Tag Archives: cocktails

Prevent Scurvy, Drink Gimlets!

Our version of summerish weather is here, if you discount the odd day of rain. When it’s over 65 degrees out, we consider this a *hot* day and one’s mind wanders to gazpacho, tall iced drinks and, for me, gimlets with fresh lime juice.

There is nothing more sublime than a chilled cocktail glass brimming with shimmering opal green elixir, the lime gimlet.

Lime gimlets

It’s all about the proportions: gin, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup, all shaken over ice until your hand aches from holding the frosty shaker and you can swipe a finger through the rime of frost. I like adding fresh basil to the shaker, stems and all, and floating a few leaves in the glass to further perfume the drink.

One decadent Sunday night I had a friend over for “framily” dinner and made up a batch of the basil gimlets. It was 74 F in the kitchen and the cool tart sweet drinks went down easily as we watched the sun turn the buildings on the hills peach and pink then lavender and grey. The two limes I had on hand made just enough for us to have a glass and a half, almost too much and not quite enough.

The next day I was determined to find more limes.

Thinking creatively, I found 6 limes from Walgreens of all places. I was able to walk there and back quite successfully, but iced my ankle when I returned to work, that might be the farthest I have gone on my own with crutches! It was totally worth it, and who would have thought that the limes from the drug store would be so large and juicy!

That night in my kitchen I juiced up all six of them and measured out the proper proportions for the gin and simple syrup into a large mixing bowl and filled a wonderful antique stoppered bottle I found at an estate sale. The bottle was full but there was more left in the bowl, enough to generously fill my cocktail shaker. There is a mysterious wonder in this world when all things become synchronous in this fashion.

I tossed in a few branches of basil and shook and shook and then sat down at my little kitchen table and poured myself my lovely drink. It was again a superb sunset, and I tarried there a while until the light dimmed and faded.

The full bottle is reposing in my fridge and I’ve been shaking it up when I see it as the lime pulp has floated to the top. I calculate I have a few more days in which to drink up this batch of gimlets, and what a fine few days they will be.  Best of all, I will definitely *not* get scurvy this month.

Cin Cin!

Recipe:  Gimlets with Basil

 

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Work in Progress: Stinky Bacon Sriracha Wrapped Sweet Peppers

peppers

It seems like at every supermarket they sell miniature sweet bell peppers in red, orange and yellow and they’re so delicious to eat in many different ways.  Usually I just saute them but I was in the mood for something more feisty.   I picked up a bag of them at a farm stand on the way back home from my mom’s house, along with a pound of bacon from a fantastic place in Lockeford. I got to thinking that it might be a pleasant change from the spicy jalapeno stuffed peppers to use these sweet peppers instead.

When I got home I realized I did not have cream cheese but I did have goat cheese, and I found a wedge of Tallegio, a marvelously flavorful and stinky soft rind aged cheese. When I opened the fridge door my erstwhile bottle of Sriracha sauce fell out, again, and the idea for stinky bacon wrapped Sriracha sweet peppers was born!

I used about three ounces of Tallegio cut into small pinky-shaped pieces, and shoved those into the hollowed out peppers first, followed by a topping of goat cheese.

Each little pepper was wrapped in bacon, and then I prepared a cutting mat with a puddle of Sriracha sauce and mound of Demerera sugar.

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Each fat little pepper got rolled in the hot sauce, and then rolled around in the crunchy sugar and placed on a little baking sheet covered with mushed up tinfoil to make an impromptu rack.

Because I’m still using the kneeling walker/scooter thing I can’t use the big oven, but my convection toaster oven is pretty fantastic, despite my not having all of the required equipment, like mini baking racks.

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I baked them at 425 F for 15 minutes until the bacon was a crispy and bubbly and the sugar and Siriracha melded together for a savory sweet spicy coating.

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My apartment smelled mercilessly of Tallegio and bacon and chilies, but I didn’t care, I was just waiting for them to cool down my enough that I could eat them.

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I call this recipe a work in progress because obviously they baked up too dark, but they still tasted amazing.  Next time I will lower the heat and maybe add more bacon.
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While I waited for the peppers to cool I mounded a few of them on a little plate and mixed up a vodka Gibson. I was expecting a dear friend to come over but didn’t know exactly when she would arrive, and wouldn’t you know, the moment I sat down my doorbell rang. Perfect timing!

The heat from the Sriracha was exactly enough to make you want a sip of your cocktail, and the sweet pepper, cheesy baconiness was the perfect snack for a tipple when the sun pasts the yardarm.    We knocked back the Gibsons and then made another batch and chatted about her travels while noshing on the peppers.   Then we made pizza!  It was a perfect Sunday evening.

Work in Progress:  Stinky Bacon Sriracha Wrapped Peppers

Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

We have a wonderfully talented group of food writers, bloggers, photographers and food lovers in the Bay Area and thanks to social media we know who we all are and, on occasion, we get together for some shenanigans.

