Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bonfire Fizz Cocktail

Remember that time I went to Seattle? Yeah, me too; I think about it every day… sigh…

But, looking on the bright side, I figure that if I can’t bring myself to that wonderful city in the near future, I might as well bring the city to me! You may remember me mentioning that I had the best cocktail of my entire life while I was there at the Sun Liquor Distillery.  Since I really like tequila, their spicy mezcal cocktail with cassis and ginger beer really intrigued me. I ordered it and this is what happened

Bartender: “Have you ever had Mezcal before?”
Me: “Not sure, it’s like tequila, right?”
Bartender: “Kind of, but it’s different from tequila in the way that scotch is different from whiskey. It’s very smoky.”
My Friend: “It’s intense, you probably won’t like it.”
Bartender: “Let me give you a sample.”

Bartender prepares sample, hands me the glass and I take a sip.

Me: “This is amazing! Let’s go for it!”

From there, I got the cocktail and was immediately happy with my decision. The smokiness of the mezcal combined with the spiciness of ginger beer and habanero bitters became the pure essence of the smell of a bonfire in drinkable form. My friends very much disagreed and proceeded to complain about the smell of my drink for as long as it took me to drink it, which was not long for the record. But then again these are the same friends that make fun of me for intentionally burning my marshmallows for s’mores because I like them that way.

But anyway, the next day I found a bottle of the same “firewater bitters” that were in the drink. They’re made by Seattle-based company Scrappy’s and come in a ridiculous number of flavors. So I got the bottle and headed back to the east coast determined to recreate the recipe for myself. After some experimentation, a few of my own touches, and a name rebranding, this is the result. Cheers!

Bonfire Fizz

2 oz. Mezcal
1 oz. Black Raspberry Liqueur, like Chambord
2-3 dashes of Scrappy’s Firewater Bitters, or another hot pepper bitters you can find
the juice from half a lime
ginger beer

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the mezcal, black raspberry liqueur, the bitters, and the lime juice and shake well.  Fill a cocktail glass with crushed ice and the used lime half. Strain the mixture into the glass and top off with cold ginger beer.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

#whatblizzard or That Time I Lucked My Way Out of Snowzilla and Into a Magical Land Known as Seattle.

One week ago I thought my trip to Seattle was done for. With a 6pm flight out of Dulles airport, hours after the snow storm was scheduled to hit, there was no way it was going to be a go. But by a wonderful stroke of luck, my airline let me move my flight to a day earlier, free of any fees, extending my first time trip to the city by a day. Now I sit, one week later, pondering why exactly I even left the place. Seattle, the bitch that she is, has loved me and left me and now all I can think about is how am I going to get her back into my life.

As you’ve seen on this here blog, most of my trips largely center around eating and drinking and the exact same thing applied to this trip. I say this like it’s a bad thing and although I did spend the good part of the past week elbow deep in a bag of chewable Tums, I wouldn’t have had a bite less or a drink fewer even if it meant less bloatation. I’d even go as far to say I wish I had more. When the food and drink served as a backdrop to the hours spent chatting and catching up with some of the best company I can think of, it could be never-ending as far as I’m concerned.

So let’s see, here's how it all went down:

We went to Pike Place Market of course, passing by the apple stand for as many free samples of Washington Opal Apples as they would allow us, followed by a bomb BLT and snickerdoodle at Three Girls Bakery. My friend and I whiled away several hours at Seattle Coffee Works under the pretense of reading our books but really I was showing her the crazy messages people send me on online dating. As you do...

We ordered a pizza each and a bottle of sparkling red wine for an absolutely dreamy meal at Delancey. Sadly no sign of Molly but at least their wonderful waitstaff helped us score three seats at the next-door bar Essex for an after dinner amaretto sour.

There were late night fried cheese curds and bloody marys at Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge, followed by more bloody marys and coffee in front of a roaring fire at the same place the next morning. 

We had the ultimate donut experience at Renee Erickson owned General Porpoise Donuts, purveyors of sumptuous filled donuts at the most Wes Anderson-esque little cafe you can imagine. To top it off I deemed the cute barista boy as the love of my life... only he doesn't know it yet... Our venture to General Porpoise also inspired a trip to Bar Melusine next door. A Renee Erickson creation as well, this mint green explosion of a bar was too aesthetically wonderful to pass up. Great for cocktails and frites. 

I had the best cocktail of my life at Sun Liquor Bar and Distillery. Stay tuned for a future post just on this but for now, let's just say the cocktail El Wraithe taught me what a campfire tastes like in delicious liquid form.

Still hanging in there? Good, just a few more. 

A delicious Tuna Nicoise dinner at Tallulah's was followed the next morning by the largest bacon egg and cheese sandwich I've ever had at Biscuit Bitch. Shortly after was a stop at Rachel's Ginger Beer for ginger beer cocktails before noon. Later that night we went brewery hopping. Remember, it's a marathon not a sprint people.

And because we got that one extra day courtesy of Alaska Airlines we decided to eat and drink some more, naturally. But if it's any consolation we did manage to fit a run into the schedule before eating fish and frites at Brouwer's Cafe on our way to take a tour of the Theo Chocolate Factory, thus eating a lifetime supply of chocolate. We ended the trip by pre-gaming Malaysian takeout with Oysters and Bubbly at Taylor Oyster Bar, because we're classy like that.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles

So I bought a waffle maker about a month ago. I had absolutely no need for one; I already had one in perfectly good working condition. I hate to admit it but I fell victim to Williams Sonoma’s advertising stunts that they break out around Christmas and somehow their catalog convinced me that I needed a “smart waffle maker.” Whatever that means.

