Tag Archive: Cocktails

Libro Trio

“I never read a book before reviewing it – it prejudices a man so.”

Sydney Smith, Essayist, Clergyman

Buenos Aires – In the last couple of weeks a trio, or is it a quartet, or quintet, of books has come across my desk. They didn’t get there by themselves, I went to book launching parties and was given copies of them, which is a delightful way to acquire books, especially when there’s free food and drink, the chance to ferret out the three people at the party actually worth talking to, and no requests to do any work – i.e.,, no one asked me to review the books, they were gratis without strings. The 3/4/5 thing we’ll get to momentarily.

The 2008 edition of Viñas, Bodegas & Vinos was amongst them. Long time readers might hazily recall that I’ve reviewed the last two editions, and that I was a member of the tasting panels for the 2007 edition. Likewise this one. My thoughts from last year pretty much stand – I’m still disappointed that the book is being offered these days in Spanish only, and that it only covers Argentina now – I can’t vouch for the marketing and finances and what went into the decision last year to drop the side-by-side English translation and the rest of the continent, but I can tell you I’ve heard from at least a couple of dozen people over the last year asking if there was an English edition now because all they could find was the Spanish, and the 2006 and previous editions are simply out of date. There’s a market out there for a South American wine guide in English, believe me, and if it wasn’t the massive undertaking that it is, I’d be all over that. Beyond being an update, the book is very slightly expanded this year, with an increase in the number of wineries and wines covered. One fun little addition at the back, being the fifth edition, the editor/publisher had saved up bottles of the top wines from the first edition in the cellar, and we had a separate tasting of those to see how they had held up over the last 4-5 years. Some well, some not so well, but it was an interesting exercise that’s included in this year’s edition. The event, by the way, was held at the Museo Evita, which is worth a visit in and of itself, has a nice little restaurant on the property, and a beautiful courtyard. The top 60 wines were all arrayed for our tasting – one in particular truly stood out for me, the Valle Las Acequias “Rosedal” Malbec 2003, quite possibly the most elegant, delightful Malbec I’ve had the opportunity to taste.

Austral Rumbo guides 2008Apparently several years in the making, and perhaps another part of the reason why the wine guide has been cut back, editor Diego Bigongiari has been hard at work on a duo of Buenos Aires guides… Now, I realize we need more travel guides to Buenos Aires like we need another newspaper article extolling the amazing and wildly exaggerated cheapness and ease of moving to and living in this city, and it’s also hard to be critical of a couple of books written by someone I’ve spent the last two years working with and also consider a friend. Nor do I object that he included a mention of Casa SaltShaker at the bottom of page 146… Thankfully, I don’t have to be particularly critical, as I think he very smartly approached the guides in a different manner from many of them out there. The guides, first of all, are in Spanish only, and second of all, they come together as a set – tall and narrow and inserted into a plastic cover which is useful for packaging and marketing and protecting the books from dust on your shelves, but completely useless when you’re ready to use them. However, with no manual skills at all you can easily slip them out of the cover and use them separately – which you should. The first book, in big bold letters titled BUE, states it is a traveler’s guide to Buenos Aires and surrounds, from rumbo-austral, rumbo meaing “to get one’s bearings”, and austral being the publishing company. Coming in at 335 pages, it’s packed with ‘hood by ‘hood tips on things to do and see – and it goes well beyond the usual three or four barrios that most tourist guides bother to cover, gives detailed information on how to do things like navigate the bus and subway systems, and covers everything from where to get good coffee to where to find transvestite prostitutes. The maps are well thought out, there are lots of sketches to illustrate various monuments and buildings, and it’s well written. Each entry has a color coded bar along the margin placing it in a category such as “eating and drinking”, “architecture”, or “night and sex” – which would be truly annoying and useless given that color key is in the introduction to the book and includes eight different categories, except they very smartly didn’t just put the color bar, but also the category name in each bar, so you really don’t even need the key upfront after all.

