Friday, March 28, 2008

Personal Update

Well, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be back in the saddle soon enough. I'm attending Grand Marnier's Mixology Summit this weekdend (which I am really excited about) in Vail Colorado. This week has been one of the toughest I've experienced, both professionally and emotionally, and I really need this break. That said, I'm going to put my head down and power through things until I get to Vail on Sunday. Be patient and I'll share the whole Mixology Summit experience with all of you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Product Review- Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

It's gone. All gone. I'm staring at an empty bottle of Stranahan’sColorado Whiskey and feeling a sense of loss that I don't think I've ever felt over an empty liquor bottle. I know that supposedly 24 bottles are somewhere in the state of Oregon, but they are probably on the back bar of some of the better restaurants throughout the state and I want my own private stash of this stuff.
For the record, I'm a whiskey and gin man. I'm ok with other distilled spirits, but its whiskey and gin that work magic on my palate. And this is the best whiskey I've ever tasted. I'm not one prone to hyperbole, but this is the real deal. A truly authentic regional style of American whiskey, a reflection its terroir, its people and the passion of its distillers.
Stranahan’s is distilled in beautiful Denver, Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, using 100% barley, Rocky Mountain water, finished in a #4 alligator char american oak barrel for at least 2 years, Stranahan's takes the best features of classic scotch and bourbon, marries them together, and captures a taste of Colorado as distinctive as any scotch can achieve.
When I get a bottle for review, I like to take my time with it. With whiskey's, first, I'll try them with an ice cube or two to open them up, then I begin mixing them, playing with the flavor nuances particular to each one. I'll preface this by saying that the absolute best way to enjoy Stranahan's is to pour yourself two fingers of whiskey and add two ice cubes (one is acceptable, three too much), swirl the cubes in the glass to open up the bouquet and sit outside and enjoy a beautiful Rocky mountain sunset. Lacking a backyard with a view of the Rockies. Mt. Hood will have to suffice.
Stranahan's does mix incredibly well, but I'd generally advise you to use a lesser whiskey in most cocktails. At most, I'd recommend it in a Manhattan (maybe we should rename this a Denver though) with some Fee Bros Whiskey barrel aged bitters and Carpano Antica. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Stranahan's this way, and while its delicious, I still prefer to let it sing for itself. This is such a singular whiskey that I think you owe it to yourself to enjoy it on its own. Its got a wonderful spiciness with some fruit undertones on the palate, complemented by an almost honeyed bouquet and a long, lingering finish. This will easily stand up to a great cigar or a nice steak au poivre.
If you have any friends of family (or you want to buy me a gift) who are scotch or bourbon afficionados, this is a great gift and the perfect introduction into American regional whiskies. Unfortunately, my birthday isn't until November, but I am lucky enough to be headed to Denver Friday night. Perhaps I can sneak a bottle or two back in my luggage, because I don't think my liquor cabinet will be complete without this world class Colorado whiskey inside.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chinese Apothecary Bitters

So I've been rolling around a concept in my head ever since I've been reading some posts about asian liquor on the OBG's forums. I'd like to put together a cocktail with asian ingredients, maybe using a tea reduction, soju, maybe some lemon juice and bitters. Instead of a western style bitters though, I've been trying to think of something distinctly asian to use. Yesterday, some of the OBG board met for a Portland Monthly photoshoot (look for my ugly mug to appear in the May 2008 issue), and as I caught the bus downtown in the morning, I went walking through Chinatown on my way to the location. As I was walking down the street, I spotted a Chinese apothecary that I hadn't noticed before. There was a great poster in the window advertising Jin tonics containing deer antler, horny goat weed, sea horse and other exotic ingredients. A year ago, I would have walked on by and never given it another thought, but my recent experiences with acupuncture have made me a real believer in Eastern medicine. I've had terrible back pain for years, but after my first acupuncture session, I felt better than I have at any time since I was a teenager. If a few needles can give me that kind of relief, I'm more than willing to drink something that contains deer antler if there are some purported health benefits.

In fact, my friend JT and I have had vodka steeped with deer antler and some other exotic ingredients at a very good (and quite strange) restaurant at the Santa Monica airport, Typhoon. I seem to recall the drink being rather full flavored, almost a pronounced leather flavor on the palate, and as I was remembering these flavors, I thought an herbal tonic from the apothecary would be the perfect base for an asian style bitters.

