Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stolen Pears and the Death of a Teapot

So yesterday in my cleaning fervor, the Japanese teapot my dad gave me for my birthday 5 or 6 years ago crashed to the floor from the highest shelf in my room. The wooden box that held it disassembled its sides as if waiting to be put together for the first time. Upon lifting the top from the wreckage I found shards of what used to be a beautiful teacup, the pot's handle was a good 5 inches from where it should be, and the lid was chipped - and one cup, somehow, was completely unharmed as if to tell me not all hope is lost. The pot is fixable - just need heat resistant ceramic glue, but its still sad to see one of my birthday presents that I really loved meet such a fate.... alas.


Last night my roommate Chris and I walked up the street to get Chinese food at 1 in the morning and on the way attempted to raid this plum tree I had spotted a while ago and had been waiting to ripen... unfortunately all the plums were gone or dried up. I was pretty pissed off. I'd been thinking about those plums for months: ever since I had spotted the tree, and even more so recently. I thought they would be a nice addition to the cheese plate I had conceived to precede the fantastic meal I plan to make for my date... (if it ever happens).... and had I somehow missed the ripening window by a matter of a week or two.

As we continued on, we discovered a pear tree beaming with fruit. I acquired a bag from the Chinese food "restaurant" and on our way back we climbed up the wall and filled it up... Sure it was in someone's yard but you know what? I don't care. I've discovered that my town is riddled with fruit trees of all sorts and the ones in peoples' yards almost all go to waste. And so I have decided I'm not going to stand for that. The answer is apparently thievery - though I like to think of it as more of a Robin Hood sort of "Take from the negligent and give to the unwasteful". Admittedly my wealth dispersion system is a bit different and possibly broken.

Anyway - through a combination of diligent research and then giving up after finding an answer that seemed acceptable I have determined that these are Brough Bergamot pears.

They're pretty hard, so I thought they might be unripe, but they are delicious and so now all I can think of is what I want to do with them. My first thought was roast chicken and pears ala Christopher Walken. (see video)

Later (today) I thought to do another infusion and did a quick poling on Facebook to see what booze people thought I should use. While most have suggested vodka, I'm going to go with a white rum - I'm hoping the sweetnesses will play off of each other. This will get it's own post later.

And then I'm planning slicing some of these and serving them on my cheese plate... (which I will hopefully get to serve)

But acquiring the pears was certainly half the fun... perhaps there is more to come...

-B Out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Methodless Mixology: Infusions (Part 1)

I've taken to infusing booze; it's a lot of fun trying to see what flavors will work well together and how much of that they will impart unto the alcohol.

A result of my experiments is that I've been able to start the makings of a nice liquor cabinet shelf; which, if you've ever been to my house, you'll know is a very difficult thing to keep - thus the booze is in my room, where it is safe.

- My first infusion was Lemon/Basil vodka which I did a year ago. I went to Isreal on Birthright (best trip ever) and on the way back on the airplane I got a bottle of Absolut (my vodka of choice) for 13 bucks! Into this bottle went the best lemon I could find at the time, a tall stalk of very fresh basil, and one teaspoon of sugar, then the bottle itself was tucked away in my closet. Two weeks later and I had a masterpiece. It came out exactly as I had hoped, the vodka had taken on a fresh, citrusy, lemony base with a more subtle but very present taste and aroma of basil. The sugar was just enough to offset any sour or bitter elements, so all that was left was smoothness.

All I can say is that this was amazing, and I can't wait to do it again.

- My second attempt at infusing was just about month ago. There was tequila on sale at Shaws and I couldn't resist. I snagged a bottle of Sauza Blanco and ran home. For this infusion I went with Orange/Hibiscus. I bought dried hibiscus flowers at the Harvest market and by this point all I had used them for was when making yerba mate. [One time I made it and it came out citrusy and bright instead of its usual earthy tea flavor, I've tried that again and again and I have yet to figure out what I did differently that time because I can't seem to recreate it.] I also bought a Valencia orange (my favorite). I sliced the rind off the orange using a ceramic peeler, trying to get as little pith as possible, and put it [the rind] in a quart swingtop mason jar along with 2 dried hibiscus flowers. I poured in the tequila, sealed it up and then it was time to wait. After swirling the jar twice a day for a week I strained the tequila into a nice bottle.

Another success. The flavors weren't as distinct as the Lemon/Basil but G-d Damn this stuff is delicious. It's almost juicy. I've gotta think of some good cockail ideas for this.

- Third infusion: Back to vodka. This time? Chili/Lime. I snagged a bottle of 365 Organic Vodka at Blanchards. It came with a deal for $10 mail in rebate so I figured why not? (still waiting on that rebate though...) For this I struggled to find a good lime. I've decided it's just not an easy thing to find in Boston; not too many lime groves in this state. Also I've decided that Israel ruined me forever for limes. While I was there and we were walking around Haifa (where I am set on living some day if only for a while) I spotted a lime tree poking through a fence on top of a wall. I climbed the wall and snagged myself a lime. I swear this was the most amazing specimen of fruit I've ever encountered. Just picking it released a cloud of intoxicating smell. A dark, rich emerald rind encased the plump ripe citrus. The rind was thicker than normal, closer to that of a lemon. What I would have given to have had a lime half as good as that one. But, I worked with what I could get. Once again sliced off the rind, toasted two chilis and threw them in my mason jar with the vodka. Around a week later I poured it back in the 365 bottle (which conveniently is a swing top so I can use it over and over).

