sterilize some Ball jars
pit out some nice black cherries
fill jars and add a couple sprigs of lemon thyme
add a pinch of cardamom
top with brandy
seal and refrigerate for a week or so- no peeking!
enjoy in a cocktail or over ice cream!
sterilize some Ball jars
pit out some nice black cherries
fill jars and add a couple sprigs of lemon thyme
add a pinch of cardamom
top with brandy
seal and refrigerate for a week or so- no peeking!
enjoy in a cocktail or over ice cream!
Absinthe stirs the imagination. All those paintings from France in the 1800’s exemplifying the mystical aspects of this misunderstood liquor makes me want to delve deeply into measured sips. But how does Absinthe work? It does because of the mystique surrounding the clear liquid that somehow turns cloudy after dripping scant drops of water over the surface. Magic happens! Sure there are the botanical herbs, of course there is the ever-present alcohol- you cannot miss that with many varieties exceeding 120 proof!
Absinthe is powerful stuff indeed!
I love Absinthe because of the bad boy (bad girl) element. From a flavor perspective, Absinthe is every bit as delicious as botanical Gin, but it is thicker somehow. On the first taste, you can feel the creamy texture against your lips and tongue- then- coming quickly into view is the anise elements- then suddenly as if a monster awakened- the brooding depth of the alcohol. Sweet, savory, tart and herbal elements differ from brand to brand. The European varieties are known to contain certain long banned ingredients, but the American ones are no less potent. The rumor of a brand of Absinthe that may have plied Van Gogh to cut off his ear is known as the Green Fairy- good luck finding it! (No, not his ear) La Fee Verte.
This week’s cocktail is woven of Absinthe, freshly squeezed, charred grapefruit juice and a splash of Q-Tonic water. Q-Tonic water is available in nearly every Williams-Sonoma store and also in Whole Foods. It’s worth the extra expense for a hand-made product!
I’ve taken a small producer Absinthe from St. George in California- certainly available around the country- although you can use your choice of Absinthe- and added freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. I char the grapefruit segments in a cast iron pan before juicing to reveal a deeper personality and a hint of mystery!
The Green Fairies Ear
This important holiday evening is started nicely with cheery glass of Cava, or Spanish sparkling wine. I then add a fire-roasted fruit puree. I’ve taken organic strawberries, charred them in a dry, yet sizzling hot, cast iron pan, let them cool, then run them through the food processor. I adjust the sweetness to taste with agave syrup, I then add a dollop or two of this smoky-sweet puree into each glass. Use two pints of strawberries and two 750 ml bottles of Cava for 8 people.
The tangy-sweet-tart quality of the strawberries when added to a mineral-tasting Cava just says a welcoming celebration in your spirited glass. You don’t need very much of this drink to say greetings and please join us at our bountiful table.
Dyed in the Wool
Another easy and exotic drink is a spin-off on the classic Rob Roy cocktail. In this case blended, (not single malt) scotch whiskey is added to a short rocks glass. I then add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and some cool, rustic apple cider. A small splash of sweet vermouth finishes the drink.
The earthy, richly scented cider melts into the deeper tastes of scotch and the sweetness of the cider. Scotch and apple cider is a very sophisticated and a slightly under-the-radar combination.
2 shots blended scotch
1 shot sweet vermouth
1/4 cup apple cider (preferably unpasteurized, unfiltered)
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon twist for garnish
To a cocktail shaker add the blended scotch, sweet vermouth, apple cider and the freshly squeezed lemon juice with ice.
Shake and strain into a short rocks glass with a lemon twist and a shake or two of Angostura Bitters to finish. Serves 1.
For all of you wine lovers out there, may I recommend instead a perfectly lovely, crisp punch to go along with your dinner? Hard apple cider is marvelous when combined with sparkling, non-alcoholic cherry juice and some lemon and lime juices for spark. The flavors of hard cider with the citrus juices are marvelous with turkey and all of your fixings!
1 bottle of hard cider
1/2 bottle of non-alcoholic cherry cider
1/2 bottle of seltzer water
1/4 cup each of lemon and lime juices
2 cups ice
Mix all ingredients together, pour over ice and serve with round slices of lemon and lime. Makes 20 four-ounce portions.
If you don’t want an alcoholic beverage, please substitute non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider for the hard variety and use a bit of seltzer water for that celebratory fizz.
Dessert also calls for a deeply warming hot toddy. I’m especially fond of the classic Hot Buttered Rum. The extra warmth a toddy offers is the perfect send-off to your friends.
This drink is an exotic approach to the classic boiling hot water-based toddy, with the addition of sweet butter. You can also use freshly whipped cardamom and ginger-sweetened cream on top of the mug instead of butter; it’s your choice. I like to use dark spiced rum or a home-spiced whiskey for this hot drink.