The second book is more for the armchair traveler, or perhaps while you’re sitting in your hotel room, or whiling away an hour or two at a local café. It covers the same neighborhoods, in the same order, one by one, but instead of being a guide, this one is labeled in big bold letters BUE… oh wait, it’s the same, but in small print says it’s the traveler’s book, rather than guide… it’s designed for simply reading. Perhaps the best way to think of it would be as if you had a tour guide sitting right there telling you stories about this building or that monument, or an event that happened here, or one of those great anecdotes that make having a good tour guide a gem to find. While you have to read this rather than listen to it, you do have the priceless advantage of not having to listen to the identically dressed in tracksuits never set a foot on a track middle aged couple from Home on the Range Middle America complain about no one here speaking English and why don’t they learn it and why can’t they eat at 6 p.m. like regular people and do we really have to get off the bus and walk it’s just as easy to take a picture through the window as we pass by. My British readers will recognize the same couple as being from Outer Peasbody on the Marsh, but the rest of the details remain the same.

Mixology in ArgentinaNow, lest you think I spent all my time at one party at the Evita Museum sipping high end wines and snagging delicious little hors d’oeuvres off passing trays, let me assure you that’s not the case. I also found myself inside a jam packed soirée at OchoSieteOcho, the “secret” speakeasy that’s not secret anymore, a faceless bar at 878 Thames with a guy in a suit out front deciding whether or not to unlock the door behind him and let you in. He pretty much let’s everyone in, at least when it’s a private event and you have enough wits about you to say “I’m here for the private event.” Here, the focus, at least in the free drinking and dining realm, was well made cocktails offset by iffy hors d’oeuvres that might have been thrown together by someone who’d just dropped into the kitchen and thought they’d “give it a whirl”. The event this time, the dual release of the Spanish and English language editions of Coctelería Argentina and Mixology in Argentina, by Rodolfo Reich, a local food and wine writer and editor. Though I don’t know Rodolfo, I do know his English translator, Brian Byrnes, the person who invited me to the event and reserved an English copy for me. I haven’t read through the Spanish language version, but I trust that Brian stayed true to the original. The book is by parts a history of the world of cocktails in Argentina – at one time a big part of the drinking scene here, not so much these days when everyone is into wine and micro-brewed beers – an introduction to some of the “top” bartenders in the country, and a cocktail recipe book. It’s beautifully laid out and photographed, and it’s well written, at least the English prose. The history part was intriguing and fun to read, no question. The recipes, a mix of classics, reinterpreted classics, and outright inventions, useful if not particularly exciting to read – but recipes rarely are. The introduction to the bartenders, for me, was a trifle odd… not that it wasn’t interesting, it was, but there is, perhaps, a conceit, not uncommon to someone in their early 30s, that the true innovators, masters, etc., are in their own age bracket. Of the twenty bartenders profiled, all but one, at least based on their photos and resumes, are not more than a few years out of college (their birthdates are given, and range from 1971 to 1982, with one from 1963) – and are, for the most part, the bartenders at trendy venues frequented by the club set. Now, not being someone who hangs out at bars, and these days I don’t drink many cocktails, perhaps there are very few over 35 bartenders here plying their trade and proving that they know how to mix a drink, and innovating – but if my experience in other cities around the world holds true, that’s unlikely to be the case, and it was notable that they weren’t included. The best part for me was a single page devoted to a local aperitif called Hesperidina, something that’s uniquely Argentine, though it’s a shame he didn’t spend a little time on others, like Pineral, Legui, or Hierro Quina. For cocktail aficionados, the book is a nice addition to the bar library shelf, and worth the investment.

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Champagne Cocktails

Q San Francisco
November 2002
Pages 48-49

Champagne Cocktails

champagnecocktails1It was 1933 and Prohibition had just ended. Sherman Billingsley moved the world famous Stork Club to its third and final incarnation in east midtown Manhattan. Already famous for treating favored guests to a round of champagne, something inspired him to introduce them to the “champagne cocktail.”

