Saturday Night Dinner, Feb 26, 2011

We’ve been big fans of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher since our Wall Street Journal reading parents introduced us to them a number of years back.

Aside from being down to earth wine critics in a sea of pretension, they also have been the advocates of a tradition they call Open That Bottle Night. The idea being that a lot of times you need to get away from pointless hoarding of wine, it is often better drunk sooner, rather than later.

As part of the whole Open That Bottle ethos, they started organizing an annual “Open That Bottle Night” the last Saturday in February.


Dottie and John Share Their Thoughts on Open That Bottle Night

When we began writing our “Tastings” column for The Wall Street Journal in 1998, we tried to write an accessible column that answered the real questions that real people had about wine. Soon, we realized that the question we received most often was this: “I have a bottle of xxxx that I received from my grandfather (or saved from my wedding, or bought at a winery, etc.). When should I open it?” (The addendum was usually: “And how much is it worth?”) We told everyone the same thing: Open it this weekend and celebrate the memories. But we answered the same question so often that eventually we figured, jeez, let’s just set a date when we will all open that bottle together and celebrate the memories. We chose a Saturday in September 1999.

A few years ago, Mrs. Flannestad gave me their book, “Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage”, which is a wonderful memoir of a successful marriage accompanied with an appreciation for wine.

We always try to celebrate Open That Bottle Night a little, in the spirit of John and Dorothy, accompanying a bottle of wine we have been putting off opening with a tasty dinner.

Grilled 5 Dot Ribeyes. Red Wine and Black Trumpet Risotto. Rainbow Chard braised in a spicy tomato sauce.

This wine dates back to a trip Mrs. Flannestad took to the wine country with her parents, before we were married. In fact, it was on that visit to California that we told them we were going to be married!

What, you say they only do citrus supremes on Food Network? Nuh uh, we have them at Chez Flannestad! Tarocco Orange Supremes, to be exact.

One of the advantages to living in California is the occasional beautiful day in February, usually the first time we get out the grill for the first year. The short daylight, though, usually means grilling in the dark, which can be quite spectacular when working with Lump Mesquite.

Right, well the dinner turned out wonderfully, though I thought the steaks were cooked a bit beyond my “ideal”. Fortunately, Mrs. Flannestad enjoys hers a bit closer to “Medium”, so this pleased her. Learning to compromise is an important skill in a successful marriage!

Unfortunately, while the reminiscing over the bottle brought back happy memories of that trip to Napa 10 or 11 years ago, the wine itself was corked and mildewy tasting. After a bit of wishful thinking about whether the wine tasted better after “breathing”, we gave up. Yep, that’s a spoiled wine, all right.

Slight disappointment, but from John and Dorothy’s advice Mrs. Flannestad knew to be prepared for this possibility and had another wine picked out as backup!

Score!

Saturday Night Dinner March 4, 2011

I’ve covered Julia Child’s Salmon with Aromatic Vegetables before, this time we used Steelhead Trout from Avedano’s Holly Park Market instead of Salmon. Hard to find Wild caught Salmon these days, Steelhead is our second choice, along with Arctic Char. Another good use for those hard to finish bottles of Dry Vermouth, by the way.

Fish with Aromatic Vegetables

Method: Pre-heat an oven to 300 F. Finely chop a combination of equal parts onion, celery, and carrot. Heat a Saute pan, add butter and vegetables. Saute until the vegetables are tender. Add dried or fresh tarragon and thyme. Deglaze pan with a generous amount of Dry Vermouth. Butter a roasting pan approximately the size of your fish fillet. Place the fillet skin side down in the pan, salt, pepper, and some cubes of butter. Pour vegetables on top of fish. Add more dry vermouth to come up half way up the side of the fillet. Cover with buttered parchment paper or lid and place in oven. Bake until fillets are just cooked through. Remove fillets from liquid to warm plate. Pour liquid into sauce pan and reduce until syrupy. Optionally, mount the sauce with butter. Pour over filets and serve.

To be honest, I think this would be an awesome sous vide preparation.

More interesting, though were the side dishes, generally riffs on flavors I associate with Southern Italy.

