Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hudson River School, rev. ed.

ornaments fig. a: self-portrait w/ xmas ornaments

The holidays found us back in the Catskills, taking pictures of ourselves reflected in Christmas ornaments,

barn fig. b: barn, Cornwallville, NY

exploring big, old barns,

hudson river valley fig. c: view of the Hudson River Valley

and studying the landscape. This view is from Olana,

Olana fig. d: Olana

the outlandish Orientalist fantasy home built by the Hudson River School's Frederic Edwin Church on a site that affords spectacular views of the Hudson River, the Catskills, and the Taconic hills, a site Church called "the center of the world."

olana 3 fig. e: gnarly!

Church fetish for all things Persian may have been somewhat incongruous, but Michelle approved of Olana's views and its sense of whimsy (including its heart-shaped pond), and she was especially fond of Church's taste in outdoor furnishings.


hudson, NY fig. f: Hudson Gothic

The town of Hudson is a handsome Hudson River Valley town with a handsome Amtrak station that also happens to be one of the town's most important landmarks. Not only is Hudson's train station a stately, subdued example of American Gothic, not only is it the oldest continuously operational train station in the entire state of New York, but it happens to be across the street from one of New York's very best cafés.

strongtree fig. g: inside Strongtree

That's right, directly across the street you'll find the good people at Strongtree Organic Coffee Roasters, purveyors of the "finest quality organic heirloom coffees." In many ways, 2009 was the Year of Coffee for us, the year that we had 4 or 5 of the most momentous coffee experiences of our entire lives. Strongtree was the final coffee discovery of the year (TY, S & T!), but it vaulted right into our Top 3. We loved this place from the moment we set foot in the joint. The fact that they were playing the dubbed -out sounds of This is Reggae Music, vol. 3, an album that, by all reasonable measures (longest history, most listens, etc.), is my #1 reggae album of all time, certainly didn't hurt.

santa's little helpers fig. h: Santa's little helpers

The display of loopy holiday art didn't hurt either. But what really caught our attention was that first cappuccino. This was not your average espresso shot. It left a tremendously memorable impression. So memorable, in fact, that two days later we remembered to make a special detour back to Strongtree to pick up some beans and have an even more impressive espresso shot. This time time made with their Conquering Lion blend (irie!), this time served up as a latte. But what sealed the deal was when we got back home and brewed up our first batch of their Ethiopian Lekempti Viennese Roast. "Strong dark fruit and deep chocolate flavor," indeed. Again, easily one of our Top 3 coffees of the year.

hudson wine merchants fig. i: inside Hudson Wine Merchants

Hudson is also blessed with an awfully impressive wine shop: Hudson Wine Merchants. Not only do the folks at HWM share our passion for landscape, but they stock a great selection of Italian wines, including an awfully tasty Campo di Sasso Insoglio del Cinghiale 2006.

diner fig. j: Hudson diner

And, if you're interested, Hudson also has a beautifully streamlined vintage diner, which is currently FOR SALE. Takers?


tools of the trade fig. k: inside Fleisher's

If Strongtree was one of the highlights of our trip, the other major highlight was found not in Hudson, but about an hour south along the NY Thruway in Kingston. Fleisher's Grass-Fed & Organic Meats is a new school butcher shop run by Joshua & Jessica Applestone that has very deservedly received an enormous amount of attention in the five years since they opened. Fleisher's is the epitome of principled: not only is all their meat organic, but it's all grass-fed, pasture-fed, and ethically raised. In fact, Joshua & Jessica established a set of tenets when they opened up shop, principles that guide the way they run their operation and the way they do business. They look something like this:

-All farms are multigenerational with a long history of ethical practices.
-Farmers are proponents of proper animal husbandry for all animal reproduction.
-Animals always have access to grass and open pastures and are not kept in pens.
-Animals are rotated through pastures to ensure they have exercise and fresh grass to eat.
-Animals are not given antibiotics or hormones.
-Animals live in closed herds.
-All feed and grains must come from local mills and farms. Store bought grain is never acceptable.
-Animals travel less than an hour to the slaughterhouse.

