looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.
2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.
Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting. If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.
If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse. Search this site:
Barack Obama for President
"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.
Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.
The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)
* * *"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans
"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.
"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune
"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times
"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.
"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan, AllAboutJazz.com
"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy, PopMatters.com
"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times
How to donate to this site:
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(99 and 44/100% link rot)
2007: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2006: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2005: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2004: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2003: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2002: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2001: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
2000: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
1999: Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...
Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!
Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki
NOLA.com & The Times-Picayune
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)
New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.
2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
People Get Ready
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.
The Internet's most comprehensive
and indispensible database of
authenticated cocktail recipes,
ingredients, reseearch and more.
By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)
Museum of the American Cocktail
Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
Celebrating a true American cultural
icon: the American Cocktail.
The Sazerac Cocktail
* * *
(The sine qua non of cocktails,
and the quintessential New Orleans
cocktail. Learn to make it.)
The Footloose Cocktail
(An original by Wes;
"Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
"Very elegant, supremely
sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)
The Hoskins Cocktail
(An original by Chuck;
"It's nothing short of a
masterpiece." - Gary Regan)
* * *Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
(Frighteningly large, and would
never fit in a cabinet)
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
(A few things we like to
drink at home, plus a couple
we don't, just for fun.)
* * *Peychaud's Bitters
(Indispensible for Sazeracs
and many other cocktails.
Order them here.)
(The gold standard of bitters,
fortunately available everywhere
worldwide. Insist on it.)
Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
(Complex and spicy orange
bitters for your Martinis,
Old Fashioneds and many more.
Order them here.)
Fee Brothers' Bitters
(Classic orange bitters,
peach bitters and a cinnamony
"Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)
The Bitter Truth
(A new brand of bitters
from Germany: orange, lemon,
aromatic bitters and more!)
(Fantastic new small-batch
bitters company with forth-
coming products including
Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!)
* * *Alcademics
(The study of booze with Camper English)
(Gary & Mardee Regan)
The Art of Drink:
An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
Bar Mix Master
(Brad Ellis, New Orleans)
(Jeff Berry, world-class expert
on tropical drinks)
(Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)
The Cocktail Chronicles
(Paul Clarke's weblog)
(Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
Chico and me).
A Dash of Bitters
Drink A Week
(Alex and Ed)
DrinkBoy and the
Community for the
(Robert Hess, et al.)
DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog
(Online magazine for the
Esquire's Drinks Database
(Dave Wondrich and
news & insider info)
(Celebrating the world in a glass)
(Bartender/mixologist, Eugene OR)
Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
(Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
and great photographs)
La Fée Verte
(All about absinthe
from Kallisti et al.)
(Ladies United for the
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
The Ministry of Rum
(Everything you always wanted to know)
The Modern Mixologist
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
(Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
in Hungarian. Well, why not?
Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)
Off the Presses
(Jay Hepburn, London)
Rowley's Whiskey Forge
(F. Paul Pacult)
Spirits and Cocktails
The Thirstin' Howl
Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
The Wormwood Society
(Dedicated to promoting accurate,
current information about absinthe)
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Chocolate and Zucchini
Mise en Place
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
In vino veritas.
The Oxford Companion to Wine
The Wine Spectator
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers
Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena
Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.
Reading this month:
Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.
The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.
Listen to music!
Chuck's current album recommendations
La Bottine Souriante
The Old 97s
The Red Stick Ramblers
Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots
Miles of Music
New Orleans Bands.net
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV
Long Beach Bayou Festival
Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA
WWOZ (New Orleans)
Live audio stream
KCSN (Los Angeles)
Stream the last "Down Home"
for 1 week after broadcastk
Live MP3 audio stream
Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
(A rich history of N.O. radio)
Air America Radio
(Talk radio for the
rest of us)
Grateful Dead Radio
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
KRVS Radio Acadie
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
(Science fiction radio)
(Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
(Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)
Films seen this year:
In the cinema:
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (****-1/2)
No Country for Old Men (****)
Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (***)
Eastern Promises (***-1/2)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (**-1/2)
Across the Universe (***-1/2)
Michael Clayton (****)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (****-1/2)
Lookin' at da TV:
A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
J. T. Seaton
The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)
My photographs at Flickr
The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy
Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed
Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley
by Aaron McGruder
Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson
by Garry B. Trudeau
Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley
Get Your War On
by David Rees
by Jonathan Rosenberg
L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz
by Peter Blegvad
by Al Capp
by Emily Flake
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner
by Walt Kelly
by Greg Peters
by Ted Rall
This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow
XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak
AlterNet.org (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)
Borowitz Report (Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.)
Whitehouse.org (Not the actual White House, but it should be)
Weblogs I read:
The Carpetbagger Report
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief
Friends with pages: The Final Frontier:
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918
"There ought to be limits to freedom."
-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999
"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998
"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-- George W. Bush, CNN.com, December 18, 2000
"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."
-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)
"Eating, drinking and carrying on..." -- Adelaide Brennan
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Shake, rattle 'n roll ... Well! I managed to get my butt jiggled in my desk chair by the planet shifting around me yesterday, like everyone else in L.A. My main worry was what effect the quake might have had on the three brand-new bottles of rum that were perched rather precariouly near the edge of our bar (New Orleans Amber 3 Year, New Orleans Cajun Spice and Ron Matusalem Gran Reserve 15 Year, no less). I would most certainly have cried over spilled liquor, but was also concerned about the effect two and a quarter liters of rum would have on our wood floors while spread all over it in a big puddle.
Fortunately the bottles didn't budge (yay!), nor did anything else in the house as far as we can tell. Local drinkers Marleigh and The Rum Dood also reported no breakage, and we all celebrated separately with Mother-in-Law Cocktails, Añejo Old Fashioneds and Margaritas, respectively.
Wesly also noted, "Maybe this'll break you of your habit of leaving bottles on top of the bar for them to potentially fall and break." Well ... *sigh*, yes, you're right, of course!
Tom Waits in concert! Okay, before we get into the drink and food porn from Tales of the Cocktail ... hie thee to NPR's website and fetch the podcast of Tom Waits' amazing performance, clocking in at 2 hour, 21 minutes and including songs he's never done outside the studio before. Story here, direct link to download the podcast (128kbps MP3 file) here.
I'm annoyed that he's not coming anywhere near me on this tour, but it's really cool for folks in the rest of the country in between LA and NYC to get an opportunity to hear Tom; the two shows I saw him do in LA, eleven years apart, were two of the greatest shows I've ever seen in my life. And yes, "I Wish I Was In New Orleans (In the Ninth Ward)" makes me cry.
Café Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar. Things are a little different around the Café now -- there's a new chef in town. Danny Trace is off to Destin to take the Exec Chef gig at the new Commander's Palace (and On the Rocks Bar!) that'l forthcoming, and now heading up the kitchen at Café Adelaide for the last few months has been Chris Lusk, among other things a former sous chef at Commander's in the Garden District. He blew us away from the outset with the meal he served us during Jazzfest (which, um, I haven't written about yet ... but I'm getting to it!). You've undoubtedly heard me sing the praises of Café Adelaide enough -- let's get right to the food porn.
We began with an extended sojourn at the Swizzle Stick Bar, where as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago we started with a lovely morning cocktail, the Absinthe Suissesse:
1-1/2 to 2 ounces absinthe (to taste)
1/2 ounce orgeat
1 egg white
1 dash orange flower water (optional)
2 ounces heavy cream
1/2 cup crushed or cubed ice
Serve either shaken or blended; old traditional method is to shake vigorously for 15 seconds with crushed ice, or blend with cubed ice. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass.
Off to the table, and off we go ...
This was our amuse bouche, a "Crab & Corn Dog". A crab claw was dipped into the same batter used for their fabulous new appetizer, the Shrimp and Tasso Corn Dogs -- a thick corn batter spiked with ground smoky-spicy tasso ham -- and quickly fried, along with some greens and lots of five-pepper jelly. Nice way to kick us into gear. And wait 'til y'all hear about the actual "corn dogs" ...
Oh, look! More drinks! This is their signature cocktail, the Adelaide Swizzle, in nice little servings on what Ti calls the "trouble tree." Old New Orleans Crystal Rum, fresh lime juice, Peychaud's Bitters, soda and a secret ingredient ("Which some of the cocktail geeks have already figured out," said Ti at Tales last year, giving me and Wes a playful stink-eye). Very tasty, very summery, very refreshing, very New Orleans.
Shrimp Rémoulade Salad, which my sister Marie had and which I didn't get a bite of, but it looked good.
Wes' starter -- Breaux Bridge BBQ Crawfish Shortcake, with toasted garlic, crushed lemon, Abita beer cream and classic New Orleans BBQ sauce over a savory shortcake biscuit. We'd had this a few months ago, and oh boy ... good. Good good good.
My starter -- Louisiana Blue Crab & Sweet Corn Waffle, with andouille-seasoned shrimp, roaster oyster and melted leeks with Creole meunière sauce. This was fantastic. I love waffles in savory dishes (which reminds me, Wes, how long has it been since we've been to Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles? TOO LONG!). The Gargantuan shrimp was gorgeous, with a smoky flavor from the andouille seasoning, and the rich, tangy, buttery sauce was perfect for sopping up with the waffle. The corn and crabmeat topping reminded me of one of my favorite maquechoux dishes ever, by John Besh, that was enriched with crabmeat, but this had a lot more crabmeat and harmonized really beautifully with the rest of the dish.
Let's have a closer look at that waffle, shall we?
Now, for my main course:
Andouille-Crusted Tenderloin of Pork with New Orleans Rum-glazed amarillos, Louisiana red beans and toasted jasmine rice with saffron Bocage honey & charred cilantro vinaigrette. The flavors in this dish bridged the gap between New Orleans and Latin America -- what could be more New Orleans than red beans 'n rice, along with andouille and pork, but with the amarillos (sweet fried plantains, with a local touch on the rum glaze) and the cilantro vinaigrette's perfumey herbal characteristics complementing the lovely local honey ... again, lots of harmony on the plate, and really refreshing juxtapositions of flavor. And it's fun to eat!