Pan roasted Cauliflower braised in cx stock with red chile, garlic, herbs, anchovy paste, olives, and sherry vinegar.

METHOD: Cut up a head of Cauliflower into “florets”, heat a saute pan. Add some olive oil and then Cauliflower. Let “pan roast” over high heat until you get some nice color. Add minced garlic, crushed red chile, fine chopped herbs, an anchovy filet, and some chopped Green Olives. Give a shake or two. Pour in some chicken (or vegetable) stock and cook until the Cauliflower is tender. Finish with a splash of sherry vinegar to brighten the flavors.

I’ve been rediscovering Cauliflower lately and enjoying the flavors. This was one of the more interesting preparations I’ve done recently.

Israeli Cous Co us with pine nuts, raisins, lemon zest, herbs, and cinnamon broth.

METHOD: Heat a pint or so of chicken stock until warm with a cinnamon stick. Heat a deep saute pan. Add some olive oil and a cup of israeli cous cous. Add some pine nuts, raisins, and sliced green onions. Saute briefly, then add chicken stock by the cupful. continue to add stock as it is absorbed until the cous cous is tender and cooked through. Finish with herbs and the Zest of one lemon.

I really like Israeli Cous Cous, you often cook it rather like risotto. A bit more fun than the pilaf-like preparations for regular Cous Cous.

Both of these side dishes could be described as “profoundly unfashionable” in flavor and style, nearly Medieval with their emphasis on strong flavors, herbs, and spiced. I really liked them in combination with the milder fish preparation.

Serve with a nice, light red wine, like this Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Wild Hog Vineyards.

BOTW–Midnight Sessions

Another beer from one of my favorite breweries on the West Coast, Port Brewing, in San Diego, CA.

Black beers seem to be all the rage these days among brewers, I guess the style is probably defined by using darkly roasted grains in combination with the other elements more common among IPAs. Heavily hopped dark beers are about the most common style.

Port Brewing’s Midnight Sessions is all about the dark roasted malt, but with mild hoppiness. It’s also surprisingly light in the ABV, my bottle says 5%, and sweetness, making it appropriate as a “session beer”. If you’re looking for a domestic replacement for Guinness, this might be it.

I’ll steal the fairly poetic copy from their label:

It’s not often that a great swell coincides with a full moon. But when they collide, nature affords us a rare opportunity to paddle out long after everyone has called it a day.

These moments are a solitary pursuit with empty lineups. But those who carve graceful lines under a full moon understand how things can be dark, lonely and rewarding at the same time.

So next time you paddle in from an overcrowded beach break, remember that nothing tastes better than a cold beer after a session.

We suggest a roasty black lager for contemplating empty lineups and waves that go on for days. Most likely you’ll long for epic summer swells under moon lit sessions, opening the doors to isolation and empty secret spots on an age trying to pass us by…

With the Extreme Super Full Moon coming up on March 19th, this seems particularly appropriate!

Extreme Super (Full) Moon to Cause Chaos?

Coming up later this month (March 19 to be exact) the moon will make its closest approach to Earth (called lunar perigee) in 18 years. A new or full moon at 90% or greater of its closest perigee to Earth has been named a “SuperMoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle. This term has been recently picked up by astronomers. An extreme “SuperMoon” is when the moon is full or new as well as at its 100% greater mean perigee (closest) distance to earth. By this definition, last month’s full moon, this month’s and next month’s will all be extreme “SuperMoons”.

Fear of Mixology

There has been a bit of public backlash recently against “Cocktailian” or “Mixology” bars.

As in these articles:

Complicated Cocktails“, Ali Zweben

Against Mixology“, Sarah Deming

Measure for Measure“, Karl Kozel

I’ve been biding my time up to now, but lately feel like maybe I can add a bit of zest to the debate.

First off, not every bar has to be for every person. Like restaurants, there are different types of bars for different types of customers. Maybe you like waiters in starched tuxedos serving you tiny jewels of food while you sweat in a tight suit and quiver with anus clenched excitement in an uncomfortable chair. Maybe I like to have a bacon hamburger served to me by a tatooed hipster in a dive bar.

