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Spirits | Manolo's Food Blog - Part 4
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Grilled! Cheese! Washed! Rum!

Shawn Soole by Vancouver Foodster

Shawn Soole by Vancouver Foodster

UPDATE: Golly, just look how influential we are: it got in the New York Times today!

Well, what do you know? The humble ManoloFood blog has permeated the highest reaches of the Cocktailosphere and influenced Liquid Revolutionary Shawn Soole of Clives Classic Lounge, one of the best bartenders on the fair shores of the Pacific. Yes, undoubtably in response to our epic post about the world’s poshest grilled cheese sarnies, he’s been moved to create the masterpiece of cocktail curiosity known as Grilled Cheese Washed Rum.

And we have a world exclusive on the recipe:

You start with an amber, not too aggressive rum (specifically the lovely Mount Gay) and make yourself a super cheesy, super buttery grilled cheese sandwich with whatever bread you want. Make two, because you’ll want to eat one, silly! Crumble the spare up, soak it in the rum for 4-6 hours, covered airtightly which to me means pyrex pie tins with plastic wrap secured by rubber band. Don’t use plastic; it’ll absorb all the aromas! And metal is risky; stick with glass or pyrex.

Strain the crumbly bits out of your booze and toss them. Freeze the rum so that the fat solidifies and then break it off. If you freeze it too long, just let it sit on the counter a bit till it’s softened and you can pull the fat off in a sheet. This is almost as much fun as picking a scab, and with no pain! And it’s hardly gross at all!!!

So far, so awesome.

Now put it through a coffee filter a couple of times to get the last of the cloud-making bits, and what you’ve got left is your deliciously salty, deliciously savory, artisanal grilled cheese washed rum. Sounds crazy, tastes savory. It’s unusual but it’s also very, very good.

Cheers! For more sandwich-based beverage recipes, see this roundup of sandwich-in-a-glass cocktails made for National Sandwich Day, November 3rd.

Affogato: Suprisingly Easy, Yet Elegantly Snooty

Affogato, easy and snooty to boot!

When I was asked to do a guest post by the Manolo I was stunned by the compliment. The Great Manolo Blahnik asking me to write a piece for him. Awesome! Sadly, my joy did not last when I learned that it was Manolo the Shoeblogger.
Affogato: try this, hoi polloi!
So, back to reality. Mostly I write about alcohol related items. This is a food blog, though. So, we need to combine the two.

I remembered years ago being taken to an Italian restaurant in the Marina District of San Francisco. We apparently went there because our companions did not cook. I found out how much they could not cook when they ordered plain spaghetti. When I say plain, I do not mean with a simple marinara or a nice putanesca, but boiled pasta. Just boiled. For God’s sake, learn to boil at least!

The dinner was good, though, and the dessert menu had an item I had never eaten, affogato. Affogato is Italian for “drowned”. It is a simple dessert where you pour a shot of hot espresso over a scoop of good gelato or vanilla ice cream. We loved it and were also suitably impressed by their ability to charge so much for a scoop of vanilla with coffee on top.

So, make this dessert to impress your friends. First, always refer to it as affogato, never “coffee and ice cream”. You can even buy good espresso at a coffee shop and reheat immediately before serving. Make sure that you use gelato or a very good, dense vanilla ice cream such as Ben & Jerry’s or Godiva, or, if you are lucky, the Holy Grail of ice cream – Dr. Bob’s.

And now to pimp the alcohol. To make this dessert truly impressive, find a bottle of Firelit Spirits Coffee Liqueur. This is simply the best coffee liqueur ever. It truly tastes of coffee and is not overly sweet as Kahlua or Tia Maria or others. Our review on this wonder beverage is here. Find a bottle of this, heat it, pour it over Dr. Bob’s or gelato and it will be almost impossible to top you in the dessert department. (For those poor souls who cannot find this spirit, try mixing Amaretto and espresso. It is good, just not divine.)

There you have it, an easy dessert that takes little time but will impress your Christmas or New Year’s guests just the same.

N.B. Guest blogger Erik Nabler blogs regularly about drinks and drinking at the Liquor Locusts.

