Epicurean Revelation: Reserve by Amor y Amargo is NYC’s Most Exceptional New Prix-Fixe Experience

At perhaps the moment of our greatest abjection since this still deadly pandemic began its run of decimation last spring, we found ourselves one May evening strolling 1st Avenue in New York just below 14th Street at or about 9pm…in near total solitude. To our left, three people stood together ordering takeout from a makeshift window at Sabor a Mexico – and beyond that scene, as far as the eye could see, was nothing but desolation and silence. Were it three months earlier, those same sidewalks would have been alive with the ever-animated goings of a typical East Village night out.

Of course, beyond taking lives, the pandemic also took livelihoods, especially where the hospitality business is concerned. But eleven months later, partially vaccinated life is returning to those same city streets, however cautiously. And just a few blocks from where we had been that night, a particularly special little place has survived the crisis to celebrate a 10th anniversary, though perhaps not as extravagantly as it might if this deadly virus had not so ruthlessly interrupted our lives.

Indeed, Amor y Amargo (part of Overthrow Hospitality) had a decade ago begun enacting its own little cocktail revolution (revelation?), very much apart from the so many unimaginative tippling trendsters clogging the space. Low key yet exquisitely ideological, at the time of its opening Grubstreet described it as “New York’s first bar focused on bitters.” And that very specificity is one of the things that genuinely set it apart.

For its return this month, drinks alchemist and now also Exec Chef Sother Teague has created Reserve by Amor y Amargo, a thrillingly unique 4+-course prix-fixe (just $120 a head), generously featuring four plant based dishes, and five expertly paired cocktails. It’s precisely the sort of palate-transforming splurge we need right now, after a year of being deprived of just such experiences.

“We’re very excited to reopen,” Teague enthuses. “And as far as we know, we are the only bar in New York undertaking this unique cocktail and food pairing experience, which has already really resonated with our guests.”

He also believes that taking on the role of chef has made for a more united, nay holistic epicurean experience. And it’s true, that even at some of the most “considered” restaurants in New York, the food and drinks programs are often glaringly lacking that sense of unity. Teague notably takes a philosophical approach to both.

“When pairing Amor y Amargo style drinks – spirit forward and bitters driven – with food, my philosophy is to consider origin. The old saw of what grows together goes together is often in play, as well as complimentary flavor profiles.”

Then for further enlightenment, he offers a specific example.

“We see this where I pair the Improved Kingston Negroni, a drink that features some funky Jamaican rum, with a dish that involves jerk seasoning, which is common in Jamaica. The same dish and drink pairing employs Zucca, a smoky amaro. The dish also has a smoked mushroom component.”

As things begin to return to (sort of) normal, Teague will also be managing Overthrow Hospitality’s General Store by Amor y Amargo, and Etérea, a new tequila and mezcal bar due this spring, just around the corner at East 5th Street. But busy as he is, we still managed to sit him down long enough to give us a peek behind the magic of a couple of his favorite pairings from Reserve by Amor y Amrargo (which can be booked at Resy.com) – though we strenuously recommend heading down to the East Village post haste to experience the real thing in person.

Sother Teague’s Favorite Food + Drink Pairings

Improved Kingston Negroni (pictured top)

.75 oz Zucca

.75 oz Punt e Mes

1.25 oz Real McCoy 5 yr aged rum

.25 oz Smith and Cross Overproof Rum

1 dash DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Stir with plenty of ice just to chill. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Flame the oil from an orange disk over the drink and insert. 

Pairs with…

Creamed Spinach Tart, Smoked Jerk Seasoned King Trumpet Mushroom 

Tart crust:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

.5  teaspoon kosher salt 

.25 teaspoon baking powder  

.5 cup refined coconut oil at room temperature

5-7 tablespoons ice water

In a medium bowl, mix first three ingredients. Dot the mixture with small spoonfuls of the coconut oil and cut it into the flour mixture until a coarse meal is obtained. Sprinkle tablespoons ice water over the flour, mixing gradually with fork until the dough sticks together. Add additional water by the tablespoon until the dough comes together with your hands, but is not sticky (add a bit more water or flour if necessary). Form the dough into a ball and refrigerate in a covered container until the filling is ready, or at least 30 minutes.

Then roll thin and line a tart pan. Blind bake the dough until lightly tan. 

Filling:

2-3 Diced king trumpet mushrooms depending on size 

(Reserve some of the stems to be cut into .5 inch thick disks)

2 medium Shallots minced 

3 Garlic cloves minced 

.5 Tbl Nutritional yeast

12 oz bag Spinach

2 Tbl vegan butter 

6 oz Almond milk 

Freshly grated nutmeg 

Kosher salt 

Fresh ground pepper 

3 oz Just Egg 

Sauté the garlic and shallots in the butter to soften, add the mushrooms and cook through. Add in spinach and wilt until liquid has mostly evaporated. Add almond milk and nutritional yeast and reduce until thick. Grate in nutmeg season with salt and freshly ground pepper and remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, fold in just egg and fill tart pan. Bake at 350° for 25 min or until just set. Allow to cool for 20 min before slicing. 

Separately, sear the mushroom disks in a cast iron pan and cook over low heat until cooked through. Remove the pan from heat and move mushrooms to one side. Add a few soaked Mesquite wood chips to the pan and burn them with a torch until they’re smoldering. Cover the pan with a lid and allow to smoke for 10 min. This will give the mushrooms a nice smokey finish. 

For service:

Slice of tart on the plate along side a few of the smoked mushroom disks. Sprinkle jerk seasoning over the tart and the mushrooms. 

Cubist

1 oz Suze

1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth

.5 oz Brennivin Aquavit

2 dash Bitter Truth Olive Bitters 

Stir with plenty of ice to chill and dilute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the oil from a lemon twist over the drink and discard. 

Pairs with…

Lox, Dill, Scallion Cream Cheese, Everything Bagel Spice

“Lox”:

4 large carrots

Kombu sheets for wrapping

Kosher salt

Marinade:

4 oz Vegetable oil 

1 oz amino acid

1 Tbl powdered wakame (dried wakame pulsed in a spice grinder) 

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

.5 teaspoon smoked paprika

.5 oz fresh lemon juice

Bagel Spice:

2 oz sesame seeds

2 oz poppy seeds

1 oz dried onion flakes

1 oz dried garlic flakes

1.5 oz kosher salt 

Combined. (It’s great on salads, make a lot. There are commercially available mixes as well). 

Heat oven to 450°. Wrap the carrots in the kombu. Line a roasting pan with a thin layer of kosher salt. Roast the carrots, this should take 30-50 min depending on size. You’ll want them to give a little resistance when pierced with a paring knife.  Allow to cool and remove from the kombu. (The kombu and salt can be used for this process a few times). Once cool, use a peeler to shave long strips of carrot into a large mixing bowl. 

Separately, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Pour over the carrots and toss to coat. (Easily scale up the marinade if more is required). Allow to marinate refrigerated overnight. 

For service:

Lightly toast a bagel and spread on tofu scallion cream cheese. Add “lox” by folding decoratively. Garnish with pickled red onions, fried capers and dill. 

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