Posted by doctorbamboo on July 18, 2011
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With Tales of the Cocktail officially kicking off in less than two days, I have time to sneak in just one more preemptive strike before the madness gets in gear. This time I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Jonathan Pogash. In addition to being a top-notch bartender, Jonathan also consults on cocktail matters with bars and restaurants worldwide as well as several spirits brands. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he’s also swinging by Tales of the Cocktail this year to moderate the panel discussion “The European Bartending Perspective.”
I didn’t want Jonathan to give away the store, so I asked him to just tease us a bit with some of the topics that will no doubt be discussed…
~What are one or two of the biggest differences between bartending styles in Europe and the US?
There are more similarities than there are differences, really. When developing this seminar we had a ball debating the topic. One difference is cocktail menu style and layout.
~ Guest bartending (where bars encourage members of their staff to visit other bars and work a shift or two) is a popular phenomenon in the US. Does this sort of thing happen in Europe as well?
I know several American bartenders who have been welcomed with open arms behind bars across the pond.
~ Do the drinking habits of the average European bar patron differ from that of their American counterparts? If so, how do those differences affect how bartenders approach their technique?
The main difference is that of US cocktail lounge vs. UK pub and cocktail bar.
~ Are there any specific drink ingredients that tend to be staples of the cocktail scene in Europe that may be unfamiliar to most American drinkers?
With the way our world is now, most ingredients are available on both continents. Except for the fact that sodas are made differently in Europe than in the US (i.e. Coca-Cola).
~ Do bartending techniques and philosophies in Europe differ from country to country? (For example, are there subtle differences between the way bartenders practice their craft in Italy vs. France?)
Let’s see what Simon Difford has to say about this one!
“The European Bartending Perspective” happens from 3:30 to 5:00 pm July 21 in the Grand Ballroom North at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. It is currently sold out, but check with event organizers in case there are any cancellations.
Posted by Cocktail Buzz on July 18, 2011
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Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki (Cocktail Buzz) ply their love for cocktail and food pairings on their Web site, Cocktail Buzz and their blog “Buzzings.”
Ribs at Cochon, finger-lickin’ awesome. Don’t forget to wash it down with a bourbon cocktail.
New Orleans. It’s one of those cities that you can instantly fall for, and we have.
Amazing food and cocktails beckon throughout its wards. There are so many choices to ponder and old favorites to revisit.
This year we are yearning for some more Cochon, a Warehouse District favorite that made us believers in the power of pigs ears, fried crispy like pommes frites and perfectly paired with any one of their great bourbon cocktails. We first happened upon Cochon in 2008 during Tales of the Cocktail and have been happily coming back since. Authentic cajun cuisine from James Beard–award-winning chefs Stephen Stryjewski and Donald Link in a open kitchen setting, comfortable, casual, and excellent food.
GW Fins in the French Quarter is famous for its seafood, and we are scheduled to sample it during the Spirited Dinner series offering, where a cocktail will be paired with each course.
We heard some chatter about Coquette, a little bistro and wine bar, and we’re intrigued. It looks like a hidden gem in the Garden District, with a menu that changes daily, and fine crafted cocktails.
Interested in New Orleans fare inspired by a hometown chefs five years spent in Hawaii soaking up Polynesian culture? Sounds good to us, so Mike’s on the Avenue made our list. The flash-fried oyster salad with a sesame guacamole and tomato ginger salsa is also on that list.
Don’t pass up a chance to dine at Stella!, a fine-dining experience not too be missed. On a quiet street in the French Quarter, this intimate space is an outstanding dining option. When we were last there, Chef Scott Boswell had brought in fresh herbs for that nights meal from his own garden.A favorite chef of ours is John Besh. Having visited his restaurant Luke, a Franco-German brasserie that’s delicious and bustling, and Restaurant August his flagship that elegantly executes his farm-to-table food in a room of exposed brick walls and crystal chandeliers, we are eager to try La Provence, outside the city over Lake Pontchartrain, that has an actual working farm outside its door. Another stop on the Besh tour is the new soda fountain, Soda Shop, in the National WWII Museum on Magazine Street. Those breakfast biscuits with a hand-crafted pineapple soda sound good before another day of imbibing in the city that loves its cocktails.
We’re visiting another of the great chefs at Emeril’s New Orleans where friends have commanded us to “get the fried oysters!” And we’re intrigued by whats listed simply as “Mac n’ Cheese” on the menu, this version with gulf shrimp, vermouth cream, and guanciale. Hey, you’re in New Orleans, you’re eating rich. Just remember to follow each visit to the city with a week of big salads to counterbalance these outings.
Another good place to soak up those cocktails is Mother’s Restaurant. Since 1938, Mother’s has been serving up New Orleans home cooking featuring Po’Boys and breakfast all day. Authentic to say the least.
When we were last at Stella!, we met Neal Bodenheimer, the man behind Cure, a fancy watering hole that hearkens back to the day when cocktails, and the small plates and bar snacks served with them, were an enjoyable and social way to while away the pre-dinner hours.
The French Quarter, at night.
And do not forget Cafe du Monde. Touristy and packed, but oh so good! A perfect way to greet the early morning hours with warm fried beignets generously dusted with powder sugar, and a cup of chicory coffee to wash it down.
