Ah, the delicate orange blossom. When you think about orange trees, you usually only think about their fruit: bright orange rinds, the juicy citrusy flesh inside, the many foods and flavors associated with oranges. But those fruits, as all fruits do, have to come from flowers first! And the orange blossom is celebrated in its own right. The official state flower of Florida, the orange blossom is widely used in floral bouquets and as an essence in perfumerie. Culinarily speaking, the orange blossoms are steeped, much like tea, to make orange blossom water, useful for just a slight taste of orange, but lighter, and fainter than using the orange fruit. In Middle East cuisines, orange blossom water is used much like rosewater, to flavor desserts and baked goods, and gives it not only that familiar citrusy taste, but also the flowery flavor that many associate with rose-infused waters and teas. It’s that perfect blend of bright, vibrant orange flavor and the sweet, light floral accents of a flower.
For real, authentic orange blossom flavor in the city, you have to try out the Hampton Chutney Co. A tiny Indian restaurant specializing in–what else–curries and chutneys, the deep spices of their entrees can leave a body looking for something to drink, and fast. They offer a tart, refreshing lemonade that’s infused with orange blossom water, and it’s easily one of the favorites on the beverage list, if not the whole menu! Unlike many other restaurants, Hampton Chutney Co. leaves out most of the sugar in their lemonade (and the high fructose corn syrup at that) and lets the natural sweetness of the orange blossoms do their work. It makes for a truly refreshing drink–and trust me, when your mouth is on fire from a particularly spicy dosa platter and you want to drink a gallon of anything within your reach, the less sugar, the better! Swing by SoHo for a glass (you can get it to go!) today, and then come back in the fall for their seasonal menu selections, like roasted butternut squash dosa and pumpkin chutney. The best mix of Eastern culinary traditions with Western ingredients I’ve seen yet 🙂
Hampton Chutney Co.
68 Prince St (between Lafayette St & Crosby St)
“Drinks are notably delicious, too, especially the lemonade with orange blossom, the fresh chai, and the eye-opening cardamom-laced coffee.”–New York Magazine
“The orange blossom lemonade ($3.50) could not have been a more perfect between-bite refresher. The frsh lemonade has just enough orange blossom to give it a delightfully exotic twist, without going so far as to start tasting like grandma’s linen closet. Each sip of this lemonade was total perfection.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“All different combos, one is sure to fit the present craving (though they are quite pricey). The dosas are super long and crispy. Curry chutney rocks. What rocks even harder is their orange blosson lemonade. At first sip it’s just a regular ol’ lemonade then when you swallow there’s a KICK and say hello to orange blossom. Very nice.”–Yui K.
“I always tell myself that when I am in Soho I will try a new restaurant. however, without a doubt I always end up at the Hampton Chutney Co. Their food is just so yummy that I just can’t resist. Also their orange blossom lemonade is something I crave on a near-daily basis.”–Lauren F.
Looking for that fragrant orange blossom flavor in your drink, but desire something a little stronger than lemonade? The Gramercy Tavern’s got you covered. They offer a cocktail that’s even named the Orange Blossom, and includes sparkling wine, elderflower liqueur, and orange bitters. The hints of apple in the sparkling wine mix perfectly with the citrusy accent of the orange bitters and the floral taste of elderflowers in the liqueur. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, as the flavors of the flowers inherent in the drink make up for actual sugars and sweetness in the drink. It’s a perfect cocktail for the beginning of the night, almost a floral palette cleanser for the great meal that almost always awaits you at the Tavern. Think a mimosa without all the calories of orange juice, and…more alcohol content. Always a good compromise!
42 E 20th St (between Broadway & S Park Ave)
“A sparkling aperitif cocktail is a smart pairing with Chef Michael Anthony’s bright, balanced cooking. Orange pairs well with carrots; the herbal bite of the celery will be lifted by the elderflower liqueur, and the bright apple notes in the wine should marry nicely with the pickled apples in the terrine.”–Edible Manhattan
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Ordered an orange blossom, which was a light mixed drink that was sweet and totally delightful and beautiful to look at.”–Elizabeth L.
“The second time we came here for lunch. I started out with the orange blossom cocktail, champagne poured over a sugar cube with a big slice of orange rind (delicious, I had 2!) We shared the mussels (again) and the sweetbreads which were to die for! The husband had the meatball for a second time and I had the kielbasa with speatzle, both were excellent.”–Gabrielle J.
Another interesting way to experience orange blossoms in food is through honey. Yes, you heard me, honey! When honeybees exclusively take their pollen from orange blossoms, the resulting honey retains the citrusy taste, making for a unique honey flavor. Orange blossom honey is well sought-after and expensive, especially in this day and age where honey in itself can be up to $8 per pound. But there’s one place in the city that not only serves orange blossom honey, they spoon it out right on top of a stack of perfectly cooked French toast. Cornerstone Cafe sits on an unassuming street in Alphabet City, but one of its great draws are their brunch and breakfast items, like Texas-style French toast, served with fresh fruit, homemade whipped cream, and a syrup made from orange blossom honey. It’s a different turn from having maple syrup on top of a breakfast platter, and way better than the sugar syrup full of chemicals that many try to pass off as “maple syrup.” The orange taste in the honey helps complement the fresh fruit on the toast, and leaves each patron getting brunch with a pleasant and unexpected meal. Treat yourself to a new breakfast experience with a big dollop of orange blossom honey on your French toast today!
17 Ave B
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I had the Texas French toast. I’m not sure what about it makes it Texan, but the toast was delicious without being too thick (as some toast is wont to be), and the fruit (a good helping of strawberries, blueberries, and bananas) and whipped cream added depth to the flavor as well. You can’t go without mentioning the orange blossom syrup, though, which rocks my socks – definitely one of the best syrups I’ve had in a restaurant.”–Asuka N.
“Breakfast options hover in the $10 range and mix traditional with inventive spins. All the ingredients are organic and farm-fresh, and you can taste it. Benedict, crepes, baked eggs, Belgian Waffles… For my inaugural visit we both had to order the Texas French Toast topped with fresh fruit, cinnamon, their homemade whipped cream, orange blossom honey. This crispy, delectable treat made us both swoon.”–Jane K.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!