Rediscovering Gin

Rediscovering Gin

Reprinted from “Foodista Magazine

November 6, 2011

Rediscovering Gin by: Warren Bobrow cocktail whisperer

Gin is suddenly hot again.  I didn’t forget Bourbon, nor have I forgotten Vodka.  I still take a sip of Absinthe now and again.  But for a slurp of flavor, packed with botanicals and dare I say juniper, nothing comes close to Gin for sensual aromatics and freshly cut herbal flavors.  Gin also is a powerful beverage-countries have made Gin their national drink- 80 proof and above are the normal dosage of palate warming alcohol.

Sure Rum is my usual go/to in a snifter.  But recently I’ve found that Gin has certain magical qualities on the rocks or straight from your freezer to your tongue.  Sure, you may want to pour some into a glass first, your lips will stick to the glass bottle!  No matter how attractive the packaging, pour some Gin into your glass first to fully appreciate the flavor packed into every glistening sip.

Caorunn Gin

Crisp and lively in a snifter- I’m charmed by the Celtic Botanicals and slightly salty nose.  Try a couple slices of Granny Smith apple in your glass along with a cube or two of distilled water ice.  This is very sophisticated Gin, meant for sipping. The apple is not just there for color- it’s there for flavor!

 

Bulldog Gin

The first tastes I get are from lavender, citrus oils and juniper berries.  This Gin will surprise your sense of flavor with an 80 proof alcohol level that tastes like some of the more powerful offerings.  I love this gin with a chunk of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice infused ice.  Nothing more is necessary!  It’s a bold Gin and you’ll know it immediately.

 

Hendrick’s Gin

My first impression of Hendrick’s drives the complex flavors of cucumber and Turkish Rose oil wrapping around and coating my tongue.  I’ve taken chunks of a peeled, European cucumber, muddled it with freshly squeezed lime juice, Royal Rose (Rose) Simple Syrup and a couple cubes of Rosewater infused ice cubes.  Then add a three shots of 90 proof Hendrick’s Gin to your glass.  Finish with Q-Tonic Water to taste.  That’s it!

 

Tanqueray Rangpur

The lime is already in the bottle with the Tanqueray Rangpur Gin.  My favorite way of enjoying this highly aromatic Gin is with a slice or two of cucumber and freshly drawn seltzer water.  The citrus elements are quite pronounced so the addition of extra citrus is just not necessary.  Sure you can mix this Gin with simple syrup, some Bitter End Thai Bitters and tonic water- it makes a finely twisted cocktail.   Less is more with Rangpur!

 

Nolet’s Dry Gin

Roses, freshly cut in the garden is the initial flavor of Nolet’s Dry Gin.  It’s almost fruity in nature- with the heady aromatics of sweet cream and Asian spices.  I don’t recommend mixing this Gin, there is so much going on in there- cutting it with a bit of well water may be all that is necessary.  I fully believe that even a drop of Vermouth would be overpowering.  This Gin rolls in at a hefty 95.2 proof, but it doesn’t taste hot in the glass.  Quite the opposite in fact.  It’s quite remarkable stuff!   Take a snifter, add one cube of ice.  Add a couple shots of Nolet’s and read a good book.

 

Beefeater Gin

Suddenly Beefeater is exciting again.  This staple of the cocktail lounge is making a comeback in creative cocktails the world over.  I’ve tasted it in a Martini and straight (without vermouth) but with the addition of a lemon zest.  My preference is the latter.  Beefeater Gin is dry, crisp – not like the Nolet’s or the Caorunn- certainly not as aromatic as the Bulldog, nor the Rangpur- but for the drinker who seeks something a bit more Vodka-like and merely scented, may I recommend Beefeater.  A drink that says- I’m cool… Here’s one for you- this should be called a Lemon Peel Cocktail.  Zest a Myer Lemon into a long thin strip.  Chill down a couple of shots of Beefeater Gin. Pour into a pre-chilled Martini glass. Garnish with the lemon zest and sip your way to England.  Elegant in a mixed drink and it should be at just under 100 proof.

 

Cocktails for Thanksgiving from Cocktail Whisperer: Warren Bobrow

Non-traditional/new traditional Thanksgiving drinks.

