Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Update

Some random musings and observations on an otherwise nondescript Friday.

- The no vest rule is one that I am beginning to love. I know that this is cryptic, but you'll understand soon enough.

- Food Dude gets it right again. Not only do I agree wholeheartedly with his choice, but his selection of Kevin Ludwig and Kelley Swenson as the two best bartenders in Portland is spot on in my opinion. Both gentlemen are masters of their craft with amazing palates and an uncanny ability to match flavors. If you enjoy cocktails, these are the people to see in town.

- I've got a couple of new reviews (including Schipper Bitter)coming soon. These will actually be liquor related instead of the recent cooking posts that I've been putting up.

- We've got two relatively new bartenders at 50 Plates that I am exceptionally happy to be working with. Evan Furey and Dan Pelley have a ton of talent and its going to be a lot of fun for me to watch them learn and grow. I'm really looking forward to their contributions to the bar.

- Shoshanna Cohen makes a mean gin daisy. I know.

- I recently received a bottle of Canadian Club 30yr. All I can say right now is wow, what a wonderful whisky. This may be the finest Canadian whisky I've ever tasted. I'm supposed to go to a Super Bowl party this weekend, but I've had a hard week, and I'm reading a fascinating new book, ”Brothers”, by Yu Hua. I'm really thinking that I might like to just spend a quiet Sunday with a bit of CC 30 and this book and just savor my day and this fine fine whisky.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Easy, elegant Wednesday Night Dinner- Pappardelle with Ricotta, Parsley and Toasted Walnuts

Yesterday. I came home to find a care package of sorts on my front step from my friend Sara. Sara is the best, she knows that I like wine, spirits and food, and she always seems to find the perfect things that she knows that I'll savor. As soon as I saw the package, I ran in the house, grabbed a knife and opened the box. Right on top was a beautiful package of Garofalo papardelle pasta, the noodles sitting in little nests inside the package, just waiting to be cooked. As soon as I saw these noodles, I was a man on a mission. Papardelle is one of my favorite styles of pasta, and it was obvious that this was very high quality and well made pasta. Sometimes I like to make a nice ragu to serve with papardelle, but recently, I've been craving ricotta, and I knew that ricotta would coat these noodles perfectly. I figured that I would toast some walnuts to add a bit of protein and some flat leaf parsley for some added flavor and color. I've got to say, I'm very happy with the result. This is a delicious, interesting, and easy weeknight dinner to prepare. Maybe serve a nice Oregon pinot gris with this, a bit of salad and you've got yourself a romantic meal with limited time and money.

Papardelle with Ricotta, Toasted Walnuts and Parsley (serves 4)
1 package (16 oz) Garofalo brand papardelle pasta
1/4 c chopped flat parsley leaves
1/2 c chopped walnuts, toasted (in a medium pan with a touch of olive oil to bring the flavors out)
1 c ricotta cheese
about 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated parmesan
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1) In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt to the water. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, stirring to incorporate. Cook approximately 8 minutes or until al dente.
2) While the pasta is cooking, chop the parsley and add it to the walnuts. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the mixture and stir to incorporate.
3) In a medium size bowl, mix the ricotta with 1 c pasta water and 1/2 c olive oil and stir to combine thoroughly.
4) Take the drained, al dente pasta and add to the ricotta mixture, stir to coat.
5) Mix in walnut salad, salt, pepper, and parmesan and toss to combine.
Serve immediately

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cold Weather Warmers- Gratin of Tripe, Penne and Cabbage

So lets say you made the tripe recipe that I posted on the 3rd. Its great on pasta or polenta, but at some point just like everything else you need something to do with the leftovers. Again, I'm turning to the great Paul Bertolli and the "Chez Panisse Cooking" cookbook. Once you've made the tripe recipe earlier, you can reserve 1/2 the recipe to make this dish. Its perfect on a cold January night when you need something warm and comforting. I'd pair this with a nice Zinfandel or another chianti myself.