But there are other places to try still, so many in fact. Don’t despair, as New Orleans always merits another visit. Like a siren’s call, it’s one of those places that keeps calling you back.
Cheers, and Bon Appétit.
Posted by chuck on July 16, 2011
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Given my propensity for acquiring and quaffing just about every type of aromatic or drinking bitters in existence (a propensity I’m sure more than a few of you share with me), there’s one particular Tales seminar that I’ve very much been looking forward to: “The Emperor’s New Bitters,” moderated by New Zealand bartender Jacob Briars and with panelists Sebastian Reaburn and late addition Francesco Lafranconi.
We have seen bitters seminars at Tales before, of course, and they’ve all been great, each with their own approach and their own surprises. I will never forget the wondrous drop of vintage 1880s Boker’s Bitters that I had the privilege of licking off the back of my hand a couple of years ago. What I wouldn’t have given for a vat of the priceless stuff. I can’t guarantee anything like that this year, but I can guarantee a fascinating session, lots of great discussion and wonderful things to taste.
I chatted with Jacob via email last week – here’s a bit of a preview of what’s coming up:
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think we’d have such a wealth of cocktail bitters available to us now? I remember when I first got into cocktails about 12 years ago I only had two, Angostura and Peychaud’s, and the latter I almost never saw outside of New Orleans.
I think it is a broader reflection of the growth of the cocktail craft – likewise did you ever expect to find rare mezcal in New Zealand or boutique Italian amari in New England? But it has been a welcome trend. For the markets where Sebastian and I are based – Australia and New Zealand – Angostura is a part of the biggest selling non-alcoholic drink in most bars and pubs, the Lemonade, Lime and Bitters, so we have never really known bartending without some kind of bitters on the back bar. But I have lost count of the number of Manhattans, Champagne Cocktails, or even more recently, Improved Gin Cocktails I have drunk that have been missing the bitters (any bitters) that I consider essential in making these drinks.
The much vaunted definition of the cocktail from 1806 has played a huge role in reminding bartenders of the role of bitters. I don’t necessarily consider bitters to be the missing link in ‘The Cocktail’ or even essential in all cocktails, but I am thrilled with experimentation of any kind in our industry. Bitters – whether home-made, boutique or large-scale – have proved to be an easy and delicious way that bartenders can stamp their mark on the cocktails they make. This could be whether a moustachioed be-vested bartender in a faux-speakeasy is making a guest a properly bittered Manhattan for the first time, or whether an innovative bartender is crafting something completely new and finding that bitters add the missing note of depth and richness. It is all a trend to be welcomed.
Are you a bitters fanatic yourself, and do you have a good-sized collection?
I wouldn’t say ‘fanatic’ but I do have a reasonable collection. I have a lot, from obscure one-offs (The Bitter Truth seem to produce one for nearly every major occasion, such as a lovely Berlin Bar Show Bitters) to bartenders’ bitters that I have collected on my travels. Sebastian and I also have a sizable collection of older bottles between us. In terms of how I use ‘bitters’ I perhaps have a more unusual approach than others who use them for making classic cocktails. I like including a spot of Angostura in my coffee, and love drinks that use bitters as a base, like Baker’s ‘Angostura Sour.’ Conversely I like swapping out the traditional cocktail bitters in cocktails and adding a splash or two of Fernet Branca or Zucca instead of the traditional Angostura, or Campari instead of orange bitters.
Do you see the field of cocktail bitters becoming oversaturated, or do you see more room for expansion and experimentation?
There is endless room for experimentation, and I think one of the compelling facets of the bitters trend has been the way that it has allowed bartenders to be a part of the ‘production’ of the ingredients of the cocktail renaissance, without needing to be a spirits producer. However, I do see several issues on the horizon. The most obvious is the various regulatory frameworks, particularly in the US. Inevitably it will become a question for the home-made and boutique producer that hopes to see their bitters used by bartenders – who is making these bitters, from what, and where? And also though there are now a lot of bitters, few of them are able to be used in a diverse range of drinks in the way that Angostura – because of its versatility, and its venerability – is used globally. That said, if you had asked bartenders 3 years ago if we needed more gin or tequila, or 5 years ago, if we needed more vodka, the default answer would have been no, and yet look at us today. So much like the spirits industry in general, I think that though the market may feel very busy, a good bitters brand with a unique point of difference and a compelling story will go from strength to strength. I am also curious to see whether the last decade’s relentless process of mergers and acquisitions in spirits will extend to bitters, tho I would probably hedge my bets both ways. Bitters are nowhere as cheap to make as yet another flavoured coconut liqueur spin-off, to choose one of many examples, but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine many classic cocktails being made without them in the future.
What are some of the more exciting directions you’ve been seeing in the new wave of cocktail bitters?