Whiskey cocktails

angostura.jpgPlacing at risk the delicate health of his liver, all week long Mr. Henry devoted his attention selflessly to the study of rye whiskey, with especially spirited focus on the celebrated American whiskey cocktails – the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, and the Sazerac.

Results are in. Adding bitters, vermouth, or anything else to good rye whiskey is needless embellishment. It’s gilding the lily. It’s screwing the pooch.

It’s a case of rye gone awry.

The Manhattan cocktail may be the best of the bunch, but finding Angostura bitters on upper Broadway is not easy. Four liquor stores and three grocery stores were sold out. Could the Manhattan cocktail be dying out in Manhattan?

Curiously, sweet red vermouth, shot of bitters, and rye whiskey which constitute the Manhattan are somewhat less than satisfying until pulled together by the unmistakable synthetic flavor of a maraschino cherry. The Manhattan is a tonic that tastes like a stomach-ache remedy mixed by an old time apothecary, appropriate if you’re using firewater rye whiskey from your own still but inappropriate for the mellow rye whiskeys available today.

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The Old-Fashioned is just rye, bitters, sugar, and splash of soda water. Once again, why confuddle a balanced whiskey with bitters? (And by the way, in case your stores don’t stock it, Angostura bitters smells just like Fernet Branca, the classic Italian amaro.)

The Sazerac is the most curious one of all because it requires a teaspoon of Pernod (or any other licorice liqueur) and a splash of Peychaud’s bitters, slightly milder than Angostura but very much the same kind of preparation. Once again the image of a long-whiskered apothecary springs to mind, this one in a Mardi Gras hat.

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Following the recommendation of the reliable Eric Asimov, New York Times spirits correspondent (a fine career, don’t you agree?), for mixing purposes Mr. Henry bought a bottle of Michter’s, which was quite good but fell short of the richness found in more expensive straight ryes like Hudson Valley Manhattan rye.

At the suggestion of Mr. Hess, a correspondent from California, Mr. Henry searched for Old Potrero, a rye distilled by the Anchor Steam Brewing Company, one of America’s great breweries. Alas, Old Potrero is not to be found anywhere on the Upper West Side. Neither is Templeton rye from Iowa. In fact, good rye whiskey is scarce on local shelves. Yet again the Founding Fathers would be scandalized by the habits and customs of modern Americans.

Shot of rye

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Like a hero of the old west or an executive on Madison Avenue, these days Mr. Henry reaches for a shot of rye. He drinks rye on the rocks before dinner, rye on the rocks with a little water for Chinese food, and rye in a snifter after dinner. Having explored its qualities in the glass, he is moving on to explore its qualities as a flavor additive.

This morning he flavored french toast with rye. That is, he put a tablespoon of Hudson Valley Manhattan rye whiskey in the egg and milk batter. The flavor was subtly aromatic and perfectly delightful, better than his usual zest of lemon, far better than a splash of vanilla.

Caramel in color and flavor, a carefully distilled rye whiskey resonates with elegant overtones of vanilla and berries. A liberal pour over vanilla ice cream is terrific. The recipe for tiramisu calls for a shot of spirits. There, too, rye is an excellent choice.george_washington_1772.jpg

Anywhere you might use vanilla or molasses, think instead of rye. Brush it over the top of your pie crust before baking. (This was Mr. Henry’s French step-grandmother’s secret to flaky crust.) Add a splash to cornbread or Boston baked beans.

Rye is the quintessential American whiskey. George Washington not only drank it, he distilled it, too.

Irish stew

Finding an Apple-friendly wifi connection in Ireland is harder than parsing the difference between Guinness and Murphy’s, the two rival national stout porter ales.murphys-irish-stout.jpg

Although Mr. Henry slightly preferred Murphy’s, a blind taste test between them might fool even the most seasoned pub crawler. (After the first two pints no one cares, anyway.)

Following a day riding around the Blaskett Islands on ten-foot North Atlantic swells, for dinner you need a hearty dish that won’t upset your queasy stomach.

