Local restaurateur Lauren Speisman is not a trendy woman. I mean that as a serious compliment, and I hope she smiles when she reads it. A co-owner of the pan-soul food restaurant Clean Plate, which opened on South Water Street just over a year ago, Lauren is all about time-tested pleasures rather than flashes in pans. Or as she explained to me more than once in our conversation, wryly, “I’m old!”
For the record, I haven’t the faintest idea how many candles there will be on Lauren’s next birthday cake. “Old” was her wording. “Having figured sh*t out” would be mine, because here’s the thing: “Old” isn’t bad. Neither is “old-fashioned.” Despite popular misconceptions, these terms can (and should) speak simply to an appreciation of what’s classic – what works, what’s worth returning to – rather than something passé or stale.
Take the Old Fashioned cocktail, for instance, which is a Clean Plate staple. The recipe belongs to Lauren, and has for decades. It’s about as iconic as it gets: rye whiskey, sugar, bitters, orange, cherry, seltzer. There’s mirth and feistiness to it, but also timelessness. It’s the liquid proxy of Dean Martin in a well-cut suit.
Rittenhouse Rye Old Fashioned
Order this with something hearty for full, rib-padding, cockle-warming effect. Lauren recommends the Cuban (made with porchetta!), or any of the restaurant’s deli-themed fare – but insists it works for brunch, too. “It has a kick, but it’s mellow and kind of sweet.” Don’t have to twist my arm.
2 oz Rittenhouse rye,
or your favorite rye whiskey
1 tsp fine sugar
1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Ice, preferably large-cut
In a short glass, muddle orange slice and maraschino cherry with sugar and bitters. Toss in some ice to reach the top. Pour in rye, stir to blend. Top with a splash of soda and serve.
345 South Water Street