It was, perhaps, a natural development. There were already cocktails that employed white wine, red wine, and port. Every liquor and liqueur had being mixed and matched with abandon. Why not throw things into a glass of champagne?

The cocktail itself is a simple affair: a cube of sugar is drizzled with a few drops of cocktail bitters and rested in the base of a wide, saucer style champagne glass which is topped with a bit of bubbly. It became all the rage of the era’s “jet set” (not that they had jets).

Purists today still shudder at the idea. After all, champagne is a venerable drink in its own right. It is relatively expensive, and, for many, the pinnacle of winemaking. Nontheless, the wave that this introduction created became a veritable storm as bartender after bartender in top hotel bars and clubs felt the need to not only duplicate, but re-create.

Looking through varied and sundry bartending guides is an easy way to see the wide variation on the theme. My favorite guide from the era, The Gentleman’s Companion, lists five interpretations from as far afield as Rajputana, India; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Shanghai in China, and the bar on the Ile de France ocean liner. The online bartending guide, Webtender, lists no less than eighty-seven champagne drinks. And the recently published Champagne Cocktails lists more than one hundred!

Admittedly, these authorities include concoctions that stray far from the classic. So do many of us with our kir royales and brunch mimosas. At my restaurants we do versions that include such exotica as puréed litchis and pomegranate molasses!

Afficionados of the genre lean towards the saucer style glass for this cocktail. Legend has it that the original saucer was molded off of Marie Antoinette’s right breast. A rarity in the typical bar today because “it makes the bubbles go away to fast”, the champagne coupe has practically disappeared. Simply, if your champagne is going flat, you’re drinking too slowly.

It’s a shame, because while it may be classy, or maybe just plain yuppie, to sip contemplatively from a narrow flute, it’s just not the same when you entwine your arm with a loved one’s and sip from each other’s glass.

Likewise, many “mixologists” have taken to using granulated sugar or sugar syrup instead of the classic sugar cube. Sure it provides the sweetness (though, with a cube, it’s gradual), but does it have class?

Here are a few classic recipes guaranteed to please your holiday guests.

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Place a sugar cube in the center of our aforementioned champagne saucer. Drop two to three drops of Angostura bitters directly onto the cube. Top with decent quality champagne (Laurent-Perrier Brut is my “house” choice for this drink) and add a twist of lemon peel. Contemplate how much better life just got.

There are recipe books out there that call for the addition of an ounce or so of good quality brandy to this drink. Traditionally, this is known as a Business Brace, rather than a Champagne Cocktail. Some fun variations, however, are to substitute other bitters for the Angostura – possibilities include orange bitters, Campari, Dubonnet and Punt e Mes – use your imagination.

Kir Royale

This is among the simplest of champagne drinks. A mere half ounce of crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) topped with champagne and garnished with a lemon twist. Use really good quality cassis to truly make this drink, my favorite is a “double crème” from Liqueurs Cartron.

Mimosa or Bucks Fizz

Three ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice topped with champagne and garnished with a twist of orange peel. What could be simpler at brunch? Please don’t use O.J. out of a carton, there’s just no substitute for quality ingredients! An ounce or so of Grand Marnier added to this drink makes the Grand Mimosa, and adds a certain something to it. I personally like to use Gran Torres orange liqueur from Spain which just gets my maracas shaking…

Bellini

The true classic Bellini is not some formulation of peach liqueurs and orange juice and champagne. In fact, rather than champagne, it uses Prosecco, a light, crisp sparkling wine from northeastern Italy. And the peach flavor comes from fresh peach juice, in much the same proportions as the Mimosa has with orange juice. A dash of bitters would not be out of place in this drink. Garnish with a slice of fresh peach. Come on, you bought that juicer for something, get it out from under the counter!