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From Wikipedia Commons

This year I took on organizing a date for a picnic in San Francisco and chose Dolores Park for our venue. It’s usually sunny there, it has a great view of the city and is reasonably close to BART and other public transportation. The park is also right across the street to BiRite Creamery. A picnic with fun people, a pretty spot and decadent ice cream, it is such a winning combination.

The morning fog blew away pretty quickly and despite the stupidity of the City watering the lawn during the night (very soggy and muddy lawns) we had a very merry time.

Many lovely friends and new friends came to share in the afternoon and of course the food was terrific.  I made my favorite sangria and that was a big hit, and I could have doubled the quantity and still would have not made enough.   Next time I will bring two jugs worth, or six bottles of wine!
Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

It was one of those magical times when we were not playing with our phones *overmuch* or taking pictures constantly, we were in the moment and enjoying each other’s company, trading stories, singing goofy songs and talking about food and writing.  We did play some hilarious music on our phones, tucked into a red Solo cup for acoustical enhancement purposes.

Yes, it’s true, we were all singing Makin’ Bacon Pancakes, the New York remix, for way too long and it’s still in my head today.

Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

When the sangria ran out and the fog started to blow back in, we gathered up our soggy Mexican picnic blankets (funnily, almost everyone brought one) and headed to the long line at BiRite Creamery.
Insanely long line at BiRite but we don't care - sundaes!!!!

Despite the line being ridiculously long we were patient and chatty, and it really was worth the wait.  Just sampling their vast and unusual selection is worth a bit of catching up on life and people watching, and soon enough we all had our decadent ice cream treats in hand.  With frozen mouths and sunburned faces we chatted a bit more before scattering to our own destinations – Tartine, a tour of the Mission, BiRite Market, home.  We said farewell and until next time.

Picnics in the summer are my favorite thing to do and this time so many of my favorite people were there.  Thanks to everyone who attended and for your amazing and decadent treats!

Thanks to:
Faith – Blog Appetit
Diane  – Will Write For Food
Amy – Cooking with Amy
Owen – The World of Owen Rubin
Jenn – FootBat and EastWest Pastry
Lori and Doug – Fake Food Free
Deborah and friends – Lunch In A Box
Nathan – Knit1Eat1
Christian – Dad in the City
Jennifer and Baelson – Revel Kitchen
Orly and friends – Yumivore
(if I missed your name here, I’m so sorry!)

The Recipe:

Carmen Miranda Sangria – San Francisco Style

If you live in the Bay Area and want to join the Bay Area Food Bloggers group on Facebook, ask to join here, and also there is a Google group, ask to join here.  We are food writers, bloggers, photographers, culinary-minded entrepreneurs and food lovers.  We are also people who used to do all of the above (i.e., lapsed) but are still interested in food and culinary scene.  We connect to share opportunities, ask questions, get support and socialize.  These are not forums to promote yourself or your brand, however.

Under the Calamansi Tree

As a California girl I grew up with the ubiquitous citrus trees in the yard; everyone had citrus coming out of their ears in my neighborhood. Our lunch boxes were stuffed with giant naval oranges, every mom’s kitchen had bowls of lemons and limes everywhere that were deployed for sherbets, and every kid on my block would set up a lemonade and limeade stand in the driveway.  I used to lie under the orange tree when it bloomed to just inhale the sweet fragrance.   Mom used to paint orange or lemon leaves plucked from the trees with melted chocolate and then slowly peel off a perfect glossy leaf to make decorations for our summer cakes. One horrible year our rabbit almost killed our trees by nibbling away all the bark, almost girdling them. It was a close call but we caught him and put him back in his hutch with a branch of leaves as an apology for his ongoing confinement. You just can’t trust a rabbit.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

What we didn’t have, however, was a calamansi tree.  The Citrofortunella microcarpa, aka the Calamondin or calamansi is a tiny green/orange marble-shaped citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between an orange and a lime, and is most commonly used in Filipino cuisine.   I first got to try this charming citrus varietal during my working days at the Bank. My coworkers, who were Filipino, had weekly potlucks with lots of halved calamansi to squirt over our adobo and pancit and as a flavoring in desserts. This group loved to cook and loved to have parties and I was instantly smitten with their cuisine and their beloved calamansi lime.

I forgot about the rare calamansi until years later when I was at the Russian festival and one of the volunteers gave me a shot of a unique sour orange infused vodka. Served ice cold in tiny shot glasses the stuff was lethal and the guy explained that he found a tiny tree growing these strange round mini oranges in his back yard of his new home in Daly City.  They looked like oranges but were so tart and aromatic, so naturally he made vodka with them. What else? He didn’t know what they were called but I knew they looked familiar to me.  It was such a puzzle.

