Toast Tuesday: Celebrate Life

Tags

, , ,

In my ongoing quest to do something new each week, I was presented with an opportunity to do something to help a friend and many others.  I have just contributed to my first Go Fund Me and I hope you will as well.

This from my friends Valerie & Kathryn:

As many of you know, our dear sister, Anne, lost her battle to addiction this past July. In her honor, we would like to establish a scholarship at the Yakima Valley Community College to help fund individuals working towards becoming addiction counselors. (This is the college where Anne received her training.)

We are hoping to raise $5000 which will set up a perpetual scholarship, that will exist as long as the community college does. This is our way of celebrating Anne and her efforts towards fighting addiction and helping others. We hope that by helping others to become counselors, we can save lives and make a difference. Please consider donating to this cause. We have set up a Go Fund Me site which can be found at:

https://www.gofundme.com/anne-barko-memorial-scholarship

If you are not in a position to donate, instead, please talk to your family and love ones about addiction. If you notice anyone struggling, please encourage them to get professional help.

anne-barko

Here’s to helping make someone’s day, and life, just a little bit better.

Toast Tuesday: the cake

Tags

, , , , , ,

I just celebrated another year on the planet with a food feast. I love being the host. It gives me such great satisfaction to prepare a meal that feeds not only the belly, but the soul. It feeds my soul to get in the kitchen, play around, and to pour my heart into something that my friends and family will savor.

I spend hours reading about food and cocktails and recipes. I spend days planning menus. I spend a ridiculous amount of money and energy so that everything is just right. It all brings me such intense pleasure.  I listen to a podcast called the Good Life Project & there was a recent episode where he talked about the act of creating art is when he is most spiritually connected. Getting in the kitchen, and creating something from scratch, is that way for me.

In my endeavor to do something new this week, I baked a cake from scratch.  One girlfriend was stunned when I told her I had never made a cake from scratch.  I’ve opened a box and made modifications, but never flour, water and tadah… you  have a cake.

As I sit here pondering this post, I am recalling a brief foray into the cup-cake, but I really wanted to make a cake-cake.  My coworker was going on and on about this whipcream pound cake she makes at the holidays.  It sounded amazing and simple, so I decided to give it a go.

I creamed my butter and sugar in my fancy kitchenaid, added eggs, sifted flour, and added my personal touch of lemon zest.  I first realized something wasn’t quite right when I poured my beautiful fluffy batter into the bundt pan when I got to the bottom of the mixing bowl and there was batter not mixed up.  That part stayed in the bowl.

Next thing that wasn’t quite right was the burnt top that looked like a volcano in Hawaii blew.  The final nail in the coffin was that 1/4 of my cake stayed in the pan.  My taste testers agreed, good flavor, good texture, but clearly something wasn’t right.

I divided my recipe by three and made a small test batch.  Closer, much closer.  The third and final run, I made a last small variation and came up with a good flavor and beautiful crumb.  In my test, I had used mini bundt pans and stuck with those in the final version.

Since the final cake that was served was a mini cake, I feel like I need to tackle the cake challenge again.  Conversley, the rest of the dinner was pretty freakin’ awesome, if I must say so.  Made the family red gravy (pasta sauce) and fresh baked bread.  First time in sveral years I’ve had a really good playtime in the kitchen.  Breaking a shoulder will do that.

One question that I have for my baker friends is kitchenaid versus handheld mixer.  I got better incorporation of ingredients with the handheld than I did with the kitchen aid.  Is this normal of a kitchenaid?  I was really disappointed in that.

I’m really enjoying being back in the cooking groove!

Toast Tuesday: Toasting Life

Tags

, , , , ,

In the new year, I am going to continue with Toast Tuesday, but with a twist. I am going to be toasting life. I will be trying new spirits, new cocktails, new recipes, new restaurants, meeting new people, and in short, trying all sorts of new stuff.

It’s not like I have really ever had trouble getting out of my shell, but I am going to make myself try things I would not otherwise.  In the past year, I have spent a lot of money on booze in the pursuit of drinking adventurously.  I normally read a lot of food and cocktail recipes.  I buy herbs, spices, and chiles with the intent of making some dish that ultimately never gets made.  Those days are over.