We don’t all enjoy the same restaurants, why should we all enjoy the same bars?

What is it about bars, where if someone is attempting something other than the one or two accepted tropes, that it is perceived as alienating, where there is a whole range of accepted restaurant experiences?

But, you say, Bars are about going out, getting drunk, and having fun with your friends.

Well, sure, but not everyone’s idea of “fun” is the same thing. For you, maybe the cat’s pajamas is going out to a loud bar where there are five different sporting contests on three different screens and you do a shot every time each respective team scores. Well, that’s fun some of the time. Personally, I rarely care about sports, and would rather go out to a quiet bar and talk about music or geek out about cocktails with a well informed bartender, some cocktail and music geek friends. I don’t go out to a sports bar and try to debate the finer points of the Pegu Club with a jock bartender free pouring vodka red bulls, why should you expect that you should enjoy yourself at a bar catering to cocktailian patrons? Look around at the other customers, at the bartenders, at the back bar. What do you see? Do you feel like you fit in? If not, I hate to be harsh, but maybe this isn’t the place for you.

Jigger Pouring vs. Free Pouring. I used to not measure the cocktails I made for myself, friends, and family at home. Some times they were good, some times they were bad, and it was often the same cocktail. When I started the Savoy Cocktail Book project, I forced myself to measure, and found that my cocktails, if not improved, were at least consistent. I don’t know how to measure spirits by counting my pours, so I measure using a measuring cup or jigger. Other people know how to measure by counting their pours or by visually judging the amounts in clear mixing glasses. Awesome for them, but I’m 46 and don’t work in a Sports bar, so I am just not going to make the effort to learn how to free pour at this point in my life. And I don’t juggle bottles, either.

While you’re thinking about this, take a look at the bottles in the speed rail at your “local”, where the bartenders “Free Pour”. Do you see anything which would cost you MORE than $15 at retail? No? I didn’t think so. Now take a look at the bottles in the speed rail at Alembic or Heaven’s Dog. Do you see anything that would cost LESS than $15 at retail? Right, that bottle of Barbancourt 15 that we just poured in your “Rum and Honey” would probably set you back $40, or more, at the liquor store. A half ounce over-pour of Barbancourt 15 is costing the house significant money, especially when factored over days or weeks. A half an ounce over-pour of the rum flavored after shave you see on the speed rail at your local may be costing them less than the cola they are mixing it with. There is a reason we have to measure and they don’t.

Finally, a lot of people take issue with the more enthusiastic zealots of this new cocktailian wave of bartenders and mixologists. To be clear, we think America, and the rest of the world, was drinking pretty shit cocktails, for quite a few years. For those of us with any sort of podium, it is almost a matter of a righteous cause, that we use these outlets to improve the way people are drinking, and spread our agenda of drinking better. It’s not life or death, but we do think you will be happier drinking better spirits, liqueurs, mixers, and cocktails.

You don’t have to agree, and I’m always up for a healthy discussion on the topic, but I’ve found, in most cases, that the cocktails made with care and well selected ingredients speak for themselves, even to the coarsest of palates.

 

Zazarac Cocktail

Wow, this cocktail, and one more and a major portion of this project completed.

Oh, wait, I will have to change the footer, if I am going to continue on after the Zed…

Zazarac Cocktail
1/6 Bacardi Rum. (1/2 oz 3/4 oz Barbancourt 8 Year)
1/6 Anisette. (1/2 oz 3/4 oz Anis del Mono dulce)
1/6 Gomme Syrup. (1/2 oz 3/4 oz Mesquite Bean Syrup)
1/3 Canadian Club Whisky. (1/3 oz Rittenhouse Bonded)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters. (1 dash Angostura Bitters)
1 Dash Orange Bitters. (1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters)
3 Dashes Absinthe. (3 dash Absinthe)
Shake (I stirred) well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

Out of Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup, so instead substituting Mesquite Bean Syrup, which is made by extracting the juice from the mesquite bean pods that grow abundantly in the deserts of the southwestern United States.

