Archive for July 2011

Thailand: Prohibition in 2011

I arrived in Thailand on Thursday June 30 late in the evening, planning to spend the first leg of my 2 week vacation in Bangkok visiting my old friend Dale.  Our agenda was to check out the markets, temples, food, get a massage, and of course sample some Thai cocktails in the big city.  It just so happened that the elections for the 24th house of representatives fell on that weekend, and there is a law in Thailand that outlaws the sale of alcohol right before an election else, you face up to 6 months of jail time.  From 6pm on Sat. 6/2/11 to midnight Sunday 6/3/11, for approximately 30 hours, Thailand went dry and we went thirsty!

I did manage to squeeze in a few "Mocktails" during that time...

 Chinese plum and sprite float at Greyhound Cafe

Passion Fashion (a blend of passion fruit, pineapple and mint) at Greyhound Cafe

 water:-) at Chatuchak weekend market, the aluminum cups were market sheik and helped keep the water extra cold.

Juice stand at Chatuchak weekend market.  These fresh juices are tamarind, hibiscus, lime, longan, and coconut.  They add sugar and salt to your taste.

 Butterfly pea flower tea

Pandan leaf iced tea

My real disappointment was not being able to try the cocktails at food critic Jarrett Wrisley's restaurant Soul Food Mahanakorn.  If you happen to be visiting Bangkok anytime soon, I highly recommend you stop in and sample some of his Thai inspired drinks using Kafir lime, coconut sugar syrup, lemon grass, Thai basil, passionfruit and lychee liqueur.  I should mention, the food is delicious too!

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Thailand: Life on the Beach


A perfect vacation for me is usually on the beach.  Always in search of one more beautiful than the last, my criteria: the bluest water, the softest sand, the gentlest waves, the shadiest trees, brightest fish, and the less touristy the better.  After a little research, I landed on Ko Phi Phi in Thailand.  It was one of the most jaw dropping, beautiful places I have ever seen.  After all, this is where they filmed Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Beach" about a secret tropical paradise.  Aside from a knock-out scenery, one more thing the islands here have going for them are the perfect beach accessory:  A bucket of whiskey and soda.

How can you not fall in love with these buckets of fun, especially when you crave a break from drinking Chang and Singha or, sweet Tiki cocktails out of pineapples and coconuts.  Thai whiskey, the most popular being SangSom, is actually a rum that is light with sweet caramel notes.  Often served table side in restaurants with a bucket of ice, soda, cola, or Krating Daeng (the original red bull, invented in Thailand!).  In Thai whiskey soda culture it is common to purchase a whole bottle for the evening.  If you don't finish your bottle, they put your name on it and save it for your next visit, booyah!   

These little prepackaged buckets, ranged from around $6 to $17 depending on the brand of whiskey.  Don't forget to fill bucket with ice!  





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Thailand: Kaffee Boran

Bangkok, city of angels, how I miss your food, your markets, and your Kaffee Boran!


I had the opportunity to vacation in Thailand recently and 1 1/2 weeks later, in this heatwave of a summer, I am still craving the sweet, syrupy, thirst quenching ancient Thai iced coffee, Kaffee Boran.  Not to mention, the stacks of carnation milk cans that decorated the coffee carts in pop art fashion.

Found in markets, street-side and in local restaurants, the ancient coffee is made of a dark Espresso roast grown in Thailand.  The Street venders brew a strong batch of the coffee in a tubular filter made of white muslin or cotton attached around the top to a metal ring.  They then balance the filter ring above a tea or coffee pot.  Boiling water is added and coffee is let to steep to desired strength.  Finally, coffee is poured over crushed ice with evaporated milk and topped with sweetened condensed milk to taste.  If you are lucky, your barista will do a little coffee dance and aerate your Kaffe Boran for a nice and frothy presentation.





Note:  Sweetened condensed milk is really easy to find, has a great shelf life, and is essentially a mix of dehydrated milk and sugar giving it a thick silky texture.  I found this recipe online using whole milk. 
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 or 2/3 cup unrefined sugar (organic cane sugar, even sucanat depending on your final goal for the condensed milk)
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla
Mix sugar and milk together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stirring often, bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. As soon as steam starts lifting off the milk, lower the heat even further, and when the sugar is entirely dissolved, put the heat as low as it can go. A simmer burner is great for this.
The goal is to reduce the quantity in the pot (which is not about 1 3/4 cups) by approximately half. It takes about 2 hours at very low heat to reduce to one cup of liquid. You could speed it up a bit if you watch carefully and stir often. I preferred the freedom to wander the house doing other tasks, and thus allowed my process to take quite some time.
Once reduced to your satisfaction, whisk in the butter and vanilla.The recipe is equivalent to approximately one half can of brand sweetened condensed milk.
Depending on what final product your sweetened condensed milk will be used in, you will probably need to allow the mixture to cool considerably before using.
One other option for a homemade sweetened condensed milk is to add 1/2 or 2/3 cup unrefined sugar to a can of evaporated milk. You may need to heat to fully dissolve. However, you still have to deal with the unhealthy can lining and whatever over-processing makes the milk shelf stable.

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Remix: Dark and Stormy

We made a Dark and Stormy for a recent party and rather than make the usual recipe (it's becoming rather ubiquitous in Chicago lately) we decided to deviate a bit. The result? A definite crowd-pleaser.


Rhubarb Dark and Stormy
2 oz rum (dark is traditional, but we used a spiced and it was fine)
1/2 oz rhubarb syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
3-4 oz ginger beer
grated ginger

Add all to an ice-filled collins glass and roll to a shaker tin and back to the collins glass. Garnish with a dash of rhubarb bitters.