Gratin of Tripe, Penne and Cabbage
2 quarts water
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 c dry penne (I used DeCecco with great results)
1 tblsp olive oil
2 c thinly sliced savoy cabbage (I subbed regular cabbage, it works just fine)
1 1/2 c breadcrumbs (I used store bought, it saved me having to toast them)
2 tblsp butter
2 c Braised Tripe (see my earlier post)
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (don't go cheap here, really Reggiano is the key)

1) Preheat oven to 375
2) Bring the water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the penne and cook al dente. Drain the noodles in a colander and cool briefly under running water.
3) Brown the onion in a bit of olive oil (use a good pot for this, I used a Le Creuset dutch oven), add cabbage, the remaining pinch of salt, grind a bit of fresh black pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or so until the cabbage is wilted. Make sure to stir often.
4) Combine noodles, braised tripe (if straight out of the fridge, rewarm first), cabbage, and onion and 2 tblsp of the parmesan and stir together. You are looking to coat the noodles in sauce here.
5) Put the mixture in an 8x10 baking dish, top with remaining parmesan and then breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes.

This is one of those dishes that I really enjoy. Tripe is one of those things that I think more people would enjoy if they ever had it cooked properly. As it is, I think a certain squeamishness sets in if you've never eaten tripe and then its presented to you in adulthood. Its really too bad, as this is a dish that I would love to share with more friends and family.

So as you can see, I've decided to expand my blog from just cocktails and liquor reviews to some of my favorite recipes and the occasional wine review. I'm a bit of a failed chef, but cooking remains a passion of mine and I'd love to share more of this passion with you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ri(1) Whiskey review

I've been wanting to try (ri)1 whiskey ever since my good friend, Steve Mendiola, bassist for Whiskey Dawn, a hot country band in California, started telling me about this great new whiskey that he'd tried. Unfortunately, at the time Steve was bragging about how much he liked ri(1), we weren't getting any product into Oregon (that has since been rectified, I know there are at least a few bottles at Pearl Specialty Market right now). As I'm a huge whiskey fan, and rye is one of my favorite styles of whiskey. I love the range of flavors able to be expressed in rye, from huge spicy monsters, to subtle expressions of the style. Rye is also eminently mixable, the spice notes go well with everything to amaro to chartreuse, and everything from fresh orange juice to Coca-Cola.

When I first opened this bottle of Ri(1), pronounced "Rye-one" if you happen to order it in a bar, I was struck by the typical tight, spicy nose you get from rye whiskey. Once I poured some in the glass, the alcohol becomes more apparent (its 94 proof). This is a pretty whiskey, a honeyed amber color in the glass, and once in the glass, I added a single cube of ice to open it up and allow the flavors to reveal themselves. After about 3 minutes, I checked the nose again, and it had settled comfortably into a rich melange of apricot, almond, cinnamon and clove with just a touch of the spicy pepper apparent. The longer I allowed it to open, the less apparent the spiciness was, giving way to a warm honeyed note behind the apricot and almond.

On the palate, this is a rather soft and subtle rye, more in the same style as Templeton's than, say Rittenhouse. There is some typical rye spice, but it also has a nice honey and dried apricot notes, finishing with a distinct nutiness on the palate for a minute or two. This is a subtle, sophisticated rye whiskey (apparently, there are plans for a ri(2) and ri(3) in the future), made for true whiskey afficionados as well as those looking for a new spirit to try. Its not so big and spicy as to turn off the novice rye drinker, but it can also be appreciated by those with a more sophisticated whiskey palate.

One of the great things about ri(1) is its versatility. Not only can you sip this neat (or in my case, with 1 cube), but it mixes extremely well in cocktails. I've been tinkering with this recipe quite a bit recently, and I think ri(1) is the perfect whiskey to incorporate into this drink. Its simple, flavorful and yet elegant. Enjoy

Writers Block Cocktail
1 oz ri(1) whiskey
1 oz Amaro Nonino
2 oz fresh orange juice

1) In a mixing glass, add all three ingredients, fill glass with ice.
2) Using a Boston tin, shake contents of glass vigorously, strain into a stem glass
3) Express orange peel over the cocktail and serve


Monday, January 19, 2009

Who else is attending the 2009 Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit?