As usual, in cocktails sourced from Harry McElhone’s 1928 “ABC of Cocktails”, that Harry Calls for Rye Whiskey instead of the Savoy Cocktail Book’s Canadian Club.

Such a long ingredient list, you just sort of wonder what was going on in the head of the person who threw all this together. Had they had a Sazerac many years ago and were attempting to recreate the flavor with ingredients they had at hand?

There is an interesting and somewhat unexpected spiciness, reminiscent of fruitcake. Still, there is no way this is anything other than way too sweet, even well stirred.

Spatchcock that chicken.

Really, I just like to say, “Spatchcock”. It’s probably a character flaw.

But it really is an awesome way to flatten out a chicken and roast it evenly. Works for Turkeys too!

The Roast Chicken with bread salad from Zuni Cafe, no matter how literally you take Judy Rodgers’ crazily detailed instructions, is a truly awesome presentation. One of the best dishes from that generation of chefs. Roast a chicken. Then deglaze your pan with wine and a little vinegar. Adjust seasonings. Fill a bowl with bitter greens, like Arugula, add some freshly toasted croutons. Pour the warm dressing over the greens and croutons and toss to combine. Serve your roast chicken pieces on top. So tasty!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Zaza Cocktail

Believe it or not, after the Zaza, only 2 more drinks left in the “Cocktail” section of the Savoy Cocktail Book!

751 Savoy “Cocktails” made, tasted, photographed, and blogged between June of 2006 and March of 2011.

Whew!

…Of course, then on to the remaining 137 assorted Coolers, Daisies, Fixes, Fizzes, Punches, Rickeys, etc. and the Addenda to the Second edition of the book.

No rest for the wicked.

Zaza Cocktail
1/2 Dubonnet. (1 1/2 oz Dubonnet Rouge)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Junipero Gin)
(1 dash Angostura Bitters)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Squeeze lemon peel over glass and drop in.)
Source: Hugo Ensslin, “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” 1916-1917

Like the first time I made this, oh so many years ago, as the Dubonnet Cocktail, I found the mixture of half gin and half Dubonnet Rouge a bit plain. Thus, I always feel a bit justified in adding a dash of bitters and a citrus peel to the drink.

Definitely cures the plain Jane nature of this cocktail and slightly elevates it.

Hm, many possibilities for the name, “Zaza,” from a people of a certain region of Turkey to a reservoir on the Zaza River in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.

However, since this comes from New York bartender Hugo Ensslin’s 1916, “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, I’m going to guess this was named after the play or movie, “Zaza”.

From the wikipedia article about Zaza:

Zaza is a play, originally written by French playwrights Pierre Berton and Charles Simon, but probably best known in the English-speaking world in the 1898 adaptation by David Belasco. The title character is a prostitute who becomes a music hall entertainer and the mistress of a married man. According to the IMDb, it was produced on stage and in film six times between 1913 and 1956.

Colorful enough to capture the imagination and the time period fits Ensslin’s book.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

BOTW–San Diego County Session Ale

I have been tragically ignoring the Beer of the Week feature of this blog while concentrating on the last few Savoy “Cocktails”. I aim to rectify this oversight moving forward!

I was reading Jeff Allworth’s post on Beervana, asking for interesting beers that are sessionable: A Wish for Irregular Beer

But does it have to be? Will pale lagers always be “regular,” or will our consciousnesses expand such that some future generation has a broader definition? We are at the moment when it’s not entirely preposterous to suggest the answer may be yes. If so, we’re doing God’s work today, brewing and praising this beer that is still irregular to the vast majority of the world.

…and also Jason Wilson’s recent article in the SF Chronicle: In Search of Great Session Beer

What exactly are we looking for in a session beer? A session beer “can’t be insanely hopped, syrupy with residual sugar, or funkier than hell,” according to Lew Bryson, a respected beer and whiskey critic and managing editor of Malt Advocate. “You want a beer with a decent amount of flavor, and one that you can drink steadily, but not crazily, for several hours. And still be able to play cards without losing the house.”

In Jason’s article, he mentions the Stone Collaboration Ale “San Diego Session Ale” as one of his top picks.

