’ve swigged your share of blue CuraÃ§ao – Dirty Bong Water, Oral Sex on the Beach, Alien Urine Sample, anyone? – but unless you’re drinking the genuine Senior CuraÃ§ao of CuraÃ§ao, there’s an impostor in your glass.Â Shortly after the Spanish arrived on the island in 1499 they attempted to plant their native Valencia oranges.Â But the fruit didn’t take too well.Â The island’s arid climate and dry soil changed the juicy orange into a bitter, inedible fruit. Abandoned and forgotten, the trees grew wild until a few hundred years later when the great-grandchild of the original fruit received it’s own botanical name:Â Citrus Aurantium Currassuviensis or golden orange of CuraÃ§ao, though in the local tongue it was simply Laraha. Somewhere along the way, it was discovered that the peels of this orange, when left to dry in the sun, leeched an oil with an extremely pleasing fragrance similar to the Valencia orange. After experimenting with the oils, the Senior family added various exotic spices until they were sure to have invented a unique liquor, which they dubbed … hold for it … CuraÃ§ao.
That original recipe is still produced on the island in small batches. You can witness the whole process at Chobolobo Mansion in Salinja, just outside Willemstad. What’s amazing is how small-scale the operation remains.Â You half expect to find Senorita Senior in the kitchen stirring a big pot of laraha peels.Â In fact, after 113 years of distilling, Senior CuraÃ§ao of CuraÃ§ao is still made in the original 1896 copper stills.
The view of the Pitons form Ladera just does not get old – or boring.Â The play of light and shadow across the foliage-covered volcanic rock creates a constantly shiftng landscape.Â One of my favorite moments happens during the impending gloaming – those fleeting few moments as the sun starts to slip behind the peak.Â Some people call it a corona effect, others refer to it as flare.Â Seen through the boozy prism of cool vodka tonic, I call it the perfect end to the afternoon.