Honey, I’m home!

We had the most luscious honey the other day.

One of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots, the Village Bakery and Café in Atwater Village, is carrying local honey made by Feral Honey (aka “our friends Amy and Russell,” said owner Barbara). The beekeeping is hands-off for the most part, all natural and organic (no pesticides or hormones) and the honey is made by wild bees in the Silver Lake area. All the nectar they gather is from within a 3-mile radius in the neighborhood, and it tastes like what’s growing in the area, and what’s in people’s backyards.

The current batch tastes of lavender with a touch of minty eucalyptus (although not medicinal-tasting), rich and complex and absolutely wonderful. It’s not cheap, but you get a lot of honey-bang for your buck.

Besides just eating it out of the jar with a spoon (which we found to be dangerously enticing, ’cause we just might finish the whole thing if we’re not careful), the first thing we thought to do with it was try it in one of the great classic cocktails that I think needs a lot more attention.

The Bee’s Knees cocktail popped up sometime during Prohibition (although we don’t know its exact origin) as one of many ways to disguise the taste of, shall we say, disreputable gin. It’s a very simple gin sour, but the twist here is that the sweetener, as you may have gleaned, is honey rather than sugar. You have a lot of room for variation and creativity with the myriad flavors of honey that are available, and we thought this marvelously floral honey would be a perfect match with the new Beefeater Summer Edition gin.

Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne, looking for a followup to the very successful Beefeater 24, sought to come up with a gin that’s a bit lighter and more suitable for warm weather and summery drinks. The limited edition Summer gin is lighter in proof, 80 as opposed to 94, a slightly lighter juniper profile and the addition of black currant, elderflower and hibiscus flower to the range of botanicals. In tasting the gin neat you can’t really pick these individual flavors out, but the combination plus the lighter profile makes it very refreshing. It’s floral without being flowery, and the combination of flavors in the gin seems to make it want to leap into the arms of other ingredients. (Wes has been playing with this a fair bit, and once we get back from Seattle I’ll post a couple of his recent concoctions.)

Grab Beefeater Summer Edition while you can, because it won’t be around for all that much longer (and I certainly hope it shall return next year).

Now, for that cocktail …

To make honey syrup, combine equal parts of honey and extremely hot water and stir until the honey is dissolved. For rich honey syrup, use 2 parts of honey to 1 part hot water. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few weeks, and longer if you add a splash of vodka as a preservative. It’s so easy to make on the fly, though, that I’ll usually just prep enough for the batch of cocktails I’m about to make.

You can serve this drink strained and up with a lemon twist garnish, or on the rocks with a lemon wedge. Try more robust gins, or try swapping out the gin for rum or tequila. If you’ve never had this one, you’re going to fall in love with it. Why, it’s so good it’s the … (you know).


2 ounces gin (substitute rum or tequila)
1 ounce honey syrup
1 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist, or over ice in an Old Fashioned glass with a lemon wedge garnish.


Embarrass the vegetables …

You may have noticed a scarcity of posts ’round these parts of late. Then again, you may not … is there no one to yell at me when I haven’t posted in a while?! Someone step up to the plate!

Truth be told, we’ve been doing a fair bit of travelling recently, compounded with my innate laziness and my status as God Emperor of Procrastination. To make matters worse, we’re taking off again today, and won’t be back ’til the end of next week. Until now I hope that nice New Orleans playlist has kept you busy, and I hope to keep you busy for a while with today’s post as well.

By sheer happenstance I stumbled across what could possibly be The Greatest Cooking Show Ever. It’s a BBC production called “Posh Nosh,” starring the Hon. Simon and Minty Marchmont, who have dedicated their lives to bringing extraordinary food to ordinary people. Here’s Episode 1, “Architect’s Fish and Chips”:

As you might have noticed … it’s a parody. And it’s hysterical. The first episode I saw was number 3, and it had me shrieking. From Minty’s ridiculous terminology (she doesn’t peel vegetables, she “embarrasses” them), the outrageously expensive ingredients they call for, the person to whom Simon’s true affection is directed (it ain’t Minty) and many quotable quotes:

“I know which side my Brad is battered!”

“There’s a famous saying: ‘Like schoolboys, Rieslings are best enjoyed young.'” “Er … school DAYS.” “What? Yes.”

“We make our own stock, but by all means buy stock cubes, if you have no self-esteem.”

They only made eight of them, and the shows are only about 9 minutes each, so you should be able to knock them all out fairly quickly. Our friend Fiona informed us that it was produced as an interstitial between shows, and quickly developed a following of its own — people would tune in for this rather than the shows at either end. Arabella Weir and Richard E. Grant (aka Withnail from “Withnail and I”) are brilliant, and keep an eye on who plays José Luis. According to one of the YouTube commenters (one of the few useful comments I’ve ever seen on that service) there’s an additional level of humor for native Britons. Minty’s accent is distinctively lower-middle class — “all her snobbiness is aspiration from someone who married into it, which Brits find hysterically funny.” It’s funny enough even without that.

Here are links to the other episodes:

Episode 2. Birthday Parties
Episode 3. Paella
Episode 4. Beautiful Food
Episode 5. Bread and Butter Pudding
Episode 6. Leftovers
Episode 7. Sauces
Episode 8. Comfort Food

Join us next week on “Posh Nosh,” when I’ll be disabling a partridge in its own jus.

