Archive for October, 2008

Keeping Myself Honest

October 31, 2008

To all the good folks who so kindly have sent me emails and are reading this new attempt at reaching the google-sphere THANKS! And especially thanks for your patience. As many of you know if you’re in the industry, this time of year is absolutely crazy and it seems the credit crisis has only had a positive effect on those of us who provide the much needed booze to drown sorrows in.

It’s due to this rush that I’ve been so lacking in my updates. But that’s not all–I think I get a little carried away with all the writing. Anyone who’s met me in person knows that I can talk…and talk…and talk….and talk…and oh, talk! It seems this same loquaciousness comes out in my blog entries but as some good friends recently put it to me: “Blog’s aren’t exactly novels…keep it simple, keep it informative, and most of all keep it short and to the point!”

Well put. So to keep myself honest I’m going to try an experiment. 1 cocktail recipe a day. That’s it. 1 a day that I’ve NEVER before created. Some may be rubbish (although hopefully not) and some may be a bit lame…but I’ve never challenged myself to invent every single day. Usually I work in bouts of creativity…such as yesterday’s meeting with the folks at Buffalo Trace where I inadvertenly created about 8 new recipes. I’m a big believer in being prolific with the hypothesis that 1 out of every few things you write, invent or dream up will be brilliant. So let’s have it a go. Today’s cocktail:

A Date to Remember

Garnish with a 3 brandied cherries on a rosemary skewer.

There you have it…easy and simple. And a great autumn creation to boot. We’re serving it tonight at Saf and Chef Chad Sarno’s already getting loopy on them…well not quite, but soon.

Please tell me your thoughts on these cocktails and any ingredients I use. Also if you make at home, let me know how it turns out.

Cheers to all!

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Egg (less) Nog?

October 11, 2008

“How the hell do you make eggnog without the eggs?!” my incredulous bar manager asked me in our discussion for revamping our Saf London bar list to include some good ol’ standby Christmas cocktails.
I don’t blame him at all. One of the biggest challenges I face in our Vegan/Vegetarian spot here in the heart of London’s ethically (and alcoholically)- minded Shoreditch is recapturing the taste and even more so the texture of eggs which bring so much to the classic cocktails.
Imagine a Ramos Gin Fizz without the frothiness from the egg whites? How about a Brandy Flip without the flip!?
Originally introduced to take the edge of some of the questionable spirits floating around the early 1900s, eggs were used to smooth out and brighten up cocktails. Fizzes quickly caught on and became a bit of a global phenomena– even referenced in songs, books and movies of the time.
But no where was an egg used best than in the winter-warming Christmas cocktail category–which is crowned by one of the most delicious mixes of the bunch: the Tom & Jerry. The blend of eggs, sugar, brandy, rum and boiling hot water pretty much equates to happiness and holiday cheer in a glass–or mug rather. The T&J isn’t called too much at bars these days and, with but a few exceptions, if it was called most bar men would stare blankly or not have the necessary components to make it–mine included. But Egg Nog is a seasonal mix that comes out every year right around November and for all intents and purposes is pretty similar depending on who makes it. The packaged stuff is rubbish, but with some a little searching there are hundreds of great takes on a ‘Nog’ recipe that is as rich and rounded as can be. There’s even an entire website dedicated to the subject.

Sadly the few ‘Vegan Egg Nog’ recipes that pop up on the google-sphere I find to be a bit lacking to say the least. That is until now with my ‘Eggless Nog’ recipe below. Why is mine better than the rest?

The first thing to know is that a good nog must be thick enough to balance the brandy, bourbon, or whatever hooch you want to throw in (Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey has been a surprising favourite of mine lately–especially since it comes in a mason jar!). To get the richness I use a Brazil Nut Milk. Easy to make–the nut milk actually adds another element of flavour that regular cream misses out on. A touch of Soy Lecithin acts as the froth-forming ‘egg’ and using a rich Demerara Sugar rounds out the batter in an amazingly lovely way. So, for all those who don’t think that utilizing yokes is an appropriate yuletide use–give the Vegan Nog a go!

Eggless Nog

4 parts Batter**
2 parts Heaven Hill Bourbon
1/2 part Skipper Demerara Rum

**The night before soak 2 cups of Organic Brazil Nuts in water with 1 vanilla pod cut open to release the black seeds. The next day strain out the water and remove the vanilla pod but keep as many of the seeds as possible. Next, blend the soaked nuts with a about 1 1/2 cups of water very finely. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve.
In a pan over med. heat caramelize 1 cup of Demerara sugar with a little water. Add in the Brazil Nut milk softly so that it doesn’t curdle. Sprinkle in some fresh nutmeg and cinnamon and slowly add the Bourbon and Rum. Heat a little further and serve garnished with a cinnamon stick and some more fresh nutmeg ground directly on top. Serve in a mug or if you’re a fan of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation serve in holiday Reindeer-head glasses whose handles are the antlers! Enjoy!

