A Mixologist Visits Alvin & Friends Restaurant

Where is the crossroads of art in New Rochelle, NY? It’s at Alvin & Friends Restaurant. You’ll find it all there–music (jazz in particular), painting, culinary, and mixology. And you’ll also find the art of hospitality. When you walk in the front door of Alvin & Friends Restaurant in New Rochelle, NY you are greeted as though you just came home. Alvin or Gwen Clayton will throw up their arms and welcome you as though you are about to dine in their home. They did the same with mixologist, chef, author, and teacher, Arlen Gargagliano, when they invited her to guest bartend for ladies night on the evening of November 12, 2015. Arlen arrived with her own concoctions in tow with which she would mix flavorful drinks for the crowd. She mixed with rave reviews from the crowd. The cocktails she made can be found in her book, Calypso Coolers.

Alvin & Friends

There is always something special going on at Alvin & Friends and this night was certainly no exception. It was an evening filled with great libations by the talented Arlen Gargagliano with Alvin and Gwen providing super hospitality and Chef Raymond Jackson cooking up some soulful treats that mesh traditional southern American food with the Caribbean.

A Pie Party is Thrown (But Not in Your Face)

Another year and another terrific Pie Party has been thrown by the imitable Jackie Gordon (aka The Singing Chef and The Diva That Ate New York) and Ken Leung (aka The Hungry Rabbit). This year, the fifth Pie Party since its inception in 2011, was hailed by those who attended as the best one yet. This Pie Party was particularly special for me because it was held at my alma mater, The Institute of Culinary Education at their brand spanking new state-of-the-art cooking school in downtown Manhattan in the newly remodeled Brookfield Place.

This year the Pie Party had some titans of the culinary world as sponsors. Along with The Institute of Culinary Education as host and sponsor, there was Cabot Cheese, King Arthur Flour, Wüsthof , Anolon, Dub Pies, Tovolo, Honey Ridge Farms, and Wild Hibiscus. Cocktail sponsors included Reyka Vodka, Tromba Tequila, and Mizu Shochu.

Pie Party ICE 2015

The anticipation of chowing down on pie was high as people mingled, met, had cocktails, and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres that were supplied by the Institute of Culinary Education. Jackie and Ken were the consumate hosts as they made their rounds through the room to greet old friends and new alike. Before the cutting of the pies, there was a baking demonstration, people entering to win prizes from the sponsors, sponsor representatives on hand to answer questions about their products, and plenty of food love to go around for all.

There were impromptu tours of the Institute of Culinary Education throughout the day. The school has come a long way since I attended (I graduated in 2005) and they moved from their 23rd Street location to their new facility. The new digs even has a chocolate lab that was set up by Michael Laiskonis. What a dream that place is. Wow!

Pie Party ICE2 015

It’s always hard to leave such a fun event like this one, but all good things must come to an end. On the way out everyone was rewarded with a swag bag filled with all kinds of delectable culinary treats. Thanks to all of the sponsors for their support, the Institute of Culinary Education for providing a great space and to Jackie and Ken for hosting another successful Pie Party.


A Coffee Festival Comes to New York

Never underestimate the power of Instagram. Even though I don’t have many Instagram followers, somehow The New York Coffee Festival found me and started following me. So, as a coffee lover, it was a no brainer that I’d follow them back. That turned into a gig shooting the 1st Annual New York Coffee Festival at the 69th Regiment Armory.

New York Coffee Festival

The event was the brainchild of Allegra Events  Jeffrey Young.  The New York version of the festival was preceded by events in London and Amsterdam. I’m so glad the festival found its way to New York City. There were throngs of people getting caffeinated all weekend, from the 25th – 27th of September. People will be buzzing about this event for weeks to come.

One of the events, which took place over all three days of the event was a barista Coffee Masters contest in which baristas from all over the world competed in several categories including coffee making, brewing, grinding, blending, tasting, and even a signature coffee cocktail. All in all, the last two contestants standing were on the Coffee Master stage for a total of four hours over the three days of the festival. Aussie Rob Morrow took home the prize of $5,000 in the competition. Morrow has been working, off and on, for the past four years at St. Ali in Melbourne. If you’re in Portland toward the end of October, you may find Rob competing again at the Coffee Fest in Portland, Oregon.

New York Coffee Festival Coffee Masters Competition

Besides the Coffee Masters competition, there was enough coffee, food, and entertainment to keep all of the caffeinated people happy for hours. Irving Farm and Bluestone Lane Coffee held another barista competition at the Bluestone Lane Coffee booth. It was a latte art throw down and Rob Morrow came out the victor in that competition also. Rob had a great weekend. 

New York Coffee Festival

Coffee wasn’t the only type of treat at the New York Coffee Festival. There was great food and cocktails as well. The most popular booth by far was Devoción Coffee, which served some really great cold-brew coffee in cute little brown bottles. I think the prize for having the most fun of any of the food vendors had to go to Joe & the Juice. Those guys must have been drinking lots of energy shakes and plenty of coffee. They were having lots of fun serving the crowd of coffee enthusiasts. Speaking of eating and drinking, there was a space in the middle of the armory with seating for people to sit, check their social media, drink, eat, and–for one person–take a nap on the floor. Hands-on participation made the festival even more fun. People were able to get their barista on and try their hand at making espresso and cupping their own latte art, with the help of an experienced barista.

Another highlight of the event was an award for best coffee art. The award went to Carlyn Beaver for her portait in acrylic titled A Lifetime. Her dad, pictured with her below, was so excited when her name was announced that he let out a big, loud squeal and shouted, “Woo-hoo! That’s my baby”. A proud papa, indeed.

New York Coffee Festival

The first New York Coffee Festival is now a memory, but the Chrysler building stands tall and waits for the baristas to hit the city again. The organizers plan on making this an annual event. It’s sure to be even a bigger success than the first one was.