Archive for September 2010

BYOB


There is a little Cuban restaurant near my house and I can't help but notice they are packed on a nightly basis.  The food is good and affordable, and the outdoor patio and indoor atmosphere are charming but, I suspect an important factor in their success is that they are a BYOB (bring your own booze) restaurant.  Apart from being economical, I find BYOB establishments always allow for a more adventurous dining experience...you may opt for that extra appetizer since, you don't have to figure in a budget for alcohol.  So, in keeping with adventure, instead of choosing between the classic red and white, or the usual 6 pack, why not shake things up a bit and bring a DIY bottled cocktail.  By using an old wine bottle and scraping off the label in hot soapy water, or purchasing a hermetic glass bottle or flask from somewhere like the container store, you have the perfect bottle to prebatch a cocktail of your choosing.  Think Margaritas for Mexican, Daiquiris for Cuban, Vodka Cobblers for birthday parties, Sidecars for romantic, Manhattans for sophisticated...It is a good idea to call the restaurant ahead of time to check on their BYOB etiquette.

The secret to bottled cocktails is water. According to Gary Regan, water should make for approximately 1/3 of your drink.  This is to make up for the water from the ice that would melt into your drink during the process of shaking or stirring.  The average bottle of wine is 750 ML and holds approximately 5 drinks.  To batch your favorite cocktail, multiply the original recipe by 5.  Now, sum up the total ounces in your batched drink, divide by 3 and this is the amount of water you will want to add for your finished bottled cocktail.  The bottled drink can be made 3 days ahead of time, if you are using fresh juices.  Once the water is added the bottled cocktail should be refrigerated to keep fruit juices fresh. 

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Drinking whilst eating

I've been thinking a lot about the way people used to drink versus how we drink now so it was kismet that I read the following passage from Raising the Bar: Better Drinks, Better Entertaining.

"The rules of pairing wine with food apply to cocktails as well: The cocktail should complement the food, by offering a counterpoint to the dominant characteristic of the food. For example, match rich, creamy foods with cocktails that have bountiful acidity and are full-flavored. The acid cuts through the fats and cleanses the palate. Salty foods demand contrasting elements such as sweetness to balance out the salt. Most cocktails are served before dinner because they are perfect palate openers. Some cocktails are great after dinner when they act as a digestif or even as dessert."
Willem Kalf - Still Life with Drinking Horn
I might have a romantic notion of the past, but it's a good way to think about drinking: one cocktail before dinner as an aperitif, wine with dinner and then a digestif after (like pear brandy, my favorite). Then the cocktail would bring out the best in the dish and not just be an means to a end. Hopefully, this will start a new series on the blog of cocktail/food pairings... more to come.

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Always Be Prepared


The Girl and Boy Scouts of America teach many skills.  For instance, how to build a fire, how to cook on a tuna can stove, how to tie fancy knots, use a compass, tell time from the sun, and sleep under the stars.  All things that I use on a day to day basis, I mean, practically never.  After seeing this video, I thought...knowing how to open wine without a corkscrew, now that could actually come in handy some day.  As the motto goes, Always be prepared!



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Do Men Care More?

Along with Details, men's magazine Esquire is another great resource in elevating cocktails from the mundane. The have a cocktail database and regular features. I thought the original Frank Gehry was particularly hilarious (and timely given the Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion free concert series is drawing to a close):
The Frank Gehry Cocktail

1 ounce water
4 ounces tonic water
1/4 ounce package unflavored gelatin
3 ounces vodka
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 pound sugar
2 ounces absinthe
Drop or two blue food coloring
lime peel

Glass Type: old-fashioned glass

Instructions

In a nonmetallic bowl, combine water and tonic water. Add unflavored gelatin and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add vodka (we use Wyborova Single Estate) and lime juice. Stir vigorously for a further 2-3 minutes, until the gelatin globules have dissolved. Pour into two 4-ounce whiskey glasses and place in refrigerator. This will need to sit for at least an hour, a period we suggest you put to use by reading the paper and having a nice, big glass of Scotch. Now place a long piece of twine horizontally across a large baking sheet and cover it with a Silpat silicon baking mat. Then put the sugar in a small, deep, heavy-bottomed pot with the absinthe or substitute (such as Versinthe) and the food coloring. Heat this, stirring constantly over a low flame until the sugar melts and your candy thermometer (you've got one of those, right?) tells you that it's reached 310 degrees -- the so-called "hard crack" stage (really). Then, before it gets any hotter and burns, quickly remove it from the heat and pour it onto the Silpat, making sure it spreads out into a broad, shallow pool. Let it cool for a minute or two, and then, using the string, slowly elevate the middle of the Silpat 2 or 3 inches and hold it like that until the sugar sets; it should form a hard, thin curved green sheet. If not, say to hell with it and have some more Scotch. If it did work, tap the sheet lightly at the base of the curve; it should shatter into a bunch of irregular, curved panels. Now remove the gelatin shots from the refrigerator, immerse them halfway in warm water for a couple of minutes, and then jar them loose, each into the middle of an inverted saucer (preferably of clear glass). Then, using a channel knife (got that too, no?), cut two 8- to 10-inch strips of lime peel. Now surround each shot with artistically arranged panels of sugar, pin a strip of lime peel to the top of each with a silver cocktail pick (?) or toothpick, and draw the peel around the drink, thus holding it together. Serves two. (Hint: To drink, use the sugar panels to scoop up the gelatin.)

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/drinks/the-frank-gehry-cocktail-drink-recipe?click=pp#ixzz0yUGnKbZG

Not to be missed in Chicago: Pritzker Pavilion in downtown. Thanks for the good times Daley. Goodbye Summer.


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