Pasta alla Norma, The Wrong Way

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The other day at work one of the cooks (Yo Josh!) made a delicious side dish for our staff meal. It was Kale dressed with puree of roasted eggplant and curry flavors.

When I saw Bittman’s boring revisit of Pasta alla Norma in the NY Times (A Recipe for Pasta Alla Norma, Mark Bittman’s Way), Josh’s eggplant puree came immediately to mind. I like the components of Pasta alla Norma, but why not dress the pasta with a sort of Eggplant Pesto?

Our late season dry farmed cherry tomatoes are plenty sweet without roasting, feta is more interesting than ricotta salata, and everything is better with a little bacon.


Pasta alla Norma, The Wrong Way

1 Eggplant, roasted and somewhat cooled

2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Oregano Leaves
1/4 cup Toasted Pine Nuts (reserve a few for garnish)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon fresh Mint Leaves, thinly sliced
Salt & Red Pepper Flakes
Splash Olive Oil
Splash Balsamic Vinegar

Feta Cheese, crumbled
Bacon, Cooked and crumbled

1/2 Pound pasta

METHOD:
Heat a pot with enough salted water to cook a half pound of pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook your pasta.
Roast Eggplant in a hot oven (or on a grill) until tender. Peel Eggplant and add to a blender (or food processor) with garlic, oregano, pine nuts. Start pureeing, and add olive oil as you go. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine Cherry Tomatoes, Mint Leaves, Salt, Pepper Flakes, Olive Oil, and Balsamic Vinegar. Toss to combine.
Dress pasta with some of the Eggplant puree, loosening with salted pasta water as necessary. (You will probably have too much eggplant puree, but hey, stir in some tahini and you’ve got baba ghanoush!) Plate and make an indentation in center of pasta. Add Tomato ‘salsa’ and sprinkle on Feta, Bacon, and reserved pine nuts.
Serves 2 as a main dish.

Hock Punch

Every year, some friends who live in Napa have an Octoberfest party. Or maybe it is an “Oystoberfest”. There is Riesling. There are Sausages. There is Chablis. There are Oysters.

This year I vowed to create, or find, a Riesling Punch for the party. I didn’t have any luck finding an official, vintage, “Hock”, (as Rielsing used to be called,) Punch, so I applied the usual Punch Making Principles. The result was quite delicious.

Hock Punch

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Oleo Saccharum:

6 Lemons, peeled
2 Oranges, peeled
2 Cups Powdered Washed Raw or other Demerara style sugar (When I need powdered sugar, I simply put Washed Raw or Demerara sugar in the blender and pulse for a few seconds.)

Reserve peeled fruit. Combine citrus peels and sugar and leave overnight, mixing occasionally.

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Spiced Tea Sherbet:

2 Cups Water
2 tsp Green Tea
1 Cinnamon Stick
9 Whole Cloves
4 Whole Allspice
Oleo Saccarum (see above)

Bring water to a boil, cool slightly and pour over tea. After an appropriate interval, strain solids out of warm tea. Add warm tea to citrus peel and sugar mixture. Stir to dissolve sugar. Strain peels out of what is now your Sherbet and refrigerate.

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375ml Brandy (I used a reasonably priced Armagnac I got on sale from K&L Wines.)
375ml Rum (Mostly Appletone V/X, but I also added in a little of a mostly empty bottle of pampero anniversario. Punch. Always a great opportunity to get rid of odd and ends of bottles lying around your liquor cabinet.)
1 Cup Batavia Arrack
2 Bottles Off Dry chilled Riesling
Juice from the 6 lemons and 2 oranges (see above)
Spiced Tea Sherbet (see above)
1 liter Chilled Sparkling Water

Combine ingredients and serve to festive partygoers!

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Step-Mothers Are Cool

The following comment on facebook from my step-mom made my day.

“I [Bartend] at [the switch'd in Nekoosa] and also at Tamarack Pub in Wisconsin Rapids. I’ve been in the business since I was 9 years old. I am 66. I love people and making their day a little better with a laugh. They are only “shot & a beer” bars with food but I love it. I’ll still be doing this til I’m 90 or so.”

Hibiscus/Jamaica/Sorrel/Karkade

One of the last big family trips we took, while I was in the early years of college and “cough” smoking a pipe was to Egypt.

A lot of things about that trip were revelations for me: Savory Breakfasts, Grain Salads, Middle Eastern Tea, African Coffee

But one thing that stuck with me was a hibiscus beverage that was served from spigots by men carrying tanks of it on their backs.

I’d always liked Red Zinger tea, and it was similar, as well as the Mexican hibiscus beverage called “Agua de Jamaica”, but none of these were as cool as the sort of steam punk aesthetic of these men serving hibiscus beverage out of tanks on their backs.