I love the idea of a blazing fire- friends and family gathered together to share a meal.  A celebratory evening is started nicely with cheery glass of cava and to it, the addition of a fruit puree.  I’ve taken organic strawberries, charred them in a cast iron pan, run them through the food processor *adjusting the sweetness to taste* then added a dollop or two of the puree into each glass.  The tangy-sweet quality of the strawberries when added to a chalky tasting Cava just says celebration in a glass.  You don’t need very much of this drink to say welcome to our table.

 

Another easy and exotic drink is a take off on the classic Rob Roy. In this case Blended Scotch Whiskey, instead of expensive Single Malt- is added to a short rocks glass with a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and topped with cool, rustic apple cider.  A small splash of sweet vermouth finishes the drink.  The cider melts into the deeper tastes of whiskey,  the sweetness of the cider and the herbaceous tinge of sweet Vermouth.

It is a very sophisticated drink.

Of course I recommend instead of a usual bottle of wine, a perfectly lovely, tangy punch to go along with dinner.

Hard apple cider is marvelous when combined with sparkling cherry juice and some lemon/lime juice for spark. The flavors of hard cider with the citrus juices are marvelous with turkey and the all your fixings!  You can drive up the alcohol level with some dark rum. 

Dessert calls for the classic and deeply warming-  Hot Toddy.

I’m especially fond of a hot buttered rum to go with a pumpkin or apple pie.  It’s a classic and the extra warmth it gives to the body (and spirit) is the perfect send-off to your friends!

The Chai Tea Toddy is an exotic approach to the classic water based Toddy with a bit of sweet butter.  You may also use freshly whipped sweetened cream on top instead of butter- your choice.

  I like to use dark spiced rum or a spiced whiskey for this hot drink.

  • 1 quart hot Chai tea or black tea.  If you want to make the drink sweeter, use some ginger/cardamom simple syrup
  • 4-5 shots Spiced Rum or good blended Whiskey that you have spiced a few weeks in advance. (save that expensive single malt for another day)
  • 1 pat sweet butter- per drink

If you use whipped cream, eliminate the butter.

How do I spice whiskey? Add apple pie spices with a vanilla bean (split) to a cheesecloth bag. Submerge into a bottle of whiskey for a couple of weeks before using.  Use the spiced whiskey for all your Whiskey based cocktails.

The Five Questions- Tamara Kaufman Food Stylist for Photography

The Five Questions- Tamara Kaufman Food Stylist for Photography

Cocktail Olive Splash Chris Elinchev Small Pond Productions Photography

I met Tamara Kaufman on Facebook.  I’m not really sure how interesting and accomplished people find me, but they do.  Tamara is a very creative person.

I’ve always been fascinated by food stylists for television or print work.  Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I worked (liberal use of the word) for EUE/Screen Gems in NYC.  They did television commercials.  My degree from Emerson College is in Film.  As a budding cinematographer, (this helped to translate my keen appreciation for photography) I worked on dozens of television commercials.  One in particular was for the product: Cool Whip.

I’ll never forget this commercial because the food just looked so darned good.  Almost too good.

Color corrected does not necessarily mean safe to eat.  So what did I learn?  Don’t ever eat color corrected food.

Foot-tall “Dagwood” sandwich Chris Elinchev Small Pond Productions Photography

Tamara Kaufman: The Five Questions.

 

1.  Who taught you about food?

My early memories of food are very vivid—both visually and in flavor.  My parents nurtured a real sense of exploration, as did my grandmother.
My Grandmother was a great cook and made delicious pies.  She taught me the joy of making pie crust from scratch.  My favorite treat was to eat the raw pie dough and to cook off the leftovers with cinnamon and sugar.
There so are many things that I remember my grandmother making — an amazing lamb and spinach stew, liver and onion sandwiches with butter, watermelon rind pickles (a favorite) and plum jam.

Many of my favorite snacks come from my childhood – I love mangos, sharp cheddar, braunschweiger and simple avocado sandwiches with salt.

Of course I had my moments of unsophistication… and loved ketchup, sour cream and butter slathered on baked potatoes and ketchup and white bread sandwiches.

