Tag Archives: Mixology

Happy New Year’s Eve To Everyone!

December 31, 2012

I’m sure cashiers and retailers will hear this hundreds of times today, “where did 2012 go? It went by sooo fast!” It may seem trite, but yet, here I am repeating the same small talk because it’s sooo true. I still need to acknowledge life’s pace, step back and give 2012 the proper reflection it deserves. I still need to form my thoughts for 2013 into actionable plans. Somewhere between the reflections and resolutions, there is this: a mocktail! “But it’s New Year’s Eve!” you say, “Why a “mocktail?”

Serve Your Mocktails

This is a mocktail post because we who use our hearts and hands to nourish those we love need to remember those who commit to keeping our nearest and dearest safe! These cherished ones deserve more than water or soda. They deserve some attention too! This is a mocktail post because this drink puts my mind and spirit back on an Indian journey (more on that to come). This is a mocktail post because the start of a great cocktail should be a great mocktail! Those staying put or being chauffeured around the town can add whiskey or gin or the spirit of their choice, but here’s wishing a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve to EVERYONE!

Lemon Ginger Soda w/ Basil & Mint

Lemons and Ginger

To reiterate, I am very much of the Grandmother School of Thought when it comes to food & drink preparation, so this “recipe” is all about your taste, your guests’ tastes and approximations. As such, you will need…

Lemons (I used 3 lemons for 4 of us, so go crazy depending on your party list)
*Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Seltzer Water
Fresh Basil
Fresh mint
Salt

Ginger and Sucre

*Ginger Simple Syrup

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
1 thick piece of gnarly, fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Directions

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add ginger; bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat, and let steep 30 minutes.

Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Ginger Syrup

Resolve to be more resourceful! Instead of just discarding the ginger, as many recipes would suggest, I challenge you to find new ways of using it. My mom is planning to use the ginger remains in her morning smoothie. You could also use its final flavors in a stir fry or add a little spike of flavor to your morning espresso. Leave me a note if you have more ideas!

Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Add Fresh Lemon Juice

Salted Rims and Garnishes

A recent trip in a warm land taught me how refreshing a little bit of salt and citrus can be. I suggest dipping your cocktail glasses in lemon juice and then in salt. You could do the same with extra raw sugar for a sweeter version.

Get Sloshy

To Each His or Her Own Ratios…

Some like it tart, some like it sweet, some just won’t like it. Such is life, but the basic guideline for this is…

1 part fresh, pulpy lemon juice + 1 part seltzer water + ginger syrup to taste + Basil & Mint galore!

If you have all your mixolgoy tools with you (I did not, as I was concocting in my mom’s kitchen), I’d suggest muddling extra basil and mint in each glass for more flavor.

Final Mocktails

Happy New Year’s Eve!

ps: If you live in the Pittsburgh area, the face from the bilboards has lots of info on cabs, designated drivers and smart party hosting, including some coupons and freebies, so venture to the Edgar Snyder Facebook page for more details.

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Shared Plate & Thoughts

September 2012

Printed words, sipped drinks, thoughts shared and a shared plate…these elements seemed to slow time in the best possible way…the way that makes me pause and question why more of my life is not this memorably simple. Every now and then, it’s inspiring to borrow someone else’s words to preserve these moments, and in this case, John Muir’s words take me back to that afternoon…

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. 

“Adult Root Beers” with Art in the Age Root
& Charcuterie

With inexpressible delight you wade out into the grassy sun-lake, feeling yourself contained on one of Nature’s most sacred chambers, withdrawn from the sterner influences of the mountains, secure from all intrusion, secure from yourself, free in the universal beauty. And notwithstanding the scene is so impressively spiritual, and you seem dissolved in it yet everything about you is beating with warm, terrestrial human love, delightfully substantial and familiar. 

One day’s exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers’ plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. 

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

-John Muir

Cure + Embury = The Salumi of the Dog That Bit Ya!

June 2012

As often as I can, I moonlight [in the daylight hours though, because that's when the lighting is better] as a food stylist for Pittsburgh based photographer Adam Milliron.  Adam is one of the most delightfully busy gents around the town! He can text and sip a cocktail and juggle a growing Vizsla puppy, while simultaneously setting up lights and cameras. Note:  I said “texts.” Adam rarely has a free hand to answer a phone call or conversely, to make a call, so when I saw a missed call from him, I knew something epic was unfolding.  I was correct! The surprise, warranting an actual phone call, was an invite for my special one and me to be Adam’s guest at a Sunday Supper of Seafood & Cocktail Pairings at Cure, one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants (as you may recall, I first fell for Cure on my wintry birthday eve)!

As Cure’s website says, when you dine with Cure, you’re supporting many local farms and organic food purveyors.  I applaud Chef/Owner Justin Severino’s commitment to the quality, taste and economic/environmental benefits associated with using local ingredients. Between the interior design of reclaimed wood, the hidden piggies and the communal atmosphere, Justin has created not just a place for a meal, but an entire dining experience.

As if a Sunday tasting menu at Cure were not a big enough slice of heaven, the man, the myth and the legend was lending his mixology wisdom to the cocktail pairings.  Yes- Spencer Warren, who gave Pittsburgh its first Prohibition style bar (which will be reopening in a new location soon!!!), crafted unique cocktails for each course. Fortunately, Spencer shared his concoction details with me, for my head was spinning far too freely with the bliss of the perfect Sunday meal to document the details properly. The meal was a perfectly paced meander through a menu, much like dining with a European family. The best part is, Justin has barely begun to entertain! There are more events and even a farm dinner or two in store! Stick around this nook of the blogosphere, and hopefully, I’ll have notes from a hog butchering at some point.

Caipirinha Peach Punch

Cachaça Peach liquor, Peach Puree and Champagne.

Poured over ice and topped  with Bittermen’s Tiki Bitters. A light and refreshing complement to the chilled, citrus spritzed seafood spread.

Fruits de Mare
Lobster, crab, oysters, goeduck, caviar

Due to birth in a landlocked state (Nebraska) and a mom whose Midwestern roots influenced her cooking, I had often claimed to be a seafood “virgin.” I had this notion of making a seafood mecca to Maine or Scotland or some paradise near the Equator, but much like many a coast, the notion has gradually been eroding.  Aside from other forays into oceanic eating, each orgasmic bite from that seashell blew all notions of seafood virginity out of the water. Take a look at that seashell! It contained such decadent deliciousness. I shall now leave the sexual metaphors at bay [the aquatic puns, however, seem to be continuing], but know this: if you eat seafood at Cure, expect to close your eyes, block out the world and thoroughly savor each bite.

Avocado Mousse w/ Grapefruit Foam

Looking at this course was like studying a section cut of the earth. There were so many layers and textures, but unlike a geology class model, digging into this blend of avocado and citrus accents was far more satisfying.

Tortellini Pie
Ricotta, pig’s feet, San Marzano tomato, basil, Pecorino

The flaky pasta inspired crust revealed shredded, tender meat with the fresh kick of basil and salt from the Pecorino. Furthermore…look at that lobster shaped crust!

The Count Severino

“Since Justin loves Campari and drinking Negroni’s, we made a Campari based cocktail to pair with the [tortellini pie].  What better than an Italian based cocktail with a pasta course.  It was Death’s Door Gin, Campari, and Cynar mixed with fresh grapefruit juice, and a cardamom and date syrup.  It was topped with one of Justin’s salumis (a cocoa & pepper salumi).” – Spencer Warren

Faust’s Pact

“This is an Embury favorite.  We muddle jalapeño with Angostura Bitters, then add lemon, Ginger Syrup, Basil Syrup, and Bluecoat Gin, then pour it up, and top with cayenne pepper.  It is refreshing yet spicy, and it paired very well with the cured meats Justin had prepared.”

