Well, we had a half an hour of really amusing video (funny that, a vodka tasting and giddy video) but the tech gods decreed it was too powerful for this world and thus, erased it from our videorecorder (it had NOTHING to do with our own intake of vodka, we swear).
Undaunted, we are prepared to report on the blind taste test between the Polish potato vodka Luksusowa, and the Canadian vodkas Iceberg and the significantly more expensive Crystal Skull, repped by Canadian Celebrity (that’s not a misnomer!) Dan Akroyd.
The clear winner: Luksusowa. And not just because I had to pry it out of my unnamed friend’s hands at the end of the evening.
The rumour has always been that Iceberg vodka, which is inexpensive, is the same exact elixir as Crystal Skull vodka, which is the opposite.
This, my friends, is not the case.
What is the case, according to a taste test at Eat Drink Tweet, a wine and food social media conference?
Iceberg is better than Crystal Skull. So save yourself about $40 a bottle and get the cheap stuff.
The crowd favorite, however (and here I wish the video had come through, for it is PRICELESS) is Luksusowa. After the first round of tasting, in fact, people changed their seats to be closer to this Polish potato elixir, although it must be said, only people of Eastern European extraction.
Luksusowa is softer in the mouthfeel than any grain-based vodka, and the rep (who, full disclosure, sent me the bottle for tasting; I paid for the others) explained that potato vodkas are more expensive to produce than grain vodkas, but that the more complex carbohydrates, otherwise known as starches, are what account for the smoothness and roundness. You could mix this, and it would make any drink better. But for me, if I were to do shots of vodka in the traditional manner, this would be my choice. Yes, it’s strong, but my god, it’s silky too.
Iceberg, as I have mentioned in the past, is my favorite mixer vodka. It’s an excellent meeting of quality and price. In the blind tasting, every tester (and we are talking about people in the business of tasting, wine producers and retailers) guessed that this was the more expensive vodka. The reason was, its smoothness and its flavourlessness.
Crystal Skull vodka, however, is not without its adherents. Retailer Rod Phillips explained that it’s a top seller around Halloween, when the company comes out with an extra-large decanter. Frat boys and their decorators apparently favour the 1.5 liter size, something Phillips described as “an expensive candle holder.” Still, awesome.
The tasting notes on Crystal Skull are somewhat less complimentary. Uniformly, the testers described it as either medicinal or antiseptic. This reflects, Phillips says, the split in vodka schools between the flavoured and the “stripped of flavour” super-filtered varieties.
The victor of the taste test was Luksukowa, with Iceberg pushing second, and the most expensive entry coming in a distant third, with not one vote. Oddly the next day there were no leftovers of the first two for sober comparison and contrasting.
This is his take on Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” and let’s just say the man is true to his Irish roots. Click over the jump for the lyrics, such as I can make them out. They are a little slurred…
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So here I am, watching the Food Network Chopped All Stars and I find myself (not alone) irritated by Chef Penny, the self-described Persian Princess. But I’m not irritated with her because she’s a bitch (that would be hypocritical of me). I’m irritated with her because she’s either stupid or ignorant of the most basic geographic facts; these would be annoying enough, but she is also ostentatiously pretentious about mistakes these failings lead her to make.
No, Penny. You may not “bring Middle Eastern flavours” to the table with your Moroccan spice mix. You were born and raised in California; had you actually lived in the Middle East, you would perhaps be aware that it is about two thousand miles east of Morocco.
Now go tell half the menu writers in the world.
This one thanks to Celebrity Chef and Gourmet Ginger Bobby Flay.
He’s a New Yorker, in case you couldn’t tell.
20th Century review: “Piquant, with lingering notes of…”
21st Century review: “Off the chain.”
As Vancouver Chinatown bars go, the Keefer Bar is absolutely #1, and not just because it’s the only one: manager Danielle Tatarin is Bartender of the Year in Vancouver Magazine. If you know anything about the Vangroover booze scene, you’ll know that takes serious talent and originality.
How much originality? We’ll let Dani explain it:
Our menu is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicinal ingredients that we incorporate into classic style cocktails. Some of the most prominent herbs that we use are Yun Zhi mushroom and astragalus root. This year I have been studying more on TCM and getting a deeper understanding of it. I am working with some really interesting combination of ingredients for tinctures that are meant to help detoxify the kidneys and liver.
Last night I just started a tincture that combines sea dragon, sea horse, cordyceps, lemon and bitter orange. It should be ready in a couple months and I am excited to see how it tastes. For me I have really embraced natural remedies, and as a sufferer of seasonal allergies I hope this year to not have to take antihistamines because I have been working with TCM ingredients to boost my immune system over the last year.
You might think that sounds a little…medicinal. And you’d be right, but you’d be wrong if you think that means it isn’t tasty. When I visited with my friend, intrepid photographer Cathy Browne, there were plenty of flips and creamy drinks on the menu, including several which played on an opium theme.
You can see the poppyseeds on this beauty, which was called something like The Flaming Opium Pearl of the Black Dragon or something similarly subdued, and which tasted, like most of Dani’s drinks, subtle, complex, and not very sweet.
The decor is medical, by which I mean they have backlit panels of body scans and apothecary jars everywhere, in use. Fitting for a place where you can give your liver a workout and a healing tincture at the same time. It’s only about ten feet wide, and on Thursdays there is a burlesque show on their tiny (TINY) stage up front, but it is a beautiful, esoteric little gem. The unique drinks mean you can’t always be sure you’ll love what you order, so do talk to the bartender about what you’re thinking of ordering; it’s not always easy to tell what’s sweet, light, savory, or rich from the menu.
Can’t talk about the food: I don’t come here for the food. But you can see the current keefer_menu here (PDF!). The service has never been anything less than excellent, and I don’t know what you look like but I’ll just tell you right now, they are all out of our league.
Pictured below, and starting off our slideshow of fabulousness from Cathy Browne, is the Lavender Sidecar, an aromatic, very light Spring version of the old favorite. Lemons in this case, not oranges (which I prefer with brandy by the fire around Christmas time).