Traditional Irish stew is lamb with potatoes, often prepared with carrots, leeks, onion, parsnips and rutabaga. Unlike other savory stews the meat is not first browned and therefore the broth is not dark.

Having eaten it daily in Ireland, Mr. Henry had a good idea of what it should be. You can use shoulder but Mr. Henry bought lamb neck, the tastiest and least expensive of cuts, but one that takes a bit more trouble.

Traditional Irish stew

three lamb necks in one-inch pieces
chicken stock
six potatoes, Yukon gold
two large carrots
two large parsnips
two leeks
one medium white onion
two cloves garlic, whole
bouquet of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
chopped parsley
zest of lemon
ground nutmeg
splash of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

Have your butcher cut the neck into one inch pieces. Bring lamb to a boil in chicken stock with garlic cloves and simmer until tender. Let cool so you can skim the fat. Remove the meat and the marrow, and cut into bite sizes. Discard bones and garlic.

To broth add diced onion and leeks you’ve first wilted in a sauce pan. Dice one potato and add this right away so it’s starch will thicken your broth. Then add potatoes cut in larger shapes as well as the other root vegetables.

Seasoning is mild. Like the song says, use “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” tied in a bouquet. For a richer aroma add ground pepper, a little grated nutmeg, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

You can cook on stove top (low) or in the oven (350º). When your vegetables are nearly done, about one hour, combine the meat and salt. As with any stew, prepare it ahead of time and let it rest so flavors may combine.

Never afraid to fiddle with her husband’s kitchen creations, Mrs. Henry tasted the broth and pronounced it redolent of osso buco, perhaps, therefore, in need of a gremolata at the table, which in this case turned out to be a simple mix of finely chopped lemon peel and parsley. Brilliant.

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Next came the question of what to drink. In an Irish pub the black brew on tap is without question the drink of choice. Light in body, dark in color, richly malted, toasted to a crisp, nutty finish, Irish stout porter is divine.

Contrary to general expectations, red wine was too strong for such a mild dish. Wine drinkers at the Henry table chose a sauvignon blanc.

Striving for a more traditional pairing, Mr. Henry enjoyed his stew with the superb new Manhattan Rye whiskey from Hudson Valley, the first distillery built in New York since prohibition. Sláinte.

Pernod

Mr. Henry has been playing with his Pernod.

It’s been hot. The AC is still on the fritz. These days Mr. Henry finds he needs a pick-me-up before dinner to soothe the digestive system as well as to relax sweaty thews and sinews.

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Pernod, the antique licorice liqueur, with water and lots of ice, a sprig of mint, perhaps a splash of lemon, is a miracle restorative.

But Pernod is also a versatile spirit for cooking for vegetables, desserts, or fish, especially shellfish. At 6:00 p.m. last night it was 90º inside the apartment. There was no question of using the oven to cook. Alongside a cheese omelet Mr. Henry prepared a delicious sliced fennel sautéed in Pernod.

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First toss some fennel seed onto a plate. Pour ½ cup of Pernod onto the seeds. Peel and slice a bulb of fennel and lay them on the plate. As your skillet warms, the fennel will absorb some of the Pernod’s volatile essences.

Saute in olive oil over a medium low flame. (Too much heat destroys the delicate aromas of anise.) Sweat the fennel on one side, turn, add remaining Pernod from the plate, and cook slowly until it begins to brown. Top with fresh dill, if some is handy, and a little squeeze of lemon.

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Because the aromatics in Pernod derive from the fennel plant and its cousin the star anise, Pernod and fennel are a natural combination. Because Pernod is the least sweet of the licorice liqueurs (ouzo, pastis, raki, et. al.), it is also the most versatile for cooking. By the way, for those of you fond of hallucinogens, you’re too late. Since 1915 Pernod has not included absinthe.

Fish fry

For the past two weeks Mr. Henry has been on the road and in the swamp. He has eaten blueberries in Maine, black raspberries in Massachusetts, corn in upstate New York, and fried soft shell crab in Florida.

Soft shell crab in Florida? Who knew?

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Step aside, Maryland. In the Stygian waters of the vast St. John’s River estuary the blue crab is molting.