Well, Friday got the news that I've been selected again to attend the 2009 edition of the Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit in Vail, Colorado. Luckily this year, I won't be the only Oregonian making an appearance as Jeff Morgenthaler got selected to go this year too. In addition, my friends Jimmy Patrick and Doug Miller got selected for a second year as well, so in addition to meeting some new people, I'm also looking forward to spending some time with old friends.

For me personally, I much prefer events like the Mixology Summit to trade shows or conventions. I like being able to talk and share ideas and experiences with other bartenders without being sold on guava flavored tequilas or glow in the dark shotglasses. Even better, the Mixology Summit is in Vail Colorado, one of the premier ski resorts in the country and one of the prettiest places that I've ever been. Grand Marnier/Navan spares no expense in making this a first class experience, from the opening reception to the final dinner, this is truly going to be one of the highlights of my year. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends from around the country and making some cocktails in beautiful Vail come April.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cold Winter Food- Braised Tripe

I was lucky enough to grow up in Northern California in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when establishments like Chez Panisse in Berkeley were just starting to start an American food revolution. My parents discovered Chez Panisse in its earliest days, not knowing that it would one day take a place among the most influential restaurants in American history. At the time, it was just a great place to eat, and some of my earliest food memories center around meals at Chez Panisse. By the time I ate at Chez Panisse, I believe Paul Bertolli (who would later open Oliveto in Oakland) was the chef, and I remember being amazed that food so simple could taste so good. There was a certain simple elegance to the dishes at Chez Panisse, it will never be confused with a place like Le Bernardin in NY or Taillevent in Paris, both places that I've eaten, and yet for me, if I had to choose one final meal on this planet, I'd eat at Chez Panisse.

It probably should come as no surprise then when I decide to cook that I often reach for a copy of one of the Chez Panisse cookbooks. I would have to say that "Chez Panisse Cooking" is my favorite in the series, written by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters. The recipes are all first rate and most are simple enough for the home cook. So when the weather here in Portland started to snow and become bitterly cold and I decided that I wanted to cook one of my favorite cold weather foods, tripe, I reached for this book. Something about tripe is really comforting for me in cold weather. Its not terribly hard to make, usually the biggest challenge is actually finding a grocery store that still sells honeycomb tripe. For this dish, I had to drive over to 82nd avenue to the Fubonn supermarket, an asian grocer that sells all kinds of variety meats and specialty cuts. I varied a bit from Bertolli's recipe in the book, more due to my lack of ingredients in my cupboard or an oversight on my part, but the credit for this recipe deserves to go to Paul Bertolli. This made a wonderful stew of braised tripe which worked really well over a bowl of soft polenta or ribbon noodles and a big glass of nice chianti wine. In pairing wines with tripe, I don't think anything works better than chianti, you don't need a riserva, but do buy a quality chianti to accompany this dish.

Braised Tripe

1 1/2 lb honeycoomb tripe (easier to find in hispanic or asian markets)
2 tblsp butter
1 1/2 stalks celery (I used 2) cut into small dice
2 carrots cut into small dice
1 yellow onion cut into small dice
3 oz pancetta, thinly sliced and diced (I substituted bacon)
2 bay leaves
2 c tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced, juice strained and reserved (I used a 24oz can of diced tomatoes)
3 large garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
1 qt chicken broth (I needed almost double this amount)

To finish- ( I skipped this and just covered the braised tripe with grated parmesan with great results)
2 tblsp unsalted butter
3 tblsp chopped italian parsley
ground pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the tripe and cut it into thin strips about 2 inches long. Melt butter in a large pot, add celery, carrots, onion, pancetta (or bacon) and saute over med-low heat for 5 minutes. Pour in the canned tomatoes (or your fresh ones), bay leaf, garlic, salt, cayenne and tripe and stir well. Add the chicken broth and raise heat to bring to a boil. Skim and scum that rises to the top and cover and cook at a simmer for 2 hrs.

Remove cover, raise heat to a gentle boil and cook 30-35 minutes more allowing the liquid to thicken and reduce and it becomes sauce-like. Cooking should be stopped when the tripe is still distinct but offers no resistance when bitten into.

Before serving, warm the tripe over low heat, stir in butter and parsley, grind pepper over the top and grate Parmesan cheese on top of each portion. Great over pasta or polenta.

