Archive for the Imbibe Category

Well Hello, Lover.

Posted in Coffee, Imbibe, Reviews with tags on 31 December, 2009 by la fille

My roommate got a Chemex coffee pot for Christmas. “Chemex” seems to me an awful name for something not designed to clean toilets, but damned if it doesn’t produce a fantastic cuppa.

Designed by chemist Peter Schlumbohm in the 1940s, the Chemex design is based on a bunch of science-y stuff dealing with filtration and extraction to eliminate bitterness in the coffee. The result is simple and elegant.

(photo of Schlumbohm and the Chemex from this Gourmet article)

It’s an all-in-one contraption– the only other thing you need is a special kind of filter that’s thicker on one side than the other. This makes for easy cleanup! All you do is pick up the filter and throw it away.

I usually prefer my coffee with a fair amount of milk, precisely to cut the acidity and any bitterness there may be, but there is no need to do so with the Chemex brew. It’s smooth, flavorful, and beautifully balanced with no accouterments whatsoever. I tried it with milk, too, and ended up dumping it out because it just watered down the wonderful flavor too much.

The only complaint I have with Chemex coffee stems from a personal preference of not really liking any type of drip as much as I like press pot or pressure extracted brew. I like a muddy cup of coffee that leaves sediment in the bottom of the cup, but if you don’t, I strongly recommend trying Chemex out. The process can be time consuming, as you pour water over the grounds incrementally, but there’s an element of ritual to it that’s pretty satisfying.

Here are the instructions from the website:

1.  Open the Chemex-Bonded Coffee Filter into a cone.  One side should have three layers.  Place the cone in the top of your coffeemaker with the thick portion toward the pouring spout.

2.  Using Regular or Automatic Grind coffee only, put one rounded tablespoon of coffee per 5 oz. cup into the filter cone.  If you prefer stronger coffee, use more; there is never any bitterness in coffee brewed using the Chemex® method.

3.  When the water is boiling, remove it from the heat until it stops boiling vigorously.  It should now be at about 200ºF, a perfect brewing temperature.  Pour a small amount of water over the coffee grounds, just enough to wet them without floating.  This is important because it allows the grounds to “bloom,” so the desirable coffee elements can be released.

4.  After this first wetting simply pour more water, soaking the grounds each time, but keeping the water level well below the top of the coffeemaker.  Once the desired amount of coffee is brewed, dispose of the spent grounds by lifting the filter out of the coffeemaker.

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Grocery Stores as Cultural Microcosms

Posted in Eat, Imbibe, Photos, Words with tags , , , , , on 24 December, 2009 by la fille

Nothing gives one a sense of a new geographical area more than a visit to the grocery store. Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole, but you know what I mean. So much of a culture is wrapped up in its food that a trip to pick up some groceries tells you a lot about both the history and the present of a place.

Of course, we all know that New Orleans is a phenomenal example of this, but even in a place not so completely defined by its cuisine—like, oh, I don’t know, New Jersey—there are myriad regional differences.

First and foremost–bagels!

They just aren’t the same outside of the Northeast. One could argue that they aren’t the same outside of Manhattan, but my bagel standards aren’t quite THAT rigid. Shop-Rite had a whole WALL of bagels: plain, everything, sesame, garlic, blueberry, poppyseed, onion, raisin. Yum. Someone told me that climate has a huge effect on how one’s bagels turn out, and comparing NJ bagels with NOLA bagels I might believe it. Rusty’s bagels from The Bagel Factory are tasty, but they’re dense and too tough to enjoy unless you toast them. The Shop-Rite bagels in Jersey have attained the Golden Mean of pastries—nice and chewy, but fluffy on the inside, and delish toasted or no.

The seafood section’s another part of the store where you can get a real sense of place. Of course, nowadays everyone gets flash-frozen salmon, tilapia, and shrimp from halfway around the world, but there are still always fresh regional offerings. Naturally, there was not a crawfish to be found in Jersey, and the oyster selection was dwarfed by the choices of clams and mussels. (They don’t call it New England clam chowdah for nothin’.) I saw lots of little silver fish, too, like anchovy and smelt, and then there was this:

Fresh eel. Now I know you can find eel in NOLA, especially at the Asian markets, but I get the impression it’s probably a different kind—this seemed distinctly regional to me. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

As I turned away from the fish case, I noticed a bunch of prepackaged fish fillets that were just sitting on a table, not being refrigerated. “That’s weird and unsanitary,” I thought. Turns out it was salt cod, which I suspect is not only a regional thing, but a seasonal one as well. I figure it hearkens back to the days when you had to cure your meat to ensure you had enough to make it through the winter. Or, you know, to take on your whaling ship.