Where does this commitment to sourcing and carving the very best, most humanely raised meat come from? Well, interestingly, it comes from a shared history of vegetarianism. Joshua & Jessica were both vegetarians when they first met. Hell, Joshua was a vegan. For 17 years (!). Obviously, they left their vegetarian ways behind years ago, but their food ethics remained, and they've made a business out of supporting and promoting a humane and human-scale approach to animal husbandry.

The Fleisher's story is a nice story, too. Not only is it founded on a love story, but there's some real history to it. You might think that the Fleisher's name is just a clever play on the word "butcher," but you'd be wrong. The store is named after Wolf Fleisher, a kosher butcher who came to America in 1901 and set up his own shop--the original Fleisher's--in Brooklyn. The business became a success, known for the high quality of its beef and poultry, as well as the high standards by which it was run. Joshua is Wolf Fleisher's great-grandson, and the Fleisher's tradition lives on.

Now, we'd read about Fleisher's a while back, but it all seemed so faraway and exotic (perhaps because no butcher shop in Montreal is even remotely as progressive) until we happened to meet Joshua & Jessica at Joe Beef on a balmy summer night back in August (TY, AG, TY, JB!). We got to talking and when they graciously invited us to come down and pay them a visit, we pledged to do just that at the soonest opportunity.

It's one thing to hear or read about an all-organic, grass- and pasture-fed meat shop, but it's a whole other thing to see one in operation, especially when it takes the shape of a good, old-fashioned neighborhood butcher shop (albeit one that does a healthy trade with several of New York's finest restaurants, 90 miles down the Hudson), especially when the run-up to Christmas is very much on. This joint was jumping. Fleisher's had a full team in full swing, carving up sides of beef, putting together special orders, tending to customers. Somehow Joshua & Jessica still found the time to give us a tour and chat with us.

the haul fig. l: the haul

When we got back home, we had a box full of Fleisher's organics meats purchases in tow:

6 organic whole chicken legs
2 huge, organic beef short ribs
1 organic bone-in pork shoulder
1 massive, organic, dry-aged rib steak
4 lamb loin chops

As soon as we made our first Fleisher's meal we started to have regrets about not buying more. Four meals later and still batting 1.000 (actually, these meals have been so good, it feels like we're batting over 1.000), we're kicking ourselves (hard!).

Here are the first two:

AEB Chicken & Dumplings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small organic chicken, cut into parts, or 6 organic whole chicken legs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
4 tbsp flour
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt & freshly ground pepper

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 rounded tsp baking powder
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
2/3 cup buttermilk

Heat the oil in a large stove- and ovenproof casserole over medium heat. Salt and pepper your chicken liberally. When the oil begins to smoke, brown your chicken parts or legs, roughly 5 minutes per side. You might need to do this in batches. I did. When the chicken parts have been browned, remove them from the casserole and set them aside. Add the onion to the casserole and sauté until the onion has turned translucent. Add the celery and the carrots and continue sautéing, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the parsley, sauté another minute, then add the flour and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the vegetable have turned a pale golden hue. Add the white wine and the chicken/vegetable stock. Add the browned chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down and simmer ever so gently for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dumplings. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, blending with your fingertips. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Spoon the dough onto a floured surface and roll it evenly 1/4 inch in diameter. Cut into 1-inch rounds or diamond shapes.

When the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, taste and adjust the seasonings. Add the dumplings. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes at a gentle simmer. Test the dumplings--they should be light, airy, and fully cooked through. Serve the chicken and dumplings in wide, shallow bowls. Devour.

[the dumplings part of this recipe is based on Edna Lewis' recipe in The Taste of Country Cooking, although her recipe uses 2/3 cup of milk instead of buttermilk]

Chicken & Dumplings is one of my absolute favorite meals, but it was even better with Fleisher's plump, organic, pastured chicken. The rich gravy--always a thing of beauty--was noticeably richer, noticeably more beautiful. The chicken meat was so thoroughly delicious that we found ourselves literally gnawing at the bones, ravenously, trying to make sure we got each and every last morsel.

