This weblog is part of
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:
"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
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2009: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr.
2008: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
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! Due to launch 6/09)
* * *Alcademics
(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 Chanticleer Society
(A worldwide organization of
The Cocktail Chronicles
(Paul Clarke's weblog)
(Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
Chico and me).
The Cocktail Circuit
Colonel Tiki's Drinks
(Craig Hermann, Portland OR)
A Dash of Bitters
(Craig Mrusek, bring art and
alcohol together for a
Drink A Week
(Alex and Ed)
(Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge,
(Online magazine for the
Esquire's Drinks Database
(Dave Wondrich and
Fine Spirits & Cocktails
news & insider info)
(Celebrating the world in a glass. All-new site with recipes and back issues!)
In the Land of Cocktails
(Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan,
"The Cocktail Chicks," of Café Adelaide
& Commander's Palace, New Orleans)
(Bartender & mixologist, Portland, 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
The Ministry of Rum
(Everything you always wanted to know)
(The Munat Bros. host
cocktail gatherings in
Seattle, and write about them
here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)
(Blog, cocktail chat online
& Thursday Drink Night!)
The Modern Mixologist
Moving at the Speed of Life
(Keith Waldbauer, Barrio, Seattle WA)
Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
Swanky et al.)
(Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
in Hungarian. Well, why not?
Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)
The Munat Bros.
(Seattle-based brothers and
ardent proponents of fine drinking.)
Off the Presses
(Jay Hepburn, London)
Rowley's Whiskey Forge
(Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)
Save the Drinkers
(Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)
(SeanMike Whipkey & Marshall Fawley)
(Marleigh Riggins & Dan Miller)
(F. Paul Pacult)
Spirits and Cocktails
Thinking of Drinking
(Sonja Kassebaum, Chicago)
Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
(Blair Reynolds, Portland OR)
Two at the Most
(Stevi Deter, Seattle)
The Wormwood Society
(Dedicated to promoting accurate,
current information about absinthe)
* * *The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
(Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)
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
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:
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut (****)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (**)
Third Man Out (***)
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 Abominable Charles Christopher
by Karl Kerschl
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:
Déanta: This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 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
Friday, April 24, 2009
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I do. Every year I'm back home for Jazzfest by this time, but not this year. We're saving our two weeks for Spain in September, so something had to give. I'm trying not to think about it.
It's been an insanely busy, crazed week where some truly bizarre shit has gone down, but things have mostly calmed down. That's all meant a serious lack of posts here though, so sorry about that. I'll do my best to make it up to y'all when I get back.
In the meantime, Wes and I will be distracted from not being in New Orleans by being in Seattle instead! We'll finally get to visit Wendy and Dayne, and Rocky and Paul and Robert and Keith and Zane and Gwydion and Murray and everyone else we know up there, many if not all of whom are either serious drinkers or great bartenders. Therefore, don't expect a lot in the next five days!
See you next Wednesday!
The Creole Julep: The Official Cocktail of Tales of the Cocktail '09! The competition for this year's official cocktail at Tales was to create an original julep, and the winner has just been announced. This year the honor goes to New Orleans bartender Maksym Pazuniak, of Rambla Restaurant as well as Cure, the Crescent City's newest cocktailian bar.
For his entry Max went for a flavor profile based on the city's position as "the northernmost port of the Caribbean." Max is a great guy and an excellent bartender, so if you're going to Tales be sure to stop in at Rambla (a Spanish-Basque tapas restaurant that's one of the hottest new restaurants in town), which is within walking distance of the Quarter, or at Cure, which is Uptown at Freret and Upperline.
The Creole Julep
(Created by Maksym Pazuniak, Cure / Rambla, New Orleans)
2-1/4 ounces Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum.
1/2 ounce Clément Creole Shrubb.
1/4 ounce Captain Morgan 100.
2 dashes Fee Bros. Peach bitters.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
8-10 mint leaves.
1 Demerara sugar cube.
Muddle sugar, Creole Shrubb and bitters until sugar is dissolved in a tall 10 ounce glass. Add mint and press to express oils. Add cracked ice. Add Cruzan and Captain Morgan 100 and stir until frost appears on outside of glass. Garnish with mint sprig.
I had to sub out regular Captain Morgan for the 100, which I didn't have, but boy is this good.
THANKya, Jesus! Over and over again we receive gifts from the world of science and research, but this time the gift comes from God, the gods, The Cosmos, Big Juju or whatever Force of Nature you prefer to address ... the newly confirmed fact that a bacon sandwich really does cure a hangover.
... by boosting the level of amines which clear the head, scientists have found. Researchers claim food also speeds up the metabolism helping the body get rid of the booze more quickly.
Elin Roberts, of Newcastle University's Centre for Life said: "Food doesn't soak up the alcohol but it does increase your metabolism helping you deal with the after-effects of over indulgence. So food will often help you feel better.
"Bread is high in carbohydrates and bacon is full of protein, which breaks down into amino acids. Your body needs these amino acids, so eating them will make you feel good."
Ms Roberts told The Mirror: "Bingeing on alcohol depletes neurotransmitters too, but bacon contains a high level of aminos which tops these up, giving you a clearer head."
Researchers also found a complex chemical interaction in the cooking of bacon produces the winning combination of taste and smell which is almost irresistible.
The reaction between amino acids in the bacon and reducing sugars in the fat is what provides the sandwich with its appeal. Ms Roberts said: "The smell of sizzling bacon in a pan is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians. There's something deeper going on inside. It's not just the idea of a tasty snack. There is some complex chemistry going on.
Not just chemistry ... it's magic!
I love the bit about tempting even the staunchest of vegetarians. That's why bacon is "the gateway meat," after all. We have yet to personally tempt vegetarians into eating actual bacon, but we got a couple vegan frends to drink bacon-infused Bourbon, which is a good step (and makes me feel like such a drug dealer).
Word has it that our friends with whom we're staying in Seattle are stocking up on bacon and bread. This is a very prudent and thoughtful move.
Did Douglas Adams write this? Evidently not, as he's been off this particular mortal coil for quite a while now, but it seems that yet more clever scientists have determined that the center of our galaxy tastes of raspberries and smells of rum.
The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.
Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.
In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.
"It does happen to give raspberries their flavour, but there are many other molecules that are needed to make space raspberries," Arnaud Belloche, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, told the Guardian.
Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.
What would be bad is if our galaxy were an ingredent in a giant Cosmic raspberry rum Collins, and we're about to be muddled by some multi-galactic-sized muddler and quaffed by ... Someone. (Can you tell it's 1am and I'm sleep-deprived and loopy?)[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Happy Tax Day! Well, not so happy, but taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. What helps offset today's unpleasantness (which I could have avoided had I planned a little better last year) is the sight of the nation's nutbar community demonstrating their lack of knowledge of what the word "teabagging" actually means (link to video, NSFW).
