DOTW: Cucumber Sour

Posted by Anita on 07.31.08 11:02 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**We’d planned take a break from Drink of the Week while we’re vacationing down in Southern California with family. (After all, it’s not like we haven’t had plenty to drink lately). But since we already had this recipe planned for our next DOTW installment when Deb at Everyday Food invited us to participate in today’s Cuke & Zuke Fest, how could we resist jumping online to share it with you?

We had our share of interesting Charlotte Voisey cocktails during the Spirited Dinner at Restaurant August, but her Cucumber and Lavender Sour was our table’s favorite drink by far. It requires a little up-front planning (or shopping), but beyond that it’s simply a straight-up gin sour with a few extra dashes of flavor.

Along with the usual gin botanicals like juniper and coriander, Hendrick’s uses cucumber and rose petals as aromatics in their distillation process, so it’s not surprising that adding cucumbers and floral notes in this drink makes for a delicious end result.

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Cucumber and Lavender Sour
- Charlotte Voisey

1-1/2 oz Hendrick’s gin
1/4 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
3/4 oz lavender syrup (see below)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 egg white
2 slices English cucumber (plus 1 for garnish)
2 dashes lavender bitters*
fresh lavender, for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle 2 cucumber slices with lavender syrup. Add the remaining ingredients, and shake well with ice. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with a cucumber slice and sprig of lavender.

Lavender syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2T dried lavender flowers

Heat sugar and water together until just dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add lavender. Let sit until cool. Strain out the lavender and filter, if desired. (Alternately, Sonoma Syrup and Monin make commercial versions; the latter has a purple tint.)

* Charlotte uses lavender bitters created by a London friend. If you don’t feel up to concocting your own, Fee Brothers’ grapefruit bitters are a complementary alternative.

Drink of the Week, drinks, other blogs, Tales of the Cocktail


Eating (fruit) paste

Posted by Cameron on 07.28.08 10:01 PM

alt=Sweet spirits of niter, did we get plums this year or what? Last year, our little whip of a tree served up a double dozen of the sweetest, tartest, juiciest globes that we could have ever hoped for. This year, that little whip filled out and buried us under an avalanche of purple fruit.

We saw Plumapalooza coming when we had to prop up one of the tree’s lower branches. The load of ripening plums bent it into a wicked arch, forcing the tip down so far that it touched the ground. However, it’s one thing to gaze admiringly at branchloads of red and purple glory. The reality of harvest is another thing entirely.

Toward the end of June, the very first volunteers hit the ground. Every day, we would gather the fallen and tug gently at likely followers still hanging on the branch. Five a day turned into ten and in a week’s time, we were gathering up between fifteen and twenty plums every morning and every night. By the time it was all over, we figured that we reaped 30-40 pounds of fruit.

Which naturally begged the question of precisely what the hell we were going to do with 40 pounds of plums. Finding a solution seemed especially pressing in the early stages of the deluge as we carefully picked yard bark out of drops and sorted the fruit into piles of Perfect, Not-so-perfect and We-love-you-anyway on the countertop. Ultimately, we knew that we would have to turn to preserves or some other solution that involved canning, but we weren’t ready to go there just yet.

As I stood in the kitchen one weekend, chain-eating plums and staring at the latest load, Anita reminded me that I had talked about making pâte de fruits before the plums started thumping down. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? I checked around and found a few recipes, most of which called for pectin, but Anita sussed out a recipe in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Cookbook that was nothing but plums, a little lemon juice, and a *lot* of sugar.

My first go at being a candy maker turned out pretty well, but there were some bumps along the road, mostly related to the fact that the recipe instructions about how long to cook the plum/sugar mixture before pouring it into a pan to set didn’t match up with my real-world experience: “Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the fruit reduces and thickens and begins to hold together as a mass, 20 to 30 minutes.”

Obvious, right? Easy? Not for this knucklehead. I stood in front of the stove stirring that pot nonstop for THREE FREAKING HOURS while the contents went from a thin purple soup to a bubbling syrup that I — exhausted and convinced that I had made a fatal error somewhere — finally abandoned to the tender mercies of the candy pan.

On behalf of my fellow kitchen idjits, let’s diagnose the sentence that was my nemesis. Cook over a low heat? My friends, it’s probably possible to boil a pot of coffee with a Bic lighter, but it’s going to take a long damn time, and when you’re trying to evaporate a quart or so of liquid, you need something a bit more brisk than low heat. Next time, I’ll be less tender with the flame during the early proceedings.