Equally phenomenal was this lamb chops dish that combined the Fleisher's method for cooking and savoring their grass-fed and pastured meats with elements of a Mario Batali recipe for scottaditi (one that called for the use of New Zealand lamb [!], not Hudson River Valley lamb*). Now, our lamb chops were loin chops, not the neck-end lamb chops (or frenched lamb chops) that one usually uses for scottaditi, but they were equally finger-scorching-good. Fleisher's method was very familiar to us--it's basically the exact same method we use for making our steaks--but Jessica insisted that this was a fool-proof method for preparing virtually all of their meats.*

Lamb Chops with Confited Garlic and Mint

4 lamb loin chops
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10-12 whole cloves of garlic
1 cup dry wine
1/2 cup sweet wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs mint, leaves only

Heat the oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and sauté slowly, shaking the pan frequently to keep the garlic moving, until they are lightly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the wines, bring to a slow boil, and cook until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, at which point the garlic should be very soft, indeed. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 300º F.

Season the lamb chops liberally with salt and pepper.

Heat a stovetop-to-oven-ready pan (like a cast-iron) over medium-high heat until it reaches the smoking point. Add the lamb chops and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the stovetop and place it in the oven. Cook for an additional 4-8 minutes, until your lamb chops reach your desired level of doneness (our lamb loin chops took about 6 minutes in the oven). Take the pan out of the oven. Remove the lamb chops, place them on a cutting board, and allow them to rest 5 minutes.

While the lamb is resting, season the garlic mixture with salt and pepper and add the mint leaves. Serve each lamb chop with a few confited garlic cloves and drizzle the sauce overtop.

[confited garlic and mint sauce based on a recipe in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano]

Getting schooled rarely tasted so great.

New Year's Resolution: Go back to Hudson & Kingston at the earliest opportunity.

Strongtree Organic Coffee Roasters, 60 South Front Street ("at the train depot"), Hudson, NY, (518) 828-8778

Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, 307 Wall Street, Kingston, NY, (845) 338-6666


* That was a few years ago, I'd be surprised if Mario hasn't changed his tune by now. For one thing, Fleisher's meats are featured at Batali's Casa Mono & Bar Jamón.

** Fleisher's "cooking instructions from the MooRu***" read as follows:

1. Oven preheat 300º [10 minutes]
2. Heat pan on stovetop to smoking point
3. Pre-salt each side [5-10 minutes ahead of time]
4. Put into pan / sear for 2 minutes each side
5. Put pork/lamb/chicken/beef into oven w/ pan
6. Pork > 6 minutes up to 10 minutes in oven [125º]
Lamb > 4-8 minutes in oven [120º]
Chicken > 10-15 minutes in oven [135-140º]
Beef > 4-8 minutes in oven [120º]
7. Take out of oven--let sit [rest] for 5 minutes

*** MooRu = meat + guru

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Red and the White Redux

anson mills red peas

anson mills carolina gold rice

I wasn't sure it was possible, but our new, improved Red Beans & Rice recipe got better. Well, actually, it kinda got transformed into Peas & Rice, a.k.a. Peezy Reezy, and then it got better.

It all had to do with some heirloom Sea Island Red Peas and Carolina Gold Rice that we'd gotten from the good people at Anson Mills earlier this year. They came in the simple, but lovely, bags you see above, and, as per the instructions marked on the bag, we'd had them sitting in our freezer for the last several months, just waiting for an opportunity to shine. And, with a little advice from Anson Mills' website, that's exactly what we gave them: an opportunity to shine and shine bright.

Red Peas are exactly that--they're peas not beans. But these particular red peas--an heirloom variety from the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia--cook much more quickly than red beans, they're packed with flavor, and they have an extraordinary texture that creates a full-bodied gravy while remaining perfectly, appealingly toothsome. As the folks at Anson Mills point out, this variety of field peas and its preparation have a long and illustrious history. Not only is red pea gravy the kind of dish described by the old (or should that read olde) English rhyme "Pease porridge hot," but the Gullah name Peezy Reezy is also related to the ancient Italian dish risi e bisi, which, as Marcella Hazan points out, is often misunderstood as being a risotto with peas, but which is actually "a soup, albeit a very thick one" (in other words, a "pease porridge").

