cocktails

Unexpected Fame

Photo courtesy of bkgreenmarkets

I entered the annual apple pie bake-off at my local farmer’s market.

After that, everything went wrong.

I decided that I would prep all my pie components on Saturday and then assemble and bake the pie on Sunday, the day of the competition. I’m pretty bad about following that age-old rule of never making something for someone that you haven’t made before–so the pie was basically an experiment.

I started with a pecan crust. Having never made a nut crust, I figured I would just cut some of the flour from my usual pie crust and sub in pecan meal. It all seemed to go fine & after chilling it rolled out well. I left the rolled crust in the fridge to rest overnight.

I made a bourbon-brown sugar apple compote. It tasted awesome. I chilled it and put it too in the fridge.

On Sunday morning I awoke, padded up to the kitchen, noticed my refrigerator had been left ajar, proceeded to freak out, and resolved my mind to make it work. However, my crust was far too warm/soft to roll up or fold up or transfer in any way and fell apart. Thus I proceeded to pat and patch it into the pan–I’d planned to do a rustic edge anyway, so thought this fine. I assembled the rest of the pie–crises mostly averted, I went to rest while my crust set in a 425 oven for 10 minutes.

My fire alarm went off.

Back in the kitchen there was smoke billowing from my oven. No actual fire, thank goodness–I assume something must have spilled onto the oven floor. Convinced my wayward crust and once great compote would now taste like barbecue, I turned the oven down to 350 to finish baking. The smoke stopped.

Upon removal, I let the pie rest. I’d made it in a spring form, so took off the sides, allowing it to cool a little faster. Ready to go, I tried to transfer it from baking dish to serving dish: the crust caved in.

I proceeded to freak out.

Oh well, it’s only one quadrant.

I took the pie anyway since I had a friend coming to enter the contest as well. And I didn’t want to let my market manager down, as she knows me by name…

And then I won.

And now people on the neighborhood blog are asking if they can buy one.

It just goes to show you: figuring out the world is impossible.

Figuring out this salad was pretty easy though. It was the first official course of menu project & you can read all about the inspiration here.

7 Component Salad
Yield: 8 Servings

280 grams baby romaine
8 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
8 halves deviled eggs
200 grams bacon
150 grams Parmesan Cheese, cut into ½” shards
300 grams green peas
200 grams celery, macedoine
Chives, for garnish

For the Dressing
1 egg yolk
1 T Dijon
¼ t salt
½ t sherry vinegar
½ t lemon juice
1 t granular sugar
Cayenne pepper, to taste
150 g neutral oil
Celery Leaves, hacher
Water, as needed

For the Deviled Eggs
4 hard boiled eggs
bacon fat from the lardon
1T mayonnaise
½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ t cayenne
30 g sweet pickles, brunoise
2 t chives, minced, plus more for garnish
Paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Dressing

  1. Combine egg yolk, mustard, salt, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Whisk the oil in gradually to create an emulsion and until you’ve reached the desired consistency (adding water to loosen if necessary). Add celery leaves.

For the Bacon:

  1. Remove the rind and cut the bacon into strips ½” long
  2. Cut the bacon strips into lardons, approximately ½” wide.
  3. Sauté the lardon until they render out most of their fat.
  4. Set aside and reserve bacon fat.

 For the Peas & Celery:

  1. Prepare each, separately, à l’anglaise, refresh in ice water, and then combine and set aside.

 For the Deviled Eggs:

  1. Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Refresh Eggs in ice water for several minutes and then peel.
  3. Slice eggs in half. Set the whites aside and put the yolks into a bowl with mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne and salt. Mash the yolks into a paste and then add rendered bacon fat until it reaches the desired consistency.
  4. Stir in the pickles and 2 t chives.
  5. Put the yolk mixture into a piping bag and pipe into the egg white cavities.
  6. Garnish each egg with paprika and a 1 inch piece of chive.

