Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Irish Holiday Favorites

With St. Patrick's day is almost upon us, it's time to wear everything green in your closet, and drink and kiss everything Irish. I had the good fortune to visit Dublin last summer. We were only in the airport for a few hours, but it was long enough to have a few pints of Guinness, while waiting for our connecting flight to Liverpool. While traveling around the north west of England, we happened to drive by a Guinness Brewery in Warrington. According to our friend, who is a local, that location was selected because it's water softness and quality is similar to the water at the Dublin brewery. Which reminds me to mention that the Guinness in England and Ireland tastes subtly  different than the Guinness we have in the States. At first I thought the recipe may be slightly different, but now I think it has more to do with the water used to brew it, rather than the ingredients that go into it.

No St. Patrick's day is complete without Irish whiskey and Irish cream. Jameson' is the classic Irish whiskey. Though I don't often do shots of or sip whiskey, Jameson's is one of the few whiskies I actually enjoy drinking. It's smooth and silky with a touch of woody smokiness.

When it comes to Irish Cream, most people are only familiar with the Bailey's brand. Working in liquor retail, I hear "Where is the Bailey's?", like it's the only Irish cream that exists. I'm here to tell you people; Bailey's is not the end all, be all of Irish cream. Most people think Bailey's is made of Irish whiskey, and heavy cream, sugar, and flavorings, such as chocolate and vanilla. That is what it's supposed to be made from. Many people don't realize that Bailey's has been made with neutral grain sprit (essentially vodka)  for more than 10 years. I used to drink St. Brenden's because it is made with real, oak barrel aged Irish whiskey, and it's cheaper than Bailey's. Recently, I was introduced to Kavanagh Irish cream. It's also made with real aged Irish whiskey, but has a richer body style than St. Brenden's, and more chocolaty than Bailey's. It's also reasonably priced at around $12 for a 750 ml, or $20 for the 1.75 ml. I keep a 1.75 in my fridge at all times. It's nice over ice, or in a cup of coffee any time of the year.

Of course, all of these ingredients when combined in a depth charge, creates an Irish car bomb. To make one yourself, pour a can of Guinness into a pint glass, fill a shot glass halfway with Irish cream, then float Jameson's on top, by pouring it slowly over the back of a spoon. Drop the shot glass into pint glass, then drink it down all in one go.

May the luck of the Irish be with you this St. Patrick's day, and enjoy all of the beer and spirits of the emerald isles. Slante!

The Bartemptress is back in the game baby!

Hello again faithful followers of my boozy blog. Six years after my first triumphal return, I'm back again, this time with a 3 year old little man in tow. As you can see, I've been a bit busy since my last entry in 2010. Aside from being a mom now, I am also gainfully employed by the largest wine and booze retailer in North America: Total Wine & More. Now that I'm back in the biz, and my son isn't in my arms 24/7, my hands and mind are free to write about booze again. But before I start running off at the mouth about my favorite inebriators, is there anything you, the audience have questions about, or what aspects of beer, liquor, and wine would you enjoy reading about? Give me some feedback here, or on my new Facebook page. Tell me what you want to hear, and I will do my best to demystify your boozy queries. I'm sorry for being away so long, but now I hope we can become better aquainted. I look forward to blogging about booze again. Until then, cheers!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Bartemptress' Triumphant Return

Holy cow Bartemptees! It's been a while! I can't believe it's been almost 2 years to the day since my last blog entry. It's been quite a whirlwind since September 2008, which somewhat explains, but does not completely excuse my absence.

I fell off the face of blogger earth when my best friend in Liverpool, England asked me to help plan her wedding. I threw all of my spare time and energy into designing and planning a barrel of money's themed wedding at one of the oldest zoo's in the U.K. By the end of 2008, I had been laid off twice in 3 months due to the crumbling economy. I finally got another job a few months before crossing the pond; just in time to gather up a little spending money for the trip. The wedding was a huge hit, and so were the 200 cupcakes my husband and I baked and dressed for the occasion. We spent a wonderful 2 weeks visiting with friends, seeing the northern sights, drinking lots of beer and a little gin & Pim's for good measure. Then we tried to fly home...

