We’re pleased to be hosting Mixology Monday #14, and we’d like to propose a toast: To Champagne cocktails!
To participate, post an entry featuring any cocktail made with sparkling wine to your blog or similar site by midnight PST on Monday, April 16.
Please track back to this post, and send an email to chef(at)marriedwithdinner(dot)com with the subject “MxMo – Champagne”. Be sure to include the following information:
- Your name and city
- Your blog name and URL
- Name of your drink and URL for your MxMo entry
- Optional: a jpeg photo — preferably 150x200px or 200x150px — for the roundup page
Thanks for playing… Cheers!
Despite its presence in every decent cocktail manual — and on many of those mixer glasses with drink recipes printed on the side — many serious drinkers would be hard pressed to detail the ingredients of the venerable Ramos Gin Fizz beyond “Gin… and, uh, something fizzy?”
I would have had to include myself in that statement until I sat down at Pegu Club on a slow evening and asked Nate what he did with the cardamom tincture behind the bar. And although I’m not usually one for frosty cocktails, especially when it’s blizzarding outside, this was one hell of a tasty drink.
Ramos Gin Fizz
1-1/2 to 2 oz. dry gin
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 oz. light cream
1 egg white (use the pasteurized sort, if you’re feeling squeamish)
a splash of soda water, plus more for finishing
2 to 3 drops of orange-flower water
1T confectioners sugar
In a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice, shake all ingredients vigorously until they reach the proper foamy texture. (If you’re all alone, I suppose you could use a blender, but serious folks would call you unflattering names behind your back.) Strain into a tall glass and top with a touch more club soda — but beware the watery Ramos.
As I told a friend today in email, “finished” is perhaps too strong a word for the current state of the kitchen remodel, but that didn’t stop us from moving back upstairs over the weekend. And since everyone — and I do mean everyone, from my boss to the craftsman who created our gorgeous countertops — has asked: The first thing we cooked in our new kitchen was …pan-seared chicken.
Boring, you say? Delicious, says me. And, more to the point, a dish that would have been nearly impossible to create in our temporary kitchen. But with a vent hood, a powerful stove, and an oven that comfortably holds an entire skillet, it was as easy as one, two, three.
One: Cam cut a Prather Ranch heritage-breed chicken into parts, seared its duck-like skin on the stovetop, and then slid it into the oven to finish cooking through.
Two: I sauteed some broccoli di ciccio in a pan with peppery olive oil, added a bit of garlic to sweat, and combined it with some orecchiete and parmesan.
Three: Cam removed the now-roasted chicken from the pan, sauteed some quartered mushrooms in the rendered chicken fat, added a bit of wine, and called it sauce.
Damn. Having a good kitchen makes these kind of simple meals a real pleasure. I’d almost forgotten how much fun it is to make something by heart. Sure, it’s been a challenge — and I mean that in the best way — to get delicious stuff on the table with only a toaster oven and a porta-burner, but it’s so nice to finally be living and cooking in this space, this project that’s been taking up the vast majority of our energies for ages.
Over the last couple of days, we’ve celebrated many other “firsts.” Our inaugural breakfast included Fatted Calf bacon, perfectly fried eggs, and toasted Acme pain de mie. We made our first old favorite, the Zuni Cafe mock porchetta with roasted roots, in our new oven. And for our first new-to-us dish, I turned to a recipe that had been calling my name for weeks: Spaghetti al’ Limone from Avenue Food, which I’d printed out and squirreled away with the express idea of cooking it as soon as I could boil a pot full of water without waiting two hours.
Last night, we made our first braise, and our first meal from our favorite cookbook — a Moroccan-esque chicken with preserved lemons and olives. Stumped for a side dish, I concocted the kitchen’s first new recipe, a jumble of veggies from this weekend’s farmers market trek and a few pantry staples. Like everything else we’ve cooked this week, it was nothing extraordinary. But the joy of making it, and the pleasure of its first-ness, were enough to keep me smiling even through the dishwashing.
Amid all this giddy cooking, it’s easy to forget that we still have plenty of items on the punch list — including dealing with the joy(!) of knob-free doors and drawers until sometime around Easter week, when our re-made cabinet doors are due to arrive. In the meantime, we’ve got a lot of great dinners planned, a lot more hoarded recipes to try. And we’re amusing ourselves by slowly coming to grips with the fact that it’s all finally REAL. We can’t wait to share some photos (and some more meals) with you soon.