Antipasto
House cured meats (lomo and French style sopressata), pickles, farmstead cheeses

Laying Down the Broom

“The lemon from the dessert fit very well with the cassis (Black Currant) and the honey from the cocktail.  I used Gekkeikan Sake & Plum wine, Barenjager Honey liquor, basil syrup, fresh lemon and cassis juice.  Its light, refreshing taste complemented the tartness of the dessert.”

Pistachio Nougat
Lemon curd, white chocolate ganache, rhubarb gelee, balsamic-vanilla sabayone

The meal ended with a bang! The dessert was like a firework, both for its color and explosion of sharp, contrasting flavors.

What Spencer Learned In The South…

And a very special finale…BOURBONS!

I wish I could say I sampled them all. Why didn’t I sample them all?!?

PS: Thanks to everyone who made this Sunday deliciously different from the rest…

Special thanks to Justin Severino and Spencer Warren for collaborating and creating a memorable, palate-teasing Sunday supper.

A very special thanks to Adam Milliron for thinking, “Who is passionate about slow foods and artisan cocktails and would appreciate this experience?” and more importantly for answering that question with my name and my special one’s name!

Special thanks to our dining partners for putting up with the fact that Adam and I like taking pictures…of EVERYTHING.  You were a patient pair, and we appreciated your willingness to stare at food, wide eyed and salivating, as we tried to capture the perfect shots.  You are gems!

Cure on Foodio54

Talula’s Garden

May 2012

When in Philly, two lovelies rank highly on my list of friends to visit, and brunch ranks highly on our collective list of what to do when we gather.  On this particularly pleasant Sunday, we found an enchanting garden offering delectables to suit our fancy.

Talula’s Garden
210 W Washington Sq
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Neighborhoods: Washington Square West, Market East

Those warm colors on that rustic wood, the iron and ivy blocking the city while offering glimpses into the magical garden…we had arrived, and I fell in love with Talula’s Garden almost immediately after stepping beyond the front gate. I didn’t know it again, but Philly Restaurant Emperor Steven Starr had lured me in again!

At first there were just colors, but there were so many more rustic charms to discover.

Ordering from the cocktail menu became a very delicious and tipsy game of “What Does Your Drink Say About You?”

Though not at all “outdoorsy,” Heather has been known to head to sunnier regions like Atlantic City (where the sun reflects off gamblin’ money) or Jamaica most recently.  She is most comfortable in a sundress, beams in bright colors, sees the sweeter side of scenarios and always welcomes a bit of bubbly.  If Heather were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Suncatcher 
“Champagne” Cocktail…Bubbles, Strawberry, and Fresh Mint

Quelcy [yours truly] fell in love with the oak barrel, gun slingin’ flavors of bourbon while road tripping through the American south, en route to the outdoor musical festival known to Jesus-sandle-wearing free spirits as “Bonnaroo.”  Though free of her dreaded locks, this full timer is no suit.  Put on her a fast train to a big city, and she’ll be a happy urban hippy.    If Quelcy were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Treehugger
Maple Manhattan… Rye Whiskey, Maple, and Black Walnut

Jess may be petite, but her personality packs a punch!  She’s spicy, feisty, and she’s all style.  She’s a little bit saucy and sassy, and she’s the cure for what ails you.  If Jess were growing behind the bar in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Butcher [Jess]
Spicy Bloody… Tito’s Vodka and Fresh Horseradish

Little Sweet Ricotta Doughnuts, Apricot Jam, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Sauce

Even the waiter knew he was giving us something special as he offered the platter of donuts and its description.  There was pride and expectation in his voice. He was expecting us to be impressed by the flavorful and colorful contrasts at play, the dedication implied by “housemade nutella,” the burst of fresh blackberries and ultimately, the sweet doughy, slightly dense little donuts!  He was expecting a reaction, but more importantly, he deserved a reaction!  The baby donuts were, in fact, so delicious, the plate began to make a sad face as we finished them…

Maryland Crab “Benedict”, Poached Farm Fresh Eggs, Wilted Romaine, and Tomato-Chive Bearnaise

The toast round was nearly impossible to cut.  That was my only complaint, and it’s really difficult to complain when a mouth is savoring every aspect of an entree.  Even the potatoes were masterfully prepared- just lightly crisped.

Berkshire pork sausage patties with roasted apricot, garlic flowers and polenta

This was a special menu item for the morning.  I was quite sold at “Berkshire,” and then the beautiful garlic flowers and fruit accent arrived and dazzled my eye. The floral and fruit notes balanced with the extra spice of the sausage, and the polenta packed more cornmeal texture than the average heap o’ maize mush.

Whole Wheat Pancakes, Lancaster Maple, Sweet Cream Butter, Pecans, and Brûlée Banana

I kid you not when I posit these pancakes may have been the best pancakes I have eaten to date (don’t tell my mom because I really like her pancakes)!  To date!  The texture was so light and fluffy, especially for a whole-wheat pancake.  The inclusion of brûlée in the description was no misnomer.  The bananas and pecans had an extra sweet and crisp exterior, accented by the brown sugar crumble and sweet syrups served in adorably petite jam jars.

Crispy Truffle Scented Duck Confit and Potato Hash, Sunny Side Egg, Sweet Peas, and Duck Hollandaise

What a decadent way to start the morning- smoky, tender duck…I repeat… smoky, tender duck in drizzles of egg yolk accented by the crisp, fresh, sweet flavor of peas.

Apparently my Vietnamese companions were strictly raised to clean plates.  A national value? Jess whispered to me (so the waitress wouldn’t here?), “Quelcy, can you finish these pancakes? I literally can’t.”  Of course she couldn’t!  We had so much delicious food!  It just wasn’t necessary to eat every morsel.  Nor was I willing to be the sacrificial glutton, but I was obviously willing to flaunt their fullness.  Silly little friends.

The horse and carriage awaited should you desire a more romantic getaway after such a beautiful, bountiful brunch.

Not An Easy Glass To Fill: Bar Marco

May 2012

On a summery night, I had a hankerin’ for an adult root beer.  “What’s an adult root beer?” you ask? I’m ever so glad you asked because it’s one of my favorites! The adult cocktail is [roughly] a combination of Art in the Age Root and maybe a splash of bourbon and/or bitters, an ice cube specifically fashioned for fancy sippin’ and a curl of orange peel for additional flavor and aroma.  Now that you have those flavors in your mind, imagine biking on a hot, summery night and wanting just one more cocktail, just one specific cocktail- the adult root beer- to cap off the evening.

You’ve cycled joyfully to the corner that introduced you to this delightful adult version of a childhood delight, only to discover a closed sign. It’s not just a closed-for-the evening sign but the type of closed sign with an air of permanence. [I get a little choked up just typing about it.] This, my friends, was the tragic tale of the closing of The Embury, Pittsburgh’s first Prohibition style bar. However, the tragic tale has a happy ending! The Embury shall live again (and I shall surely have more to report on the bar that gave me Root).  In the meantime, I can say with sincerity (and despite my initial skepticism spurred by sadness), if The Embury had to go, I’m pleased with its replacement- Bar Marco.

From “Marco” directly…

Bar Marco serves simple but hearty foods sourced from local purveyors, with a focus on small production and natural wines along with craft cocktails. Located in the Strip District, one of Pittsburgh’s most unique neighborhoods!

Being the tree hugging brand of foodie I am, I was impressed with Bar Marco’s mission to focus on local ingredients. Being the design critic that I am, I would be remiss not to critique the window display. The hand painted window graphics made the place look unfinished. Conversely, the interior exemplified a great deal of consideration. The bar’s creators excavated the building to reveal its bright white bones and a light, open space. Even on a gray and rainy Sunday, the bar filled with light.