This monster was Wes' entrée -- Whole Fried Trout with Corn and Crawfish Hash and Watermelon Caipirinha Sauce. I almost got this just from the description of the sauce, but the pig won out. He was glad he went for the fish, though. He'll have to go into more detail in the comments later on, as it's late and my feeble attempts to wrest a comment out of him while wrting a post at 10:48pm netted me "It was really good," and "Don't hit me up at bedtime!" (I had a bite. It was really good.)
Chocolatey cocktails came out before dessert -- not sure what they were called, but they were chocolatey and creamy and yummy. (Now that I think back, I think it was the White Chocolate Martini, with Godive white chocolate liqueur and Nocello walnut liqueur from Italy.) Not the kind of stuff I would order in a bar, but they were good with our onslaught of dessert. We should have all split one, of course, but we ended up getting three. (Of course.)
Blueberry Shortcake, with pastry cream and nuts and tons of blueberries. This was extraordinary.
Bourbon Pecan Pie, a classic, with caramel and chocolate sauces, and vanilla ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with bruléed turbinado sugar, a chiffonade of mint and a Cointreau-rhubarb coulis. This one was mine. Deep rich chocolate flavor, cake not too dense, coulis delightfully tart and citrusy ... anotehr great dish.
Finally, I love old-school stuff like this:
Da leftovuhs go in da Swan. (Da good kinda swan, not da scary Dharma Initiative kinda Swan.)
Once I finish recapping Tales we'll get back into Jazzfest coverage ("It ended nearly THREE months ago, you lazy bastard!" ... "Yeah, I know, I know, shut up.") More Adelaide food porn will be forthcoming.
Tales recap: Cognac, Armagnac and Jerez Brandy. Our third seminar at Tales of the Cocktail on Thursday, the 17th of July was entitled "Cognacs and Armagnacs," although we sampled some lovely Spanish brandies as well.
A little quick recapping ... they went through the basics -- all Cognac and Armagnac is brandy but not all brandies are Cognac or Armagnac, the word "brandy" coming from the Dutch "brandwijn," or "burnt wine", brandy being distilled wine or, at least, fermented grape juice, sometimes with crushed grape pulp and skin, etc. Interestingly enough, some of the finest brandies are made from grapes that make lousy wine, and you probably wouldn't want to drink the "wine" or fermented grape juice that's the basis of many great brandies.
We got a pithy Samuel Johnson quote too: "Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy." I love brandy but don't particularly aspire to be a hero, and when I was a boy the liquor for boys was ... well, whatever we could get our hands on. Miller Ponies. Everclear and Welch's Concord Grape Juice. Old Crow and diet root beer. Anything purloined from my dad's bar. Never once claret, though. But I digress.
Three primary types of brandies: 1) Grape brandy, usually just refered to as "brandy"; 2) Fruit brandies and eaux-de-vie, any distilled brandy made from any other kind of fruit; and 3) Pomace brandy, made from peels and skins, like Italian grappa or French marc, the quality of which can range from beautifully sublime to turpentine-like.
Three major regions of brandy-producing in Europe: Cognac and Armagnac in France, and Jerez in Spain. The revelation for me during this seminar was just getting to taste those brandies from Jerez. Gran Duque de Alba is double-distilled in pot stills from Airén grapes, which has apparently been cited as the most widely grown grape in the world (!), accounting for 30% of all grapes grown in Spain. Aged in American oak barrels that once contained oloroso sherry. We tried two, starting with the 10 year old -- lght mahogany color, butterscotch in the nose, with caramel, raisins and toasted nuts, and lots of vanilla and dried fruit on the palate, with notes of chocolate and cinnamon. Yummy stuff. Then we moved on to the Gran Duque de Alba 25 year old -- antique mahogany color, tons of butterscotch and toffee in the nose, with vanilla and raisins, and really smooth and lovely on the palate, with more vanilla and caramel and chocolate. I think I want me some of this stuff.
Ooh yeah, there were cocktails too.
2 ounces brandy (we used Gran Duque de Alba 10 year).
1 ounce Grand Marnier.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
Shake and strain.
Ooh. I could get used to Sidecars like this.
Then we moved to Cognac -- Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes mostly, with high acidity and which produce "an undistinguishable wine." Double distilled in pot stils, with the clear spirit emerging at about 68-72% alcohol, and must be aged a minimum of 2 years in French oak. If you were wondering about what the grades of Cognacs signify, here's what they're all about: VS or VSP means Very Superior or Very Superior Pale, which means a minimum of 4 years of aging in the cask. VSOP means Very Superior Old Pale with an average age of something between 10 and 15 years. XO means Extra Old, also referred to as Hors d'Age, which means a minimum of 6 years but often up to 20 years.
We tried H by Hine, which is a blend of 15 Petite Champagne Cognacs at least 4 and up to 7 years old. Floral and fruity on the nose, with apricot, vanilla, orange peel and jasmine in the nose, and baking spices and vanilla on the palate, with a really great texture in the mouth too. Next was Hine Rare VSOP, a blend of 25 Cognacs aged 10 or more years -- vanilla, fruit and flowers in the nose, vanilla and apricot notes in the palate, very mellow and smooth. Next, Hine Antique XO, a blend of 40 Cognacs (!) from Petite and Grande Champagne, aged 20-25 years. Lots of vanilla in this one, in the nose and the palate -- that's the wood talkin' after all those years -- with dark caramel in the nose as well, and tons of spice on the palate. Very complex and pretty dry. This is $150 a bottle stuff, so I'm not likely to get a taste of it again anytime soon.
Time for another cocktail.
The Savoir Faire
1-1/2 ounces Cognac (we got H by Hine).
1/2 ounce B&B Liqueur.
1/2 ounce Pimm's No. 1.
1 ounce tamarind juice.
1/2 ounce lemon juice.
Shake and strain, garnish with a grating of nutmeg.
Pretty good, interesting tartness from the tamarind (find the juice at Latin markets if you're interested in making this one; it's less "juice" than the sticky tamarind pulp soaked in water, which you can do yourself if you're so inclined but it's a pain in the ass).
Then it was on to Armagnacs. I was keen to taste some of these, as I actually have very little experience with Armagnac and would like to have lots more. (My primary introduction to Armagnac was on an Air France flight to Russia in 1993. I don't know about now, but at the time being on an Air France flight meant you could have all the free wine and hooch you could drink, even in coach class. I'm not sure where the spark came from, but I asked the flight attendant if I could have some Armagnac, and he quickly brought me some. I don't even remember which one it was, but I do remember having two of them and they were lovely.) Armagnac brandies come from a different region, use similar gradings (VS/3-star, VSOP/Réserve, XO/Vieille Réserve), and the making of brandy in Armagnac predates the making of brandy in Cognac by 250 years. However, they don't produce nearly as much; about 20 times the number of bottles come out of Cognac.
Armagnacs will also come out in specific vintages, which you don't see nearly as often with Cognacs. I always enjoy looking at the Armagnacs in the locked cases at the spirits shop, with the prices going up and up as the vintage dates go further back. (Bottles from my birth year seem to run between $200 - 400; wonder if that was a good year.)
The three Armagnacs we tried were from the House of Castarède, founded in 1832. The first was Castarede Blanche, a white, unaged brandy which was fascinating stuff. You get none of the vanilla and spice notes as you do from the wood; this is delicate stuff, more refined than a marc but if I had to compare it to something it'd be pisco, the clear grape brandy from Peru. (I've always been curious about Ciroc, that grape vodka from France, but I've never tasted it nor do I know how it'd compare with something like this, but I've heard that it's really good for a vodka.) Sweet and floral in the nose, not much alcohol burn even though it's 40% abv. Very floral on the palate, with notes of lavender. Lovely stuff.
They used this as the base spirit in the next cocktail:
French Café Mocha
1-1/2 ounces Castarède Blanche.
1/2 ounce Fee Bros. Warm Ginger Cordial Syrup.
1 ounce cold coffee.
1 package hot cocoa.
6 ounces half-and-half.
Shake and strain, serve in a rocks glass filled with ice.
This was nice, but all the delicate floral characeristics of the Blanche just went into a black hole. Frankly, a more assertively flavored and oak-aged brandy would work better in this, I think. I'd be curious to experiment with unaged Armagnac in a drink where it can really stand out.
Next up, Castarède VSOP, with walnut, warm spices, cocoa and prune in the nose, continuing in the same manner on the palate with more spices. Don't tell me I'm going to start wanting to get Armagnacs too, sheesh ...
Then, a vintage Armagnac -- Castarède 1979 vintage. This stuff was superb, nuty, with butter, toasted nuts, cocoa and spices spices spices ("!!!!" is what I wrote in my notebook). Again in my head I hear the phrase, "Ooh, there goes your money, honey." To quote Hellboy, "Ohhhh, crap."
Finally, we tasted B&B liqueur, which stands for "Bénédictine and Brandy", which is exactly what it is -- the peerless liqueur mixed with brandy and bottled. Bénédictine had been bottled in modern times for about 70 years on its own, until a bartender at the 21 Club in New York in 1937 created a Bénédictine & Brandy cocktail, and it took off -- you get the wonderful herbal bouquet of the liqueur without so much of the sweetness. The Bénédictine folks caught on to a marketable idea and began to parket the blended product as well. Oddly enough, although I love Bénédictine and use it all the time, I'd never actually tasted the bottled B&B.
OKay, the running tally for Thursday the 17th ... tastes of six single malt Scotches, tastes of ten gins, four small gin cocktails, tastes of nine brandies, three small brandy cocktails. No spitting into the spit bucket at any time. From here it's off to Cocktail Hour, and THEN to Chef Chris DeBarr's Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, with drinks by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry and Wayne Curtis. Keep those scorecards up to date, kids ...[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, July 28, 2008
Mixology Monday XXIX: New Orleans. We're all back from Tales, still energized (and exhausted) by our experiences in New Orleans, and when Paul Clarke offered to host Mixology Monday this month he almost had no choice -- this month's (slightly delayed) theme is Cocktails From or Inspired By New Orleans.
This month I'll be presenting two cocktail recipes which regular Looka! readers will probably recognize, but I wanted to share them specifically with the MxMo crowd in case the drinks were new to anyone. One's new, one's very old and was almost lost, and as they're both terrific I think the word on these drinks needs to be spread far and wide.
I had a lot of milk punch while I was home for Tales. This was a good thing.