Obviously it is wonderful to have modern approximations of celery bitters or long-lost bitters like Abbott’s and Boker’s in the bar once more. But for me the really exciting change has been in the modern bitters created by people like Bittermens and Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters. While I don’t think that all the new-fangled bitters are excellent, I do think that broadly speaking, we have more great bitters available to us than ever before. There is a lot of temptation to look backwards, as if the best bitters were those from the days of Jerry Thomas (which is a broader problem with the drinks industry in general). But a lot of historical bitters weren’t very good, and in some cases were downright nasty, even toxic! So I think there is a broader ‘macro trend’ which is that generally speaking, most commercial bitters are getting better, and our guests are enjoying more bittered drinks too. And it is interesting to see products using unique flavours that would have been unthinkable in Jerry Thomas’s day. Whether all of these new offerings are really ‘bitters’ is a topic we’ll also address.
Will you have a few surprises for us in addition to products from the more well-known bitters makers?
The irony of such a niche topic as bitters is that anyone with an interest in bitters is by definition a tragic obsessive, so its very hard to find things that are both new and obscure. There are no ‘white labels’ that haven’t been encountered already, among commercial bitters of course. But we do hope to have a few products to taste and discuss that aren’t as common or as widely known as they should be, whether because they are unavailable in America, or just getting off the ground commercially.
What are some of the cocktails you’ll be featuring?
We’ll be making a couple of bitters-heavy drinks and also talking about the way in which bitters improves certain cocktails.
Anything else you might care to toss in?
If you are coming then don’t expect it to be too serious. Hopefully guests will come away with an understanding of bitters, their historical role in drinks (and cocktails) and how bitters are made, what drinks are best made with which bitters, and the future of bitters, as a product, and as an industry.
Wanna do a shot of Ango? :)
Love to! The best known cure for hiccups and a host of other ailments too.
I’m really looking forward to this one — I’m a huge bitters fanatic myself, and with you and Sebastian at the helm I think we’re going to have a blast.
Thank you, we have put a lot of work, research and tasting into it, and I hope to be able to open a few minds – on the both the side of the bitters skeptics and the bitters fanatics.
The session is sold out, unsurprisingly, but if you really want a spot check at reception to see if anyone’s cancelled. 1:00 – 2:30 PM, Thursday, July 21 in the Grand Ballroom South, The Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Hmm. You know, I think I’ll have a shot of Angostura right now.
Posted by Cocktail Buzz on July 15, 2011
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Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki (Cocktail Buzz) ply their love for cocktail and food pairings on their Web site, Cocktail Buzz and their blog “Buzzings”
One of the events we look forward to every year at Tales of the Cocktail is the Spirited Dinner® Series, and our choice this year promises to be a gentle and humorous battle between several bartenders from the Left Coast (which comprises Vancouver all the way down to San Diego) and the East Coast (from Boston to Miami). The venue, GW Fins seafood restaurant. Our host, Ted Munat, co-author of Left Coast Libations, a cocktail book extolling the virtues of the other coasts’ top bartenders. Ted promises to “guide us through a comedic journey into the East/West ‘Rivalry’ of the cocktail nation, featuring 10 star bartenders from both coasts in round by round battles for supremacy.” Supremacy and battle might sound a bit heavy-handed for an event in which the bartenders all seem to get along, no matter from which coast they find themselves behind the stick. But hyperbole, mixed with alcohol paired with tasty cuisine prepared expressly for the event by Chef Mike Nelson, sounds like the perfect recipe for an evening charged with bold flavors, and a variety of shaken and stirred styles. According to the press release, “Theatricality will of course be immense. Laughs, tears, and intense realizations are guaranteed.” Bring it on!
Says Debbie Rosen, publicist for the GW Fins Spirited Dinner, “Michael Nelson has been GW Fins’ Chef de Cuisine for several years, and as such he has been developing the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Dinner Menus for the past four years.”
She continued, “With Tales of the Cocktail, the event directors request GW Fins’ Spirited Dinner menus the November prior to the event, so the chefs really have to think about what will definitely be at its prime in July without much wiggle room. They also have to put themselves in the mindset of light, summer dishes in the thick of the winter.”
With that in mind, Chef Nelson created his menu first, before the cocktails, with the goal that these dishes would be easy to pair with the bartenders’ creations. Over the years, working with bartenders on these Spirited Dinners, he noticed that they “either create a drink that is lighter and has fruit flavors, or a simple, stiff cocktail.” Chef Nelson believes that “each of the dishes on has a sweet and sour aspect to them that works very well with either of these types of cocktails.”
Competing against West Coast (Portland) bartender David Shenaut, NYC Bartender , the newest member of the Death & Co. team (one of our favorite watering holes in the world), has developed a cocktail he calls Behind God’s Back (not a reference to being naughty). This drink, using Chairman’s Reserve Rum as the base (both bartenders used this spirit) will be paired with Chef Nelson’s First Course dish, a Spicy Vietnamese Glazed Pork Belly. When asked if he has a secret weapon to defeat his challenger (Jason and Dave are actually good friends and are working closely together for the Portland Cocktail Festival in October), Jason remarked, “I’m always thinking of new ways to clown on Dave Shenaut. You’ll just have to see how this one pans out.”
In coming up with the idea for the drink, Jason found inspiration from Cachaça Dave (tastemaker Dave Catania), who shared a phrase with him one day when he was working behind the bar at Dram. “Behind God’s Back” is bandied about a lot in St. Lucia, where Chairman’s Reserve Rum is born, and refers to “something that was very far away . . . on the other side of the island.” After a little tinkering, this tiki-influenced cocktail was born. Chef Nelson is hoping that the flavors of the cocktails mingle wit the “tartness of grapefruit, acidity of tomatoes, and sweetness and spicy aspects of the Vietnamese Glaze on the Pork Belly.” We can’t wait to taste the results.