The bar features a contrast of industrial elements-stained wood, a sealed concrete floor, metal- with antique whites- the shiny brick tiles, the tin ceiling and the marble bar tops. They completely opened the interior from its past life, and the large, front window and wine bottle reflections illuminate what used to be subdivided and purposefully dark and brooding. They sold me on the refined interior.  As for the brunch…

If an aspect of alcoholism is a constant “craving” for alcohol, Bar Marco may soon be responsible for many alcoholics or at least my own imminent battle with the disease.  The root of this is the Bar Marco Manhattan (seen here in a long, tall, lovely shade of red-orange)- a combination of rye, carpano, aperol, angostura and “bubbles!” That’s right- bubbles! Champagne in a Manhattan?!?! Are you salivating and signing up for AA with me, or am I the only one? I doubt I’m the only one!

The other long tall lovely catching your eye was a Spicy Mango Bloody Mary made from vodka, mango and cilantro, and that was one spicy Mary!!! It was not a cocktail for the faint brunchers (myself included). Luckily, my dining companion is as feisty as they come at the early brunching hours, and she power sipped through the spiciness.

Lastly, that squat fella was an Aperol Spritz bursting with the citrus from fresh oranges.

Just to repeat though, try the BAR MARCO MANHATTAN! While you’re at it, buy one for me too!

Plantain Pancakes w/ Local Honey & Cinnamon Butter

I love a light and thin pancake, and the plantain element lent extra moisture to each bite.

Bone-in Pork Chop w/ Rhubarb Compote & Potato Pancake

Adding a fruit contrast to a pork chop is no secret, but rhubarb! What a splendid idea!

Those who know me, know how much I like to share at meals (even though Phil can recall a time when “family style” baffled me), which explains the multiple plates I am sharing in this post.  However, it is worth noting, Bar Marco’s servings are on the lighter side, a stance I support, but when sharing, it’s worth having a few more options than you might at your average Pittsburgh-portioned brunching nook.

Cranberry French Toast w/ Bourbon Maple Syrup

Bourbon maple syrup. French Toast. Why would I continue to type?

You did it, Bar Marco.  The Embury did not leave an easy glass to fill, but you impressed me with a refined design in both the menu and ambiance.  You convinced me! See you again very soon!

Header_Finest-Bourbon

My Special One’s Birthday: Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

April 2012

April marked another year in my special one’s life, but it also marked the start of a new chapter.  Shortly before his birthday, Jono signed his offer letter, thus accepting an important position at a company that will one day change the world!  The entire world!  It’s also the company that brought us together!  What is that company?  I leave you in suspense.  I spend 40+ hours a week talking about it, whereas, I do not spend nearly enough time talking about whiskey…

Ok…a tad more about my work… part of my job, at the mysterious company, is to make sure the movers and shakers enjoy their jobs, their spaces, represent our values, etc.  A whirlwind brought me into this atypical line of work, and though it’s not my dream job (still figuring out what my dream job is), it’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of something epic!  One of the most inspiring aspects of my day job is being surrounded by passionate, smart people who really, truly love what they are doing.  My special one loves what he is doing, and he worked really hard to get there.  He chalks a lot of his early success up to luck, but I give the credit to that big brain of his.  His foresight and dedication have served him well, and for that I offered a bourbon from the big leagues.  I also offered a silly little bottle ‘o Beam that he may stay humble, stay driven and stay crazy!

I do hope girlfriend privileges will merit a taste of that fancy jockey’s reserve, but for the birthday festivity, I stuck to my own supply.  For a sweet and peppery birthday cocktail, I infused a few extra flavors into a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

1 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar

Fresh blueberries, sliced
Pink Peppercorns
Fresh mint
A drizzle or so of pure maple syrup

Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups of turbinado sugar. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.

Remove from heat and add your infusions.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Suggested serving:  Bourbon + bitters + simple syrup (on the rocks)

Bon Anniversaire Mon Amour et Santé!

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part III): The Gathering of Great People!

April 2012

The fickle skies threatened gray, gloom and even little flecks of snow in spite of the calendar, but I had visions of reds and burst of berries.  The dining room was set for a summer festival of friends and fruits and an Epic Brunch of Minis!

I admit it.  I was very nervous when Nina asked me for honey and a chopstick, but she crafted us a beautiful brunch time beverage!  A sip past the honey-sweetened rim revealed a mixture of organic cherry juice, some bubbly and the gift Erica bestowed upon us- Forks of Cheat Winery Raspberry Wine.

Just in time!  A magical appearing act…

Why was this brunch so epic?  I can answer that from left to right!  Aside from completely filling my dining room, these friends fill a good portion of my personal timeline!

Nikkie!  I was so lucky to share many a stoop session with a wonderful neighbor who became such a significant presence in my life!  Nikkie is such a strong, confident, charismatic and loyal, loving friend!  I miss her, but I’m so happy for her new Atlanta life.  I couldn’t believe the great fortune of hosting her at my brunching table during her Pittsburgh visit!

When we were little “nerd birds” in Suburbia, Pa, Erica and I used to pretend to sip fancy white wine [water] at fancy bars [as if we knew what to imagine a bar to be].  We may be farther apart than our Main Street days, but we’re pretty lucky to live in bordering states. It’s a special time whenever she makes the journey from her adopted state of West Virginia!

[That's me...the lucky one in red!!!]

I once dated a man who didn’t make much sense for me in the long run.  When it comes to the ups and downs of the heart, I focus on what I have gained, and in that case, I gained a friend named Dana.  She’s more than a friend!  She’s like my Pittsburgh big sister, and she’s one inspirational tough cookie!

Nina and I suffered and celebrated many an all nighter in Carnegie Mellon’s architecture program.  After graduating, I would make us coffee, like an old fashioned wifey, before sending her to work.  She’s generally a blur of activity!  No one knows how she does it all! I usually try to lure her with brunch, so she’ll slow down for a spell.

That charmer on the end?  He’s the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, so I try to find as many ways as possible to tell him that!

And they’re all a bit crazy too!

And there were still a few more friends to come!

You see?  Epic!

Mini Cherry & Almond Baked French Toast Cups

The phrase, “I baked these just for you” is all the more real when handing over an individually portioned brunch treat (even if the bruncher has more than one- that’s perfectly encouraged and acceptable)!

Beets + Blue Cheese + Broccoli + Black Forest Bacon

You remember those Alliterative Mini Frittatas, don’t you?

Someone was quite the hungry, hungry hippo and started right into those marbles!

More faces!

One of those watermelon faces is Deanna’s.  She’s an animated bundle of talent and wit and lends such a patient, listening ear when needed.  Thanks to Deanna, I now know Kira and Mike!  They’re sincere and gracious- the kind of friends who take the time to sit and appreciate the finer moments in life.  They also know quite a bit about coffee and shared a special brew with the end of brunch crew!  Someday soon they’ll teach me all about vacuum brewing, and I can’t wait!

Every Sunday should be filled with such friends and fun!

It’s Not Everyday (Bourbon Root Milkshake)

March 2012

It’s not every day a highway journey becomes a safari…

Nor is it every day you have the chance to spend all the afternoon long with someone special, lazily watching British comedy.  Both of those occurrence have merit in my book ["on my blog?"].  On those lazy British comedy days, we deserve a milkshake, and that milkshake should come with a kick!

He can now cross “slice ice cream container in two” off his life’s to do list.  Why that was on his list?!?  Not sure but congrats all the same.

Though I recommend our milkshake madness, I do not recommend our method (a kitchen mixer and an ice cream SPLATTER).  This experience taught me (and especially taught him), I need something like this minty beauty added to my kitchen collection.

Our special milkshake formula:

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream (we like our vanilla ice cream to be pure & simple)
A generous splash of Buffalo Trace Bourbon
A generous splash of Art in the Age Root
Organic whole milk

While you’re at it…

Break off a piece of specialty chocolate such as this A’Chocolypse bar with popping suga’ from my favorite chocolatier and yours, Sweeteeth Chocolate.  Add a chunk to the top of the milkshake (who needs a sickeningly sweet maraschino cherry anyway?!?) and eat some extra bites along the way too!

