Cocktail Recipe: Moscow Mule

I'm not into cocktails.  For one, they remind me of college: lots of syrup, bad liquor, and smashing headaches.  For another reason, it's been documented that I don't have a sweet tooth and it seems like so many of the cocktails I've tried are sweet and sugary.  Gross.

That said, on the 4th of July, when I went to my friend Eric's place, a cocktail seemed like a good idea.  I admit that it seemed like a good idea on account of the Prosecco I had indulged in earlier that afternoon.

Which also might be why I haven't always had the best experience with cocktails, as I tend to drink them after I've already had other things to drink.

Anyway, Eric asks how I feel about ginger.  Intrigued, I tell him I love ginger.  And he goes to work.  I loved the drink he brought me: it was bright and spicy but with just a tad bit of sweetness to balance it out.  It struck me as the perfect summer drink, and I was completely enchanted.

Fast forward to this past week and I'm back at Eric's place for a post-dinner nightcap.  I bypass his stellar collection of Scotch and ask for "that drink I had on the 4th."  I learned it was a Moscow Mule, consisting of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice.  And today I made my own:

Makes 1 16-oz cocktail

1 1/2 ounces vodka (I prefer Fleischmann's...a story about that in another post...)
Bottle of ginger beer
Juice of 1/2 lime
A couple of lime slices

Fill a large glass with ice.  Using a reamer, add lime juice to the glass.  Add vodka.  Top with ginger beer (not ginger ale).  Give it a stir.  Garnish with lime slices and/or mint.

There are other versions of this recipe, such as one from Oprah.  But it uses simple syrup, which I would never want to add here - it would just make it way too sweet.  In fact, every recipe I found used simple syrup, with the exception of the one on Wikipedia.  No matter the recipe, it's traditionally served in a copper mug but, really, who has room in their kitchen for copper mugs?  I certainly don't.

I also think it's worth noting that 16 ounces is no small drink.  Feel free to halve the recipe.  Sixteen ounces just seemed the perfect amount to drink while sunbathing on the roof deck of our building!

Eat, drink, and take a break from summer rosé.


RIP Herbs...

Just back from vacation so I'll be up and running this weekend - I have a stellar recipe I can't wait to share with all of you.  But I wanted to make an announcement:


Remember these?

 Well, when you don't water them for two weeks while you're out of town, this is what happens:

Likewise, the garlic chives I so bravely rescued during our move to Manhattan?  Here's BV (Before Vacation):

And the AV (After Vacation):

When we arrived home and I saw the state of things, I yelled, "They're dead!  My herbs are DEAD!"  Adam, being a brilliant stater-of-the-obvious, replies, "Well, yeah.  What did you think would happen when we left and didn't arrange for someone to water them?"  I sputtered, "But...but...I thought they'd be okay!"  Adam just raised his eyebrow at me.

I'll be getting some new ones at the market this weekend but, in the meantime, I'm in mourning.

Eat, drink, and study basic horticulture (read: plants need water)!


Oregon Food and Wine: Cubanisimo Vineyards

The rain continues here in Oregon and I don't know why I'm surprised.  Bug asked Adam, "Dad, do you ever want to move back to Oregon?"  Adam answered no and, when Bug asked why, he said, "Have you looked outside today?  That's why."

But before this gray gloom descended on us, we had some glorious moments in the sun while visiting Cubanisimo Vineyards, which is located west of Salem.  I first heard about Cubanisimo Vineyards during our visit here last summer: MC's husband's daughter told me about their incredible Pinot Noir.  I found a bottle at a local shop and adored it.  During that same visit, I had a glass of their Rosado at The Wild Pear (this post) and loved that too.

So this summer it was time to go out to the vineyard, which is only about 30 minutes from MC's house; despite the rain, I'm kind of thinking that the proximity of Cubanisimo to my in-laws' place is worth moving here for!  Here is what we tasted:
  • 2010 Rosado de Pinot Noir - This is one of my favorites, as I think it's an ideal summer sipper; I bought a bottle to take home.  It's bright, dry, and acidic but has enough herbal tones that it's well-balanced. 
  • 2010 Pinot Gris - MC really loved this one and we bought a bottle to sip on Cubanisimo's gorgeous patio.  It had the same balance as the Rosado but with some floral notes, and the citrus bite isn't as pronounced.  It would pair well with light salads and fish, but it's also perfect for drinking by itself on a warm day.
  • 2008 Pinot Noir - Such a friendly, unassuming wine!  I think this is perfect for a summer red.  I got strawberry flavors and a dry finish.  This was also a favorite of MC's - she bought a bottle.
  • Pinot Noir Rumba (sadly, I didn't mark the year) - MC and I immediately turned this one down.  It didn't have the balance: the spice sort of thumped us over the head.  MC said it was "harsh".  Adam suggested that it would probably benefit from a few years in the cellar. 
  • 2008 Pinot Noir Estate - My other favorite.  It was the 2008 Pinot Noir...but better quality.  It had the bright flavor of the 2008 Pinot Noir, but there was some spice and warmth to give it a more well-rounded quality.  The mouthfeel was richer and weightier too, which I considered a plus.  I bought a bottle of this for our friends, Amy and Lisa, who we'll see tomorrow.  Amy is a certified sommelier; I like to bring her a bottle of something every time I see her, and I think this will fit the bill.

