Friday, November 27, 2015

41 Days of Drinks (day 7)

This is the latest entry in a daily feature that will run through New Year's Eve. To provide it, I combed through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned. 

This luscious concoction comes, via the pages of Wine Enthusiast magazine, from the island of Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands.

It was dreamed up at the Soggy Dollar Bar. It also is popular on tourist-rich Tortola -- using the locally-made Pusser's Rum, especially during the 4-6 p.m. happy hour at the Bananakeet Café.


2 ounces Pusser's dark rum
1 ounce cream of coconut
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce orange juice

Blend rum with juices and coconut and serve over the rocks. Top with freshly grated nutmeg.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Salmonella possible from Tompkins County raw milk

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has issued a consumer warning not to consume raw milk or products made with milk from the Jerry Dell Farm located in Freeville, Tompkins County, near Cortland.

While no illnesses associated with the product have yet been reported, a routine sample of the milk tested by the department was discovered to be contaminated with Salmonella, the department stated. This is the second time in four years problems have been found at the farm.

Jerry Dell Farm holds a state permit, which allows the business to sell raw milk at the farm. Sampling is performed quarterly under the department’s routine surveillance program. Such producers cannot resume sales of raw milk until a subsequent sample is shown to be free of pathogens.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious, sometimes fatal, infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea which may be bloody, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Do’s and Dont’s for holiday partying

Colorful cocktails'Tis the time of year when inhibitions go out the window. Office parties, gatherings of friends, family Thanksgiving feasts, New Year's Eve, football bowl game parties ... Ah, how the drinks do flow.

Unfortunately, too many occasional drinkers tend to overdo in such circumstances, to the regret of not only themselves, but those around them who are (a) embarassed, (b) annoyed and/or (c) disgusted by their behavior. 

Simply telling people to drink responsibly won't avoid all such negative experiences. But, armed with a little knowledge of one's own alcohol capacity and how well you metabolize what you drink, you and those near you will get through holiday partying in a dignified, enjoyable way.

Here's a guide to help make the season enjoyable.

A few don'ts:
(1.) Don't "do" shots. Spirits are not for "doing." They are for slow enjoying. The only reason to do shots is to get drunk, which anyone with at least half a functioning brain tries to avoid. Don't agree? Think back to the last time you saw someone really blitzed. Was it a pretty sight?  
(2.) Don't assume mixed cocktails are much less potent than straight whiskies, rums or vodkas. Many mixers -- red or white vermouth, for example, in Manhattans, Rob Roys, Martinis, etc.; various liqueurs in other recipes -- have a significant alcohol content on their own, so drinking too many cocktails made with them still lets the impact mount.  
(3.) Don't be fooled by how easily a drink goes down. Fruit juices and liqueurs add color and flavor, but they also temporarily mask how much alcohol you're ingesting.  
(4.) Don't use diet sodas as mixers. You need sugar in cocktails because it helps metabolize alcohol. Using diet sodas results in a higher concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream. 
A few do's:
(1.) Do bear in mind that drinking whiskey can result in a worse hangover than drinking vodka. That is according to research by scientists at Brown University. They say the reason may be because of the number of molecules called "congeners" which whiskey contains compared to vodka (The study was published in "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.")  
(2.) Do order water. In my family, we have a running joke that if you're given water when you ask for something to drink, you should inform the server "I'm thirsty, not dirty." However, alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water makes sense on several levels. You'll stay hydrated, important since alcohol tends to dehydrate you and creates a hangover; you'll satisfy the desire to have a beverage without loading up on alcohol.  
(3.) Do avoid topping off your drinks. Get a refill only when you've finished so you can keep track of how much you're drinking, something that's easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of a party.  
(4.) Do stay aware of calories. A piña colada has about the same number as a Big Mac. A straight shot of alcohol has about 90 calories, but mix it with, for example, orange juice or pineapple juice and the calorie count climbs to 150. 
There are, of course, one major do and one major don't to keep in mind at all times. Do have a designated driver, and don't drink and drive. Even if you ignore the other do's and don'ts, following those two will help you have a safe, happy holiday season.

41 Days of Drinks (day 6)

• This is the latest entry in a daily feature that will run through New Year's Eve. To provide it, I combed through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

The architect Mies Van Der Rohe said, "It is better to be good than to be original." Perhaps so, but I prefer to be both whenever possible.

About 10 years ago, I came up with a nice hybrid cocktail for summer drinking that I eventually found out was something welcomed year-round by people who don't drink very often but like to participate in the sport during the holidays. It's a nice thirst-quenching mix of both vodka and green tea, two beverages that are hugely popular.


(makes 2 cocktails)

3 ounces Arizona Green Tea with Honey and Ginseng
3 ounces of Chopin, Belvedere, or your favorite vodka
6 drops Angostura bitters
Splash of Galliano liqueur or the more herbal Strega

Put all ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker, plus a handful of ice cubes. Stir briskly, then strain quickly into a frosted martini glass before the ice melts. Twist the juice from an orange slice into the drink and let it meander through the solution on its own.