We can further remove the edge from today's un-fun aspects by making ourselves a cocktail (practically a panacea for poor periods). I have sadly been remiss is keeping up with my links to the excellent series of cocktail videos produced by Colin Kimball and company at the Small Screen Network, featuring Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess in The Cocktail Spirit, but luckily in the meantime they've added more series of videos and enabled them for embedding on other sites! Let's get started again with The Income Tax Cocktail, about which Robert says: "It can often be said that paying your income tax is a bittered experience. As cocktails go, the Income Tax cocktail can be described as a Bronx cocktail with bitters, but it might be difficult to know if that is how it originally received its name."
Sorry to have had to remove the embedded video, but until I can figure out how to defeat the autostart, I'll have to refrain from embedding them for the time being.
Go directly to the video's main page here: The Income Tax Cocktail.
For those of you that haven't been following their feed or going directly to their site to check them out, I'll post a video a day until I'm caught up.
Sazeracs in the Post. The New York Post (not exactly one of the papers on my reading list) has an excellent and quite long article about the venerable tipple near and dear to all our hearts, the Sazerac.
The article begins with a gentleman at a bar in New Orleans serving a Sazerac to the writer, and I had to arch an eyebrow. One-half ounce of simple syrup, one dash of Peychaud's, and ice? That's twice too much of the former, at least (some would say three timse too much), and 1/3 to 1/4 of the amount of Peychaud's he should be using. The amount of Peychaud's is debatable, but that drink would be entirely too sweet and, with all due respect to the gentleman behind the stick, I'd have to send that one back. (Hardcore traditionalists insist on a sugar cube to make a Sazerac; one-half ounce of simple syrup is the equivalent of three sugar cubes.) And ice? One just doesn't.
It's quite a good article, which includes asides from David Wondrich (debunking the long-standing local myth that the Sazerac was the first cocktail, and the term "cocktail" comes from the type of cup it was supposedly originally served in) and Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman, who is of a like mind with yours truly when it comes to Sazeracs.
"You can tell if it is well made," she says, "when it's on its way out."
As the server approaches your table, you should take a look at the drink: The color should be deep; equal parts red, orange and brown. It dare not be too sweet, though Tuennerman does not profess to have any strong feelings regarding using simple syrup (a time saver) versus the original muddled cube of sugar.
"Properly made," she says, "it is phenomenal. It can be a huge turn-off, otherwise. Huge."
When we were drinking at Providence last year, a place where we love to drink and whose cocktail program is formidable, we could tell when it was on its way out. The server set two drinks on our table that were almost clear with a faint haze of pink. Not only was there not nearly enough Peychaud's in it, but it was the wrong kind of whiskey. Although it was technically a rye, it was one of those limpid Hirsch-branded Canadian 10-year ryes that had almost no color to them, and not a lot of flavor. To top it off, a huge spear of ice more suited for a long drink was pointed out of the rocks glass like a surface-to-air missile. *bzzzt* (That said, ever single other drink and dish served to us there has been beyond phenomenal, so we forgive them for this glitch.)
I always use simple syrup myself, but I am a fan of the sugar cube primarily because it controls the amount of sweetness going in. Just make sure you only splash in a couple of teaspoons of water and muddle that sucker until nary a particle of grit remains. I don't like gritty drinks.
Although I have settled back into being a Peychaud's-only purist most of the time, I will still occasionally try the tiny drop of Angostura (or even Fee's Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters) to give it a very slight edge ... even though Wondrich and DrinkBoy never cease to give me shit about it since the moment they heard I'd tried it. ;-)
Sometimes we live no particular way but our own ... Yep, I had my Deadhead period -- mid-eighties until Jerry passed away. I went to lots and lots of shows, generally between San Francisco and San Diego, and once as far as Red Rocks in Denver. Some shows were stunning, absolutely stellar; others ... um, not so much. Still, for the most part it was a great musical experience and I'd never trade it for anything.
That said, I haven't been too keen on seeing the tours from most of the remaining former members of the Grateful Dead, first as The Other Ones and now simply as The Dead. It's just not the same without Jerry's transcenent guitar and even his voice, although his lifestyle had taken its toll on his singing over the years. I want to remember them for how they were when he was with us.
The New York Times had an article a few days ago about The Dead and memories of times and shows past. There are a number of classic shows, many available as CDs or as free downloads (or streams) from the Grateful Dead section of the Internet Archive, a truly amazing resource. Here's one of them -- soundboard quality, so it's a stream rather than a download -- of a show that many Deadheads agree was their apotheosis. The date was May 8, 1977, several years before I started going to shows. The venue was Barton Hall at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. If you've got a couple of hours to kill, how 'bout listenin' to a show? (Follow the link for playlist, or just stream from the player below.)
Even though it was a bit before my time, this one really took me back. Enjoy.[ Link to today's entries ]
Monday, April 13, 2009
Mixology Monday XXXVIII: Superior Twists. Another month, another MxMo! I actually managed to get one together this weekend (and posted it while wheezing and hacking, home sick today, bleh), and it's a subject dear to my heart. No, not who cuts prettier citrus garnishes, but twists on classic or otherwise established cocktails. Tristan Stephenson of the United Kingdom is our gracious host this month, and details his current cocktail desires as ones "that for one reason or another do an even better job than the drinks upon which they are based."
This is a basic concept of any serious cocktail nerd's explorations (not to mention those of a professional bartender), because once you start substituting ingredients for others you learn how drinks work, how proportions work, how balance works, and it all begins to make sense. You see it laid out for you in the wonderful charts Gary Regan put in The Joy of Mixology, you see it when you realize that a Margarita is a variation on a Sidecar, that you can take a Manhattan and turn it into a Rob Roy or an Emerald just by changing the whiskey. You see the principle in how good bartenders train their barbacks.
interestobsession with cocktails began about 10 years ago, one of the first things I started playing with was substituting ingredients in found classic recipes. In what was probably my first drinkable original, I found a recipe in a vintage barware book that had a punny name; it looked wrong-but-interesting, and some digging revealed the true recipe, which at the time scared me because it had vermouth in it (and now, of course, I have a fridge full of different kinds). As it was already Lillet-based, I thought vermouth was superfluous, substituted Cognac, substituted a tangerine liqueur on hand for one that wasn't available locally and ended up with the Lillet Tomlin -- even punnier, and to this day still not-bad. (I used this one in MxMo XXIV: Variations a little over a year ago.)