One of the things I bought last year, with no real plans, was creme de cacao.  This is a chocolate liqueur and since I don’t really like sweet drinks, I can’t recall why I bought it.  I am working on a new series of workshops focusing on cocktails and crafts.  The first will be in February and I am focusing on chocolate.

In the name of research, I have been making cocktails with the creme de cacao.  Most of the recipes I have found, have focused on the sweet chocolate aspect of the liqueur, of which I abhor.  I’m more interested in cocktails that make you wonder what’s in there.

The two I have found most interesting so far pair tequila and aged rum with the creme de cacao.  Both are rich and decadent, but with the addition of interesting tinctures and bitters, balance into something really enjoyable.

31252066633_c9dee3ea6e_z

This is Occam’s Razor with cold brewed coffee, chile tincture, and a mint garnish.  I didn’t have a chance to make the chile tincture this weekend, but instead used Elemakule Tiki Bitters.  I think with the flavors in this drink, it could also be made with bourbon or an aged rum.  I’ll be making the chile tincture very shortly.

 

31221110234_513245079d_z

This is the Coctel de Chocolate that calls for a chocolate sauce made with Mexican chocolate.  Mexican chocolate has spices and depth you don’t normally find in good ole hersheys, but one of the things I’m trying to do in my workshop is get folks to make interesting cocktails with regular ingredients they have in their cabinet.  So, I did use good ole hershey syrup and Scrappy’s Orleans Bitters.  Without the bitters, the drink was too sweet, one most of the Memphis girls will love.  The addition of bitters, gives it more balance and depth, making it something I found much more interesting.

Here’s to toasting you a sweet and extraordinary new year!

Toast Tuesday: la fin

Tags

, , ,

This year’s drinking adventure has been an incredible learning experience about so many things, number one of which is spend wisely.  The rest do not fall in any particular order, but will be addressed.

Our guide

Our guide

This is week 52 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously and in the true calendar year.  A new year is upon us shortly.  Many of us will be celebrating the new year with some glass of bubbly wine, most common of which is champagne.  Champagne, which hails from the French region of Champagne, is very highly regulated.  Champagne is not the only region in France that makes a sparkling wine.  In the Alsace region, they make Cremant d’Alsace, which will give some of the finer champagnes a run for their money.

I’m a little disappointed to say, I have not yet completed this week’s assignment.  The holidays and travel got in the way, but in my defense, I have been drinking a lot of prosecco lately.  Prosecco is a sometimes sparkling wine from Italy.  I say sometimes because not all prosecco is sparkling; there is a still variety.  The ones I generally indulge in are bubbly, and cheap!  Part of their low price point is because a good portion of their fermentation occurs in steel tanks.

This leads me to one of the lessons from this year.  You must have balance in life and in flavors.  Prosecco can be sweet or dry, just like champagnes and life.  We have days where all we need is someone to be sweet to us and give us a hug.  Other days I just need you and everyone else to leave me the hell alone.  Headphones in, phone off, and a marathon of Midsommer Murders to get me back in balance.

The next life nugget I’ll share with you is mix a good cocktail.  There is nothing worse than something that tastes like… nothing.  Boring.  You should always keep your cocktails and your life in balance.  Back in 1948 at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy the Bellini was invented using prosecco and fresh peach puree.  A cocktail so lovely we still enjoy it at brunches all the time.  So, if you want to be invited back, you had better mix a good cocktail.

Now, we have all been guilty of this at some point, but don’t spend money just because the label is pretty.  This is a tough one, because it’s so fun to see a pretty label and buy the book, or bottle, just based on the cover.  Conversly, something being really expensive is no indication that the quality is any better than a bottle half the price.

I’m going to leave you with this final thought as we head off into a new adventure.  Life is to be savored.  There is something to be said for moderation.  The leisurely dinner, with lots of courses, is how we should be enjoying our lives.  Taste everything, leave no samples untouched, and keep an open mind.  You may find that the thing you thought you’d like the least, turns into your favorite.

