Whiskey Dinner at City Beer Hall

CBH 001 amuse popcorn

“Hey m’dear, any interest in going to a whiskey tasting dinner tomorrow night at City Beer Hall  (in collaboration with The Speakeasy)?”

There’s something to be said for good friends who bring you food when you’re sick, generally check in on you while conquering the world, and take you as their date to a whiskey dinner. Deanna Fox is one of those friends and then some. *swoons at succinct offer of one of my favorite brown liquors*

City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias and Robert Mack, the man behind the Speakeasy’s cocktail program, teamed up to pair food with drink from Brown Forman (an American owned spirit and wine business). It was a good night.

We had a popcorn amuse atop a truffled mousse with mushrooms. Paired with the fun amuse drink below whose name I’ve forgotten because this happened a week ago and I have the memory of a fly.

CBH 001 Drink
CBH Course 1 Drink Indian Candy Corn cocktailCBH Course 1 Drink Woodford White Corn Bourbon

Course 1: Indian Candy Corn cocktail (left) featuring Woodford White Corn Bourbon (neat, on the right).
The bourbon itself had a strong caramel scent, and was a real kicky type bourbon. The cocktail was equally punchy.

CBH Course 1 Winter Salad

Course 1: Winter Salad. Grilled prawn, carrots, starfruit, napa cabbage, persimmon nuoc chom. A few kernels of freeze dried corn on the right that paired very well with the meal and bourbon. This made me realize how underutilized napa cabbage is in its raw, salad-y form. A great winter salad with bright notes from the persimmon nuoc chom.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie

Course 2: Charcuterie. My notes on this dish are covered in hearts. Duck pastrami, foie gras mousse, venison, sweet corn mostarda, pickled green tomatoes. I was talking with some folks recently who said they just didn’t “get” foie gras, and I had to reconsider our friendship for a moment. It’s fat, rich, and delicious. What’s not to like? Duck pastrami was deliciously smoky, aand was great paired with the pickled green tomatoes. The sweet corn mostarta also contained some toasted corn.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie2CBH Course 2 Charcuterie3

I just couldn’t help but take  bunch of pictures of this plate. There was so much to love!

CBH Course 2 Drink Lion's Tail

Course 2: Lion’s Tail with Old Forester 1870 (which I forgot to take a picture of, and the cocktail picture isn’t much better. sigh). I LOVED the Lion’s tail it was tart and smoky with clove flavors. More hearts drawn around this cocktail. The Old Forester 1870 is the founding brand. 90 proof, spicy, and burns just a tad when sipped neat.

CBH Course 3 Intermezzo

Course 3: Intermezzo, with a cocktail reprieve. Pomelo sorbetto, aperol, candied pomelo peel. Dimitrios knocked this out of the park. The skill alone in candying the pomelo peel deserves respect. They were so thin, and so perfectly candied. Covered in sugar, and not too dry or too chewy. One of our table mates wasn’t familiar with pomelo, and remarked that it tasted “kind of like weed smells”, which is actually kind of accurate with its dank tartness and pungent citrus oils. It’s great to see this citrus featured front and center, especially as a plate cleanser.

CBH Course 4 Manhattan

Course 4: Manhattan with Old Forester 1897, where I have clearly crossed over from sober to jovial as I’ve forgotten to take another shot of the bourbon in its neat form. This may have been my favorite to drink neat or with a few drops of water in it, despite my forgetfulness. It had a tart nasal note, a bit milder than the white corn bourbon in the first course, with what I can only describe as having  great spicy afterburn. Definitely something to warm you up on cold winter night. The Manhattan was also expertly executed, using charred bitters and rhubarb vermouth. And that cherry. Or as my notes read “Oh my god, that brandied cherry”. It’s juicy and delicious and I love saving it to chew with the last few sips of the drink at the end. I think I could just load that Manhattan up with those brandied cherries and be a happy woman.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar

Course 4: Wild Boar. Smoked corn relish, spaetzle, baby kale, red pepper oil. The corn was smoked over apple wood, the spaetzle was made with parsnip and mustard seed which added a lightly sweet and vegetal note to the spaetzle. All of this worked wonderfully with the boar, and sipping the Manhattan along with this dish made me feel like a very lucky woman to be eating such a fine dish, and to have a friend who’d invite me along to even try this.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar2

I had to use every ounce of willpower to resist picking up the bone and sucking every bit of delicious cartilage and tendon off of the bone.