Today, during lunch, I hopped a bus to Chinatown and wandered into the apothecary, Each wall was filled floor to ceiling with giant jars of things like cuttlefish bone, strange roots, and dull colored powders. Some of the labels had english translations, but most did not. I explained to the herbalist that I wanted a mens formula tonic, something to increase my general well being. He asked me a number of questions to eliminate any potential health problems, and when he decided that I was healthy, he asked if my sexual functions were ok. I assured the man that I was fully functional, and he indicated that he could add some ingredients to bring me to new sexual heights. Never being one to turn down opportunities for maximum virility, I said sure, add whatever you need to make this a very manly tonic. The clerk started calculating and talking to himself, peering in jars and sniffing others, before he finally made up his mind. He would create a good all around health tonic and throw in a sea horse for male potency, I would just need to come home and steep this whole concotion for at least two weeks. Even better, while he said that water or wine would work ok for this tonic, he suggested vodka as the best way to get maximum effect from the tonic. "Drink up to two shots a day" he told me, so I knew as a bitters, I'd never get close.

Here is what he put together

Chinese Apothecary Tonic/Bitters

30 g ginseng root
30 g Astralagus root
30 g schizandra fruit
30 g peony root
30 g epimidium leaves
30 g codonopsis root
30 g atractylodes root
30 g dan gui root
30 g lycium root
10 g licorice root
30 g pseudoginseng root
30 g ligustrum
30 g hoa shou wu
1 sea horse, dried (I named mine Sven)

Soak in 2 750 Ml bottles of vodka (I used 1 bottle of Everclear and 1 of vodka) for at least 2 weeks and up to 3 months. Apparently, leaving out the sea horse makes this an appropriate tonic (although less effective than other womens formulas) for women.

I started this tonight. The clerk told me that this would have a pronounced bitter flavor, however, if its not quite bitter enough, I'll hit it with some gentian at that time.

I'm really excited to have a bitters that would be appropriate for asian style cocktails. Even better, if I can offer something that has the potential to have health benefits, I think that it will be an interesting concept.

I always say that as long as I learn and take something away from each experiment, I'm succesful. I've already learned a lot today and I can't wait to see how the bitters turn out.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mx Mo- Rethinking the Hurricane

Kaiser Penguin is hosting this months Mixology Monday, and the theme is "Limit One". Essentially, it calls for either drinks that are all alcohol (i.e. a Manhattan) or drinks that contain at least 3 oz of 80 proof alcohol. When I saw the theme, I was reminded of my days working at the Hard Rock Cafe in Sacramento. HRC used to sell a hurricane with a collectable HRC glass for something like $20 back when I worked there. I remembered that at the time I worked for HRC, the hurricane recipe was 3 kinds of Bacardi (light, dark, 151), orange juice, passionfruit juice and pineapple juice and a little grenadine. I made a call down to Sacramento to confirm the recipe, but apparently HRC has changed their recipe to mango puree, oj, pineapple juice and 3 kinds of Bacardi. Neither option sounded like what I wanted to make for MxMo, so I started scrounging the internet, looking at Pat O'Briens recipe and others. The only constant that I found among all the recipes was fruit juice. Beyond that, the recipes were all across the board. I remembered that I had recently been in the Kiknbaque lounge and I'd overheard a discussion between the owner and some patrons about the regional differences between what gets labeled as a Hurricane, but I hadn't given it any thought since then. Perhaps there are signifigant regional differences between what constitutes a Hurricane, its not something that I've had time to research. What I did decide was that with as many variations existing of the Hurricane, I could take this drink and remake it to my tastes. What follows is my version (and quite a tasty one at that) of the Hurricane.