The restaurant where I worked a few years ago had a similar, if not the same one, and I was always captivated by the perfectly square, deep-dish look of those waffles. I frequently told myself that one day I would have a waffle maker like that. So when Black Friday came around this year and deals were abound, I traded out my poor old simple waffle maker for a smart one… so I guess that meant I should probably make some waffles.

I saw these chocolate waffles in Bon Appetit magazine 2 years ago in a spread about the Mast Brothers, creators of Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers Chocolate. The recipe comes from their gorgeous cookbook, one that still only exists on my wishlist, and I’ve been meaning to make them since.

I will say that they are waffles you should only make when you are craving decadence. The taste resembles chocolate cake entirely but translated into a fluffy, chewy, and crispy waffle texture. The buttermilk is what makes these really stand out. When combined with the baking powder and baking soda the resulting chemical reaction makes for a batter completely filled with air bubbles. Add in whipped egg whites and you’ve got amazingly light-as-air waffles. A combination of cocoa powder and lots of chopped dark chocolate creates an deep chocolate flavor while olive oil adds an earthy tone that keeps the waffles from becoming sickly sweet. They taste fantastic with the classic butter and maple syrup combo but I expect that I’ll be eating them for breakfast with a swipe of peanut butter many times this week. Or maybe this peanut butter caramel sauce… now that would be interesting…

Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles
Serves 4-6
From Mast Brothers Chocolate Cookbook via Bon Appetit Magazine

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
butter and syrup for serving

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (this is for keeping the waffles warm while waiting for others to finish). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Once combined, make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, buttermilk, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Use a fork to mix the liquid ingredients together, gradually incorporating the dry ingredients in the bowl. Switch over to a rubber spatula to give the batter a final mix, making sure there are no more spots of dry ingredients.

Using an electric mixer or a metal whisk beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the waffle batter and then carefully fold in the chocolate.

Heat up your waffle iron and cook according to the irons instructions. For mine, I used a half-cup of batter for each waffle. Place the cooked waffles on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven until all of the waffles are made. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Mishmash Party Mix (with Bugles!)

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level, I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”

-Haruki Murakami in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

So what do I think about when I think about 2015? Well, my feelings are a bit all over the place. It was a year with many great experiences and achievements but some really low points thrown in there as well. Early in the year I experienced heartbreak for the first time as well as the loss of a family member. What ensued after this were many terrible hangovers and some pretty awful and awkward blind dates (thanks for nothing okcupid).

Putting all of those things aside though, a lot of really great stuff did happen. I visited Charleston, Nashville, Boston, and Nola, watched two friends get married, started a new job, reached my 100thblog post, overcame my fear of roller coasters, and moved into my own place, just to name a few.

I also ran a lot this past year. It’s not exactly something new for me; I’ve been running regularly for about 10 years. It felt different this year though. When it previously used to be about times and placements, this year the running was more of a means to improve myself and put a focus on who I am and who I want to be. When you spend an hour trying to forget how much it hurts to be running, you do a lot of thinking to distract yourself. But this thinking leads to healing, leads to decision-making, leads to enlightenment and the euphoric feeling of release when you burst into tears midway through your 6th mile.

Today is the last day of a 37-day run streak, a pledge my friends and I took to run at least a mile a day from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. It wasn’t easy and some days it took all mental effort I had to force myself to shuffle around the block for a mile at 6:30 in the morning. Looking through my log of miles, I certainly do not see drastic increases in mileage and my legs do not feel well rested in the least but I don’t think it’s the physical and tangible aspects that really matter. Those ten minutes or so a day of running allowed me the time to clear my head and reset, to put yesterday behind and get myself ready for tomorrow.

I go into 2016 with clarity, knowing that the world is going to throw me a mishmash of wonderful and terrible things but when mixed together, they are the things that shape this crazy and wonderful life I’m making for myself. Making the most of all of the good and bad things that come my way and striving to use that to be the best me that I can be is my resolution for the year.

But speaking of a hodgepodge of things coming together to create one beautiful and wonderful thing, let’s take a look at this crazy party mix I made for a New Year’s Eve celebration last night! It’s insane to think that something that is a mix of so many disparate elements can come together and form a cohesive snack is possible, but it’s true. You get a bit of salty, sweet, savory, buttery, spicy, and bitter in every bite. It has good crunch, an even mixture of small and large pieces and, most importantly, the star of this party mix is Bugles. I can’t even remember the last time I had Bugles (probably in an airport come to think of it) but there is so much nostalgia packed into this light, crispy, and buttery snack. The reminiscence hit so hard I couldn’t help but doing this…

Regardless of how you eat your Bugles, definitely make the effort to seek them out for this recipe. The other ingredients are totally negotiable so play around with the mixture as much as you like. Just like life, party mix is what you make it.

Mishmash Party Mix (with Bugles!)
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes enough to feed a large crowd

5 cups original flavor Bugles
3 cups Snyder’s Butter Snap Pretzels
2 cups unsalted roasted peanuts
1 cup sesame sticks
1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
1 cup wasabi green peas
6 Tbs. butter
6 large garlic gloves, peeled and crushed
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. mustard powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp, cracked black pepper
3 cups crushed taro chips

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the Bugles, pretzels, peanuts, sesame sticks, pumpkin seeds, and green peas. Mix to evenly distribute.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and continue cooking over low for 5 minutes to infuse the butter with garlic flavor. Transfer the butter to a bowl and discard the garlic pieces. Add the soy sauce, Dijon, mustard powder, salt, paprika, and pepper to the butter and whisk to combine.

Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and use your hands or a large spoon to toss the ingredients with the butter to evenly coat them. Divide between 2 sheet pans and bake for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool. Once cool, add the taro chips to the mixture and stir to combine.