The classic twist came up in email recently with my friend Michael, who had gone to one of New Orleans' newest cocktailian bars, Bar Tonique up on North Rampart. They've been open for eight months or so, and I didn't get an opportunity to go while I was home for Christmas, but I've heard good things. ("It straddles the line between a neighborhood hangout and a serious cocktail bar, and it leans more one way or the other depending on who is bartending," he said.) Another place to get not only a decent cocktail but a great one in the city is a milestone, of which I hope there will be many more. (Bar Tonique, now Cure, who'll be next?!) They were served a drink there called the St. Claude (great name for a drink, wish I had gotten there first), which he described as an Aviation with white rum swapped for the gin. That sounded pretty good. I'm not sure if that's exactly what it was, but I tried making an Aviation with rum and ... it was okay. I was a bit underwhelmed, so I suspect there was something else going on. I'll either try to find out what it really is, or start playing with that one myself.
One of my favorite examples of a twist on a classic comes from a drink that's ... not a classic classic, but certainly a modern classic to some. Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh has created many fabulous original cocktails, pretty much all of which I've loved. One of his originals is called the Delmarva Cocktail, which is a great name. While it might sound like it was named after a glamourous Hollywood ingénue of the 1930s, it is in fact named after the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, where Doc first tasted three of the cocktail's ingredients. (I'm still on the lookout for Vera Delmarva, though.) The original recipe called for a base of rye whiskey (which always gets a cheer from me), then dry vermouth, lemon juice, and ... crème de menthe.
Now, this cocktail has its fans, people with refined palates, and Doc certainly knows how to make a great (and balanced) drink, and this is certainly that, but ... for the most part, with very rare exceptions, I can't stand crème de menthe in cocktails. Fresh mint, sure. Crème de menthe, not so much. I don't like pepperminty flavor in drinks; it reminds me of being sick to my stomach as a kid, as my mom always gave me peppermint oil to soothe my stomach. It's entirely a personal thing. ("It's not you ... it's me!) I can occasionally maybe possibly have a Stinger, if it's made with Rumpleminze instead of crème de menthe (drier and higher proof), but other than that, get it away from me.
Gary Regan liked the drink, and thought the basic proportion would hold up to lots of entertaining play with various liquors. He came up with this variation, which I have to say is right up my alley.
The Delmarva Cocktail No. 2
(Adapted by Gary Regan from Ted Haigh's original)
2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce créme de cacao.
Combine with ice in a shaker; shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.
I love this. Just one little substitution, and it's completely different from the original. The spicier the rye the better for me; I like to make this with Rittenhouse 100. The chocolate flavor plays beautifully with the rye, reminding me of one of my favorite desserts -- a glass of whiskey and something very chocolatey (even just a square of Valrhona 71%). The bit of tartness from the lemon provides balance, and the vermouth helps integrate them all. The recipe calls for white crème de cacao, but I'd go ahead and use dark -- you get a heftier color along with the whiskey, and more of a chocolate profile that stands up to a big rye (use the white if you're using a less spicy base spirit). Try to find the Marie Brizard product if you can get it, as it's far superior to most liqueur makers' overly-sweet brands. I have to confess I like the No. 2 better than the original. (Sorry, Ted!)
Gary also does a No. 3 in which the liqueur becomes amaretto, with the lemon bumped up to 3/4 to provide better balance. This is pretty good, but the No. 2 is still my favorite.[ Link to today's entries ]
Friday, April 10, 2009
Good news from New Orleans. While the drinking scene has been steadily improving in New Orleans over the last few years, the City is only now beginning to see new bars opening that are dedicating themselves to finely crafted cocktails, cocktails-as-cuisine in that the ingredients and tecnniques should be of the same quality as those in the restaurant kitchen. The latest, and perhaps most exciting, of these just opened at the corner of Freret and Upperline in Uptown New Orleans. Cure looks fantastic, and I wish I could teleport there right now. As Todd Price points out in today's Times-Picayune, it ain't a vodka and Red Bull kinda joint.
It was soon clear that [owner Neal] Bodenheimer and the staff would also have to train the customers.
A young woman approached the bar and ordered a Stoli and cranberry. No, Cure doesn't have Stoli vodka, but they do have Luksusowa, a potato vodka from Poland.
Someone called out for a Miller Lite. Nope, not one of the beers Cure carries. Nor do they have anything brewed by Budweiser.
A guy leaned across the bar and offered Bodenheimer some advice. "You know what you need here?" he said. "Beer on tap." No, not at this bar.
But Bodenheimer does plan to make his own bitters, vermouth, tonic water and even cocktail cherries.
[...] Now Bodenheimer must persuade more people that a cocktail shouldn't be a sticky, sweet mess or a fruit juice laced with nearly flavorless vodka. A good cocktail is all about balance.
At Cure, the cocktails swirl with complex flavors: a subtle punch of alcohol might be offset with sourness, sweetness or a burst of bitterness.
"On some levels," Bodenheimer said, "it's just like wine."
My kinda place. If someone could please deliver the my-living-room-to-Cure-NOLA teleporter portal to my house as soon as possible, I'd appreciate it.
Now for the bad news ... We all waited with trepidation to see if the zombie holocaust, or "World War Z" would eventually break out, but who knew ground zero would be Metairie?.
A Metairie resident is recovering after a stranger bit a chunk of flesh out of his arm and swallowed it Saturday afternoon.
Joseph Lancellotti, 67, told authorities he did not know the suspect, later identified as Mario Vargas, 48, or why he was attacked in his front yard.
Lancellotti was gardening at his home in the 4400 block of Kawanee Avenue about 2 p.m. when he noticed a man walking toward his house, shouting angrily, the report said. Lancellotti said he couldn't understand the man because he was yelling in Spanish. But when the man got within two feet, he slugged Lancellotti in the head, the report said.
Lancellotti said he tried to defend himself with a garden rake. As the men struggled over the rake, the stranger bent over and bit Lancellotti on his right forearm, the report said. Lancellotti's flesh ripped away as he fell to the ground. The man then got on top of Lancellotti and began choking him, the report said.
The news is worse too -- it appears it's not the slow, shuffling zombie but the enraged, fast-moving kind. We're doomed!
(No reports as to whether Mr. Vargas was actually undead, or if Mr. Lancellotti turned green and become a zombie himself ... had that happened, presumably it would've made Da Papuh, so maybe we're OK.)
Paying tribute to Henry C. Ramos. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, Mr. Ramos was the saloonkeeper on Gravier Street in New Orleans who created one of the city's signature cocktails, the Ramos Gin Fizz.
The Chanticleer Society's website features a vintage article about Mr. Ramos, reprinted from the New Orleans Item-Tribune of Sunday, September 23, 1928 just after Mr. Ramos' death. It begins thusly:
Just the old fellows with a tender spot in their hearts and a longing in their stomachs for the ripe days of yore when mixed drinks were cool and smooth and stimulating, poignant and refreshing, expanding and enheartening, trouble erasing and joy bringing, plentiful and inexpensive -- just the old fellows who were the good fellows are invited to read this column.