It's one of our great breakfast and brunch cocktails; tastes great in the middle of the night, too. The two you pretty much always see are either a Brandy or Bourbon Milk Punch, and both are fantastic. I love the little variations some bartenders and chefs put on them at their establishments too; some put a few drops of vanilla extract, and I always loved Susan Spicer's version of the Brancy Milk Punch that used a couple of dashes of Herbsaint.
Every month New Orleans Magazine publishes a new or sometimes older cocktail recipe. Sometimes I look at them and say, "Meh," but on other occasions I look at it and can't wait to try it.
This was the case when I saw a new milk punch that had been created specifically for this monthly feature by H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir in San Francisco. We tried it, and ... wow. I love love love this milk punch! It's got a wonderful Caribbean flavor, and given that some call New Orleans the northernmost port of the Caribbean it's entirely appropriate. Now that Wes and I met H. at Tales, we can't wait to get back up to SF and park our butts on barstools across the bar from him.
A Milk Punch Named Desire
(Created by H. Joseph Ehrmann, Elixir, San Francisco)
1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément VSOP.
1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb.
1/2 ounce Navan Vanilla Liqueur.
3-4 ounces whole milk or half-and-half.
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a few large ice cubes. Shake vigorously for at least half a minute, in order to build up a nice froth. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
A nutritious part of your Tiki breakfast! (Hmm, tiki breakfast ... now there's an idea.)
Now, for today's second cocktail ...
I originally published this next story just shy of five years ago, and given that this month's MxMo is all about cockails from or inspired by New Orleans I thought it'd be the perfect time for an anniversary retelling. In case some of the MxMo crowd haven't heard me tell the story before, or haven't read the condensed version in Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, it's some obscure and fascinating New Orleans cocktail history. If you make this drink you'll be helping keep some of New Orleans' nearly lost culture alive (and getting very yummily liquored up to boot). Who knew that one out-of-the-blue email from a then-stranger would lead to our discovery of the most intriguing -- as well as one of the best -- New Orleans cocktails I have ever tasted. What follows is the whole story to date, with the original recipe as well as the one we've slightly tweaked for the Twenty-First Century.
In August of 2003 I received an email regarding a "mysterious New Orleans cocktail" from a gentleman by the name of Brooks Baldwin, who said:
As a man who knows his way around Crescent City cocktails, I wonder if you'd mind looking over the ingredients in this very old, unnamed recipe from pre-Prohibition New Orleans. Does it resemble any cocktail you've come across in your stumblings? I'd love to give it a name.
My grandmother, Mrs. Monte M. Lemann (born in New Orleans in 1895), inherited the recipe from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Lucien E. Lyons, shortly before the beginning of the First World War. As specified in the original recipe, my grandmother concocted this libation by the quart and stored it in an antique lead crystal decanter. Informed that science had linked lead crystal with lead poisoning, my grandmother said: "It's a pretty bottle, so hush."
"The Mysterious New Orleans Cocktail"
2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Amer Picon
1 jigger Orange Curaçao
1 jigger Simple Syrup
1 jigger Maraschino Syrup
Mix the first six ingredients, then add Bourbon to make one quart.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I'm all for using Luxardo Maraschino in place of maraschino syrup (thank you for turning me on to a great product!) and adding extra simple syrup if necessary. Torani brand Amer could pinch hit for the Amer Picon. I'm pretty sure I read that Torani Amer more closely resembles the original Amer Picon than the Amer Picon available today. Do you know anything about this? Apparently, the original formula got messed with a while back -- the flavor changed slightly, and the proof dropped from 78 to 39. In any case, Torani Amer is easier to find.
I responded enthusiastically -- this drink sounded fantastic -- and assured Brooks that I'd be mixing up a batch as soon as possible. I'd test it out on Wes and myself, plus a few other friends. He replied, "I'm stunned that you've taken up the gauntlet on behalf of the venerable mystery cocktail. My beloved grandmother, if only she were still among us, would be pink and giggling with delight." We were more than happy to do our part to make a nice departed lady giggle, particularly if it involved drinking liquor.
I've seen sweet, red maraschino syrup still for sale, usually from the dreaded Reese brand (just about everything I I've tried of theirs tastes terrible, including the worst "maraschino" cherries I've ever had) and I thought this drink cried out to be drier. We used maraschino liqueur, still with a nice touch of sweetness but not too much. Luxardo is the standard, or use the Croatian brand Maraska if you'd like it a touch drier (the bottle's not as pretty, but it's much less expensive).
Similarly, we decided to use the drier Cointreau (a true triple sec, with the French word "sec" meaning "dry") rather than the typically über-sweet curaçaos that are out there. Use curaçao if you like 'em a bit sweeter (try to find Marie Brizard orange curaçao and avoid all of those bottom-shelf brands), but I highly recommend a drier cocktail. You get enough sweetness from the simple syrup and Maraschino.
Brooks was indeed correct about Amer Picon; not only is it nearly impossible to find anymore, but the makers have changed the formula so much that it bears little resemblance to the original. Torani brand Amer is a wonderful product, and one that's been thoroughly embraced by the Basque-Americans who use it in their signature national drink, Picon Punch. However, if you're fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste Torani Amer and original 78 proof Amer Picon side-by-side, the Torani product is quite different, with less bitter orange and a more vegetal quality that did not exist in the original. More on the solution to that later.
Still curious and in need of a cocktail historian's view on this, I forwarded the email and recipe to Dr. Cocktail, who replied:
My feeling is, this was a home-made cocktail, not a bar cocktail. No bartender would use such measurements -- I mean, the proportions are fine and it sounds delicious, but no barkeep would speak in terms of quarts, teaspoons, etc. I'd say this was a glorious product of the "My home is my castle" aficionado class prevalent at the turn of the century. And of course NOLA had more free-thinkers than most places...
I mixed up a batch that weekend. Wes and I tried it, plus had the opportunity to serve it to a couple of guests who had impeccable cocktail chops. Our verdict? "Superb" ... "exquisite" ... "wonderful." Now our job entailed spreading this cocktail far and wide.
Doc said it'd be very cool to name it after Brooks' grandmother, but when I pointed out that she herself had gotten the recipe from her mother-in-law, he immediately (temporarily) dubbed it ... "The Mother-In-Law Cocktail." That's got a great additional New Orleans connection, given that that's also the title of one of our classic R&B songs, as performed by Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe.
Doc did some more digging. He believed that he had not only identified the source (or rather, the inspiration) for Brooks' grandmother's cocktail, but came up with recipes as well:
Now, I haven't found the exact recipe, but there were two versions given and here are the ingredients in the first one: Amer Picon, Peychaud's and orange bitters, whiskey, sugar. Get this: Glass coated with absinthe. OK, now here are the ingredients in the 2nd one: sweet vermouth, Angostura, Amer Picon, Curaçao, rye whiskey, glass coated with absinthe.
Boom. It looks like Granny's recipe is an amalgam of the two. It's name?
Y'know, I've seen other recipes for this drink now that I've pinpointed it. It seems like one of those drinks for which no two recipes match. If I'm right... it's a Zazarac.
Interesting! I had always assumed that that cocktail name, when I've seen it listed in old books, was simply a misspelling or a phonetic spelling of "Sazerac". Doc surmised that it might have been some people's way to get around what was apparently the Sazerac Coffee House's "infamous tendency in the past" to litigate over the Sazerac name. It might also have been "someone's guess as to the contents of the then possibly still secret recipe of the Sazerac... iffy, but possible." More:
Now, the versions of the Zazarac I've encountered are persuasively close but not right on the money. It should also be noted that the long-lost sister cocktail to the Manhattan and the Bronx (The Brooklyn) bears an unmistakable resemblance as well, and it is the only of the recipes to match the use of maraschino. Here is the Brooklyn cocktail recipe:
1-1/2 oz rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Amer Picon
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain into a cocktail glass.
Again, there are other variations of the Zaz which are so dissimilar as to not have previously raised a red flag, which is why it hadn't occurred to me sooner, and the Brooklyn was just so thoroughly uncommon. Point is, ALL cocktail recipes are essentially variations of one another anyway AND unrelated cocktails CAN end up being remarkably similar due to a finite set of cocktail ingredients. Therefore especially since (a) the recipes don't match exactly and manipulations to MAKE them match requires both combining and omitting and even them we must add in that which neither contained, and (b) Granny's recipe was untitled, we have ample argument for giving her drink its own name.
Our speculation -- Brooks' grandmother's mother-in-law had seen and tried recipes for the Zazarac, didn't quite care for them, and started tinkering. We think the recipe is quite probably her own.
Brooks ran the naming choices by various members of his family, and the consensus was, since it was Gran's drink that she got from her mother-in-law ... the Mother-in-Law Cocktail it is! Here's that recipe, but first ... the Amer Picon conundrum.
Torani Amer, while a delicious product and the major flavor componenet in my Hoskins cocktail, isn't necessarily always a substitute for Amer Picon. It works well in small quantities in most cocktails that called for Amer Picon, but doesn't really work in a Picon Punch. However, as regular readers are undoubtedly aware, bartender and molecular mixologist Jamie Boudreau recently came up with a stellar Amer Picon substitute which I began to refer to as "Amer Boudreau" (and I couldn't help but notice Jamie referring to it that way himself at the Making Your Own Cocktail Ingredients seminar at Tales, ha!). While Torani Amer works very well in a Mother-In-Law, I think Amer Boudreau will work even better. Oh yeah, that recipe:
The Mother-In-Law Cocktail
A pre-prohibition lost New Orleans classic, now found
2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons "Amer Boudreau" Amer Picon replica
(substitute Torani Amer, or use vintage 78-proof Amer Picon if you can get any!)
1-1/2 ounces Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo or Maraska)
1-1/2 ounces Cointreau or high-quality orange Curaçao
1-1/2 ounces simple syrup
One 750ml bottle of your favorite Bourbon
Combine ingredients thoroughly and pour into a clean one-quart bottle.
To serve, pour three ounces into a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
Stir for no less than thirty seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a stemless cherry.
We prefer the Maraska maraschino from Croatia, as it's drier. We also prefer Cointreau to cheap triple sec or curaçao, but Marie Brizard makes an excellent orange curaçao which is worth seeking out.