Serves 6 as a small portion

Monday, January 12, 2009

MxMo XXXV: Broaden Your Horizons Longrow Gaja Barolo Finish

I know, I know, I'm doing Mixology Monday a week early. I'm actually not confused by the due date (I know its the 19th, not the 12th or the 29th as have been misreported), but I saw peoples posts going up today and thought to myself, 'Why wait until the last minute?".

As you probably already know, I'm only a "sometime" participant in Mixology Monday. That is, I participate when my schedule allows and when I'm inspired by the topic. I appreciate the concept of Mixology Monday but to be honest, as a working bartender , there are times when the last thing I want to do on a Monday is think about liquor. However, when I saw that the Scribe over at A Mixed Dram had chosen to broaden everyone's horizons, well, I couldn't resist. As he describes this months theme;

Hello everyone, and welcome to A Mixed Dram. I’m hosting this month, and I think you will enjoy our topic this month. I know that we tend to do what is familiar to us, and I am no less a victim of this than anyone else, often even more. My first several cocktails were basically sours, and then my next several were little more than old fashioneds. Well, today I issue you a challenge: Try something new!

Hmm, try something new huh? There are plenty of things that I still haven't gotten around to playing with either on this blog or in RL (including some new toys I just purchased from Harvard Medical School). Still, I really wasn't sure about what to do until I sat down last night and had a wee dram of Longrow Gaja Barolo Barrel Single Malt Scotch. I loved it, and I even threw up a quick post to tell people how much I enjoyed it, but I don't think I was being upfront enough. So, in the spirit of trying something new (this is the newest liquor in my collection), I thought I'd review this amazing product right here during Mixology Monday.

Ego nunquam pronunciari mendacium! Sed ego sum homo indomitus! (I never lie. But I am a savage)- Mel Gibson, Braveheart
, 1995

If ever there were a single malt that was more savage and vicious than Longrow Gaja Barrel finish, I haven't seen it. Not the brutes from Islay, let the Ardbegs and Laphroaigs alone, not even they are this savage. This is a knife fight on your palate, brutal, and yet at the same time amazingly beautiful, like watching two aces dogfight in a deadly ballet.

Longrow is produced by the Springbank distillery (one of my favorites and a continual favorite amongst single malt fans), along with Hazelburn. Three malts emanating from one distillery is a pretty unusual occurence. A Campbelltown malt, Springbank's 3 styles are all unique, Springbank featuring a medium peatiness, Hazelburn an unpeated malt and Longrow a heavily peated malt. Add to this heavily peated malt an 18 month stay in old Gaja barolo barrels (a huge Italian wine, big and tannic with a taste of tar and rose) after 5 1/2 years in old bourbon barrels and you've got one unusual single malt.

Upon opening the bottle, there is a pronounced winey aroma to the nose, reminiscent of an old vinegar barrel. This is a hot and tight liquor at 55.8%, but upon putting one ice cube in the glass, the Longrow began to give up aromas of leather, cedar and pine needles. This is an oily, almost viscous malt, coating your tongue almost instantly. On the palate, wine notes attack the peat with all its got but the peat puts up a great fight. Smoke is everywhere, punching your tastebuds and fighting to stay at the forefront. I found that this malt takes a good 10 to 15 minutes to open up completely, but half the fun is sipping this and seeing what craziness shows up next. I didn't know single malt (or anything for that matter) could do something like this to my tastebuds as flavors dance and attack, feinting and ducking then reappearing. Rich, big, smoky, tannic, before this malt opens its flavors are quite literally at war with each other, but the crazy thing is, it works. I absolutely love this bottle, but unfortunately, there were only 1200 bottles of this ever made. I do hope they attempt to recreate this malt again, but the weather in Scotland can be fickle and I don't know if they could ever recreate what is in this bottle. All I can say is that the distillers at Springbank are evil geniuses. It becomes readily apparent when the malt finally does open up, revealing a big, peaty well balanced malt. A certain sweetness begins to emerge and is tempered by the oak barrels only slightly. If anything, this is a dizzying ride for your palate. It may not be for everyone, but luckily I'm not everyone and I love this bottle.

