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.”