Garnish with an orange slice and a mint leaf for color.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A very Rockwell happy Thanksgiving to all

This oil painting by the iconic artist Norman Rockwell is called "Freedom from Want." It also is known as "The Thanksgiving Picture" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

It is the third work in the "Four Freedoms" series of four oil paintings by Rockwell inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address, a speech known as "Four Freedoms."

The painting was created in November 1942 and published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post magazine. All of the people in the picture were friends and family of Rockwell in Arlington, Vermont, who were photographed individually and painted into the scene.

41 Days of Drinks (day 5)

This is the latest entry in a daily feature that will run through New Year's Eve. To provide it, I combed through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

This recipe was created to honor the odd mix of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise -- oddly disparate on-screen personalities despite the fact they were married at the time -- in the offbeat 1999 sexcapade movie "Eyes Wide Shut."

Crtics offered mixed reviews of the film and whether the couple blended well. Here, disparate ingredients are colorful and pleasing in combination, and certainly festive.


½ ounce Southern Comfort peach liqueur
½ ounce Crown Royal Canadian whisky
½ ounce amaretto almond liqueur
½ ounce orange juice
½ ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce cranberry juice
Splash of grenadine syrup

Place ice in shaker and add all ingredients. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Epicurean cartoonery

Checking region's top food-and-drinks events calendar

Are you sometimes overwhelmed trying to keep up with the tsunami of  information on food and beverage events in the greater Capital Region?

If so, you probably haven't been taking advantage of my Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and live-linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink. It even has a subsection dealing with cooking classes both for adults and for kids.

If you're not already checking out the calendar on a daily basis, it might be helpful to acquire the habit by bookmarking it so you're always fully informed on upcoming events of all sorts.

And, if you're part of a business or organization putting together an event, don't forget to let us know well in advance so we can publicize it.


Today's ride on the Capital Region foodie-go-round


Bel Cibo, closed for renovations since a fire last March caused four fatalities in two neighboring apartments and the restaurant was heavily damaged by water poured onto the blaze, is set to reopen the first week in December. Owner Jeanette Massaro had just opened the 96 Jay Street, Schenectady, location after moving Bel Cibo from the Jay Street Marketplace when the fire occurred. Cosmetic work will be completed over the next few weeks on the redone venue that has expanded to take over the former Persian Bites that moved to 703 Union Street. While the original Bel Cibo will remain a restaurant, the extra space will be used for a specialty food boutique.


• If you're one of those people who think the term "jumbo shrimp" is a contradiction in terms, you may like this announcement. The Red Lobster chain says it is increasing the size of the shrimp it uses in its skewers and scampi dishes. It now is using size 31/35 shrimp for its scampi, instead of 46/55, meaning the new shrimp weighs in at 31 pieces to 35 pieces per pound, instead of 46 to 55 pieces per pound. Lunch skewers have been increased to 36/40 from 51/60, and dinner skewers to 26/30 from 46/55. "Our guests shared they wanted shrimp scampi and shrimp skewers to be bigger, so we increased the size," Red Lobster president Salli Setta said in a press release. "And, they wanted them to be better, so we changed our preparation to improve taste and give the shrimp a better bite."


• The fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry is an ever-expanding one, with the need for innovation to stand out from the crowd of paramount importance. A California-based chain called Zpizza International Inc. is adopting something some independent pubs have been trying for a few years -- making customers their own bartenders by installing self-service beer technology. Zpizza converted three of its units into tap rooms by installing 10 to 20 taps. After customer IDs are scanned, they can open a digital tab and pour their own draft, paying by the fluid ounce. That allows them to taste an ounce or two of different options. The result: At the tap room units, alcohol sales have reached as high as 20% of the unit's revenue. In other units without the taps, that figure is about 2%.

SLA endangers high-end NYC wine lists

Screen shot 2015-11-24 at 3.35.56 PMFrom New York Eater

New York’s best restaurant wine lists may be soon killed off, and the proposed culprit is the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) which has announced an intention to alter one of the key provisions of state beverage law.

The change would be a big blow to how wine lists are written in the state, and would mean the end of the dominance that New York currently enjoys for wine in this country.

At issue is the sale of wine from "private collections" to restaurants. This has long been allowed by the law and has been the backbone of some of New York City’s most famous wine lists, notably Veritas in the past. More recently, if you look at the lists of wine destinations like Rebelle, Maialino, Charlie Bird, and Racines, you see lists that couldn’t have been constructed without sourcing from private collections.

Those restaurant names stand out in particular because they are some of the top restaurant wine destinations in the country, let alone the state, and the changes the SLA has proposed would mean an end to that.

Go here for the full story.