Upstarts, turn to some other story. Ladies, bless you, this won't interest you. Raw liquor drinkers, there's nothing here for you either.
A Boon to the World
But you old boys who could and still can delight in the fragrant bouquet, the correct blend and the delicious taste of a mixed drink that may be described without hyperbole as an artistic creation, here's to the point and right smartly:
That delightful old gentleman, Henry C. Ramos, whose palace de palate, coarsely called a bar, was known before July of 1919 to every real connoisseur of drinks in the civilized world, has consented to publish for the first time his formula for the "ONE AND ONLY ONE," otherwise and more commonly named RAMOS' ORIGINAL GIN FIZZ.
Before you read and carefully file this formula, pause a moment as you used to pause before you sipped one of those snow white, velvety fizzes so that you might add the great pleasure of anticipation to the greater one of consumption. Pause and consider in awe the fortune about to befall you-you who have not been wafted into a nepenthean revelry for more than six long years by the gentle potency of that inspired decoction.
Boy, they sure don't write like that in newspapers anymore. (Although we might miss the flowery prose, we certainly don't miss the sexism, though.)
Here they reveal the long-secret recipe for the drink, along with a few other amusing anecdotes, such as:
"Nobody could get drunk in the Ramos bar," was the word, "not only because old Henry wouldn't let 'em, but because drunkenness would take away their appreciation of the drinks. And whoever heard of a man weak enough to get drunk on Ramos' gin fizzes, anyhow? Inspired? Yes. Happy? Yes, yes. But drunk? No, no, no!" ...
Apparently Mr. Ramos was horrified by Drunkards, and it was said that "temperance was a fundamental precept at the Ramos establishment." Well, perhaps they meant moderation, but lemme tell ya, you can definitely get drunk on Ramos Fizzes. It is an eminently civilized drink, though, and although the loud and rowdy were shown the door, I imagine many gentlement practiced the art of getting quietly soused chez Ramos.
You will also note the original recipe called for Old Tom gin, not London dry, so if you can get your hands on a bottle of Hayman's Old Tom Gin or one of the other brands of Old Tom now emerging, you can have a much better idea of what the quiet drunkards on Gravier Street experienced.
Fascinating stuff![ Link to today's entries ]
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Basic Cocktail Formula. Those of you who've done some reading on the rudiments and mechanics of mixology know about the classic proportions, those ratios of spirit to modifier to citrus, etc., that a great deal of the time seem to work very well. David Embury, in his classic tome The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks espoused the 8:2:1 proportion, which these days is more often seen with the base spirit brought down a bit to 4:2:1 (usually expressed in the amounts of 2 ounces spirit to 1 ounce liqueur to 1/2 ounce citrus, for instance). Other classic proportions you see are 3:2:1 (works great for Margaritas) or 2:1:1. If you look at the excellent charts in Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology , you'll see his excellent charts that make ratios and the other drinks you can make by swapping out a base spirit that'll make your head go "DING!" if you hadn't noticed or thought of it before (e.g., swap out the brandy in a Sidecar for blanco tequila and the lemon for lime, and you have a Margarita).
In his latest article in the April issue of Esquire (which I can't seem to find online to link to yet, d'oh), David Wondrich proposes another set of basic proportions that in his opinion almost always seem to work in terms of balance, and one that I can't wait to start playing with:
The Basic Cocktail
(Created by David Wondrich and your imagination)
2 ounces base spirit.
1 ounce aromatized or fortified wine.
2 barspoons (1 teaspoon) of liqueur.
A dash or two of bitters.
Combine in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, strain and garnish.
For your aromatized wine try any kind of vermouth, quinquina, sherry, port, Madeira or Marsala, whatever you've got. (I'm itching to try this with Pineau des Charentes.) With a zillion liqueurs and more kinds of bitters coming out all the time, the sky's the limit. I'll be posting some happy results in a few days, I think. In the meantime, crack open your bar and have some fun.
Cocktail of the day. My recent spate of laziness has gotten me behind on lots of linky goodness (including the above which I couldn't actually link to), which fortunately us always there if I'm too lame to generate original content. Let's start with what we plan on drinking tonight, but first a little background.
Among the many wonderful things I've learned about from my friend Ted Haigh, there was at least one horrible one, or so I thought at first. Malört is a Swedish-style bitter liqueur (although I'd hesitate to call it an amaro, as it's very different from Italian liqueurs described as such) based on wormwood; "malört is actually Swedish for wormwood. Unlike absinthe it has no anise flavoring components, or any other spread of botanicals as far as I can tell -- this stuff's pure, whap-you-in-the-face-with-a-large-tree-branch wormwood with all its concomitant bitterness. It is, quite probably, the most bitter thing you will ever pour out of a bottle and into your mouth that's considered potable and non-poisonous.
It's Chicago's native spirit in a way, first distilled by Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson and still popular there, especially in the Polish and masochist communities. There are those who keep it in their collections as a test of mettle for their spirit-tippling visitors, or as a source of entertainment. In fact, there's a whole pool of photos on Flickr entitled Malört face. The faces accurately express most people's reaction to the liqueur, unsurprising based on the description that was actually printed on the back label (although no longer, apparently):
Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort. During the lifetime of our founder, Carl Jeppson was apt to say, 'My Malort is produced for that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.'
It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts - seemingly forever. The first shot is hard to swallow! PERSERVERE [sic]. Make it past two 'shock-glasses' and with the third you could be ours ... forever.
Perhaps they thought that last line sounded a bit too ... sinister. They're not kidding about the lingering, though -- the bitterness doesn't hit you right away, and just as you're thinking, "Oh hey, this isn't as bad as you s-- oh, JESUS!" Then it hits you and lasts a long, long time, a true everlasting gobstopper.
Dr. Cocktail also noted in the spirit's CocktailDB entry that "it has been adopted enthusiastically by bikers and is a mainstay at biker bars." I have no doubt of this, as I can see these guys using it to prove their manliness. Doc also notes an underlying flavor behind the unrelenting bitterness that he calls "eau de dill pickle."
All that said ... I kinda like the stuff.
It's really not that bad -- after the first time I never made the face, and although I don't drink it often I will agree that it is bracingly, even violently bitter. I've never thought so far to try it in a serious cocktail, though, but a few inventive Chicago bartenders are way ahead of me.
Today's issue of the Chicago Reader has a feature on Malört, and how it's evolved past a practical joke, test of mettle or ingredient in intentionally foul cocktails into a serious cocktail ingredient. If you can balance the bitterness with other ingredients, you might just be on to something, as these guys are.