It really is worth keeping a bottle of this concoction around -- you don't have to mix, just pour! Easy peasy! However, if you don't want a whole quart of it and would like to mix just one, I've worked out a single-cocktail version. The proportions aren't exact, but they're fairly close; it won't be exactly like the full-batch Mother-in-Law, though.
The Mother-in-Law Cocktail
2-1/2 ounces Bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon Cointreau or high-quality orange Curaçao
1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo or Maraska)
1 teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Amer Picon (replica, original or Torani Amer)
Combine with cracked ice and stir for no less than thirty seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a stemless cherry.
For a sweeter and less strong cocktail, use the juice from a jar of
Maraschino cherries instead of the Maraschino liqueur, and curaçao
instead of Cointreau.
We ended up serving this cocktail to Dale DeGroff when he was visiting Los Angeles a few months after we came up with all this, and he fell in love with it. He ended up consulting on the menu at Jonathan Downey's Match Bars in London, and folks in Merrie Olde Englande ended up quaffing this cocktail over a century after and four thousand miles away from its inception. Doc ended up getting the publication scoop in his book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, for which, as a truly lost and forgotten cocktail, it was perfect; the book was very popular, and we can only imagine that people all over everywhere are now making the Mother-in-Law Cocktail. (It's now sadly out of print, so pester him to get to work on the Second Edition!) I guess we did a fairly good job in helping spread it far and wide.
Thanks to the family history of Brooks Baldwin, the incredible scholarship of Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh and my own humble job as the guy who got the email and forwarded it to the right people (then mixed it, tasted it, got excited and served it to more of the right people), we have resurrected a lost, pre-Prohibition classic cocktail from New Orleans and bestowed upon it a new name. It's stuff like this that makes me glad to be a New Orleanian, a cocktailian, and just glad to be alive. Mix up a batch, and have one (or three) tonight.[ Link to today's entries ]
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Cocktails of the day. It's hot.
It's not as hot as it was six weeks ago when it got up to 100+ degrees inside the house and the wax seal on my new bottle of Absinthe Nouvelle-Orl´ans melted, but it's in the upper 80s. That's fairly hot.
We were, as they say, dyin' o' da t'irst, and Wesly said, "Maybe we could have an afternoon cocktail," and I immediately shouted, "DAIQUIRI!" It's a perfect day for it, and we've got a fridge full of big fat limes, with two of 'em already pulled and up to room temperature for squeezing.
I wanted something a little different though, and thanks to our friend Blair we managed to snag a bottle of his homemade falernum bitters, the label of which even suggests, "Add three drops to a Daiquiri." Now, it's not terribly fair posting the recipe, given that y'all probably don't have any of this stuff. I'm just sharing what we had today, but if you want to approximate the flavor try substituting John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum (or a homemade falernum) for the simple syrup, and adding a dash of Fee's Lemon Bitters to help bring it all together. Once Bittermen's comes out with their Tiki Bitters you could try that too, or bug Blair for a bottle if you happen to be in Portland for Tiki Tuesday at the Teardrop Lounge
Trader Tiki Daiquiri
2 ounces white rum (we use Cruzan Estate Light).
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup (substitute Velvet Falernum or homemade falernum).
3 drops / 1 dash Trader Tiki Falernum Bitters (substitute Fee's Lemon Bitters).
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Mighty tasty and refreshing and really hits the spot. The falernum bitters add a depth of flavor and spice to the drink that's just wonderful. Nice job, Blair!
(I'll resume with Tales posting and NOLA food pr0n on Monday. We'll also have guest co-blogger Wes to help out with reconsructing the Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner!)[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 25, 2008
Happy Birthday, Michael! Our good friend in New Orleans turns the big four-oh today, has probably already had a yummy lunch at Lüke by now and with luck will spend the rest of the evening getting free drinks from his bartender friends. Have great day, Dr. P., and drink plenty of water to avoid a hangover of the size I had last week ...
Irene's Cuisine. Although I had already started our Tales coverage last week, the trip actually began with our arrival the day before Tales started. I did mention our immediate cocktailification upon arrival in town, thanks to Michael and Louise and some mixtures of gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, Lillet, crème de cacao, rye, green Chartreuse and maraschino (but not all in the same drink), but only glossed over our wonderful meal.
I guess we couldn't exactly be called regulars at Irene's, as we don't currently live in the city, but we do go there every time we are; Wes wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, if I failed to get him there I'd get a fair amount of grief. It's all for good reason -- we've never had anything less than a wonderful meal there, we love the atmosphere, and we can get out of there without spending an arm and a leg.
This time we were joined by a friend, the delightful Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz (go to that site, check out the spirits he brings us, and then get some). Sazeracs went around the table, and as I was ordering for Eric, who was running late, I decided to order him my favorite appetizer at Irene's. Heck, while I'm at it, I thought, I'll order it for me too.
Pannéed Oysters with Grilled Shrimp may sound simple, but it's one of the best starters in the city. There's a raspberry vinaigrette on the spinach salad that drizzles down into the beurre blanc under the shrimp and oysters, and they mingle, and it's absolutely lovely.
Duck St. Philip, mmmmmmm. Wes says, "The best duck dish in New Orleans, period" ... although this dish had some SERIOUS competition from the stunning new duck dish at Café Adelaide. (We'll get to that later, during the epic Adelaide post still forthcoming from Jazzfest.)
Crispy roasted duck with a raspberry demi-glace over sauteed spinach with spiced sweet potatoes ... my oh my. If you are in or go to New Orleans and you like duck and you haven't had this dish, just go now.
Cannelloni al Forno -- Housemade pasta tubes stuffed with browned veal and pork, a touch of eggplant, with Parmigiano-Reggiano and ricotta cheeses, baked with a light marinara sauce and finished with a besciamella sauce. Oddly enough, of all the times I'd been to Irene's I'd never had this, and I felt like something really Italian. It was, unsurpisingly, wonderful.
When the waiter came by to tell us the dessert special, he uttered some of my favorite words, all in the name of the dish: Creole Cream Cheesecake with Louisiana Strawberries. With a Grand Marnier-vanilla bean reduction sauce too, no less. The strawberries were heading out of their season, but so what; they were still delicious, plus the tang of the Creole cream cheese (a local artisanal product that almost died out) and that sauce ... I might have to work on a cocktail with that flavor profile.
Perfect capper for the day, and then there was Thursday ...
Juniperlooza! How can you pass up a class with that title? We couldn't.
After Paul Pacult's spirits tasting seminar earlier that day (which we went over yesterday), in which I tasted (and did not spit out) six fabulous single malt Scots whiskies, we had about a half-hour break before the next one. Problem was, it was on the top floor of the hotel, with the limited elevators being packed with people every time we tried to get up, and it took us over a half an hour just to get up there. If I wasn't such a wimpy non-athlete I would have considered the stairs, but 17 flights is rather daunting for anyone, I'd expect. (This was one of the big flaws with the Tales setup at the Monteleone, frankly -- it often takes a ridiculous amount of time to get up to the Riverview and Vieux Carré Rooms.) By the time we got there we had to sit way in the back, and consequently didn't get one of the great Plymouth Gin swag items -- a shoulder bag full of bar tools. Sigh.
What we did get was a tasting mat before us, lined up with ten gins! (If there was a spit bucket, and I honestly don't remember if there was or not, I ignored it. Sigh.)
Ryan Magarian, Portland-based mixologist and co-creator of Aviation Gin, moderated the session along with Philip Duff, brand ambassador for Bols, Simon Ford, brand ambassador for Plymouth as well as Desmond Payne, Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller (wow).
We started out with a selection of genevers, also called Dutch gin or "Holland gin" in Jerry Thomas' time. It's the original gin, predating the London dry style that we've come to know as gin, and has a very different history, character and distilling process. It starts out as a multigrain mash with lots of rye, wheat and corn, although not too much barley. We got to taste the two main types of genever -- jonge and oude -- plus korenwijn ("corn wine," the aforementioned multigrain spirit). The base spirit is produced in copper pot stills and comes out at about 120 proof, and to make genever it's blended with the botanicals and redistilled. Juniper is part of the mix of botanicals, as with London dry gin, but it's further in the background and not nearly so dominant. Korenwijn, incidentally, is a wonderful spirit on its own, though, and very popular in the Netherlands although sadly unavailable in the U.S. so far. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
"Jonge" and "oude" don't refer to age in genevers, but to style and distilling techniques. "Oude," the older style, is a heartier, maltier spirit, made from barley not unlike Scots whisky, and "jonge" a newer, clear, more neutrally-flavored style. There's less of a korenwijn base in the jonge style, which is lighter and apparently very popular in the Netherlands these days; young people apparently mix it with Coke. (Gah, such a waste.)
Oude genever, or even better, true korenwijn, makes a perfect Improved Holland Gin Cocktail, one of four cocktails we were served during this seminar.
Improved Holland Gin Cocktail
2 ounces oude genever (or korenwijn if you can get it).
1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur (or Grand Marnier).
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup.
2 dashes Angostura or Peychaud's bitters.
Stir with ice and serve on the rocks, or strain and serve up. Garnish with a lemon peel.
This is an amazingly good drink. Truly. The most readily available genevers in the States is by Boomsma, although the Maytag folks have recently debuted an American-made genever called Genevieve. We picked up a bottle recently but haven't tried it yet (hmm, maybe tonight).
The three genever-style spirits we tasted, thanks to Philip (who was wearing a t-shirt that said "I'd Rather Be Drinking Genever"), were:
An unaged, uncut "malt wine", the base for genever.
Korenwijn, a very old genever at 38% abv, which we were very lucky to get!
Bols Jonge Genever, lighter but very lovely stuff, and you do get a bouquet of botanicals in the nose and on the tongue. Seems such a waste to mix this stuff with Coke! Philip says this is the #1 bestselling spirit in the Netherlands.
Next to taste was an Old Tom Gin. This is a legendary spirit, predating the appearance of London dry gin in this country by decades, and was a sweetened gin. Back in the Days of Yore sugar was added to gin to help mask nasty flavors brought about by the presence of impurities and bad-tasting congeners resulting from poor distilling techniques. As distilling improved the style's popularity continued, and Old Tom gin was the basis for almost all historical cocktails pre-1890s or so which called for gin that wasn't specifically Holland gin. It was extremely popular up until Prohibition, but never really recovered afterwards, and by the 1960s it was no longer made.