And now for something completely different …

Idle conversation at work the other day brought up this question: Did Luke Skywalker feel any guilt over the couple million working stiffs he snuffed when he blew up the Death Star? Were the cooks evil too? (RumDood informs us that the movie “Clerks” cleared up this point, but I didn’t see it, so I consider it un-cleared up.)

Big booster of the service industry that I am, what about the cooks on the Death Star? Somebody had to feed Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin and all those hungry cloned stormtroopers. Turns out Eddie Izzard wondered the same thing, and his musings are accompanied by some illustrative animation.

The penne all’arrabiatta would be lovely …

I’ll trickle out at least one more post this week, but I’ll see y’all in a week, quite likely with some drinking stories.

A musical prep for Tales

Mon, July 19, 2010: UPDATED with 28 more songs!

We’re not going to Tales of the Cocktail this year. (Waah.)

Vacation time and annoying little details like money didn’t quite work out, so I wish all my friends and readers who are going a GREAT time … and I don’t want to hear a single thing about it, or it’ll drive me crazy. Internet blackout for me! No Twitter! What I will do is find a great bar (which will, I hope, have left a few bartenders behind that aren’t going to Tales) and quaff some cocktails.

My friend Stevi, who does the excellent cocktail weblog Two At The Most, asked me if I could come up with a playlist to help people prepare for getting to Tales next week, which I thought might be fun. (I can’t help but shamelessly mention that there was that New Orleans box set I did a while back that was pretty good …)

I thought about how much I and so many other people enjoyed HBO’s superb New Orleans-based TV series “Tremé” this past year, and included a number of artists and songs featured on that show. If you’re a “Tremé” fan you’ll like this little quickie compilation, which I put together on iTunes using their iMix feature. It’s entitled “Tales of the Cocktail ’10 Prep!”

So, you can buy the whole list, or pick a handful that you might want to hear, or if you have an extensive NOLA music collection use the list and drag the songs into a new playlist on iTunes, whichever you like. (Alternately, you can just ignore it and make your own!) One annoying hitch — I made a 100-song playlist, and for some reason iTunes truncated it to 72 the first time I tried to upload it, so I’ve had to break it up into two playlists. There should be widgets below to take you to iTunes, but in case it doesn’t render properly here are the direct links: (Part 1, Part 2) Look for the full printed list after the break.

Continue reading …

Nobody Knows Nothin’

Threadhead Records have released a new single entitled “Nobody Knows Nothin’,” performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Clint Maedgen, along with John Boutté, Susan Cowsill, Craig Klein, Bill Lynn, Gregory Menoher, Margie Perez and Paul Sanchez, and written by John Boutté, Bill Lynn and Paul Sanchez. Proceeds will benefit Gulf Aid, a 501(c3) nonprofit corporation established in response to the biggest oil spill in US history just 50 miles off of the Louisiana coast, and are distributed to organizations focused on supporting wetlands/coastal environmental issues & the well-being of fishermen, and the regional seafood industry.

Nobody Knows Nothin'

To purchase the digital download of the song, and to help with the oil cleanup efforts, go to threadheadrecords.bandcamp.com. The song will also be available soon on iTunes.

While you’re at it, check out the song “It Ain’t My Fault,” by Mos Def and Ben Jaffe, along with Lenny Kravitz, Trombone Shorty and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, also to benefit GulfAid.org:

Buy it now on iTunes!


Drago Centro’s Cocktail Contest: The Finals!

You may recall that last month I wrote about an ongoing cocktail competition at Drago Centro restaurant in downtown L.A., The People’s Cocktail Contest. It went on for four weeks — each week a theme ingredient was announced, recipes were submitted through the week, and during the weekend one recipe was selected by Michael Shearin, their sommelier/beverage director and Jaymee Mandeville, their head bartender, to continue through the finals. The winning cocktail gets added to the restaurant’s cocktail menu. The preliminaries are now closed, the four final cocktails have been selected, and it’s time for the face-off!

The finals for the People’s Cocktail Contest will be held at Drago Centro, 525 S. Flower St. this Wednesday the 30th starting sometime after 6pm. I don’t have a hard start time, but that’s when they asked me to arrive. [UPDATE: Judging begins at 7pm!] I suspect there’ll be a certain amount of cat-herding involved to get everyone there, set up and ready to roll. They’ll also be unveiling their new summer cocktail menu at the event, so there’ll be plenty of good stuff to try.

This is going to be such a blast, especially because two of the other three finalists are friends of mine. I’m looking forward to meeting Jeni, week four’s finalist, too; her blog is full of gorgeous food photos.

If you can’t attend the final face-off you can still play along at home; make the cocktails and see which one’s your favorite. I posted the recipe for my cocktail entry in Week 1: Blueberry, the Bell’aspetto, last month. Here are the other three finalists’ cocktail recipes, pulled from Drago Centro’s Twitter feed (no pictures of the drinks, alas; I was too lazy):

Week 2: Fernet Branca
Finalist: Ron Dollete, lushangeles.com


1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Krogstad Aquavit
1 oz Cointreau
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Week 3: Gin (or genever)
Finalist: Matt Robold, rumdood.com


2 oz Bols Genever
1/2 oz Scotch
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Week 4: Lemon
Finalist: Jeni Afuso, Oishii Eats


1/2 fresh peach
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
Club soda

Muddle peach with simple syrup. Add rye and lemon juice. Shake with ice, strain into tall glass over ice, top with club soda.

Wish us luck! No matter who wins, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Join us if you can.