As the sun is shining more and more, it’s the perfect time for an adult milkshake!

Happy milkshake season (and highway safari-ing?!?)!

xoxo,

With The Grains

Header_cabin-glow

One For You & One For Me (Cabin Weekend, Part II)

March 2012

There’s a certain quiet that is felt.  This type of quiet is not defined by a lack of sound.  This type of sensory quiet is defined by a calm… a slower pace… a lack of “shoulds” and “woulds.”  This type of quiet accentuates small details… the endless appeal of a flowing creek, the rapid changes of the sky, the flickers of light cast on an array of textures and minutes marked by light and not by schedules.  I’ve only felt this type of quiet a few times, but they have been magical, memorable times, and this cabin weekend was one of them!

Like a long, quiet scene in a film, I watched myself float through the weekend with my special one.  We swayed back and forth on that swing, with its perfectly framed view.  We watched the flickers of light, felt the warmth of the sun and sipped slowly on drinks that added their own textures and patterns to the moments, as we quietly escaped reality.

One for Him

Negroni
1 part gin
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part bitters

One for Me!

AITA Snap + Organic Birch Beer + Organic Orange Slices

For Us!

A French wine connoisseur once told me tasting wine is not about elitism or fancy terms.  Wine tasting is about remembering your grandmother’s kitchen or recalling a meadow in spring.  It’s about memory and experience.

Smoky ash on goat cheese and fingertips.

The creamy taste and smell of asparagus?!?

A bite that made me think of eating the real deal at a port, while watching sailboats prepped for a major journey.

These were the characteristics of cheese tasting on a sunny afternoon, and future hints of asparagus in a creamy cheese will recall a weekend quietly slinking by a window view.

Header_oh clementine

Oh My Darlings!

A Post Birthday Brunch/Introducing Kira!
January 2012

Unlike poor Clementine, my darlings were not lost and gone forever.  They were closer [and brighter!] than ever, and there was even a new darlin’ in the mix!  The thing about great friends is they can introduce you to other great people, and so it was we came to add one Kira to our regular cast of characters…and boy, were we characters on that sunny citrusy Sunday following my day of birth!

The Salad:  Citrus & Beet Salad with Hazelnut Oil

It’s a salad.  A salad recipe shouldn’t be complicated.  This salad went a little something like this…

1 bulb of fennel, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 roasted red beets, sliced
2 roasted yellow beets, sliced
clementine slices
blood orange slices
grapefruit slices
fresh lemon juice
fresh lime juice
cilantro
Himalaya pink sea salt
Hazelnut oil

I’m the last person to mandate how to cut something, so just have fun with it and make it aesthetically appealing!

Brunch is Ready…!

Once upon what feels like a dream, Sandra and I went to Puerto Rico.  When we saw this fluorescent shirt in a gift shop/grocery, we collectively heard that shirt scream, “NINA!”  I knew Nina had the perfect skirt to match (a DIY conversion of swim trunks, no less!!), so it was only a matter of time before the shirt-skirt combo made its bright brunch debut!  This was the fated time.  The shirt matched the pink bubbly!

The Cocktail:  The Blood Orange Rhubellini
A Recipe Of Sorts (we tend to play it by ear around this table) 

A generous pour of Sparkling Rosé…

A generous splash of Art in the Age Rhuby (we’re all about generosity at this table)…

Top it off with organic blood orange soda and a clementine garnish…

Time for a toast…AND A GIF (Nicole really brought her A game)!

Blood Orange Muffins + Honey Clementine Compote + Rhuby Whipped Cream

Blood Orange Muffins
With Rhuby Whipped Topping + Blood Orange Clementine Compote 

Makes 15-20 muffins.

Ingredients

Butter for greasing pan
2 small organic oranges
2 blood oranges
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup organic Greek yogurt (2%)
3 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons Rhuby
1 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Honey-blood orange compote, for serving, optional
Whipped cream, for serving, optional
(Recipes below)

For the Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin pans.

Grate zest from 2 organic oranges and place in a bowl with the grated ginger and turbinado sugar.

*Supreme the blood oranges:  (see this useful video for more visual instruction) Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve the two organic oranges and squeeze juice into a measuring cup. You will have about 1/4 cup or so.

Add yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether.

Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well.

Whisk in eggs, then Rhuby.

In another bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

Gently whisk dry ingredients into wet ones.

Switch to a spatula and fold in oil a little at a time.

Fold in pieces of orange segments. Scoop batter into muffin pan.

Bake muffins 12-15 minutes, or until golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from the tin and cool to room temperature

Serve with whipped cream and blood orange & clementine compote.

Blood Orange & Clementine Compote

1 blood orange
4 Clementines
2 Tablespoons Rhuby
1-2 teaspoons Sage Honey

Supreme the blood orange according to directions in muffin recipe.

Peel clementine and slice clementine into chunks.

Drizzle in 1 to 2 teaspoons Sage honey.

Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir gently.

Rhuby Whipped Topping

1 cup organic heavy cream
2 Tbs Rhuby
3 Tablespoons maple syrup

Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to serve.

That’s Black Forest Bacon in the background.  The BEST bacon I’ve yet to experience.  Available at your local Whole Foods if you are bacon blessed.

I used to do a similar move when I acted out the 12 Days of Christmas in elementary school.  Fiiiiive Golden Rings!  I couldn’t tell you Didi’s motive, but interpretive dance moves around the table are always encouraged in my world!

Nina always makes a special plate presentation for me.  She has definitely earned her With The Grains intern stripes!  This plate strikes me as muffin Moses parting a citrus sea to the promised salad.

The clean[ish] plate club also dabbles in theatrics.

Aren’t the lingering colors beautiful?

Go ahead and put a dollop of that Rhuby Whipped Topping (recipe above) in your cup of coffee.  The result is akin to a delicious cappuccino with a little taste of gems!

I had to put on my ridiculously bright sunglasses to block the brilliance of that bosom…

*Fin in the sense of the citrusy chapter only.  There will be plenty more of these antics to come!

It’s Still Winter. Might As Well Be Cozy.

Another Adventure with Root!
February 2012

More and more, I prefer a cozy winter weekend.

The more nestled I am under a blanket with a certain someone special… the better the weekend.  The more the fire flickers and sends warmth my way… the better the weekend. The more time spent working our way through Twin Peaks with a projector… the better the weekend.

As the weather oscillates oddly between seasons over the course of days, one has to make the most of the cold snowy times that can otherwise be so demotivating.  It’s best to dwell on how those snowy days justify cozy weekends.  Furthermore, those snowy times lengthen the egg nog season!  I am quite an egg nog novice, since that combination of words repulsed me when most kids were forming their first nog mustaches.  Little did little me know, egg nog is the delicious equivalent of a melted milkshake!  Why didn’t the adults tell me?!?

While I long for sunshine, bare shoulders and warmth like the next vitamin D craving lass, I embrace these remaining wintry days with a glass of egg nog and something sweet.  To make the cold beverage something worthy of a cozy weekend, you need a “heat” source- enter the magical pipette and one’s volitional release of the “warmth” of one’s choice!  In my case, I turned to one of my favorites… Art in the Age Root Liquor.

Since my photographing phenom friend Adam Milliron is a seasoned egg nog aficionado, this venture into drinks and dessert pairing was the perfect opportunity for another collaboration!

Root Nog

Ingredients

4 egg yolks (local/free-range)
1/3 cup organic brown sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
1 pint organic whole milk
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites (local/free-range)
Cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg garnish
+ Pipettes of Root

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color.

Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved.

Add the milk, cream and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks.

With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Keep chiled.

Serve with a dusting of spices and a pipette’s worth (or two…or three) of Root.

