Bar Tricks

by Carlos Baz January 23, 2014

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It has been more than three full months since I have been able to fly a loop, with its tiny payload of steel and fur and feather, towards the scaled, torsional flesh of a gamefish. And, what is perhaps even worse, is that it has been almost as long since I’ve been afforded the time to sit down and write. While my inability to engage in either of those ventures that bring me immeasurable joy has allowed a bit of discontent to take root some place between the bottom of me heart and the pit of my stomach, it is certainly not for a lack of trying or at major expense of my happiness.

Since just after Labor Day my efforts have been largely diverted away from those pursuits literary and piscatorial and focused largely on things of a much more entrepreneurial nature (with worthy exceptions here and here). I have been consumed, along with my partner and our Chef, with the trials and tribulations of accquiring, opening, operarting, and owning a bar and restaurant.

I suppose at this point it would be extraneous to say that I’ve been remiss in showing my face around here and offering content of any kind, but it’s the truth. My apologies. I’ll never go out for cigarettes again.

So. The bar.  It’s called Black Crescent.  The namesake of which is an oyster that we have cultivated solely for us in the perpetual Atlantic chill of New Brunswick, Canada. Our concept is fairly straightforward. We are a bar, with bar food.  It’s that simple.  We aren’t playing at some bullshit game of semantics where we assign the contrived nomenclature of an oversaturated restaurant industry to our concept. That type of thing is better left to places that pour flavored vodka and Fireball.

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My partner Reynolds has put together an incredible cocktail program, with over a dozen originals and a knowledge of classic cocktails that far exceeds that of any leather bound bartending guide.  And he’s also made certain that we have an ocean of some of the finest American whiskies, tequila, and mezcal in the greater New York area at our disposal.  Just don’t call him a mixologist. It’s a four letter word.  He’s a bartender. “Mixologists” are a lot like “fly-fishermen.” They really like to talk and talk and talk about what they “do”.  However, the body of work that exists to back up their claims is lackluster and soaked in bovine feces.  Bartenders, however, are a lot like fishermen. They don’t talk much. They just do. And the proof of their ability is evident in what they put in front of your face.

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Our chef, Dustin Everett, who came to NYC from St. Pete Beach via Tallahassee and New Orleans has put together a remarkable, and refined small plates menu.  Consisting of all seafood, most of which is either cured or raw, our menu is easily the most exciting bar menu I’ve been lucky enough to come across.  And I shit you not, it’s only a matter of time until we have to change the name of the place to Dustin’s.

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As for my part, I’ve put together a wine list focused solely on Greece, Spain, and Portugal, and a beer program that is all craft and all domestic. Everything is weird and fun and accessible. I think.

By our powers combined, we are Black Crescent.

If you find yourself in New York City, stop by. We’re at 76 Clinton Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We’ll do a shot and talk about fishing.

Rather than take you through the tedious and painstaking process of actually opening a bar, the reliving of which will certainly contribute to the further greying of hair, I think it will be more fun to share some of the photos (most taken on the iphone unfortunately) that we have compiled over the last few months and a few brief insights into opening a bar of our very own.  Which are as follows:

Opening and operating and keeping open a bar or restaurant is more difficult and expensinve than you realize or are probably willing to consider.

The amount of stress one must endure as a result of the aforementioned is directly proportional to how busy the bar is, and inversely proportional to how slow the bar is.  Stress is a constant force in the bar industry. Like gravity.

It’s totally awesome having your own bar.

Enjoy!

From the bar:

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We spent the majority of the summer months with our lawyers and the lawyers of the previous tenants negotiating the details of the lease transfer.  During this time the space sat tepid, dark, and unused.  What happens then? Fungus.  In weird places.

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This is one of earlier conceptual drawings that our bar designer put together for us.  Beautiful, yes? We thought so.  And our finished product did not deviate much at all from this drawing. David Barth did a remarkable job designing and building the interior of Black Crescent we are in his debt.