Our new, improved Red Beans & Rice recipe made do with just water--the combination of the beans, the herbs, and the various forms of pork created a rich gravy quite naturally. But here we took the advice of Anson Mills and began with their Smoked Ham and Chicken Stock. They describe this stock as "the backbone" of their Red Peas and Rice recipe, and note that "canned chicken broth is not an acceptable substitute in terms of flavor or body" [my emphasis]. God knows we had plenty of beautiful ham and ham bones kicking around just waiting to be put to use, and it truly is a wonderful stock.

Smoked Ham and Chicken Stock

1 lb smoked pork neck bones or ham hocks
1 lb chicken wings or necks
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 Turkish bay leaf
6 parsley stems
2 quarts spring or filtered water

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy 4- or 5-gallon stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the stock is rich in flavor, about 3 hours. Remove from the heat and strain the stock through a fine sieve into a large mixing bowl. There should be 4 cups. Pick the meat from the ham bones and reserve it to add later, if you so desire. Discard the remaining bones, meat, and vegetables. Cover the stock and refrigerate. Before using, remove the congealed fat from the surface of the stock with a spoon and discard.

So we began with this Ham and Chicken stock, and we applied it to our Red Beans & Rice recipe, replacing the red beans with the Sea Island red peas and the pickled pork with another big, ole ham bone, but otherwise following the recipe to a T, so that we ended up with Sea Island Red Peas & Rice.

I should point out that Anson Mills suggested a very particular way to prepare their Carolina Gold Rice. Not only is this rice an heirloom variety (perhaps even the American heirloom variety: they call it "the grandfather of long grain rices in the Americas"), but all of Anson Mills' rice is new-crop rice. Cooked according to standard methods, a "sticky finish" will result. Cooked carefully according to Anson Mills' suggestions, however, and "you will be rewarded with a dish of such simple refinement" that it's known as "Charleston ice cream" in the Lowcountry. Sound good? We certainly thought so.

Classic Separate-Grain Rice

1 cup Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice
1 tbsp fine sea salt, plus a bit more for seasoning
6 cups spring or filtered water
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300º F.

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed 3 1/2-quart saucepan. Add the rice, stir once, and return to a boil. As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender with no hard starch at its center, about 15 minutes. Drain the rice through a fine, colander and rinse well with cool water. Shake the colander to get rid of excess water.

Spread the rice evenly over a rimmed baking sheet. Place it in the oven to dry, turning it gently from time to time with a spatula, about 5 minutes. Dot the rice with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return the sheet to the oven and continue turning the rice periodically until the butter has melted and the rice is hot, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and serve immediately.

Makes 4 cups.

As was the case with the Red Beans & Rice, serve mounds of the Carolina Gold rice in bowls, covering the rice with generous ladlefuls of the red pea gravy and sprinkling green onions on top.

Not only does this combination produce another fantastic, deeply soulful Southern dish, but it's a New Year's classic, both peas and beans having long associations with the New Year and good luck. Feeling lucky? You will when you dig in to either of these dishes.


P.S.--For more about Anson Mills, check out their website. Unfortunately, they don't ship to Canada, but they will ship to your friends anywhere in the United States, and there are absolutely no restrictions against you or your friends driving such a shipment of rice, peas, grits, farro, etc., across the border.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday High Jinks

Another year, another holiday special. Except that this one was a little extra-special. We weren't able to celebrate AEB's 5th anniversary in November when that momentous date passed on by, so our 5th annual holiday jam* doubled as our AEB 5th Anniversary Party.

Last year, our party's centerpiece was a ham twin-set--one Kentucky country ham served raw in thin slices, and one Virginia country ham that had been baked. This year we featured another country ham--this time from William Mulder's Fresh Meats of Fredericton, NB--but, frankly, the savory fare got overshadowed a bit by our first annual AEB gingerbread house.

I can honestly say that I had nothing to do with the gingerbread house, aside from a little consulting. The gingerbread house was the product of the Montreal Cake Club (M.C.C.), a local cell of cake-decorating extremists with reputed links to Laloux, the Preservation Society, and La Salle à manger. It didn't weigh 390 pounds, and it wasn't covered in white chocolate, but, like the 2009 White House Gingerbread House, it was modeled on an actual existing structure: the M.H. Merchant Stone House.

