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Art of the Garnish Cocktail Party & Booksigning Brings Together Influencers at Michelin-Starred Kosaka Restaurant to Celebrate Food and Drink Finishing Touches

Cheers! To Art of the Garnish book launch cocktail party (photo courtesy: CJ McCoy)

Oh what a night! It was a rainy, bleak Monday in Manhattan on the day of of my Art of the Garnish cocktail party — and it was crazy getting around town to secure the fresh ingredients needed for the event.  The week prior I got the liquor from my trusty Union Square Liquors  – thank you Katherine and team for all the deliveries on the night of – plus all the great inspiration as I muddled creative cocktail combinations as I perused your extensive, curated offerings.
So too, Lior’s fabulous LaBoite spices and other non-perishable ingredients. I made sure I secured his special spices I use as garnish.
(More on the kooky, sitcom-like events leading up to the elegant event, as this story progresses…)

First, I can’t thank Kosaka restaurant – especially culinary chef and entrepreneur, Mihyun – along with her husband, Key, who not only showcase Gotham’s only Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant — three times ~ drum roll, if you will – and a big salute to executive chef Yoshihiko Kousaka ~ but the owners are also so savvy as to provide an extraordinary cultural arts program.

The Kosaka Arts program is very much separate from their cuisine but sincerely part of their brand. The Arts program embraces a vast portfolio of offerings, including, garden art, baking bread, floral art, and much, much, more… This is such an extraordinary resource and artful touchstone, that when the Arts’ curator and manger – and a horticultural icon and artist “she-ro” of mine – EunYoung Sebazco asked me if I would do an Art of the Garnish food and drink presentation, I was humbled and honored and, of course, said yes straight away.

For those of you who don’t know, Kosaka is a very elegant restaurant and the Arts program is very VIP ~ limited seating. So, in the end, to have one more guest than the maximum was a huge success (and a big sigh of relief for me!).

Early February was also the clarion call for me getting the menu together for my selection of cocktails and food pairings for this special Garnish book signing event.

With a 90-minute presentation, I figured that we could provide four drinks and five food pairings. I would do two of my creations.
I asked two of the Garnish book’s star mixologists – (friends and family alike) to join me to present their contributions to Garnish.

All too soon, it was February. It was time to prepare for the Garnish cocktail party. Invitations were sent. The Eventbrite posting was up:

I was very honored that both Tom Sebazco and Jessica Wohlers said yes. Both are fine artists, as well as cocktail artists. Tom’s portfolio of drink designs can be experienced at Fitzgerald’s Pub and Jessie is the artisanal drink guru and manager at Leyenda in Brooklyn.

Here was the food and drink menu:

We also offered a Spicy Chile Lime Chicken and Meatballs dish with lime zest, skewered, on a bed of bibb lettuce with a garlicky, avocado yogurt dressing to pair with Tom’s delicious jerk chicken. I love to marry spicy, Caribbean-inspired recipes to stand up – and play well – with the muscular, fruit-laden drinks – which Tom’s Superstorm Sandy is the poster boy!

Because I adore all things that contribute to a sophisticated Cocktail Culture – just think — we have our own style ~ cocktail dresses & cocktail rings; cocktail tables, cocktail lounges, bar carts, our own napkins, and even times of the day: Happy Hour and “the morning after!” Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that I had customized Art of the Garnish cocktail napkins made.

I found a delightful, dedicated creator on Etsy. Jenny McMinn from Personalized Cups who made the production process easy~sneezy. She’s a doll to work with.  I sent her an image and poof – just like that – she forwarded the mock-ups and I was good-to-go.

However, the napkins almost didn’t make it. On the day of the Garnish event there was nary a napkin. After much back and forth with our doorman (we live in a gorgeous Gotham building that is rather small by New York standards – everyone knows everybody else and some have lived there for generations.  There was no place for my napkins to hide; in spite of Jenny’s admonishment urging us to “look in the back.” Alas, there is no “back” I pleaded to Jenny….
In the end, Jenny is a dedicated professional – dare I say a plucky lass just like a true New York lady – who never gave up. She kept trying to locate the package all day, just as we did. It was near 3 pm – going on 4 o’clock when I fretted again that if I had the time, I’d go to the Post to see if the napkins were there – (despite all the recommendations that they were delivered to our building.)
See, I had to trek over to the manicurist to repair a chipped nail!! Couldn’t have that mar my cocktail ring finger! Sigh…
Ended up, the cocktail napkins never made it out of the Post Office! Bill took one last stab at the cocktail napkin caper rescue. He’s my hero! Thank you, Jenny. (They were “in the back” there. Ha!) The napkins are so adorable and so are you.