 For the Water Chestnuts:

  1. Rinse well and peel with a vegetable peeler.
  2. Slice into ¼” rounds.
  3. Rinse again & set aside, in cold water.

 For Service:

  1. Lightly dress lettuce and place a layer on each plate.
  2. Dress the pea and celery mixture and fill a 2” ring mold.
  3. Set 1 egg half atop each mound. And remove ring mold.
  4. Drain water chestnuts & dress. Place 3 slices on each plate.
  5. Place 3 pieces each of the bacon lardons & Parmesan shards around the plate.
  6. Garnish with minced chives.

 

Each course require a beverage pairing, for this one I chose a Rose Spritzer. More on why here.

Drink Pairing

Rosé Spritzer
Yield: 8 drinks

1 bottle Château Tassin Rosé from Wineberry  
4 oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur
Seltzer Water, to taste
1 Lemon
1 Lime
8 Maraschino cherries


For the Maraschino Cherries
1 pint sour cherries
1 cup unrefined sugar
1 cup water
1 cup Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
3 black peppercorns
1 sprig thyme

For the Maraschino Cherries

  1. Put sugar, water, peppercorns, thyme and a pinch of salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add cherries (they can be pitted, but leaving the pits in does lend additional flavor). Return to a boil until they’ve turned bright red.
  3. Pour into a holding vessel and add liqueur. Let rest until they’ve reached room temperature. Chill.

For the Cocktail

  1. Fill cocktail glasses half-way with ice.
  2. Slice both the lemon and the lime thinly. Lightly twist one round of each over 8 glasses to release the essential oils & then drop the round into the glass.
  3. Pour 2 ounces of wine into each glass.
  4. Pour 0.5 ounce of cherry liqueur into each glass.
  5. Top with seltzer, stir gently, garnish with cherry & serve.

Christmas time is here….

…time for joy & cocktails!

You have waited too long to find gifts for everyone on your list. You could take to the interwebs & satisfy your list in a manner completely devoid of the season’s spirit or you could turn your kitchen into an apothecary for the night & prep libations for friends–or just for yourself, after all, you’ll need them when the family shows up next week.

For Festivus gifts this year, I made a few boozed up garnishes: Maraschino Cherries & Vermouth-Spiked Cocktail Onions.

The simplest way to do this is to find some pearl onions and some sour cherries and soak them in liquor for a few days. But, if you want to get fancy, a few spices and herbs can take it to phase 3, peppering your holiday celebration with spicy, herby, warming drinks to satisfy any lush.

If you had thought really far ahead you could’ve gotten sour cherries when they were in season. But you didn’t. Shame. If you have a Trader Joe’s near-by, however, you can pick up a jar of their Morello Cherries in light syrup. If you can’t find those, I suggest getting sweet cherries & adding lemon juice the solution I’ll reveal below.

For my cherries, I toast a handful of slivered almonds with 2 t whole black peppercorns in  a dry pan. Once the almonds have taken on some color & start to waft with aroma, I pour in 2/3 cup of the jarred syrup (use the rest to make cherry limeades!) combined with 1 1/3 cup Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. If you can’t find Luxardo locally, any Maraschino Liqueur will work, or in a pinch you could use Cherry Brandy. I bring that to a good simmer and then set it aside to steep.

In the meantime, I’ve prepared some canning jars. The ones I used are Quattro Stagioni 5oz, apparently the Ball Jars of Italy. Cute & a little different than a standard American canning jar, they have a great neck with which to tie a ribbon and are available at The Container Store or online (also available in 8.5oz). After sterilizing them, I put in each a sprig of thyme, a ribbon of lemon peel and a half stick of cinnamon. Then, I divide the cherries among each and strain the concoction prepped above over the cherries. If you find that you don’t have enough solution to cover them completely, pour in a little extra liqueur straight. If you want you can then give them a second boil a la proper canning technique. These make a really delicious Manhattan, the cinnamon adding a warm holiday-infused sweetness to every sip.

For the onions, I basically followed this recipe from Saveur, tied each jar with a pretty ribbon and included a recipe for a Dirty Gibson. But after tasting them, I can tell you to make plenty & then use one jar for a quick dinner: simply sear a piece of fish in some olive oil, remove the fish, tent and then pour the contents of one jar in the pan, reduce it and serve with some roasted cauliflower, maybe a squeeze of lemon over the top. Delicious.

 

top that.

So I had a free meal at Le Cirque.