Fast forward again to a month ago when food blogger Gapultos of Burnt Lumpia. was touring his new Filipino cookbook, The Adobo Road. It was a wonderful event and the book is really exciting, a mix of traditional Filipino recipes with local California ingredients and a modern edge.  Of course Marvin’s delicious food was served and much to my delight decorating his noodles were a few halves of calamansi!

Adobo

(you will want to buy this)

One taste and suddenly everything clicked. I remembered the fruit from the bank and from the vodka tasting booth and I think I might have shouted, “That’s it!!!”   I relayed this all to Marvin and we had a good chuckle.

I have been meaning to shop in the Mission and pick up a bag of calamansi so that I can cook some of Marvin’s recipes and also infuse some vodka of my own, but again, the thought slipped my mind. However, today, my coworker brought me a treat from her weekend visit home where her grandparents were visiting from the Philippines – she brought me a bag of calamansi!

Calamansi

I was so excited! I dashed to the kitchen immediately and sliced up a few to add to my ice water. The bright flavor really perked up the stuffy afternoon. We are going through a mild heat wave and the chilled citrus tang in cool water was a most welcome treat.

A chilly treat

When I got home I washed them and piled them in my favorite souffle pan, which doubles as my fruit bowl. Humming my version of the song from Dr. No I started perusing my other Filipino friends’ blogs for recipes using calamansi.

“Underneath the calamansi tree me honey and me can watch for the moon…..”

(apologies to Diana Coupland)

My coworker had suggested making a syrup from the calamansi or just squeezing the juice and freezing it.  This bowl of calamansi is especially ripe so I must work with them quickly and I plan to zest them with my microplane grater before juicing them.  One idea I bookmarked for the juice is a marinade with soy sauce and garlic for pork or beef.  Another popular use is squeezed over fried or grilled fish.  This made me think about the delicious shrimp poke I had over the weekend with D___, wouldn’t a shrimp cervice with calamansi be delicious?  I am working on a recipe for this.

I came across Jun’s calamansi whiskey sour.  I just happened to have everything required and it was perfect (thanks Jun!) way to relax while I read a mound of cookbooks for inspiration.

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While I was relaxing a friend called and we decided to go out to a movie that started in 23 minutes at the theater down the street.   Hurriedly I made up a rather large batch of calamansi whiskey sours and strained it into a canteen, then filled up a baggie with ice cubes and added some plastic cups and shoved my illicit cocktail party into my capacious handbag. There is a reason ladies carry large handbags and sometimes my handbag is the happiest place on earth!

Dayum. Calamansi rye sour.

During the movie I poured out the heady cocktail into ice filled cups, filling our row with a heavenly scent of citrus, rye and honey. We sipped them slowly and enjoyed watching a very handsome Superman; it is truly a most civilized way to see a movie!

Tonight I will marinate an orphaned pork chop from 4505 Meats with soy and garlic and broil, and add some some sauteed baby bok choy and steamed brown rice to complete my dinner.  While this cooks I will zest and juice the remaining bowl of calamansi to be stashed in my freezer.  The rinds will go into a rather large bottle of vodka to infuse it with the sweet tang of the fruit.   A few weeks from now I will have a rather lovely bottle of infused vodka to drink over ice with splash of bubbly water or in an elegant version of a “calamansi” drop.

If you ever see calamansi in your shop or see a tree at your garden center I highly recommend you scoop them up.

Cocktail Adventures with LUPEC

Like any urban lady I love sipping a well crafted cocktail. It was my pleasure to join an amazing group of ladies called LUPEC or Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Many members are bartenders or business owners or aficionados like myself and several of the members are some of my best friends.

At our last meeting we had the opportunity to try two fantastic cocktails. The first was a wonderful cocktail using Casa Noble Organic Reposado Tequila.

CN Reposado Angle

Casa Noble is located in Jalisco Mexico and uses blue agave for their tequila. You don’t find organic tequila very often and the Casa Noble tequila is quite special. The Reposado is aged for just under a year in French white oak barrels, like fine wine. Their Anejo tequila is aged between two to five years in the oak barrels. The Reposado tequila tasted more like a fine whiskey to me, smokey and oakey. A fun note about the distillery, they have partnered with famed rocker Carlos Santana. Not only does he make amazing music and sexy shoes for us ladies but now he makes tequila. I just love this guy, and he’s local too.

carlos

Casa noble

LUPEC met at Laszlo, which is a fun bar in the Mission district and the bartender there, Kevin, made a wonderful Old Fashioned for us using the Reposado tequila.

I have long loved the Old Fashioned cocktail, ever since the Commander of the US Power Squadron sat me down one day at the tender age of 12 and taught me how to make one. The Power Squadron is like a country club but for yachts and powerboats, and my late father was Commander for a time. The Commander I remember the most was a family friend and he would have us over to his home on the Peninsula often. The Old Fashioned was his favorite tipple and he was shocked that his favorite “bartender” only knew how to mix the perfect martini. I guess you could say I had rather of an Auntie Mame childhood, mixing cocktails for my family’s friends and guests.