Shaking and stirring behind the bar at Seattle’s Liberty Bar, of which he is a co-owner, Keith Waldbauer is poised to pair the Fourth Course, a Warm Roasted Pineapple with Coconut Sorbet, with his potion he dubs the Oaxacan Flip.
Finding inspiration from East-Coast bartender Eben Freeman who once concocted a brown butter–infused rum, Keith created a brown butter–infused Fidencio Mezcal. “I thought that would work well with the type of mezcal I am working with. After doing that, I figured a flip would be in order.” A flip uses a whole egg, and along with that, Keith added Benedictine, lemon juice, Bitterman’s Mole Bitters, and, to match flavor in the dessert, some grilled pineapple Gomme syrup. Keith is competing against Don Lee, who promises the ethereal “cocktail spray into the air.” Does Keith have something up his sleeve to bring down Don Lee? “I’m there to have fun with everyone and just to work with these talented guys. So maybe my devil may care attitude is my secret weapon.” These two “cocktails” could not be any more disparate, and we eagerly await this “battle.”
But is there much difference between East Coast–West Coast style? According to Keith Waldbauer, “When I think of the differences between West Coast and East Coast, I think that the West Coast is more known for ‘market-style’ cocktails (lots of fresh ingredients) while the East Coast style is more ‘spirit-forward,’ though I also believe Seattle is kind of an island unto itself amongst West Coast cities and is more East Coast style.”
Jason Littrell concurs with Keith’s assessment. “I would postulate that there are a lot more herbs and spices going on on the West Coast (LA, SF, Portland), while the East Coast (New York) leans more towards emphasizing spirits and using infusions.” He sums it all up simply by saying, “I don’t know, I just like to drink.”
And drink we will, as these top bartenders duke it out wearing wide grins and kid gloves this coming Thursday at GW Fins.
Francine Cohen, Editor of Inside F&B, chatted with a few more bartenders who’ll be trying to outdazzle one another. To read more about the GW Fins’ Left Coast vs. East Coast Libations Spirited Dinner, and find out what Dave Shenaut really thinks about the competition, check out Francine’s piece on Inside F&B.
The GW Fins Dinner is sold out, but you can probably add yourself to the waiting list by calling 504-581-3467.
Posted by chuck on July 14, 2011
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Ever heard of a rotary evaporator? Me either. (Well, not until recently.)
Here’s what one looks like:
They run about 25 grand, and it’s the kind of thing you see and use if you’re a professional chemist, or a grad student in chemistry, or … a bartender at 69 Colebrooke Row, a lovely, fairly tiny (35-seat) bar in London, for instance.
Tony Conigliaro is the owner and mastermind behind this bar, where the first clue you’ll get that this is no ordinary bar is if you’ve perhaps noticed the windows upstairs above the bar looking rather like a chemistry lab, then once inside by having a look at its wonderful menu. English rose garden aromatics? Pepper distillate? Honey water tuberose hydrosol? What do some of those words even mean? Well, undoubtedly the bartenders there will tell you, and they might also tell you about how in addition to their shifts behind the stick they take shifts in the lab as well. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to hear more and more about this — you’ll learn about these and many other fascinating techniques that have begun to enter bartending from the world of science (SCIENCE!) at the seminar entitled “The Chicken or the Egg?”, Saturday July 23 in the Queen Anne Ballroom of the Monteleone Hotel.
This panel could very well be the most exciting and fascinating at Tales this year. Joining Tony is esteemed food/drink scientist and Director of Culinary Technology at New York’s French Culinary Institute, Dave Arnold (who’s wowed us at Tales seminars several times in the past), and eminent food scientist Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore, and Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.
So what might we be learning about at this seminar? Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending a continuing education seminar offered to graduates of the BarSmarts program which featured Tony and a rotovap very much like the one he uses. What the heck is this daunting looking device, and what’s it doing in a bar? Dave Arnold offers a primer on its kitchen use at his marvelous blog, but simply put it’s a method for very small scale distillation using lower temperatures and lower pressure inside the very small vessel. The lab above 69 Colebrooke Row, called The Drink Factory, uses a Buchi brand rotary evaporator every day, making distillates, hydrosols and essential oils. It works on the same principle as a still — heating point, evaporation, condensation, and collection. However, in this apparatus distillation can take place at very low temperatures due to a pump that lowers the air pressure inside the vessel. (Ever try to cook or bake at high altitudes? Less air pressure, lower boiling point.) The average air pressure at sea level is 1013.25 millibars, and the boiling point of water is 212ºF. Water can boil at 154ºF at 300 mBar, and the Buchi rotovap can reach pressures as low as 10 mBar. This way very delicate ingredients can have their flavors extracted without destroying them by heating.