I was born in Colorado where my Dad was attending CSU.  We moved back to Iowa when I was five where my parents built a house on a 140 acre century farm, meaning it has been in our family for 100 years.
We always had interesting things going on and a variety of animals including a small herd of beef cows, chickens, a turkey that followed us on walks, guinea hens, a horse and a pony.  Most animals acquired names and when they ended up on the dinner table it was a bit traumatic but gave me a true sense of where our food came from.

We had a garden every year.  My dad would encourage eating turnips, tomatoes and carrots right from the garden, washed under the hose.  I avoided weeding the garden at all costs.  My first and only attempt at a garden as an adult had a plethora of weeds.  We have one of the best farmers markets in the world here in Madison, Wisconsin, and many CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture programs) and so I leave produce growing up to the professionals and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

My mom canned and froze the garden vegetables and so we had garden grown tomatoes all year long and rhubarb sauce over vanilla ice cream in the middle of winter.

I learned how to hunt morel mushrooms on our property and I can tell the difference between the morel and its toxic lookalikes.

On our property we had apple, mulberry, pear and plum trees, wild black raspberries and black berries.  My dad hunted for wild asparagus and a local bee-keeper gave us honey in return for keeping his hives on our property.  My father went elk hunting in Colorado every winter for 30 years and so elk meat was a staple at our table.

Everything I experienced gave me such an appreciation of how the land plays a role in bringing food to the table.  We never had junk food or sugary sweet sugary cereals…but I confess that I do have a ferocious sweet tooth.

As a child, I vacationed with my parents in a VW camper van, never staying in one place long, which meant that before graduating from college I saw all but two of the lower 48 states, all the lower provinces of Canada and parts of Mexico.  We always sought out the local cuisine.  I remember a great bbq served in a back yard shack in Florida, dim sum during a wedding in Toronto’s China Town and fresh lobster and crawdads cooked on the beach.  Dad sought out the local BBQ sauces wherever we went.

Friends of the Family

A close family friend had a monthly tradition of gathering in a local park with a giant frying pan and a selection of ingredients were he made omelets for everyone who came.  I also remember him at our house cooking late night meals with crepes and “stinky” soft cheeses while speaking in a silly French accent.

I was offered many unusual things at the dinner table including Rocky Mountain oysters.  There isn’t much I don’t like.  I adore every ethnicity of food.  There are a few exceptions such as beef tongue and sea urchin.

Cheese, Food Advocacy and the Creative Arts
My serious interest in cooking and healthy eating began many years ago at a local natural grocery store where I acquired a position as Cheese buyer.  Cracking open a 80 pound wheel of Parmigiano – Reggiano is an amazing experience.  I dream of owning a cheese cave.  I also worked for Whole Foods as a cheese buyer where my job description included teaching classes to the public.

I surrounded myself with people passionate about good food and grew to understand the importance of cooking seasonally, with whole foods …and became passionate about the politics of food and food safety.

Through the years I have done everything from stocking groceries and delivering pizza to making large beautiful batches of puff pastry, decadent chocolate cakes with chocolate ganache, custards and pots de crème.  I had my own small catering business for three years and then decided to pursue food styling.

Food styling is primarily a free-lance career, however I was fortunate to work for Readers Digest/Reiman Publications as a staff food stylist for two years.

As far as the artistic side of my work, creativity runs in the family.
My mom and dad built their house in 1973 and were DIY’ers back when there wasn’t a TV network dedicated to this lifestyle.  My mom is a watercolor artist and my grandfather conducted an orchestra in Latvia.  I have always been very visual and acquired a BA in Art and Design from Iowa State University with an emphasis in Psychology and Advertising.  I believe it’s my art degree that gives me a different perspective on food styling than many who come in to the career from cooking school.  A great photo-composition is very important to me.  Three dimensional design skills come in very handy with building things such as sandwiches and cakes, as they require structure inside to stay in place on set for long periods of time.

 

Pancakes with blueberries John Cizmas Photography

 

2.  What is in your refrigerator right now?  Do you keep your props for your food photography at home?  Where do you shoot your work?

My fridge/pantry is usually filled with pretty basic ingredients.  I always have sharp cheddar, Spanish Manchego or a fresh chevre.  I stock lemons, limes, edamame in the shell, unsalted butter, half and half creamer for my coffee, toasted sesame oil and endless condiments.  Beans and grains are a staple.
Right now I have my home made port-wine-fig compound butter, waiting to be delivered to friends as a gift.