There are multiple benefits to pipetting the alcohol into the egg nog.  You can add one full splash of Root (or two or three…no one’s counting), refill the pipette one last time and then submerge it into the beverage.  Should you be so inclined, you can slowly release the alcohol as you drink, creating a higher concentration toward the last sips.  More importantly, it’s just plain old fun using “science” for non science purposes, especially if, like moi, you are surrounded by scientists and engineers during the day job hours.

And of course, Root Nog is better with a Chocolate Root Cake!

Chocolate Root Cake + Orange Root Infusion + Chocolate Root Buttercream

Root Infusion

Ingredients 

1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup Root
Organic orange peel

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid begins to thicken slightly.  Set aside.

Chocolate Root Cake

Ingredients

2 cups cream soda (Virgil’s)
1 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (local/free-range)

Directions

Preheat even to 325 degrees F.

Spray the inside of a 10-inch round pan with nonstick cooking spray, or butter generously and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add sugar and molasses and whisk until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl whisk the eggs until just beaten.

Whisk the eggs into the cocoa mixture until combined.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.  The batter will be slightly lumpy, but don’t over beat the batter or the cake will be tough.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and cook for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Use a fork or a skewer to poke several holes in the surface of the cake.  Remove the orange peel, and pour the Root reduction sauce over the cake, spreading it over the entire surface.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then loosen edges with a butter knife and turn out onto a cake plate.

Chocolate Root Beer Frosting

Ingredients

3 ounces 86% cacao (Ghirardelli), melted
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Root
4 ounces Nefuchatel cheese
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ cup Root Nog

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric hand mixer, beat softened butter and cocoa powder.

Once combined add the melted chocolate, salt, Neufchatel, Root, maple syrup and Root Nog.

Beat together until smooth.

Spread on top of cooled cake.

Garnish

Organic orange slices dipped in melted dark, dark, dark chocolate with a splash or two of Root!  Once dipped in rich chocolate-y goodness, set on a piece of wax paper to harden.

Best enjoyed while cuddling with someone special, under blankets, by the warmth of a fire, awaiting the impending plot twist!

Baking, Mixing and Styling by With The Grains.  Photography by Adam Milliron.  Edits conceived from our collaborative vision!

Philadelphia Uppers and Delicious Downers

December 2011

Finally venturing home for the holidays also meant time to play and explore in Philadelphia!  This installment of Quelcadelphia is all about the drinking- both the uppers and delicious downers.

UPPERS

We drove through Philadelphia in search of a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop which ended up being closed (the story of my life that day).  As luck and the caffeine cravings in my system would have it, this brightly lit facade caught my eye, and we made a new discovery!  These places somehow seem to beckon the caffeine still coursing through my bloodstream.  By “these places,” I mean coffee shops featuring responsible beans, interesting interiors and barristas with unique styles.  Coffee elitism must be magnetic!   

Chapterhouse Coffee
20 S. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Neighborhood:  Washington Square West

I was fortunate to be spending the day with one of my longtime friends, Heather.

Look at those New Years nails!  Heather and I had just come from bonding over mani/pedis (not my typical afternoon, but every girl needs some glamour sometime).  Heather was showing off some festive glitter while I was gripping my mug with a more gothic shade of black.

A coffeeshop dog!  What a concept!  That dog had a really darn good spot too!  Oh to lounge around brick, rustic wood and the warmth of a fireplace with the scent of really good coffee wafting through the air!  Mind you, I don’t want to be the dog, but I do want to own one and have it accompany me on java adventures, and I did want that dog’s prime real estate.

My beverage of choice for the night was a spicy mocha made just right!  If I recall correctly, there were fresh peppers involved in their process at some point, which I find truly impressive.  The only thing I don’t find impressive about this place is their web presence.  Myspace?!?  Really?!?

DELICIOUS DOWNERS

As the Mega Bus rolled into the City of Brotherly [and Quelcy] Love and I sought urban entertainment, I sent a text to my good friend Phil.  Where can I sip a Prohibition style cocktail beside The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co (knowing full well I’d be sipping something there at a previously arranged time)?  Phil really pulled through in recommending the Ranstead Room.

The Ranstead Room
2013 Ranstead St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

The vibe is that of a speakeasy, heightened by the obscure but not impossible to locate entrance.  Unlike my other experiences rooted in Temperance tantrums, the Ranstead’s speakeasy vibe adds more mischief in the form of a promiscuous energy.  The vibrant reds under dim lights and the framed art of naked or nearly naked ladies imbue the secret drinking atmosphere with more of a sexual undertone.  The bar area is straight up class with bronze and brass reflecting off fancy glass, tinctures and perfume style misters.  The bartenders wear the appropriate uniform and know the craft well enough to veer from the featured menu.  I’d recommend testing your mixologist, otherwise, why not go to any other bar?!?

I nearly burned the bridge of joviality forming across the bar when I said my drink tasted like a Thai restaurant smelled.  Upon seeing the defensiveness forming on his face, I quickly added, “in the best possible way,” which led to an aroma test of the added bitters.  The source of the Thai scent was the orange bitters!  Cheers to interactive palate challenges!

Last time I was in Philly, I had an agenda!  I had researched some new places, some new-to-me places and some all around dream places.  Then a hurricane hit…well, sort of hit.  Irene came storming up the coast, and having learned a lesson or two in the past, a lot of cities closed up shop.  In Philly, the precautionary efforts were mostly unnecessary- preemptively canceling transportation and adding an extra bit of hassle while Irene literally rained on my parade.  Part of my intended pomp and circumstance was a libation from the much acclaimed Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company.  DO NOT GET ME WRONG:  I am in no way spinning this as a woe-is-me tale.  I am merely saying [in long form], my trip to sip at the Franklin was a long time in coming.

The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
112 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhoods: Rittenhouse Square, Penn Center

A man in a dark cape lingered near the opening in a black facade.  We approached him. In a friendly manner, he led us down the steps into a narrow room with murals of merriment, chandeliers, cocktails glowing in candlelight and the occasional noteworthy mustache.  My Franklin moment had finally arrived!

Coal Cracker Cocktail- that was me!  We were a little confused at first by the term “on a rock” (singular), but when the giant core of ice arrived, the terminology made sense.  Heather sipped ever so slightly on a drink called “Ego Maniac” as I recall (the online menu is not confirming what may be a hazy memory).  It was lemony and smooth and probably too much for our baby bird drinker.

On visit number two, I found myself trapped in a steel cage of indecision.  There are so many enticing options, I’m not yet familiar enough with the plethora of liquors and mixers, and at ~$13/cocktail, there isn’t much room for mistakes.  In those ordering scenarios, I utterly fear a failure, knowing the other 50 options would have been better.  I imagine I fully annoyed my waiter (who, to be fair, annoyingly added “cheers” before and after EVERY sentence exchange).

I finally settled on an Arizona Bay (Aalborg Aquavit, Pimms 1, Aperol, Galliano*, Fresh Lemon Juice, Demerara, House Orange Bitters, Served Tall on Crushed Ice).  I may have asked the waiter if the drink had a *splash of racial slurs or resulted in anti-semetic remarks.  Too soon?  Too obscure?

While I did enjoy my drink (and my own joke), the real star of that round was Jono’s Appalachian Flip, an off menu request which inspired part of our New Year’s weekend.  The milkshake like beverage was even better than we had imagined it to be, and once again proved our affinity for Root.

There you have it, general drink snobbery in the midst of Philadelphia journeying.

Fin.

Art in the Age of a New Age: Ushering in 2012 (Addendum)

January 2012

The last bits of the NYE weekend included an all out dive into the deep end of Twin Peaks, while snuggled in front of the fireplace, with one last cocktail in hand.

We were in the Appalachians after all, so we found inspiration in this concoction…

Mmmm… this one is a winner!  Tastes like a delicious milkshake!

I could have stayed on that couch, watching that madness and drinking that deliciousness for a lot longer, but reality was reaching for us.