Old Tom is back, though, and I hope it won't be too much longer before we see it in shops. I can't wait to taste this in a Ramos Gin Fizz; that's the gin that was used in the original recipe. Old Tom It was surprisingly sweet, more so than I expected, which helped ameliorate the bite of the juniper (which was definitely there) although there was more flavor from the alcohol than from the botanicals. This could be a great "gateway gin" for gin-fearers. Vodka-drinker-converters of the world, unite!
Brands of Old Tom Gin and the more currently well-known and popular London dry gin began to become established in the 1840s, although Old Tom made it over here first. We didn't start seeing London dry appearing in cocktail recipes until about the 1890s, even the turn of the century. Before long it was established as the premiere gin of choice in the States, and I can't imagine a Martini without it.
The next gin we tried was old tried and true, Beefeater from London. It was great to have Desmond Payne there to speak, and although I sat in rapt attention while he was speaking I didn't take any notes, and on that day I beat the living crap out of my already-crappy memory ... sigh. Gabriel should have a Juniperlooza post up before long, and here's hoping he remembers Desmond's comments better than I do.
This was actually the first time I had tasted Beefeater neat and at room temperature, something I should really be doing for all spirits, according to what we learned from Paul Pacult. That said, gin tends to be the only spirit I never drink by itself; hardly anyone does, really. It's a spirit that's made for cocktails, and its botanicals blend so beautifully with other ingredients that you can't help but to mix it. One taste of Beefeater cried out ... JUNIPERRRRRRR! Like, *whap* in the snoot with a juniper branch. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We also got lots of citrus -- bitter orange and lemon peel.
We got a yummy cocktail made from the stash of Beefeater, one of my favorites and a sort of medium-level cocktail for converting former vodka drinkers. It's tangy and grapefruity and very refreshing, and has been referred to as a "modern classic." It was invented by Paul Harrington in the 1990s, but tastes like one of those drinks that's been around for decades.
1-1/2 ounces London dry gin (we used Beefeater, of course).
1 ounce Cointreau (but we used Grand Marnier at the session).
3/4 ounce Campari.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Then we tasted Plymouth Gin, perhaps my favorite all-around gin. It's not a London dry, it's its own style, appelation and category, of which it is the sole occupant. Very unique! The Plymouth Gin company was founded in 1793, in an area that had been making spirits since the 15th Century. It's full-flavored but less assertive than London dry. It's a FANTASTIC Martini gin, and very well-balanced. It's also the base spirit of my own signature cocktail, The Hoskins.
The next gin we didn't get to taste, because we were too far in the back and they ran out. (D'oh. Get enough product for the seminars!) It's a gin from Menorca (!) called Xoriguer de Mahon, and I know nothing about it; let's read the information sheet!
Then ... aaah, the sheer joy of Plymouth Sloe Gin! If you've ever tasted any sloe gin available in America, you've probably nearly spat it out as a syrupy, cough-mediciney swill that's artificially flavored and colored and that you wouldn't want in your drink. Plymouth Sloe Gin is actually made from gin and sloe berries (small blackthorne plums), made in the old artisanal style. It's fantastic stuff, bittersweet and tart and beautifully balanced. The original recipe was lost, but it was reintroduced in the UK 11 years ago and has been unavailable in the U.S., until this year. I have yet to see it on the shelves, but when you see it, GRAB IT! Learn the joys of a true Sloe Gin Fizz.
Finally we moved to what's being called the "New Western Dry Gins," still with juniper in the botanical bouquet but it's not so upfront, not the dominant flavor. These new gins tend to be in two general categories: either citrusy or a savory, floral-spicy style. Tanqueray No. 10 is one of these, with fresh citrus peel in its botanicals. It's a "softer" gin but lovely stuff, and a good gateway gin. Hendrick's from Scotland is one of my favorites in this style, with cucumber and rose petal in the finish. G'Vine from France features forward notes of cardamom. Try some gin sours with these sometime.
I've been hearing a lot about Martin Miller's; I'd had some in a cocktail before, and finally got a taste of it on its own. It's sweet on the palate but not sweetened, with flavors of cucumber, lavender and violets. A good suggestion was to try this in a Collins with some Aperol. (Hmm!)
Cucumber Cantaloupe Sour
1-1/2 ounces Martin Miller's Reformed Dry Gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
2 ounces fresh extracted cantaloupe juice.
1/2 ounce housemade clover honey syrup (1:1 with water).
Combine in a mixing glass with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with sliced or shaved cucumber.
Last but not least, Aviation Gin, Ryan's own concoction. I've been a fan of this gin since first tasting it, but it's the kind of gin I want to try in drinks other than a Martini. It's quite floral and spicy -- lavender and cardamom immediately come to mind. The suggestion made in class -- try this versus Martin Miller's in a Blue Moon showdown! Especially when Crème Yvette comes back next year!
2 ounces Aviation Gin.
10 mint leaves.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
3/4 ounce rich simple syrup.
2 thin slices red bell pepper.
Muddle pepper slices and mint leaves in a mixing glass. Fill with ice, add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with another thin pepper slice.
I was already exited about gins, and this got me even more excited. Old Tom! Plymouth Sloe! It's going to be so much fun playing with all this.
Now, let's recap the score. We began Thursday from 10:30 to noon with six Scotches which I did not spit out. We continued from 12:30 to 2:00 with nine gins which I did not spit out, and four 2-ounce cocktails which I happily finished. Next session at 2:30 -- Cognacs and Armagnacs!
Cover song of the day. I'm still on the fence regarding My Morning Jacket. I've enjoyed their recent albums, but the one time I went to see them, boy ... did they suck. I have no idea what was up with that; off night, bad mood for me (although I was in a great mood, because they were opening for Ben Kweller and I couldn't wait to see him). Anyway ... one of my friends sent around a YouTube link (not a proper video, just a still of the album cover with the music) of MMJ covering The Band's "It Makes No Difference" from the Endless Highway: The Music of The Band tribute album. It's pretty darn good.
Although there's nothing in the world to match this:
Oh man. "The Last Waltz" is still quite possibly my favorite musical performance film of all time.
My friend Barry adds, "It's always been one of my favorite songs in the whole world. If any of you guys are ever feeling heartbroken, please don't listen to this song, it will NOT make you feel better, take my word for it."[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Oh, my head ... Anyone got a spare liver? I'll give it right back, I promise. (Actually, that's a lie, you'll never get it back. Ever.)
We got back very late Monday night, were complete wrecks all day Tuesday, thought we had recovered by Wednesday but had fairly spectacular mid-afternoon conk-outs (fortunately it had slowed down a bit at work, and I took a power nap in my office), and I think I'm at least non-wobbly today. One more good night's sleep and I think I might be heading toward recovery. "You really kind of beat the crap out of yourself during your vacations, don't you?" said one of my cow-orkers yesterday. Well ... um ...
Another July, and another Tales of the Cocktail is history. I've spent the last few days recovering from the beating my liver took, but it was all worth it. Wes and I got to spend almost a week with some really fantastic people, taste a lot of amazing spirits and cocktails, eat a ton of great meals, learn a hell of a lot, and (on at least one occasion) get hideously drunk. Gawd help me, I'm still not finished going over Jazzfest (which ended TWO MONTHS ago!), but over the next week or so I'll do my best to recap Tales from my hazy memory, unreadable notes and with the assistance of our friends.
The best memories came from the people, though ... Marleigh and Dan, Ted and Janet, Blair, Jeff, Wendy and Dayne, The Dood, Keith, Zane, Rocky, Craig and Heather, Erik and Michele, Seamus, Jay, Gabriel (whom I wish I had gotten to hang out with more), Matt (ditto), Bryndon and Bob, Bob O., Jeff from Calgary, plus Jamie and Paul and Robert The Bum with his fantastic seminars and mindboggling drinks at the Tiki dinner ... and anyone else I might not have mentioned, we had so much fun with y'all and can't wait to see y'all again!
Paul Pacult's How to Taste Like a Professional. Of course, as with Charlie the Tuna, we're looking to have good taste, not to taste good ... (groan).
If you're interested in spirits and you're not familiar with F. Paul Pacult, you should be. He is quite possibly the world's foremost critic and authority on spirits of all kinds, and is a writer and journalist as well as being involved with BAR (read about that when you get a chance). I was thrilled at the prospect of taking TWO classes with him at Tales, and I'm glad I did ... although this first on on Thursday the 17th was the beginning of my downfall that day.
Paul took us step-by-step through his techniques for evaluating a spirit -- how it looks, then multiple stages of smelling and tasting. He takes about 30 minutes to evaluate a spirit, and probably half of that is just smelling it. While it can seem an intricate process, it's really very simple when you get down to it. Trust your senses, and along the way try to educate your senses so that you'll have more of a basis with which to perceive distinct aromas and flavors in a spirit or liqueur.
What does it look like? What does the color remind you of? Then, for the nosing, I learned something that made me smack myself on the head for not having been doing it all along -- SMELL A SPIRIT WITH YOUR LIPS PARTED! That way the alcohol doesn't sear your nose as the aroma goes in. (Duh.) Also, don't stick your nose in the glass, take one sniff and say that's it ... in the first one or two minutes there's a rush of aroma after pouring. Smell it then, sure ... but then let it sit for a while to give it time to adjust to its enviroment, to react with the air more. New aromas will be released during this time, and it's really fascinating if you take the time. Smell and taste a few times as it sits, to see what's changed.
What does it smell like? It doesn't even have to be something edible; during our sessions we smelled things like leather, tobacco and band-aids, and those are not necessarily a bad thing. At all. You should taste what you smell, but you can taste far more than just what you smell. What does it remind you of when you smell and taste? Dry, sweet, bitter, oaky, peppery ... the list goes on, and while at first it might sound wine-smobby, it isn't. Just say what you taste and smell and, importantly, whether you like it or not. Do you yell YUMMY!!! ... or do you spit it out and reach for the thesaurus to look for synonyms for "vile"? Finally there's the key to all of Paul's ratings: Would I recommend it to a friend?
During this session in which we learned his tasting and evaluating techniques, we tasted six single malt Scots whiskies. They were all by Macallan, four in the fine oak finish and two of their standard finish. They use small pot stills, which produce a more intensely flavored product, and I'd never tasted this many of their whiskies in one sitting. Or ever, for that matter. Here are my tasting notes, which are probably like a kindergartener's in comparison with Paul's, but ya gotta start somewhere.