Potions

And then there are the mystery potions that I use in my work…Glycerin, Mallose (a browning agent) and the many items that I use to keep food looking beautiful on camera.

Food dies quickly and stylists use some tricks to help the food stay fresh looking on set.  I strive for a balance between real food/recipes and adding final touches that make for a beautiful composition.  I don’t want it to look overly styled, unapproachable or overly promised.

I do use special effects and faux foods such as ice cream and milk as these remain stable and help save on an advertising budget.

Powdered sugar and Crisco make the perfect fake ice cream, Wild Root hair tonic makes a perfect “milk” that won’t turn the cereal soggy in minutes.  Kitchen Bouquet makes a perfect chardonnay, tea or coffee.  I use fake bubbles, fake ice cubes, fake droplets of “water”…and I always have tweezers and other strange tools on hand.

The photos are taken anywhere from my dining room to sets across the country.  This summer I was invited to participate on a cookbook project in Maui.  Moorish Fusion Cuisine will be my first cookbook credit and I hope it to be the beginning of many more.

 

John Cizmas Photography

 

3.  Do you miss film photography?  I find that digital is more computer than eye.  What you think about computer manipulation of images?

I love film photography and mourn the loss of it.  I learned to shoot on film in high school and college and only just recently acquired a digital camera.  I loved developing my own black and whites and miss the connection you feel to the photos when you process your own film and photos in a dark room.  There is also the excitement of not knowing what you actually captured until the film is developed.

In my profession digital image manipulation can save the day.  Many hours are often spent on just one photo.  For instance, on one shoot, the lighting and composition were perfectly set after many hours of work.  The two eggs and bacon no longer looked like a smiley face and the lighting was perfect.  Lo and behold the egg yolk broke.  It had already taken us several dozen eggs before the perfect sunny side up egg was achieved.  It would have been no easy task to replace it with a new perfect egg, making a typical 12-hour day even longer.  This is where Photoshop and modern photography keep people on the job sane.  With all of the magic of digital photography, it is still truly an art to capture food well.  Technical lighting skills are one of the key elements that help the food come alive.  The working relationship between the photographer and food stylist is crucial.  We work together on every detail, as you don’t get a second chance to give the client what they want.  The food has to appeal to the five senses, yet it must be translated into a single visual image.


Many think that a food stylist’s job must be zany and fun all of the time…but it is actually a very high-stress job.  Food has a life of its own, and its life expectancy is short, therefore photo shoots are labor intensive.  Keeping calm and a sense of humor is key!

Commercials and advertisements are often the collaboration of an entire team of creative people including magazine editors, art directors, photographers, prop stylists, soft goods stylists (clothing), models and food stylists.

I am the shopper, prep cook, baker, builder and creator of a beautiful composition.

 

John Cizmas Photography

 


4.  If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be?  Doing what? Eating/Drinking what?

SO hard to choose one!

On the ocean having fresh lobster, scallops and fried clams.

In New York exploring some interesting restaurant.  Casual and hidden little gems are usually the most fun!  I have never had a bad meal in N.Y.

At Sweet Revenge in NY having the best cupcake on earth pared with a glass of wine or cup of coffee.  I wish they shipped.

In Boston’s North End Italian district for a day of total indulgence, beginning at Pizzeria Regina and then moving on from there for gelato, a cappuccino, cannoli and Italian tri colored cookies!

Traveling in Italy, Spain or any country with a rich food culture.

Seeing cheese made, anywhere in the world.  If there is anything I would be likely to smuggle in to my luggage…it would be cheese!!

On a rooftop garden overlooking Brooklyn with a glass of red wine and a piece of cake from the Chocolate Room.

At Random in Milwaukee, WI eating a genuine retro ice cream drink with Frank Sinatra playing in the background.

At Conejito’s in Milwaukee, WI for the best Mole I have ever had.

I love my job!