Then we moved outside to enjoy our bottle of the Pinot Gris.  Jenelle Ford, who is the Operations Manager according to the website, helped us during our tasting and she was so sweet and enthusiastic.  You can just tell, while talking to her, that she loves what she does.  She told us all about the owners of the vineyard and how down-to-earth and incredible they are; we also shared stories about raising pre-teens.  As if we weren't already thrilled by the wine, the location, and the conversation, we then had the tremendous honor of meeting the owner, Mauricio Collado, Jr. MD.  In a word, charming.  As it turns out, Mr. Collado's son is an attorney in New York so we talked a lot about working insane hours and wanting to slow down and cut back.  I also told Mr. Collado that I saw his gorgeous wife in The Wild Pear last year but explained that I didn't introduce myself because I got a little starstruck.  Being the down-to-earth guy he is, Mr. Collado dismissed his celebrity status, to which I responded, "Have you even tasted your wine?!"

The perfect end to the day was that Ms. Ford gave me a list of local places in New York that have stocked Cubanisimo in the past: World Wine and Spirits (right next to my apartment!), Sussex Wines and Spirits, 86th Street Wine and Liquor, Adriatic Wines and Liquors, A Voce, Manley's Wine and Spirits, Mini Bar/MHLC.  You bet I'll be scouring the city when I get home!

It was a truly amazing experience.  I don't mean to be corny - though I tend to be a corny person - but I just felt welcomed into the arms of the vineyard and found myself not wanting to leave.  And thanks to Mr. Collado and Ms. Ford for making our visit a memorable one.

Eat, drink, and celebrate Cubanisimo time!

NOTE: Follow Cubanisimo Vineyards on Twitter and "like" them on Facebook.  And if you're in the area, join them for salsa lessons and wine in the summer!  They also do weddings and Bug already declared that she's getting married there - and, for heaven's sake, I hope she does!


Oregon Food and Wine: EZ Orchards

Oh, Oregon.  Why are you only 70 degrees and raining in July?  On the day that we're supposed to be barbecuing ribs and celebrating all the July birthdays in our family*?  Why????

But it's also given me a chance to hole up in MC's (my mother-in-law) house and write about the tremendous couple of days I've already had.  With a glass of wine next to me, of course.  The days have been full of food and wine, and I'm happy as a clam (...or a crab, seeing as I'm a Cancer...).

One of the first places we go when we arrive in Oregon is EZ Orchards, which I mentioned here (you can also "like" them on Facebook).  It's truly a community spot with mostly local produce, as well as local cheeses, homemade baked goods, and supplies for the home.  Every year we visit and I stock up on both EZ Orchards' Marionberry Jam and AJ's Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard:

 And every year I pine for one of their gorgeous tablecloths and never buy one:

Their berries are particularly beautiful:

It has also become an unofficial tradition that I make caramelized onions every time I visit MC:

The Walla Walla sweet onions are just so unbelievably sweet and rich - I love pairing them with salty salami (as I did last year) or on a burger with blue cheese (which I did this year).

Oregon - and Salem, in particular - is such a well-hidden secret.  We know that it's one of the best states in the U.S. for beer, but it's also an incredible food mecca.  It's a secret that Oregonians, for the most part, would rather not be revealed for fear that the state would be overrun (by Californians, in particular...).  EZ Orchards is a perfect example of Salem's hidden charm.

Eat, drink, and support local business.

* Bug, my grandmother-in-law, and me, in this case.  It's also my sister-in-law's birthday today - happy birthday, Kellee!!!


Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day, friends!  We're on Day One of our annual family vacation to Oregon and California*, and I'm already feeling myself relax as we get further and further away from the hustle and bustle of NYC (which, consequently, I am addicted to).  But let's talk about Bastille Day...

Last Sunday, I finally had the chance to take part in the Bastille Day celebration on 60th Street, hosted by FIAF (French Institute: Alliance Francaise).  Adam, our friends Jen and Phil, and I spent a decadent day eating duck confit on a baguette (with cornichons tucked in)....


 ...checking out French books (they didn't have it, but I'm dying to buy a copy of Ramona la Peste)...

...and buying jewelry, which Phil insisted wasn't really French...

But my favorite thing?  I FINALLY ATE MACARONS!!!!

Um, do you think I'm excited much in this photo? And check out the selection:

Thanks to The Culinary Librarian, I made a beeline for the MacarOn Cafe tent.  I decided to buy a pack of six, and I was able to choose any that I wanted.  Here's what I got:

From the bottom up, I chose Pistachio, Nutella, Creme Brulee, Dark Chocolate, Violette, and Rose.  The Violette was first - it just completely intrigued me, but Jen was worried it would "taste like perfume."