For those of you unfamiliar with the cocktail, it’s a drink of a sugar cube dowsed with bitters and a few pieces of fruit or orange rind, muddled together in an old fashioned glass, named for the drink naturally. Whiskey and sometimes a dash of soda water are stirred in with a few large hunks of ice and garnished with more fruit. I used to carve out the ice myself with an ice pick and block ice because that’s the way he liked it. These days I love the silicon large format ice cube trays such as these from Tovolo.

Tequila old fashioned

You can vary the Old Fashioned by changing up the bitters or the whiskey, using American whiskey or rye, and now, using an aged tequila. What a great twist on an old favorite!

Kevin’s version used simple syrup instead of a sugar cube and although I am not sure what kind of bitters he used I am quite fond of either the Bitter Truth aromatic or orange bitters. This Old Fashioned had a mysterious and alluring smokiness to it from the oak barrels of the Reposado. The brandied cherry was a nice touch.

Square one

We were served another fun cocktail that night featuring vodka from Square One.

Square One is another organic distillery that I have enjoyed getting to know over the past two years. They use organic rye from the US to make their vodka and water from the Grand Tetons; it is so lovely and smooth. They infuse some of their vodka with unusual flavors and I am quite fond of the Basil infusion. It has organic Thai, lemon, Genovese and sweet basil varieties, plus a touch of organic coriander (cilantro), honeysuckle and lemongrass. It is very aromatic and unusual and makes great cocktails.

We were served a riff on the Last Word, called at Laszlo as the My Word and it was definitely refreshing and a little dangerous. One could have quite a lot of these on a thirsty night.

Both of the representatives for Casa Noble and Square One are delightful ladies and it was great fun to get to know them and sip their cocktails. I am hoping to add the Casa Noble Reposado and Anejo tequilas and the Square One Basil to my liquor collection for some cocktail play at home.

Make these yourself!

Reposado Tequila Old Fashioned

2 T water
1 lump of sugar —- or 1 tsp. agave nectar
Angostura bitters – or any bitters you like, there are some amazing ones, my current favorite is the Bitter Truth orange bitters
A 3” piece of orange peel, no pith (white part)
Ice
2 oz Casa Noble Organic Reposado tequila
Brandied cherries or maraschino cherries (or a piece of pineapple, a piece of orange or all of them)

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in an tumbler. You can use agave syrup instead if you like or simple syrup. Add two dashes bitters and a piece of orange peel, but twist the orange peel first then rim the glass with it before placing it inside the cocktail glass. Muddle (smash gently) with a spoon for a few minutes. Add a large cube of ice (large format) or fill 1/3 way with ice cubes, add the tequila and stir well. Garnish with fruit. Sip!

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—–

Square One Basil My Word

3/4 oz. Square One Basil vodka
3/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Mix all together in a shaker with ice, shake or stir well until very cold. Strain and serve up in a coupe or martini glass that has been chilled. Sip!

(printer friendly)

My First Goat, with Mojo

I received a special treat in my 4505 Meats Butcher Bag, a bone-in goat shoulder roast that was over 3 pounds. Goat! I have never eaten or cooked goat before, what a fun adventure!

Goat is the most popular meat in the world and yet it is rarely served here in the United States. Similar in flavor and texture to lamb, goat meat is very lean and is best cooked in a braise or a combination of roasting and braising to ensure juicy meat.

At first I was a bit daunted, I didn’t want to mess up such a beautiful piece of meat.

Goat roast

Researching goat recipes on the internet was great fun and I thought of making birria, which is a traditional Mexican stewed goat dish with lots of chile. Then I thought of making a goat adobo, which is again a braise with a careful balance of vinegar and sweetness that is from the Phillipines. I kept putting it off though, and I realized it was my fear of making a mistake that was holding me back. I have never actually eaten birria before and it has been years since I have had adobo. How could I accurately make a dish when I wasn’t sure what it should taste like? I could make the dish taste great but it might lack the authenticity that I desired.

Time passed and then I found a bottle of sour orange juice from Miami in my pantry and I realized, that was IT! I would make a mojo marinade and then slow roast the goat.

Sour orange juice from Miami

Usually the Cuban’s use pork marinaded in mojo, but why not the goat? I have made it with pork many times, you marinate the pork shoulder in sour orange juice, garlic, oregano, a little cumin, olive oil and salt and pepper and roast it slowly covered with foil for the most part until the roast is tender and yet browned and glazed on top. The pork is sliced thinly and made into sandwiches with lightly pickled red onions and pickles and melted cheese, or my family just like to eat it sliced for dinner with pickled red onions and a cheesy potato dish on the side.