 

Chocolate swirl with berries Chris Hynes Photography

Seabras in Newark, NJ. My work for NJ Monthly Magazine (originally published in NJ Monthly)

Seabra’s Marisqueira

In the Ironbound section of Newark, an ebullient, down-to-earth crowd rolls up its sleeves for heaps of the freshest fare of the sea, Portuguese style.

Reviewed by Warren M. Bobrow
Originally posted June 16, 2010

Chowing at the bar.

Chowing at the bar.
Photo by Ted Axelrod.
A plate of sautéed garlic shrimp.

A plate of sautéed garlic shrimp.
Photo by Ted Axelrod.
Waiters delivering epic orders.

Waiters delivering epic orders.
Photo by Ted Axelrod.
Chef Jack Fernandes cozies with a fearsome-looking, sweet-tasting bruiser of a halibut.

Chef Jack Fernandes cozies with a fearsome-looking, sweet-tasting bruiser of a halibut.
Photo by Ted Axelrod.

The bar area by the front door brims with displays of iced lobster, cockles, clams, whelks, snails, and bright pink prawns, their glaring black eyes and antennae intact. Freshly charred sardines and grilled white anchovies touched with sweet red peppers and olive oil come into view along with ceramic dishes of steamed clams dotted with fiery green sauce (garlic, puréed with olive oil, hot chilies, and parsley). The bar is clearly not just a great place to sip a lip-smacking caipirinha. It’s just as much about feasting on sparkling seafood.

Located in the Ironbound section of Newark, just off bustling Ferry Street, Seabra’s Marisqueira was founded in 1989 by the former owner of what is now the A&J Seabra Supermarket corporation of Fall River, Massachusetts. In 2000, three Newark businessmen—Jack Fernandes, Antonio Sousa, and Manuel Cerqueira—banded together to buy the popular restaurant. They work in the restaurant, too—Fernandes running the kitchen, Sousa and Cerqueira the front of the house. Their supportive attitude has fostered a strong esprit de corps.

“We are our own bosses now,” says manager Mario Martins, who, like most of the staff, has been at Seabra’s (See-AH-bra’s) since the start. “We wanted to control our own fate. We can decide the future of our passion.”

As even a single meal at the Marisquiera makes clear, that passion is for freshness and faithfulness to Portuguese culinary tradition. Pointing to a patron eating fish soup at the bar, Martins says, “Everything we serve is prepared fresh daily. We make fish soup from scratch. That is a bowl of our culinary history. ”
Cheerful, efficient waiters in black pants and crisp white shirts lead diners past the perennially packed bar and the bustling glassed-in kitchen to the blue-and-white tiled dining room. Seductive aromas of sautéed garlic shrimp accompany them on the journey. Hardly a word of English is heard among the patrons.

A good way to start is to order garlic shrimp and sop up the garlicky, saffron-laced, white wine sauce with the warm, locally baked, crusty bread. Don’t be put off by the need to peel the shells. It’s part of the fun of eating Portuguese. The aforementioned caipirinha (which is Brazilian, but never mind) goes well with fish and shellfish, thanks to its large hit of lime juice and its fuel of cachaça, which is Brazilian sugar cane rum.

Fresh North Atlantic sardines, charred and smoky from the charcoal grill, come with hunks of fresh lemon. If you’ve only had canned sardines, you’re in for a discovery. Eat them with your hands; they’re gone in two quick bites. Fresh grilled white anchovies also take you far from their oil-cured cousins. Served in a cazuela (ceramic bowl) with sweet onion and red vinegar, they are not at all salty and are in fact reminiscent of fresh brook trout. For a hearty and heady meal in a bowl, try sopa do mar, heaped with whole Jonah crab claws, whitefish, hake, and several head-on giant shrimp peering over the steaming surface of tomato-and-fish stock.

Most entrées come with thinly sliced, pan-fried, Portuguese-style crispy potatoes, another perfect soaker-up of broths and sauces. Sautéed green beans and sliced carrots in green garlic sauce complete the presentation of delicious charcoal-grilled grouper. Two split, grilled Nova Scotia lobsters come doused with a tasty butter sauce. Seabra’s staff honors requests for no sauce or sauce on the side not with rolling eyes, but with a warm reply: “Sure, no problem.” The waitstaff is also adept at finding the right Portuguese wine or sangria to complement the food. The best Portuguese wines, little known here, are great values—high in quality, low in price.