French 75

Named, basically, for a large gun, this is a good cocktail for considering questions of world peace and whether to take that summer share. Mix a quarter ounce each of fresh lemon juice, Cointreau and gin and then top with four to five ounces of champagne. Resist the urge to add sugar as many recipes call for, that’s what the Cointreau is for.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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The Ultimate Cocktail Party

Q San Francisco
July 2002
Pages 46-47

the ultimate COCKTAIL PARTY

Sean_Connery_James_2362858aIn my mind, the ultimate cocktail party is one straight out of a James Bond film. (Points here if you can name all seven actors who’ve played the part – without doing an internet search.) The parties are all similar: a classy locale, lots of martinis, champagne and caviar, good music, and interesting people. Party crashers, like James himself, who was virtually never an invited guest, are always welcome and treated well. Preferably, they wouldn’t beat up the hosts or other guests looking for information about diamond shipments, moon rockets, or nuclear submarines.

Key to all of the planning, and a successful party, is inviting interesting people. Virtually all else can be forgiven if your guests can enjoy themselves with each other. And unless you’re looking to have your furniture dismantled, don’t invite those two ex-lovers who go straight for the jugular on sight. It may be amusing for a few minutes in some warped world, but it gets tired quickly. A mix of people from different walks of life keeps the conversation lively. If you just invite a group of people from your own industry, everyone just talks about work.

Next, the venue. Most of the time that means our apartments, houses, or a friend’s apartment or house. All well and good, but make it look different from the way you live in it day to day. A little thought to decor, lighting, flowers, maybe rearranging your furniture for the evening, all go to make the space seem special.

Music should be picked to fit the event. Do you want people dancing? Do you want them lying about on couches? Either way, keep in mind that the primary function of the evening is a chance for people to socialize. If they have to shout just to be heard two feet away, you’re playing the Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” too loud.

Now, on to my favorite topic: food and wine. Since we’re thinking 007, the food is caviar. First, let’s have a little primer on fish eggs. Only sturgeon eggs (roe) may be labeled caviar, a word derived from the Turkish havyar,which means “egg.” The sturgeon is an ugly, toothless, bony-plated, cartilaginous fish that can live over a century and weigh more than a ton. Among the couple dozen sturgeon species in the world, those that really matter to caviar are found in the Caspian Sea, which borders Iran on the south and Russia and Kazakhstan on the north.

Back in the thirteenth century, when the Russians first made caviar, they named the biggest of their sturgeon beluga; the middle-size, osetra; and the smallest, sevruga. The fourth, the sterlet, produces “golden” caviar, and is so rare that only those of you with unlimited expense accounts need look for it.

Caviar should be served with a minimum of accompaniments. Toast points, blini (little pancakes), or thinly sliced cooked potatoes are traditional. All that chopped egg, onion, chives, sour cream garnishment is so I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-serving. The idea is to savor the flavor of the roe as they gently pop in your mouth, not turn them into a sideshow ingredient. Oh, and don’t use a metal spoon to serve the caviar, it changes the flavor.

At anywhere from $25 to $75 an ounce, there’s no question that caviar is expensive, but remember, we’re putting together a cocktail partyto entertain James Bond aficionados and the jet set.

There are three classic drinks to serve alongside your caviar sampler: black tea, iced vodka, and champagne. I will add a fourth, premium saké. For this column, and the throwing of cocktail parties, I will not delve into the riches of tea leaves and brewing. However, if you have the sort of friends who appreciate fine teas you may want to provide your guests with a diversified selection from around the world.

Every time I turn around there seems to be a new premium vodka on the market. The latest trend seems to be to package them in a bottle that in some way resembles an old apothecary bottle (Ultimat and Precis immediately leap to mind). My current faves for iced shots, are Van Hoo and Mor. For those of you who simply must have flavored vodkas, check out the line from Charbay here in the good old U.S. of A. For our caviar party, perhaps stick with the Meyer lemon or blood orange flavors.