M.H. Merchant Stone House 2 fig. a: M.H. Merchant Stone House

The finished product looked something like this,

gingerbread stone house 2 fig. b: M.H. Merchant Gingerbread House 1

gingerbread stone house 3 fig. c: M.H. Merchant Gingerbread House 2

and by the morning after, it was a little worse for wear (note the candied-almond "stones" missing from the walkway),

gingerbread stone house 1 fig. d: M.H. Merchant Gingerbread House 3

but it was still pretty magical. In fact, if you took a close look and peered through the caramel "glass" windows, you'd swear there was someone inside taking advantage of the spacious two-story, 4 1/2-room interior.

gingerbread stone house 5 fig. e: M.H. Merchant Gingerbread House 4

Anyway, the M.C.C.'s M.H. Merchant Gingerbread House was certainly an impressive sight, and it was 100% edible, but it wasn't really meant to be eaten (that didn't stop some of our guests from trying, though). Attending to the more immediate spiritual needs of our invited guests was the following vaguely Mad Men-inspired menu:

Coca-Cola- & Chipotle-Glazed Ham
Serious Mac & Cheese, Smothered w/ Cajun Gravy
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
Cajun Deviled Eggs
Cucumber-Herb Dip
Baked Artichoke Dip
Clam Dip
Cheddar Cheese
Armadale Farm Cumin Gouda

Punchbowl Old-Fashioneds
Martinican Rum Punch

Bourbon Chocolate Cookies
Vanilla Crescents
fresh clementines

We were dead-set on another baked ham. Ham has become something of a tradition at our holiday parties, and we'd managed to source a particularly good smoked ham in the Maritimes. Then we received our December issue of Saveur--"HAM FOR THE HOLIDAYS"--and it was as if the food gods (or at least the food press gods) were speaking directly to us (and about 600,000 others). Their cover story has plenty of great-looking ham-centric recipes, but the one that really caught our attention was the Pineapple-Chipotle-Glazed Ham (who knows, might have had something to do with the fact that that's the one featured on the cover). We'd always wanted to do a Coca-Cola ham, but this recipe's Coke, chipotle, and honey glaze sounded particularly tempting.

Coca-Cola- & Chipotle-Glazed Ham

1 15-lb whole smoked ham
8 fresh pineapple slices
whole cloves
2 3/4 cups Coca-Cola
1 rounded tbsp chipotle purée
1/3 cup honey

Put the ham into a large stockpot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 60 minutes.

Heat oven to 350º. Transfer the ham to a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Using toothpicks, secure the pineapple slices to the surface of the ham. Stud the ham with cloves to taste [Saveur recommends 64 cloves, but we like our ham a little less clove-y, so we went with about half that many]. Pour 2 cups of the Coca-Cola over the ham, then add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining Coca-Cola, the chipotle purée, and the honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the glaze has reduced and become syrupy, roughly 12-15 minutes. Uncover the ham and brush it with some of the glaze. Increase the heat of the oven to 500º. Bake the ham, brushing occasionally with the glaze, until it has become browned and glossy, about 15-20 minutes. [Make sure to watch the ham carefully, though. If it starts to brown too quickly, you may want to protect it with that loose foil covering again.] Let cool for 20 minutes before carving.

As for the mac & cheese. This recipe was quite literally the product of hearsay. As in, a couple of weeks ago, I was motoring along on the Trans-Canada, listening to a podcast of American Public Media's The Splendid Table, when I heard Jane & Michael Stern gushing about Rocky & Carlo's in Chalmette, Louisiana. The segment was about the famed hybridity of Louisiana's cuisines, and the ways in which the Italian-American idiom has coupled with Cajun, Creole, and Southern cuisine in all kinds of interesting ways there, but mostly it was about Rocky & Carlo's as a prime example of this culinary bricolage. There was a lot about the Sterns' spiel that had me ready to veer off my easterly course and make a beeline for Chalmette, but the thing that stuck with me the most was their positively ecstatic descriptions of Rocky & Carlo's macaroni & cheese. They came out and anointed Rocky & Carlo's mac & cheese their very favorite mac & cheese in all of America (!). They had plenty of good reasons for naming Rocky & Carlo's mac & cheese #1, but a big part of its considerable charm had to do with the fact that you could get it smothered with either a red sauce or a Cajun brown sauce. For a split second there, I seriously thought about putting the pedal to the metal over the border and across 8 eight states all the way to Chalmette to give that smothered mac & cheese a try, but then I came up with a Plan B: put the pedal to the metal all the way to my kitchen so that I could improvise a batch of Mac & Cheese Smothered w/ Cajun Brown Sauce myself.