Cuban mojo marinade

I made up the marinade in a ziplock bag, I just threw everything together quickly. The garlic this time of year is especially wonderful. The skin is just barely formed and it is so tender and fragrant. I love how my hands smelled after mixing up this mojo marinade.

Garlic

I slid the meat into the bag and ensured all of the garlic and oregano were distributed evenly, and then placed the bag into a dish and put the whole thing in the fridge overnight.

Goat meat in mojo

The next day was a work day and all day long I thought about how wonderful my kitchen was going to smell once the goat started roasting. I wanted to use my wonderful vintage porcelain chicken roaster from the famed Taylor & Ng. This roaster was a gift from my dear A___ one year, it is such a treasure as they are no longer being made. When it’s not being used it lives under my coffee table as a decoration! Doesn’t everyone decorate their homes with their cookware? In the living room?

Chicken roaster, ready for the oven

The advantage of this roaster is that it is quite capacious, and roasts and browns the meat but keeps in the moisture, rendering the chicken or other protein rich and juicy. It is pure magic.

I removed the meat and then strained out the herbs and aromatics into a strainer to go on top of the meat, leaving a bit of the marinade in the bottom of the roaster. The meat went onto a bed of sliced fiery and eye-watering Spanish onion. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and into the oven it went with its chicken lid. I added a few unpeeled carrots as well, as I love a roasted carrot almost more than meat itself.

Marinated goat I mojo, on a a bed of onion and carrot

All of the recipes I found on the ‘net said a goat roast of this size should slow roast for 3-4 hours in a slow oven, e.g., 325 F, after bringing the roast up to room temperature. The warming process of my roast took 2 hours but the enclosed browning environment of the chicken roaster must have sped up the cooking process. My roast was done at 2 hours and 15 minutes, with an internal temperature of 180 F, the meat was so tender to a fork’s touch and had withdrawn perfectly from the bones.

Finished early! The garlic browned nicely.

The garlic cloves that I had strewn on top were caramelized too! There was a pleasant amount of juices left at the bottom of the roaster, which I defatted it and used it as is.

Pleasant amount of juices for the roast

Despite my taking the roast out of the fridge the moment I got home, and the quicker than anticipated roasting time, the goat mojo was done very late in the evening, it was past 10:30 pm, so I let the meat rest for a bit in a tin and then put everything away in the fridge for another evening. I did carve off a nugget and the goat did taste like lamb, but a more elegant and softer flavor and so very, very tender. I think that goat is my new favorite meat over lamb now.

The following night, I had my great friend D___ over for a goat dinner. I carved the meat and saved the bones for stock, and laid the meat and carrots and onions in a gratin pan and wiggled out the completely gelatinous juices over the top, and let them warm gently in the oven. I had obtained three enormous bunches of rainbow chard from the farmers market with the widest and thickest stems I had ever seen, they were gorgeous! I removed the stems and sauteed them until tender with lemon olive oil and slivered garlic and then made my mom’s delicious bechamel sauce to spread over the tender vegetables and topped the whole thing with soft levain bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to become a gratin.

We spooned out rich slices of goat and tender roasted carrots and garlic cloves, and heavenly rich scoops of chard gratin with its crunchy top and then spooned the savory meat juices over the plate. It was Negroni night and we really enjoyed the complimentary flavors of the herbaceous and tart cocktails with the goat.

I drink alone, yeah, with no body else! #Georgeknows

Despite my initial fear over cooking this kind of meat, I am now completely in love with Goat Mojo and plan on making it many times again.

A Day in the Sun

There is a kind of a euphoria that falls over me after having a migraine. I don’t know if it is the relief of not being in pain or if it is an increase of seratonin or if it is just a feeling of wellness after being unwell.

Whatever it is, after five full days of an evil migraine, today I am pain free and feeling happy.

20130427-182458.jpg20130427-182631.jpg(Peruvian riff on a mule and a piña pisco punch)

I was able to sit in the sun and have a lovely brunch with a friend and relax and chat about food and family and enjoy being outside. It was a bit surreal, is this what normal feels like?

20130427-182816.jpg(I enjoyed the montadito burrata without the egg)

In this euphoric state I have a lingering feeling of lassitude, a bone deep fatigue that lifts off like a wisp of ash floating up from an ember. There is a mental vagueness, which is problematic during the work week, but on the weekend I just go with the flow. Sitting in the sun and slowly eating and sipping and watching the buzz of the Bay was just the right speed. The patio at La Mar is a very pleasant spot.

20130427-183023.jpg(a super chifa)

20130427-183252.jpg(yes, it’s true, I ate and enjoyed brussel sprouts but there was candied bacon involved)

After brunch I made my farewells to my dear friend and strolled to the Ferry Building to play. I only had simple decisions to make today. Should I buy some burrata and bread? Yes. Should I treat myself to a salted caramel vegan donut for breakfast tomorrow? Yes, yes. Do I forgo dinner and just nosh on a meat cone from Boccalone and the bread and cheese? YES Please! Should I rest when I get home. Oh, yes. Most assuredly.