Brad Bolt, bartender at Bar DeVille in Chicago (a very cool guy whom I met when he visited L.A. last year) came up with the drink that'll be our tipple this evening, which even comes along with a video showing him in Malört-slinging action. The proportions and makeup of this make me think of a Last Word (or a Final Ward, given that it's lemon); this could be a signature drink for one of my favorite cities.
The Hard Sell
(Created by Brad Bolt, Bar DeVille, Chicago)
3/4 ounce Beefeater Gin.
3/4 ounce Jeppson Malört.
3/4 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
Large grapefruit peel.
Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express as much oil as you can out of the grapefruit peel onto the surface of the drink, but do not garnish with the peel.
Here are a couple other Malört creations from Chicago bartenders that we'll try within the next few days:
The Ukrainian Negroni
(Created by Toby Maloney, The Violet Hour)
2 ounces Tanqueray Gin.
1-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce Campari.
1/4 ounce Jeppson Malört.
Combine in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe, and flame an orange peel over the drink.
# # #
The Bukowski1-1/2 ounces Jeppson Malört.
(Created by Charles Joly, The Drawing Room)
1/2 ounce Drambuie.
3/4 ounce fresh orange juice.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
3/4 ounce honey syrup (made 1:1 with water).
3-5 basil leaves.
Combine in a shaker with ice, shake for 10-12 seconds and strain over rocks into an Old Fashioned glass.
(Rather aptly named, I think, even if Bukowski never drank the stuff himself. The Reader adds, "The working name for this drink was the Dirty Old Man, after the column Charles Bukowski once wrote for an underground newspaper in Los Angeles. Joly says there.s no garnish because the writer would have just thrown it back at the bartender.")
# # #
The Golden Eel
(Created by Paul McGee, The Whistler)
1-1/2 ounces Beefeater Gin.
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce Jeppson Malört.
Build over ice in an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with the orange peel.
# # #
(Created by Stephen Cole, The Violet Hour)
1 ounce Jeppson Malört.
1 ounce Amaro Montenegro.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
Dash orange bitters.
1 egg white.
Combine all ingredients except 7Up in a shaker. Dry-shake (without ice) to emulsify egg white. Add ice. Shake. Strain into a short nine-ounce water glass. Top with 7UP.
(Without tasting this I'd say I'd swap something else for the 7UP, which I don't like in general. I'd give this a try with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon or else an unsweetened lemon-flavored seltzer).
You can mail-order Jeppson Malört from Sam's Wine in Chicago (which since seeing their URL for the first time I cannot stop calling "Sam Swine"). It's only $15 -- such a bargain for such a sensual experience![ Link to today's entries ]
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Rosangel Cocktail Competition. Wow, what a fun event. Christine D'Abrosca, beverage manager at Malo did a great job putting the event together, and everyone had a blast. We also got to sample a great many very tasty cocktails.
Alas, my pictures were wretched, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I was more preoccupied with cocktail judging than I was with photography, plus my camera performs very poorly in low-light situations. (That's on the agenda for this year -- a Nikon D90 with a professional-quality flash.) For better photography of the event, check out the shots from Stephen Cheng, the event's official photographer.
The coolest aspect of the event was the half that featured female mixologists (look out, gentlemen!), all of whom made delectable concoctions that also featured the common base spirit to the event, Gran Centenario's port-barrel-rested, hibiscus-infused reposado tequila Rosangel. The non-competing featured mixologists were Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, "The Liquid Muse", Kylee Van Dillen of The Westside Tavern, Tina Brandelli (who used to work at Alembic in San Francisco, but somehow I managed to not find out where she's working here) and "Liquid Chef" Kim Haasarud (whom I've known by reputation for years and whose husband I worked with for years, but whom I only managed to meet for the first time at the event!) who among many other places is arranging the cocktail program for Downtown's forthcomign Bottega Louie. My good friend Marleigh Riggins was scheduled but wasn't able to make it due to a bad back (d'oh!), but here's the cocktail she would have served, with two posts on its creation:
The Mojave Fix
(Created by Marleigh Riggins)
2 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila.
1/2 ounce Oloroso sherry.
1 ounce piloncillo-hibiscus-chipotle syrup (recipe below).
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce soda water.
Orange flower water.
Shake tequila, sherry, syrup and lemon juice over ice. Strain into a double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice and top with soda. Sprinkle a few drops of orange flower water over the top and garnish with a lemon blossom.
Bring water and piloncillo to a boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer until piloncillo is fully dissolved, remove from heat and add hibiscus and chiles. Let syrup steep for at least two hours, up to overnight. Strain through cheesecloth into a jar and refrigerate.
I was thinking about a piloncillo syrup when I first got ahold of this, but not an infused one! Yummers -- I expect to have one of these made for me soon, Marleigh!
(I did actually make a plain piloncillo syrup, and I found that the best way to get it to dissolve easily is to place the piloncillo cone into a heavy freezer-type ziploc bag, then place that bag into another bag, then pound the crap out of it with a hammer until it's powder. Otherwise prepare to wait an hour and a half for that big hard cone of sugar to dissolve.)
I managed to snag a couple of the other recipes, although I was seriously bummed not to have gotten any of this one -- Natalie's shift behind the stick was when I was tasting the competitors' creations, and I missed it completely, d'oh. Here's hoping Natalie saved me a little of her homemade ingredient too, 'cause this drink looked lovely.
Flor de Maria
(Created by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen)
1-1/2 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila.
1/2 ounce homemade hibiscus cabernet syrup (hibiscus tea syrup with a cabernet reduction).
1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
Spritz of orange flower water (load into mister).
1 - 2" piece of orange peel.
Lemon peel for garnish.
Muddle orange peel in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add maraschino liqueur, syrup, lemon juice and tequila. Shake with ice for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz with orange flower water. Garnish with a sliver of lemon zest.
I did get to try Kylee's, and it was delicious; besides the base spirit she uses one of my favorite ingredients these days. Go see her at the Westside Tavern if you're local.
(Created by Kylee Van Dillen, Westside Tavern, Los Angeles)
2 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel tequila.
3/4 ounce Aperol.
3/4 ounce grapefruit juice.
3/4 ounce simple syrup.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
2-3 basil leaves, torn.
Muddle the basil with the spirit ingredients, add juices and syrup and shake with ice for 10-12 seconds. Double-strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a whole basil leaf.
Now, onto the competition! The competitors were Juan Alvarez, bartender at J. King Neptune's in Sunset Beach and current president of the Los Angeles chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild; Mark Blackhart, not a professional bartender but an enthusiast who writes about his cocktail nerdiness at Drink Well; Jason Bran of Michael Mina's XIV; Matty Eggleston of The Varnish and The Hungry Cat; and finally Silamith Weir, who doesn't currently work behind the stick but is the local brand represntative for the fabulous Martin Miller's Gin.