Hurricane Cocktail

1 oz Goslings Black Seal Rum
1 oz Old New Orleans Amber Rum
1 oz 10 Cane Rum
1/2 oz John D Taylors Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Trader Tiki's Primativa (or use Forbidden Fruit Liqueur)
3 oz orange juice
3 oz pineapple juice
1 oz apricot nectar
1 oz papaya juice
2 oz guava juice
2 dashes Regans Orange Bitters
1 oz Grand Marnier

1) Take all ingredients except grand marnier, build over ice, stir vigorously, add float of Grand Marnier.
2) Enjoy

This makes a very tropical drink, sweet, but not toothachingly sweet as you might expect. This drink does have quite a kick, the rums take on a nice background role so its easy to get lulled into complacency with this but one of these gave me quite the buzz.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Andy Warhol once said, "They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself". Well, I've made some changes recently and I think its time to share them with all of you. First off, I've parted ways with Meriwethers. I truly enjoyed my time there, and Tommy Habetz is one of the genuinely nice people in the restaurant world. I wish everyone there nothing but the best and I will always look back on my time there with warm memories.

I'm taking a little break from bartending right now to focus on getting the Oregon Bartenders Guild up and running as well as handling a change I recently made to my day job as well. I'll be back in the saddle soon enough.

In fact, I'm proud to announce that I'll be working at Kevin Ludwig's new venture, Beaker and Flask when that opens, a prospect that I am very excited about. I don't want to say too much, but I will say that there is no other place that I would rather be than part of the Beaker and Flask team. Opportunities like this one don't present themselves very often, and I am grateful to have such a wonderful opportunity.

In other news, it looks like the OBG's next event, "A Tribute to Jerry Thomas" is going to be a smashing success. I believe we've already sold the event out, and I'm excited by some of the cocktails being presented. Its shaping up to be our best event yet.

I received my copy of Larousse Cocktails from yesterday, and at first glance its interesting enough, but perhaps looks to be a lesser verion of the Difford's Guide. It does contain a Cocktail Bibliography though, which lists recommended reading from various times, and may be worth the price of the book itself. I'll have more insight on this after this weekend.

Lastly, and a completely unrelated note. I've been craving a Tijuana hot dog recently. You know the kind, mystery meat link wrapped in bacon with all kinds of random toppings? I'm on a quest to find something similar in Portland, if anyone has any suggestions, I'd be appreciative.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Portland Hipster Cocktail

I love Portland. So much so, that I've lived here 3 times. The rain drove me away twice, but I always seem to return. One of the really great things that I enjoy about Portland is the variety of people here. In a few short blocks, you can spot hippies, punks, businessmen, bikers and hipsters, and, except for May Day, everyone gets along pretty well here.

Portland's hipster culture is characterized by civil war era facial hair, thrift store clothing, the full Modest Mouse discography and a fascination with Pabst Blue Ribbon in the best beer city in America. I wanted to capture what its like to be in one of Portland's hipster bars in a cocktail, to translate their smoky, beery ambiance into a sophisticated drink. I think I succeeded.

It merits mentioning that last weekend (when I created this cocktail) I was due to visit my friend Kevin's house to experiment with cocktails, and I was extremely excited by the prospect. Unfortunately, I had a long neglected honey-do list that needed to be completed and so I reluctantly had to send Kevin my regrets.

I did however, find some time in between chores to work on this. First up, a trip to my local Whole Foods to pick up a tallboy of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I took it home, poured the contents of the can into a saucepan, brought it to a boil, added a cup of sugar and reduced it down by half to make a "PBR reduction".

About a year ago, I had to quit smoking cigars. I smoked them for years with no ill effects, but for the last few months of my cigar days I started getting ill whenever I smoked one. I wanted to capture the smokiness inherent in Portland's hipster bars, so I went into the basement and searched through my abandoned humidor for a cigar. I found one in excellent shape, brought it upstairs, cut a small portion of the end off, and put it into a glass which I then filled with rye whiskey. I set it aside to marinate for 4 hours before I strained the whiskey through coffee filters to remove the bits of tobacco leaf.

To prepare the cocktail, I took 3 oz of the PBR reduction, 2oz of the tobacco infused rye whiskey, 1 oz of Meyer lemon juice, put it all in a cocktail shaker over ice, shook the hell out of it and strained it off into a martini glass (see the pic above). It tasted wonderful, really outstanding, and it even gave me that scratchiness I get at the back of my throat when I've spent too long in a smoky bar.