We both agreed it didn't.  I loved the crunch on the outside and the soft cake-y interior, and the violet flavor was subtle and delicate; the textures and flavors really came together perfectly and it was so well-balanced.  And for a gal like me who has a tiny little sweet tooth, it wasn't too sugary-syrupy sweet for me.

Next up was the Rose.  It was truly like eating a rose petal, which I couldn't decide if I liked or not.  Ultimately, it was unusual, interesting, and very fragrant; I think I liked it.  Jen...well...Jen said it tasted and smelled "like old lady."  See why I love her?

The other macarons were lovely, but didn't really compare to the Rose and Violette.  I enjoyed the Pistachio, in particular, as it had the same well-balanced deliciousness as the Violette.  It was all just so lovely.

Eat, drink, and vive la France!

* Previous posts on our West Coast adventures include: The Wild Pear, Oregon 2009, and California 2009.


Urban Herb Gardens

When we moved to Manhattan from Queens in March, we had to give up our lovely balcony.  Aside from sunbathing and dancing on it, I also grew herbs in planters.  Now, I'm not a big outdoorsy gal and I'm perfectly happy living in a concrete jungle, thank you...but, nevertheless, growing herbs just made me feel in touch with something simpler and sweeter, you know?

I told you all about my garlic chives before but, for those of you who don't know the story, it involved me transplanting the chives in my pajamas, barefoot, at midnight before Moving Day because I just had to take them with me (this is the third year that they've grown back...the same plant).  Well, the chives have thrived in our living room window and I've been enjoying them immensely.

 So I decided to take it a step further.  A couple of weeks ago, we were at the Union Square Greenmarket and the Oak Grove Plantation stand had herbs galore on display - Bug and I couldn't stop sticking our noses into all the plants.  I felt sad about our lack of a balcony until I saw this:

Hmm...I asked Adam, "Do you think we can just put these on the radiator in front of our living room window?"  And being the adventurous guy he is, Adam said, "Well, we won't know until we've tried."

So here's what I loooove about these herb planters: you can order them with any combination of four herbs that you want.  It cost me $22...which isn't cheap.  But I was able to fill it out with what I wanted: lemon thyme, rosemary, and a double order of sweet basil.  Do you have any idea how much this saves me in the long run????  When I buy cut herbs at the market, it'll cost me anywhere from $3-$5 per bunch.  And what if I need a bunch of rosemary and a bunch of basil?  That can easily cost me almost $10.  For only one week of herbs!  Believe me, this planter will pay me back in dividends by the time this summer is over.  Not to mention that they look positively lovely in my window:

And we loved them so much and it went so well that Bug bought herself a French lavender plant last weekend (with her own allowance - there's hope for the girl yet!):

Eat, drink, and don't let a lack of outdoor space stop you!


Hello, Summer!

You guys!  I'm FINALLY home and I'm FINALLY done with conference season at work!  Most of you have been entrenched in summer for a few weeks but mine is starting now.  Um, to say I'm excited is an understatement to the nth degree.

But let's start at the beginning: as most of you know, I was at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans last week: 7 days and 6 nights.  That is a lot of eating out in restaurants, airports, and hotels.  So when I got home, all I wanted was a simple, fresh, home-cooked meal that was both satisfying and light.  And even a bit cleansing.

So I went with one of my favorites: Tuna with Butter-Warmed Corn Kernels.  Which I've actually posted here in the past.  What's funny is that when I initially posted this recipe, I was in the middle of a summer meltdown: it was late August and I was soooo over the heat and humidity.  I was trying to stick with no-heat meals and this one was perfect.  So isn't it wonderful that now I can post this in the opposite frame of mind?  Instead of fighting summer's heat, I am embracing all that summer entails: vacation, sunbathing, watermelon mojitos (because that's what I'm drinking while I write this), lounging on the roof deck, and...no conferences!

And in my joyous and celebratory frame of mind, I give you Tuna with Espelette Pepper and Butter-Warmed Corn with Cilantro, courtesy of Patricia Wells' Vegetable Harvest:

Click here for full recipes (you're clicking through to my original blog post).  Again, feel free to substitute smoked paprika for the espelette pepper.  And feel free to substitute and improvise!  Can't stand the taste of cilantro (Hi, MC and Gillian!)?  Try parsley or basil*.

When I initially posted this recipe, I drank it with a Riesling**.  But right now I am completely high on Vinho Verde and my particular favorite is this one:

It's Ouro Verde Vinho Verde (Portugal) and I get it from Fresh Direct for $6.99 - it's my summer go-to.  It's slightly effervescent,citrus-bright, and dry.  It paired perfectly.

I can't even tell you how thrilled I am to be back here with all of you, ready to start my summer, and sharing my favorite recipes and drinks.  Cheers!

Eat, drink, and celebrate summer!

* These recommendations are courtesy of the outstanding The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.  I've mentioned it here a gazillion times but it needs to be mentioned again.  Just go buy it.

** Ditto for this one.  The Riesling recommendation came from What to Drink with What You Eat, also by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.  Your personal cookbook library is NOT complete without either of these books, in my opinion.