LAST KISSES OF SUMMER
With China’s Mid-Autumn Festival just past and the Autumn Equinox occurring last week, Mike Peters grabs a final taste of the pleasures of summer before cool weather comes.
1. It’s a breeze
Al fresco brunches will be with us until the first frost, but having dinner or a drink outdoors is a warm-weather treat with an expiration date. Time’s running out to enjoy a twilight dinner hot off the grill — or fizzy cocktails crafted on popular rooftops like Hong Kong’s Ce La Vi. Sunset never tasted so good.
2. Sweet ‘smoke’
There’s something about having a whisky and a cigar on the terrace or “in the snug” that brings out our inner Winston Churchill — even if we don’t smoke. In fact, a new offer at the Ritz-Carlton bar at Beijing’s China Central Place aims to please the tobaccofree crowd: Oak Cross Malt Scotch Whisky with a chocolate cigar that’s crafted in the Piedmont region of Italy. 198 yuan per set (about $30) from 2 pm to 1 am daily through Oct 31; 010-5908-8131.
3. Right on ’cue
We used to go to Seawolf Restaurant & Distillery for the brandy and the house-infused rums. Now that proprietors Sam and Linda have moved their Changping operations away from the village center to the nearby countryside, we go for the weekend— and the Friday-night barbecue. Vegetables and fruits on the menu come from Seawolf’s gardens and orchards. The new digs are a 10-minute walk from Xishankou station on Beijing’s new Changping subway line, in a huge compound that includes the restaurant, a shooting range and obstacle course, meeting rooms and hotel accommodations. More info at www.theseawolf.net.
4. To-may-to, to-mah-to
No matter how you say it, there’s nothing like a summer tomato. Globalization and greenhouses mean you can buy one year-round, but only summer gives us these juicy delights sun-kissed and fresh off the vine. A tomato and mozzarella salad, like the one from Morton’s steakhouse restaurants in China, is a perfect celebration of the waning season: ripe tomato, fresh whole basil leaves, buffalo mozzarella cheese, basil oil and balsamic glaze. Another recent salad favorite — the colorful melange plated at Beijing’s La Dolce Vita.
5. Sangria goes white
Nothing says summer like a pitcher of fruit-stuffed sangria, and while this Spanish classic is best-known with a red-wine base, in warm weather the whitewine version can be particularly addictive. Beijing’s Casa Talia crafts a version with crisp sauvignon blanc by the glass or carafe, but any bar worth its paper umbrella can serve up a sangria blanca.
6. Bee balm
Summer’s bounty means there’s no end to creative bartending, and China’s mixologists are right on the bandwagon. This year’s delights include a spin on the 1920’s classic Bee’s Knees, made with Yunnan-sourced honey from Shangri-La Farms. Bar maestro Eric Liu from Beijing’s Mao Mao Chong brings out the best flavors of the gin with this lemon and honey mixture. He’ll be teaching a class at The Hutong in mid-October for those seeking the precise recipe.
7. Getting crabby
Fall is crab season in China, with the hairy-crab season just beginning now. But thanks to a 10-year-old free-trade agreement with Chile, we’ve gotten a head start with delicious morsels from the southern hemisphere, widely available at fine-dining restaurants around China. Patagonian king crab, anyone?