Regional differences tend to show up in the fresh parts of the store—bread, seafood, meat, veggies—but here’s one I found in the soda section:

Dr. Brown’s in a 2-liter? For $1.19?! Dan Stein, are you listening?

Beyond the food selection, and I never thought I’d say this, a trip to Shop-Rite in New Jersey is even more harrowing to a trip to Rouses on Carrollton. Although the patrons of Rouses are just as inconsiderate and oblivious to my existence as those at Shop-Rite, at least in New Orleans they’re slow about it. I have time to see that someone has no intention of moving to accommodate me and adjust my route accordingly. Everyone moves so quickly Up North that I don’t have time to get out of the way before being run over.

If you want to get a sense of a place, visit a grocery store.

New Jersey = bagels, clams, rock salt, fast-moving, no eye contact.

And no one asks about my mom and ‘dem.

The Delachaise

Posted in Bars, Beer, Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Restaurants, Reviews, Wine with tags , on 15 December, 2009 by la fille

Ok, so I have a new job that is AWESOME. There are many things that make it awesome, one of which is the fact that it’s located in a different neighborhood from the one in which I live. My old job was three blocks from my abode. This was damnably convenient, of course, but it also meant my world was very small. Get up, walk to work, get off, walk to the grocery, walk to the wine store, walk to a restaurant, walk home…you get the drift. On a REALLY exciting day I might get on my bike and ride to a restaurant.

Working Uptown means that I get regular exposure to a bunch of places I used to hear about but never went because they were more than 100 yards from my house.

I’ve been to the Delachaise a couple of times since becoming a part-time Uptowner, and I must say, it’s pretty rad. Good cocktail selection, good wine list, and probably some of the best frites I’ve ever had.

Y’all. THOSE POTATOES ARE FRIED IN GOOSE FAT. AND THEY’RE SERVED WITH PEANUT SAUCE.

Sweet Jesus, I may have to take a second to recompose myself.

All right. Now, I’m a humongous fan of peanut sauce, and am usually of the opinion that anything served with it is purely a vessel to get said sauce into my mouth and should take a supporting role in the process. These fries, however, make me question that philosophy– they are plenty awesome on their own. They also come with a malt vinegar minez, just like they do it in Britain. I often wonder why more Americans don’t eat mayo with their fries, since we usually opt for the most fattening option available.

I also had my first frog legs. “Wickedly spicy”, according to the menu, and glazed in remoulade, I’m now a fan of those little cuisses de grenouille. Although I must wonder what they do with the rest of the frog. My coworker Skooksie just suggested maybe they make fwog gras (get it, GET IT?) out of ’em. Or maybe there are a bunch of French high school students dissecting legless frogs in biologie class.

They’ve got very well-chosen wine and beer lists, and offer a huge variety of stuff by the glass. The night in question I stuck with an ’07 Olivares Monastrell. The tap choices are terrific too, with a representative selection of styles like Chimay, Anchor Porter, Spaten Lager, and even a lambic.

I like the atmosphere a lot and, as my dining partner noted, the fact that the building’s long and skinny means that it doesn’t take many customers to make the place feel full. They do allow smoking, also.

Flojindamesa over at Eat Drink Nola relates an amusing Delachaise experience here.

The Delachaise

3442 St. Charles Ave.

504.895.0858

thedelachaise.com

The Moka Pot

Posted in Coffee, Imbibe, Photos with tags on 13 December, 2009 by la fille

As a long-time devotee of the French Press, I was hesitant to try my new roommate’s stovetop coffee pot, partially out of snobbiness and partially out of FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN. I didn’t like the idea of using boiling water to make my cuppa– ideal coffee extraction temperature is about 195 degrees F, otherwise the extraction process is effed up and you get bitter coffee. Turns out it’s the steam that forces water up through the grinds, not the fact that it’s boiling. You’re supposed to remove the pot from the stove before it actually starts boiling.

Once that misconception was cleared up, I decided maybe I could get on board with the moka pot. (It may also have had something to do with the fact that the only coffee in the house was ground fine for said moka pot and had I used it in my press pot I would be drinking mud.)