A hydrosol is a water-based distillate rather than alcohol-based, also sometimes called “flower waters” (remember the orange flower water added to a Ramos Gin Fizz), and are produced using either distilled or mineral water. These tend to be a lot more delicate and volatile; the flavors dissipate much more quickly and must be remade constantly as they don’t have a shelf life. Reductions can also be made in a more refined way than by simply heating in a saucepan and boiling them down — reduced orange juice is used for Blood and Sand cocktails, and a Port reduction tastes very much like the original item but more concentrated, as none of the flavor is destroyed by heat. These techniques, learned from the organic chemistry lab, open myriad doors for bringing new flavors into the bar.
Tony, Dave and Harold will also cover chemical overlap, the science behind why some flavors and ingredients go together. Ingredients have many connections, including chemical similarities and molecular weights; for instance, a key chemical flavor component found in blackberries is also found in grapes and red wine, which is one reason why some of your favorite Zinfandels taste so lusciously of blackberries. We’ll learn about “flavor wheels,” ingredients plus chemicals, and tasting notes for these chemicals. One great example from Tony’s earlier seminar was how to simply create the flavor of wild strawberries from regular strawberries simply by adding three very common ingredients and letting the chemistry do the work. The flavor was amazing. I won’t spoil it for you just yet, in case he uses this example again a week from Saturday. Between the amazing things I learned from Tony this year and what Dave and Harold have to offer, I’m oscillating with anticipation.
If you have tickets for it you should be pretty excited too. If you don’t … well, the bad news is that it’s sold out — lesson learned, book your tickets early! If you simply can’t do without it check with Tales registration to see if anyone’s cancelled. Otherwise, see you then, and bring your lab coat!
Posted by tiare on July 14, 2011
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Charbroiled oysters at big Al`s
Prior to Tales of the Cocktail i just wanna post a little about this wonderful city which has such amazing food. Of course the food here isn´t only seafood and poboys, there´s tons of different things, but I´ve mainly been eating fried seafood here since i came back – since that`s what i like the most and also cannot get where i live unless i make it myself.
And as you know, it always tastes better in place and what i make at home may be tasty but it doesn´t even come close to what you get here. One reason is the fresh produce, gulf shrimps for example has more and different flavor than any other shrimps i´ve had anywhere, same with the oysters.
They sure got flavor down here!
Not been here for more than a couple days but lawd what an amount of great food i already have had. OK i won`t be able to post about that many places in this post, so i´ll most likely post more later on. But maybe this post can help to point out a few good places to go for those of you coming in for the Tales in about a week from now. i know you wanna eat! (not only drink..)
The first place i wanna point out is Jaques-Imos. I wrote about Jaques-Imos last year and it was the first place to go when i came back last friday. You find it in uptown on 8324 Oak Street right beside the Maple Leaf bar (which i also recommend and where Rebirth brassband plays on tuesdays)
The menu is as ecclectic as the place itself and reservations are only taken for parties of five or more up to 30 days in advance. All other parties will be first come, first served. That means – since it´s so popular you might have to wait for a table, we waited 2 hours almost, but it´s well worth the wait believe me. And while you wait you go to the Maple Leaf of course and have beer;-)
Lump crab meat stuffed shrimp at Jaques-Imos
We ordered a big mix of all kinda things and shared the sides which one of them was the unforgettable alligator cheesecake – make sure to get that one. I also had lump crab meat stuffed shrimp, fried oyster salad and BBQ shrimp…
As you can see i`m a seafood lover and have no problem in ordering two different shrimp dishes at the same time paired with crawfish and crab…but there´s more than seafood here of course. When you been to Jaques-Imos you`ll think that you never ever will be able to be hungry again!
Another place i want to recommend is Palace Cafe on 605 Canal Street, between Chartres and Royal Streets. If you wanna get something REAL good, go here! Their BBQ shrimp is “to die for”. I also had lump crabmeat cheesecake with fried crab claws on top with a New Orleans style barbecue sauce, spiked with Abita beer and served Creole toasted French bread.
BBQ shrimp at Palace Cafe
This lump crabmeat cheesecake is baked in a pecan crust with a wild mushroom sauté and Creole meunière sauce and topped with 3 fried crab claws. Butter sauteed crawfish at left.
Then i had butter sauteed crawfish, turtle soup and finally a bananas foster. To that i drank Abita andygator – but there´s cocktails if you want – why not try Peter’s Planters Punch with New Orleans Amber Rum, fresh lemon & orange juice and housemade cardamom syrup? I´m gonna do that the next time which will be soon.
Bananas Foster at Palace Cafe
If you get a chance to get out of New Orleans and happen to love seafood i recommend big Al`s Seafood in Houma, about an hour drive or so from NO.
Here is seafood heaven! I had fried softshell crab (fried to perfection) fried shrimps, crawfish, hush puppies, charbroiled oysters, sweet potato fries..all served with various dipping sauces and of course washed down with ice cold abita beer. YUM YUMMY and YUM! Ah…those crunchy crab legs…
Fried softshell crab and sweet potato fries at Big Al`s.
Then we have the Poboy´s…anyone who have been here knows what that is and there´s many places to get them and i won´t try to go into where´you get the best sandwiches since i haven´t tried all places yet. But here´s two places, yes only two…i wanna recommend for now – if you wanna find out more about where to go, just google “best poboy” – you´ll get a few hints…i have also saved a real good one to have its own post – soon to come.