Cheers to you all and to Meg who kep me company on this journey.  Let’s see what toasts our new year brings,  Here’s a brief look back at a few of this year’s drinks.

Toast Tuesday: Tiki

Tags

, , , ,

This is week 51 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. On the home stretch. While it is 16° out, it seems like the perfect time to discuss tiki cocktails.

I have spent a good portion of this year really trying to embrace Tiki. I have not been very successful. What I have been successful in, is amassing an incredible collection of rum.

As I have lamented many times before, Memphis is a wasteland of quality spirits. Every time I travel, I explore new bars and new liquor stores looking for their gems that I cannot find it in my new home town.

Back in January, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading about the tiki culture, tiki cocktails, and the assorted and varied rums that are used to make up the elaborate cocktails. Never having tried many of these drinks in a bar, and not having access to the assorted rums that make up these drinks, I had to make some substitutions. I was not entirely thrilled with how some of my drinks turned out, but some were pretty tasty.


In August when I went to Chicago on my whirlwind booze trip for malort, I also went to a tiki bar. I ordered a mai tai, my first ever professionally prepared, and made the determination that I really did not care for this drink. I find it too sweet, and unbalanced. In my cocktail exploration I have come to find that I absolutely prefer classic cocktails that are nuanced and subtle. The mai tai was neither of these. I also ordered some other cocktail, one of their house specialties that was not terrible, but still not what my palate was looking for. I will absolutely grant you that tiki cocktails are truly some of the prettiest works of art in their assembly and delivery methods.


Jump ahead a few more months, to Thanksgiving and my recent trip to New Orleans. I intentionally sought out and made a point of going to Beachbum Berry’ Latitude 29. For those of you who don’t know Beachbum Berry is a legend in the tiki world. He has spent an incredible amount of his life researching and re-creating many of the original classic tiki cocktails that were lost by history. It was here at Latitude 29 that I develop a greater appreciation for what tiki can be.



I will continue my tiki exploration in the new year without the mai tai, but with lots of pretty flowers and very yummy rums. Let’s see how Meg did this week.

Cheers y’all!

Toast Tuesday: Glogg

Tags

, , , , ,

This is week 50 in my Year of Drinking Adventurously and my liver has almost had enough.  Almost.

Our guide

Our guide

Way back 48 weeks ago, I learned a very important lesson.  Read ahead and know what’s coming up next.  I soon added the week’s drinks to my calendar and added several reminders.  Before that happened, back in week 2, I accidently skipped ahead to week 50.  oops…

This week is glogg or gluhwein, which is akin to mulled, or spiced, wine, but with a kick.  Our author focuses a bit more on gluhwein, which hail from Germany since they are the inventor of the modern concept of Christmas.  Since I don’t really celebrate Christmas, that was of no interest to me in chosing what I drank.  I chose based on flavors I like.

For my birthday, way back in January, I had folks over and made glogg (sounds like glug).  Glogg is a Scandanavian fortified wine punch that typically has flavors of cardamon, clove, cinnamon, and very often will have raisins and almonds.  What’s better on a blustery cold night than a warm punch to take the chill off your bones?  A punch with some punch.

I turned to The Punch Bowl by Dan Searing.  This book has some beautiful photographs of antique punch bowls and tells the history behind the recipes.  He also helps you make a good punch that is balanced and good.  The recipe I made, and failed to take pictures of, called for raisins and almonds to go into the bottom of your punch cup.  You then pour your warm spiced wine over it.    It was quite tasty.

While some of these weeks were tougher than others, this wasn’t bad.  Let’s see how Meg did on her week’s drinking.   I’ve spent quite a few nights volunteering in the cold at Shelby Farms Starry Nights holiday light display.  Glogg is exactly what I’ve needed!

Toast Tuesday: Aquavit (a little late)

Tags

This is the first week I’ve seriously considered going dark for a Tuesday, purely out of sheer laziness.  I started writing this last night, and wasn’t feeling so hot, so I set it aside. Then I spent a good portion of the night recreating scenes from the Exorcist, so I kinda forgot to finish this up.  So without further ado…

This is week 49 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously and officially, I’ve had aquavit. Just not this week. This summer I did a whirlwind distillery tour around Chicago to meet another weekly challenge of Malort. While tasting anything and everything at CH Distillery, I had their Aquavit. 