Whilst stovetop brewing produces a very different cup from a French press, done correctly it’s delightful. Since steam and pressure play a major role in extraction, the resulting beverage is much more akin to espresso than press pot coffee. The only reason I still prefer the press is that I like my coffee just a little thicker, where there’s some sediment at the bottom of the cup when you finish. You definitely don’t get that with a moka pot.

So anyway, I’d recommend trying it out if you never have before. It’s less work than a French press, since you only need one vessel rather than a kettle and a press. Here’s a diagram:

So water goes in the bottom and coffee goes in the filter basket. For best results it should be ground more fine than for drip, but not quite as fine as espresso. Put the pot on the stove or whatever heat source you’re using and as the water heats up, the resulting steam will force it up through the filter into the upper chamber. Remove it from the heat before it reaches the boiling point (i.e. before it starts gurgling and spitting) and the steam will continue to force the remaining water upwards. There’s even a chance you’ll get some crema, just like a shot of espresso.

What’s your favorite coffee extraction method, and why?

(photo by lafille)

Making Spirits Bright: Tales of the Toddy

Posted in Cocktails, Eat, Imbibe, Recipe, Tastings with tags , , , , , , , , on 11 December, 2009 by la fille

Last night I was lucky enough to attend Tales of the Toddy at the W on Poydras Street, and darned if the event didn’t warm my cockles just a little.

For y’all who don’t know, Tales of the Toddy (put on by Tales of the Cocktail and the New Orleans Culinary and Cocktail Preservation Society) was a giant cocktail party designed to ring in the holiday season and give local bartenders a venue to show off their winter-suitable creations. Proceeds also went to benefit the New Orleans Musician’s Assistance Foundation, which is, of course, a good thing.

Here are the bartenders who were there:

Arnaud’s French 75 • Chris Hannah

Carousel Bar • Marvin Allen

Coquette • Cole Newton

Crescent City School of Bartending •  Stahili Glover

Cure • Rhiannon Enlil

Cure • Neal Bodenheimer

Domenica • Michael Glassberg

Dos Jefes • Talia Neal

Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse • Tiffany Soles

Ritz Carlton • Daniel Victory

Whiskey Blue • Lisa Nahay

Pernod Ricard USA • Chris Patino

Iris Restaurant • Sharon Floyd

And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails author • Wayne Curtis

And the chefs:

a Mano • Chefs Joshua Smith and Adolfo Garcia

Arnaud’s • Chef Tommy Di Giovanni

Boucherie • Chef Nathanial Zimet

Creole Creamery • Chef Bryan Gilmore

Cure • Chef Jason McCullar

Jackson Restaurant • Chef John Bolderson

La Cote Brassierie • Chef Chuck Subra

Pelican Club • Chef Richard Hughes

Squeal Barbeque • Brendan, Patrick and Eugene “Gene” Young

Tomatillo’s • Alaina Stokke

ZOE • Chef Chris Brown

Royal House Oyster Bar

Now,  I will admit that I didn’t take notes last night, so unfortunately I won’t be able to provide detailed descriptions of most of the drinks. I was on a lady-date with my friend Tattoo, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, and figured quality time trumped bloggy time. We did have a blast, if that makes up for my lack of studiousness.

Most of the cocktail sponsors were blatantly obvious– there were a LOT of drinks made with Absolut vodka, Hendrick’s gin, and Sazerac rye. Now, I don’t consider myself a vodka fan (although I will admit to a Salty Dog or two if I’m at a dive bar and the weather is warm) but both of my favorite cocktails last night turned out to be vodka-based.

The big surprise of the evening was The Stubborn Mule by Marvin Allen of the Carousel Bar consisting of Absolut vanilla, Absolut 100, Fentiman’s ginger beer, and lime. Now this sounds pretty tasty and refreshing, so Tattoo and I bellied up and got one, but when he handed us our cups, the drinks were warm. We looked at each other, first with surprise, then with incredulity, because the prospect of warm vodka appealed to neither of us. Never ones to back down from a cocktail, though, we took our first hesitant sips, and lo, it was good. Mostly lime at the front, with some mild ginger coming out. After eating taking a bite of spicy food, however, the vanilla really shone through, and we each contemplated getting another round.

We couldn’t do that, though– there was too much else to drink! Warm cocktails with tea and Nocello (Lisa Nahay of Whiskey Blue‘s Mad Hatter’s Toddy), cold ones with rye, pear liqueur, Averna, and celery bitters (Neal Bodenheimer of Cure’s Axis of Everything), and punches with gin and absinthe (Rhiannon Enlil of Cure).