Second lesson: use a comfortable spoon. For reasons that are now unclear to me, I chose a metal spoon for my stirring utensil (Something to do with not staining the wooden spoons? Maybe? I don’t know. Leave me alone.). All I know is that after several hours of making like the witches in Macbeth, the unforgiving handle had given me a blister.

Last point: I don’t know about you, but when I think of something “holding together as a mass,” I expect to be able to haul out a serious hunk of glop when I raise up the spoon. Au contraire, mon frere. My pot full of plum sweetitude thickened to a syrupy consistency and then stopped. I kept at it, though, stirring away like Jamie Oliver on Quaaludes until I smelled the sugar caramelizing and thought to myself, “Self, if you keep going, you’re going to end up with plum-flavored Jolly Ranchers. If it ain’t done now, it ain’t gonna be done.”

It was done. After setting, cooling, cutting, and dusting with sugar, the final product was chewy, tart, and had the unmistakable twang of sugar that’s had a comfortable and extended acquaintance with the flame. It was good, and the piles of plum candy disappeared more quickly than I would have believed possible, especially when paired in gift bags with Anita’s homemade marshmallows.

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Plum Candy
- adapted from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Cookbook

4 pounds plums, pitted and chopped
2 T water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
About 4 cups sugar

In a large, heavy enameled cast-iron or other nonreactive pot, combine the plums, water, and lemon juice. Place over low heat and cook until the fruit is very soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Puree the plum mixture by forcing it through a fine-mesh sieve or food mill fitted with a fine screen held over a bowl. Measure the puree, return it to the pan, and stir in an equal amount of sugar. Cook over low heat (ha!), stirring constantly (ow!), until the fruit reduces and thickens and begins to hold together as a mass, 20 to 30 minutes (bullshit. see above.).

Line a 9-by-12 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment (the original recipe says plastic wrap, but I was afraid that it would melt) overlapping the edges. Pour the plum paste onto the lined pan and spread into an even sheet with a rubber spatula. Let cool, cover, and allow to stand at room temperature for 48 hours. The paste will become firm.

Invert the pan onto a cutting board, peel off the parchment, and cut the paste into about 36 small squares. Arrange in layers on waxed paper and store in an airtight plastic container at room temperature.

dessert, garden, locavore, preserving & infusing, recipes


Local, NOLA-style

Posted by Anita on 07.27.08 10:08 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**One of the hardest things about traveling is coming home to an empty fridge. Even back when we mostly shopped at the supermarket, this was one of the worst parts of any vacation. But now that we buy nearly all of our food at the farmers’ market, we’ve added a level of complexity to the mix.

Luckily, we have a really nice Tuesday lunchtime farmers market at the Ferry Plaza; it’s much smaller than the Saturday showplace, but there’s just enough diversity to re-stock for a few midweek meals, especially if you hit up the indoor shops for meat and bread. So, our 100% local meal this week for One Local Summer included a Range Brothers pork chop dusted in Eatwell rosemary salt, Eduardo’s fusilli with Spring Hill butter, and some Iacopi Farms romano beans… a simple slice of summer.

But honestly, the foods we really wanted to be eating were back in New Orleans, where we spent the last week. Perhaps the feast of the week was our Spirited Dinner at Restaurant August, where chef John Besh created a mostly local, entirely seasonal menu with cocktail pairings by Charlotte Voisey, brand ambassador for Hendricks Gin.

Here’s the menu (and links to photos):

  1. Chilled melon “soup and salad” local charentais, watermelon, and Vietnamese herbs
  2. Belle River crawfish agnolotti with Allen Benton’s bacon, Honey Island chanterelles, and sweet fava beans
  3. Seafood-stuffed breast of local veal Silver Queen corn and crab risotto
  4. Heirloom tomato tarte tatin with creme fraiche ice cream

It was all quite lovely (well, perhaps excepting the dessert, which was much more interesting in concept than in execution) and it was fun to experience locavore life in another part of the country, where asparagus and favas are still in season, and crayfish — not crab — are fresh and plentiful. But honestly, as delicious as the high-falutin’ food was, it wasn’t very novel. Other than those crayfish, there wasn’t much that couldn’t have made an appearance at a Bay Area restaurant of August’s caliber. No, the true treasures of New Orleans’ local food scene were neither organic or sustainable.