Alas, bring on 2012!

Art in the Age of a New Age: Ushering in 2012 (Part One)

New Years Eve 2011

The idea first hatched when colored leaves were falling, and I added a splash of Rhuby to a cinnamon roll recipe- what if an entire weekend of meals were dedicated to the Art in the Age herbal elixirs?

What if that weekend took place in a setting removed from everyday routines, frenzies and fits?

What if that weekend ushered in a brand new year?

Thus friends, a special someone and I schemed “Art in the Age of a New Age:  Ushering in 2012.”  With a rustic crate of alcohols and bags of groceries, we escaped to a memory filled cabin.  I dare say, it was pretty close to perfect!

Having just come from a home FILLED with the scent of fresh baking gingerbread with no spare bits for sampling (all pieces were destined for an epic gingerbread house building endeavor), I had an immense craving for gingerbread.  With a waffle iron at my disposal, the delivery of my craving was obvious!

New Year’s Eve Brunch Menu

Gingerbread Waffles
with Caramelized Snapples, Whipper Snapper Cream & Pure Maple Syrup

Snap Candied Bacon

Chai with a Snap!

The very best bite…

The Brunch Recipes

Gingerbread Waffles with a Snap!

Ingredients

4 eggs
1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
3 teaspoons Snap
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup organic, unsalted butter, melted

Directions

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the sugar, molasses, buttermilk and Snap and mix until blended, about 1 minute more.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ginger, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in the butter.

Cover and refrigerate the batter overnight or cook immediately in a waffle iron until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream and apple topping.

Snapple Topping

1 pink lady apple, sliced
2-3 Tbs organic unsalted butter
½ shot Snap
cinnamon
nutmeg
organic brown sugar

Sautee the apple slices in melted butter until softened.

Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar over the apples and continue to stir.  As the apples caramelize, add the Snap.  Serve warm over waffles.

Whipper Snapper Topping

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 shot maple syrup
1 shot Snap

Place a medium sized bowl in the freezer until chilled.  Remove from freezer and add the whipping cream, maple syrup and Snap.  Use an electric mixer to combine until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Snap Candied Bacon

Ingredients

Maplewood Smoked Bacon
Organic brown sugar
Organic maple syrup
Snap

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a small glass baking dish or stone.

Arrange bacons in strips, and avoid overlapping.

Brush each piece of bacon with maple syrup, followed by Snap.

Sprinkle brown sugar over each piece.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, then flip each piece of bacon.

Continue to bake to desired level of crispness.

Enjoy!

Chai with a Snap! 

Tazo chai concentrate
Organic whole milk
Snap

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine one mug’s worth of milk, one mug’s worth of chai concentrate, and bring to a frothy boil.

Divide between two mugs, and add one shot of Snap to each mug.

Stir and enjoy!

Just in Thyme for the Holidays, Part Deux

December 2011

Growing up with three sisters fostered a preternatural appreciation for matching [and poofy perms apparently]:  Exhibit Q.  The moment would arrive when my matching would dawn on friends, acquaintances or even complete strangers.  They would stare, fascinated by my diligence to evenly dispersed color combinations.  At some point, my preoccupation with matching (and themes) permeated other aspects of life.

One of those crossover arenas was food.  What I might now call “parallel flavors” is really just two words describing “matching.”  I’m not claiming to be paving new territory, but I am announcing a new focus:  desserts and cocktails!  They should go together like toast and tea!  Cocktails and desserts should skip blissfully hand-in-hand.  My wonderful photographer friend Adam Milliron and this aspiring stylist have found a new focus:  boozy sweets and matching alcohol treats!  Without further a do…

Presenting Another With The Grains/Adam Milliron Collaboration!

A bit behind the scenes…

Agave Sweetened Lemon Thyme Bars and Whiskey Thyme Lemonade

I already mentioned I’m on a lemon and thyme kick.  Due to the agave route, the whiskey, vanilla and filling flour, these bars are more of a rustic shade of lemon, but they pair ever so nicely with the caramel and copper tones of whiskey.  Though I frequently sipped a similar cocktail this past summer, something about the bright copper tones atop a frosty base made this combination have a winter appeal as well.  Whatever the season, ’tis the season for this cocktail!  Santé!

(Click the image to enlarge.  Photos by Adam Milliron.  Baking, Mixing & Styling by Moi!)

Agave Sweetened Lemon Thyme Bars

Crust Ingredients

Butter, for greasing
1 1/2 sticks organic, unsalted butter, diced
1 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporate cane juice sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Filling Ingredients

4 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
½ cup agave syrup
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Fresh grated zest from one organic lemon (about 2-3 teaspoons)
note:  I used the pulp from juicing whole lemons
1 cup freshly juiced lemons (from about 5-6 whole lemons)
1 Tablespoon whiskey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 sprigs of fresh thyme

Garnish

Confectioner’s Sugar
Thyme
Lemon Peel

For the Crust

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with olive oil or butter and line with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; grease the foil with oil.

Pulse the butter, both flours, both sugars and the salt in a food processor until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Add the almond extract and pulse to combine.

Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan, making sure there are no cracks.

Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile For the Filling & Finale

Whisk the whole eggs and yolks, sugar, agave syrup and flour in a bowl until smooth.

Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, whiskey and vanilla.

Remove the thyme from the stem/stalk and add to the filling.

Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F.

Pour the filling over the warm crust and return to the oven.

Bake until the filling is just set, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the bars cool in the pan on a rack, then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Lift out of the pan using the foil and slice. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh thyme and lemon peel before serving.

Whiskey Thyme Lemonade on the Rocks

Ingredients

Thyme Simple Syrup* (recipe below)
Organic Sparkling Lemonade
Whiskey
Honey
Thyme for garnish
Lemon peel for garnish
Ice

For the Cocktail

This is a game of matching, not precision (I’ll work on that).  For one tumbler of sparkling lemonade on ice, add 1-2 shots of bourbon (depending on your southerness), 1-2 Tablespoons of thyme simple syrup, a drizzle or two of honey (depending on your buzzz) and watch it all come together for a spell before stirring, garnishing and enjoying!

*Thyme Simple Syrup

Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup water
~12 sprigs of thyme, plus 2 for garnishes

For the Thyme Simple Syrup

Combine 1 cup turbinado sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and add thyme sprigs.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Strain thyme from the liquid and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cheers to all and to all some cheer!

~With The Grains

A Simple Sort of Sunday

December 2011

Goals.  Ambitions.  Dreams.

There are the big goals, the life goals, the “set foot on six continents before I’m thirty” goals.  Then there are the Sunday goals.  After packing, two weeks of travel, unpacking, mounds of laundry and co-planning a holiday party for 100+ people, my subsequent Sunday goal was sleeping late!  My ambition was pajama lounging, watching an epic film and more lounging!  My dream was an almond croissant and other brunch accoutrements.  I met all my goals, achieved my ambitions and all my Sunday dreams came true!

One Village Coffee smells amazing, tastes amazing, and the packaging design has the right idea!  I shared my simple Sunday goals.  Even if my “party” was closer to an unparty or party recovery, the packaging and I had the same sentiment.  Plus, Jono is really good at preparing a mountain of fruit.

With a bottle of prosecco chilling in the refrigerator, there was even greater potential for a-no-place-to-go/no-place-to-be sort of Sunday.  Being the proud [quirky] owner of a juicer, there was even greater potential for a brunch [all day] bellini with a bit of a nutrient boost (or maybe just more of a nutrient balance).  While Jono meticulously removed the pith, I had fun structuring the garnishes.

My fulfilled dream… an almond croissant purchased with Saturday foresight (they’re closed Sundays, and why would one want to leave bed for the trip to the bakery?) from La Gourmandine.