Stahili Glover’s Grey Pear proved to be the hands-down favorite of several people I spoke with, and I am inclined to agree. It straddled the line between refreshing and comforting, so it’d be just as good on a hot afternoon in July as it was on a cold December evening. Fruity and unctuous, but not cloying, I’m still fantasizing about it this morning.

Mr. Glover is from the Crescent City School of Bartending and was gracious enough to share his recipe, which you’ll find at the bottom of the post.

Of course, if the planners of the event had only provided booze, they would have ended up with a lot of sloppy people in sparkly clothes on their hands, so they rounded up representatives of some of the city’s best restaurants to provide some sustenance. Duck empanadas from Jason McCullar at Cure and some truly delish pulled pork and corn grits from Squeal Barbeque stood out in particular as good comfort food on a chilly night. Tattoo and I finished things off with pear sorbet and ginger ice cream from Chef Bryan Gilmore of Creole Creamery.

After having our fill of goodies, we found ourselves considerably jollier than when we arrived, and capped off the night with a walk through the winter wonderland that is Fulton Street in December.

Not enough alcohol had been imbibed that we tried to catch the fake snow on our tongues, but I’ll admit the thought did cross my mind. (photo via)

Grey Pear

by Stahili Glover

INGREDIENTS

1 oz. Grey Goose La Poire vodka

1 tsp. honey

2 dashes vanilla extract

3 oz. peach nectar

pear slice for garnish

RECIPE

1. Mix vodka and honey in a mixing glass with one pear slice, add 2 dashes vanilla extract, a little ice, and shake for 30 seconds.

2. Pour into a large rocks or collins glass, top with 3 oz. peach nectar, and garnish with a pear slice.

Beautiful and delicious!

Mini-giving

Posted in Eat, Entrees, Imbibe, Wine, Words with tags , on 27 November, 2009 by la fille

I’m currently back in beautiful Tennessee, enjoying the holiday weekend with mon père, Cap’n Will. The air is crisp, the sky is clear, and the accents are twangy.

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but when it comes to food, the pomme didn’t fall far from the tree. Cap’n Will has been in the restaurant business his whole life, and owned a fine dining establishment for the majority of my childhood. Needless to say, when we found out it was just going to be the two of us for Thanksgiving (Mamàn is currently in another state spending time with my new niece and nephew), our thoughts immediately went to what fun things we could do with the meal while downsizing at the same time.

I flew in late on Wednesday, so I really didn’t a whole lot foodwise, but Pops put together the most marvelous Thanksgiving meal for two that I could have imagined. We forwent a turkey and stuffed a couple of Cornish game hens with an apple-dried plum (apparently we’ve stopped calling them prunes) cornbread stuffing, baked some teensy sweet potatoes, put together a green bean casserole, and made fresh cranberry sauce.

I’ve always found the side dishes to be the most exciting aspect of Thanksgiving dinner, and I will admit a particular and unabashed love for green bean casserole. I know it’s a pretty rudimentary dish, but you’ve gotta admit it’s pretty much the ultimate in comfort food, and for me–since I only have it once a year–the creamy concoction is so rooted in time and place that it makes me feel safe and loved no matter the circumstances.

So yeah, green bean casserole.

The other stuff was good too, I guess.

The hens turned out beautifully– golden and crispy on the outside, moist and tender within, and most importantly, no living on turkey sammiches for the next three days! It was the PERFECT amount of food for the two of us.

While cooking, we drank a 2005 Eos Paso Robles, which I enjoyed immensely, and with the meal had Fat Bastard’s Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, which was good with food, but sweeter than both of us had anticipated, especially for a brut. It’s from the Loire Valley, not Champagne, though, and most likely chenin blanc instead of chardonnay, which might explain the sweetness.

Anyway, after indulging in the requisite food-and-wine coma (and having some coffee), we packed up our dessert and went a-visiting. I tell you what, friends are glad to see you when you bring mango cobbler and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. To hell with pumpkin pie, I say!


A Little More Ojen

Posted in Cocktails, Imbibe, Photos with tags on 13 July, 2009 by la fille

3682522049_2d39814312This is an older version of an Ojen bottle, found in a Katrina-ravaged building. Pretty lovely, I must say. For a photo of the newest/last ever bottle in which Ojen was packaged  and some more info on the drink itself, here’s my original post on the subject.

A Brief History of Ojen

(photo by Brother O’Mara)