Eating the Quarter

Posted by Cameron on 07.10.09 9:08 AM

Beignets

Originally posted on the Tales Blog, where we’re working with many other cocktail bloggers to cover Tales of the Cocktail, 2009.

As someone who has been to my share of trade shows and conferences, I can tell you that the phrase “convention lunch” is enough to strike fear into the heart of the boldest traveler. But this is Tales of the Cocktail, which is about as un-convention-al as it gets. You can count on a good time in the seminars, tasting rooms, and party rooms, and then stroll out to some seriously good food.

Yesterday was the perfect example. We rolled out of bed, still on Pacific Time and fuzzy from the previous night’s festivities, cleaned up a bit, and then hit the bricks, aiming for the river, Cafe du Monde, and beignets with cafe au lait. The beignets come three to a plate, snuggled into a pile of powdered sugar that looks like nothing so much as the scene in the third act of Scarface where Tony Montana plunges his face into a mountain of cocaine. Instead of our noses, we plunged our beignets into the fluffy white mound while a singing, trumpet-playing entertainer performed “Down by The Riverside,” “Danny Boy,” and other feats of musical daring for the amusement of passers-by.

On our way back to the hotel, our eyeballs vibrating ever so slightly from the sugar buzz, we realized that our “lunch” break wouldn’t come until 2:30, and that we needed something a bit more substantial to carry us through the day. So, we stopped at Johnny’s Po-Boys and split an egg and bacon po’boy, washed down with a couple of Barq’s root beer sodas. Mother’s may get more attention, but for our money, Johnny’s is the spot. It’s a place of wonderful mysteries. How do they manage to get the rolls to be tender, chewy, and flaky all at the same time? How can they offer fried chicken with a homemade biscuit and white gravy for $2.50 a plate? And how am I going to manage to get here enough times this week, given all the other great places that we’ll be eating at?

Back at Tales, we soaked up some knowledge and tasted some spirits, but I have to admit that I was already looking forward to our next food foray. We roped in Marshall from Scofflaw’s Den and headed back into the Quarter, aiming for Central Grocery and its famous muffuletas.

I had my first Central Grocery muffuletta at last year’s Tales, and it was a madhouse. There was a line out the door, and every horizontal surface was staked out by someone eagerly devouring one of the sandwiches. Today, there were no crowds, which made the lunchtime experience much more civilized. But even if it were wall-to-wall people, it wouldn’t have mattered. If there’s anything wrong with loving a sandwich the size and shape of a hubcap, spread with oily, tangy olive salad and filled with all sorts of good things (salami, capicola, and provolone, just to name a few), I don’t want to be right.

The best part? The day wasn’t over, much less the week. We have got to get to Green Goddess, and there’s a slew of other stuff on the schedule. And no matter where we are I’m pretty sure that there’s another plate of beignets calling my name, down by the riverside.

ZappsAbitamuff2MuffulettaJohnny's

New Orleans, restaurants, Tales of the Cocktail
6 Comments »

 

Countdown to Tales

Posted by Anita on 05.11.09 7:18 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**It’s hard to believe that in just two months — July 8 through 12 — we’ll be back in New Orleans for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. Cameron and I are both participating in this year’s TalesBlog group, and {gulp} I’m moderating a Saturday-morning seminar called “Secrets of Cocktail Photography“.

TalesBlog is already up and running with previews of many of the interesting sessions, tasting rooms, events, and meals that make Tales the must-do event for anyone who loves cocktails. The contributor list is pretty much a Who’s Who of top cocktail bloggers, so it’s worth adding to your feed-reader even if you’re not planning to attend.

In other Tales-related news, host venue Hotel Monteleone is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Carousel Bar, and they’re celebrating with a contest open to all bloggers. Here’s the gist: From 1949 until sometime in the late 60s or 70s there was a drink on the Carousel Bar’s menu called the Monteleone Cocktail. Unfortunately, the hotel folks have no idea what the exact recipe or ingredients were.

Here’s where you come in: Submit a recipe for your best idea for the new official Monteleone Cocktail. Entries will be judged by VIPs at the Carousel anniversary celebration on May 21. There are no requirements on types of liquor or style of drink, but all entries must be posted on your blog and emailed to the sponsors no later than May 18. (Send your drink recipe, along with your name, address, and phone number, to athornton@hotelmonteleone.com.)