The other unanticipated drama that afternoon – (I told you it was a sitcom) –  my little black cocktail dress was to have been delivered at three. At four-thirty I was beside myself when it wasn’t. Close to five it showed up. The event was half past six!

Got the Uber. And in spite of the hour and the rain ~ we arrived at the restaurant tout suite with some time to work.  Jess was an oasis of serenity mixing up her Sweater Weather cocktail and garnish.

At Kosaka’s dining sushi bar, EunYoung and I placed the printed menus on the exquisite tableware that is hand-crafted by the ceramic artist, Akihito Nikaido. These plates and dishes are breathtaking works of art that grace the tables and add sophistication to the dining experience.
My food pairings and presentation bow to his artisanal creations.

The guests were a delightful blend of long-time, friends – some from my botanical garden days, some from the horticultural/garden design world, some foodies, some extended family, and some brand new friends. This is what I would call a perfectly delightful mix of personalities and styles.
Thank you, all for attending the Art of the Garnish Cocktail Party and lending your swanky style to such a posh affair.

And thank you for the Garnish book love!

After EunYoung welcomed our guests and introduced the presenters, I kicked things off. We all toasted to us and the book with a glass of Chandon’s sparkling wine.  Chandon is a brand contributor to the Art of the Garnish. Be sure to make the Chandon fabulous cocktails featured in Art of the Garnish.  It was a festive, salutary start to the fun evening ahead.

I did a short reading from the Garnish book, then finished off the first cocktail of the night: I’m Nutty for You.
We had batched all the cocktails we were serving so we were pretty much good-to-go for each course, nevertheless, cocktails are oh-so-fresh that you really can’t prepare everything ahead of time.
I often quote an enduring cocktail adage, “There’s no doggie bag for a cocktail!”
It’s a very “of-the-moment” experience.

The food pairing here was a homemade whipped dip: chocolate “chips” with a caramel, peanut buttery delight, served with local pretzels and homemade graham crackers. The salty treats balanced the dip in taste and texture.

Whipping up the creamy dip

I wanted to serve this as first-course food pairing not only because it’s kind of a more traditional cocktail snack you’d be more accustomed to munching on with a drink but also because a key part of the I’m Nutty for You garnish is the glass rim is dipped in a local honey, then in graham crackers, and the artful finishing touch garnish is a pretty, speared “toothpick” with several Cracker Jacks! And of course, the Surprise found in every box!

So you see, the caramel, honey, nutty, salty flavors all played a kind of savory and sweet symphony.

In the Garnish book, I hope you’ll be tickled by the story surrounding my nutty cocktail creation.
You’ll appreciate the ironic twist of using graham crackers as part of a drink that I meant to be a poke in the eye to Sylvester Graham who created graham cereals in the belief that whole wheat was a purer food ingredient. That’s all good.  However, Graham also believed that kind of healthy eating coupled with no sex nor drink was the way to go. Ha! Now, it’s a key ingredient in my drink.  Still, I’m sure Mr. Graham would have been tempted by my cocktail creation.

I love researching and creating drinks with food pairings that have a bit of a twist, (not the citrus kind!), a snippet of history, and a story to tell. And that are delicious, of course.

Next up was the polymath Jessica – who artfully described her cocktail contribution – her variation on Sweater Weather. This is one of my favorites – for many reasons. It’s rich and bold yet refreshing. I’ve served it many times to guests at home, at my first Art of Garnish book signing at Gina & Ted’s – and at the “”What’s New, What’s NextArt of the Garnish, Finishing Touches event at the NY Design Center event — that wasn’t too long ago. Smile. (books take a loooonggg time to complete!)

It’s so fun to garnish this drink, too. Lots of options: Knitting needles are fun skewers – for the lemon with cloves classic featured in the book on Jessie’s drink, and /or candied ginger – to play up the ginger drink ingredient.

The food pairing was rice balls I made with coconut, ginger and turmeric – with a sexy, slightly spicy, soy sauce. Again, I aimed to have the flavors of the drink and food ingredients complement one another.
I also like creating a cocktail Barscape for this cocktail that includes a ball of yarn with artfully-placed knitting needles, along with the French wooden knitters I’ve had since I was a kid.

