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Cocktails with the Captain

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Art inspiring vice or vice inspiring art?

There’s nothing quite like loading up on some whiskey and then making big decisions. When trying to decide the content for this edition of Cocktails with the Captain, I took a couple pulls of my favorite whiskey out of the ole hip flask, sat down at the keyboard and let the words flow. After all, as the legend John Barrymore once said of his work, “There are lots of methods. Mine involves a lot of talent, a glass and some cracked ice.” Sure enough, a few moments later, fire went from the back of my throat, down to my belly and then shot out of my fingertips in a blaze of literary genius. You’re welcome.

John Barrymore and I are in good company: Earnest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson, John Cheever, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, (My editor hates that I just put a comma here and I love to push his buttons so I use it every time. Suck it editor!) and James Joyce were all known to drink for and because of artistic inspiration. You can’t deny the genius in any of them… or me. Obviously, I find myself fascinated with the relationship between art and vice and art inspired by vice. So, in this week’s Cocktails with the Captain, rather than laying out some recipes, I ultimately decided to highlight a gallery of some amazing alcohol inspired artwork.

Glenfiddich Scotch Whiskey, one of the World’s most famous Scotch Whiskies since 1887, sponsors a “barrel art” competition each year that has produced some fantastic sculptures. In 2008, Glenfiddich Whisky approached Michael Johnson, of the London-based design consultancy group Johnson Banks, to interpret the length of time it takes for Glenfiddich single malt whisky to mature in barrels. Currently, Glenfiddich is bottled at ages of 12, 15, 18, 21 and 30 years old. Johnson focused on the ‘jobs’ that each part of the barrel have to do over the different lengths of time the company’s five different whiskies take to mature. I hope you find his results in these whiskey inspired galleries to be as amazing as I did. Enjoy.

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/4606/glenfiddich-barrel-art-by-johnson-banks.html

And one more…

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/johnson-banks-glenfiddich-barrel-art

SAVE THE DATE!

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Cocktail Fodder is back. But a little different. Photo by Hector Garcia.

Cocktail Fodder is back! Save the date! One week from today, on October 11th, your favorite conversation-starting, fun-fact generating, snarktastic blog will be back, producing new content.

Yes, the Fodder has been on hiatus for a little longer than expected. Yes, we’re officially down a founding member. Yes, we’ll have to slim down content for the time being before we find a bright young mind to join the cause. Yes, Captain Adam is still churning out the good ole alcohol related humor. No, we will not waver from our goal or stop rocking your world with brain-stimulating, morally challenging opinions and espresso machine fodder tidbits. No, you won’t get those 30 minutes back each day you spend on Cocktail Fodder. Sorry.

So mark you calendar. Put it in your Blackberry. Throw it in your iCal on your iPad or iPhone. Do what you need to do. Just remember, we’re back and better than ever. Get ready.

Food for Thought: Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Hearts of Palm: mysterious and delicious.

If you work at a trendy wine shop in the East Village, you are bound to brush shoulders with some of the movers and shakers of the city and beyond. Matt Dillon once graced the store and proceeded to lick cheese off my coworker’s knife while his girlfriend strolled around the store looking for something “with a lot of fruit and some kick to it.” One of the more interesting and fulfilling encounters I’ve had at the shop has been with Food Network chef Aaron Sanchez. Restaurant owner, author, consultant and co-star of Food Network’s popular, Chefs vs. City, Chef Sanchez is one of the leading contemporary Latin Chefs in NYC and a regular shopper at Alphabet City Wine Company. We began talking about food and I eventually asked him to give me some simple, yet refined, recipes to impress and make one’s heart happy. He got back to me last week with three recipes. All of them, fittingly, use ingredients indigenous to Latin America.

Chayote

The first one I will share is Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad. You might be asking yourself (as I did), “what the heck is a chayote?” Chayote is a tropical trailing vine which produces fruits. Although, it is treated more like a vegetable than a fruit; think of it as the summer squash from Latin America. Also known as Mexican Squash, vegetable pears, and Christophine – among other names – chayote can be enjoyed both cooked and raw. When lightly cooked it retains a nice crispiness; while raw chayote is usually added to salads or salsas. For this particular recipe the chayote is lightly cooked and then added into a salad. Enjoy!

Chayote and Hearts of Palm Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 pound chayotes (also called mirlitons; 4 medium)
  • 2 (14 to 15 – ounce cans hearts of palm, not salad-cut), rinsed well and drained
  • 2 large celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Print a shopping list for this recipe

Preparation:

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt using side of a large heavy knife. Whisk together lime juice, oil, and garlic paste in a large bowl, then add onion, tossing to coat.

Halve chayotes lengthwise, then peel with a vegetable peeler and scoop out pits with a spoon. Cut chayotes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices then halve slices lengthwise to make 1/3-inch-thick sticks (sticks will not be uniform). Cook chayotes in a 4 to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until crisp/tender. It should be about 6 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then, while still hot, toss with dressing. Cool to room temperature.