When I started thinking about a second Milk Punch to make for The Coachman, our bar manager remarked that he really liked the color of the first Milk Punch I had ever made. It was a recipe for a Rum based Milk Punch colored with Hibiscus, which I’d adapted from the bar Drink in Boston.

Rum Hibiscus Milk Punch

Not wanting to simply repeat myself, and the guys at Drink, I thought a bit more about it and decided to blend that recipe with the Pisco Milk Punch I’d made for the SF.Chefs.Unite benefit for Japan. Pisco is floral, so it seemed like a natural combination with dried Hibiscus flower tea.

The Punch turned out awesome, but what I’ve been really enjoying is a compound non-alcoholic beverage made with the spiced Hibiscus tea I used to sweeten the punch.

As you know I am often frustrated by the qualities of so-called non-alcoholic adult beverages in the US (Lack of Adult Beverages). I would really like something that is close to wine in sweet/tart balance in intensity, but not alcoholic. Shrubs often come close, though are often made too concentrated. This beverage is the closest I’ve come so far to an enjoyable compound shrub.

Quick Hibiscus and Cranberry Shrub

In a pint glass, combine a quarter cup of chilled, spiced hibiscus syrup* with a quarter cup of chilled, unsweetened cranberry juice and a generous teaspoon of natural cider vinegar (Hey! A fine use for the Cider Vinegar from the Bragg Foods health food cult! Try not to used distilled vinegar, it’s pretty harsh, dude.). Top up with chilled soda water and enjoy this refreshing and bracing beverage. Feel free to add booze, Rum or Tequila are awesome. Also, a fine all hallows eve beverage, as it looks like you are drinking a pint of blood.

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*Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

3 Pints Water
3 Cup Sugar (Washed Raw Sugar or Demerara preferably)
1 Cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers
2 Cinnamon Sticks
9 Whole Clove
1 teaspoon Whole Coriander
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate

METHOD: (If the Hibiscus Flowers are really dirty, put them in cold water briefly and allow the dirt to settle out. Grab floating hibiscus flowers off of settled dirt.) Bring Water to a Boil with Sugar to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and steep for a few hours or overnight. Strain out solids and filter a second time through coffee filters. Refrigerate in a non-reactive container.

Workers’ Bill of Rights Gains Traction

Workers’ Bill of Rights Gains Traction, Marisa Lagos, SF Chronicle

An interesting article, but I found these two sections with quotes from Jen Piallat, owner of Zazie, the most informative.

Jen Piallat, owner of the successful Cole Valley restaurant Zazie, offers her employees full benefits, a matching 401(k) retirement account, and maternity and paternity leave.

Perhaps more unusual, her employees have the same schedule every week. If they need a shift covered, it’s their responsibility to find a colleague to work. And if business is slow, she never sends employees home unless they volunteer to leave.

Far from hurting her business, Piallat believes her policies have been intrinsic to her restaurant’s success. While her business is not part of a chain, she’s been one of the business owners whom City Hall leaders point to as they push for a “Retail Workers Bill of Rights.” The proposed city law is designed to make life easier for hourly, low-wage workers at the city’s 1,250 chain-store locations, including retail and fast-food businesses, hotel chains and banks, by discouraging on-call scheduling and encouraging access to full-time hours.

Piallat, the restaurant owner, said she believes her worker-friendly policies have helped her bottom line. In an industry with high turnover, she hasn’t had to hire a kitchen worker in more than three years – four have been there for well over a decade – and more than half of her wait staff have been there for more than seven years. That experience makes her workers more efficient, she said, lowering her costs and increasing her revenue – and their tips.

“Restaurants have always had schedules that are announced the day before you have to be there, which makes it next to impossible to go to school, book doctor’s appointments, child care – anything white-collar workers just assume they will have in their lives,” she said. “I thought it was ridiculous.”

She initially instituted policies such as set schedules and benefits “because I wanted to sleep at night,” but she quickly realized it was making her business more profitable.

“You can tell people, ‘Do it because it makes you happy, it makes your customers and employees happy – or you can do it because you will save money,’ ” she said. “There’s this (narrative) that employers are pure evil … but I’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think they are doing these things because they have always done it that way, and they don’t know any different. If we give them other options, they will use them.”

Grumpy in New Orleans

Sober in New Orleans
(link to the full article on best of new orleans.com)
Jules Bentley on what it’s like living the dry life in Alcohol City

“New Orleans is a great place to drink. You’ll have adventures, you’ll be surrounded by witty, sexy people, and if you’re feeling reckless, the rabbit holes here go so deep that if a pebble or a person gets tossed in one, he or she won’t be heard hitting bottom for years. New Orleans has the best bars in North America; it’s no wonder the city draws thirsty cats from all over looking for a comfortably cool porch under which to finish dying.”