Each time champagne comes up in this column I inevitably turn to my classic favorites, Krug or Demoiselle Cuvée 21. Given that we’re splurging on the caviar, why not? For some interesting other selections, and certainly a little easier on our already stretched wallet, try Laurent Perrier Brut L.P., Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs, or the newly introduced Iron Horse Vineyards “Good Luck Cuvée”.

When it comes to saké, it is important to choose your selections carefully. First, we’re not talking about that hot swill served at your local sushi bar. Most of that is the equivalent of wine-in-a-box, and often comes in that form. It is heated to disguise the fact that it is basically undrinkable. There are some premium sakés that are made to be heated, but trust me, those aren’t the ones you’re getting for under $10 a flask.

Good quality saké is made to be served at room temperature or slightly chilled. It comes in grades that can set you back anywhere from twenty to several hundred dollars a bottle. For our fantasy cocktail party here, go for a “daiginjo” saké, which, for practical purposes, is the upper level. A list of some of my favorite daiginjos includes Tsukasabotan “Shizuku”, Fukucho “Moon on the Water”, Masumi “Sanka” (nothing to do with decaffeinated coffee), Takatenjin “Shrine of the Village”, and, if you really want to splurge, Otokoyama.

With everything arranged as outlined above, you’re sure to have a party your friends will be talking about for months to come. However, if you want to really have a true 007 experience, consider asking your guests to come attired as one of their favorite James Bond characters. I for one can never get enough of Pussy Galore, Honey Ryder, Rosa Kleb, Jaws and Oddjob.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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Holiday Spirits

Q San Francisco
November 1999
Pages 52-53

Holiday Spirits

“He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,’ said Fred,’ and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say, “Uncle Scrooge.”‘ Admittedly, Uncle Scrooge had his own experiences of holiday spirits to deal with. In my mind, his nephew Fred had a much better approach. Holidays have traditionally been times to celebrate with a wide variety of spirits. As children, we waited eagerly for our gaily wrapped packages (in my family no trees were involved, we had a train made out of large foil wrapped cardboard boxes – each car of the train containing the Chanukah gifts for one member of the family).

With just as much anticipation we awaited the annual chance to have just a little bit of rum in our eggnog. Friends down the block got to sample a small taste of that year’s Christmas punch. A few weeks earlier we had fallen over ourselves to get a medicine cup sized glass of port with our thanksgiving pumpkin pie. At New Year’s Eve? Just a taste of delightfully bubbly champagne. Why, for some youngsters, this was more alcohol in a few dozen days than the entire rest of the year put together!

It has been tradition for centuries to serve some form of a punch or flavored wine through the wintery holiday season. That tradition is often lost as we explore our way through wine auction purchases, the latest California cult sampling, or wax philosophically at some single malt scotch. At best, we might find ourselves pulling out a bottle of a particularly favored brandy that we’ve saved for just such a special occasion.

I say it is time to bring back the punch, the grög, the mulled wine, the bishop…

Many a century ago, there was the “punch” – a British colonial drink made from tea, spices, sugar and fruit and spiked with rum. The term came from the Hindustani word pānch, meaning “five”, and tradition has it that a punch should contain the five above listed ingredients. The French came up with their own version: less tea, and brandy substituting for the rum. In fact, until the 1830s, rum was banned in France in order to avoid commercial competition with locally produced brandies. Perhaps the most traditional of the punches is the marquise punch, which I recommend highly.

MARQUISE PUNCH

1 bottle of sauternes
½ cup of sugar
peel of 1 lemon
3 cloves
1 cup brandy or white rum

Heat all the ingredients except the brandy together until a fine foam appears on the surface and it seems just about ready to boil. Stir to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Pour through a strainer (to remove the peel and cloves) into your warmed punch bowl. Gently warm the brandy in a saucepan and then light. Pour while still flaming into the punch. Do this while your guests are present so that they can “ooh” and “aah” appropriately.