Macallan 10 Year, Fine Oak Finish. Straw colored, spice and honey in the aroma. That's from the wood, he told us; 60 to 70% of what happens in the glass is from the wood in the barrel. On the palate we got more sweetness than in the nose, and I tasted nougat, grain and vanilla. (You can get lots of vanilla flavor from the vanillin that naturally occurs in wood.) Very nice stuff.
Macallan 15 Year, Fine Oak Finish. This was his 2006 whisky of the year, which was finished in a sherry cask. A bit deeper in color, like a clover honey, with more spice in the nose ... cinnamon this time, plus the vanilla. The sherry is helping here. More complexity in the flavor. Ripe fruit, some malt ... wow. I could get used to stuff like this. (As a friend said about getting into Scotch, "Ooh, there goes your money, honey.")
Macallan 18 Year, Fine Oak Finish. Even darker and richer in color, like a wildflower honey almost. This one finished in Bourbon and sherry oak barrels, adding to the complexity of flavor. Dried fruit in the nose, a touch of smoke, sweetness like caramel. Taste ... hoo-boy. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, honey honey honey!, an amazing richness that just fills your mouth. Hint of peat, but in balance with the other flavors. A little citrus and spice. I begin to weep when I think of how much this tasting might ultimately cost me.
Macallan 21 year, Fine Oak Finish. That gorgeous golden color again. Sherry and Bourbon finish again. A bouquet of flowers like lavender and spices like nutmeg and allspice. BEAUTIFUL taste! Ohmygawd. Incredibly smooth, as if you're only barely aware you're drinking alcohol. Fruit and caramel and more spices on the tongue. "Harmony!" cried Paul. Yum yum yum!! And, of course, this is a $250 bottle of Scotch. Sigh.
Macallan 12 Year, Sherry Oak Finish. This one was a bit darker, medium brown in color. HUGE aroma and flavor -- cinnamon and cocoa and toffee and nutmeg and more. My head's starting to spin. Well, that's not only because of my boggling mind; it's because I was making a mistake. I was not availing myself of the use of one of the spirits taster's essential tools -- the spit bucket. Paul always tastes and then spits out the product. Well, naturally, otherwise you'd be a professional drunk and not a professional drinker. I couldn't bear to spit this stuff out, though (and I have a personal neurosis in that I find spitting to be superlatively gross). I wasn't spitting any of this stuff out, in fact. This would be problematic later in the day, to say the least. But I digress ...
Macallan 18 Year, Sherry Oak Finish. Darkest one yet in color, almost like a maple syrup. AMAZING aroma, with spices and dried fruit and floral notes; someone shouted out "Leather!" and I smelled again and sure enough, in the background, there it was. I don't want to eat leather, but who hasn't smelled a new leather belt or shoes over and over again, because it smells so good? And the taste ... holy crapola. Huge. Mouthfilling. Dried fruit and spices and herbs, toasted nuts like macadamias. It's readily apparent why Scotch fanatics get the way they do. "This is one of those rare spirits that absolutely detonates in your mouth," Paul said, and he's absolutely right. My palate's not educated enough to come up with all the descriptive words as he does, but one word pretty much summed it up for me. W O W.
And that was my Thursday morning, from 10:30 to noon. Like a complete doofus, at both this and Paul's next seminar, I neglected to hang out by the table to see what would be come of the bottles. I've gotta get my head screwed on right next time.
Trouble was, I was well on my way to unscrewing my head pretty thoroughly that day. Next session, Juniperlooza!
Come out and play in New Orleans! NewOrleansOnline.com, the city's official tourism website, has a new commercial up, this time featuring Jeremy Davenport and lots of dancing chefs.
Good commercial but needs more bartenders![ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tales of the Cocktail begins ... oh boy, does it begin. Well, technically it's Thursday the 17th, but I happen to believe that it's not actually tomorrow until you go to bed and wake up again, so therefore even though it's really tomorrow it's still today, as far as I'm concerned.
If it sounds as if I'm at a French Quarter bar at 2:02am, writing after I've been drinking (on and off) for 14 hours, well ... you'd be right. It's the thing to do, after all, when you're in town for a cocktail convention and celebration.
Wes and I arrived yesterday, on Tuesday that is, and almost immediately upon arriving got down to business. "Should we stop at the Carousel Bar for a Vieux Carré before we check in?" I wondered. Wes wisely demurred and suggested that maybe we should take care of the room and get settled first. Half an hour later, we headed to the Marigny to visit our good friends Michael and Louise and hang out with them at their stupendously fabulous home bar. Our imbibing begain with a Twentieth Century Cocktail and moved on to Gary Regan's variation on the legendary Last Word, which is one of our favorites. That said, we're beginning to think that his version is one we enjoy more -- equal amounts of rye (instead of gin), green Chartreuse, lemon juice (instead of lime) and maraschino liqueur. Absolutely superb drink.
Sazeracs with dinner at Irene's (food porn still to come when I'm not so sleepy), sleeping in until 10am today and heading to Café Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar for lunch ... but not before a morning cocktail of an Absinthe Suissesse (with actual abisnthe), some of their lovely 25¢ Martinis (Gordon's), some tasters of the Adelaide Swizzle and a creamly chocolatey drink before dessert, and a lovely pour of Hennessy XO along with dessert.
The Absinthe Suissese is a classic New Orleans breakfast cocktail, with a great balance of flavors, but we haven't been able to have a real one for many years now. As we all now know, absinthe has been illegal in the U.S. until just within the last year, so this classic has been made (in New Orleans, at least) with New Orleans' own pastis (or, as it's often called, "absinthe substitute"), Herbsaint. We do love our Herbsaint, and for good reason -- it's not only our homegrown pastis, it's got a great flavor, is less sweet than more famous pastis like Pernod and is nearly a third the price. An Absinthe Suissesse made with Herbsaint is a lovely thing indeed ... but now we can have them with absinthe.
The drink that Mike made for me at the Swizzle Stick featured one of the two most common absinthes on the American market at the moment, Lucid. It's a great gateway absinthe, smooth and easy to drink, slightly toned down in the anise profile but with a nice balance of herbs behind it. In the coming year we'll have a veritable explosion of abinsthes on the American market, and we'll be having a lot of choice for our Absinthe Drips and all our other absinthe-bearing cocktails, incuding a great way to start your day -- the Absinthe Suissesse.
You'll find alternate recipes containing frightening things like crème de menthe. Avoid. This is the way it's been done in New Orleans for years.
1-1/2 to 2 ounces absinthe (to taste)
1/2 ounce orgeat
1 egg white
1 dash orange flower water (optional)
2 ounces heavy cream
1/2 cup crushed or cubed ice
Serve either shaken or blended; old traditional method is to shake vigorously for 15 seconds with crushed ice, or blend with cubed ice. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass.
Later on we headed back to the Monteleone for the opening of Tales, and then to the cocktail bloggers' reception, where we had Cachaç Shrubbs, to the Plymouth tasting room for Sloe Gin Fizzes, off to Cary Bonnecaze's new Absinthe Museum on Royal for tastes of four absinthes (Lucid, Pernod, La Fée and the excellent Marteau), then to the Tales welcoming reception for Beefeater Gin cocktails (Gin Gin Mules, Martinis, Jasmines and some kind of punch that I'll recall later once I'm awake and have my recipe cards handy). Dinner at Lüke was accompanied by an exceedingly rare Ojen Frappé, and then after Wes collapsed I snuck back to another late night tasting suite for Partida margaritas with St. Germain.
After that, before heading to bed I stopped at a little bar called Attiki, down the street from the hotel, met Kristoph the bartender, and made an unusual request -- "My brother, I've been drinking for 14 hours, and odd as it might sound I'd really like something tall, cold and non-alcoholic." He took very good care of me with engaging conversation and two pints of Coke.
Not a bad way to get started. The seminars begin full throttle on Thursday (tomorrow), and as for now ... it's 3am and I need to get to bed.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, July 11, 2008
Bliss, bliss and heaven. Last night I stayed up way too late upgrading my iPhone to the new 2.0 software. It wasn't yet available through the iTunes upgrade, but I found a link where I could download the upgrade package directly from the server, and do it manually. It worked beautifully, restored all my previous contents from backup just as they were before, and enabled me to start buying apps.
I was all ready to trumpet the dream app I had found out about this week, but at the last minute it got trumped and will go in second place. In the meantime, I had found mention of an app called Tuner. "Surely this is too good to be true," I thought as I read the description. "Can this really work?" Not seeing why not, I decided to take the chance and spend $4.99 on it. I downloaded it and installed it this morning before leaving for work.
Because of that, this morning, while on my commute on Los Angeles freeways, I listened to WWOZ New Orleans in my car.
I practically wept tears of joy.
In fact, when it kicked in, it was in the middle of a great John Boutté song, "The Tremé Song," and afterward segued into Danny Barker doing the classic song he wrote for his wife Blue Lu, "Don't You Feel My Leg," this version including an accompaniment by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. To add icing to the cake, the 'OZ jockey back announced it as coming from "the excellent Shout! Factory release, 'This Is The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Collection'" ... which I compiled, and for which my friend Steve wrote the liner notes.
Best. Drive to work. EVAR.
If you have an iPhone, either old or new 3G, and you've managed to get it activated and/or upgraded during today's clusterfuck, buy this app, called Tunes. It enables you to listen to streaming Internet radio. On your phone. *boggle*
The other killer app, the one that I'm a bit ashamed to say got pushed off the top today because of my joy at being able to listen to 'OZ on the road, is the app I've been waiting for, an ideal app for the iPhone, a project of Martin Doudoroff of CocktailDB.com (along with Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh) ... called Cocktails.
Cocktails puts over 1,500 cocktail and mixed drink recipes in your pocket. Impress your friends and discover your next favorite drink among the same classic recipes that inspire today's top bartenders.Unlike most drinks databases, which are almost invariably padded out with endless revolting concoctions produced at random by reprobates at college parties, all the recipes in Cocktails are formulations adapted from real books by real authorities.
It's brilliant. (Make sure to watch the guided tour video.) It's exactly what we cocktail geeks and bartenders need. It's worth every penny of its asking price. I love love love it.