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Laying it all out.  Interestingly enough, when we laid the cutouts of the bar and its actual dimensions out in the space, it gave us a moment of pause.  It didn’t look like we were going to have much space to move around.  Fortunately, our eyes deceived us.

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This is the construction zone that was Black Crescent towards the end of the buildout.  For a better idea of how the space looked for the entire month of October, November, and first few days of December, imagine six or seven more men, almost three times the amount of construction equipment, and Top 40 radio constantly playing.

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The final product of all the creativity and construction and stress and drinking is what you saw in the banner image.

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A beautiful bar made of metal and white oak (our homage to whiskey barrels and the brilliant brown that we love so much), that we can call our own.  And a place to take pre-shift naps.

Once we got the doors open, things around Black Crescent got considerably more delicious.

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We have some particularly lovely oysters.  Kumomoto on left. Black crescent on right.

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Our diver scallops are citrus cured and finished with blood orange granita, jalapeno, and brown butter.

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House cured pastrami salmon over bluefish pate and black brioche.  DAS IT.

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Photo: Lisa Weatherbee

One of our most excellent dishes.  Peruvian Ceviche.  Pisco cured fluke, aji amarillo pepper puree, shoestring sweet potato.

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Portuguese octopus mid-braise.

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Photo: Lisa Weatherbee

The finished product. Octopus carpaccio with kumquats and black olive dust. DUST.

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And sometimes we even get to eat too. Sloppy Jose’s are what you see here.  Above, the homemade pretzel buns pre-bake. We aren’t without our sense of humor, you know.

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Our famous desert plate! This one went out to the chef from Momofuku Ssam Bar and his guests. They ate the Ken’s first.

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Of course nothing beats Chef Everett’s Carbonized Squid.  The recipe is easy place one whole squid on a sizzle pan and transfer pan to your salamander that is preheated to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and walk away for 3o minutes.  Voila!

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This is a Rabbit Key.  Some of you may know where that is. However, knowledge of the actual place is not requisite to enjoying this cocktail. We make with house-infused bell pepper gin. Yo.

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Walnut infused rye whiskey and egg white makes a Broadside. Again, yo.

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These are white wine spritzers.  23 hand crafted whiskies, 16 wines from the old world, 12 signature cocktails, 10 craft beers, and a partrdige in a fucking pear tree and I get an order for fucking spritzers.  I laughed at the person who ordered them. Seriously. Wine spritzers are to be dealt with like heroin.  You do it alone, in your own home, and you tell NO ONE that it’s happening.

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From the private collection.  Not for sale, only for jealously.

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And a man has got to have his own glass.  It’s a nice conversation piece. Or something like that.  Anyway, thanks  for coming.  Reynolds will show you the way out:

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And just so you don’t think that I’ve forgotten entirely about the fact that we’re all fishermen here, I’ve got a few film photos taken by my exceedingly talented and lovely better half, Nicki, from a trip we took to Flamingo last January and some from a trip we made down to Jupiter in July.  There are also a handful of black and white B-sides (that pre-date DJ Dan’s monochrome renaissance) from a trip I took last August down to Flamingo.

I suppose it’s kind of a year-end photo dump, but there are a bunch of fun ones in there that I’ve never posted here or otherwise.

August in Flamingo:

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July in Jupiter:

All photos by Nicki Manchisi

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January in Flamingo

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I couldn’t help but throw a couple in of the snook-whispering photographer too.

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Nicki and I were supposed to have enjoyed three days chasing monster redfish in the Louisiana marsh just after the new year, but winter weather and an incompetent airline sunk the entire trip before we ever got off the ground. Literally.  It was a bummer, but a February trip to Flamingo was already lined up to provide us with some respite from the winter doldrums. Hopefully the trip will yield lots of hungry, cooperative fish and of course a good story!

Until then!

-Baz








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