Should I buy a stuffed chicken for the Roost? Hmmm, I’m still thinking on this one.

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I am slightly sunburned after brunch and still stiff and sore all over, part of the effects of the postdrome migraine phase, but it’s all good. I have the entire weekend to relax.

Decadent Pleasures: Fried Chicken (Part 1)

Fried chicken has long been a decadent pleasure of mine and apparently it’s a family tradition as well. I came across photographs of my grandparents and great grandparents and a gagillion of great aunts and uncles and assorted family picnicking the backyard eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes. They did this a lot.

With this genetic predisposition I’ve always made excellent fried chicken using a variety of methods, American, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and even a Turkish version, albeit not authentic, but always delicious.

Last night I went out to dinner at Miss Ollie’s in historic downtown Oakland with some dear friends to try out their fried chicken and rum cocktails.

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Fried chicken and rum punch is almost as heavenly as fried chicken and rosé Champagne.

The amazing Miss Ollie’s uses some sort of magical chopped parsley, onion, and perhaps lemon mixture and stuffs it under the skin before she batters and fries her chicken. Holy cow was that good!

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At lunch today while I was nibbling on the amazing leftover chicken wings and some her delicious fried Kale with shredded cabbage and carrot pickle I had sort of a brainstorm. I was trying to think of what is in this concoction of Miss Ollie’s, and then my mind wandered over to Margaret Fox’s recipe from Cafe Beaujolais of gooped potatoes. Potato goop is a delicious mixture of garlic and herbs, parsley and olive oil that she tosses with cubed potatoes and then roasts in the oven until everything is crunchy and succulent and heady with aromatic herbs.

Would it be completely outrageous of me to use a similar type mixture stuffed under the skin of my fried chicken?

I thought of how fond I am of brining the chicken first using a brine similar to what Ad Hoc does but using buttermilk.

That’s when it hit me. I don’t really have any plans this weekend. I’m going to make fried chicken in a decadent way.

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You can almost see the gears turning…

Chicken Mock Pot Pie

It was one of those nights. I came home from work cranky, sore, hungry, and exceedingly broke.

I surveyed the emptiness of my refrigerator and found a partial carcass of a roasted chicken from the other night and spotted a box of Bisquick stashed in the corner of the pantry. Perfect, it’ll be a mock chicken pot pie kind of night.

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I made myself Negroni, because of course I have all the ingredients for that, but no vegetables, for Pete’s sake I am even out of pepper. But I muster onwards, sipping a few sips of my cocktail made me feel a little better, they also accentuated the urge to have something decent and slightly hearty for dinner.

I looked in the freezer and found a little bit of frozen spinach and some frozen corn kernels and spread those in the bottom of one of my beautiful oval casseroles. I picked out most of the meat from the chicken carcass and added all of the pan juices and sauce from the chicken into the casserole. This went into the oven to get bubbly, while I pulled out that ubiquitous box of Bisquick. I measured out the mix and grated in some cheddar cheese and sprinkled in as much black pepper as I could from the tiny porcelain chicken salt-and-pepper set that I keep on my dining table. I mixed up the biscuit dough with my hands and patted it rather flat between my palms and laid it on top of the casserole filling.

My chicken mock pot pie went into my convection oven while I relaxed at the kitchen table finishing up the latest issue of Lucky Peach. The aromas of Campari, orange and gin were slowly eclipsed by the baking smells of biscuits, cheese, and chicken.

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This is certainly not haute cuisine but it is wonderful comfort food and I’m grateful to be able to cook a decent dinner out of my pantry. I am grateful for a pantry full of great things, including very fine gin.

Nine more days until payday!

hal’s Negroni

Infusion Class at The Fifth Floor

Out of the wealth of fantastic restaurants in San Francisco I have a few favorites and the Fifth Floor is ranked highly among them.

Their burger – bourbon – beer special is a frequent indulgence and Chef David Bazirgan’s treatment of foie gras is incomparable. Foie mousse stuffed buratta – foie-ratta! It is the most luscious thing ever on a plate.

When I heard through friends that Chef Bazirgan was going to teach an infusion class I had to go, no matter what.

I hailed a cab and hobbled over to the Fifth Floor, which is located in the Hotel Palomar, and entered the lounge during the daylight hours. It was a very weird feeling to see the place with so much light and empty except for our exclusive group.

What a delightful afternoon this turned out to be and I expected no less.  Most of the other attendees are friends from Twitter and from various food and cocktail events around town. I love how Twitter and Facebook has brought so many of us together, where before in a large city we may have otherwise not met.  My network expands all of the time – it is rather like witnessing the Big Bang theory in action.

