By Lori Simmons Zelenko
Photography by Christopher Soto-Chimelis
From Farm to Table by Way of the Upper East Side, Crafted Cocktails Pair with the Latest in Locavore Cuisine.
“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity,” so said Voltaire.
Indeed it is a great and necessary pleasure to enjoy what happens when the freshest flavors in food and drink – and the most natural local ingredients – come together at the nautically-inspired, sun-washed space that is The East Pole, the new Upper East Side restaurant from the teams behind Brinkley’s and The Fat Radish. Known for their philosophy of “simple, healthy delicious dishes created with well-sourced, seasonal ingredients,” this latest locavore outpost crafts cocktails to exquisitely, oh so deliciously, enhance to what the owners’ dub “elevated home cooking.”
Chef Nicholas Wilbur (originally from The Fat Radish and now stationed on the Upper East Side) partners with mixologist Tony Edgerton to create cocktail and food pairings that are a beautiful, healthy marriage – each one complementing and bringing out the best in the other. Tony, a working actor, sees bartending as a fun, ever-evolving performance – he loves to improvise with cocktails surprising his patrons with unexpected combinations that keep them coming back for more.
Fresh as a daisy is Summer In Avignon, a lavender vodka –spiked lemonade. On its own, a perfect sunny day refresher but when paired with a chunky country-style variation on a tea sandwich it becomes a citrus delight. The tea sandwich is grilled sourdough topped with a fresh ricotta spread chock-full of peas – not your standard green peas – but all sorts of peas including Snap Peas, Snow Peas, Spring Peas plus fava beans with lime and smooth, creamy ricotta. Spring oozes from every bite – especially enjoyable with a glass of what I imagine tastes like fresh sunshine.
A throwback to 1920s Chicago is the Southside, newly re-named the East Side: a cucumber-mint-gin infusion in a coupe glass. Hinting at change and modern lifestyles this is how Tony bridges the gap between classic cocktails and futuristic re-invention.
When paired with new wave “edamame” charcoal grilled English peas tossed with chili-pepper and sea salt, this cocktail takes on a cooling herbaceous nature.
Oysters with Scotch? Not Sancerre? Try Tony’s Blood and Sand a Blood Orange, Cherry Herring and Highland Park (Scotch) combination made gentler with egg white and topped with a seared orange rind to add a fragrant note as the essential oils are released. The smokiness of the scotch compliments the salinity of these Moon Chill Oysters from a crescent sandbar in Barnstable, Mass. The pairing of these two is as vital an experience as an afternoon sail on the Atlantic Ocean – invigorating and memorable.
Pass The Dutch is a frothy layered cocktail that is, Tony explains, a New York Sour made with Gin (hence the “Dutch” for the juniper-infused national spirit of Holland) fresh lemon juice, Bols (the world’s oldest spirit), egg white and a touch of Grenache. A salad of gin-friendly green and white fresh asparagus – the white is harvested underground hence it’s untouched by sunlight blanched color – accompanies. Rabbit food like no other!
Our last food and drink encounter pairs a Bulleit Rye cocktail (Rye on the rocks is Tony’s personal favorite when he’s out and about after a performance – he is a working actor) with an heritage pork chop accompanied by steamed cabbage and braised leeks. A comforting combo that’s warming, rich and earthy – accessible and incredibly enjoyable. As perfect a contrast as Tony himself at heart a lumberjack (from Michigan originally) with a New York sophisticated spin.
THE EAST POLE is located at 133 East 65th Street in Manhattan. There is a stand up bar downstairs as well as a lounge and upstairs, a spacious, airy dining room and a private events room decorated with vintage nautical maps. Reservations 212-249-2222.