Fuck FroYo, man! Especially when June 4 is also National Cognac Day. (I have never seen such clashing foods have the same national food holiday before. Definitely not two things you can mix together.) Cognac is a type of brandy, but has a ton of rules for fermenting and developing than its parent liqueur: it must be made from the specific grapes of the Cognac region of France (much like true “champagne” must be from the Champagne region or else it must be called “sparkling wine”). Then, it must be distilled in copper pots–twice–and then aged in French oak barrels for at least two years. The quality ratings for cognac are based on how long they are aged, so most cognacs on the market far surpass the two-year mark. Some can even be aged for forty to fifty years! That’s insane! All for a little sip of Hennessy!
It takes a lot of knowledge to become a cognac connoisseur–as well as a very high alcohol tolerance–but you can pretend to be one and schmooze with those in the know at the aptly titled Brasserie Cognac. Living up to their name, they have an impressive list of cognacs at their bar, and the bartenders are friendly and happy to help you select the one that best fits you. The cognac-based cocktails are far more refined than the Incredible Hulk (Hennessy and Hypnotiq, an intriguing holdover from my college years), and include such indulgences as the “Do Re-My” (Remy Martin with apple juice and champagne) and the “Rouge A Levres” (Hennessy, cherry puree, and–get this–blackberry jam!). They are primarily a full-scale French restaurant, but if you’re only in it for the cognac (and trying to keep your appetite for frozen yogurt later), they offer a selection of yummy bar bites, from staples like French fries and charcuterie to cod fritters, foie gras tartine, and a sashimi plate. Perfect to tide you over while you sip and taste your way through this very refined liquor.
Brasserie Cognac de Monsieur Ballon
1740 Broadway (between 55th St & 56th St)
“Seduction is the name of the game on the cocktail menu at Brasserie Cognac. The “Rouge a Levre” (Lipstick) marries Hennessy Cognac, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, blackberry jam, cherry puree, and champagne.”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I stopped by the bar to taste some cognac. The bartender (Ben) recognized that I didn’t know cognac all that well and was very patient and helpful. He is highly knowledgeable about cognacs and help select some very tasty cognac served in a French tulip glass. Was very low key and relaxing ambiance.”–Dave C.
“The bartender was friendly, the food was great, and the drink was the proper size. (Which should go without saying, but see below.) He brought me fresh-baked bread and butter while I waited, which was delicious. Then after dinner, he helped me pick out a nice cognac to try and taught me a bit about it. Overall, a great dinner. So great in fact, that I soon returned eager for more.”–Katie S.
If you can’t hold your hard liquor like some people (ahem, ME), there are quite a number of restaurants in New York that make dishes featuring cognac as a prominent ingredient. Just head to a cafe. And by that, I mean A Cafe New York, a French-Caribbean restaurant all the way up by Columbia University, catering both to the native tastes of the Caribbean neighborhood and the eccentric college set. They offer a beautiful fusion of Caribbean ingredients like gulf shrimp, coconut curry, and jerk duck leg, with fantastic French culinary techniques and execution. One of their appetizers is an elegant pheasant paté, prepared in a sauce of truffle oil and cognac, and served with a brie crust. Everything about this dish sounds rich and amazing, the flavors of the paté and truffle oil definitely holding up to the deep punch of cognac. I’d say this appetizer is anything but light; but after one of these, you’ll definitely have enough in your belly to stomach a few cognac cocktails for the night.
A Cafe New York
973 Columbus Ave (between 108th St & 107th St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Baked Scottish Pheasant pate ($12) – introduced by our waiter as the most popular appetizer on the menu, we were quick to order it, and given the preparation with truffle oil, cognac and a creamy brie crust, we had absolutely no regrets. It was amazingly rich and delicious and perfect on the accompanying French bread.”–Ida C.
“My dining companion had the pate as his appetizer (fennel, truffle oil, cognac, brie crust) and the Lamb Merguez sausages for his entree ( harissa, figs, dates, coconut crème fraîche). The pate is the sh*t ( plain and simple that’s the only way to describe it!….a nice herby, earthy flavor topped off with bubbling brie).”–Ash H.
But come now, it wouldn’t be a liquor-related blog post without mention of a delicious, boozy dessert, now would it? 😛 I didn’t know if cognac was used to make any desserts, except as the brandy flambé in a possible Bananas Foster or something, but then La Lanterna di Vittorio made my perception of the liquor do a 180. Along with their homey Italian supper menu (I love that they actually call it a “supper menu”), they offer a large selection of French, German, Italian, and American pastries to make your mouth water (and make you consider ordering dessert first). One of their specialties is a pumpkin cognac cheesecake, which just sounds so ridiculously awesome it’s amazing I’m not running down to the Village right now. I got hooked onto pumpkin cheesecake in college, when my faculty master made it regularly during the autumn months, and now I have to order a slice whenever I see it on a dessert menu. Pair that with the rich flavor of the cognac and it’ll give the mild pumpkin and creamy cheesecake an added depth that just sounds irresistible. Pair it with a glass of their iced wine–or even a shot of the good stuff–and you’ll be in dessert heaven.
La Lanterna di Vittorio
129 MacDougal St
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My stuffed friends and I decided to split two desserts: the tiramisu and the pumpkin cognac cheesecake. One word: YUM!!! Maybe it was due to the two bottles of wine we shared over the course of our meal (or the fact that the desserts were delicious) but after we ate dessert, we were left with mouthgasms.”–Christina P.
“The atmosphere is fabulous – inside by the fireplace, or outside in the garden under the beautiful lanterns. A glass of wine while enjoying pumpkin cognac cheesecake? Life changing. I’ve raved about that crazy pumpkin cognac cheesecake for the last 5 years since I’ve been there, and wouldn’t you know… 5 years later it’s still the absolute best cheesecake I’ve ever had.”–Jodie B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!