I was really impressed with myself, so much so that I was going to recommend to a friend that he put this cocktail on his drink menu. Then it hit me. My stomach started heaving, my hands grew clammy and my head started spinning. I didn't know that nicotine was alcohol soluble, and I was having a nasty reaction. As I was in the middle of cooking a romantic dinner for my wife, I quickly turned off the oven and burners and left the food where it was. I barely made it to the couch, where I laid down, closed my eyes and moaned quite frequently. I cursed planet earth for daring to rotate while I was feeling ill, it took everything I had not to lose my lunch on our persian carpet. I spent several hours on the couch like this, my wife came home and seeing my condition, didn't feel a lot of sympathy for my plight. She told me that I was stupid for infusing tobacco into whiskey and I agreed. I was stupid, stupid, stupid, and here I was laying on the couch with my brain and stomach feeling like they'd just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl. I was just happy that I'd cancelled on Kevin, as this was the cocktail I wanted to create with him, Imagine if I would have been laid out sick on the poor mans couch for 4 1/2 hours, moaning and whining about my sorry state.

I was laid out by my own creation. A tasty one, but an experiment that I won't be reproducing. Perhaps some braver, and less sensitive to nicotine soul will try this cocktail out and enjoy it without the reaction that I experienced. Or not. But in my case, this was a classic example of stupid should hurt.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

BLT in a glass

I like to think that I take a culinary approach to my cocktails. I've always been passionate about good food, and in my opinion, cocktails are just another type of cuisine, albeit a liquid one. One of my obsessions in life is bacon. Here in Portland, every chef in town seems to be trying to sneak it into their desserts. I wanted to try to incorporate its flavor into some cocktails. If you'll remember, I infused some everclear with bacon a couple of months back. I've got plenty of it laying around, and today I thought it was time to get to work on a BLT cocktail. I went to the basement and broke out the juicer, then walked to Whole Foods and bought a head of Green Leaf Lettuce and 2 slicer tomatoes. Now, not every cocktail that I make is succesful, sometimes I end up with something downright awful, but I'm always ok with that AS LONG AS I LEARN SOMETHING. Thats the key for me, experimenting and taking risks is ok, but I have to take something away from the experience.

I had assumed that lettuce, being 99% water, would juice down into little or nothing. I was ready to reduce my lettuce juice by 1/2 over some heat in order to concentrate the flavors. Boy was I wrong. Instead of a light watery juice which is what I expected, I got a dark green and heartily flavored juice. It was pleasant enough to drink by itself, and a real surprise to me.

The tomatoes juiced down quickly into a lightly foamy pink juice. Not much depth, but a nice tomato flavor to the juice anyway.

I then toasted some whole grain bread (Dave's Killer, good stuff) and began to chop it fine to use to rim the glass. It didn't hold terribly well, and if I retry this, I'll have to think about a better way to attach it to the glass because it did add a needed component to this cocktail.

Bear with me (I'm experiencing a HUGE nicotine buzz, see the next post, so I'm feeling a bit off as I write this). But I digress. It was cocktail time.

Since I was using everclear, I decided to only pour 1 1/4 oz rather than the 2oz I would have poured had it been bacon infused vodka.

Next, I added (this is in a shaker, fyi) 2 oz of lettuce juice, followed by 2oz of fresh tomato juice, I added some ice and shook the hell out of the drink before pouring it in a martini glass garnished with toasted breadcrumbs on the rim.

I tasted it and it was there. Its a BLT quite literally in a glass. Proportions are a little off at this point. The everclear makes this drink hot, and I'll redo it with vodka so that I can get more bacon flavor in the drink. I was surprised how assertive the lettuce had become. I had a BLT alright, but it was like eating a sandwich with triple lettuce, just not quite right. It was also a little bland, so I stirred in a pinch of sea salt and it brightened the cocktail right up,

Next time, I'll use half as much lettuce juice to tomato juice, but like an old bartender used to tell my about my experiments when I was a new bartender, "There's a cocktail in there".

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cocktail Du Jour- The Radar O'Reilly Cocktail

At work today, I noticed that that I'd received some comments on my post last night. A mysterious poster, who goes by kevin (the all lowercase letters make me suspicious), asked when the Radar O'Reilly Cocktail would be appearing. Never one to disappoint a fan, I made the decision then and there to create a cocktail in honor of Radar when I got home today. For the record, this is the last cocktail that I will ever create that will be named after anyone real or fictional that hails from Iowa (Radar is from Otumwa, IA). I commented back to lowercase kevin that I thought Radar would probably not be a whiskey drinker like Fred Grandy, but would instead favor rum drinks, when a certain JT posted that Radar was a grape soda man. I decided then and there to create a cocktail using rum and grape soda (I always love a good challenge).