But I guess I should back up. First, I paid for a meal at Le Cirque. A writer friend of mine decided to organize an outing to one of New York’s fanciest eateries during the extension of Summer Restaurant Week. After several flake outs and suddenly can’t go’s, we became a group of four. The idea was to enjoy our meal (or not enjoy our meal) then to each blog about our collective experience.

I arrived early, so decided to wait at the bar. Underwhelmed by the cocktail menu, I opted for the least expensive whiskey on the menu, at $14, a Crown on the rocks. Which, after tax and tip cost $20. Lame.

Upon the arrival of the rest of my group, we were told that–although we’d made reservations several weeks ahead–there would be a wait for the dining room; however we were welcome to sit in the cafe (i.e. the less formal room) if we’d like to be seated right away. Lame, but we did it anyway.

In retrospect we should have waited. Not just for the experience of dining in the main room, but because it took at least 20 minutes for the waiter to bring our menus and offer drinks. The surprisingly poor service would continue for the evening; by night’s end we’d been “enjoying our dinner” for upwards of 3 hours.

As for the food: total time warp. The consensus was that we’d just had a meal in 1972. I will be generous and say that my starter, White Gazpacho with Rock Shrimp, was delicious. Sweet cucumber, cut by vinegar and bolstered with a creamy, nutty essence. Peppered with finely diced cucumbers and paprika shrimp, the occasional crunch or tender chew was as welcome as the surprise kick of heat on the back of the tounge.

I took the Skate a la Grenobloise for my main course. I’d say the cauliflower puree was nice, but the effort to say such would lend too much praise to such an awful dish. An uber traditional French preparation, the butter wasn’t properly toasted. As a result the entire dish felt oily and lackluster. And though I’m not a capers biggest fan, the dish desperately needed more of that brininess to cut the grease.

The dessert was great–Ricotta Mousse Cake on a graham base with Blueberry Compote and Fresh Watermelon. The cake was a cloud of delicious nothingness and the blueberries provided a great tang, but here’s the thing: at one of the foremost French restaurants in the country, dessert should not be great, it should be transcendent. I mean, give the watermelon a sweet pickle or sous vide treatment. Please, do something impressive. Also, bring my coffee with my dessert and not five minutes after I’ve finished it, thanks.

On another note, I know restaurants mark up wine prices. We had a delicious white bordeaux: Domaine De Gerard Millet 2010, a Sancerre. It was effervescent & slightly crisp but had a buttery, complex body; perfect for our wide array of dishes. It was $60–not bad. Until a Google search revealed that this very bottle retails for around $16. Ridiculous.

My companions all had similar reactions to their respective meals. One of them, trained through FCI, had prepared that skate dish more times than she could recount throughout her training. Expecting Le Cirque’s version to be the epitome of what that dish should be, she especially found it surprisingly and utterly terrible. So much so that when the restaurant FINALLY brought us our bill she took the opportunity to fill out the oh-so-80s comment card they’d brought along with it.

Upon our exit, the maitre d’ sarcastically quipped, “Would you care for anything else, perhaps a cigarette?” Suggesting we’d been the ones lounging about and demanding sub-par service.

Never expecting to step into Le Cirque again, and fully content in that decision, our rag-tag group was all the more surprised when a rep from the restaurant contacted our organizer the next day both by phone and by email and, based on her comment card musings, offered us all a free meal.

Because one doesn’t turn down a free meal at one of New York’s foremost restaurants, we returned the following week. That however, is another story for another day (most likely tomorrow…)

Until then dear reader, fair well and tread lightly. Or, check out the reviews from my fellow bloggers:

http://www.diningwithoutlaws.com/
http://www.carnivoreandvegetarian.com/

the end is nigh…

After today, it’s all over.

And by “it’s,” I mean Cocktail Week in NYC. So, I say, pony up and have a drink.

Here’s the deal: several schmancy bars around town are serving up special menus where you can order 2 cocktails and an appetizer for $20.11.

Some of the bars are using cheaper booze for their staple drinks, but the crafting is still as artisanal and the drinks almost as delicious. It’s a good reason to try a new place, try a new drink or have a liquid lunch with a few small bites in between.

What are you waiting for? Go get wasted.