A fine entrée is pescada cozida com todos—white potatoes, hard-boiled egg slices, and sweet onion simmered with hake, a sweet, white-fleshed fish served in seaside towns along Portugal’s coast. Another entrée, bacalhau (dried, salted codfish) is served roasted with olive oil, garlic, green peppers, and onions, in a deep bowl. To extract most of the saltiness, Seabra’s soaks the crusty slabs of bacalhau for several days before cooking.

The kitchen staff turns out more-than-respectable meat dishes, like luscious, spit-roasted suckling pig with baby clams, and zesty pork tenderloin pounded into scallopini, pan-fried till crisp. Grilled short ribs smeared with a sweetly perfumed, caramelized garlic paste, make irresistible finger food. Same for baby lamb chops served with garlic flan.

For dessert, the dense, creamy, sweet house-made flan is even better with pulls of Seabra’s smoky, thick espresso. Caveat: The noise level can be high. Best defense: Bring a bunch of fun-loving friends and create a joyful noise of your own.

The Second Thing I Ever Published. The Saveur 100 (#30)

Tuna Melt originally published in Saveur Magazine.

Tuna Melt Canape
Enlarge Image Photo: Todd Coleman
I’ll never forget the tuna melt I used to have at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina: buttered white bread, browned to a crisp on a flattop grill; freshly made tuna salad dotted with diced celery and Georgia sweet onions; American cheese melting out the sides of the sandwich; and a side of Lay’s potato chips and slices of bread-and-butter pickles. I’ve re-created that classic tuna melt at home, and I’ve also made lots of other variations using different kinds of bread, cheese, and condiments. The results are always tasty. (See Tuna Melt Canapés.) —Warren Bobrow, Morristown, New Jersey 

Some recent writing for Williams-Sonoma with thanks for the re-print.

All This Rum! A New Tiki Bar Cocktail

Ever since I sat as a Rum Judge at the 2010 Ministry of Rum tasting competition in San Francisco, the whole direction of my spirits-writing career has changed. I used to only write about wine.

Then a flash went off: wine is so serious; why not write about something fun, like spirits?

I’ve always loved rum. Rum appeals to me.

Rum is a spirit woven from history. Flavors exist within rums that don’t reveal themselves in other lighter-colored liquors. I’m a fan of rums aged in used wooden casks that formerly held bourbon or cognac. The caramelized notes of smoke, butter and bittersweet chocolate reveal themselves beautifully with the white flower aromas of freshly crushed cane sugar.

What is good rum, and how does it differ from all other rums? I’m not entirely sure. But when you’re out on a yacht, somewhere between Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, nothing tastes so delicious with some coconut water ice.

 

Over the past few years, Tiki Bar cocktail lounges have revealed themselves as funky representations of times gone past. Tiki gives credence to the easier times in America.

 

Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco faithfully reproduces a dream Tiki bar located down off a decaying pier, jutting out into a world of rotting boats and handcrafted cocktails. If a stage set of liquid pleasures could be created, Smuggler’s Cove fits the West Coast genre to a T. Over on the East Coast, on the Island of Manhattan — described as the Greatest Island in the World – PKNY – formerly named Painkiller(the name is another story for another day) has a knack for Tiki as well.

 

Here’s a Tiki Bar cocktail you’ve never had before.

 

The Yachtsman’s Demise


3 oz. Kōloa Rum from Hawaii (use their Spiced Rum for this cocktail)

1 oz. fresh mango juice

1/2 tsp. freshly chopped coconut meat

1/2 tsp. freshly scraped ginger

3 drops Bitter End Thai Bitters

6 ice cubes made with coconut water and freshly grated nutmeg (just a bit, it’s strong stuff!)

1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum

Q-Ginger Ale to finish

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with fresh ice (reserve your coconut water ice for the glass). Add the Kōloa Rum to the shaker, then the fresh mango juice, coconut meat and ginger. Add the Bitter End Thai Bitters.

 

Shake and strain into a tall Tiki (ceramic) mug filled with your coconut water and grated nutmeg ice cubes. Float the Lemon Hart 151 Rum over the top, and finish with Q-Ginger Ale. Makes 1 cocktail.