Besides myself the judges were ace bartender Marcos Tello (or, to be specific, his alter-ego Marcela) of The Varnish and The Edison, and pastry chef Cat Schimenti of Craft Los Angeles (and '09 James Beard Award nominee!). This was my second competition as a judge, and another wonderful learning experience. Working on this with Cat was a particular pleasure, to get the perspective of someone who's highly trained and has great expertise in flavor but isn't a bartender. Her approach as a pastry chef was fascinating during our deliberations.
Without further ado, the winner of the judges' choice award ... *drum roll* ... Matty Eggleston for his creation called The Lullaby. Before tasting I took one look at the recipe card on Matty's table and said, "Oh man ... tequila and Nutella?! Huevos of steel!" Seriously, Matty is one of the most creative and inventive bartenders I know, and really thinks outside the box when it comes to flavors, both sweet and savory (and even meaty!). As skeptical as one might have been when presented with these ingredients, they combined beautifully in a three-ingredient cocktail in which the preparation belied the simplicity of the ingredients. The tequila flavor was prominent, with the fruitiness of the Rosangel complementing the nutella which, when smoothed out by the steamed milk and accented by the cinnamon garnish made you think of Mexican chocolate. Creative and daring and delicious.
(Created by Matty Eggleston, The Varnish / The Hungry Cat)
4 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel Tequila.
3 tablespoons Nutella.
1/2 cup whole milk.
In a frothing tin, steam 1/2 cup whole milk and Nutella. Steam until warm and agitate with bar spoon. Add the tequila and steam a moment more. Pour into four tea cups or larger espresso cups. Garnish with a light dusting of freshly grated cinnamon and orange zest.
I need to double-check the milk amount with Matty -- the recipe card was a bit confusing with the way it was printed. It's either 1/2 or 1 cup.
Now for the people's choice winner ... the creamy, tangy entry from Silamith Weir.
(Created by Silamith Weir of Martin Miller's Gin)
2 ounces Gran Centenario Rosangel.
1/2 ounce Matusalem Gran Reserva.
3 chunks of pineapple.
4-5 basil leaves (shredded).
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce sweetened condensed milk.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
Muddle pineapple and basil together. Add all other ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass.
If you have a Latino market near you, Nestle's La Lechera brand of sweetened condensed milk now comes in handy resealable squeeze bottles, making it perfect for mixing this drink ... as well as drizzling on fruit, sno-balls or, um, directly into your mouth. (Okay, into a spoon and then into your mouth.)
Congratulations to the winners and to all the mixologists who participated!
This is how it's done. This may be old hat to some of you, but it's always good to give the public a periodic reminder of how certain classic cocktails are properly done. This, being my oldest favorite and my very first introduction to what a cocktail really is (thanks, Dad!) is also perhaps the most consistently poorly made cocktail in most garden variety bars. I really fail to see how anyone could think that an orange slice and a fake cherry mashed to a sludgy pulp in a drink is something pleasant and desirable. Harp on this though I might, this is how an Old Fashioned is done, demonstrated by Jeff Morgenthaler with video courtesy of Imbibe magazine.
A weak, watered down thing topped with soda water filled with mashed fruit is bad. This is good.[ Link to today's entries ]
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The Bazaar by José Andrés. It's the semi-annual ritual, every March and November. On our birthdays, Wes and I will take each other to a fabulous restaurant, and the birthday boy never knows where until we walk up to the place. It's always a lot of fun, and this way we've managed to hit many of Los Angeles' best restaurants over the years. This year I had it narrowed down to a few when Mary emailed me S. Irene Virbila's Los Angeles Times review of Spanish chef José Andrés' relatively new concept restaurant The Bazaar, occupying most of the ground floor of the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. It was her first four-star review since 2005, and only the third four-star review in all the years she's been writing for the Times. Hmm. Well. That's worth looking into.
The restaurant is part of a whole experience, designed by Philippe Starck, which features a tony boutique of art objects, books and the like on the left, a patisserie and full bar (the excellent Bar Centro) and two restaurant spaces, Blanca and Rojo, featuring traditional and modern Spanish tapas (although both menus are available in both spaces).
It looked special, it looked fantastic, it looked delicious, and Irene's not known for handing out unwarranted praise. I got us a reservation and off we went.
We arrived at an hour earlier than our reservation because we wanted to spend some quality time at Bar Centro, and we hoped to be able to start to get to know our bartender. That was a big yes on both counts -- Brian, whom we had remembered from a few of our local monthly bartender gatherings, was behind the stick. The menu is a mixture of well-executed classics, originals of Bar Centro, plus some forays into molecular mixology, particularly featuring their use of liquid nitrogen (more on that in a bit). I wanted an aperitivo, and Brian said he had just the thing:
The Archangel Cocktail, which I believe was an original of his. Gin and Aperol, muddled with a bit of cucumber and garnished with a cucumber slice. Simple and perfect. Wes had a rye Collins, tall and frosty.
Where the classic and the modern molecuar met was in their Manhattan, though, and I wanted one of those badly. It was beautiful -- Michter's rye and Carpano Antica vermouth, a couple of dashes of bitters, perfectly prepared:
What made this Manhattan extra special was the garnish -- not just a Luxardo cherry (which would have been more than fine), this was a "cherry spherification." Luxardo cherries were liquified and strained into a pure, intense liquid essence, then encased in a thin membrane of sodium alginate. When you put the sphere into your mouth it lingers for about a half-second, then explodes, flooding your mouth with cherry flavor. It's fun and incredibly delicious. Here's the jar of cherry spheres -- if he had been looking away, I might have stolen a few more.
The next one we decided to split, primarily because of its $20 price tag. The Tableside "Nitro" Caipirinha was served to us once we went to our table, with all the flourish of a cart and tableside preparation. The ingredients were what one would expect from a Caipirinha -- cachaça, lime and sugar -- but prepared with liquid nitrogen stirred into the mixture instead of ice. The nitrogen, which boils at -321°F, freezes the alcohol and other ingredients so quickly that large ice crystals have no time to form.
The crystallization is tiny, the texture is amazingly smooth, and the flavor is intense. The garnish was a few leaves of fresh tarragon with an edible flower, for even more flavor and aroma.
Okay, finally ... time to eat! We had read about a few things we wanted to try, and studied the epic menu as best as we could, but decided that for this occasion "let us choose for you" would be the way to go. The dishes are described as coming in "waves" rather than courses -- four waves was $45, seven waves was $65, and for $95 they offered "The Bazaar José's Way." The latter, of course, and here's what we got:
Let's start with a snack -- Sweet Potato Chips with Tamarind & Anise Yogurt Dip. I love fried sweet potatoes, and the dip was tangy, tart and perfumed with just a touch of the anise. Dee-lish. They let us chow down on these for a while, and then things started getting serious.