Chef David and his bar manager, Brian Means, greeted us with a glass of sparkling wine and ushered us into the dining room where a demonstration table was set up with rows of comfy chairs.

Brian started things off with a tangy aged Pink Elephant, a cocktail of Beefeater gin, lemon, Small Hands pineapple gum, Rosato vermouth, orange bitters and smoked Absinthe.  This concoction was aged for two weeks to mellow the flavors. The Absinthe was smoked using a smoker gun.

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A few of these and you will see pink elephants.

Chef David showed us the smoker gun for a treatment of egg yolks. He forages for Douglas fir needles and other necessary herbs in his kitchen from their rooftop garden, various areas in San Francisco including the Presidio and the San Bruno mountains.

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Chef David firing the smoking gun assisted by Amy

Chef loaded the smoker gun with the Douglas fir and inserted the output nozzle into a hotel pan filled with fresh, raw egg yolks and sealed the pan with plastic wrap. The container fills with a thick fog of smoke and the egg yolks are infused with the aromatic scent for 30 minutes. Then the yolks are delicately transferred to a plastic bag filled with a dab of olive oil and sea salt and cooked in a sous vide (temperature controlled immersion bath) at 165 F for 45 minutes.  The softly cooked egg yolks are whisked to a creamy consistency with a bit of neutral oil and used on a beautiful shaved asparagus salad, which is on the regular tasting menu, or, for today, as a dollop on top of a tiny crostini with a quenelle of beef tartare.

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beef tartare crostini with Douglas fir smoked egg

Although I was not able to indulge in this little bite my friends assured me it was fantastic, with the smoke displaying as a subtle enhancement to the creamy egg.

The absinthe for the cocktail was infused with smoke in much the same way, although we were not privy to the organic material used to create the smoke.  Chef recommended purchasing a smoking gun at Polyscience, where they can be had for under $100 or locally at TriMark Economy Restaurant Fixtures on 7th Street.

Our next demonstration was something that many of us love but perhaps don’t think of as an infusion – miso soup.   The base for a miso soup is dashi, which is an infusion of konbu (seaweed) and bonita (tuna flakes).  Chef purchases his ingredients at the same shop I do in Japantown and he uses the best konbu and bonita he can find.  Because the packaging for these products are in kanji therefore naturally we have no idea which products Chef purchased, but I always follow the lead of older Japanese ladies when I shop for my dashi ingredients.

Chef noted that dashi is an essential, simple and yet subtle infusion, and his recipe (end of post) is a classic preparation.  He soaks the konbu  in fresh water for 30 minutes, then gently simmers this for 10 minutes.  Then, he removes the konbu and lets the infusion reduce for about 5 minutes over high heat.  The shaved bonita flakes are added to the hot infusion and allowed to steep for 10 minutes and then it is strained.

In a small bowl he mixes together the miso paste, using  3:1 red to yellow miso and then a ladleful of the hot dashi is whisked in, and the loosened paste is added to the rest of the dashi.  At this point your miso soup is ready to serve, and it is a question of what kind of garnish you would like to use.  This being the Fifth Floor the garniture was exquisite. Chef prepared pickled shitake shreds, cubed tofu, foraged seaweeds, onion blossom buds from the roof garden and daikon micro greens.

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fancy garniture for miso soup, Fifth Floor style

Chef David ladled the miso into teapots for ease of serving to the class, but it is also a clever way to serve to your own guests, as the teapot keeps the soup very warm and it has great panache.

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an elegant way to serve a simple soup

The chattering in the room ceased except for appreciative murmurs from everyone. Amy and Brian lined up for a cupful and Chef took a moment to enjoy some too, having had a really busy week between the usual filled nights at the restaurant, the Share Our Strength event Thursday and the foie gras dinner at Alexander’s the night before. We agreed that miso was our go-to soup when feeling draggy or under the weather. To me, it is far more satisfying than even chicken matzo.

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beautiful miso soup – warm, comforting and restorative

As the food section of the infusion class drew to a close, Chef David passed around a pot of eucalyptus infused oil that he made by crushing branches of young eucalyptus from the Presidio and allowing it to steep with a neutral oil, such as canola. He uses this light and floral oil as a finish to some of his dishes. I was surprised that it did not have any tinge of menthol, just a very pleasant herbiness with a familiarity that comes from growing up driving through the Presidio.  He also discussed the common and classic of infused vinegars but did not want to demonstrate them because, knowing we are “foodies” he felt this particular demonstration would be superfluous.

Since the class was so informal it was such a treat to have the opportunity to chat food with a chef of this caliber. He made a delicious razor clam ceviche for the Share our Strength event and an attendee inquired about his source for clams, which turned out to be very close to her hometown on the east coast. Another person asked about his contribution to the foie gras dinner the night before so Chef David pulled out his iPad and showed off his photo gallery, which is also available to view on Instagram.  He and his wife are also expecting his first baby quite soon.  Mazeltov!