Tisk, tisk, tisk Jono, don’t touch the squirrel, but DO click on the photo below, and … let’s GIF it started!!  ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

With one dream reached, it was time for a projection of Fellini’s 8 1/2.  I will need a few more simple Sundays of viewing that film (or maybe some academic insight) before I begin to understand Fellini, but I’m fine with that.

Here’s to dreams and simple Sundays (and Sunday smiles)!

Rum Regards/Let’s Get HAMmered?

November 2011

This happened.  Then Jono’s friend sent him an email proposing they eat a ham soaked in rum, so instead, Jono emailed me…

To The Loveliest Lady in the Whole Wide World,
[ok, I may be embellishing the email intro just a tad]

Apparently “rum ham” is a reference to It’s ‘Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ I’m unaware of, and although [my friend's] preparation technique sounds atrocious, I now want to make a ham with some sort of rum-sugar-cinnamon glaze. Any way we could make this happen?

Rum Regards,

Jono

Of course we could make that happen, but I couldn’t stop at the ham.  I wanted an entire rum themed meal…

The Rum Regards Menu

Black Forest HAMmered with an Apple & Beet Compote
Smashed
Sweet Potatoes with Grated Pecorino Cheese
Buzzed Sprouts with Slivered Almonds
Sauced Chocolate Coconut Cake
Spiked mulled cider

Had there not been good friends, dancing dates and brunching dates all the weekend long, this would have been a more homespun ham roasting experience, but using the precooked ham served us really well under busy circumstances.

There was some debate and hesitation as we leaned over the skillet of sprouts.  Add rum?!?  Why not?!?  We went for it, and they were delicious!  The combined natural spice of the under appreciated veggie and the added flavors really harmonized and completed the overall theme.

Let's-Get-HAMmered

However, rum and chocolate for the dessert course was an easy decision.  Dessert was my only solo effort.  Other than that, Jono had a tipsy hand in all the other aspects of the meal.  Go team!

The Recipes

Spiked Mulled Cider

Ingredients

1 Quart local apple cider
1 cup Spiced Rum
2-3 small local apples
cinnamon sticks
nutmeg dash
1” chunk of fresh ginger
A handful of fresh cranberries, cut in half
4-5 cloves
1 organic orange, peeled, sliced

For the Cider

Combine all of the above in a crockpot and allow to mull as the rest of the dinner comes together.  Serve with dessert.  [Full disclosure?  We drank red wine with dinner.  It just went so well with the flavors, I couldn't resist].  Feel free to add an extra splash of fresh rum to the hot bevvie if you want a smidgeon of an alcohol content.

********

HAMmered Black Forest Ham
With Apple & Beet Compote

Ingredients

1 small, all natural, preservative-free, precooked, black forest ham “nugget”
(the package actually called it a nugget)
½ cup water
¼ cup organic brown sugar
2 organic fuji apples, peeled and sliced
1 large roasted beet, peeled and sliced
½ cup fresh cranberries, sliced
dash of cinnamon
dash of ground ginger
zest of one orange
½ cup rum

Directions

To Roast the Beet

Wrap the beet in tin foil and place in a pan to catch the juices.  Heat the oven to 425 F.  Bake the beet for about one hour or until soft.  Remove from the oven, and allow to cool before peeling and slicing.  Set aside.

For the Compote

Heat the water and brown sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Reduce heat to medium.

Add the apple and beet slices.  Stir continuously.

Add the cranberries and spices and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, slice the ham, wrap in foil and place in a baking dish.  Warm in the oven or microwave, depending on your preferences.

Once the apples are soft, remove from heat and mix in the rum.

Serve warm over black forest ham slices.

********

SMASHED Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon spiced rum
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream
~1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

For the Sweet Potatoes

Peel and rinse the sweet potatoes.  Cut them into 1-2” chunks.

Bring a pot of water to boil, and add the potatoes.  Boil for a couple minutes, and then reduce to a simmer.  Continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Drain the water and return to low heat.

Stir in the butter, rum, maple syrup, brown sugar and cream.

Use a mixer or food processor to puree the potato mixture until creamy.

Lastly, sprinkle with the cheese and spices before serving.

********

Buzzed Sprouts*
*This is more of a guide than a recipe.

Ingredients

1 little mesh bag of Brussels sprouts
Olive Oil
Fresh ginger, grated
A handful of slivered almonds
Splash of Spiced Rum
A dash of cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg

Directions

Wash the Brussels Sprouts.

Bring a saucepan of water to boil.

Add the Brussels Sprouts and cook until bright green and slightly soft.

Allow to cool slightly.

Slice the sprouts.

In a large skillet, heat 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the Brussels sprouts, stirring constantly.

Add the almonds, and continue to stir.

Once the Brussels sprouts have begun to brown, add the ginger.

Turn off the heat.  Add the splash of spiced rum.  Stir to combine.

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Sauced Chocolate Coconut Cake

Ingredients

6 eggs (local/free-range), separated
2 cups organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
zest of one organic orange
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons spiced rum

Sauce

1 can (12 ounce) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounce) coconut milk
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/3 cup local heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons spiced rum

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a glass 9×13 baking pan.

For the cake, in a large bowl combine flour, cocoa, spices, baking powder and orange zest.

In a medium size bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and rum.

Set both aside.

Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat at high speed until peaks are formed.

Turn the mixer down to medium speed and gradually add the sugar to the egg whites.

Once the sugar is dissolved, add egg yolks and beat for 3 minutes.

Continue beating egg white mixture on medium-low speed and add flour and milk alternately until well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan.

While the cake is still warm, punch holes in cake with wooden skewer.

Combine the sauce ingredients and pour evenly over the cake.

Place the cake in refrigerator to cool until ready to serve.  The longer it soaks, the better the burst of rum flavor in each bite!

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Serve.

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Fin.
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Brought To You By The Letter L

November 2011

We were in the car, and we were stuck.  No, it wasn’t a mechanical issue.  It was a brunch issue.  Where to go for brunch?  This can be a difficult question to answer in Pittsburgh, let alone on a Saturday.  On top of that, we were adding a location stipulation.  With Handmade Arcade on our agenda, our goal was something near the convention center (incidentally, one of my favorite PGH buildings).  We were just about to answer the brunch question with, “nowhere” when the smart phones went into action and confirmed a Saturday brunch option at Lidia’s Italy Pittsburgh.

Lidia’s has been on my mental Pittsburgh bucket list.  This list is really just a restaurant list with a few tangents, but I’m sticking to the bucket concept.  My bucket would be a lot more satisfying if I actually wrote a list somewhere, so I could cross off my accomplishments, but in the meantime, there’s a mental check next to Lidia’s.

Though the glass fixture was a dazzling focal point, the overall decor struck me as a 1970/80s vision of what a future of industrial design would be.  Hey Lidia, just a thought… it might be time to renovate?

The brunch is a combination of savory and dessert buffets, a main entree from the menu and one boozy brunch drink of choice.

Salted focaccia and three butter options (apricot, strawberry and crunchy sugar) were already set on the table to tickle the taste buds while we pondered the menu.

I went for the mimosa.  It’s my classic choice for a brunch bevvie.

From the savory buffet table, I sampled a mediocre slice of dry frittata, an enjoyable but simple salmon salad, a salami staple, a warm potato and bacon salad (hard to go wrong with bacon and potato) and the best taste on the plate- roasted acorn squash.

Brunching with a friend I haven’t seen frequently enough can often mean brief and fleeting glances at menus.  Fortunately, when “wild boar” catches my eye, the choice is quite easy despite the lack of concentration.  In this case, the resulting entree was the Wild Boar Ravioli in a rosemary infused sauce with grated pecorino cheese.  I was expecting the filling to be a wild boar sausage, but it was more akin to shredded pork.  My quick choice was a winning choice, and I was really eager to eat the leftovers later.