Upon arriving at Heathrow from Manchester, we were told our flight would be delayed due to a problem with one of the engines on the plane that was to fly us from London to Washington D.C. We waited, and waited, got a complimentary Caipirinha , and waited some more. Near 1 a.m. Greenwich time, we were shuffled out to the terminal and told they were replacing the part on the plane and they would be busing us out to the tarmac in order to take off as soon as the work was finished. Not with my happy ass on it! My husband and I have seen "Final Destination" enough times to know when not to get on a plane. This was one of those times. Luckily we were able to get our luggage before the ill-fated trans-Atlantic flight took off for it's untested voyage. We found a (ritzy) hotel that would offer us a discount since I was employed by the same hotel chain. We checked in, emailed my friend in London, took a hot shower and got some well deserved rest after a longer day than expected. When we went back to Heathrow the next morning, we were told we could use our tickets for a stand-by flight, but we should wait until after the weekend since it's not likely for people to miss the more expensive weekend flights. This meant that we had Wednesday through Sunday to run all over London, and run all over so we did.

We stayed with my best friends (who's wedding I'd just planned & attended) ex-boyfriend, who very coincidentally, had just gotten married the previous weekend. He and his new (and pregnant) wife were lovely hosts who helped us navigate confusing bus systems and met us for lunch and shopping at my favorite market in Camdentown. I have visited London twice before and have been studying googlemaps for years hoping to one day go back and show my husband everything we've ever wanted to see there. We didn't see everything, but my memory of those maps got us everywhere we wanted to go. I will admit to breaking out the handy A-Z when we got a little lost in Soho, but other than that, I knew London by heart. I can't wait to go back to find a new route through the old city.

By the time we returned from our excellent London adventure, we had both lost our jobs and would lose our apartment soon after. While in London, my father-in-law had another heart attack and was officially diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My mother-in-law, who is also not in the prime of health, called us asking us to move back to Florida to help them in their time of need, in return for free rent. So we packed up the place and U-hauled it to south Florida.

We have now been in FL over a year and have yet to find regular jobs. I picked up a job selling wine and liquor at Costco stores for local distributors. It's nice work and good money when I can get it, but it's only a few weekends a month from October thru February. The rest of the year, we've been getting by on food stamps and doing odd jobs. Unfortunately, fixing the occasional computer and mowing a few neighborhood lawns will not get us on "Forbes Magazine's" wealthiest people list anytime soon.

Working in the restaurant and liquor biz for many years has turned me into quite the successful experimental chef and mixologist. I've had a million and one ideas and written hundreds of business plans for my own restaurant, but who's got the money for that? Not me, and not anytime soon. So I decided since I can't find a regular job and my own restaurant is a pipe dream at best, I'd begin submitting recipes to contests. If I can't make money at a Joe-job, hopefully I can win some by doing what I love to do; cooking and drinking booze! This epiphany has prompted my return to my long neglected blog.

I discovered a recipe contest for kiwi fruit offering a grand prize trip to New Zealand. Being a big fan of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (and the Lord of the Rings films), I have always dreamed of visiting the North and South Islands, but the prohibitive price of airfare has ensured I remain dreaming. Coincidentally, the night before I found out about this contest, I was checking on ticket prices from Miami to Auckland, finding nothing less than 2G's per person. OUCH!

The kiwi contest requires entrants to write a blog entry (on an established blog) about New Zealand kiwi, including an original recipe using the fruit in a creative way. I immediately began contemplating the possibilities of the kiwi and how it relates to my established blog format. Eureka! Time to get the creative cocktail kiwi juices flowing.

So I am here to re-introduce myself before laying down a new blog entry for my first contest. I feel it's the respectful thing to do. But do keep an eye on the horizon for new and exciting blog entries, the first including kiwi, and hopefully a follow-up blog about all the wonderful British beer the hubby and tried and enjoyed over our English holiday.

I will join you again as soon as my kiwi liqueur has finished steeping for a week or so. Until then... Cheers mate!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Adventures in Vodka: Crop Organic Tomato Vodka

20080807 121
Originally uploaded by nikoretro
Yes, yes, I've been slacking and haven't written much for a while. Be it laziness, drunkenness, busyness or the three combined, writing just hasn't been in the cards lately. But I have come to the keyboard today to attempt to redeem myself by introducing the blog world to Crop Organic Tomato Vodka.

Harvest Earth has created a line of certified organic vodkas that are silky smooth and and brilliantly flavored. Vegetable flavored vodkas are on the cutting edge of cocktail culture and these guys are at the top of the curve.

Crop Vodkas are made with USDA certified organically grown corn, distilled and bottled in Minnesota. It is distilled many times to remove impurities and does not require charcoal filtering. The result is good ol' American made artisanal vodka with a vegetarian flair.