A Sunday Roast

October 5, 2008

Sabbath. Rest. Recuperation.
It’s called many things in many cultures–but all the same concept: you can’t go on forever, and maybe, just maybe taking a break will make the rest of your week all the better. Apparently Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat or “to cease” and hence we get the words like “sabbatical” or even the Greek “hottub“. Our wise ancestors even made it part of the religious tradition to assure that people upheld the importance of rest, family, discussion, etc.

Today I’m enjoying my Sabbath at a local restaurant watching all the rain-soaked (yes, the London weather we all know and love has come back) Brits fill themselves with their Sunday Roast–a meat-roast-brunch-type meal that’s the traditional family gathering on a Sunday in the UK. As I sit in the corner of a buzzing establishment, shamefully eating my ‘Veggie Roast’ (an albeit thoughtful but unsuccessful attempt of the restaurant to cater to vegetarians by supplementing the beef roast for some type of soy-and-cardboard-based meat ‘nuggets’ helplessly drowning in HP Sauce like tennis balls in a waterfall) i watch as the smells and sights of a Sunday rest surround me.

But, sitting alone as I’m unexpectedly drawn into the conversations of Denny, who Margie yells at to get attention, on his cell about some football match– I can’t help but think that this concept of Sabbath or ‘stopping’ is slowly getting more and more lost.

I was lucky enough to grow up with parents that demanded the family to sit every night together–TVs and cell phones off–to discuss what was taking place in the world– or on the plate. It was here that I first really was drawn into food–learning about the ever richer list of authentic sauces, ingredients, processes and combinations that gastronomy had to offer. Moles, Rouxs, Pestos, etc. would be combined with various pasta shapes/names, fish, meats or veggies to create an ever-enticing array of dishes that either my Mom or Dad would prepare.

Finally, the discussion would wrap around the beverages that they-and sadly only they–were allowed to drink. I would sit like a sponge absorbing descriptors like ‘tannic’, ‘dry,’ ‘creamy’, ‘lees-y’ and ‘hot’ before I had any clue what sensations those words were actually in relationship to. In fact, it was probably for this reason that on finally sipping my first sip of red wine I commented not ‘interesting’ or ‘yuck’ but ‘wow..that’s a well structured though slightly tight expression of Pinot Noir, not unlike the earthy but fruit-forward wines of Marsannay. Can you tell me the vintage?’. And here my cousin thought he was being ‘cool’ by letting me have a taste.

Apart from learning how to be annoyingly pretentious with my wine descriptors, this demand of my parents (and many nights it had to be demanded) that we all rest, if only for a moment and discuss/share made me realize how important a meal really is–and how often it can be taken for granted. Food and wine are catalysts for conversation, but a certain amount of awareness has to be involved in order to realize that. That awareness best occurs in the moments we put aside for a little relaxation, rest, and time with those around us. So whilst poor Marg sits peering into her potatoes waiting for Denny’s overly loud conversation to finish, I can’t help wondering if discussing the finer points of a well done roast might not only make Denny a little more well received by his fellow diners, but ultimately might save a fledgling relationship.

Hell, I’m alone right now and I’m even having a conversation about my meal!

Cheers and Happy Sabbath.

Fragile and Lacey….

October 1, 2008

I’m feeling a bit dark tonight due to the departure of my very good friend Lacey Langston from good ol’ London town. Miss Langston is not only one of the inspirations for a drink of mine (which you’ll be happy to find towards the end of this blog) but also is the sole reason for my neglecting this posting board for the last few days. Having flown in with her beau from Sunny San Diego, I felt it my duty to give Miss Langston the imbiber tour of London–one that is oh so easy to give. We’ve hit all my favourites by now including the Hawksmoor, Lonsdale, Babylon, Casita, Sosho, and Montgomery Place. Best of all we hit some of my favourite food spots as well and even had an enlightening if all-too-pretentious meal at a certain Mr. Blumenthal’s establishment.
I would say more but I’m currently working on an article about the whole experience for a small newspaper….
Anyways, back to Miss Langston…she definitely was pivotal in helping me witness London in a new light–from a novice perspective as it were but what a perspective. It’s so easy some times to be caught up in the day to day–but look at all the Capital has to offer: a scene, sophistication, access to products good ol’ NYC bartenders would be dying to get their hands on (Jensen Old Tom Gin, perhps..). Such is London, and no wonder I feel so inspired every time I’m here…I mean here is a bar culture that outstretched the pettiness one is normally usd to and just focused on great drinks, made timely and consistantly. Indeed, that’s what Jerry Thomas was about…not going crazy with exotic gastro-pub flavours or deconstructions, but just making great food that catches as much the imagination as the pallate. I think this has most definitely been accomplished.

Here’s Miss Langston in all of her glory:

20 ml Fresh Pear Juice
40 ml Fresh Green Apple Juice
Albet I Noya Organic Cava
Splash of Organic Framboise

Make sure juices are very cold. In a mixing glass, stir with the Cava until slightly frothy. Empty into a champagne flute and drizzle the framboise in the center of the drink to add a splash of color. Garnish with 3 fresh raspberries floating in the center.

Enjoy!!