Sunday, July 14, 2013

Da Da Da Da Da Da You Say It's Your Birthday

Da Da Da Da Da Da It's My Birthday Too, Yeah!

Well, it's happened again.  Valerie's gone and gotten older.  She does that every year about this time. Some people go on vacation around the fourth of July. It would be better for Valerie to do that too, but she stubbornly has a birthday instead. There's a nice big one inexorably hurtling this way, but it's not expected to hit till next year. For this birthday (and for many another birthday), what could be better than bespoke cocktails?

The weather behaved all day, but when it came time for us to meet, the heavens opened and we both got drenched, despite our umbrellas. That we managed to flag down an empty taxi (not the one pictured above) in a downpour was a birthday present in itself. The taxi driver pulled right in front of Second Floor on Clinton, but even so we got drenched just running to the entrance.

This year, for Valerie's birthday, we went retro -- all the way back to the roaring twenties! Lucky for us, her birthday fell on a Wednesday, because every Wednesday is "Prohibition Night" at 2nd Floor on Clinton. Presented by Art & Spirit Mixology, these events feature specialty cocktails using ingredients from the era, live piano music, delicious snacks and a wonderful atmosphere. Mixologist Ektoras Binikos works his magic, and together with magician's assistant - sorry, associate mixologist - Sarah Miller, serves from the award winning Prohibition Cocktails list.

As the evening continued, as the lights were low and flickering, the atmosphere was definitely 1920's speakeasy. You could almost feel former occupant Marcus Tauster - banker, bootlegger and fraudster - walking around his building as the melodies from the live piano mingled with the hushed tones of prohibition drinkers. While the bar just downstairs was throbbing with music and the sound of a million competing voices, we could have (had we been indiscreet) heard the voices of the people at the table several feet away. (Who did their soundproofing?!)

First, a toast to birthdays, as Jean samples the French 75, with gin, champagne, lemon, gum arabic and lemon bitters. Note Jean's new Amy Downs hat.

And then the festivities begin. Valerie dressed for the occasion wearing one of Jean's favorite hats: a yellow straw disk with a v-shaped velvet space that resembles a Pac Man! Here is the birthday girl herself, ensconced against the banquette, ready to celebrate. But where was Valerie's stylist when she needed her/him, or at least her professional full length mirror holder? Note the hat and the hair are both askew and the lapel (with the Victorian coral Turk's knot boutonniere) turned inside out. All this, of course, was due to the undignified dashing through the rain, but still! One only gets one birthday annually, and one should look birthday-ready.

On to the prezzies!  Knowing how much Valerie loves polka dots and the color red, Jean had purchased these round red and cream polka dot earrings at the Metropolitan Vintage Show in April when Valerie's back was turned. She "tucked them away in a safe place" until the birthday. And there they sat for months. Needless to say, a mad scramble ensued as the birthday rapidly approached and Jean realized she couldn't remember in which little nook or cranny she'd stuck them. As fate would have it, just the weekend before, in a search for her sister-in-law's birthday present, also safely tucked away somewhere for safekeeping, Jean found Valerie's gift! Halleluja. (It took quit a bit longer to find the other present, but it did eventually materialize.)

As Valerie checks the heft of this wonderfully wrapped gift (from Chaos, aptly named for the likes of us), you can definitely see how the Pac Man hat got its name.

For some reason, at least a week before Valerie's birthday, Jean dropped several of the birthday gifts off at Valerie's house. Not one to ruin her own surprise, Valerie saved them for The Day (such will power!), but thinks her stylist or professional full length mirror holder should have been responsible for transporting them. (That way when they got wet in the rain, she could have blamed somebody!)

What was inside that black polka dot wrapping? Why, a striped rubber bracelet in electric blue, pink and yellow, of course! We both had versions of this in black and white. But in color, it is a different thing entirely! As we've said before, don't try this at home! We love all the items shown here, but they mustn't compete with one another. Each one needs its own forum.

Ektoras and Sarah made the evening more special still when they presented us, in the midst of all the fun, with two miniature birthday cupcakes - the Dark and Stormy and the Bees Knees - from the Prohibition Bakery (the Bakery motto: eat responsibly), and sinful chocolate birthday truffles from Roni-Sue, a bespoke chocolatier at the nearby Essex Street Market.  Later, they bowled us over with marvelous complimentary cocktails scheduled for a future menu.

Another colorful, similarly wrapped package.

Valerie models her necklace of woven turquoise rubber cording.

But wait, there's more!

Why, silly, it's a turquoise sea anemone-like felt pin.

There's nothing like a little frivolity to build up an appetite. Valerie had the charcuterie plate and Jean, the cheese plate. Delicious!

Looking like the cat who swallowed the canary, Valerie savors a tasty treat. (Remember: you are not supposed to photograph members of the royal family while they're eating. People who are not members of the royal family are fair game, as shown here.)

Eventually, we wended our way down the very narrow and charmingly skewed staircase that brought us back into the bar on the main floor (remember? the one with throbbing music and a million competing voices?). Jean led by about two steps, and in that short amount of time managed to tell this handsome devil that it was Valerie's birthday. Whereupon the HD (check out the sharp haircut, tan and buff muscle tone!) whipped out his silver hip flask and offered Valerie a birthday swig. Must've been The Pac Man hat.  Gets 'em every time!

Closer to the door, we ran into Tony, the jack-of-all-trades owner of Barramundi and 2nd Floor on Clinton, showing off his newest creation -- sausage sandwiches grilled on the spot and available at a walk-up window right on the street. A perfect outdoor summer treat.

A short distance north on Clinton Street was a storefront whose entire front window was filled with little blue plastic sharks. Since Shark Week is one of Jean's favorite summer TV specials, she had to take a shot through the security grating.

As we headed out into the night, Valerie found this eye-popping wall of graffiti, which stopped us in our tracks. Who comes up with these things, and why can't we confer knighthoods on them for service to their country? As always, we had neglected to take a picture of ourselves together to commemorate the evening, and this vast yellow wall saved the day. Uh, night. We waited, like angler fish, for unsuspecting prey to come along, and then pounced, crying out "Would you please take a picture of us with our camera?" And once we had our victim, we continued "And can you please be sure to get the feet in?

We would have had to step out into the street to give you a full shot of the mural, and that wouldn't have worked either because of the parked cars in the way.  These two angled shots are the next best thing.  The Big Yellow Taxi (raise your hand if you get the reference to musical icon You Should Know Who) was fabulous, the last of a series of wonderful birthday presents, and the perfect end to the evening.

Little Bonus:


  1. Happy, happy birthday Valerie, you look a picture on your special evening ... positively gleeful at opening presents, sipping cocktails and livening up the speakeasy! xo

  2. A very happy belated birthday Valerie, and of course, you celebrated in style, as would be expected. Jean, you outdid yourself with the prezzies. The HD does have a rather devilish look about him (I think it's the facial hair), but I'd take a swig from his flask any day ;) Oooh, and the new Amy Downs hat is LUSCIOUS!!

  3. Happy Birthday Valerie! I know it's belated, but very heartfelt. Your hat sings with celebration and Jean's Amy Downs headwear joins in unison for this festive affair.

  4. Happy Birthday ! I ended the eternal hunt for that gift " I bought it early, now where did I put it? " , so I started using a shelf ( then graduated to a storage box) in the linen cupboard for all gifts throughout the year. & yes, he WAS a handsome devil!