I have to admit I was a bit afraid to try this one. I wasn't sure what to expect. I took a shot. Spicy and rough! The vodka itself could have been run trough a britta once or twice. But the spicy and lime flavors were good. I made a vodka tonic and it was awesome. It's just slightly more limey that normal and you get just a hint of spice on the back of your throat as you drink.

So what's next?

I'd certainly like to do the Lemon/Basil again. And I may have to do something with the local ginger at the Copley Farmer's Market if they still have it. Maybe something with cocoa nibs... perhaps cardamom. It's all dependent on what booze I can get for cheap or what flavors I want to try.

Until then.

-B Out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Methodless Mixology: Sangria

So on August 20th we had a HappyHour event at Kitchen Arts. Showing off two of our new products: the Barmaid and the SodaStream. The barmaid is a tool that lets you rim glasses with sugar or salt for cocktails - it comes with plain kosher salt but they have various flavors you can choose from - Cocoaberry Sugar, Spicy Chili Salt and Sweet Mint Sugar are just a few of them. The SodaStream is much like a soda siphon but instead of having to use one small CO2 charger for each litre of soda it comes with one HUGE CO2 charger and two one-litre bottles that you fill with fresh water then screw into the machine. Press the button 3 or 4 times and you've got a bottle of club soda. There are also bottles of flavored syrups you can add to turn it into regular soda. Unfortunately it's all flavored with Splenda. How that was chosen as the better alternative to HF-Corn Syrup I'll never know. I guess it's good for the market who likes diet flavored drinks. At least I can drink it - unlike anything with Aspartame, my one food allergy: with a small amount my mouth feels weird, more and I get dizzy and a headache and too much and I get a nice big migraine

It was a great time. The people from the Lime Tree Cove who make the Barmaid were a lot of fun and a bunch of our friends came.


We had Margaritas, Mojitos and Sangria. I was in charge of making the sangria, which I'm proud to say was a pretty big hit.

This is my recipe, which makes about a gallon; hope anyone who finds it enjoys it while there's still summer.

You'll need:

1 Gallon sized container to put everything in. (I just used a big food grade plastic bucket then transferred some to a pitcher when serving)
4 or so very ripe oranges
3 lemons
3 limes
1 pint of orange juice
1/3 of a cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar.
1/2 pint of brandy
4-6 ounces of triplesec
1 litre tonic water
3 bottles of decent full bodied dry red wine.

Rioja is best but if you can't find any in your price range I would go with a Syrah or a Shiraz... I cannot stress enough that I feel very strongly you should not use Merlot. It isn't a snobbery thing, and has nothing to do with Paul Giammatti: I only bring it up because so many people use it or suggest it but I think this is just simply the wrong wine. Every time I've had sangria made with merlot it's been kind of sour and boring. Truly - feel free to use whatever you like, but I hope you'll just trust me on this one.

-Wash and slice the fruit in roughly 1/4 inch slices.
-Put all the slices in your container and cover with the sugar.
-Pour in the brandy and triplesec, stir it all together then cover and let sit for 1-2 hours.
-Stir in the orange juice, then add the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
-Stir in the tonic water just before serving.
-Serve over ice and drink with or without moderation, whichever is your personal policy, and depending on who's driving.

- B. Out

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Methodless Mixology

I suck at recipes. I can follow them if they are right there, but I never really remember specific amounts or measurements. I'm much more: fly by the seat of my pants, add what seems like it will work, in whatever amount looks right. And you know what? I'm good at it. No, scratch that. I'm fucking awesome at it. When it comes to cooking - if there's one thing I can honestly say I am excellent at, it is flavors. I am the fucking Meister of Flavors. But that is beside the point.

Part of why I suck at recipes is because most of the time I'm just not in the mood to follow one. I usually just want to make something that matches the craving on the tip of my tongue. So I just kinda throw things together until it seems right. This goes especially for drinks. I just eyeball everything or taste as I go if I'm really unsure. Thus Methodless Mixology. Recently I've been making more cocktails, and making them based on a combination of what I want it to taste like and how I want them to affect me.

In my head I've been giving these drinks stupid descriptions like what you see on Vitamin Water and similar products. For example: a drink that I mix with Yerba Mate will be Stimulate, or if it's mostly tonic water it's Refresh. Kinda lame, but it gets me thinking about how to describe things, which is something I really need to work on.

My idea for this segment on the blog is just to talk about anything related to mixed-drinks and catalogue whatever random drinks I come up with.

Stay tuned for my next post where I'll talk about my trials with infusions.

B out.