One Local Summer 2008The Crescent City’s culinary delights are the stuff of legend. Even if you’ve never been to New Orleans, you’ve probably read of the glories of beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I’m sure you’ve heard of Central Grocery‘s legendary muffulettas, and the po-boys at places like Mother’s or Johnny’s. You might even have seen photos of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, the world’s most perfect frozen delights, the kind of snow cones they might serve in heaven.

But as lovely as these made-to-order treats are, even the local stuff that comes in bottles and boxes tastes better in N’awlins than whatever it is you have at home. And nobody ever tells you about them! So let me be the first to suggest — nay, insist — that when you visit New Orleans, don’t miss out on some local treasures that can actually make the trip home with you.

Closest to my heart are Zapp’s — a brand of locally made potato chips that taste like a cross between Kettle Chips and manna from heaven. (And I bet you can’t find flavors like Spicy Cajun Craw-Tater, Dill Gator-Tater, or Spicy Creole Tomato back home.) Wash your chips down with a bottle of Abita amber beer, or a Barq’s root beer in the painted-label bottle… both of which taste much better in Louisiana than they do when you happen to run across them elsewhere.

Later, when your appetite comes back, make sure to find a Hubig’s pie or two. The closest analog is those Hostess ‘fruit pies’ you might have eaten as a kid, but they’re so much better that the comparison is entirely inadequate. No high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil here, just beef fat and pure southern sugar. Their fruit fillings are made from actual fruit and sugar, not chemicals and essences. Tuck one in your carry-on bag for the flight home, and you’ll be the envy of your seat mates for sure.

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More New Orleans photos and notes on Flickr…

Spirited Dinner: At restaurant August, with cocktail pairings
Central Grocery
: Muffulettas, Abita amber, and Zapp’s chps
Cafe du Monde: Beignets and chicory coffee
Mother’s: Ferdi po-boy (ham and ‘debris’)
Johnny’s Po-Boys: Crawfish po’boys, Cajun sausage po’boys, Barq’s root beer
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz: The best snow-cone treats in the cutest little shack
More New Orleans photos: Emeril’s, Tales sessions, Quarter scenery, and more

locavore, New Orleans, One Local Summer, restaurants


DOTW: Pimm’s Cup

Posted by Anita on 07.18.08 6:36 AM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Few of our friends can believe that two people as obsessed with food and drink as we are have never been to New Orleans before. But it’s true: This week is our inaugural — although I think it’s safe to say definitely not our last — adventure in the City that Care Forgot.

When Cameron mentioned at poker night last week that we were heading to New Orleans, our friend Dave’s eyes lit up. If there’s a San Franciscan who loves NOLA more than Dave, I sure don’t know him. He and his crew of roving debauchés have made their way to the Crescent City at least once a year for the past 11 years.

He sent us a 1,000-word-plus email, jammed with his favorite places and treats, devoting an entire paragraph (after 10 others on more-obscure offerings) just to the touristy French Quarter food & drink experiences that are actually worth the trouble:

“Get a cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde! Eat a muffaletta from Central Grocery on Decatur Street! Shoot oysters at Acme Oyster House! Get late-night eats and abuse from flaming waiters at Clover Grill! And drink a Pimm’s cup at Napoleon House bar!”

So, never one to pass up good advice, we hopped over to Napoleon House for lunch yesterday. We sat ourselves down amid glorious decrepitude and a century’s worth of graffiti, and ordered up a round of Pimm’s, a half a muffaletta, and a roast-beef po’boy. Ancient ceiling fans rotated overhead as bow-tied waiters shuttled between table, bar, and patio. Mid-meal, our Seattle cadre wandered in from the sidewalk swelter, followed closely by a friend from the other side of the continent. No fools, these drinkers: It was Pimm’s for everyone; tall, cool, and fast.

The Pimm’s Cup is our entry for this month’s Mixology Monday — aptly honoring the fine city of New Orleans, and even more aptly hosted by MxMo’s founder, Paul of Cocktail Chronicles. Now, frankly, I’m not sure how this quintessential English picnic drink became such a New Orleans standard. But if there were a Jeopardy! category called “Drinks of the Big Easy”, it’d be right there in the middle of the board, below the Hurricane, the Ramos Fizz, and the Sazerac, but above the Vieux Carre, the Obituary, and the La Louisiane. No matter the reason for its iconic status, it’s certainly a long, cool refresher that makes a potent antidote to the sticky New Orleans weather, and it’s known as a respectable option for daytime drinking… a pastime in which the Crescent City excels.