Aquavit is traditionally a Scandanavian spirit flavored with caraway and other spices. Not something I would typically go out of my way to drink and I don’t stock on my home bar. As a result of my less than enthusiastic response to Aquavit, I’m just proving to you I’ve had it AND within the year. Totally counts. 

I’ve also had Aquavit from House Spirits in Portland. Just one more time for you to know for sure, that I’ve tried it. 

Toast Tuesday: Ginger Beer

Tags

, , , ,

I’m going slightly off book this week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously.  I did not even crack the book, but will be revisiting this topic in the next few weeks.

I just got back from an awesome eat-a-thon trip to New Orleans. One of the members of our party, had never been with us on of our eating trips.  The uninitiated are always horrified and delighted with the amount we consume and the places we go.  Truly a gastronomic delight.

30470862323_4ce8d872c0_z

 

On our way down to Nola, we stopped for a tasting at Lazy Magnolia Brewing in Kiln, Mississippi.  There are only two reasons why you would have ever heard of Kiln.
1.  Home of Brett Favre.
2.  Lazy Magnolia Brewing.
There is nothing else in this town.  When we missed one tour and the girl told us we had to wait an hour, I asked what else was in town for us to do.  She told us to go to the animal shelter and adopt a pet.

So, we hung out and played corn hole until we got to do the tour and tasting.  Mississippi has some messed up, ridiculous laws that say unless you see the production facility, you cannot do a tasting.  WTF?!  Once we finally got to do our tasting, we were not disappointed.  We got 6 generous tastings of beer and a tiny tasty of mead.  We shared and swapped samples, so we really got to try anything and everything we wanted.

Last week was sweet potato beer, and I was certain I had found one, but have no idea where it ended up.  Sure enough, as soon as I saw the label for Jefferson Stout, I knew I had gotten it.  Now to dig in the fridge to find it.  (how embarrassing)  It was a lovely stout, but I don’t think the sweet potato adds anything noticeable.  Mississippi grows a lot of them, so I can only guess the goal of using sweet potatoes was to use local products. 

Moving on down the road, to New Orleans.  We usually have lunch at Cochon Butcher just before we leave town so we can stock up on awesome charcuterie.  It was here I  attempted to make up another missed week of drinking and had Nola Tart of Steel.  According to the beer board, it is a Berliner Weisse, but now reading Nola Brewing’s website, I’m not convinced.  I’m still calling that week unfinished.

Now, onto ginger beer.  As I have started doing when I am in a different city, and certainly state that has liquor laws like Louisiana, I had to hit a few stores to check out the offerings.  I grabbed a couple different ginger beverages just for this week’s adventure.  I only cracked one open in time for the write-up.  I tried Hitachino Nest.

30500415133_f2f0de9a6e_z

The back of the label says they use real ginger root in the brewing process for some spice and balance with the sweet malt.  None of the ginger came through for me.  While this beer is good, it’s not one I will get again.  Slight hint of hops, with lots of malt and maybe some molasses.

Let’s see how Meg did with this week’s challenge.  We are on the home stretch in our adventure.  I’ll have to figure out what to do with the new year.  I’ve enjoyed having this weekly challenge to keep me on task.  There have certainly been weeks I did not want to write, and weeks my writing showed that, but overall, this has been great fun.

Have a Toasty Tuesday and a wonderful week y’all!

Toast Tuesday: Giving Thanks for Good Booze

Tags

, , , , ,

This is the week in the United States where we celebrate eating ourselves silly and marathon shopping.  This was not the original intent of the holiday of Thanksgiving.  As the name suggests, we should be giving thanks for all the bounty of goodness we have in our lives.

I have mentioned before what a rough transition I have had in Memphis.  So many things have factored into this, but when I stop and take a look, I really have so many blessings, almost too many to count.  I am thankful every day I have a job to go to, a roof over my head and warm, snuggly pets to welcome me home every afternoon.  I’ve made some incredible friends.  It is some of my new amazing friends I am going to tell you about today and not the sweet potato beer I was supposed to find.  I wonder how Meg did with this week’s assignment?