I agree! A collaboration between Ballast Point, Kelsey McNair of North Park Brew Co, and Stone Brewing, it is an intensely hoppy beer that somehow manages to maintain balance and interest at a “mere” 4.2% ABV, as Jason notes, “the same alcohol as Bud Light”. Now if it were only available in six packs or on tap somewhere!

Pasta Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

Wednesday is traditionally pasta and a bottle of wine night at the Flannestad Household, aka “Spaghetti Night”.

One of the dishes a coworker of mine made at Botticelli’s in Madison, Wisconsin was a pasta dish with Chicken Pieces, Chicken Stock and herbs. Ostensibly, a way to use up the chicken tenders leftover from butchering chicken breasts, I found it to be quite tasty and have been making variations on it for nigh on 20 years.

A few years ago I set about making a “green” version for St. Patrick’s day with a pureed sauce made from Dino Kale.

Tonight, I’m trying to use up some leftover grilled chicken thighs and legs from a grilling exercise a couple Saturdays ago.

Dino Kale (aka Tuscan Kale, Blue Kale, lacinato kale, and many other names) is one of my favorite greens. Actually, it’s about the only Kale I like, with great flavor and a not too long cooking time.

Stem, wash and chop the kale. Chop some mushrooms. Dice a Mirepoix and mince some fresh herbs. Saute mushrooms until tender, add mirepoix and saute until the onions are clear.

Deglaze the pan with Dry White Wine or White Vermouth. I like to use vermouth for deglazing pans, as it helps to go through bottles of White Vermouth faster. Happened to have Dolin Dry in the house at the time, which is a bit pricy for deglazing. Eric Seed likes to point out, Noilly Prat is actually preferred by the French for cooking. I have found Dolin Dry works equally well for cooking, it is just a lot more expensive. And, as Julia Child used to say, one for the pan, one for the cook. Or was that Graham Kerr?

After the wine has cooked down to a syrupy consistency, stir in a tablespoon or so of flour, cooking briefly over low heat. Stir in a cup of Chicken Stock, add the Chopped Kale, cover and cook until tender.

Enjoy a refreshing beverage and an appetizer while the Kale cooks. In this case a delightful, and quite pungent, washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Ireland. Purchased at Canyon Market it is called Ardrahan and comes to the US via Neal’s Yard.

Monty would also like some cheese, please! The stinkier the better!

Drop the pasta in boiling salted water, heat up some crusty bread, and stir some chopped chicken pieces and fresh herbs in to the dish. Open a bottle of wine and pour a glass for your sweetie and yourself. Check the salt level of the dish. Once the pasta cooked, remove it from the boiling water and stir it into the sauce. If the sauce is a little over reduced, include some of the pasta water.

If your lucky, you’ll hear the garage door open just as your plating this up, and your significant other will be greeted with a glass of wine and a delicious plate of Pasta with Kale and grilled chicken.

Zanzibar Cocktail

The countdown to the last “Cocktail” continues.

Say it with me, “FOUR!”

Zanzibar Cocktail
(6 People)
The Juice of 1 1/2 Lemons. (1/2 oz Lemon Juice)
1 Glass Gin. (1/2 oz Anchor Junipero Gin)
3 Glasses French Vermouth. (1 1/2 oz Perucchi Vermouth Blanco)
1 or 2 Dessertspoonsful Sugar Syrup. (Pinch Caster Sugar)
If desired, 1 Spoonful Orange Bitters. (3 dash orange bitters)
Shake well and serve with a piece of lemon rind.

With the sweetness of the Perucchi Vermouth Blanco, I went light on the sweetener in the Zanzibar.

This is an interesting cocktail, essentially a Vermouth Sour with a touch of gin, it’s really quite enjoyable. Light and refreshing, it is nearly the polar opposite of the short sharp shock of a traditional Gin Sour. A great aperitif Cocktail, and another to add to the list of enjoyable Savoy Low Alcohol Beverages.

Since we were going light on the amount of Gin in this cocktail, I also didn’t feel shy about using something as strong and juniper heavy as the Anchor Junipero.

Recommended.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.