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Pimm’s Cup
- Napoleon House, New Orleans
Food & Wine Cocktails 2008

1-1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
2-1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1-1/2 oz chilled lemon soda (preferably French-style ‘lemonade’, but 7up will do)
cucumber wheel, for garnish

Mixology Monday badgeAdd the Pimm’s, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well, straining into an ice-filled colling glass. Stir in the soda, and garnish with the cucumber wheel.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, Mixology Monday, New Orleans, recipes, Tales of the Cocktail


First visit, first Tales

Posted by Cameron on 07.17.08 3:29 PM

Married…with dinner is in New Orleans this week for Tales of the Cocktail. This entry is crossposted from Blogging Tales of the Cocktail, where we’re honored to be among the contributors.

Coherent thought is simply too much to ask for after a night of boozing with trained professionals in one of the world’s finest party towns. Even a bag of Zapp’s Cajun Dill Gator-Tators doesn’t seem to be helping to organize my fractured, kaleidoscopic impressions of our first night in Crescent City. And so, expect none from this particular NOLA/Tales virgin.

Palace CafeAfter we dropped our bags and grabbed our press credentials on Wednesday night, we headed off to the Palace Cafe. A pair of Beefeaters in full costume greeted us, followed by a bright-eyed nymphette wearing a Union Jack halter and not much else. We slipped into the main party area, and fought through teeming crowds to the bar to grab drinks. Properly fortified, we turned to survey the scene and realized that we had jumped a line 25 people long. Encouraged at getting the week started on the right foot, we pressed on.

The next couple of hours flashed by in a whirl of gin and noise as we put faces to the names of electronic friends—many of them posting here.

Packed in at Arnaud'sEventually we were ready for new scenery so we set sail for Arnaud’s, the second destination of the evening. If the Palace was busy, Arnaud’s was packed. We squeezed in like toothpaste going back into the tube and finally found a slightly-less-insane corner toward the rear. Some friends were already here and as more arrived, I began to feel like I hadn’t really gone anywhere. I had joined a roving celebration that flowed from event to event, from place to place, as if the Quarter wasn’t made of separate buildings and bars, but rooms in a single grand mansion.

Jane and Camper trade secretsSome started the evening at the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. We ended there, twirling around the bartenders and mirrored center column as day one turned into day two.

bar culture, drinks, New Orleans, other blogs, Tales of the Cocktail, travel
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Born-again briner

Posted by Anita on 07.16.08 11:39 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I have to say right up front, I never was a big fan of the whole brining craze. I mean, yeah, sure — you pump a turkey or chicken full of salt water, and it stays moist… but the white meat ends up with all the texture of an old sponge.

Some pundits (and yes, I’m looking squarely at you, Chris Kimball) prescribe brining as a panacea for nearly every meat, and a few types of seafood, too. But, really, why not start out with a nice piece of meat to begin with and treat it right? After a few squishy suppers, I learned my lesson: Whenever I see “brined” on a menu or in a recipe, I cross it off my list.

But our dinner last week at Nopa got me thinking again. I ordered the justly famous pork chop, and it was everything pork should be, but seldom is: Meaty, juicy, chewy, and flavorful. As I raved to our server, she explained that the delicious Napa-raised pork they use doesn’t need much help. But then she added that a quick 4-hour brine helps boost the flavor so that every bite is seasoned, without turning the texture to wet-paper-towel consistency.

A chop this good is enough to make a brining convert out of even a curmudgeon like me. Determined to repeat the brined chop at home, I turned to the cookbook from the last restaurant where I really remembered being wowed by a pork chop. And wouldn’t you know it: They quick-brine their pork at Boulevard, too. The original recipe calls for making a brine with hot water, then chilling it in the fridge before adding the meat. But I’m lazy and I need to keep moving on the weekends or else nothing gets done. So I cut back on some of the liquid in the dissolving step, and added it back in — in the form of the chicken-stock cubes we keep on hand for sauce-making — to cool the brine in an instant. (If you don’t keep your extra stock in ice cube form, you can always use plain old ice.)