Although shrimp is caught locally in Jacksonville, in summer it can be soft and lacking flavor. Catfish filet is local as well, and surprisingly good if you don’t mind a few inevitable bones. Soft shell crab, however, is clearly the best local catch.

At Clark’s Fish Camp on Julington Creek, a fry house in the swamp, New York Robert went for the full, bona fide Southern experience by ordering the Swamp Fest Platter, a mixed fry of conch, mako shark, frog legs, catfish, squid, and gator tail.

It’s all good, it’s all fried, and every platter comes with hush puppies.

The insistent flavor of breading browned in corn oil nearly overwhelmed the light scallopy taste of conch, but gator tail survived the fryer with flavor intact. Yes, it does taste rather like chicken, but with chewier texture and, to Mr. Henry’s palate, a brighter and more interesting flavor. (With more than one million in Florida, the alligator is no longer endangered.)

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Mr. Henry stopped Robert from ordering the frightful Swamp Cocktail, a boozy brew of vodka, rum, blue Curacao, triple sec, orange juice, sour, and “a splash of Pepsi.” Hooooooo doggies!

There  was no need to prove manhood here, however. Local tap water is daring enough.

A stroll along the boat dock revealed several large red-eared slider turtles on the surface of the black water as well as a small alligator toying with a floating wedge of cocktail lemon.

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More daunting than the swamp critters or the hundred or more stuffed animals on the walls, however, at the bar a group of ladies in Gator regalia jiggling iced after-dinner drinks snagged Robert in a flirty conversation that, but for the prudent intervention of Mr. Henry, might have culminated in more bona fides than he reckoned for.

Martini bigotry

Foster Kincaid Says:

I was shocked to discover that Mr. Henry is advocating fruit flavored martinis. Good Lord, man, have you lost your mind? At long last, Senator, have you no shame at all? I still recall the day I tried something called–I am not kidding–an “appletini.” Sometimes, when I wake in the night, my mouth parched and caked from breathing through the only aperture available (I am a martyr to a deviated nasal septum), I can still taste it, its foul effluviant seeping from beneath an under-maintained filling. As for sage complementing the flavor of juniper berries, I keep an open mind, something for which I am well known among martini bigots.

Mr. Kincaid, clearly you are a man of fierce opinions well-grounded in experience. Carry on. Bigotry in the face of an appletini is righteous, sir, a mark of true character. It is nothing less than virtue itself.

The best Mr. Henry can offer by way of defense for his apparent lapse in judgment is that a) the altitude was high, b) Mr. Henry was low with a cold in the head, and c) there was nothing else in the liquor cabinet or in the fridge. The snow was piling up at greater than one inch per hour. Winds were gusting at 50 mph. The State Liquor Store was several thousand feet down the mountain. Interstate 80 from Park City to Parley’s Summit was closed. For the love of God, can you cede no quarter to a desperate man?

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Admittedly a Meyertini is sweeter than a classic dry vermouth martini, but it is decidedly less sweet than a Tom Collins or one of those frightful Franken-martinis made with outré liqueurs. Because gin is more conducive to good digestion than tequila, and because dry sherry is less sweet than Triple Sec, however, the Meyertini has a friendlier, more refreshing profile than the Margarita. With Mexican food Mr. Henry prefers a Meyertini over a Margarita.mexcalendar_girls.jpg

With spicy, beany cuisine such as that which passes for ‘Mexican’ in the American West one’s choice of drink is not obvious. Beer, especially at night, poses the problem of too many carbohydrates. Which wines work best? Dark reds bursting with earth like Syrah or Zinfandel are the conventional pairings but Mr. Henry finds them too dense on the palate. They are insistent, overpowering, and usually too sweet, as well.

With southwestern style cooking he prefers the clarity of a Chablis or a Sancerre, which is to say a dry Chardonnay (without oak, por favor) or a Sauvignon Blanc.

But since ski bums don’t drink crisp whites, in ski towns Mr. Henry repairs to the next best potion for cleansing the palate between bites, the gin cocktail. Since he only skis once per year, thankfully he need not face this drinks dilemma once again for quite a while.

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