Make the rhubarb syrup: use one cup sugar, one cup water and 2 stalks chopped rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, let steep, cool and strain.

Batching for a party:
2 cups rum
1/2 cup rhubarb syrup
1/2 cup lime juice
2.5 bottles of 12oz bottles of ginger beer
1 tsp grated ginger
Several dashes of rhubarb bitters

Add all to a pitcher and stir. Pour into ice-filled glasses.

Notes: We made the rhubarb syrup because of the accompanying bitters. The bitters gives the drink a nice depth. You can experiment with other combinations like candied grapefruit peel syrup and grapefruit bitters or a blackberry syrup with Peychaud's bitters. Just pay attention to your citrus/sweetness balance.

We used grated ginger to up the spiciness, but not the sweetness. You can also make a ginger syrup or juice the ginger to get an even spicier taste. Our tasters like the subtleness of the grated ginger.

We also made a sugar-free version! Of course the rum still has sugar, but you can replace the sugar in the syrup with truvia (or any other sugar-substitute, following the directions on the packet for amount to sugar ratio) and use diet ginger beer to get a lower-calorie version. I'm not advocating this (you could taste the dietiness), but for all those ladies riding the "skinny girl" wave, you might want to give it a try. The ladies at the party really love it.

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Bastille Day: French Sangria

In honor of Bastille Day on July 14th (we're feeling very French here this Summer), we wanted to give you a refreshing, light Summer Sangria made mostly from French ingredients.


French Sangria

1 bottle dry Rosé or Beaujolais wine
1/2 cup Lillet Rouge
1/2 cup lavender syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 thinly sliced orange
A few raspberries
Several dashes of orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in pitcher or punch bowl and chill. Serve over ice in a wine glass.

Make the lavender syrup by steeping about a half tablespoon of edible lavender into 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Heat enough to melt sugar, let steep until fragrant and strain. Will make just over 1/2 cup.

Notes: Before adding all ingredients, taste your wine. Take note of the sweetness. You very well may have to add or subtract from the quantities listed to get the right balance. Less sweet is probably better. If you find that your mixture is too sweet, increase the lemon juice and add more bitters.

Because of the delicate nature of the raspberries, you may want to simply garnish each glass with a raspberry or two instead of adding to the mix.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

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Cool Summer

We wanted to give you the pictogram for the Watermelon Cucumber Punch Alice made in April to encourage you to make it at your next Summer fête. We guarantee it will make you feel as cool as this guy.


Promise.


For more detailed instructions and suggestions, click here.

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Made at home: Vin de Noix

Over the holiday weekend we made the beginnings of what will become [delicious *wink*] Vin de Noix, or Green Walnut Liqueur. I'm not yet lucky enough to have sampled the aperitif, but in France it's used in cooking or sipped during the cold months. I'm anxious to see what cocktails might be inspired when the mixture is ready.

As tradition often dictates necessity, the walnuts are picked between two french holidays - St. Jean's feast day on June 25th and Bastille day on July 14 when they are said to be at peak. Ironically, this made Independence Day a good day for the preparations. The walnuts were ordered from California where they make a brief appearance at farmer's markets.


The basic tenets of making any fortified wine such as this (also vermouth, port or bitters for that matter) is to start with a base spirit (brandy, eau de vie, vodka, grain alcohol), then add a combination of herbs, spices and fruits (cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean, orange peel, bitter herb), then red or white wine (we omitted the wine for some of our batches, as you would with bitters) and then your sweetness (usually only added if you're using a neutral base spirit or dry white wine).

Then just let it sit in a cool, dark place, occasionally agitating and sampling over time. For the Vin de Noix, this is a four+ month process, as the walnuts lose their bitterness and mellow out.

Here are some loose instructions for making your own batch:
1. Use walnuts that can be pierced easily.
2. Quarter 20-40 walnuts per batch, wearing gloves as you cut for the walnuts easily stain hands, boards and counter tops once opened.
3. Add anywhere from 500 to 1000ml of the base spirit to a large mason jar. We used Smirinoff vodka as nothing expensive should be used.
4. Add the sweetness, for two of the batches we added maple syrup (1/2 to 3/4 of a cup) and for the other two we used sucanat (evaporated cane juice that is slow to dissolve so will need to be shaken occasionally for the next few days).
5. Add the herbs/spices: one or two cinnamon sticks, two or more cloves, one or two star anise (used only in one batch), a half or whole vanilla bean (scored), a few pink peppercorns
6. Add the fruit: a few slices of a lemon or orange or just the peel of either.
7. Add the walnuts and seal, making sure that there is air left in the jar for the oxidation process to begin (hence the walnuts turning black).
8. Top with wine if using. In the first batch we used a white Bordeaux, in the third we used a combination of Noilly Pratt dry vermouth and Lillet.

Batch 1: Light in color due to the white wine; with orange slices, star anise a touch of maple for sweetness.

Batch 2: Dark from shaking the sucanat; with lemon peel and a scant bit of cardamom.

Batch 3: Vermouth with a bit of maple syrup and sliced lemon.

Batch 4: Our own creation.

In a 1.9L jar
One bottle vodka
One bag of earl grey tea
One cup sucanat
The petals of one monarda flower
One sliced orange
One vanilla bean
One cinnamon stick
Two cloves
One tsp anise seed
One tsp mixed peppercorns
30 quartered green walnuts

A monarda flower: similar to bergamot; slightly sweet and a bit herbal.

Credits: The impetus for this experiment is entirely due to our friend Erik Dayrell - chef, landscape architect, father and inquisitor. We're also lucky to have him guest blogging this week on his recent trip to Romania. Thanks Erik!

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