I have no doubt that someone will insist on making grög, that old tradition of the British navy. While perfectly nice, it is a simple warming together of rum, honey, lemon peel and diluted with water in order to stretch the seamen’s rations of rum. Play, experiment, come up with your own version.

Having mentioned it, it is probably incumbent on me to explain the “bishop”. An ancient drink, it is made by heating claret (red Bordeaux) or port with orange peel and cinnamon. Alternate versions use red Rhine wines (a “cardinal”) or white tokay (a “pope”); all basically refer to the color of the drink versus the color of the robes…you get the idea. The most interesting recipe I’ve found for this drink is called the “English Bishop”.

ENGLISH BISHOP

1 bottle of red port (not tawny)
1 orange
1 handful of cloves
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 cup of cognac

Take the orange and stick all the cloves in it so that it is as well studded as a leather boy at the spike… Dip it in a little of the cognac, just enough to wet it thoroughly, then roll it in the brown sugar till well coated. Brown on all sides under a broiler, or held on a skewer over a flame, until the sugar is nicely caramelized. Cut in quarters, drop it in a saucepan with the port, cover tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add half the remaining cognac just before pouring into mugs. Float a tablespoon of cognac on top of each mug, light and serve to “oohs” and “aahs.”

There are probably as many recipes for mulled wines as there are places that get cold. The most unusual I’ve seen comes from Wular Lake in the old British Indian state of Kashmir, a long disputed area between India, Tibet, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It sounds quite odd, and is quite delicious.

MULLED WINE

2 bottles of red burgundy
2 limes, cut in thin slices and seeded
½ banana, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves
6 allspice berries
1 cup dark rum
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup club soda

Tie the slices of fruit together with the spices in a small cheesecloth bag or wrap. Put with the wine in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-9 minutes, but not longer or the banana will get pulpy and cloud the drink. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard. Add the rum and sugar and stir to dissolve. Top off with the club soda and serve immediately while still foaming. Garnish, if you like, with a curl of lime peel.

Without question, if you whip up a truly delightful holiday punch, your friends will beg for your recipes. So what if they normally drink vodka-tonics throughout? It’s the holiday season, and for no other reason we should come together around the punch bowl and try something arguably seasonal and tasty!


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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The Reinterpretation of the Classic Cocktail

19970511

So in this one, I took classic cocktail recipes and used them as inspirations for the dishes served.

The Reinterpretation of the
Classic Cocktail
at
The Second Sunday Supper
Circle

Sunday, May 11, 1997


Sidecar: 1½ ounces brandy, ¾ ounce triple sec, ½ ounce lemon juice

Sea Scallop Ceviche
N.V. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne


Peach Daiquiri: 2 ounces light rum, ½ ounce lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar syrup, ½ ripe peach, diced

Sweetbread & Crayfish Terrine with Peach-Rum Sauce
1995 Expressions Viognier


Black Velvet: ½ pint Guiness stout, ½ pint champagne

Black Velvet Marinated Beef Filet
1979 Château Peyrabon


Martini: 2 ounces gin, ½ teaspoon dry vermouth, olive or lemon twist

Spiced Duck Breasts with Green Olive Salsa
Mashed Turnips
1993 Baron de la Charrière Maranges


Port Milk Punch: 4 ounces port, 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon honey, grated nutmeg

Selection of Cheddar Cheeses:
Montgomery, Grafton, Aaron Truckle & Llangfollen
1977 Dow Vintage Port


Alabama Slammer: 1 ounce amaretto, 1 ounce southern comfort, ½ ounce sloe gin, 4 ounces orange juice

Almond-Plum Cake with Southern Comfort Sauce
Coffee


26134_19
The table

26134_20
Scallop ceviche

26134_21
Friend and Chef Fortunato Nicotra from Felidia

26134_22
His girlfriend at the time, Francoise, showing off one of the dishes, though I’m not sure which one I presented wrapped in nori – maybe the duck? Then him again, and my friend Bob in the background.

