Palena Cafe, Cleveland Park

(See the January 30th, 2011 Review here.)

As many dozens (yes) of times as I’ve been to Palena, I don’t think I’ve ever gone just for dessert – until Friday night.

Actually, it was for an after-dinner drink too – it was still early, and the masterful Jeff Faile (who will be leaving Palena soon to become Bar Manager at Fiola with Fabio Trabocchi (riches to riches)) was tending bar.

We asked Jeff to make two drinks of his choice, whatever he felt like making, one with gin, and the other with rye.

The first was his take on a variation of a drink. In Jeff’s own words: “I mentioned the Gin Gin Mule when pouring it which itself is a variation of the Moscow Mule (done with Vodka). The Gin Gin usually has gin, lime, simple syrup, ginger beer, and mint. I’m not a fan of the sweeter drinks, so I left out the simple. I used Plymouth gin, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur (instead of ginger beer) for the bite and sweetener, fresh lime, and added the prosecco for texture instead of the ice chips. I do recommend both originals if you ever have the chance especially when/if the warm weather ever comes back!

“The second was basically a rye negroni. It’s a prohibition era cocktail called the Boulevardier. Without boring you with too much of the cocktail geek info, it was created by an American bartender who fled to Europe while escaping prohibition. It first appeared in print in the late 20’s which was about 20 years or so before the negroni’s recipe came about. The recipe is simple, 1.5 oz Rye (instead of gin), 1 oz Campari and 1 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth. Although I only use Carpano in the rye version and not the gin version (I like Dolin instead). It tends to over power the gin in a negroni.”

Both drinks were sensational, and hit the exact right spot. I don’t usually go around quoting such long blocks of text, but can I really describe these any better than Jeff himself did? No way. (My friend picked up the check so I’m not sure about the cost.)

How can you not order a dessert called the Spring Ahead Sundae ($9)? Carrot cake ice cream (!), vanilla frozen yogurt, granola, and cinnamon raisin sauce – it sounds simple, and is, but was so perfectly combined and executed that nothing could have been changed. Even the granola (which I was skeptical of when reading the menu) fit in beautifully.

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