So one is Gene’s on St. Claude & Elysian Fields, (1040 Elysian Fields Ave) their hot sausage Poboy is wicked, and then we got Johnnie´s on 511 Saint Louis Street in the french quarter. They are everywhere and they are tasty and they are the best dressed sandwiches on the planet.
And they all share one thing, they got that bread…Leidenheimer…it has has a crunchy crust with a very light center. And they should preferably be dressed. (That is with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles etc)
So make sure you get yourself Poboy`s and try many different ones! shrimp, hot sausage, alligator, oyster, catfish, softshell crab, french fries, roastbeef…you won´t be hungry.
Well, that was a little about some of the food here, more to come…
Posted by DrinkSpirits on July 14, 2011
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Photo by Paul L via Flickr. cc license.
Going to Tales of The Cocktail for the first time is a pretty daunting task. Thumbing through the program there are so many seminars, tasting rooms, parties, dinners and events that’s it’s nearly impossible to decide what to do and where to go.
Since the 2011 Tales of The Cocktail will be Drink Spirits‘ first, we asked a number of seasoned professionals for their advice on how to tackle the fest as a first timer. Here are some of the nuggets of advice we received:
- “Remember, Tales is a marathon not a sprint…enjoy the journey!” – Tony Abou-Ganim (The Modern Mixologist)
- “Number one rule: No matter how much you plan your schedule in advance, your plans will change. What I’ve learned from Tales is to not overbook yourself and try to attend every event. It is so easy to get caught up in talking to people in the Monteleone lobby or find that you’ve spun around the Carousel Bar one too many times and before you know it you’ve missed an entire seminar you signed up for.” - Stephanie Jerzy (PR and Social Media Marketing professional)
- “Don’t forget to eat food and drink lots water (eating garnishes doesn’t count) a few great places for food right near the Hotel Monteleone : Johnny’s Po-Boys (511 Saint Louis Street) – amazing po-boys, super fast and super cheap; Coops Place (1109 Decatur St) – great jambalaya and a fantastic staff; Mother’s Restaurant ( 401 Poydras St) – the fried chicken sandwich is not to be missed” - Jenny Adams (Freelance Writer and 8 Year Tales Vet)
- “Use Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook to see where the action is. Each year, Tales of the Cocktail assigns a #tag that you should set up as a real time search in your Twitter application. Following the @totc account is helpful too- they will be giving out hints, making important announcements and keeping you up to date on breaking Tales news. Before the event, it’s helpful to create your own list of friends and followers who will be attending. This way, you can see where your crew is headed without making phone calls and leaving texts which often go unanswered in loud parties. Feel free to @reply me too. I’m always happy to point you in the right direction.” – Lindsey Johnson (Lush Life Productions)
- “I remember my first time, and how caught up I got in all of the free samples, overabundance of liquor everywhere, and long hours of drinking – often in the sun. My advice is to imbibe intelligently, be sure to drink plenty of water, and don’t forget to take in as much of the wonderful food to be found in the city. Southern cooking is where New Orleans really shines” – Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Clyde Common and JeffreyMorgenthaler.com)
- “Pace Yourself, and remember what happens at Tales stays on Facebook forever” – Jackie Patterson (Lillet and Solerno Ambassador)
Looking over the program a few seminars also really stood out that we plan to attend and cover: H20 cocktails with Tony Abu-Ganim, Andrew Bohrer’s The Chainsaw Shift and Drinking on A Deadline (something we’re all to familiar with) and events we’re told not to miss: Cocktails From Around the World: Diageo Happy Hour, Imbibe Magazine Happy Hour, and The Plymouth Gin Bartender’s Breakfast.
I’ll be tweeting more tips and advice as I get them onTales of the Cocktail @DrinkSpirits and posting coverage of the event here and on DrinkSpirits.com.
Posted by darcy on July 9, 2011
Filed Under Darcy O'Neil | Leave a Comment
Anyone who knows anything about cocktails is aware that Tales of the Cocktail is just about upon us. For those that don’t know what “Tales” is, it is the largest annual migration of the worlds best bartenders and drink experts, who congregate in New Orleans for a week of learning, socializing, drinking and mild to moderate suffering. Yes, it’s almost impossible to escape the effects of the hangover at Tales just because you will find yourself talking to some of the most interesting people in the world, late into the night, with a seemingly endless stream of cocktails to imbibe. What’s that? You can’t make it, well here are some ways to live vicariously through those of us that will be there.
This year marks my 5th time at Tales. Yep, I’ve been going since 2007 (I had to check to make sure) and every year it gets bigger and better. Now, I’ve heard some people say that they liked it when you could actually walk through the Monteleone’s lobby or get on an elevator, without waiting 15 minutes, but I disagree. If it stayed that way it would be a clear sign that we’ve made no progress, but Tales is becoming a massive event which shows that people are catching onto this cocktail thing.
As for presentations, I’m participating in two – “Sodatender or Barjerk” with David Wondrich and the Pro-Series session “Your Own In-House Soda Program” with Andrew Nicholls. After each presentation I will be doing a book signing for “Fix the Pumps” in the lobby. If you have a copy feel free to bring it and I’ll ink it, if you don’t have a copy Octavia Books will have a bookstore setup just off the lobby for you to buy one.
