1) Pickle Back cocktail at Peekskill Brewery Oh, I have a shaming weakness for salty cocktails: Salty Dogs, Margaritas, Dirty Martinis, even Bloody Marys. I think it’s some hormonal girl thing, but, to me, there’s something irresistible about a drink that pairs salt and acid. My new favorite salty drink is a tripartite affair, the Pickle Back at Peekskill Brewery. When you order one, you receive a bonanza of three glasses—one half-pint of PB’s refreshing C.R.E.A.M. Ale, one shot of Powers Irish Whiskey, and one shot of Chef Sean Corcoran’s pink and spicy pickle brine. Sip the whiskey, chase with puckery pickle juice, then recover with the mild, refreshing beer. Repeat.
2) Burrata at Fortina For me, there’s something nostalgic in wide, soft bastone bread loaves coated with blonde sesame seeds. You know these loaves: They’re the homey, paper-bagged bread that you almost always find in Italian-American delis and almost never in fancy restaurants. At Fortina, Chef Christian Petroni celebrates the humble bastone by taking a fat slice and toasting it, then topping it with sweet raw English peas, nutty brown butter, and vin cotto. Mmm.
3) Black Dirt Apple Jack, Batch 1 I snagged the debut bottling of this barrel-aged Hudson Valley apple brandy at my local farmers’ market and, at $45, it cleaned out all of my cash. But it was worth it. Imagine all the caramel and vanilla notes of bourbon but with a distinct apple cider nose.
4) Tortoni at Fortina Like Petroni¹s wide, squashy bastones, this dish is a throwback to my childhood. My Italian-American mother would make a slightly bastardized version of this dessert with whipped cream and ground amaretti cookies that she spooned into cupcake papers and froze, topped with a Maraschino cherry. In our house, tortonis were strictly for special events and it took all sorts of willpower not to steal those cherries from the freezer. I couldn¹t help but smile when I saw Petroni’s tortoni which was less gritty and more elegant than my ancestral version. Plus, its almond notes were purer. Still, it was a tortoni and that meant a party!
5) Longan drink at Saigonese One of the challenges of dining with kids is finding something suitable to drink that, for them, feels something like a special event. My 5-year-old daughter loves the longan drink at Saigonese. It’s basically a clear, watery refresher studded with whole, peeled longans—which are a plummy, sweet relative of lychee fruit.