Yow! “Thirsty cats from all over looking for a…porch under which to finish dying.” That is some fine drama AND hyperbole.

“I’d always considered people who didn’t drink to be psychological cripples, at best uptight or constitutionally weak, at worst deliberately dull: individuals so afraid of themselves they cut themselves off from pleasure, limiting their palette to life’s beiges and grays. Five years sober, I find that assessment to have been accurate.”

And, oh man, that IS a dismal assessment, which I don’t really find borne out by my own experiments with sobriety.

“Identifying what triggers your cravings is a crucial piece of sobriety. To the degree that anything in my indolent lifestyle resembles work, being actively engaged in some activity, paid or otherwise, gives the desire to drink less space in my consciousness — but then, I don’t work in our city’s exploitative service industry.”

I would say, “Letting go of what triggers your cravings is a crucial piece of sobriety.”

“Without the armor of alcohol, I am histrionically sensitive to bad art. Lazy or uninterestingly inarticulate art, art that comes from a place of complacency, psyschologically dishonest art — all are intensely triggering for me. This makes post-Katrina New Orleans a minefield; I avoid St. Claude on gallery night.”

The author’s amusing grumpiness aside, there are some good quotes in the article.

“You’re around a lot of people with drinking problems — immersed in the tragedy of it,” he said. The presence of multiple Ghosts of Christmas Future has a deterrent effect. “With so many far-gone drinkers all around you, you’re like ‘Oh, right, that’s what I’d look like if I was drinking. Or that. Or that. Or that in a year or two.’ You have access to all the booze in the world, so it’s not as interesting.”

Heh. Word. No matter which side of the bar those ghosts are on.

Anyway, I’ll finish with this quote.

I spoke with Alex, a sober friend who works in investment and keeps a busy calendar of high-end, relatively exclusive Uptown social events. I was curious whether he felt being sober held him back socially or professionally. “Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s a non-issue,” he told me. “Most people really don’t care what’s in your cup, as long as you’re holding one.” To the contrary, he finds sobriety gives him an edge. “If I had two drinks, I would probably have 14, regardless of the situation. Even at an event where I should have been paying attention to the people around me, to get their business, I would get too drunk and forget their names. So I think it’s actually helped me in social situations that I’m sober.”

Thad Vogler’s 31 Rules

The City’s Foremost Liquor Authority, Thad Vogler Starts a Quiet Revolution

From 7×7 magazine.

“Vogler easily reforms naive or even apathetic drinkers into believers by preaching his artisanal modus operandi; these converts include potential members of his staff and perhaps the people running the bars he’s helped design (the Slanted Door, Camino, Jardinière, Presidio Social Club, and Beretta, among others). But when they get their hands on this playbook for mindful bartending, lifelong disciples are made. “Thad is decisive and direct. He creates intrigue,” says his wife, Katherine Vogler, a nurse-practitioner. “He attracts very loyal friends and employees.” Arguably, this kind of magnetism comes in handy when leading a revolution.”


Thad Vogler’s 31 Rules of Bartending

1. Wash your hands frequently.

2. Don’t touch your face, hair, or anything else that will leave your hands dirty.

3. No fingers in glasses.

4. No hands over the tops of glasses—handle glasses by the stems.

5. Don’t tuck towels into your waist. Have a consistent place for towels.

6. Use a clean cocktail napkin under every drink, even if it’s water.

7. Use jiggers always.

8. Don’t ever pour on the back bar or into a glass in your hand.

9. Pour wine in front of, and in the direction of, the guest.

10. Taste all new bottles of wine that are being served by the glass.

11. When serving wine by the bottle, pour guests only half a glass.

12. Shake at right shoulder, with two hands, one drink at a time.

13. Don’t walk and shake.

14. All bottles on the bar top should have labels facing the guest.

15. No tags on bottles on the back bar.

16. No pour spouts on bottles on the back bar.

17. Place things gently on counters, on the bar top, and in the trash.

18. Aim to make as little noise as possible when placing empty bottles in the recycling bins and when returning the bar bottles to the speed rails.

19. The back bar is the blood pressure of the bar: Is it packed and beautiful? Does everything have a place? Is there clutter? Is it being wiped down daily? Are bottles being cleaned?

20. Same goes for the condition of the bar top: It has to be immaculate at all times. It is the single most important gauge of the quality of service in a bar.