Into the briny deep went a gorgeous Marin Sun Farms chop — a good, thick one we picked up at the farmers market. After its bath and a subsequent drying-out rest in the fridge, we grilled it over medium heat, to avoid scorching the exterior. On the side, we roasted some of Mr. Little’s gorgeous fingerlings in a mix of Spring Hill butter, Sciabica olive oil, our own herbs, and a healthy scattering of gorgeous young Rocambole garlic. We made a pan of Dirty Girl haricot verts using our favorite stovetop method and enjoyed the lot with our pairing this week: Fox Barrel hard cider, the same as we used in the brine.

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Quick-Brined Pork Chops
- adapted from Boulevard: The Cookbook

1 cup hot water
2T kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup hard cider
1T crushed black peppercorns
1T Dijon mustard
5 sprigs thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock, frozen (or crushed ice)
2 thick-cut pork chops

Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl or glass measuring cup, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the cider, peppercorns, mustard, thyme, rosemary, and frozen stock. Stir the brine until the stock melts; if still warm, refrigerate until cool.

Put the chops in zip-top bag, and pour the cooled brine over them. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Put the bag in a bowl or glass pan, and arrange or prop up the chops so that they’re standing edgewise. (You want the brine to be in contact with both of the cut sides of the chop. In my small mixing bowl, I can put the chops on their edge and lean them up against the side. If this isn’t possible, just be sure to flip them midway through the brining time.)

One Local Summer 2008Refrigerate the chops for 1-1/2 hours, or up to 4 hours — no more, or you will have mush. (And if you’re using thinner chops, an hour is plenty!) About 90 minutes before cooking, remove the chops from the brine, and pat dry. place on a plate (or, ideally on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet) in the fridge to dry out the surface a bit, and to allow the brine to equalize throughout the meat. 30 minutes before cooking, bring the chops to room temperature, and preheat your grill or oven. (Heat grill to moderate-high heat, oven to 375°).

When chops are at room temperature, season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides. To grill, cook in your usual fashion to medium temperature (140° to 150° before resting time) — timing will vary widely based on the thickness of your chops and the heat of your grill. If cooking in the oven, heat a large, oven-roof skillet over medium heat. (Brining does speed up browning, go a little cooler than you may be used to for searing meat.) When hot, add olive oil just to coat the pan; when hot again, add the chops and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden, Turn the chops over, and move the pan to the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

When the meat reaches temperature — either on the grill or in the oven — remove from heat and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. (If you finished in the oven, you can make a simple pan sauce.) Serve with your favorite seasonal accompaniments.


* Edited to add: We removed the link to Cook’s Illustrated in protest of their bullying tactics.

locavore, meat, One Local Summer, recipes


Take it outside

Posted by Anita on 07.13.08 6:58 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Last week, I went on about how miserably cold and foggy the weather had become. No sooner had I posted than the spell broke, and we traded arctic snap for heatwave. Would a day or two of mild, sunny but breezy weather be too much to ask?

San Francisco proper was mercifully spared the full effects of the heat. But Cameron’s office down south was baking so hard that their air-conditioning conked out… at 9am! And friends of ours in Marin set up a kitchen on the back patio when the mercury passed 105°, making indoor cooking unthinkable. But the City stayed pretty mild, rising only to 85° on the hottest day, and cooling to manageable fan-free levels overnight.

In short, it was the perfect time to break out the grill.

Truthfully, we cook outdoors all year round here, even when the weather is grey. Our grill sits right out the back door of our kitchen, on a second-story deck overlooking the neighborhood and the bay beyond. It’s a pretty idyllic place to cook dinner, sipping a bottle of Speakeasy ale while gazing out at the view. We don’t need a lot of excuses to take our kitchen outside.

One Local Summer 2008And so last week, we found ourselves enjoying one of our favorite summer meals — carne asada tacos — cooked al fresco over a live fire. Dry-rubbed Marin Sun Farms flank steak, quickly seared and folded into Rancho Gordo tortillas, served with homemade salsas made from some of the best summer produce around. (Tomatillos and chiles are back, sweet onions are abundant, rocambole garlic is making its brief appearance, and cilantro is bolting in the garden like there’s no tomorrow.)