26134_23
The almond plum cake

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Breaking the Fast with Breakfast

GENRE
July 1994

Hungry Man
Breaking the Fast with Breakfast

The Meal Nobody Eats

In the course of an average day, the mythical average American adult watches four hours and 12 minutes of television and flips through a magazine for entertainment, and, no doubt, for the half-dozen breakfast ads for cereal, orange juice, coffee, English muffins, and at least one of a small child berating a parent for not eating a Pop-Tart. We are a culture obsessed with a meal we don’t even eat: breakfast.

We have to go to the gym. We have to get to the bank. We have to finish paperwork. We have to get dressed. We have no time. We have to get a child off to school. We have nothing in the cupboards or refrigerator that looks good. Basically, if whatever deity may or may not exist up in the sky thought breakfast was so important, it would have made the menus much more interesting.

Most of us grew up on breakfast cereal. Lovely little flakes, crunchy nuggets and colorful, squishy marshmallows abounded in bowls all across America. Prepackaged and processed breakfast cereal was introduced in the 1860s to the unsuspecting public by an equally unsuspecting cadre of Seventh-Day Adventists at their sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. The latter were merely trying to add to their vegetarian diet. The former just wanted something to eat besides bacon and eggs.

Squirreled away (can I use squirreled in relation to a sanitarium?) in the facility was one C.W. Post. And living nearby was local resident W.K. Kellogg. Need I say any more about what happened between that sanitarium and Madison Avenue?

I am of the opinion that breakfast should provide your most balanced meal of the day. A proper selection for each of the four basic food groups is an absolute necessity: sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine. So yes, a sardine omelet, Bavarian cream doughnut and espresso would be a proper breakfast. But thanks, I won’t be joining you this morning.

We don’t want our nutritionists to keel over wholesale in horror. (Well, maybe just some of them.) In order to achieve the proper balance and still provide for something that the remaining nutritionists would only gasp politely at, we have to get creative.

About a squillion years ago, a friend gave me a coffee recipe guaranteed to charm that special guest on a first Saturday morning. that was back in the days when we believed in one-night stands and weekend romances. We have, of course, outgrown that belief. My friend called this Brazilian Coffee; I haven’t really a clue why, and neither do my Brazilian friends.

Brazilian Coffee

Serves 2

1 cup strong, fresh coffee
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
1 cup half & half (or ½ cup milk and ½ cup heavy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick

Combine the coffee, sugar and salt in a pan. Warm over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the chocolate and continue cooking, stirring steadily, for three minutes. Whisk the half & half and the vanilla into the mixture and continue cooking another three minutes. Break the cinnamon stick in half, put each piece in a large coffee mug and pour the coffee mixture over.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? How about baking up a few muffins to impress that stud muffin still asleep in the other room?

Citrus (Stud) Muffins

1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
¾ cup milk
⅓ cup unsalted butter
grated rinds of 1 orange, 1 lime and 1 lemon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Melt the butter over low heat. Beat the eggs, milk, butter and grated rinds together and stir into flour mixture. Stir until just mixed; if you stir too much, the muffins will be chewy. Pour into greased muffin cups (⅔ full in each one) and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, and the tops are golden brown. Makes about a dozen.

And that about covers our four basic food groups. So get creative with your mornings. And next time someone says you can have two eggs “any style,” let’s see just what kind of style you have…


Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…

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Pumpkin Pie Pot Lucks

GENRE
December 1993

Hungry Man
Pumpkin Pie Pot Lucks

Getting Over Overeating and Overworking

There is a stretch of road up ahead. It doesn’t lead to the Emerald City and it’s not paved with yellow brick. It leads elsewhere and is paved with good intentions. You set foot on the roadway. Your head fills with visions of relatives not seen since your last passage popping up like earthworms after a storm. The long road home, the Holiday Highway, get your kicks on Route 666.