Tomato or Cucumber flavored vodka may not sound appealing to you, but to a skilled "bar chef" it sounds like a garden full of possibilities. I was brainstorming about Caprese and gazpacho cocktails soon after tasting these vegan libations.

The tomato flavored vodka smells like tomato soup and tastes like a fresh tomato just snapped off the vine. The cucumber vodka is irresistibly clean and cool and once again, tastes just like the Cucurbitaceae it's made from.

There are many drink recipes on the Crop Vodka website, but here are a few of my own:

Crop Tomato & Tonic (pictured above)
Fill a pint glass with ice
Add 1-1 1/2 oz Crop Organic Tomato Vodka
Fill with tonic, stir and garnish with grape tomatoes

Crop Gazpacho Martini
Peel, seed and freeze enough cucumber and tomato slices to fit in a sandwich size freezer bag.
In a blender add:
4 ice cubs
a bagful of frozen cucumbers and tomatoes
1 1/2 oz Crop Organic Tomato Vodka
1 1/2 oz Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 fresh basil leaves
a little fresh ground pepper
Blend until smooth
fill 2 martini glasses and garnish with a cucumber wheel

I have more recipes milling in the ol noggin but I need to do some more experimenting before I can confidently post more recipes. Do some experimenting of your own and leave your recipes for these veggie voddy's in my comments.

Za Vas!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Belgian Drafts: Lindeman's Pomme Lambic

20080812 116
Originally uploaded by nikoretro
Every once in a while I have a flash of culinary inspiration. I tasted this apple lambic for the first time a few weeks ago and knew instantly that my husband would enjoy this sweet-tart Belgian beer. He loves anything with a sour apple flavor and this delicious lambic is like a Jolly Rancher for adults.

With it's fresh Granny Smith tartness, I knew it would also be ace for cooking with. My first thought went to salmon since we could use to work more fish into our diet. Then (**inspired!**) I thought this could make a gorgeously tangy broth to steam mussels and clams in. A nip of curry powder for some savory spice and voila! How's that for a slice of steamed gold?

This is what I did:

1 whole fresh salmon fillet equaling 1lb+
1lb fresh, cleaned mussels
1lb fresh, cleaned little neck clams
1 apple, sliced (I used one Granny Smith and one red delicious and had slices left over, but it was wonderfully colorful)
3-4oz apple juice
3-4oz Lindeman's Pomme (apple) Lambic
approx. 1-2 tsp curry powder to taste
pinch of kosher salt
heavy tin foil or 1 large foil baking bag (these work perfectly)
crusty bread for happy broth dipping

Preheat the oven to 450. Skin the salmon if necessary (you may be able to sweet talk the guy behind the fish counter to do it for you if you think you'd muck it up), and cut the fish cross ways into 3-4 oz pieces. You should be able to get 4 to 6 portions out of one side of salmon. Sprinkle a little curry powder on the fish and set aside. Thoroughly rinse the clams and mussels and discard any shellfish with cracked shells or don't close when tapped on. The rule with shellfish: closed shell when alive; open shell when cooked. Your tummy will thank you for obeying that little tip.

Create a large bag with heavy duty foil by folding a lagre sheet in half and folding the sides over at least 3 times leaving one side open. Or just open a foil baking bag for no fuss steaming. Place the baking bag on a baking sheet with a 1/4 inch lip to catch any drips that may occur while cooking. Dust the inside of the baking bag with a little pinch of four to keep things from sticking to the top or bottom of the bag. Sprinkle a little curry powder in the bottom of the bag. Slice the apple(s) and place one slice on top of each piece of fish, then arrange the rest on the bottom of the bag. Distribute the shellfish around the bottom as flat as possible so you have room for the salmon. Fold a lip at the bottom of the open end of the bag to catch the liquid you are about to pour in and add the apple juice and lambic (I used a shot glass to measure 1oz at a time until it looked like there was enough liquid covering the bottom). Then arrange the salmon on top of the shellfish. Fold to close up the open end of the bag and pop the whole shebang into the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Don't be afraid to peek in the bag after 15 minutes to check the progress. The shellfish may not be completely ready when the fish is. If all the shells have not opened yet, set the fish aside and pour the contents of the bag into a large covered skillet or pot. Bring sauce to a boil and cover for a moment or two. Uncover and stir the shells around to coat everything in the broth and to check that all the shells are completely open. Discard the few shells that do not open. Turn off stove and sprinkle a pinch of salt in the broth if needed and pour the shellfish into a big serving bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over the fish and spoon a little broth over each piece. I cooked up a little rice pilaf to go on the plate with the fish but almost any starch can suffice. Scoop shellfish and sauce into bowls, grab a hunk of bread and dig in. Oh, and don't forget to pour yourself a glass of the Pomme Lambic to wash it all down with.