The “First” Salad
1 cup (about 1/2 can) drained garbanzo beans
1 small cucumber, diced (peeled if thick-skinned)
1 small heirloom tomato, seeded and diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. whole Mexican oregano, crumbled
1-1/2 tsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 stalks green garlic, white and light-green parts, sliced thin
1T (or to taste) rich olive oil
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon (about 1T)
salt and pepper, to taste
Not long ago, I waxed caustic about the dearth of decent pizza in San Francisco, and I pretty much threw the entire city under the bus. But someone somewhere must have been listening, because not long after I posted my rant, Gialina Pizzeria opened.
Chef Sharon Ardiana—whose resume includes stints at Sol y Luna, The Slow Club, and Lime, among others—has put together a very cute little pizzeria in a Glen Park storefront that used to house an unloved (and unmissed) business that served disks of dough topped with tomato sauce and whatever else came to hand.
We’ve been to Gialina a couple of times now, and I’m already looking forward to a return visit. The decor has been updated with lots of trés chic wood veneer and enormous black-and-white family photos from Chef Ardiana’s childhood. The pictures could feel gimmicky, but they don’t—they’re simultaneously hilarious and homey. It feels like you’ve been invited to dinner with the relatives and close friends.
And, just as happily, the food is worthy. The pie dough is pulled into rough circles and passes the critical test of tasting good all by itself. The toppings are good… not mind-bending, but good. The salads have been felicitously composed, and we thoroughly enjoyed the antipasti platter that we ordered on our first visit. The ricotta cheesecake adequately fills the stomach slot labeled “cheesecake,” and there’s a Nutella dessert pizza that looked like a chocolate coma in the making.
A word (or, actually three) about the service: Friendly, welcoming, and as professional as anything that you’re going to find in a neighborhood restaurant. Special bonus points: While you’re waiting for a table, you can leave your cell phone number and bounce down to Glen Park Station (a proper old-school SF bar) for a drink and a quick game of liar’s dice.
Welcome, Gialina. We’ve been waiting for you.
2842 Diamond Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Another citrusy drink from last week’s visits to the Pegu Club. Although the original recipe calls for 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, Nate made it for us without — and it definitely tasted plenty sweet from the Chartreuse. On paper, it feels like a Friday After Five, but the missing anise and green-herb notes prevents the similiarity.
1-1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz. grapefuit juice
1/4 oz. lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist, preferably grapefruit.
Oh, how we longed for this New York City escape! Being in separate cities most of last month, we didn’t manage a proper Valentine’s Day celebration, so we decided to combine a business trip and a family visit with some top-notch dining a month later. Alas, it was not to be. Oh, to be sure, we spent plenty of cash, and ate at places that everyone raves about. But good food? Not so much.
Now, I know better than to make pronouncements about the general state of New York City dining based on a few nights out. But I will say that, by the end of the week, I was downright despondent that we hadn’t had a good meal to show for our efforts (or our substantial credit-card expenditures), and hungry to be back in San Francisco.
Tuesday evening, I landed at JFK, hopped a cab to meet Cameron at his hotel, and unpacked at a leisurely pace. After all, he’d already eaten dinner, and my body told me it was 5pm, not 8. A bit later, we hailed another cab up to The Carlyle Hotel, where I’d dreamed of having a world-class cocktail (and the ground-to-order hamburger promised by the online menu) at Bemelmans Bar while Cam kept me company with a drink of his own.
We were a bit surprised to find the bar overwhelmed by a jazz trio, but not nearly as surprised as we were when a waiter slapped a “$20 per person cover charge after 9:30pm” sign on our table just as our butts hit the banquette. Huh!? Doing a little quick math — $20 per drink, $40 in covers, and another $20 for the burger — I quickly realized this round of drinks would happen some other night, before the cover charge kicked in.
Back out on the sidewalk, Cameron remembered that a co-worker had mentioned a “pretty good” bistro on the Upper East Side that had an impressive Belgian beer selection. A quick online search turned up B. Cafe, and a quick stroll led us to their door.
The beer selection was nice, if not as stunning as some sources would lead you to believe — I think my time in Seattle has forever spoiled me into expecting too much when someone says “beer selection is without peer” — and the food was good, in an unambitious sort of way. I got my burger, at least, alongside properly made frites.
Wednesday night, we met Cameron’s sister and bro-in-law for dinner at Del Posto. Arriving a touch after our 9pm reservation time, we were asked to wait in the bar. Where we waited. And waited. And waited. No offer of drinks, no apologies, no checking back to assure us we hadn’t been forgotten.
As 9:45 rolled around, we eventually were escorted to our table. After all this wait, the food — with the exception of a mind-alteringly delicious risotto and a solid salumi platter — turned out to be no better than fair to middlin’. Lowlights include bitter foie gras, lobster spaghetti al dente to the point of some serious crunch, squishy pork, so-so desserts. But the true terror was the service.
