I figured I wouldn’t stay long at the open house at 49 Grove, a lounge and event space in the West Village, especially after the bartender gave me a look indicating that he was something between forlorn and annoyed when I asked him to pick the mixer for my vodka.
“Orange juice? Cranberry?” he suggested. He wanted nothing to do with me, and it’s not like the bar was crowded.
But there is a time and place for putting yourself in the hands of a bartender, and an open house at which only the sponsoring vodka and rum are being served isn’t it. I really should know better.
I sipped my vodka and cranberry and ended up talking to Jeff Hershkowitz, who calls himself a balloon decorator. He doesn’t decorate belloons, however, he decorates with balloons. He does balloon drops and balloon sculptures. He set up the "balloon tree" at the open house — a symmetrical cluster of helium filled balloons that kind of resembles a tree. A cluster of 10 is about $20.
He inherited the business, which was started by his parents about 30 years ago. If you order a fair amount of balloons in New York City, chances are you’re getting them from him.
I switched to rum and for some perverse reason asked the bartender if he had ginger beer.
“You mean ginger ale?”
“Never mind.” I had my rum on the rocks.
And I struck up a conversation with a gelato salesman named John Koenig, who works for one of the popular restaurant suppliers.
Guess what his company's most popular gelato and sorbet flavors are?
I’ll give you a hint — they’re not vanilla and lemon.