Sweater Weather – Art of the Garnish 

Next cocktail course:

Tom prepared one of his several contributions to Art of the Garnish: Superstorm Sandy.
I thought Tom’s special creation would be a great feature for the Garnish cocktail party because not only is the drink fabulously refreshing but also the story behind its “birth” is one that New Yorkers who braved Superstorm Sandy — the hundred-year storm we’re still recovering from – would surely appreciate. Plus, Tom is a true artist and raconteur who can tell a great story. This is a great gift that good bartenders aspire to. And it is the reason why patrons seek out good bars and cocktail lounges for the unparalleled camaraderie and stories. Cocktails are stories… They go together like gin and tonic. Or bourbon and ginger or….

Tom didn’t disappoint! And just look at that luscious fruit garnish. Horst loved it too!

There were two food pairings for Superstorm Sandy: Spicy Chile Lime Chicken Meatballs with lime zest, skewered, on a bed of bibb lettuce with a garlicky, avocado yogurt dressing along with Tom’s special jerk chicken on skewers. Perfect fiery treats to the tropical drink.

I then returned for an Art of the Garnish reading and the final cocktail creation of the evening – a kind of dessert drink: Open Sesame.

This is one of my favorite drinks I created for the Garnish book. It’s made with my fresh, toasted sesame and fresh tahini that I source from Seed and Mill in Chelsea Market.

And yet… On that afternoon of the Garnish cocktail party event when Bill and I went to get the tahini, (and missed our bus stop because I was trying to manage the cocktail napkin crisis!) the folks there at Seed & Mill said they were switching jar sizes so we had to go to Whole Foods up on 23rd Street to get the tahini. Arghhh! And the clock was ticking – loudly – by that point.
At least I was able to get two varieties of their fabulous, fresh halva, there, to serve with my prepared wine-roasted figs with sweet tahini yogurt, dried apricots and nuts that was the key element to the food pairing.  I count my blessings…

Back to the drink. The cream topping for Open Sesame is made by mixing the fresh cream in the cocktail shaker using the spring removed from the Hawthorn strainer – and shake it till foamy.  I pour the luscious, fresh cream on top of the mixed cocktail ingredients.

The garnish is a mix of La Boite’s Rose Petal and Desert Rose spice that blends halva, sesame, and rose petals.
Sometimes, I also sprinkle a dash of Lior’s Za’atar spice blend on top, too.
(As an aside, I love the Desert Rose on just about anything, really. It’s super terrific on yogurt with homemade granola and fruit and coconut.)

In terms of the all the drinks – I hope you are seeing the thoughtful pairings of flavors in the mixes and blends – along with their garnishes. It’s often said: “If it grows together, it goes together.”
You just need to be creative and stylish when choosing cocktail ingredients and their garnishes. Challenging but fun!

Plus the sheer beauty of this garnish is just so exotic and romantic. It’s a lovely finishing touch to a cocktail party or dinner party. Or just a happy hour!

I did another reading and then it was on to the book signings and Garnish book love.
And lots and lots of photos with the guests.

Debra Mallow – new book friend, Moi, & dear PR friend, Donna Austi. 
Art of Garnish new friends, Sarah Kang and her Mother?! Looks like sister! 

Influencers: Chiccsmf and Global.Loafer – hugs 
Moi and fabulous Horticulturist, garden designer, fashionista: Lynn Torgerson

Garnish book contributor, Marlo Gamora, Jessie Wohlers, & moi 

Me & dear friend – gorgeous, super successful, mother, and marathoner, CJ!

Quite a few of the guests brought their purchased books for autograph… Very cool book love.

Fashionistas- Dear Horst & garden design amiga, Lynn. What savvy style! 
Talented photographer -& my dear, sweet “Pussycat” Rachel & sweet, successful, fabulous, Michael  They are now Newlyweds!! 
Here, with the glamorous, sweet, wonderful Chohee @chohee_p

Chohee – I adore your posts – so creative – and I appreciate your attendance and support.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. To all who made this special night happen. To our special Garnish Guests. And to the brands – especially to Joe Gallo, Troy Antonucci for Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey and their superlative New York Rye Manhattan cocktail creation by brand ambassador, David Powell. There’s no better drink for Gotham guests than a Manhattan – especially with this quality, locally distilled spirit. Thank you.

And thank you to our special guests and their social media love, especially Terrance ~ @global.loafer my dear friend, CJ McCoy ~ the Recovering Cupcake Addict @chiccsmf Sarah @mz.sarahkang and Chohee – I adore your posts – so creative – and appreciate your attendance and support.

Just a sampling of the sweet and sassy Instagram posts they shared:

Cheers to you ~ Finishing Touches ~ and the Art of the Garnish!

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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