Cut hearts of palm diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then add to chayote mixture along with celery, parsley, cilantro and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently toss.

Enjoy!

A Guide to Heirloom Tomatoes

Look at their splendor! Photo by Vmenkov, 21 August 2006, Wikimedia Commons

As we all know, farmers markets are all the rage. Green, trendy and the best place to get fresh produce, they are popping up in towns all across the country. We thought, in honor of the farmers market trend and our food/beverage Wednesdays, we’d ask our local farm girl to give you all you need to rock out at the local stands and impress your hipster crush. So without further adieu, enjoy the Horticulture Queen’s first guest blog…

During my twelve years working at a New England farm, I pushed a lot of produce at Boston-area farmers markets. Customers periodically held up a beautiful piece of produce, squinted their eyes at it, and asked doubtfully, “Is it good?” “Um, yes, of course it is. We would not sell it to you if it was not good.” During my time as a farm girl, I quickly realized that fruits and vegetables, especially specialty varieties, aren’t easily understood by the general population. If you are one of the many who wouldn’t know what to do will calaloo*, fear not! Even though I work for the Man now, I stick to my roots. Your local farm girl is here to guide you.

Today, I’d like to discuss something near and dear to my heart: heirloom tomatoes. To the untrained eye, an heirloom tomato is ugly and unappealing. To someone who knows better, it is pure heaven. Your average tomato has been bred to be red, round and easy to grow. They are grown specifically to withstand the shipping process before sitting pretty on a grocery store shelf for an extended period of time. As a result of this breeding process, the flavor of a common tomato is severely sacrificed. Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are antique tomato varieties whose seeds have been passed down for generations. There are countless varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and they come in every color imaginable. They grow in strange shapes, and tend to split and crack.  Most heirlooms are not hardy plants; about 20% to 30% of what we grow can’t withstand the trip from the field, to the tomato barn, to the truck, to the market. So what makes these tomatoes SO great? The TASTE! Believe me — it deserves the caps-lock.

My favorite heirloom variety is called a Purple Cherokee. It is a round, medium-sized tomato that is black/purple with a dark green shoulder. It has a deep, smoky flavor that perfectly compliments all types of cheese. Toss a few slices in a grilled cheese sandwich, and I swear, your life will be changed. I also enjoy Pineapple: a large yellow tomato with a red blush that has a sweet, non-acidic flavor. Feeling adventurous? Try chopping up a Green Zebra tomato in your next homemade salsa. When ripe, this tomato has a light yellow flesh with thick green stripes and a fun, zesty flavor. If you’re a little unsure about all these crazy tomatoes, start off with a Pink Brandywine. These tomatoes tend to be huge; so have a couple friends over and a big recipe ready to try it. Their taste is similar to a regular tomato but amplified by about 300%. One of the most popular varieties, Brandywines are beefsteaks, meaning that when you slice them up, there is hardly any seed inside. It’s all meat! If you’re looking for a good sauce tomato, I’d recommend Costoluto Genevese. These tomatoes taste as Italian as their names sound and they come in an absolutely beautiful shape.

Since heirlooms come in so many colors, the best way to tell if they are ripe is by how soft they are. An heirloom is softer than a regular tomato, so it should feel as if it is slightly gone by. If it’s still firm, just let it sit on your counter for a few days. Be sure to cut it with a sharp knife. One of my favorite things to do is pick out a tomato in every color and slice them all up into a salad with some mozzarella and basil. Drizzle on some balsamic vinaigrette (I prefer homemade, but as my boyfriend tells me, I’m a snob when it comes to these things. Whatever, he’s the one who buys his corn at the grocery store) and you are ready for the perfect taste-test! One last tip—NEVER put tomatoes in the refrigerator. It ruins their taste. As I always tell my customers, try at least one heirloom tomato, and you’ll come back next week and buy more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, all the while telling me how right I am. I am always right when it comes to produce.

*For those still wondering about calaloo, it is Jamaican spinach and it is one of the most delicious things on this earth. If you’re able to find it, sautee it with some garlic and onions (don’t eat it raw) and you’ll never go back to another leafy green again. If you live in the Boston/Cambridge area, check out the farmers markets in Central Square on Monday and Davis Square on Wednesday—if you come early, Kimball’s Fruit Farm (Shout out! Get your heirloom tomatoes here too!!) and Farmer Al should both have calaloo for the next month or so.

Cocktailfodder.com

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

cocktailfodder.com!!!

We are now at cocktailfodder.com! That’s right, we made the jump.

That is all.

Cocktails with the Captain

July 21, 2010 1 comment

Saranac Adirondack Lager - Pick some up.