On my way home, I started trying to formulate a grape soda based cocktail in my head, but I wasn't getting very far. I knew that I ought to avoid the cloying, diabetic coma inducing, sugary goodness of Nehi Grape Soda, but not being a soda fanatic,and nor having consumed any type of grape soda since the onset of puberty, I was at a loss for what other options might be on the market. Luckily, I live close to a Whole Foods Market, so I thought I'd run in and see if, perhaps, Boylan's makes a grape soda (if they do, my WFM doesn't carry it). Instead, I found two grape soda products. R.W. Knudsen Grape Spritzer, has all the color of Nehi grape, that royal purple color that would be at home on a King's robe. Unfortunately, other than color, it doesn't offer much. Its flavor is reminiscent of stale dishwater, slightly effervescent and with a mild grape flavor, but not something that I would pay money to consume, even with alcohol in it. My other option was a pink/grey colored soda, Natural Brew Organic Grape. As ugly a soda as it is, this stuff makes me think about Grape Crush or Nehi Grape when I taste it. I bought both and came home.

I decided to follow Lance's 23rd Rule of Bartending when I got home, "Make most new drinks in a bucket". I poured 2 oz white rum, 2 oz meyer lemon juice, a couple of dashes of Fee's lemon bitter and then topped it off with a little of the Knudsen's. Godawful is a kind description, although disgusting would be about as apt. The drink had no balance and little flavor. The meyer lemon juice dominated, making this an unpleasant start to my mixing. Next, I decided a little of the other soda was in order to balance the flavors out. The Natural Brew has more of the traditional grape soda non-grapiness but i still added it to foster an attempt at success. Swing and a miss! Strike 2! I'd tried, but the inherent sweetness made it exceptionally difficult to balance this cocktail.

I'd just about given up on this cocktail, when my much better half came into the kitchen and tasted my work in progress. Her mouth puckered and she frowned. "Why don't you add chartreuse to it? You like chartreuse". I was desperate so I ran to the liquor cabinet, grabbed a bottle of green chartreuse and added a 1/2 oz, stirred it and tasted. Brilliant! What was a cloying and sugary sweet concoction, suddenly developed some balance and depth. While this isn't ever going to be a world class cocktail, the end result was a well balanced cocktail that incorporated both rum and grape soda in this drink.

The Radar O'Reilly Cocktail

2 oz white rum
1/2 oz green chartreuse
2 oz meyer lemon juice
equal parts RW Knudsen Grape Spritzer and Natural Brew Organic Concrod Grape, to fill
3 dashes Fee Bros Lemon bitters

Build over ice in an double rocks glass, stir to incorporate and enjoy. This really did make a nice cocktail once i added the chartreuse. And for the record, this is my last cocktail to be named after a former tv character. Garnish this drink garishly, I think Radar would appreciate it.

The OBG Wants You!

The Oregon Bartenders Guild is accepting all qualified (more on that below) applicants as members for the month of March. Its a one year membership with no dues, and allows you to be a part of what the Oregon Bartenders Guild is doing here in the state and across the country. For more info email to receive your application.

A small caveat. In order to qualify for membership, you must;

1) be a professional bartender or have been one within the last 6 months
2) Live in Oregon or Southwest Washington
3) complete the application that you will be sent

There may be a few more minor details, but I wanted to get this up asap.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cocktail Du Jour- The Fred "Don't Call Me Gopher!" Grandy Cocktail

The Fred "Don't Call Me Gopher!" Grandy Cocktail

2 oz Templeton Rye
2 oz Meyer Lemon Juice
1 oz simple syrup (1 to 1 ratio)
1 dash Peychauds Bitters
1 dash Regans Orange Bitters
3 bar spoons Blood Orange/ Seville Marmalade (recipe to follow)
Club soda to fill

In a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients except club soda. Add 4 Tovolo Perfect Cube ice cubes, shake vigorously to a rhythm in your head (I shook to this, don't ask), and strain into a double rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish appropriately as the mood strikes you.