With a fresh pour of sparkling wine in our glasses, and for me a little help from Amy with my purse, we transitioned over to the lounge to discuss infused spirits and tinctures with the Bar Manager Brian Means.

Brian had a large trolley filled with interesting dropper bottles of various mysterious ingredients, little containers of spices and herbs and a huge glass barrel of lemoncello.

Brian started off by discussing the commonly known infusions in the world of finely crafted cocktails, namely vermouth, bitters and infused vodkas.

He demonstrated a unique use for vermouth, namely Aperol, an Italian aperitif similar to Campari.  He brought around a tray filled with Asian soup spoons, and nestled into each spoon was a egg yolk shaped sphere of a pale jade hue with bright red bits of what looked like tobiko scattered over the top. This was fact an Aviation cocktail formed into a sphere with crunchy bits of dehydrated Aperol.

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The Aviation is a well-known cocktail in San Francisco (and elsewhere) comprising gin, maraschino liqueur and usually egg whites, but this time the liqueurs were mixed with sodium alginate, a form of powdered seaweed, and formed into a sphere using a calcium lactate solution which creates the skin of the sphere. Fun stuff indeed! The Aviation ball popped in the mouth and then the bitter and crunchy bits of the dehydrated Aperol provided the final KaPow of sensation.

Next dessert wine glasses filled with a golden liquid were delivered to our waiting hands.  The fragrant scent of lemons filled our heads as we sipped Brian’s housemade lemoncello (recipe below) made from Greek lemons.

This was heady stuff and after all that we had imbibed so far most everyone was sipping this slowly.  Brian makes an infusion of peeled Greek lemons with Everclear, a very high-alcohol spirit (known as moonshine back in my youth but now available commercially).  The peels sit on the alcohol for several weeks then are strained and diluted with sugar syrup.

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Lemonhead time – lemoncello, a classic liqueur originally from Sicily 

The color is achieved purely by the duration of the peels infusing with the alcohol. Meyer lemons are also wonderful for this concoction or any citrus fruit peel can be used for a different effect. I immediately thought of kumquats and plan to make up a batch once I see them in the market again.

Vermouths are infusions of herbs and spices that are blended into red or white wine, sweetened or not.  A common herb in vermouth is gentian, which I had always associated with the color violet (look at your crayon box!) but is a traditional herb used as a tonic.

Another common infusion is bitters, which are technically tinctures. In older times before advanced medicines, the local quack or healer would make tinctures of healing herbs and spices to treat ailments.  Today, they are a base for many cocktails and are a very potent infusion of herbs and spices and alcohol.  Brian passed around his collection of housemade tinctures:  black pepper, habanero, espresso, cinnamon, lemon, vanilla (same as a vanilla extract), black walnut, cherry, and my personal favorite, candy cap mushroom.   The base for tinctures does not have to be Everclear, bourbon and rum are often more suitable for a base depending upon the ingredient to be infused. Brian’s favorite tincture is a citrus bitter (recipe below).

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I could not get enough of this tincture, candy cap mushrooms in a bourbon base

The final infusion Brian discussed is a newcomer to most of the cocktail crowd, fat washing. I have had a lot of experience with this when I created bacon bourbon and bacon vodka several years ago. Bacon fat is added to the alcohol base and left to infuse for a few days. The mixture is then frozen to allow the fat to be removed easily, and after straining a few times through cheesecloth the mixture is ready to use.    My fat washed bourbon made the best bacontini.

Brian, of course, takes fat washing to another level by making infusions of roasted pecans with butter infused into bourbon, or coffee beans and cacao nibs with Everclear.  I really want to try making butter pecan bourbon once I figure out this allergy-intolerance business.

Brian recommended a wonderful book, which I have in my collection, the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. I think it is an essential to any cook or food and cocktail enthusiast. He sources his amazing collection of herbs and spices from Scarlet Sage Herb Company in SF, or the Rainbow Market. There is a shop in Berkeley as well but as I am rarely there I didn’t jot down the name, my apologies.

Brian was so kind to gift us all with a bottle of his habanero bitters. I am compiling food and drink ideas to use with this vial of liquid volcano with a fruity edge.

We lingered for a while over the last of our lemoncello and wandered out into the bright blinking daylight for a cocktail and snack at Jasper’s to decompress and have more conversations about the wonderful world of infusions.

I hope you enjoy Chef David and Brian’s recipes, I am going to make the bitters after my next grocery store run. The Fifth Floor will be hosting another infusion class in either April or May and I highly recommend you snap up a ticket once they announce the dates.

RECIPES:

Chef David Bazirgan’s Fifth Floor Miso Soup (includes Dashi)

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Lemoncello

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Citrus Bitters