Ape That Grape. Photograph: Max Flatow, maxflatow.com
This time of year, everything is usually coming up Concords. This year a few of our favorites are the grapey sorbetto at Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope, the chocolate domes filled with grape juice that are part of the peanut butter and jelly dessert at Blue Hill in the Village. The Modern has their Concord grape vacherin . Little Giant (and Tipsy Parson) on the Lower East Side roasts Concords to go with their duck and serves a Concord cream cheese condiment with brunch. And there was, of course, the recipe mixed up by Jim Meehan of PDT in honor of the Greenmarket’s annual gala.
A mix of gin, sweet vermouth, fresh lime juice, absinthe, and muddled Locust Grove Farm uvas. It’s not the first time Meehan has used this particularly flavorful fall fruit. There was the Concord Crush he mixed at Gramercy Tavern. And a Mexican riff he called the Green Harvest-hibiscus tea, agave nectar, Partida Tequila , and the grape juice. Before absinthe became legal in 2007, he made the same gin drink with a vinegary Concord shrub. “Sour works beautifully at events,” he said. The fruit doesn’t store well, he noted. Once solution is the shrub. But for fresh stuff, Meehan keeps clusters in a cooler and muddles them to order. (See recipe below.)
Our cluster crush didn’t stop there. After a late lunch at Locanda Verde in Tribeca, there were a few sorbet pairing options for the pistachio huckleberry cake (courtesy of pastry chef Karen Demasco), including a Barlett pear that contained tiny sugary fruit grains that melted on your tongue, and a grape option whose flavor and color were of comic-book proportions.
But the newly reopened Oceana on Park between 57th and 56th was our first Concord intro of the season (beyond the meager clusters in a friend’s backyard garden). After the chefs at this remarkably busy business district haunt served up an impressive display of seafood, from a flight of Long Island oysters topped with a chopped apple marinade (as well as a few rare Olympias), a fluke ceviche, perfectly grilled sardines, and a deboned and stuffed sea bass that was served in sections arranged as if the fish was swimming atop the table, pastry chef Jansen Chan treated us to doughnut platter (the best showing this side of Delancy Street), marscapone panna cotta topped with a slushy granite of Concord grapes with some frozen half spheres on top. If you don’t make it to Oceana before the grape harvest is over, don’t worry. Chef Chan has been pressing and freezing the juice for his own PB&J incarnations that he plans to serve through the end of the year.
Flight of the Concord by Jim Meehan, PDT
2 oz. Plymouth Gin
.75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. Locust Farms Concord Grape Juice
Rinse of Pernod Absinthe
Add everything but the Absinthe to a mixing glass. Add ice, then shake and strain into a chilled, Absinthe rinsed coupe. Garnish with three grapes on a cocktail pick.