In addition to the presentations, the Tales Blog torch has been passed my way which means I’m now in charge of it. If you’ve signed up for a media pass on the condition you will blog, I now own you. Okay, not quite but if you will be contributing to the blog please feel free to contact me and I’ll get you setup.
For those of you who can’t make Tales this year, here’s how you can follow along. First, the Tales Blog will have regular, daily updates from myself as well as Marleigh, Camper, Chuck and Craig and others. We will be writing about all the things that happen during Tales 2011 including all of the special event parties as well as behind the scenes stuff. Ever wanted to see the forced labour camp where we keep the Cocktail Apprentice Program volunteers (CAP’s), this year you just might.
You can also follow us on Twitter and our respective websites:
Marleigh @nerdling (http://sloshed.hyperkinetic.org)
Camper @alcademics (http://www.alcademics.com)
Chuck @sazeracla (http://looka.gumbopages.com)
Craig @doctorbamboo (http://drbamboo.blogspot.com)
Darcy @dsoneil (http://www.artofdrink.com)
Additionally, if you feel like drinking from the information firehouse, you can follow the Tales of the Cocktail hashtag #totc. You can also find some of us on Facebook.
With that said, I must now go and start work on the Tales recipe ebook, which is the collective recipes of all the drink experts participating at Tales. Last years book had about 750 recipes, so if you want to see what world class bartenders are creating and drinking, you will be able to pick up a copy at the Tales website.
Posted by Cocktail Buzz on July 3, 2011
Filed Under Cocktail Buzz | Leave a Comment
Tales of the Cocktail is fast approaching, and the list of events, seminars, and tastings is staggering. Narrowing down our choices for seminars wasn’t easy. So many of the ones we wished to attend overlapped, but we managed to be quite pleased with those we ultimately chose and are looking forward to hear what the pros have to say.
1. One of the already sold out Pro-Series seminars (for professionals working in the spirits industry) we’ll be attending is simply titled “Brand Ambassadors.” This seminar—sponsored by Belvedere Vodka and hosted by such cocktail and spirit luminaries as Angus Winchester, Simon Ford, John Lermayer, and Allen Katz—promises to dissect the role of a spirits brand ambassador, a position that has piqued the interest of many a star bartender, and comes with the possibilities of travel, an extravagant expense account, and constant parties, interviews, and spreading the word of spirituous enlightenment. We’re sold.
2. Another sold out Pro-Series seminar—which immediately piqued our interest—is titled “Intellectual Property 2,” sponsored by Absolute Vodka and Plymouth Gin. We missed last year’s seminar, so were very excited to have nabbed some seats for this one, which will focus on protecting your original ideas, with some emphasis on the rights of bloggers, like us.
3. The non–Pro-Series seminars that make up most of the Tales of the Cocktail roster are more creatively titled, such as “The Bad Boys of Saloons,” which quickly caught our eye. Authors Christine Sismondo and James Waller will band together to discuss the “seamy side of the saloon trade,” in which drinks with names such as Mule Skinner, Pop-Skull, Nockem Stiff, Rattlesnake, and Tonsil Varnish were served in joints sometimes referred to as Hell-on-Wheels and Hangdog Bars. Low-life booze delights are promised.
4. It’s always fun to trace the history of a particular cocktail, and this year’s winner is one of our favorites: the Mint Julep. Just thinking about sipping one on a sweltering summer day almost brings tears of joy to our eyes. “Persia to Ponies—Julep Journey,” hosted by a panel of Australian award-winning drink educators (!), aims to limn with humor the development of this bourbon-mint-ice drink, from its roots in Perisa, through the post–Civil War era, right up to the modern age (did we just hear the words Kentucky Derby?). Giggles are guaranteed, as well as juleps galore.
5. Spirits writers David Wondrich and Wayne Curtis, along with moderator Paul Clarke, tackle the ever-widening field of spirits writing in their seminar titled “Drinking on Deadline.” (It really is difficult to write about a spirits event after sipping nine different cocktails with very little food in your belly—trust us.) Book, magazine, and online spirits writing will be covered in all from starting up your own blog, to great spirits writers both pioneering and recent.
For a description of all Pro-Series seminars, click here.
Description of all seminars, click here.
To read about places to dine and visit in New Orleans, click here for 0ur 2009 coverage and here for our 2008 coverage.
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Posted by chuck on June 30, 2011
Filed Under Chuck Taggart | Leave a Comment
You know what the worst thing about Tales of the Cocktail is?
Well, other than oppressive heat in New Orleans in July (solution — stay inside and drink!), forgetting to avail yourself of the spit bucket while tasting spirits all day long (ooh, learned that one the hard way) or having two fantastic seminars taking place at the same time and having to decide which one to miss?
It is having TWENTY-FIVE fantastic dinners with amazing mixologists pairing cocktails with amazing chefs’ dishes happening simultaneously, and having to pick ONE. That would be the Spirited Dinner series, in all its glory and intense frustration.
Pick just one from all of these?! Excuse me while I go stand in the corner and tear my hair out.