So, between 'OZ in my car and Cocktails in my pocket, it's been a good day. We might even go to Seven Grand tonight and make it an even better day.
Hangin' in the Tremé, watchin' people sashay past my porch, in front o' my door ... The Times-Picayune reports that HBO has greenlit a pilot for a highly possible series by David Simon, the brilliant mind behind "The Wire." The pilot/maybe-series will be called "Tremé", and will be set "in the New Orleans music community."
"Tremé," named after the iconic New Orleans neighborhood where many musicians live, will marry one of television's most prestigious networks with creator David Simon, one of television's hottest series masterminds.
Simon created HBO's the "The Wire," which just completed a five-year run. While not a huge ratings success for the network, "The Wire" was one of the most critically acclaimed shows in television history.
Simon confirmed that HBO will film the first episode of "Treme," possibly sometime later this year. If HBO gives the green light for more episodes, production would resume in 2009.
Simon, a frequent visitor to the city and a longtime New Orleans music fan, said this week that the stories told in "Treme" would reach beyond the music scene to explore political corruption, the public housing controversy, the crippled criminal-justice system, clashes between police and Mardi Gras Indians, and the struggle to regain the tourism industry after the storm.
"It's basically a post-Katrina history of the city. It will be rooted in events that everybody knows," Simon said. "What it's not going to be is a happy stroll through David Simon's record collection. It should not be a tourism slide show. If we do it right, it (will be) about why New Orleans matters."
To research the script for the pilot, a prospective first episode of a drama based in the New Orleans music community, Simon consulted with Donald Harrison Jr., Kermit Ruffins and Davis Rogan...
Location scouting has already begun in New Orleans. Casting will begin soon, but production issues surrounding the practicality of shooting during hurricane season could affect the show's time line. "If it were up to me, I'd shoot it in the fall," Simon said in a recent interview. If the pilot pleases HBO, shooting on regular-season episodes could begin as early as late winter or early spring provided subsequent episodes could be written in time.
Simon said he expects the casting mix of imported actors and locals to match the cast mixture of the Baltimore-set "The Wire," which used non-Baltimore actors for most of its lead roles. "We're looking to use local people when we can," he said.
Though the show's main storylines will focus on musicians, other elements of the city's unique culture will be spotlighted. One of the pilot script's principal characters, Simon said, runs a restaurant.
The pilot story begins two or three months after Hurricane Katrina, Simon said. If "Treme" goes to series, each season would advance New Orleans recovery story by one year.
I'm tremendously excited about this. First, HBO's shows by and large are top notch. Specifically, "The Wire" has been lauded by many people as the best show they ever did (I somehow missed it, although I'm a huge fan of their other shows; I'm just starting to catch up on DVD). This bodes very well for this show being real and authentic and well-written, unlike "K-Ville" which, while providing a nice economic boost to the city because of the production offered little more than that; it was a terrible show.
John Boutté's "Tremé Song" needs to be the theme song!
Bacon week wrap-up. Wrapped in bacon, of course. Har har.
Bacon is dead! Long live bacon!"
It's trendy now, but will hype and gimmickry (bacon cocktails, anyone?) spoil the great salty meat?
I had my "what accursed and ungodly form will bacon take next?" moment a few years ago, when a little plastic bottle of zero-calorie bacon-flavored spray emblazoned with the likeness of David Burke, a chef with fading culinary credentials and a passion for gimmickry, found its way into my life.
Curious about the possibilities of such a concoction, I doused a carrot in it and proffered it to my chubby little dog, whom the vet had recently advised we start slimming by substituting veggies for his usual treats. He sniffed at it, eyed me suspiciously, and dropped it from his snaggle-toothed maw. It wasn't the last time my dog ate carrots, but if there were a threat that one out of every few would smell like burned electrical tape and taste worse, I'd start picking and choosing, too.
That bacon spray is the embodiment of what bugs me about bacon these days, like a physical incarnation of the trite pro-bacon blanket sentiments that people rarely seem to express about other meats. (Ever heard anybody say, "Everything tastes better with goat?" Exactly.)
Okay, here's the deal. "Bacon spray" is not real food. (Even the dog knows.) I've heard about that chef's so-called "flavor sprays," and the one word I've heard used most often to describe their myriad flavors is "nasty." Bacon on top of a maple doughnut ... that's still real food, at least. And bacon cocktails? Those bacon Old Fashioneds and bacon Manhattans we had were excellent, and that's real food too -- real bacon fat infused into real whiskey, as you'd infuse fruit or spices.
Yes, there are all kinds of silly trends, but when they all die out, bacon will endure.
A wonderful, magical animal
Tom Colicchio, David Chang and others on the virtues of the hog, the importance of ethical farming and why true pork lovers are not ignorant pigs about their meat.
The chefs and pork experts I interviewed for this story have strong feelings about pigs. They have deeply held convictions about breeds and ethical farming. They believe big pork factories are evil and that, if we care about our meat, then we should care enough to find out where it comes from. And, of course, they are happy to hold forth on the deliciousness of pork itself, from that sumptuous, buttery belly to the bladders and the bones (yes, you can use them, too).
Below is a collection of condensed interviews with pork lovers pushing back against the American notion that convenience and cost should trump all else. The future of pork, if these experts had their way, would look a lot like the past: consumers buying from farms and collectives, pigs allowed to forage in the woods and raise their young rather than being bloated with antibiotics and degraded in wall-to-wall pens, and all of us making more, better use of an animal's body. It's not cheap; important things rarely are.
This is a terrific article, and reprsents my dream of pork. I can't wait to get my hands on more Mangalitsa pork or "wooly pig." I can't wait to get to Barcelona and eat jamón Ibérico for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. I can't wait until it's easier for me to get pork that TASTES LIKE SOMETHING!
By the way, if you love pork and haven't yet done so, read Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, by Peter Kaminsky. Fantastic book.[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Balshstille Day: Fabulous food and cocktail fundraiser next Monday! Mark your calendars -- Monday, July 14, 2008, at the Foundry, 7465 Melrose Avenue, 7-11pm.
(Click to enlarge)
The who -- bartenders Eric Alperin of The Doheny, Damian Windsor of Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood (formerly of Seven Grand), Marcos Tello of Comme Ça and The Edison (also formerly of Seven Grand), Christine d'Abrosca of Malo Restaurant (also also formerly of Seven Grand) and Chris Ojeda of Osteria Mozza; chefs Eric Greenspan of The Foundry, Ray England (sous chef at Craft) and Lisa Vega (pastry at Providence). Um, wow.
The why? The event is to raise money for medical expenses for Billy Walsh, a cook at Craft. On May 22 of this year, Billy was riding his Vespa to work when a driver coming the other way attempted a left turn in front of him. She didn't see him, and she hit him with her car. He subsequently spent two weeks at Cedars-Sinai in a coma, and his recovery will be long -- he still faces more surgery to replace part of his skull. (Holy bejeebies.) And of course, in the grand American tradition, he has no health insurance and his biils are astronomical. (I'm not sure what the policy is at Craft, but he had just finished his externship there and had just been hired; if they do offer medical insurance to cooks it hadn't kicked in yet).
I don't know Billy -- he's a close friend of my friends Christine and Ray, who are two of the organizers of the event -- but this makes me think that there but for the grace of Whomever goes any of us. I'm lucky to have good health insurace through my work, but tens of millions of us aren't so lucky. Enjoying and appreciating as I do the company and work of bartenders and cooks (very few of whom have insurance), I want to help out. So if you're in L.A., go to the event! I'll see y'all there -- it sounds like it's going to be a blast, and all proceeds go toward alleviating Billy's medical bills.
The $40 donation for entry includes dinner, dessert, entertainment and one cocktail, and there'll be a cash bar with all proceeds going to Billy's bills. You can purchase tickets in advance via PayPal (send the money to wisemc at gmail dot com) or pay cash at the door. For more information, email Balshstilleday at gmail dot com.
Pork Week continues: Down on the Farm. From today's Salon:
Four years ago, Paul Alward and Stephanie Turco left their jobs on Wall Street to start Veritas Farms. Devoted to ethical farming, the couple raises heritage breed livestock on open pasture. We pet the goats, met a duck who had been raised by turkeys, and watched regal long-horn cattle waddle around with the chickens. But mostly, we spent time with the pigs. It was tempting to cuddle up with the lazy, happy animals, but the farm is not a petting zoo and we were reminded that in order for these breeds to exist, they need to be eaten.
If I lived anywhere near New Paltz, I'd be there every week. I need to start getting my ass to farmer's markets more often, to see who's doing this near where I live.
Talesblog: So, where y'all wanna eat? My most recent post to the official Tales of the Cocktail blog is a list of cool places to eat, for the most part concentrating on funky neighborhood places and places within a short walk or cab ride of the Quarter, where Tales is taking place.
Everyplace should be well-known to most fans of New Orleans (and certainly to locals), but check it out if you're curious. The Tales crowd seems mighty appreciative already. :-)[ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Cocktail of the day. We're still having fun playing with our new bottle of Angosura Orange Bitters (yay!), and this next one popped into my head as another excellent way to try them out.
This one's an oldie, so much so that the original recipe calls for Old Tom gin, a sweetened gin that hasn't been on the market for decades (until ... soon; more on that later!). I first had this one several years ago at The Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio, my favorite place to drink in Las Vegas. Our bartender Michael, one of those great old-school bartenders who's been behind the stick for 30 years and really knows his stuff, turned us on to this one, which hews to the classic recipe but adds one little touch that Michael taught me -- a little trickle of brandied cherry juice for color and a little sweetness in your last sip. It's a very dry drink, so this little variation is like a goodbye kiss.
No picture, unfortunately, because I was a lazy bastard last night.
The Casino Cocktail
(Petrossian Bar version, Las Vegas)
2 ounces gin (Old Tom when it becomes available).
1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur.
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
2 dashes orange bitters.
Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a brandied cherry to the bottom of the glass, then take a barspoonful or so of the brandy from the jar and carefully drizzle it down the side of the glass, so that you get a little red layer at the bottom.
Mighty nice, very refreshing, and one that I might use as a second-tier cocktail for converting vodka drinkers into gin drinkers, especially once we can make this with Old Tom again.