From time to time, a man has to stand up for what he believes in regardless of the consequences. Damn the Man. Fuck the draft. Screw you editor. We don’t need no stinking patches. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen… I’m going rogue. In this week’s edition of Cocktails with the Captain, I’d like to take some time to talk about my first love, beer (sorry smoking-hot girlfriend), and highlight two of my favorite microbreweries on the East Coast.

The third most consumed drink worldwide, next to tea and water, has been around for a very a long time. As the story goes, some ancient Sumerian brahs living in Mesopotamia said some prayers to Ninkasi, the Goddess of Beer (super-hot for sure), that not only thanked her for her amazing gift but also helped them remember the recipe. Way to go guys.

Just a few years later, I started my own experiments with beer at the ripe age of 21 (19)… (ok 17)… (…16). There were lagers and ales, pilsners and porters, blondes and redheads: I tried them all. As the craft brew revolution began and exploded into the new millenium, the rest of America tried them all too.

SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale. It's good stuff.

My personal philosophy when it comes to beer is that sometimes good things can be hard to find. My two favorite microbreweries are continuing to grow but have not yet gained full exposure. In total, beers sales in America were down by over five million barrels in the last year. Despite this, small brewies experienced  a 7.2% volume increase in sales.

The Saranac brewery, technically the F.X. Matt Brewing Company, nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Utica, NY, is the fourth oldest family owned brewery in the United States; it is ranked as the 7th largest craft brewing company in the US (or the 15th largest overall) based upon 2008 beer sales volume. You’ve probably seen their Pale Ale. (It almost won the Washington Post’s March Madness Beer Bracket.) But, my personal favorite (perhaps of all time), the Adirondack Lager – a German-style amber lager – was named named the Top Premium Lager by the Great American Beer Festival back in ’91. You should buy some.

The SweetWater Brewing Company was founded in 1997 and quickly made a name for itself in the American brewing scene. By 2002, it had been voted the Best Small Brewery of the Year and awarded Brewmaster of the Year by the Great American Beer Festival. Based in Atlanta, it is largely distributed throughout the Southeast. Their flagship beer – SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, a West Coast style pale ale – is also my favorite. You should really buy some the second you cross over the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s real good y’all.

(My editor thought I had finally gone an entire post without saying y’all… sucker).

Wine for Thought: Our newest guest blogger joins Cocktail Fodder with a value Rosé you can’t miss!

July 21, 2010 1 comment

Spain's wine regions.

In today’s Wine for Thought segment, I would like to introduce Sarah as our first guest wine blogger. I’ve wanted to give Sarah a guest spot on the Fodder since her arrival at the East Village Wine Geek‘s shop a month ago. Sarah splits her time as a wine manager at the shop and as an intern at WineChap; a slick online resource that gives you reviews of restaurant’s wine lists throughout New York City. (Definitely worth a look!) A passionate student of wine with an already enviable palate, (“Sarah, I still don’t get the citrus fruits in this wine!”) Sarah will be helping out on Wednesday’s Wine for Thought segments. Here is her first post about a 10 year old Spanish Rosé that is worth a try for the daring and curious wine drinker. Enjoy!

Wine is not just for drinking. Obviously, wine is great for just drinking, but there comes a time in a drinker’s life when the urge to get something more than intoxication out of a bottle may arise. The desire to taste something new, better and different can overcome even the most apathetic boozer and encourage them to find a new experience.

Enter López de Heredia. One of the oldest bodegas in Rioja, López was founded by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta in the late 1800s during the post-phylloxera exodus from France to Spain. While the bodega is decently large, with three vineyards covering 170 hecatres, the López family continues to make traditional wines with care and attention that are released only when deemed ready.

Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000

The López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000 is love in a bottle. Bottled love is a pretty good experience, and this blend of Garnacho, Tempranillo and Viura is the best lover that you can get at this price point. She has been waiting for years to become exactly what you want and need; to fulfill desires you did not know that you had. Most rosé is made to buy young and drink yesterday, but this is primed to give you all the nutty caramel goodness you could possibly want.

The day-glo orange hue and distinctive oloroso-style nose come from the purposeful oxidation of the wine throughout the ageing process. When oxygen comes in contact with wine, it beats the poor drink into submission. However, in a controlled environment, oxygen can be used to add complex flavors and aromas. While hints of burnt sugar and sweet spice are evident on the nose, the palate is dry and tangy; she is surprisingly fresh for her age. Drink chilled but not cold, with food or without, but definitely in good company.

To be clear, this wine is a bit bizarre. This is especially true if it is your first time with an older one. That said, the López rosé – which is aged for four years in barrel before being tucked away in some dank, dark corner for another six in bottle – offers a chance to taste age at a ridiculously low price. While $26.99 may exceed your normal wine budget, remember that this weird, orange wine has been lying down in the cool dark for ten years waiting for you.

Until next time, keep on sipping and swirling the good juice.

*For those of you in the Tri-State area, September Wines in New York City currently carries the 2000 vintage. Be on the lookout at your local wine shop to see if they carry any of this producer’s wines.