Despite having no fewer than four people theoretically serving our table, we were constantly ignored, offered one another’s food, and generally given the bum’s rush. The grand finale? Our waitress announced after our mains that her “partner” (and let’s be real, he’s a busboy) would be taking care of our desserts. Honey, darling — is it our fault that we’re the last ones in the place? (And, while we’re in question mode: Why does it look like a Cheesecake Factory in here?)
When all else fails, aim lower. And earlier. We arrived at Cookshop on Thursday night a hair before our 6:30 seating call, and were ushered promptly to our table — where we sat, and sat, and sat for close to 20 minutes without so much as a “can I get you a drink?” Gadzooks.
We finally flagged down a waiter and inquired, diplomatically we hoped, if perhaps we’d been seated without the host letting our server know…? (Waiter stage directions: Mumble, stammer… slink away.) Gosh, would “Oh, sorry! I’d be happy to get you a drink while we sort out who will help you” be too much to ask?
As we scanned the wine list, a strange pattern emerged. Seeing as Cookshop trades heavily on its locavore cred, we were puzzled both by the absence of New York wines — is a single Finger Lakes Riesling all one can expect amid a sea of Italian and French bottles? — and the relative scarcity of American vintages at all.
The food? Again, flawed. The best part of our meal was a plate of fried hominy we ordered to nibble with drinks: Golden-crisp, dusted in salt and tinged with just a hint of lime. Oh my-my-my! Gorgeous pork — a small chop and a big sausage — was burdened by undercooked black beans and an odd, sweet pineapple relish. The saddest part, though, was our inedible finale: a pair of sorbets — banana thyme and ginger pear — that were grainy, gluey, and not the least bit tasty. (And bear in mind, ginger + pear = delicious, in my book.) We took one bite of each, screwed up our faces, and left the rest to melt. When our waiter asked what was wrong, we told him that not only were the textures quite un-sorbet-like and the flavors beyond bizarre, but both scoops had the gummy texture of dessert left too long in the freezer. He told us that simply couldn’t be the case, and brought the check. With the sorbet on it, of course.
The next night, a much-anticipated meal at Blue Hill off Washington Square got off to a surreal start, as our cab drove verrry carefully down Lexington Avenue, almost alone; a freak snowstorm had dropped six inches of snow on the city after a 72-degree high the previous day.
In fairness, I can’t lay all of the blame for our terrible evening at the kitchen’s feet — that honor goes to the pompous gentleman to our right who was enjoying dessert as we came in, and yet persisted in ordering glass after glass, extra course upon extra course, as he lectured at great volume the couple to his other side about French politics, the trouble with today’s parents, the moral imperative of naming one’s children with grace, and a dozen other topics he apparently held quite dear.
Dear lord, his braying was almost enough to distract us from the fact that every last thing we ate was criminally over-salted, from the emerald-green lettuce broth supporting a bevy of Disney-adorable baby mushrooms beneath “this morning’s farm egg”, to the too-enthusiastically brined Berkshire pork loin (which was almost redeemed by angelic creme fraiche spaetzle).
We decided to pass on dessert, in favor of after-dinner drinks when I spied Chartreuse VEP on the menu — I’ve always wanted to try it, but blanched at the $100+ price for a whole bottle. Was I crushed when they didn’t have it? Not so much as I was unsurprised, as this was the third beverage we’d asked for during the course of the meal that they’d “just run out of”. Uh-huh.
The bright spot in our week was, undeniably, the cocktails: We passed two happy evenings at Pegu Club, where the lovingly crafted drinks, chipper bartenders (yo, Nate and Alister!), and cozy atmosphere reminded us of our favorite bar.
We also popped into Flatiron Lounge on our way to Del Posto, and had a couple of rounds of vintage-esque libations that were a touch off-balance, but on the whole rather tasty (especially as we were seated at a table, not the bar).
And we did finally make it back to Bemelmans Bar on Saturday evening. Yes, we still ended up spending the $100 we balked at paying before, but it bought us five drinks, a table for four, and brilliantly attentive service. It was a lovely scene, drinking our spendy cocktails surrounded by Ludwig Bemelmans’ dreamlike murals, served by white-jacketed waiters under a rosy light. It simply oozed five-star, old-school cocktail charm… my only quibble is the nasty fake maraschino cherries in their otherwise stunning Manhattan.
240 E. 75th Street
New York, NY 10021
85 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
156 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Blue Hill NYC
75 Washington Place
New York, NY 10011
Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle
35 E. 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
37 W. 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
77 W. Houston, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
Happy first day of spring!
This morning, I got a lovely email from a reader with whom I’ve been corresponding about the Black and Tan ice cream post: “I really love your blog,” he said, “I just wish you posted more often!”
