For decades, the locally owned Radisson in New Rochelle has been a beloved pillar of the lower Westchester community. But sadly, the matriarch was getting a bit long in the tooth. So the family transformed her vibe from venerable to vogue, a Manhattan style Boutique Hotel.
As one of the designers of that refurb, Colby Brock, the Food and Beverage manager, named the new restaurant and lounge NoMa Social (NoMa stands for “North of Manhattan” and bears no alliance with the renowned Noma in Copenhagen). Colby brought in highly regarded Executive Chef Bill Rosenberg, (f.i.sh., Barcelona) to upgrade the kitchen, and she recently hired 32 year old Mike DeFalco as the Bar and Nightlife Manager. A major mission: inject some hip to a ho-hum bar menu.
NoMa’s splashy lounge – replete with zebra stripes and a funky, deep house/electro trance playlist -- has become a hot spot for a young, party and pick-up crowd. To add to the jump, DeFalco has set about creating a cavalcade of sexy craft cocktails.
Check out a few of their lighthearted names: “Panties Off,” “Chucky Monkey,” “Cocaine Lady” … the provocative, whimsical list goes on.
“Sure, our specialty cocktails appeal to the party crowd,” DeFalco told us. “But lots of our older regulars have been trying them out and loving it.”
A favorite with both the millennials and the mature is Fig and Pig, inspired by Chef Rosenberg’s sweet fig jam (which he spoons over grilled halloumi cheese as a mouthwatering tapa.) After soaking figs in Vodka for over three weeks, Mike shakes the infusion vigorously and pours his tincture into a high martini glass, a whisper of ice flakes shimmering on the surface. Just before serving, he garnishes at the bar, hand-stuffing Hungarian blue cheese and bits of bacon into three colossal olives, which are kabobed on a long toothpick and balanced across the rim. Customers appreciate the pampering and performance.
The interplay of sweet, pungent, and savory flavors confers an exotic complexity to what otherwise would be a straight-forward American Vodka martini. We found the taste of the bacon surprisingly subtle, for better or maybe for worse. Yet the finish was full, not overpowering. Verdict: a well-crafted cocktail.
At first blush, DeFalco seems straight out of Williamsburg – wide-framed black hipster glasses, untucked shirt, tight trousers … you get the picture. However, this modest, Italian-born immigrant son, now from Westchester, speaks without pretense or affect. To cater to his nightlife patrons, Mike draws on long, practical experience, having toiled in restaurants from the age of 15, when he started as a busboy. That culinary background shows in his approach to the bar menu.
Mike works closely with Chef Rosenberg, often guided by what’s available in the kitchen and at the market. Case in point: the Lomarita seasonal special, made with autumn apple cider, sparkling cava, pisco and a dab of cinnamon. Perfect for a crisp November night, a virtual fire crackling on the massive video wall that extends across one side of the lounge.
With all his conceptions, DeFalco confers with the kitchen to ensure proportions and flavors are balanced and pair well with the restaurant’s Mediterranean/Spanish themed menu.
Celebrating that Andalusian spirit, on tap Sangria flows freely, each glass immersed with freshly chopped fruit just before serving. Since Rosenberg’s amazing tapas nicely complement the Spanish punch, the restaurant offers a “perfect for two” special of 5 tapas and a pitcher of Sangria for 60 dollars.
Too Cool For School makes out with Old School in what NoMa calls “Ma Mule,” a spin on the classic Moscow Mule, the Drink de rigueur in swanky nightclubs after WWII. DeFalco adds muddled raspberry to the traditional lime and Vodka, substituting alcoholic Carribe's Ginger Beer for the standard non-alcoholic ginger soda. Presented in a martini glass rather than the traditional copper cup, this Mule may kick with extra punch and tang, but it drinks easy. Dare you to just sip.
Out of high-minded, scientific curiosity, we sampled the Panties Off, named in honor of the damsel who doffed after downing a few. True to its appellation, the fruity, multi-flavored and vividly pretty drink seems feminine specific: Stoli Raspberry Vodka is mixed with triple sec, cranberry juice, 7up and a float of melon liquor and fresh raspberry. Despite the name, it appears this doll’s just a girly girl, and in the end, hardly naughty at all.
So, too, the Dirty, Skinny Girl. She’s a 100 calorie martini made of Tito’s Vodka, distilled six times (which DeFalco believes lowers the calorie count), and dirtied by a dose of olive juice. The Girl ranks as just one of 11 skinny drinks on the menu. Although NoMa’s bartenders free-pour most cocktails, the Skinny Girls are jiggered, to ensure that their waist-watching calorie count hovers close to 100.
Before its name-change, the bar at NoMa Social earned fame as a lively New Rochelle watering hole called the “City Martini Lounge.” In homage, Colby dubbed one drink: The City Famous. Shaken with Grey Goose Citron, triple sec, cranberry juice and a sour mix, the familiar cocktail is a toast to times gone by -- and to the redoubtable Cosmopolitan, still crazy after all these years.
Heat meets Sweet in the bar’s dramatic Feisty Spicy. Fresh jalapeno slices counterpoint glistening pineapple chunks in a mix of 1800 Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, pineapple juice and simple syrup. We couldn’t resist starting with the rim garnish of jalapenos and pineapple. The sharp contrast of spice and sugar set the stage for a glass brimming with rock and roll, spills and thrills. Feisty Spicy is not a drink for the timid, sad or lonely. We recommend its party and its ride.
As well as the NoMa Social Lounge. Fun for any adult age.
We plan to review Bill Rosenberg’s tapas menu in the near future on the strong hunch that he has brought his dazzle at f.i.s.h., Portcheste,r down the Westchester coast to NoMa, New Rochelle.
ONE RADISSON PLAZA I NEW ROCHELLE, NY I 914.576.4141 I NOMASOCIAL.COM
Bar hours: Sun-Thur 12 pm-11 pm Fri-Sat 12 pm-3 am