We bought our first ears of corn this week, too — we always put off that purchase until we’re sure we’ll be getting high-season, super-ready ears. To give it a Latin flair, we roasted it on the grill and slathered it in chile-spiked crema, a gringo-style riff on a popular Mexican street snack. Truthfully, I think the creamy spread got in the way of the farm-fresh corn flavor — these ears were so fresh they were wet — but I’ll definitely make it again to help perk up less-than-perfect specimens, when the season’s winding down. It’d be a great way to give supermarket corn a kick, too, I suspect… something we’ll be able to test in a few weeks when we head to a family reunion in the Land of No Local Food.

Oh, and since we had the grill on? We roasted some homemade marshmallows and made semi-local s’mores, with Miette graham crackers and Scharffen Berger chocolate.

Ah yes, this summer is shaping up just fine after all.

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Grilled Corn with Chile Crema
- adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2007
4 T sour cream
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp red chile powder (ancho, chipotle, etc.)
pinch kosher salt
4 ears of corn, unhusked
3T chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Remove outer husks from corn, leaving inner pale green husks attached. Gently fold back inner husks; remove corn silk. Wipe kernels with a tiny bit of oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rewrap inner husks, and grill corn until husks are charred and kernels are just heated through.

Pull husks back and place corn on a serving platter. Brush corn with spiced crema and sprinkle with cilantro (if desired).

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes


DOTW: Old Cuban

Posted by Anita on 07.12.08 12:53 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I’ll spare you the history and variations of this particular Audrey Saunders creation for two reasons: (1) We’re doing our best to get ready for next week’s pilgrimage to Tales of the Cocktail and (2) it’s already been covered extensively by everyone from the lowbrow to the highbrow, plus a handful of cocktail bloggers in between.

But here’s the reason it’s on our radar: Last night, we met up for dinner and drinks with out-of-town guests, Morgan — one-third of the Drink Dogma troika — and his lovely wife Stacey. Our first stop was Nopa, one of our favorite cocktail-savvy restaurants, both because of their fabulous bar program and their delicious (and locavore-friendly) food.

Stacey and I both ordered an Old Cuban to start, but — because I was too busy being social — I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, nor to see how they were putting together this effervescent refresher. Which is a damned shame because now I haven’t the faintest idea how they get this drink to be a rather flamboyant, Shrek-like shade of green.

Even using silver rum (an unorthodox variation, given the Bacardi 8 in the original recipe) I couldn’t achieve anything more than a Mojito-colored khaki. Obviously I need to go back to Nopa and do some more investigation.

Whatever color it is, the Old Cuban makes for a refreshing way to start a warm summer evening at the bar. And if you can talk Morgan and Stacey into joining you, I can guarantee you’ll have a fabulous time.

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Old Cuban Cocktail
1-1/2 oz aged rum (Bacardi 8 or Flor de Caña 7)
1 ounce simple syrup (or less, to taste)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add the lime juice, rum, bitters, and ice. Shake well. Double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer and a smaller sieve) into a chilled cocktail glass or flute. Top with bubbly, and garnish with a spring of mint or half a sugared vanilla bean.

bar culture, Drink of the Week, drinks, other blogs


Feeding Twain’s ghost

Posted by Anita on 07.07.08 6:51 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I know there’s some serious doubt about whether ol’ Samuel Clemens ever said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” But if he didn’t say it back in 18-whatever-it-was, he would definitely have said it this year. Because, hello, it’s been frickin’ cold over here. I keep hearing everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere talk about sweltering subway rides and temperatures too hot for grilling. Meanwhile, I’m hauling out the fleece and putting the sundresses back in the closet.

But, you know, if the weather is going to make it seem like winter, then who are we to second-guess Mother Nature? Our Marin Sun Farms Meat CSA box this month included a mega-jumbo chuck roast, way too large for the two of us to tackle in one sitting, even with leftovers. I hate to cut up a large hunk of meat, but — freezing weather or no — I just couldn’t see inviting friends over for a roast beef supper. Burgers might be nice, but we already have enough ground beef to feed a small army.

So we cut the meat into large hunks and made a hearty, 100%-local version of Beef & Guinness Pie. Substituting Anchor Porter for the beer, and using local flour, butter, and cream cheese to make a really wide version of Lara’s cheater’s puff pastry pinwheels for the topping, we had our One Local Winter (er, I mean, Summer, of course) entree all wrapped up.