Pork week at Salon! If ever I wondered whether or not my annual subscription fee for this online magazine was worth it, it was confirmed yesterday with the appearance of the first of five articles this week glorifying Schweinfleisch.
Yesterday's covered bacon mania:
Anthony Bourdain has called bacon the "gateway protein" for its astounding ability to lure vegetarians back to the carnivorous fold, and for me, the bacon bra proved something of a gateway as well. It was through links to the bacon bra that I stumbled into a zany online world of bacon-related wackiness. Bacon clothing, bacon accessories, bacon jewelry, bacon toilet paper. The vegans may get their own bestselling cookbook, the yuppies may get their raw organic walnut oil at Whole Foods, but carnivores have turned bacon into something more than mere food; it has become a fashion statement. Leapfrogging from link to link -- bacon gift wrap, bacon tote bags -- I felt like a weary traveler standing on the jagged edge of the Grand Canyon for the first time, staring into its vast, unfathomable abyss; I mean, I knew this existed, but I didn't know it was soooo huge.
Trust me, honey, it is. Ask anyone 'round these parts, and come hang out with the Fat Pack sometime.
Today's article covers something I dearly want to do, and just need to figure out the best way to do it without it being devoured by ants (who have our house under a full-scale assault, including little ant Panzer divisions and undoubtedly little ant V2s soon to come). I want to be able to say "I'm making bacon" and not mean "taking bacon out of the package and putting it in a pan" ... I want it to mean "taking a pork belly and curing it".
I was late for work this morning because I was making bacon. I don't mean the frying-it-up-in-a-pan kind of way. I don't mean in the broiling it kind of way. Or even the nuking it kind of way.
I mean that I was delayed because it had been two days since I had put my Red Wattle pig belly in its cure of salt and maple sugar, and that meant I had to turn it over in its pan and add the maple syrup.
These days, I cure my own meat. Well, to be fair, it's really my boyfriend, into whose apartment I have recently moved, who cures his own meats. His interest in this enterprise developed in the late fall, soon after I met him. Before me, there had also been an extensive flirtation with duck confit, a dalliance that explains the surprising number of duck carcasses in our freezer. But as our relationship heated up, so did his commitment to the saliferous preservation of meat -- specifically as pancetta (pig belly that has been cured with savory spices, rolled and air dried), guanciale (pork jowl similarly cured and hung to dry) and duck prosciutto (a magret of duck briefly salted and dried).
Yes, I will make my own guanciale. Just you want. ('Enry 'Iggins.)
More tomorrow! (If you're not a subscriber, just sit through the commercial -- it's worth it.)
The Cocktail Spirit, with Robert Hess. As we continue to make our last-minute plans for Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans (a week from tomorrow, woo!), Robert brings us a local favorite.
It was Chuck Taggart over at gumbopages.com who first introduced me to this delicious drink. It was first created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. This was before the installation of the "Carousel Lounge", and while this drink was long missing from their repertoire, it can once again be ordered, and enjoyed, in this famous French Quarter bar.
Thanks for the nice shout-out, Robert!
Oh, and one of my bartender friends pointed out this weekend how particularly good this tastes with Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye, an astonishingly good whiskey coming in at a barrel strengh of 132 proof.[ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, July 4, 2008
Happy 4th! I hope y'all have a happy and safe holiday weekend, drink some fine drinks (altho' not to excess) and grill some pork.
Here's Woody singing my favorite American song.
My only comment on this morning's news is ... I'm sorry Jesse Helms didn't live quite long enough to see Barack Obama inaugurated as president. (Hell would have been welcome to him on January 21.)
Last night on "Down Home" I did an Independence Day set which generated more phone calls than any show I've done in recent memory. The theme was protest songs, going back from Woody Guthrie and The Weavers to Billy Bragg, Pink and Bright Eyes. The phones just lit up. In fact, after I played Conor Oberst's solo rendition of "When the President Talks to God" (in which I had to edit in a bleep to cover the final "it" sound of the word "bullshit"), all five lines lit up. "Oh crap," I thought. "Here it comes." It was a flood of praise, with three people saying "You people should be playing songs like this every day," and toward the end of the show one guy also heaped praise on the protest song selection, adding "I'm not a young hellraiser, either. I'm 51 years old, a firefighter for the City of Los Angeles, and a lifelong Republican. And I'm so angry and disillusioned at what's been done to this country ... I say keep it up. I hope you'll play more protest songs next week, and I'll be here to listen to them.
To everyone who tuned in last night (I say "tuned" in a literal sense, because the university has turned off our Internet stream) ... thanks, y'all. Here's a playlist:
"Down Home" Independence Day Special
KCSN, 88.5 FM
Thursday, July 3, 2008, 7-9pm
John Boutté | An American Tune | 2008-05-02: New Orleans JazzFest
X | 4th of July | See How We Are
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings | This Land Is Your Land | Naturally
Woody Guthrie | Pretty Boy Floyd | The Best of the War Years
Randy Newman | A Few Words In Defense of Our Country | Single
Bruce Springsteen | How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Stephan Smith | The Bell (w/ Pete Seeger, Mary Harris, Dean Ween) | The Bell EP
John Mellencamp | To Washington | Trouble No More
Steve Earle | Rich Man's War | The Revolution Starts ... Now
The Weavers | Wasn't That a Time | Together Again
Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk | Fortunate Son | 2006-05-07: New Orleans JazzFest
The Blasters | American Music | American Music
Peter Case | Wake Up Call | Who's Gonna Go Your Crooked Mile?
Neil Young | Shock and Awe | Living With War
Cordelia's Dad | Wake Up | Spine
Cordelia's Dad | Spencer Rifle | Spine
Bright Eyes | When the President Talks to God (radio edit) | Single
Tom Waits | Day After Tomorrow | Future Soundtrack for America
The Green Fields of America | Medley of Reels: The Maids of Galway / The Reel of Rio / Coyne's / Return to Miltown / Hunting the Boyne / Return of the Maids | Live In Concert
The Pogues | The Body of an American | Poguetry In Motion
Black 47 | Livin' In America | Fire of Freedom
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band | What's Going On (with Chuck D) | What's Going On
Billy Bragg | Bush War Blues (Updated) | Bush War Blues single
Pink with The Indigo Girls | Dear Mr. President | I'm Not Dead
Bob Dylan | Masters of War | The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Jay Ungar | Ashokan Farewell | The Civil War
By the way, seek out and find Sharon Jones' version of "This Land Is Your Land" ... it is made of awesome. (iTunes has it, for starters.)
Angostura Orange Bitters are here! Holy crap, did we get tired of waiting, or WHAT?! I, for one, have been waiting since 1824 and that's a long goddamn time.
I haven't seen them on the shelves yet (although I suspect they'll be everywhere before too long, given the ubiquity and market penetration of Angostura's aromatic bitters, which you can even find on the shelves of the Winn-Dixie in Eunice, Louisiana (to the befuddlement of the store manager, who admitted he'd never heard of them as he nonetheless helped us find them during our craving for Old Fashioneds while staying at the Seale Guest House for an annual crawfish boil we're fond of attending). This first batch came via mail-order from Kegworks, Robert Hess' sponsor for his "Cocktail Spirit" series of webcasts.
Unsurprisingly, it's great.
The first impression you get is "HELLOOOO! I'M ORANGE!!" in a singsongy Trinidadian accent. Sweet, bright, clear flavor of orange, with a subtly complex undertone of spice. They're orangier than Fee's, less spicy than Regan's, but none of this is bad -- in fact, it's all great. We're going to have to make more careful decisions in which orange bitters we use for which cocktails (indeed, which cocktail ingredients), all of which will hone our skills and make for better drinks.
We couldn't wait to try it in a cocktail, and we decided to take Paul's advice and try them out in a Martinez. This classic, the precursor to the modern Martini, was initially made with Boker's Bitters, which haven't been around for over 100 years (well, until relatively recently, that is, when the folks at The Bitter Truth used some historical recipes to come up with a batch; it's still a work in progress). These days people who make them tend to use Angostura aromatic bitters, but variations on the drink also call for orange bitters (Stan Jones' recipe for four calls for a teaspoon of orange bitters, in fact). Here's what we did:
2 ounces Cinzano sweet vermouth.
1 ounce Junipero gin.
1 teaspoon Maraska maraschino liqueur.
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters.
Stir with ice for 30 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish specified, but a curly orange twist wouldn't have been uncalled for in this case.
Wow. Really tasty. The up-front orange plays very well with an assertive gin and the spice profile of the vermouth. I can't wait to try this in a Hoskins!
Next up, though, will probably be the Casino Cocktail. I'll let y'all know.
Absinthe Museum to open in the French Quarter. We're waiting with bated breath not only for Tales of the Cocktail (EEK! Starts NEXT WEEK! Get your ass in gear and pick some seminars, Chuck!) but for the grand reopening of The Museum of the American Cocktail in its permanent home at the Riverwalk in New Orleans. (I don't think I can muster a YAY! loudly enough, but two weeks from Monday I shall try.)
As if that wasn't enough museumy goodness for the Crescent City, Cary Bonnecaze, proprietor of French import shop Vive la France and the superb La Maison d'Absinthe, hands-down the best place to get absinthe supplies like spoons, glasses, coasters, fountains and all of the other great accoutrements to the ritual, is opening The Absinthe Museum of America.
It will be the first of its kind in the United States to not only showcase the rare and extensive collection of antique items, including antique fountains, hundreds of spoons, glasses, saucers, old invoices, drippers, labels, posters and prints, topettes, sugar dishes and holders, spoon holders and bottles, as well as many rare and hard to find items. The museum will touch on various topics such as, its beginning, its popularity and growth, its use by artists and poets, the banning of absinthe in various countries, and its resurgence and legalization in Europe and the U.S. There will also be an informational video by Ted Breaux, Creator of LUCID Absinthe explaining how absinthe is made in the Combier Distillery. Visitors will not to only learn about the complex history of absinthe, but leave the exhibit knowing the truth about absinthe.
This is exactly what the drinking world needs, and will, I hope, help put an end to "Does it make you go insane?" and "Will it make you hallucinate?" (Oh, and especially put an end to idiots setting it on fire, too.) Merci, Cary!
June Looka! entries have been permanently archived.[ Link to today's entries ]
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