The following is what I came up with. Does it bear any resemblance to Rocky & Carlo's? I have no idea, but mac & cheese has rarely tasted so good.

Smothered Mac & Cheese

Make your preferred macaroni & cheese recipe, keeping in mind that you're going to smother it with a zesty roux-based brown sauce momentarily, so you might want to keep things simple and straightforward, and you might want to avoid a béchamel sauce and go with a cheese and milk/cream sauce instead (the logic: béchamel + roux + macaroni = flour + flour + flour).

Got your macaroni & cheese in the oven? Perfect. Now it's time to make your brown sauce:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
1/4 bell pepper (green or red), diced
2 tbsp mixed herbs (parsley, thyme, chives, etc.), finely minced
1 tbsp Cajun Magic (recipe follows)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (or 2 cups water, in a pinch) [we've been using vegetable stock and/or water, usually, meaning our smothered mac & cheese has been 100% vegetarian!]
salt & pepper to taste

Warm your stock in a separate saucepan.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large non-stick frying pan or a properly seasoned skillet. When the oil is hot, add the flour all at once and begin stirring constantly. Make a deep Cajun roux. When your roux has reached your desired depth (I recommend going with a cappuccino-colored roux here), add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery and bell pepper and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the herbs, stir, and add the Cajun Magic, sautéing for another minute. Add the stock in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Cook the gravy until it thickens, reaching your desired consistency. If it thickens too quickly and you want the flavors to meld a bit longer, add a bit more water or stock and cook it down some more over medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve your hot macaroni and cheese, smothering each helping with plenty of the brown sauce, and topping with a dash or two of Tabasco sauce, if you so desire.

Cajun Magic

1/4 Cup of salt
2 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp cayenne pepper, espelette pepper, or hot paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp white peppercorns
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Combine all the ingredients, and, using a mortar & pestle or an electric spice grinder, grind them together. The resultant spice blend should be lively and complex.

We knew we were making Martinican Rum Punch again this year--we've been rockin' that recipe for several years now, and it's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But this year we wanted to add a new drink to our arsenal of beverages. We thought about making Old-fashioneds to order, but then discovered this ingenious punchbowl version in the Esquire Party Book. Much, much easier to prepare, and our guests loved 'em. Maybe a little too much. They cleaned us out of the first batch in no seconds flat, and, the next thing we knew, a chant of "Make more punch! Make more punch!!" erupted throughout the apartment. You've been warned.

Punchbowl Old-fashioneds

8 lumps of sugar
2 tbsp bitters
1/3 cracked ice or 1 appropriately sized ice ring
1 quart bourbon or rye
16 slices of orange, lemon
16 cherries

Muddle the sugar, bitters, and ice together in a punch bowl. Add the bourbon or rye and stir well. Drink responsibly-ish.

How good were these Punchbowl Old-fashioneds? This good:

cocktail girl fig. f: Michelle loves Old-fashioneds

Thanks to all our guests for making our 5th anniversary bonanza such a blast and for participating so generously in our donations drive for Dans la rue.

party montage fig. g: in the light of the miracle

Thanks to MS and CWI for packing pixels and helping us to document the festivities.


* If you're particularly devoted to reading AEB and particularly good at math, you might be thinking: "seeing as you threw your first AEB holiday party just weeks after you started the blog, shouldn't this be your 6th holiday party?" And you'd be right. It should have been our 6th, but, if you must know, we skipped a year once.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

South of the Border

No, not here:

fig. a: Pedro's South of the Border, Dillon, SC

Quite a ways further south, actually.

All the way down here:

fig. b: Spaceship Earth, EPCOT, Florida

Yes, Spaceship Earth bears a certain resemblance to a couple of Montreal icons:

fig. c: U.S. Pavilion, Expo 67, Montreal, QC

Gibeau Orange Julep fig. d: Gibeau Orange Julep, Montreal, QC

But it turns out that's not all that Montreal and EPCOT share in common.


What, no poutine?