The winning entry will become the new official Monteleone Cocktail, and the winner will receive four free nights at Hotel Monteleone during Tales of the Cocktail 2009.

bar culture, drinks, New Orleans, Tales of the Cocktail, travel
5 Comments »

 

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.

(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**

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
13 Comments »

 

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.

(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**

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
19 Comments »

 

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
Comments Off

 

DOTW: Country Thyme

Posted by Anita on 04.18.08 11:15 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**H. Joseph Ehrmann is a busy guy. He runs a full-service cocktail catering company, maintains a successful spirits consultancy, serves as a brand ambassador for Square One organic vodka, and promotes Green & Tonic to help bar owners adopt environmental improvements.

As if he weren’t busy enough, H. is also one of the panelists this year at Tales of the Cocktail, co-presenting a session about green bars and seasonal cocktails — hence my interest in tracking him down. But first and foremost, he’s the proprietor of Mission District stalwart Elixir, San Francisco’s second-oldest saloon.

If you’ve walked by Elixir’s vintage facade on the corner of Guerrero and 16th streets, you might have mistaken it for just another neighborhood bar. And you wouldn’t be wrong, really: The local crew are all there, complete with a gaggle of beer-and-a-shot mooks shooting darts, and docile dog welcoming patrons at the door. But scratch the surface of this time-worn tavern and you’ll find a few surprises.

First, that beer: As likely as not, it’s local, organic, or at least sustainably produced. There’s always at least one all-organic cocktail on the Elixir menu, and often a fruit-based seasonal special as well. And the bar itself was actually the first watering hole certified as a green business by the City of San Francisco, which monitors Elixir’s energy usage, recycling and composting efforts, and a host of other sustainability criteria.

I caught up with H. — nobody’s called him Harold since high school — at one of the Mixology 101 classes he leads at a chain of Peninsula-area athletic clubs. (They’re offered as a membership perk, although civilians are quite welcome.) Along with an enthusiastic gaggle of newbie bar-enthusiasts, I stirred up a space-age martini, muddled a mojito, shook up an all-organic Margarita, and learned how to flame an orange peel to garnish a classic Manhattan.

The last drink of the night, the punnily named Country Thyme, introduced our budding mixologists to fresh-produce cocktails. Amusingly, I’d actually attempted to order this very drink the previous night on a trip to Elixir, only to find there were no berries on the premises. (H. laughingly explained he’d hijacked the bar’s stash for a catering gig, and absentmindedly forgot to replace them.) The drink’s vibrant hue and patio-perfect looks make it a crowd pleaser; H says as soon as the first one makes its way across the room, everyone’s bellying up to the bar asking for their own.

If all this talk of sustainable, market-fresh ingredients is making you thirsty, a trip to Elixir might be in order. And there’s no time like the present: Next week, H. plans to roll out his newest seasonal cocktail list, full of plenty of mid-spring treats from the farmers market.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**H. Joseph Ehrmann - photo courtesy Elixir(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**20px.jpg

It’s a little early yet for blueberries, but if you’re looking for a 100%-organic cocktail to celebrate Earth Day, there aren’t a ton of fresh-fruit options at this time of year. My preference here would be frozen Northwest blueberries, a better option than the flavorless South American imports. In places where organic strawberries are already available, consider that substitution; you’ll lose the magenta color, unfortunately.

Country Thyme
- courtesy H. Joseph Ehrmann, Elixir

1/3 cup organic blueberries
1 organic lemon
1/2 oz organic agave syrup (or 3/4 oz simple syrup)
1.5 oz Square One vodka
2 sprigs organic thyme

Muddle the blueberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Cut the lemon into chunks — about 8 pieces — and muddle in the glass with the berries. Add the agave syrup and the vodka, and shake vigorously.

Spank one sprig of thyme, place it upright in a highball glass, and fill the glass to the rim with ice. Strain the shaken mixture into the glass, and garnish with the remaining sprig of thyme and a straw.

PS: Stay tuned to the Tales Blog for my preview of H.’s session, The Green Seasonal Bar.

bar culture, classes, Drink of the Week, drinks, locavore, Tales of the Cocktail
7 Comments »