And frankly, as I told him, I wish I did, too. I often look down the list of Recent Posts and see that lately there’s often just one entry between last week’s Drink of the Week and the next. Yikes…
I still love the blog — don’t think I’ve lost the urge to blather about food — but I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that the posts slowed down dramatically when my dad got sick and I spent a lot of time away from San Francisco.
I was genuinely conflicted about taking our first-ever hiatus when Dad died in early February, but I honestly didn’t have the energy for anything at all but spending time with my family. Writing about anything light and entertaining just seemed so very pointless — callous, almost. And I knew, just knew, that everyone who mattered would understand.
It’s gotten better, and it’s getting better still, but this new part of my life called “Dad’s gone” is taking up more energy and time than I thought possible. Prepared as I was, I’m still caught off guard in ways that I never expected.
It’s not just all about grief. In case you’ve missed my constant gloating, we’ve also been remodeling our kitchen since the first of the year. Much as I had hoped otherwise, there’s just a lot less to write about when you’re cooking in a toaster oven. We’ve been eating out with alarming frequency, but we’ve had a solid string of truly disappointing dining-out experiences lately, and working up the energy to write not-positive restaurant posts is just to difficult to do very often, especially if you’re trying hard not to sound like a whiny, picky jerk. (That said, stay tuned for our New York City wrap-up, where I’ll bravely attempt exactly that.)
But, hey, it’s spring again, and I love hearing that at least one reader is anxious to read more. And I am itching to explore all the seasonal produce, tend to our edible garden as it creeps back to life, cook in our amazing new kitchen (any day now!), and begin to find a comfortable niche for my grief — a place that’s out of harm’s way, but still close by.
It may seem trite, but spring feels more than ever like a natural part of the cycle, a tangible — even edible — follow-through on nature’s promise of rebirth and renewal. Looking at it in that light, as daylight hours get longer and the sun brighter, I can’t imagine that I won’t be writing a lot more, and soon. Thanks for sticking with us through the dark days.
I feel so cosmopolitan: Arriving home from a week in New York City, I found on my desk an envelope postmarked Paris. Ooh la la!
What a pleasant surprise to find inside not one but three trés jolie postcards, and a letter from Amanda at Postdoc in Paris. A-ha — It was my long-lost food-blogger Valentine!
Amanda mentions that the event led her to our blog for the first time, which is one of the things I love about these kinds of events. Now I, too, have another blog in my reader, and a window into a world of someone — a food-loving polymer chemist! — whose blog I doubt I would have simply stumbled across.
Thanks again to Meeta for hosting this fun event.
No mere pretender to the retro cocktail trend, the Pegu Club is a true vintage recipe. It’s been making the rounds since at least the 1920s, and was purportedly invented at the eponymous club in Burma during the British colonial era. (If you’re curious, Robert Hess has a nice DrinkBoy article on the recipe’s evolution over time.)
I first tasted this drink years ago (at the Zig Zag, where else?) but I’ve never tried making it at home. For some reason, even though the ingredients are far from obscure, it just feels more like the kind of drink you want someone else to make.
Luckily for lazy drinkers like me, it’s becoming easier to find bartenders who know how to properly construct this tangy treat. Pegu’s become something of a darling in cocktail circles in the last few years, so much so that in 2005, Audrey Saunders adopted its name — and its Asian vibe — for her now-legendary cocktailian haunt. As you might imagine, getting a properly made Pegu Club cocktail at the Pegu Club is as easy as asking.
2 oz. gin
1 oz. orange curaçao
1 tsp. lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash orange bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail class. Garnish with a lime.
Yes, cardoons. Also nettles, green garlic, and pea vines. Ah, it’s even beginning to smell a bit like springtime at the Ferry Plaza farmers market.
Since Cameron will be in NYC all week, and I follow him back on Tuesday, we weren’t really doing our usual food-shopping rounds, although we couldn’t leave without a gorgeous Prather Ranch rib-eye for the grill and some jumbo brussels sprouts to roast.
And we did manage to stock Cameron’s bag with carry-on nibbles for his flight — petit sec from Fatted Calf and some sweet treats from the ladies at La Cocina. But mostly, we ate our breakfast, poked around, took a couple dozen photos (more than half of them floral, not food), visit with our favorite vendors, bump into a trio of old friends, and soak up just enough sunshine to make us forget all about the winter coats in our suitcases.
In between work and family time in New York, we’ll do our best to post about our wanderings. We’ve got reservations at a few restaurants we’ve been longing to try, and a list of cocktailian haunts as long as your arm (thanks, Murray!). When we get back, expect a thorough kitchen-remodel update.