Highly Recommended

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Longrow Gaja Barolo Barrel Finish Single Malt Scotch

I'm sitting here having just a wee dram of what may very well be the best single malt and possibly the finest liquor that I've ever tasted, Longrow Gaja Barolo Barrel Finish. From what I understand, there are 11 bottles (of 1200 produced) left in the state of Oregon. Really interesting, complex and delicious. Full review to follow soon, but right now I just want to get back to enjoying this nightcap. If you are a single malt afficionado, make sure not to miss this one.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Random Musings and Observations

I know, I know, I've taken a bit of time off of updating this thing. I got caught in the avalanche of the holidays and just didn't have time (nor the inclination) to write for a bit. For those of you who don't know, I also blog over at, an international website for bartenders so you can always check me out there too.

You might notice some changes to the site. More are coming (in fact, I'm really thinking of getting my own domain), but you might have noticed the banner on the left side. I'm now a "Featured Publisher" over there and I'm very happy to be a part of their community. This year, I'd like to expand my blogs scope beyond just cocktails and cover more food and wine related issues as well. After all, I am a failed chef. Its how I moved behind the bar and my first love has always been cooking. While I might not be good enough to run my own kitchen, I do ok at home and I'd love to share more about that on this blog. Since I'm talking about anyway, I thought I'd mention that they sent me some of the coolest business cards that I've seen. They are little half cards from, and they feature cool pics of food items on the back. I'm really delighted to have them and I can't wait to pass them out.

I'm hoping to have a big announcement soon, probably this month. I can't say anything other than the words "whisk(e)y" and "writer". I will say that I'm happy just to be considered.

Speaking of whiskey, I am sure that I'm not the only one chomping at the bit to try the new Lucky Tiger single barrel release. I just have to hold on to Monday but I am very excited to see things like this happening in Portland right now.

On to rye whiskey. My friend, and the bassist for the best country band in the US, Whiskey Dawn,Steve Mendiola, has been raving about Beam's new Ri(1), a superpremium rye whiskey not available in Oregon yet (sigh, being a control state, we're always last). Still, if Steve says this is good, I'm very interested in trying it. I might have to buy a bottle off the net soon.

Our sous chef at 50 Plates, Joel, came in with some really nice dutch genever the other night. I need to find my tasting notes and I'll get a review up. Good stuff.

I got a great deal on some vanilla beans the other day (good Madagascar ones), so I've done a vanilla bean infused Leblon cachaca and a bottle of Jack Daniels as well. I've got to say, the vanilla Leblon and soda is a nice drink. Simple,elegant and tasty. I like Leblon quite a bit and this has been a fun way to explore the spirit in a different way. My wife, well, she is a JD sour girl most of the time, and the vanilla infusion gives her a different way to enjoy her favorite cocktail, or smoothes the JD out enough for her to mix a JD and coke. Not my most creative stuff, but fun nonetheless.

Lastly, two important things that I just want to say about spirits and cocktails-

First, price is not an indicator of quality. It may be that price is more likely to be an indicator with aged spirits, but one of my favorite things to pour here in Oregon costs $14 a bottle retail and is a beautiful spirit. I've also had bottles that run $50+ that are, at best, average. Drink the spirits and cocktails that you like because you like the product, not because its expensive.

Second, please don't be a cocktail snob. Really. Its just a drink. Its not brain surgery or nuclear fission, its just a cocktail. There is no need to take this stuff so seriously. I mean, have fun with it. I love crafting cocktails and I enjoy having enthusiasts at my bar, but please don't sneer if the person next to you orders a lemondrop. Each person has their own tastes and makes their own journey down this path. Not all of us reach the same point and its just as ok to order a lemondrop in my bar than it is to order a negroni. Lets not turn this into wine. Cocktails give me great joy because I get a chance to take care of my guests and meet his or hers individual needs. And ultimately, remember why we're all here. For a nice drink right? Nothing more, nothing else. Be enthusiastic and passionate, but don't close the door for others by being a snob. Otherwise, I'll have to regale you with tales of my misspent youth drinking green MadDog 20/20 and Sunny Delight or tell you stories about all the Hennessy Separators that I have consumed.

Thanks for reading. Look for more posts soon.