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Posts from December 2012

Vieux Carré: cocktail


Vieux Carré

Oh what a romatic story it would be, telling you that I fell in love with the Vieux Carré during a trip to New Orleans, sipping away the evening in some neighborhood bar just off of Jackson Square.  The reality is most of my trips to Nola occurred at a time when I was more inclined to drink frozen drinks and cheap beer on Bourbon Street, stumbling into tiny bars with tiny blues and jazz bands, rather than exploring the city's history through its cocktail culture.  The additional reality is that I didn't know about this cocktail until I was doing some research for a New Orleans themed party we were throwing just a few years ago.  The result, regardless, is the same: there's one in my glass.

One of the Christmas presents under the t:e organization's tree this year is a great little cocktail book call "Old Man Drinks."  This was a gift from, well, my old man.  A perfect and thoughful gift.  The first, if I'm keeping count, but we don't.  Thumbing through it tonight (yesterday) I was reminded of the Vieux Carré, so off I went to the liquor cabinet (more commoly known collectively as the garage, the basement, and the pantry) to find the 6 ingredients in the damned thing.

It's an odd cocktail in that it boasts two base spirits: rye and congac.  On top of that oddity it's got almost an equal amount of sweet ingredients to those base spirits: sweet vermouth and Benedictine.  Thankfully 4 dashes of bitters help to bring it all together, and add a much needed bite.  

Most of the recipes you'll find online and in books are consistent in the ratios, which generally go a little like this:

  • 1 ounce rye
  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 ounce Benedictine (if not a bit less)
  • 2 dashes Peychauds bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stirred, served over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

There is of course a similarity to a Manhattan, but this drink is a bit more complex, what with the extra stuff, and no doubt better served, served on the rocks.  In fact dilution is this cocktail's friend. Benedictine and sweet vermouth both have a somewhat syrupy quality to them.  Hell, even congnac, for my palate, is a bit too sweet to be sipped neat.  I applaud those who enjoy that stuff, but it's just as well I don't, given the price-points.  A good amount of dilution tamps down the sweetness level of this drink.  It's a cocktail you can sip over the course of an hour and not have to worry about ending up with a watered down drink.  It improves with age.

On a cold winter night, this cocktail really hits the spot.  Come to think of it, New Orleans is as hot as balls, so I'm not sure why this thing even came to be.  Knowing that, I suppose, is for people who read books. 

If there's a point to this post, it's: drink less, and better.  The real point was to post a picture with this 50mm lens, regardless of the photo's flaws.  I'll figure out photography one of these days. 

Sakura Bana: Ridgewood, NJ

One of my resolutions for 2013 will be to eat out more often.  Or perhaps more accurately, branching out a bit and doing a random lunch somewhere, rather than having a salad or sandwich at home.  Eating *out*. None of this "paying forward" or being nice to people BS.  We got a jump on that resolution today and headed off to Sakura Bana in Ridgewood, NJ.

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Doins in Ridgewood: Wa Lobster Pot, Lisa's Turkish, that place that has waffles

Wa lobster pot
Wa Lobster Pot in Ridgewood.  Wa?

Lisa's Turkish Kitchen, which has now added "Mediterranean" to their name, has successfully converted the previously horrendous space at 28 Oak Street into a lovely looking restaurant.  Not sure if the bathroom situation at that location has improved.

Something called Wa Lobster Pot is opening in the space that Lisa's previously inhabited.  I'm not sure what a Wa Lobster Pot is, but we'll see.

Park West Tavern continues to pump out excellent burgers and "sliders" (mini-burgers, actually), along with some other very acceptable, and often excellent, food.  Their website continues to pump out annoying and unecessary music.  Hey Park West Tavern, I'm listening to my own music while looking at your website.  Don't need yours.  Thanks, though.

The place called Raymond's, which I've read on the internet "OMG they have the BEST waffles," in addition to other food with is apparently "to die for," is open, and is, aesthically speaking, a wonderful addition to downtown Ridgewood.  I'm confident that most items are "cooked to perfection" and "SOOOOOOOO freakin good," and the "establishment" serves food that "my hubby loved," but I haven't made my way over there to be sure.

That is all.


Pizza: all'amatriciana


Pizza all'amatriciana

A recent trip to Tarry Market in Port Chester yielded a nice chunk of guanciale.  Normally I'd be making pizza carbonara, but I was looking for a tomato sauce-based pie.  The obvious direction was pizza all'amatriciana, based on the fabulous pasta dish.

For the sauce, I use Pomi brand strained tomatoes, right out of the box, just as I always do.  I'm not a fan of cooked sauces on pizza.  I'm looking for bright, fresh, clean flavors. The rest of the ingredients are simply placed on the pie as it's being built. 

Heat some chopped/diced guanciale in a pan, rendering some of the fat (which will be drizzled on the pizza), and giving a nice crunch/chew to the guanciale. 


The onions should have been on the sauce, but I just kinda forgot until the end

The dough (made from a sourdough starter, slow rise in the fridge for 3-4 days) gets some salt and pepper, and then goes the sauce.  Not too much.  Less is more.

Thinly sliced onions on the sauce.  They melt away when cooked on a pizza, lending a sweetness and subtle onion flavor. A bit of salt and pepper and red pepper flake as well.

Minced garlic is strewn about. 

Throw some fresh basil on there.  Why not.  I usually dip it in my bowl of Pomi so it doesn't burn in the oven.

A bit of low moisture mozzarella cheese. Again, not too much.

Grated Pecorino Romano, of course. 

That guanciale goes on along with a drizzle of the oil.

The pizza is cooked following the method I've been using for some time:  two ovens as, hot as they go, preheating for well over and hour, and opening the door to let the air cool down once the element cycles off.  This causes the element to go back on, adding more heat to the stone.  Both stones on the top(pish) racks, 2 inches from the element.  My stone is about 650 degrees when I put the pie in.  The pie cooks for just about 2.5 minutes, and then it's slid into the second oven, which has been set to broil at the time I put the pizza in the first oven.  This gives that second stone a blast of heat, ensures that the second stone is screaming hot as well, and gets the element screaming hot for the last 30 seconds of cooking.  I've tried many variations with the stone placement, and the results are never as good as what I get with this approach.  This is how I get 3 minute pizzas (sometimes quicker), from my regular ol' electric ovens.

I should have topped the finished pizza with parsley, but I completely forgot.  Next time.

This will be in the regular rotation.  Give it some consideration for your own experiments.

Tonight will be pasta all'amatriciana, based on Mario Batali's recipe, and I couldn't be happier. 


Sunshine's Beach Bar and Grill: Pinney's Beach, Nevis

Table with a view at Sunshine's, overlooking the compound   

Sunshine's website says "no visit is complete without a stop in at Sunshine's where you can meet the legend himself, Sunshine."  I think they're right.

The colorful little shack call Sunshine's is located on Pinney's beach just south of the Four Seasons resort on Nevis.  In a compound which also includes Lime and Chevy's.  No doubt you've heard this a million times if you've looked for info on Sunshine's.  I suspect the rest of this report will sound familiar as well, but that won't stop me.

Sunshine's interior.  Casual and comfortable, much like Nevis.

My expectation was that I'd be going to Sunshine's for their famous rum cocktail called "The Killer Bee."  I did not realize that the food is outstanding as well.  But first those Killer Bees...

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