Ever since I tasted Templeton Rye Whiskey, I've been intrigued with its subtle caramel and vanilla tones, and marmalade jumped into my head as something that I wanted to mix with it. Where Rittenhouse is the spicy side of rye, Templeton is a much more subtle (and more similar to Canadian offerings) facet of the style. In being subtle, Templeton is probably best enjoyed on its own with a cube or two of ice to open it up, but in order to mix it effectively, it is important not to overwhelm the flavor of the whiskey but to instead provide complimentary notes to allow the spirit to sing. I think this cocktail, corny name and all really accomplished that goal in spades and also created a mouthwatering cocktail. I didn't want to use a traditional english marmalade as I was afraid it would be too bitter, and I wanted to avoid the cloying sugary mess that usually passes for american marmalade, so I made my own with both Seville & Blood Oranges to create a well balanced and unique flavor to add to the cocktail.

So why would I name a cocktail after Gopher from the Love Boat? Well, I did love the Love Boat as a young boy, and Isaac the bartender might well have been my first influence to become a bartender, but I named this cocktail because I quite literally couldn't think of another famous American who is from Iowa (Templeton is made in Iowa). A quick perusal of Wikipedia shows that I could have picked Elijah Wood or Mamie Eisenhower, but I'll stick with Fred.

Now on to the marmalade. WARNING- This makes a TON of marmalade. In fact, I think my yield on this was 13.5 pints. If you live in the Portland Metro area and are having a hankering for marmalade, shoot me an email. I have plenty (maybe I should mail some to Fred Grandy?). Anyway, I never follow recipes to the T, I always modify them to suit my nefarious purposes, but this is a variation from John Thorne's book "Mouth Wide Open" which he based on a recipe in "Jane Grigson's Fruit Book". A quick note, few writers are as an enjoyable read as John Thorne, and his innate curiosity and adventurous palate has never disappointed me. Without further ado...

Seville & Blood Orange Marmalade

1 1/2 lbs Seville oranges
1 1/2 lbs Blood oranges
12 c table sugar
12 c tap water

1) Fill a large stockpot with the water, bring to a boil, add oranges and cook at a rolling boil for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the skin of the oranges is tender
2) Remove oranges from boiling water and allow to cool.
3) when cool, slice oranges in 1/2 and then 1/2 again, reserving pits (they help the jellification issue), then slice the oranges into exceptionally small pieces (like for marmalade)
4) wrap the pits in cheesecloth and hang onto them
5) add sugar, oranges and cheesecloth package in a large stockpot over high heat, bring to a rolling boil, skim any scum that rises to the surface of the liquid. After 20-30 minutes of boiling, check for jelling.
6) remove from heat throw away the cheesecloth, and can according to manufacturers instructions (or email me for advice)

Yields about 13 1/2 pints of marmalade, approximately a 4 year supply.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leap Year Cocktail

A day late, my apologies but Blogger was experiencing technical issues last night. Anyway, the Leap Year cocktail seemed appropriate last night.

My version-

1 1/2 oz Aviation Gin
1/2 oz Carpano Antica
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
splash lemon juice

Chill, shake hard and serve up

I'm not sure I'd drink this regularly, but once every 4 years will work.

I finally got my prosciutto hung. It should be ready in 6 months. Note to self- no more curing hams at home, its a pain in the ass.

Today I received a care package from North Shore Distillery. I'm going to taste the Oregon Bartenders Guild on their #6 gin, and #11 gin. Unfortunately for me, their aquavit (which I really wanted to compare against House Spirits Krogstad Aquavit) didn't survive the shipping (damn you Fedex! Damn you!). I'm very excited about tasting both gins, I've heard nothing but great things about them both.

I'm making marmalade today. I have this idea rolling around in my head of a cocktail combining marmalade and Templeton rye. Once all is said and done I'll get it up here.

Oh, do you ever buy cookbooks that you adore but you never actually cook anything out of them? For me, that describes Fergus Henderson's two books. Great reads, incredibly inspiring (I was even ready to take on his half roasted pigs head for two until my wife put the kibosh on that), I've finally decided on making the mother for bread that they use at St. John's. I'm not much of a baker, but having a good mother in the fridge seems to make sense.