This is one of the dishes we had heard about -- Foie Gras Cotton Candy. A chunk of foie gras terrine is seasoned, placed on a stick (yay, food on sticks!) then dipped into a cotton candy machine loaded with vanilla sugar. You try as best as you can to get the whole thing in one bite, and the cotton candy quickly collapses to a sweet shell around a super-rich chunk of foie. It's one of those dishes that's not only delicious but makes you laugh. The only problem with this dish is that as soon as it's gone you immediately want more (next time I'm ordering three). It came along with this:
It's a Soy-Marinated Salmon Roe Cone, similar to one of Chef Thomas Keller's signature amuses at The French Laundry, although here it's roe and not tartare, but with rich crème fraîche at the bottom.
They also serve an American caviar in a cone, but for this multiple presentation we got ours on little fluffy blini pillows, delivered in a bamboo steamer and topped with a dollop of a cauliflower cream this time, along with "salt air" -- a salty foam so light and almost-not-there that it instantly vanishes into a mist of salt on your tongue -- again gone in one bite.
Perhaps of everything we were served that night, though ... this is what we came for.
This, my friends, is The Best Ham on the Planet. It's Jamón Ibérico de bellota made from Iberian black pigs that roam freely in la dehesa, the oak forests of southern and southwestern Spain and whose diet consists primarily of acorns. The bellota hams cure for an astonishing three years. The texture is smooth, the flavor is intensely porky and salty and hammy and think of the best prosciutto you've ever had and then raise it a few orders of magnitude. Because of the pig's natural exercise in foraging and the diet of acorns, the rich fat that's marbled through the meat is actually good for you, being high in oleic acid, which is monounsaturated and actually lowers your bad LDL cholesterol and raises the good HDL cholesterol. (Pig fat that's good for you ... I'll need a regular supply of that, please.) Seriously, when we go to Spain this fall I'm going to want this every day, breakfast lunch and dinner, cost be damned (which will be considerable, as it's the most expensive item on the menu at The Bazaar). We also sampled regular jamó ibérico, fed on a mixture of acorns and grain or sometimes just grain, and Spain's famous jamón serrano, more along the lines of prosciutto di Parma from Italy. The ham was served simply, accompanied by just slices of toasted Catalan-style bread that had been spread with a tomato purée and salt.
This is one of the best things ever.
I hate to describe a subsequent dish as a letdown and I won't -- it's not fair for any dish to have to follow that -- but the next one was a light, gently-flavored dish that helped steer our palates back on course. This was a smaller version, served in a little egg cup, of their Tortilla de patatas, "New Way". Tortillas in Spain are fluffy omelettes, not thin masa or flour dough bread substitutes, and the patatas version is filled with fried potatoes. This version includes slow-cooked egg (called "egg 63" on the menu; I have no idea what that is) with a warm potato foam and caramelized onions, delicious. I want the larger version of this next time too.
Now, for some olives, for which Spain has a certain renown:
A small presentation of traditional Spanish olives, stuffed with piquillo peppers and anchovies, salty and savory and wonderful. I don't even like anchovies, but the thin fillet of white anchovy in this olive was superb, as was the roasted pepper stuffing.
"Olives: Modern," as it says on the menu. This is the spherification trick Chef José learned from the great Ferran Adrià, God Emperor of Molecular Gastronomy of El Bulli restaurant in Spain. The olives are liquified into a concentrated essence of olive, and dropped by the spoonful into a bath of sodium alginate. A chemical reaction causes a thin membrane of alginate to form around the liquid, creating a little sphere which, as with the cherries above, bursts in your mouth in less than a second, resulting in an explosion of flavor. Pure olive, intense and salty but not unpleasantly so, just delightful. Again, you laugh. It's at this point that I realized that so far this has been some of the most perfect use of salt in restaurant food that I've ever experienced. I find many restaurants tend to oversalt their food, and even in restaurants with great chefs and fine reputations I find myself finding some dishes unpalatably salty. I have the opposite problem when I cook; I tend to undersalt food slightly (boy, the judges on "Top Chef" would kick my ass for that). The salt here, in dish after dish, was so perfectly balanced as to not only assert its own presence but enhance the flavors of the food without overwhelming them.
And from here the salt festival continued.
Papas Canarias, Canary Island-style potatoes, thin fingerling blue potatoes in this case, cooked simply in a brine that's the salinity of seawater. They're beautifully creamy, with their wrinkly skin taut but not crispy, and again perfecly salted all the way through. While you might think that salted potatoes might be a bit too simple, the mojo verde dipping sauce of cilantro, parsley and garlic in an olive oil base, makes the little bell in your head go "Ding!" ... oh man, this was good. I could fill up on a bigger bowl of these and be happy.
We were so delighted by the next dish, and surprised, and laughing in this case not because the effect was funny or startling, but because it was the first time we'd ever had this combination of flavors and it was so yummy that we couldn't help laughing. Jumbo Lump King Crab with Fresh Raspberries and Raspberry Vinegar ... wow. The idea of pairing sweet crabmeat with tart raspberries had never occurred to me, and the brightness of the fruit and the slight acid tang of the vinegar (used in great moderation) was absolutely perfect with the crabmeat. Wow.
This next dish, with the previous one part of the menu's section of "latas y conservas in celebratoin of Spain's great canning tradition," was Mussels in olive oil, vinegar and pimentón, Spain's fantastic smoky red paprika. I don't even particularly like mussels (I know, I know), but I loved this simple and very flavorful dish.
This one I didn't expect, as on first glance it seemed like the kind of thing I'd get out of a bucket while watching a sporting event on TV (not that I'd ever be incined to do such a thing), but of course, raised to a much higher level. Fried Boneless Chicken Wings topped with a dab of thick green olive purée (yay, more olives!) and something called "iceplant." Crispy, again perfectly salty, and ... well, actually, I'd take a bucket of these (but we'd have to watch something else).
Yet another delight (good lord, they just won't stop coming!), Tuna ceviche and avocado roll, with the avocado sliced paper-thin (man, the knife or mandoline skills here are pretty monstrous) and a slightly spicy ceviche inside. You marvel at the technique but it's not just for show -- the creamy avocado flavor and texture is just enough to balance the fish.
Salad time, and although I love Italian-style insalata Caprese this is described on the menu as "Not Your Everyday Caprese". The almost perfectly spherical cherry tomatoes are blanched and peeled, sparkling like jewels and so sweet, with just a touch of acidity, that you realize that they really are fruit and not the popular misconception of vegetable, with a drizzle of fantastic Spanish olive oil and a chiffonade of basil, and once again that marvelous spherification -- big bags of pure, liquid mozzarella that once again burst in your mouth and make you laugh. Some people (who seem to like to hear themselves talk) pooh-pooh this as a gimmick, but for me it comes down to the experience of taste and texture. Each presentation of the spherification technique, while having a similar effect, is an entirely different experience and is nothing less than a delight each time. Now, I probably wouldn't want a whole meal of this, but as accents before and during a long meal, it's a blast.