Ever since I moved, I’ve been lamenting the loss of my monthly dinners.  Well, I finally pulled the trigger and started a Meetup group of my own.  I need to get back to my monthly cooking and cocktails with other good folks who enjoy the same.  Our club has been up and running for a few months now and so far everyone who has joined has truly been interesting and offered something special to the event they attended.

This past Sunday, my new friends and I went for a short road trip to Jackson, Tennessee with the express intent of visiting a local distillery.  Since we drove an hour, we also had to hit the little winery down the road.  This was an amazing day and one I think everyone enjoyed.

31131599456_3e20b446de_c

We started with lunch at Casey Jones Village and the Old Country Store to give our moonshine a soft place to land.  We spent a delicious hour or so with Sam of Samuel T Bryant Distillery.  Sam let us sample all sorts of good stuff including his two version of scotch, a grappa, an aged Tennessee moonshine (can’t be called a whiskey since it doesn’t follow all the “official” steps of a whiskey), an agave spirit (kinda like tequilla), some flavored moonshines and a coffee-shine.

31131594536_eb2d21452d_z

The grappa was delightfully smooth compared to some of the grappa I’ve had in the past.  The two scotches were quite smooth with different levels of peat.  The original moonshine was very sippable, with hints of rye coming through for a wonderful sweet finish.

From there, we went to the Century Farms Winery for an assortment of reds, whites, fruit wines, and a couple of ports.  I came home with a semi-sweet white that will be perfect whenever summer rolls around again, their cranberry wine, and a port.

31131597836_3db245b10d_z

So much good stuff, it’s a wonder I have a liver left.  Everything in moderation, even the good times.  Here’s to hoping you and yours have a wonderful day of giving thanks, wherever the day may find you.

Toast Tuesday: The Pickleback

Tags

, , , ,

In week 46 of our Year of Drinking Adventurously, we are experiencing the pickleback.  Let’s start by breaking this down… what is a “back”.  According to Food Republic, a back is “a shot served to brace up another potable.”  Our Author tells us to think about the pickleback and it’s pairing as a cocktail deconstructed.

30957892036_cb6da0d281_z

As a kid, I loved drinking picklejuice from the jar.  I even have a certain way I like to eat pickles so I get the most juice separate from the pickle.  I’ve told y’all about the snack cart we have been rolling at work to raise money.  What I may not have mentioned is our best selling item… pickles… and peppermints… Together. (shudder)

I’ve been told by my coworkers who enjoy this tasty treat, that this is the poor black equivelant of salted caramel.  Sweet and Salty.  I this may be the most vile combination I could imagine.  We have been selling like mad, so who am I to judge.  Tonight, my judging is over.  I’m stunned to say, it was wierdly not terrible.

Take a sour pickle and take a bite.  Your face puckers like you just sucked a lemon.  Now take a bite of the sour pickle with your peppermint.  Let it sit on your tongue for just a moment, then chew and wait, chew and wait… Oddly, the flavors balance and complement.  One friend I had try this said it had an odd finish like cough syrup.  Another friend agreed with me, the flavors somehow end up tasting like a sweet pickle with an odd kick, something you just can’t put your finger on.  Well, I can now cross this off my to-do list.

To take this week’s challenge one step further, I did have a pickleback.  One of my favorite spirits is New Deal’s Hot Monkey, a hot pepper infused vodka.  Great flavor and some serious heat.  The obvious choice is a bloody mary and as I mentioned last week, one of the best secret ingredients in a bloody is pickle juice.  So, I had a sipper of Hot Monkey with a little dill pickle back.  Yum!

30992334135_09e3aaa8d2_z

If you are so inclined to experiment and try the peppermint pickle or if have some childhood story about pickles, I’d love to hear it.  For now, see what Meg did this week.  I’m fairly certain she took a pass.

24252467773_420415ec62_z

In case you were wondering, last year we sold over 30 GALLONS of pickles.  This year is pacing to beat that.  Happy Tuesday!