Here's a Taste and Sip of the Jazz Age Lawn Party
All photos by Susannah Skiver Barton
Attendees of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, now in its ninth year, have come to expect certain things. Great music. Swingin' dance moves. Refreshing cocktails and delicious noshes. All this abounded at the semi-annual event's first showing this past weekend on Governor's Island -- served up by some of the industry's best talents along with teenagers just getting a grip on good eats. Add in a homespun pie contest, and the event's mix of sophistication and earnest charm shone like the beads of a flapper's dress.
See more photos: Fashionable Scenes from the Jazz Age Lawn Party
Crisp and bubbly cocktails featuring St. Germain elderflower liqueur ruled the drinks offerings, created by mixologist extraordinaire and founder/co-owner of Clover Club, Pegu Club, and Flatiron Lounge, Julie Reiner. The drinks themselves, rather than being pre-batched ahead of time and ferried over to the island, were mixed on-site by some of the city's top bartenders -- alumni of the Standard, Booker and Dax, Evelyn Drinkery, and more. In designing the cocktails, Reiner called on her extensive knowledge of Prohibition-era trends, especially the prevalence of gin, riffing on a Southside Fizz to create the Flapper's Delight, and blending strawberries with fresh citrus for the Strike Up the Band. While created for the Lawn Party, both cocktails are available upon request at Reiner's venues.
Man about town Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43 directed the party's food services for the second year in a row, offering a range of bites rooted in -- but not wedded to -- the culinary fads of the era. "We did a little research," he said. "The 1920s was the start of the crappy American food, canned food, which is funny -- we're trying to highlight the good part of it." His team offered chop suey, one of the first dishes created by Chinese immigrant chefs to suit American palates, and a raw bar featuring shrimp, clams, and oysters, popular in any era. Grilled squab and beefsteak sandwiches provided a meaty option, and ambrosia -- a confection of canned fruit, marshmallows, and coconut some of us might remember from grandma's table -- held sway as a truly authentic taste of the '20s.
Carbone is used to catering events on Governor's Island and has a solid team of chefs to make it happen. But he also relies on the hands and energy of high schoolers who participate in Teen Battle Chef, an extracurricular program that teaches young people how to prepare, eat, and enjoy fresh ingredients. Several students, including program alumni who returned to help out, worked under the supervision of professional chefs, testing skills learned after school in the fast-paced environment of long festival queues. All seemed excited to be there, citing the program as a key motivator in pursuing a career in culinary arts, stepping up as a leader among their peers, or simply taking control of their diet.
The day wrapped up with a pie contest -- sadly, for many spectators, not a pie-eating contest. Sixteen amateur bakers submitted homemade pies for judging in four categories: Mom's Best (classic pies), Best Savory, Unusual and Delicious, and Hobo's Choice ("so yummy that a hobo would want to steal it while it was cooling on a windowsill"). Winners included a Jameson banana pecan pie, a fig and blue cheese pie, and "The Devil Made Me Do It," a confection of chocolate, pecan, bacon, and bourbon in a pretzel crust.
If you're bummed about missing out on the Jazz Age festivities, don't worry -- the party returns August 16 and 17.
Click through for more photos of the tasty eats at the 2014 Jazz Age Lawn Party.