My husband gave me a little nose wrinkle when I told him I was making mussels. He doesn't like them much unless they're in certain sauces, and he couldn't quite wrap his head around how mussels would taste in an apple curry broth. However, he didn't seem to have much trouble wrapping his mouth around it once the food hit the plate.

I have a feeling I will write a little series on the many fruits of Lindeman's lambics. Now that I have tried the pomme, I'm anxious to try the rest, which include: Framboise (raspberry), Kriek (cherry), Pêche (peach), and Cassis (black currant).

But I have gone on far too long to talk more about lambic right now. If you discover a lambic in your local liquor outlet, try it out. If you like a fizzy, fruity alcoholic beverage that's not quite beer and not quite wine, lambics could become a new obsession.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bubbly Bits: Cristalino Cava

20080723 023
Originally uploaded by nikoretro
I love bubby! French to American, brut to demi-sec, I love it all. Not that every bottle of bubbly out there is wonderful, but there are oh so many that are. Unfortunately, I don't have the budget that affords Champagne every night of the week so I'm always on the hunt for great sparklers under $10. This is one of them.

Cristalino is a Spanish Cava by Jaume Serra. Cava's can be pink or white and come from the Penedès region of Catalonia (Spain). The rocky Penedès lie about 40 km south of Barcelona where only certain grape varieties are grown to make Cava. The Denominación de Origen laws require Cava's to be made from a blend of the following grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Trepat, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Subirat.

Cristalino Brut Rosé is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat, made traditionally with the secondary fermentation in the bottle. The classic Cristalino Brut is made from 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel-lo. Both are crisp, clean, fruity and delicious; perfect for your wedding toast or for serving lots of guests on a little budget. They are true crowd pleaser's. And though lovely on their own, you don't feel bad about using the Brut for Mimosas or Champagne cocktails.

So the next time you need a little sparkle in your life, give this beauty a try. It's perfect for those everyday special occasions.

Cristalino Cava Brut: The fine foam supports aromas of fresh bread crust and apple skin which give way to crisp McIntosh apple and light toasty flavors on the palate. Crisp acidity and subtle minerality make this a refreshing summer sparkler.

Cristalino Brut Rosé: Juicy watermelon and fresh berry flavors burst through the bubbles on your palate. The deep pink color suggests it spent some time with the skins which adds a little tannin that allows this sparkler to stand up to many foods. Try it with salmon dishes or Old Bay laced Maryland crab cakes.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inviting cordial of the week: Patron XO Cafe

20080723 039
Originally uploaded by nikoretro
I have a real problem with this stuff. The problem is, I can't get enough of it!

Patron XO Cafe is a premium coffee cordial made with Patron Silver tequila. I don't know what kind of coffee they use, but regardless, it kicks Kahlua's butt! XO Cafe is rich and sweet with the best coffee flavor I've ever tasted in a coffee liqueur. At 35%, this packs a little more punch than your average coffee cordial but the alcohol is completely in balance with the sweet coffee goodness.

I have come across a few die-hard Kahlua drinkers who think it's too strong, but most people I pour a sip for love it. For that matter, most buy a bottle immediately after they taste this little luxury.

Speaking of luxury, you probably assume that like most Patron products, it's not cheap. Happily, it's one of the least expensive items in their profile. With Patron's tequila's ranging from $50 to $60 per fifth (excluding the pricy Patron Platinum of course), XO Cafe weighs in at a paltry $23-25. And pint's are available for a measly $14.

Many bars and restaurants now serve XO and bartenders are discovering it's mixability. Though it's perfect straight or on the rocks, it's delicious mixed with Baileys (which I call an Irish Mexican) or with half and half. However, it's not so good in coffee. It just tastes like you just put tequila in your coffee. Not exciting. But pour it over chocolate, vanilla or coffee ice cream and prepare to melt. YUM! I have not gotten to play much with the mixology of this lovely liqueur but I'm sure there are a million other concoctions to come up with. If you discover a delicious drink made with XO, drop the recipe in my comments.
Till then...

Keep on Buzzin!