Our cocktail repertoire has been stabilizing lately, after a flurry of trying dubious new recipes and wishing we’d stuck with tried and true drinks. Mostly we’ve been drinking Negronis, Brooklyns or Manhattans, with the occasional Spring Feeling or a straight Martin Miller martini – and we’ve liked it that way. But when we were at Oliver’s Twist the other day, they had a book on the counter that sent us completely out of our comfort zone.
It’s called Left Coast Libations, and it consists of short profiles of bartenders from California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, along with two original cocktails from each of them. Several of these folks are people we’ve met and who have made us amazing drinks (I was especially pleased to see Casey Robison in here – he and his staff at Barrio have done wonders for our cocktail education – and one of the bartenders at Oliver’s was in there, too). While we sat at the bar, we flipped through the book and immediately began finding recipes we desperately wanted to try. We copied a few down, tried them at home, then bought the book the very next chance we got. It’s just that good.
Not all of the drinks are going to be winners, of course. We tried one with gin and sherry vinegar that, frankly, went straight down the drain. I’m finding that peach bitters taste really disgusting to me and should probably be avoided. And I’m just not going to drink anything that has blueberries and lavender in it. But there are some really, really good possibilities in here.
This cocktail, the Toto, was the first one we tried. It’s the creation of Kelley Swenson, currently running the bar at June, but who until recently was working at the now defunct ten01 in Portland. It makes me really sorry that the only drink I ever had there was a pear concoction with so much cinnamon on top I couldn’t taste the cocktail. I certainly should have given them another try, because the Toto is absolutely wonderful. We’re looking forward to working our way through the rest of this book.
- 3/4 oz El Jimador or Cazadores reposado tequila (actually we used 1800 and it was just fine)
- 3/4 oz green Chartreuse
- 3/4 oz Cynar
- lemon twist
Combine the tequila, Chartreuse and Cynar with ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist. Serve up.
The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto is one of the most satisfyingly curmudgeonly pieces of writing I’ve stumbled across in some time. Published by Bernard DeVoto in 1948 and reissued with a fabulous introduction by Dan Handler (known to most of us as Lemony Snicket), it contrives to sing the praises of alcohol while completely disparaging most of the people who drink it.
The basis of DeVoto’s argument is that there are only two acceptable cocktails: a slug of whiskey and a martini. The martini must be composed of gin and dry vermouth, must be ice cold, and may contain a sliver of lemon rind but absolutely nothing else. Like Manhattans? Be informed that “whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and the Manhattan is an offense against piety.” Like a Gibson now and then, or an olive in your martini? “…nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine. Something can be done with people who put pickled onions in: strangulation seems best.” You don’t even want to know what he says about people who drink rum, let alone those who put fruit juice in it. The book is full of shamelessly vindictive commentary that you will feel the need to read out loud to the nearest person, whether they want you to or not.
Necessary reading for anyone who enjoys a quiet drink at the end of the day.
Gin Martini (DeVoto’s approved method)
Approximately 3.7 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. Pour the spirits over a great deal of ice in a cold pitcher, stir well to chill thoroughly and strain the drinks into chilled cocktail glasses. A few drops of lemon oil may be squeezed out onto the surface of the cocktail. Serve immediately. Do not attempt to mix a pitcher of martinis in advance and keep it in the fridge – ” you can no more keep a martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there.”
Like the regular, cheese-filled khachapuri that I usually make, this bean-filled variation is from the book Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (I’ve only recently discovered Naomi’s evocative personal blog – check it out, it’s wonderful).
I’ve raved about this cookbook repeatedly on this blog (do you have a copy yet? If not, why not?) The only thing I wish is that the first edition had been bound more effectively, because my copy is completely shot. You can tell it’s been well-loved. It’s the only place I’ve found recipes for Georgian food, which is a wonderful savory cuisine full of walnuts, cheese, pomegranates and herbs.
I love cheese-filled khachapuri so much that it was hard to make myself try something new, but I’m glad I made the effort. What I really like about the bean filling is that it really highlights the flavor of the bread, which is very tender and tart. Full of protein from both beans and yogurt, it makes a great vegetarian meal. I made a quick pureed spinach soup to dip the breads in, but a sharp green salad would also be good alongside.
After months of quietly obsessive research and preparation, we are finally going to get back to Paris! On our previous visit (for our 10th anniversary) we were only in Paris itself for a few days at the end of our trip. This time (for our 15th anniversary, wow!), we’ve rented an apartment with a kitchen (a small one, but a kitchen nonetheless) and are ready to storm the markets and food shops.
Being a bookish sort of person, I’ve done way too much reading to prepare for this trip. We’ve got our copy of Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, and I’ve read David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, as well as The Book of Salt and The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, just to get myself in the mood. I have maps up the wazoo, and a list of all the Paris open-air markets with their hours, plus a list of restaurants so long we couldn’t possibly eat at them all. It boggles the mind.
Have you been to Paris? And if so, what was your best-ever food experience there? (Or even a non-food experience?)
Being sick last month really helped me get through some of my To Be Read backlog. I finally got around to Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoir of learning to cook Sichuan food (Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper), which was impressive but sort of made me not want to ever go to China. Her description of how to cook a sea cucumber until it tastes of nothing at all was utterly fantastic; I had to read it out loud to every family member within reach. I’m not sure this would be a good book for a vegetarian to read, however – at least not if they’re the squeamish variety.
Then I stumbled across this innocuous little book at work called The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. Continue reading