The pie is old-school Irish fare; its only vegetables are onions, garlic, and a dollop of tomato paste, so a side-dish is definitely in order. Thankfully, the delta and valleys, where most of our food comes from, are actually getting plenty of sun and heat, so we’re grabbing plenty of gorgeous shelling peas and baby carrots these days.

We like to cook young veggies gently, in a way that helps retain most of their vibrant color and snappy texture. We happened onto this fast pan-braising method (a much more interesting recipe to share with those of you who aren’t experiencing arctic blasts) as part of a green-bean recipe in one of our favorite cookbooks. Turns out it’s a fabulous way to get just about any small, tender vegetables to the table without a lot of fuss.

And it’s a method that rewards repetition: Once you get to know your pan and your stove, you’ll be able to add just enough water so that it all evaporates at the perfect moment, leaving just the buttery glaze and perfectly textured vegetables behind. It’s a fabulous technique you can use all year ’round, regardless of the climate.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Quick & Tender Vegetables
- adapted from Staff Meals at Chanterelle

Trim and/or peel the vegetables into uniform shapes. (Shell peas; slice carrots into 1/3-inch-thick rounds; trim the stem end off green beans, etc.)

Place the prepped vegetables in a skillet large enough to stack them no more than two pieces deep; a single layer is even better. (If you’re combining different shapes and textures, like shelled peas and carrot rounds, it’s best to cook them in two separate pans, so you can adjust temperatures and timing as needed.) Add cold water to reach halfway up the vegetables — no more! — then add as big a hunk of butter as you dare, and goodly amount of kosher salt.

One Local Summer 2008Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered, shaking the pan (or using tongs for long items like beans) to fiddle with the vegetables as they cook, until they’re brightly colored and tender but still have a little bite. Lift the vegetables out of the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon, letting them drip-dry just a bit, and place them in the serving dish.

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes


DOTW: Tommy Gun

Posted by Anita on 07.06.08 10:44 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**This week’s stop on our Summer of Cocktails tour finally hit the bullseye: A solid cocktail in a superlative setting.

Bar Drake is the lesser-known of the Sir Francis Drake hotel’s watering holes, but this chic spot is no second fiddle. It may lack the stunning skyline views of Harry Denton’s Starlight Lounge — not to mention its swanky scene — but the lobby lounge offers an abundance of glamour, centered on a dramatically lit back-bar soaring almost to the top of the second-story mezzanine.

Bar Drake’s sumptuous elegance surrounds a mix of couches and comfy chairs, settled around the lobby at clubby intervals. The service is impeccable, and the prices — $10 for most cocktails — are downright affordable by downtown standards. You might not expect that a hotel lobby bar would be the place to find an innovative cocktail menu, especially with some of San Francisco’s trendiest clubs within stumbling distance. But with a drinks program led by master mixologist Jacques Bezuindenhout (better known for his work upstairs), you’re in capable hands at Bar Drake.

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the venerable Sidecar (also invented in a hotel bar), Bezuindenhout’s Cocktails 2008 entry — the Tommy Gun — somehow captures the familiar taste of a drink you’ve enjoyed for ages. Despite not one but two ingredients borrowed from the pastry kitchen, it has none of the “gosh, aren’t we clever” oddness of some modern creations. A pleasant balance of tart and sweet, spice and heat — it’s a lovely, timeless drink.

My one quibble with Bar Drake: The bartender the night of our visit was rather haphazard with his measures, free-pouring his spirits and mixing multiple drinks at a time. Predictably, this led to fairly significant variation among the dozen or so Tommy Guns our group ordered throughout the evening. Looking around the room, spying drinks ranging from deep orange to palest yellow, you could tell at a glance that everyone’s drink was quite different. Still, we all loved what we got; perhaps it’s a testament to the strength of the recipe that it can be so broadly varied and still pleasant.

When properly made with a keen eye on the jigger, the Tommy Gun can more than hold its own among the year’s best drinks.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Tommy Gun
- Jacques Bezuindenhout, Bar Drake
published in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008

2 thin slices fresh ginger
1 tsp apricot jam
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz Irish whiskey
1/2 oz Grand Mariner

Thoroughly muddle the ginger with jam and lemon juice. Add ice, whiskey, and Grand Mariner; shake well with plenty of ice. Double-strain (through a Hawthorne strainer into a fine-mesh sieve) into an ice-filled rocks glass; garnish with lemon twist.

bar culture, downtown SF, Drink of the Week, drinks