This dark and twisting path winds its way from Roast Turkey to Popcorn & Beer, passing through Pumpkin Pie, Baked Ham, Plum Pudding, and Latkes. A fleeting festival opening on Thanksgiving and folding with SuperBowl Sunday. The former being one of the two important proclamations Abraham Lincoln made in 1863; the latter, apparently, some sort of sports event.

Two food traditions permeate the holidays. The first is overeating. By everyone. Repeatedly. All those months at the gym, all that stretching and bending, touching your toes, crunching your abs – gone in a binge the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Roman Empire. Tradition number two is overwork – usually by mom or grandmom – slaving away like Lincoln never did issue that Emancipation Proclamation.

Pigging out at the groaning board is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. I’ll save dieting for a future column. On the other hand, overwork can be handled by returning to the original traditions of most of these holidays. Everyone who comes to celebrate contributes to the food table. Potluck.

For most of us, potluck conjures up images of social events that our parents dragged us to. Places where the food consisted of cold, greasy chicken, eighteen casserole dishes of everyone’s favorite baked bean and potato salad recipes, and much too much green jello mold with fruit cup. Does it have to be that way? I think not. Even if you know you can’t cook, you know you have friends who can. Get out those invitation cards and get busy.

Whether you’re hosting dinner for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s, or even Human Rights Day (December 10th for those who aren’t sure), it’s time to put your foot and your whisk down. As host, take on the main course. It’s usually the least transportable. Turkey, a ham, roast chicken, fish, baked cauliflower, a walnut and mushroom roast. Your guests bring everything else. It makes for a communal event, everyone feels, justifiably, like they contributed. You’d be amazed at the wide range of cooking talent displayed.

In the best of all worlds, you’re not always the host. Sometimes someone else gets to clean their apartment, before and after the party. If dinner isn’t at your place, what do you bring? A casserole? Not one of those tuna and noodle things with cream of mushroom soup and potato chip crumbs on top. Maybe a mix of fresh vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. Or layers of eggplants and squashes with cheese and herbs. Dessert? Pies, cakes, brownies, fruit marinated in liqueur.

One of my favorite dishes can be used as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a main course: Garlic-Mushroom Sauté. It’s simple, tasty, and your friends will be begging for the recipe. Just smile and tell them to subscribe to GENRE. Maybe that path home won’t look so foreboding after all.

GARLIC-MUSHROOM SAUTÉ

2 pounds of “wild” mushrooms (mix several different varieties like portobellos, chanterelles, shiitakes), sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup of good olive oil
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup soy sauce
a couple sprigs of thyme (or ½ teaspoon dry thyme)

You will need a large, covered frying pan to hold all the mushrooms. Sauté the chopped garlic and thyme in olive oil until the garlic starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the wine, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Let the mushrooms cook for about five minutes until soft and cooked through. Uncover, turn the heat back up, and add the cream and soy sauce. Stir to coat and let the sauce thicken slightly. If you’re bringing this to a holiday dinner, place in an oven-proof dish and reheat before serving. Makes enough for 4 main-course or 8 appetizer/side dish servings.

In keeping with the custom of quaffing quantities of spirits along with holiday gastronomic delights, I thought I’d offer the most traditional of all holiday libations: the Egg Nog – slightly updated, of course.

EGG NOG

12 eggs
1 pound sugar
1 quart Jamaica Rum
1 pint Peach Brandy
3 pints heavy cream

Separate eggs (yolks from whites, not from each other) and beat yolks with the sugar until frothy. Slowly add cream and then liquors, stirring constantly. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold half of them into the yolk mixture. Pour in a punch bowl and float the remaining egg whites on top. Try not to imbibe at one sitting!


Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…

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