When brunching at Lidia’s, if you really want to feel like the Queen of the brunch, might I suggest the Pasta Tasting Trio.  Three separate waiters will bring three skillets of pasta to serve directly to your expectant plate.  My brunching companion went the royal route, and the taste definitely merited the special service, especially the goat cheese ravioli!

A baby cookie, a dash of tiramisu, a pumpkin spice cake and a caramely panna cotta.  What’s not to love about a dessert buffet conclusion to brunch?  The multitude of choices might dazzle, but I will say this, Lidia, that tiramisu could have soaked a lot longer, but I did love that wee baby cookie even if it wasn’t so photogenic.

Conclusion

I crossed Lidia’s off my [mental] bucket list with pleasant satisfaction.  Will I be scrambling to return for my favorite meal of the weekend?  Probably not anytime soon.  It was worth a one timer, but without location or Saturday constrictions, I’d have a list of options (including my dining room) I would rank higher than a return visit.

Two Helpings of Meat & Potatoes

November 2011

This is how buzz and good food work:  back to back!  The foodies at work had already readjusted their PGH dining list and bumped the new downtown restaurant to number one.  Following their lead, Nicole sent me a text message from her spot at the much talked about Meat and Potatoes, “You will love it here.  Pick a day.”  I eagerly did pick a day shortly after that.  She wore her new bangs, I wore a new hat, and we treated ourselves quite well at that marble table.  The following week, Justin and I were finally, finally, finallllly planning to dine together.  We went through a list of options, and when I said, “Well, I’d definitely eat at Meat and Potatoes again,” he said, “done!”  If someone invited me to dine there right this moment, I’d say the same.

The First Helping

I wish I could transport the restaurant to a different neighborhood, but the location is what it is:  downtown Pittsburgh.  This entails a few negatives:  a complete lack of parking for no apparent reason (?) and a “cultured” crowd largely comprised of several old men entertaining much younger women, neither of whom are attractive enough to make the offset aesthetically appealing.  In case this aspect of my personality has not yet been apparent, I am judgmental, but eat one meal there, and you’ll deem this an observation and not just a criticism.

In the case of this blessed union of protein and starch, I am willing to let the good far outweigh the odd:  vintage wood, rusting metals, tea lights in jam jars, hanging bulb light fixtures, letterpress styles, fancy elixirs in fancy containers, chalkboards, stamps and the really obvious key factor:  really amazing food!

Franklin Mint
ri 1 / aperol / citrus / agave /  rhubarb / mint

My eyes scanned the Libations menu for bourbon or whiskey, and I arrived at the Franklin Mint.  In an effort to save money and sobriety, I savored one, but I easily could have enjoyed my way through three more.  Time to find a big spending benefactor!

Harvest Salad
roasted beets / frisee / endive / treviso / pecans / blue cheese

Aside from the fact that Nicole and I both really like beets, we had a very responsible moment during the menu planning in which we ordered the harvest salad to counterbalance our other options.  Our decision process was a bit motherly, “eat your veggies,” but as it turned out, even the salad was held to a higher standard.  The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the dijon dressing had a little bit of a sweet kick to it.  I’d like to think it was real honey.  Whatever the source of that sweetness, the salad really stood on its own merits, which is not easy in the old man’s game of meat and potatoes.

Mac-n Cheese
pastrami pork belly / peas / taleggio

This is a macaroni and cheese that demands a really eloquent and adult review along the lines of, “ahem… holy shit is that good!”  The inclusion of peas takes me to meals my older sister would make for me when left in her care.  I’d eat macaroni with a side of peas (probably from a can which I still find appealing in a counter intuitive way).  The real treat for those meals was eating my mac ‘n cheese dinner in front of the tv (because my family actually valued the dinner table, and for the record, I am grateful).  Before I even hit the reminiscent appeal to this menu item, the mac ‘n cheese had me at “pastrami pork belly.”  The warm, cheesy pasta with major hints of pork and then bites of peas…order it and order it again!  The following day, I was already craving more!

Poutine
Gravy / Local Cheese Curd

Aside from a rurual visit, my Canadian travel log is null and void, a fact I am hoping to remedy in the very near future.  I cannot attest to an authentic Québécois homage, but when salty, creamy cheese curd mixes with a lightly crisped french fry, an authentic homage is really just an excess worry.

Braised Short Ribs
horseradish potatoes / red wine reduction

In my dream world, the braised short ribs would have been served on a bed of poutine, but these horseradish potatoes really earned their way to the restaurant’s namesake.  The sneaky greens maintained enough of what I will call bitterness to assert their flavor.  I say bitterness in a complimentary way.  As for the meat, I could shred it with a fork…a fork!  It was so tender, and there was barely a spot of gravy left on the plate after we finished those ribs.  Let me reiterate:  cut with a fork!

Save for room for the chocolate bread pudding, especially for the novelty of dessert arriving in a jam jar.  It will warm your soul and your mouth when you bite into your first rich, chocolate saturated, caramely spoonful.

The Second Helping

For my first helping, Nicole and I took the safe route and made a reservation, which meant we were seated at one of the small, marble tables lining the curving wall.  The second visit was more of a whim, which meant a spot at the bar.  After experiencing both, my preference is for a seat at the bar.  The tables are awkwardly (or “communally” depending on how you look at it) close to fellow diners, and every time I looked up, I saw my face reflected in the large mirrors.  I like my face enough, but sometimes, it’s just too distracting.  The bar still fostered adequate people watching, but it also provided more surface area for proper sharing and menu sampling.

“What’s in that glass canister at the end of the whiskey boxes?” you ask?  That’s a canister of beef jerky made in house!  We ordered a serving, which equated to about two pieces each.  Not only did I grow up eating beef from cows my dad raised, but I was also spoiled in the sense of my mom making her own beef jerky from those very cows.  Never will you see me eating rest stop jerky, but I’m sure that comes as no surprise.  In light of my high bar for judging jerky, Meat and Potatoes made the cut.  The jerky had enough thickness and flavor to make it beefy, not just dried and impossible to eat.  The herbs really pronounced their flavors as well.  It’s worth squeezing in a small snack into your dining plan to try it.

Old Canadian
Old grandad bourbon / meringue /vanilla /maple / bitters / orange / lemon

Seems like more signs pointing me to our northern neighbors.  If you simply read the cocktail ingredients, you’ll save me the trouble of having to elaborate why this drink was a success.  They nailed it.  The more important question is why haven’t I begun my own Old Canadian experiments at home?

The name of the game for the evening was Sharing is Caring, and more importantly, sharing is maximizing menu potential.  Look at that spread!

Mac-n Cheese
pastrami pork belly / peas / taleggio

Hello familiar friend!  As I said above, “order it, and order it again!”

Bone Marrow
grilled bread / gremolata / onion relish / sea salt

For as much beef as I have consumed in my lifetime, my bone marrow experiences have been limited to the little dinky, prizes at the end of a lamb shank or short ribs meal.  This was the motherland of bone marrow, and it changed my world.  Look at that platter!  On a really secondary note to the mega hunks of bone, I’d like to give a quiet kudos to the crusty, buttery bread used as a base for the rich marrow.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Livers

Justin pulled the “must have” card on this appetizer.  I was skeptical, but I was willing to expand my liver horizons.  I liked the buttermilk fried exterior, but the heart of the appetizer was still just that same old liver my mom tried to make me eat once upon a childhood.  This just proves I’m not a chicken liver fan because Justin was eager to eat my portion.

Sazerac
ri 1 / absinthe rinse / bitters / cane sugar / lemon

Another drink?  Don’t mind if I do!  This one was a slow sippin’ good time.

We had to wait.  We had to caffeinate a bit.  We had to wait some more, but I made sure we made room for dessert because the chocolate bread pudding was beckoning.  Look how they dressed it up in new clothes for my second helping!

So concluded the second helping of Meat and Potatoes, and the most pressing thought in my head was, “How quickly can I return here?”

Fin.  Decadent Fin.