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!