CBH course 5 Jack Daniels Howard St. Scaffa

Course 5: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (left); Howard St. Scaffa (right). Wow, barrel proof. 130.8% alcohol. Holy caramel smell, with a subtle note of cinnamon. “Drinkable fire” someone noted at our table. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing in my head drinking this, in very enjoyable way. The Howard St. Scaffa featured a mellow cointreau noir and one drop of Angry God ghost pepper bitters. A definite way to turn up the heat.

CBH course 5 Stuffed Figs

Course 5: Stuffed Figs. Harbison, pecan, Shiva’s wrath bitters, dark chocolate. Harbison cheese stuffed into a Greek dried fig which was reconstituted in cointreau noir. The pecans were toasted and tossed in Shiva’s wrath bitters. This was a delightful way to end the dinner on a high note. The Harbison was creamy (a triple cream to be exact) with grassy, funky, rich notes that worked well to counter the heat of the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fig.

Way to end dinner on a high note. Mic drop Dimitrios and Robert.

Sausage Making

Last Monday I went to take Christian Noe’s (of Nighthawks Kitchen) class on sausage making that the Arts Center in downtown Troy, NY. The next class is May 23rd, 2012, and you should totally sign up. It’s a really informative session for only $38! They’re in the evening, so if you’re a bit on the later side of things like me, it’s perfect!

We made three kinds of sausage – Italian, chorizo, and bratwurst.

Christian starts off with a quick intro into sausage making, and soon starts into chopping some lightly frozen bits of pork shoulder.
Then it’s placed into a grinder – two grinders are used. The big, sexy one; and the Kitchenaid attachment.
Everyone in the class jumps in to grind meat! Unsurprisingly, the Kitchenaid is a little slower than the big pro grinder, but gets the job done just as nicely.
However, now I want a big pro grinder for sausage. I wanted to take this class partially to see if I wanted to sink the dough into buying sausage making equipment, since I’ve also got a love of curing meats as well. And now it seems Christian’s class has given me a newfound sausage-making lust, too.
Christian’s class is really low-key and easy to understand. Very conversational, and you get a packet of the recipes you make and some handy tips & pointers, plus local shops to buy your sausage-making apparati.
The spices were already portioned out on plates, and easily mixed in with the meats.
I think this was the bratwurst.
And then the sausage-stuffing attachment goes on the Kitchenaid.
Meats are put into stuffers – there’s also a pro stuffer Nighthawks uses for their sausages that handles 5 lbs at a time. Want. WANT.
But you know what you need to stuff sausages?

Casings, my friend. You need lots of casings to stuff sausages with! These are quite hardy and easy to rinse out. Don’t fear tearing them.

You see that plate in the foreground?
This one here? It’s sausage patties! You can grill up some sausage meat to see how the flavors are and modify accordingly, if you so choose. You you can just make patties, but come on… who doesn’t love the snap of a naturally cased sausage?

Sausage stuffing is quite a breeze with the big pro stuffer. Tip: Watering your equipment and tables is a good idea. It helps keep everything lubricated and moving quickly.
You can poke holes with a pin or small poker to get air pockets out. Don’t use a fork – too big.
Don’t twist yet – just make one bit roll of sausage before you make links.
The Kitchenaid stuffer was more finicky than the pro-stuffer. It took a lot more force and time, but if you’ve already got a Kitchenaid at home, this will probably do you just fine. I don’t have a Kitchenaid at home, and don’t see myself buying it purely for sausage-making needs. Check out those beautiful chorizo & Italian links! It’s really easy to form links – just twist every other portion of them. The casings hold very quickly, so even when they’re cut, they hold their shape.
He’s got a knife!! Hehe, that’s just a part of the air pricker contraption.
Then it was time for… sampling! These bratwursts were simmered with lots of onions and beer. Loooove.
Linky love.
This might be some of the best chorizo I’ve ever had. Crazy to know it was made within 2 hours! So fresh, so good. I don’t know if I can go back to store-bought. Also, not crazy-greasy like a lot of other chorizo I’ve had in my day.
The night ends with us sampling all of the sausages, and taking some home as well. Albany John was quite a happy dude that night!

I’m also a happy gal – sausage making is easy and relatively frugal. I can’t wait to get my hands on hands on some gear and start making sausages!

New Orleans – Day

After a night of revelry, Bro, Margarita, Albany John and I were in need of sustenance. Margarita suggested Cafe du Monde on Decatur. There was a line of folks waiting to be sat – there is no real hostess – just grab a table if it’s free. Late-risers that we are, we had no problem finding a table and sitting within a few minutes of getting there. There are a lot of tables outside, and even inside, it feels very open and breezy.
When you order from a server, they go to a line and pay for your order out of pocket. Interesting system, but seems like pretty much anyone can be a server here. Once your order is delivered, you pony up to your server and pay your tab.
4 cafe au laits for us, and three orders of beignets. Fried dough covered in powdered sugar. These were just the teensiest bit oily on the outside. A bit of custardy/creamy interior inside. I’m normally not a powdered sugar fan, but these weren’t too bad with sugar on them.

