This Week’s Specials: Booze, Brains, and Balls

And now, a look back at what was on the menu here at Fork in the Road this week.

Use your noggin.
Use your noggin.

Robert Sietsema slurps stews in this week’s 10 Best Soups in NYC. From borscht to matzo balls, he offers up the city’s tastiest picks.

Lauren Shockey tells you what kind of booze to buy in her holiday gift guide. Check out Shockey’s extensive list — and learn what to buy the alcoholics in your life.

Sparkletinis taste like a Four Loko-champagne mash-up. Spoiler: $8 faux bubbly is as bad as it sounds.

Lauren Bloomberg savors sufganiyot, a Hanukkah jelly donut of sorts, at Mile End.

Fork in the Road’s bloggers list their favorite New York dim sum spots, in Shockey’s weekly Tuesday Toasts feature.

Bad brains? Sietsema snacks on a beefy gray-matter sandwich in Bay Ridge.

Balls taste great — when made of pork!


Sparkletini: Four Loko Meets Champagne

The handwritten sign at the bodega beckons with the subtlety of a cougar at a frat party.


Indeed, Verdi’s Sparkletinis (marketed as Italian spumante, labeled as a malt beverage “with natural flavors”) taste like a lot of things — none of them particularly nuanced.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: “No shit — it’s a cheap bottle of sparkling alcohol that won’t even commit to calling itself ‘wine.’ What’s next, bitching that Kentucky Gentleman lacks terroir?”

Know, though, that Fork in the Road’s recent taste test of several Sparkletinis (green apple and raspberry) doesn’t come from pretension and bad foodie habits. We’re not going to set up a spumante straw man and write lazy criticism — that’d be too easy. Besides, we’re masochistic enough to want to try this stuff ourselves.

So how does this bubbly bode?

Well … this question can probably best be answered by telling a little story.

Once upon a time, there existed a magical beverage called Four Loko. This drink, endearingly referred to as a “hate crime in a can,” could be bought all across the land, at bodegas near and far.

One day, some mean men in a tower (or maybe a state capitol somewhere) decided that the marvelous elixir — caffeinated, fruity malt liquor with lots and lots of high-fructose corn syrup — might be dangerous. Anyway, Four Loko’s wallop got weakened by legislative pressures, and has since been un-caffeinated and labeled to reflect its true alcohol content.

Stimulants or not, the boozy bev will always have a characteristic, carbonated perfume motif — the metallic sting of industrial alcohol, accented with fragrant flowers and fruits.

Verdi’s selections — “the sparkling Italian fun that keeps the party going” — re-create this air with eery accuracy. Each sip feels like liquid mouth deodorant — but a slightly classier version of drinkable body spray, coming from a screw-top bottle and all.

Neither variety seems that different — one is pink and one is green, ya está — and they contain enough sugar to grow a rock-candy crystal. Perplexingly, the drink has an acrid punch to it, so you feel like you’re swigging a melted Sour Patch Kid — albeit one who comes from an unhappy home.

So, yes: Sparkletinis will get the job done, whatever that job might be, even if they aren’t the most palatable drink out there. We would not suggest them for holiday parties — unless your family already expects you to smell like an anti-freeze drinker.


Four Loko Is Back… With a New Can!; Vodka Marketing Is Out of Control

If you thought you’d heard the last of Four Loko, were you ever wrong. After removing caffeine from the recipe last year, Four Loko’s makers have agreed to change the label to read: “This can has as much alcohol as 4 regular (12 oz. 5 percent alc/vol) beers.” That should do the trick.
[FOX News]

Want to buy French wine in supermarket chains like a pro? September and October are like a nationwide wine sale in grocery chains across the country. [NY Times]

Despite raking in $12.7 million in sales, Sotheby’s failed to sell out its wines at auction in Hong Kong for the first time. Could Chinese thirst for wine be fading?

A new Indian whiskey is launching. Rowson’s Reserve is a combination of Indian grain whiskey and Scotch, aged in American oak barrels.

A Yankee Stadium beer vendor has been suspended for harassing Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves, which is costing him $200 to $300 a game.
[NY Post]

A tax break that would benefit small brewers, like Brooklyn Brewery, has stalled in Congress. Even those in favor of ending tax breaks don’t want to end this one.
[NY Times]

Vodka marketing is getting out of control. Take Ultimat vodka, a Patrón brand, which just spent $8 million to come up with this new campaign: “Find balance. Find Ultimat.”
[NY Times]

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV.



Four Loko supporters and the men behind the soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim video game, Anamanaguchi make erratic soundscapes out of a busted 1985 NES. The New York chiptune outfit’s 2009 album Dawn Metropolis builds pop structures out of video game bleeps and crushing heavy metal arpeggios, resulting in Weezer-esque melodies sans the malaise. Expect this showcase to be Four Loko for your ears.

Thu., Jan. 6, 8 p.m., 2011



It’s really hard to pick the best part of its GIF-happy video–Brosnan as flautist? Jump-roping Chuck Norris? Kitty explosion?–so, instead, let’s celebrate the richer, fuller sound that Yelle brought on “La Musique,” the title single from her follow-up to 2008’s eminently enjoyable Pop-Up. Where that record was one accompanying VHS tape away from being a workout program, now it sounds like Yelle (a/k/a Frenchwoman Julie Budet) has recognized Europe’s recently fun-ergized, thickly electronic pop product that’s way remix-able. Which isn’t to say hot pink hi-tops and a mainline drip of Four Loko and Pop Rocks won’t be assets at this show. Aller vers, motherbitches.

Thu., Nov. 4, 9 p.m., 2010