Many of these dinners look so good that I’m beginning to wonder if the only way to decide is to spin a big wheel, roll dice or perform a series of coin flips. Or … maybe you just need a little nudge in the right direction.
One of the most tantalizing looking menus offered this year is from one what is perhaps the most unique restaurant in New Orleans — Feast. It’s a newcomer to the city, having only just opened in 2010. In fact, the original Houston location only opened in 2008, resulting in immediate accolades and James Beard Award nominations. Chefs Richard Knight and James Silk are from England, and own the restaurant with Silk’s wife Meagan. Their approach is “rustic European fare,” concentrating on beloved and comforting dishes they grew up with in England. The chefs are also strong advocates of “nose-to-tail” cooking, using all parts of the animal (and introducing adventurous New Orleanians to the joys of offal). They round out their menu with historic English dishes and other dishes and influences from around Europe, all bound together by one thing — flavor. Their concentration on only the finest ingredients, locally grown, and only animals from small farms and never from factory or industrial farm sources combined with the fact that they’re really great cooks brings us superlatively delicious food.
They were so taken by New Orleans that James and Meagan moved to the city to open another branch of Feast, and all of them commute back and forth between the two restaurants. I think Feast is a terrific addition to the food culture of New Orleans
Here are a few examples of a recent meal I had at their Houston location back in February:
Welsh Rarebit, Feast-style. This isn’t your toasted white bread with beery cheese sauce poured on top. The bread was thick, rustic, hand-cut and grilled. The “sauce” was more like a thick paste of cheese and ale and spices, robust and tangy. It was unexpected, and delicious.
Duck Livers in Beef Broth with Mint and Fresh Vegetables, which seems simple enough but offered many layers of flavor. The deep, rich flavor of the livers, the broad beefiness of the broth, crisp-tender vegetables is sort of a large-dice mirepoix and the brightness of the fresh mint and parsley … wow. That’s some soup.
Braised Pork Cheek Pie with Red Chard “Bubble & Squeak.” Oh my. Put any animal’s cheek on a plate and I’ll probably eat it — it’s such a profoundly rich and tender cut of meat, full of flavor.
Blackberry-Pear Crumble with Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise — again, simple but deeply satisfying comfort food, made with perfectly ripe and great quality fruit. And just look at all those vanilla bean specks in the crème anglaise.
You’re not getting any of this at the Spirited Dinner, though, sorry. What you are getting is a true pan-European feast, hopping around the continent and settling down in the comfort of the chefs’ native England. The astounding looking cocktail pairings come from the talented Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard in Boston, who appears to be outdoing himself this time.
Chilled Almond Soup with Grapes (Spain)
Aperitivo Verano – Soberano brandy, fresh muddled raspberry, Verveine du Velay, Champagne
Scallops St. Jacques: Scallops with a Mushroom Brandy Cream Sauce (France)
Belle Normandie – Breuil Calvados, Granier de Mon pastis, Jackson’s vermouth rouge
Parsley and Pancetta Salad with Grapefruit and Parmesan (Italy)
L’alto Stalone – No. 3 gin, Luxardo maraschino, fresh squeezed grapefruit, Amaro Abano float
Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Rutabaga and Kale (England)
Storm Port Old Fashioned – English Harbor 5 year rum, Curaçao de Curaçao, Luxardo Fernet, orange oil
English Bread and Butter Pudding (England)
Flip Royal – King’s Ginger, rooibos tea infusion, whole egg, charged water, shaved spices
They’ve hit four of my favorite countries to eat in Europe. (Yes, four — I had nothing but magnificent food and beer in England last year. Can we finally put to death this lingering myth of English food being bad? There are bad cooks everywhere, even in Paris and New Orleans, and well-cooked English food is, as you can see, terrific.)
The soup looks wonderful, as does its accompanying Champagne apéritif, spiked with the relatively rare (in this country) French liqueur Verveine du Velay, an herbal liqueur not unlike Chartreuse although less complex, made with 32 herbs and featuring the citrusy flavor of lemon verbena. Classic Coquilles St. Jacques paired with an apple brandy cocktail scented with anise and what looks to be a housemade sweet vermouth (wow). Chef James starts ramping up the porkiness in the salad course — making him a perfect new New Orleanian, putting pork on your salad — with a gin cocktail that seems to pair beautifully with this salad in a way that could be rather difficult for a wine pairing.
Then … hooray! Our beloved pork cheeks! See, I lied — you are getting pork cheeks. Having had their pork cheeks, I can guarantee this will knock your socks off. The Old Fashioned that Jackson’s serving with it looks perfect, and I want to run home and try to make one right now. Finishing with English bread and butter pudding is just the right touch — it’s the chefs’ own native version of bread pudding, and New Orleanians love bread pudding. This’ll be a different spin on our local version that I suspect will fit in with the Creole versions quite nicely, and if we’re going to have a rich, eggy dessert why not have a rich, eggy cocktail to go along with it?
From my experiences at Feast, I can tell you that this is looking to be one of the more legendary Spirited Dinners ever. I hope this has made your decision easier, so if you’re sufficiently tempted, go for it! The price is $80, a bargain. For reservations please call Feast at (504) 304-6318, but hurry before all the remaining seats are gone!
— keep looking »