Overall, I liked the coffee much more. I love chicory, such a nice flavor in coffee.

It was after noon, so I felt it appropriate to grab a refreshing beverage. Frozen peach bellini daiquiri! This was about $8.50 and came with a free shooter. It was more refreshing than potent, a good hair of the dog. I managed to finish about half of it – so cold!

And guess what’s close to Cafe du Monde? Central Grocery for muffuletta! My “go-to” food places were almost entirely skimmed off of Boots in the Oven. In a perfect world, I’d have been able to meet my blog sister. One day. Until then, I will take her eating suggestions in NoLa!

There was a bit of a line, but we made it through in about 20 minutes. And they take credit cards! Win! From here on out, all of the photos are courtesy of Albany John.
It was $14.50 for a whole muffuletta – these were premade, or being made quickly to accommodate the line. There are a few tables and stools in the back to nosh.

Hello, muffuletta! Sesame-seeded gigantic bun/loaf of bread.
I have so much excitement!! Muffuletta about to go in my mouth!

It was pretty tasty, though I think it could have used a little more filling. The bread ratio was pretty high, and uniformly squishy. The fillings inside were an awesome combination – olive salad, what seemed like some gardinera, and a bunch of different meat slices. Reminded me of an Italian sub with more stuff on it, but with squishier bread.

We walked around the French Quarter for a bit – saw this youth marching band rehearsing by a church.
And then we were off to Cochon Butcher on our way out of NoLa. It was easy to find parking near Cochon Butcher.

Inside our senses were regaled with cured meat-goodness. True story, our recently moved Chef Tanner worked with the owner of Cochon in his New Orleans days.
Albany John got a grapefruit cocktail and I got a Pecan beer. I swapped with him – the cocktail was so refreshing and tart. Bitters and such.

Charcuterie plate ($14) The pinky/tan plop in the foreground is a rabbit pate (or something like that). Tasty. The lardo on the left was ok, but I liked Chef Tanners better – his was a little more flavorful. The other cured meats were awesome. I’ve kind of forgotten them already. Sadness. But they were delicious on my tongue.
Boudin! This side portion was only $3! Awesome casings, and kicky mustard. I like boudin. It’s a sausage with rice in it.
This. Get this this this. It’s a quinoa side salad and I need to figure out how to make it at home. $3 for a refreshing cold salad with roasted califlower, scallions, and AWESOME. The cauliflower lent a nuttiness and… I want some more RIGHT NOW.

Really liked Cochon Butcher, and the next time we visit, I wanna eat at Cochon proper.

On our way out, Margarita gave us a tour of the neighborhood she grew up. Cute area. And we saw a place selling oysters. They sell oysters for $30 for 30 lbs, or $50 for 100 lbs. DUDE! Bro picked up a 30 lb sack. We got ice and such for the ride. S’cool.

These guys were fresh and covered in mud. They are of various shapes and sizes, and I think in warmer weather it would be fun to grill them.

Bro took to oyster shucking quite well. Mmm, so meaty and plump.
Oh, and they picked up some gulf shrimp. Look at how big those guys are! No preservatives or anything. So briny and good.

Bro & Albany John also cheffed up some baked oysters. A tasty way to end our day in New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps rouler, indeed!

Canadian Bacon

Canadian Bacon! I’m a woman on a curing kick and I just can’t help myself. Picked up a pork loin at Roma for $3.99 per pound and mixed up a cure from Ruhlman’s blog.

30 g pink salt

70 g kosher salt
125 g sugar
2 bay leaves
some sage
5 crushed garlics
1/2 lemon

Add the above ingredients to 2 quarts of boiling water. Cook until the sugar & salts have dissolved, then let it cool down for a while.
2 lbs, 2 oz of pork loin. All mine for the curing!
And now the loin is combined with the brine in a Ziploc baggie (freezer, gallon sized).
It gets to sit for a few days to cure, then it gets a trip in the hot smoker.

It came out SO awesome!! Smoked it with maple wood chips for a few hours.

I’d say this is the best “value” smoking-wise. It ended up gaining weight from the liquid brine, and didn’t lose much during the smoking. Fattier cuts shed a LOT of weight while smoking, but it seems like hot smoking a leaner cut with a wet brine = way less weight loss.