Then came the only thing for which I didn't take a picture, because the moment came and went too quickly and even though I didn't know exactly what to expect as we were being set up for this, my instincts told me to just do what the server said and leave the camera alone. Another guy came by with the liquid nitrogen cart we last saw when we were having our sorbetized Caipirinha. He took two balls of popcorn (the kernels had been slightly broken up and held together with a very light caramel syrup), dipped them into the nitrogen, rolled them around for a few seconds, then scooped them back out onto the plate. "Okay," he said, "here's what you guys need to do. Pop these into your mouth whole. While you're chewing, exhale through your nose, and make sure to look at each other." We giggled, as we could guess what was coming, as he announced that the name of the dish was "Dragon's Breath". The effect is better shown from this video from the L.A. Times website:
You just ... laugh. It's so much fun.
The video also shows the preparation of the foie gras cotton candy, the spherified mozzarella and one of our forthcoming desserts.
The bad news is ... you pretty much can't get Dragon's Breath anymore. The dish has gotten famous, people expect it now, and the chef feels that it's lost its element of surprise. I can't blame him, really, and now that I've had my surprise (which I'm very glad wasn't spoiled beforehand), I kinda don't need to have that dish again, as much fun as it was. Chef said he might offer it very occasionally, and only when he's in the restaurant, which means if you get it you'll be surprised again, which is the whole point.
Lobster tail with lobster "cappuccino" was grand, and again made me wish I had more than a couple of bites. The sweet tail meat was atop some blanched greens (although one of the "greens" was purple) and topped with a little thin cheese tuile. The "cappuccino" was a thick, frothy lobster broth served in a demitasse.
I could have had a few more of these too -- Chef José's interpretation of "Philly Cheesesteak". Thinly-sliced very rare Wagyu beef (American-grown Kobe-style) and a very creamy Cheddar cheese spread (this is no Cheez Whiz, folks) served atop "air bread," light and crispy and mostly hollow on the inside, topped with a sprinkling of chives. Another delight, and one I'm definitely getting again when we go back.
I was beginning to get a little dizzy at this point, with so many wonderful flavors coming at us. This was Catalan Spinach, little rolls of sautéed spinach atop some apple purée with pine nuts and raisins. It was one of the most best presentations of spinach I'd ever tasted.
The last of the savory dishes left me with little but the comment ... "Oh my GAWD." Braised Veal Cheeks, with California Oranges. Tender as tender could be, unctuous and intense (boy, I love veal cheeks, or pretty much anything's cheeks; I hear Chef José does pork cheeks sometimes, which will surely get me back here) with the acidity and sweetness of the oranges a perfect foil. It's just as well that dessert was coming next, because I was actually beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed (not that there's anything wrong with that).
"Nitro" Coconut Floating Island, the dessert featured at the end of the above video, was an ideal way to ease us into dessert. This is the absolute antithesis of a heavy dessert; in fact, it almost couldn't possibly be lighter. The floating island is again prepared in liquid nitrogen, which in this case allowed the coconut island to keep its form but made it just this side of liquid on the inside. Supported on a base of caramelized bananas with drizzles of mango and vanilla bean sauces, this was deliciously tropical, incredibly light and non-filling yet intensely flavored. It was a dessert practically perfect in every way, except for its lack of chocolate content, but then ...
Oh boy, did they finish us off -- Warm Chocolate Mousse with Pear Sorbet, Sautéed Pears and Salty Hazelnut Praline Sauce. That pretty much says it all.
All in all (excluding the cocktails and frozen Caipirinha) we were served twenty dishes for our $95 per person, making this perhaps the best deal in tasting menus we'd had in recent memory. The à la carte prices on the menu start at $5 for a single plate, and you could easily come here, get a cocktail or two, have a few tapas plates and emerge satisfied and without your wallet overly lightened.
The Bazaar is a fun, funny, playful, creative and delicious experience, and I couldn't recommend it more.[ Link to today's entries ]
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Squeezable bacon!! How exciting is this? The genius monkeys over at ThinkGeek.com, one of my favorite places for toys and gadgets, have come up with another winner, imported from Sweden ... The World's Most Perfect Food.
A few years after WWII ended, a young man working in a small restaurant in Sweden developed a new way to process bacon. By precooking it and blending it in a special way, he was able to make a fully cooked 100% bacon paste that could be squeezed from a tube. Knowing he had discovered something paradigm-shifting, young Vilhelm Lillefläsk quickly went into business. That, dear friends, is when Squeez Bacon® was born. And this delicious delectable from Sweden has finally been brought over to the USA - now with American Flavor!
Be sure to watch the video:
And then don't wait before you click "Buy Now", because you know you want some. Oh, and the ThinkGeek monkeys also came up with another brilliant new product, which you can use to attack anyone who tries to take your Squeez Bacon® -- it leaves no evidence behind! That's a little violent for me, so I'll sit and nibble on Squeez Bacon® while dubbing old content with my new Betamax to HD-DVD converter.
Yay, new Jay Brannan video! I've been watching this singer-songwriter for a while. His first full-length CD release goddamned is terrific -- he's an acoustic singer-songwriter, a description which tends to make me flee, but Jay's writing and musicianship carry him high above the run of the mill. His voice is angelic, and the guy on Allmusic quite daringly called him "a male version of Joni Mitchell;" high praise, but not unwarranted.
This song is the lead track from goddamned, "Can't Have It All."
Heah come de judge! I'm judging a cocktail competition tonight, along with Craft's pastry chef and ace bartender Marcos Tello of The Varnish (who, for some inexplicable but wonderful reason, will be in drag for the event ... hoo!). The contest is a launch for a new product, Gran Centenario Rosangel. It's G.C.'s reposado tequila, rested in port barrels for an additional two months, and then gently infused with jamaica (hibiscus flowers).
I have to admit I was very skeptical when I first heard about this product. It sounded like the latest in the long series of trendy infusions or differenty-colored products that are dreamed up more by the marketing department than by anyone in the distillery who know what tastes good. One sip put those prejudices to rest. This is excellent stuff. The agave flavor is very much there and lovely, mellowed somewhat by the tartness and dried fruitiness of the infusion; it balances the agave a bit without smacking it down. I was very pleasantly surprised.
The event tonight should be pretty cool, with several local bartenders and their Rosangel-based cocktails competing, as well as featuring several female mixologists. I hope to have some cool pictures and cocktail recipes from this event by next week. In the meantime, I've got two huge bursts of food porn coming, one by Friday (I hope).
March Looka! entries have been permanently archived.[ Link to today's entries ]
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