21. Interact with your guest with service, not with conversation. What are you doing for this person right now?

22. Every time you approach a guest, give service— clean, offer, remove, or pour water.

23. Repeat to guests what they are drinking when you place their drinks in front of them.

24. When speaking with a coworker, face the bar— don’t turn your back to the guests.

25. No profanity.

26. No sexually explicit conversation.

27. Don’t point. Gesture with an open hand, and only if you must.

28. We are friendly servants, not friends who serve.

29. Don’t say you’re sorry; say, “Thank you for waiting” or “Thank you for your patience.”

30. Treat guests and coworkers kindly. Remember to treat diners in the way you would want your mother or your friends treated.

31. The check is always the last thing to be cleared away.

Revived Corpse

Our Sommelier was taking certification courses regarding Spirits & Cocktails.

She’d been attempting to get her head around Spirits and trying various things to be able to identify them blind.

I was chatting with her about it, and she said she would like me to make her a Corpse Reviver No 2, as she had just read about the drink.

As we were chatting, I discovered that her courseware suggested that Cocchi Americano be used in the drink.

I was, like, “Really!? The actual Sommelier course material suggests using Cocchi Americano in the Corpse Reviver No 2 instead of Lillet Blanc?”

She said that was so. “What’s the big deal?” little knowing she was talking to the person who started the whole Cocchi Americano vs. Lillet Blanc mess oh so long ago.

The Quest for Kina Lillet

Life’s little victories.

Turned out the Corpse Reviver No 2 with Cocchi Americano I made was new favorite drink, she even insisted I teach her to make them. Though perhaps she should have heeded The Savoy Cocktail Book’s warning, “Four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

Reverse Stagghattan

Towards the end of the night Monday, one of our regular guests came in.

I made him a few drinks from the list or related.

We were past close, he was the only person at the bar, but he wanted a finishing drink that was unique or interesting. I just wanted him to close out his tab, so I could count the drawer.

Being the perverse cuss that I am, I started from the Jerry Thomas Manhattan and extrapolated to the Brooklyn.

Reverse Brooklyn (or Reverse Stagghattan?)

1 oz 2013 George T. Stagg Barrel Proof
2 oz Cocchi Vermouth de Torino
2 Dash Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 oz Bigallet China China

Stir, strain. No garnish. It’s too late for that. All my tools are in the dish pit, I’ve already tossed all my peels, and moved the fruit back to storage.

I charged only $11, as he is a good customer. I am not sure what the price actually should be on this, $20? $30?

In any case, he thought it was maybe the best drink that he had had in any bar in a couple months.

Unlike the Staggerac, it WAS actually a good cocktail, and freaking delicious.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Both Mrs Flannestad and I feel like we’ve been fighting off bugs lately, just tired a lot of the time.

Might be allergies, or maybe just restless pets waking us up during the night when the neighborhood raccoons are out.

But a little homemade chicken soup never hurts.

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1 Whole Chicken, Quartered
1 Carrot, roughly chopped
1 Onion, roughly chopped
2 Garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp whole Black Pepper corns
3 Whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick

Cover above ingredients with water, bring to a low simmer, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from water and rest until cool enough to handle. Strip chicken from bones, trying not to drop any on the floor, reserve, and return bones, skin, and cartilage to water. Cook as long as time allows. Strain Solids from stock and reserve.

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1 large onion, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, skinned and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder*
1 Pound Sweet potatoes
Reserved Chicken Broth
Reserved Chicken Meat
1 Can Garbanzo Beans
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder*
Olive Oil

Cook onion, ginger and garlic in olive oil until tender with one tablespoon curry powder. Add broth and sweet potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Puree soup with a hand blender, in a blender, or food processor. Return to pot, add chicken meat, remaining tablespoon of Curry Powder, and Garbanzo beans. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Check seasonings, and serve with a spoonful of Cucumber Raita** in each bowl.

*Curry Powder

1 tsp Whole Coriander Seed
1 tsp Whole Cumin Seed
1 tsp Whole Fennel Seed
1 tsp Whole Fenugreek
1 tsp Whole Brown Mustard Seed
4 Whole Cloves
1 Small Stick Cinnamon, Broken
1/2 tsp White Peppercorns
1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
3 Whole Chili de Arbol
1 tsp Ground Tumeric

Toast whole spices in a dry pan until fragrant. Grind in Coffee Mill or Spice Grinder. Add Tumeric.

**Cucumber and Basil Raita

1 small Cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
Tops of 3 Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 TBSP Cilantro Leaves, thinly sliced
1 Cup Yoghurt
Orange juice
Salt, to taste

Toss Cucumber with salt and let stand in a colander for a bit. Rinse Cucumber and pat dry with towels. Chop Cucumber and combine with other ingredients. Thin slightly with orange juice, add salt to taste and chill.