For an interesting after-dinner drink, I suggest something a rich glass of Pedro Ximenez Sherry or an older vintage of Madeira — it’s rich and thick, a dessert in a glass! Ask your local wine store what they carry. Use this rule of thumb: dry sherry for appetizers, sweet juicy sherry with dessert.
4 to 5 shots spiced rum or good blended whiskey that you have spiced a few weeks in advance (see note below)
1 quart or more hot chai tea or strong black tea
1 pat sweet butter per drink (if you use whipped cream, eliminate the butter)
Pour a shot rum or whiskey into 4 or 5 preheated mugs, then distribute the chai tea among the mugs. Top with butter pats or spiced, sweetened whipped cream. Serves 4 to 5.
*How do I spice whiskey? Add apple pie spices with a split vanilla bean 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Warren Bobrow, Mixology Guru extraordinaire, tells us that he is on a serious Gin kick. Apparently, it’s got him working in all sorts of ways. Yesterday he received a bottle of a new and unique spirit from his friends at Art in the Age located in Philadelphia. They are the inventors of USDA Certified Root-Snap-Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Rum and now Rhuby.
What is Rhuby? It is a unique USDA Certified Organic Liquor distributed by William Grant. It’s a combination of neutral spirits with Rhubarb, beets, carrots, lemons, petigrain, cardamom, and pure cane sugar. It’s 80 proof so it is no slouch when it comes to heat in the glass.
And this, good people, is Warren’s Friday cocktail using Hendrick’s Gin (available almost everywhere) and Rhuby.
Rhuby Friday Martini
First you will need to purchase a bottle of Rhuby. If you live in Pennsylvania this is easy, just go to the high end State Store. Outside of the northeast part of the country, you’ll need to point your Internet browser here. Trust me. This is a gorgeous product. Drinking it is like stepping through a Colonial vegetable garden, completely twisted.
We love Warren. Every truly stylish web site should have one!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My first experience with the romantic taste of Amaro came in Rome, when I was traveling in Italy with my parents. They would pull my sister and me out of school for a month or more at a time to see many of the European countries. My parents liked the best things that life had to offer — and rather than stick us on an impersonal tour bus, they would immerse us in local food, wine and museums.
I first noticed people enjoying Amaro in a street-side café. We were staying at the Hassler Hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps. Tourists find this staircase irresistible for photography and for pausing to enjoy a relaxing cocktail from the multitudes of street-side, stand-up table cocktail bars. There were several tall tables set up beside the steps, and young men in sharply cut suits were sipping tiny glasses of a caramel colored liquor with shots of espresso on the side.
I also remember that there was a tall, red tinged cocktail in almost everyone’s hands. I direct tweeted world famous “Cocktalian” Gaz Regan for his Negroni cocktail recipe and am including it here for good luck.
Negroni (recipe courtesy of Gaz Regan, via Twitter)
Little did I know at the time that what they were drinking would pave the way to my future desire to whisper about cocktails. I wanted to taste what these stylish people were drinking, because I was very sophisticated for a 12-year-old! At the end of my usual dinner bowl of Tortellini in Brodo, I remember sipping at my tiny glass hesitantly. It smelled faintly of citrus, and the texture of the liquor was soft on my inexperienced palate. The finish (as I remember) went on and on, seemingly for years.
Italian Vermouth in many ways is similar to Amaro, but a bit less bitter on the tongue. Some uniquely flavorful ones from Italy are Punt e Mes and the esoteric, salubrious Carpano Antica. The Carpano is a rum raisin-filled mouthful of sweet vanilla cake, laced with Asian spices and caramelized dark stone fruits. Punt e Mes is lighter and nuttier, with caramelized pecans and hand-ground grits in the finish.
I’m sure the alcohol is low — all these products (Amaro included) are low in alcohol, making them perfect in a cocktail. Amaro can be enjoyed as a digestif, it acts to settle the stomach after a large meal because of the herbal ingredients.
But what does Amaro taste like? The flavors vary from sweet to bittersweet to herbal, featuring orange blossoms, caramel and nuts. Some taste like artichoke, others like mint, and still others like a sweetened root tea. They may be enjoyed in a cup of hot tea as an elixir, or dropped into a small cup of espresso to “correct” the sweet, thick coffee.
You can drink Amaro straight or on the rocks, or even as an adjunct to other alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients. I love Ramazzotti Amaro, Averna, Branca Menta and its twin (without the mint), Fernet Branca. There are dozens that I’ve tasted around Europe and at home in New Jersey.
But why is Amaro so fundamental to the Italian style of living? Perhaps the explanation will be: with everything sweet, there must also be a bitter side?
I’m not sure, since I’ve read that Amaro is more than just a drink; it’s a way of life. Whatever the explanation is, the use of the bitter herbs, roots and spices are pleasing to drink and stimulate conversation. Because of the low alcohol level, the drink is uniquely designed to extend your meal into further conversation, not end it immediately with a cup of coffee.
A dash of bitter and a dash of the sweet make life go round and round.