New Years Eve!

New Year's Eve we usually hang out with family that are visiting from out of town - we'll make a nice dinner, we'll have some drinks, and end up watching some some network-ball-dropping-show. This year was different though, we ended up being free for the night. The kids are all older now, everyone is doing their thing, our out-of-town visitors left a day early, we had the opportunity to get out.

We had figured out what we were going to do NYE, we came up with a quick plan: hit Bottlecraft for a uKeg fill and a pour, check out Chartruese to see Ross and maybe get lucky and grab a seat for sushi, then go by The Birch and O'Connor Brewing's NYE parties.

Lara and Shelby

After getting ready we hit Bottlecraft first. We didn't know if they had anything planned but when we arrived there was a band playing for a good crowd of people. Some of them were dressed up for the night and it looked liked people were having fun. Chase and Lara were there and so were his parents with their friends. I said Hi to everyone and grabbed a couple of drinks for Shelby and myself. I had the uKeg filled with a good one from Benchtop Brewing while we mingled.

I love my uKeg by the way, I got it for Christmas, pretty to look at and great for pouring.

We didn't stay too long because we wanted to bounce around and visit a few places. Finishing our drinks and saying our byes we headed to Norfolk to see our buddy Ross. Chartruese Bistro was doing a special sushi pop-up for NYE featuring Ross Riddle of Hashi Chow fame. He was in the kitchen with owner/chef Christopher Corrie for an RSVP event. It's a cozy spot and not a lot room to stand around in but we figured we'd swing by and say Hi to Ross since we were out and maybe if we got lucky get a seat.

We didn't get lucky but Shelby got a drink on the house which was very nice. Ross was very busy putting together orders so we didn't bug him much. Christie, showed up a little later and we got to hang out with her a bit. It wasn't looking like we were going to get lucky with a seat so we made out way over to The Birch. Malia hosts an annual, catered NYE party were everyone dresses up fancy and drinks lots of good beer. She graciously let us slip in to hang out a bit and offered something to eat.

Shout out to Ten Top catering! One the best sandwich shop in Norfolk.

Malia and Shelby looking smashing!

We hung out there for a bit and realized that it was about quarter after 10:00. We wanted to pop a cork at home when the clock rang midnight so we had to sadly skip the stop to O'Connor Brewing. Wish we had though, the party looked crazy! On the way home we called in take-out from Jade Villa, a place we were turned on to by Ross. He says since it's always open into the wee hours of the morning the industry people would hit it up after their shifts for some authentic Chinese food. We got a few things: Pork Belly Hot Pot with Mustard Greens, Shrimp and Pork steamed dumplings, Chinese Broccoli, and Garlic Pork Spare Ribs. Wish I had a photo because it was all delicious! I was in a rush because I spilled some of my beer on the floor somehow (hey, I only had two drinks the whole night! I just need to get used to the uKeg spout) and get the sparkling wine ready.

We got settled in right in time to pop the cork, or plastic thingie on the bottle we had, and rand in the New Year with a toast. All in all a very fun night!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it's a good one for ya!

Saltine with Josh

Master mixologist Josh Seaburg

Fortunately, hanging around in the food scene for years has allowed me to become familiar with a lot of talented people that work all aspects of the food/drink service industry. I'm not just interested in the plate in front of me, but I love knowing the people back of the house to the front who make it happen.

I love sitting at the bar too; finding a new beer or wine to enjoy and once in a while a fancy drink. You probably guessed from a quick glance of this post this is going to be about cocktails and you would be correct. I'm going to tell you how I got to drink a bunch of them one night and show you what they were.

My journey into an evening of cocktail sampling began one warm evening in Norfolk, VA. I drove Shelby down to a new Italian restaurant called Leone's so she could meet up with "The Ladies." After I creeped on them a little bit, taking photos, chatting, etc... I thought they should have their girl time so I left for the car. I needed to run some stuff to a chef I know down the way and I had time to burn. While I was walking down Granby St. I was spotted by another guy I know named Josh Seaburg. I wrote about him a couple of years ago when he was at another shop.

After spying me he messaged me and asked if I would be interested in trying out his new drink menu he created for Saltine, one of three new hot spots in the Hilton Norfolk The Main. Saltine, a seafood restaurant, has a beautiful bar on the ground level of the hotel that allows you to do some serious people watching - everyone coming into the large hotel lobby and people on the street.

Shelby told me, that her mother (Hi Nana!) told her, it is rude to turn down a drink so I accepted happily. After I ran my errand I made my way to Saltine, ready to be wow'ed. Josh has put in his dues and is serious about his drinks. He pays attention to detail and it's the small things that make the whole.

White Julep

The menu, at the time, had not been tested by a layman as myself and I was ordered to give him feedback. Lucky me!

Attention! I'm just going to say right off the bat that the presentation of all the drinks was beautiful. Figured I'd add that caveat at the beginning so I didn't have to keep saying it throughout the post.

We started out with a White Julep - Wasmund’s peach-smoke bourbon mash, mint, simple syrup. This one packed a punch but was refreshing, loved all the ice.


Stephan Stockwell of Grain

Kuh-Shah-Suh (Josh explains the name is the phonetic spelling of the main ingredient Cachaça) This is made from pineapple infused Cachaça, lime, simple syrup, winter melon bitters, and garnished with dragon fruit. This was a neat, it even had a little heat on the end. While he was making it he gave the glass a spritz of green Chartreuse.

Western Medicine

Western Medicine - Belle Isle Honey Habanero, lemon, and ginger syrup. It's garnished with candied ginger - when available. Shelby will love this one!

Had to take a food break and ordered some calamari

Rosetta Toned

The Rosetta Toned was served in nice stemware and had a pleasant, sweet finish. It's made with Flor de Cana extra dry rum, lime, house strawberry cordial, Absinthe, and coriander. I'm a fan of rum!

Piña Colada

The classic Piña Coloda, not much to say other than it was damn tasty and he didn't put it in his shirt pocket. Maybe next time!

(Shirt pocket reference here.)

Vida Bandida

The Vida Bandida - Vida Mezcal, dry Curacao, lime, Ignition Tincture, bitters. This was different, neat. Mezcal drinkers would like this, even if you don't like mezcal, try it anyway. Thug Life.

It's chemistry!

Cleaver Club

Cleaver Club is fun to watch being made. It is a mixture of Beefeater Gin, lemon,  and nitro-raspberries. Josh busts out the nitro to prep the glass and it looks highly technical. The name of the drink, and the drink itself, pay homage to the classic cocktail The Clover Club.

Audible Sigh

The Audible Sigh was fancy and was garnished with fresh Passionfruit - Ketel One, passionfruit, lime, sparkling rosé, hibiscus/acai bitters. All the cool, trendy stuff in one drink, you might hear Josh give an audible sigh if you ask for him to make you one. It's worth the side-eye though, it's pretty tasty.

Bet you thought I would drink each one to the finish? Maybe I did...

I just wanted to give Josh a shout out for letting me try all these delicious cocktails and give him feedback on them. I think I'll be swinging by again tonight to revisit one or two of these. "The Ladies" are meeting there and I always crash a party.

- Fini