Monthly Archives: February 2012

3×33 = A good week

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I was discussing Yelp with a local business owner and proprietor, there are a lot of strong feeling out there, and, as a Yelper, wanted his opinion. I mentioned that I’ve only written reviews on establishments I didn’t care for, Oceana Bistro, for one. He suggested that that was one of the problems with Yelp. I countered, that I balance my negative reviews with checking in at joints I frequent on a regular basis. Thus, publicizing my liking of those places on my respective Twitter and Facebook accounts. I also mention my favorites on this very blog. What higher praise could an establishment get than a shout out on Amuse-Douche, a tweet mentioning @AmuseDouche11, or a check in on Facebook? But, my wife, who’s in the hospitality service industry, agrees with Jeff, so I’ll do my best and give props to my local favorites.

I had some free time this morning, and wanted to do a review of one such place, so, after checking where I’d been checking in, I was lead to 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Room just off Lafayette Square on Park. It’s the blue building, there is a sign above the door, but it’s about 2 x 6 inches in size, so don’t go looking for it by the sign. But don’t worry, there’s no lame speakeasy vibe.

This past Tuesday I went by 33 wine bar for a wine tasting. Venge Vineyards brought six or so wines in, including a wonderful Pinot Noir and the Scout’s Honor, which, with my being an Eagle Scout, was a treat on several levels. The following is the write up from 33’s invite:

We are honored to have Venge Vineyards owner and winemaker Kirk Venge join us this evening for a wine tasting of the spectacular 2009 and 2010 offerings. More than just the Scout’s Honor, Kirk will present Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and a few surprise gems from this venerable winery started by Kirk’s dad, Nils. There is no charge for the tasting… wines will be available for purchase at a discounted price. Please join us and welcome Kirk to our fair city.

The wines were all quite nice, but unfortunately out of this guy’s price range. I may grab a bottle of Scout’s Honor the next time I want to splurge. One of the great things about 33 is that you can enjoy wine in the shop or take a bottle or, better yet, a case home.

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Tasting sheet with wines and price list.

The picture at the top of this posting is that of their menus. The wines are broken down by variety and I believe the listings arranged by price, with region or state listed beside the wine name. This makes searching for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir easy, especially when price is a concern. Jeff and the rest of his staff are all very knowledgeable on wine and beer, so just ask their advice. Give them your menu, varietal preference, price range, and let the pros guide your decision.

The next afternoon I had a friend coming through town, and we needed a drink. Had he been coming through that evening, we’d have hit Taste,Sanctuaria, or Blood & Sand, for dinner and drinks, but it was 3 PM and those joints don’t open till 5 PM. Fortunately Jeff, at 33, welcomes customers, with his signature hat and chuckle, starting around 3 PMish.

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We had a seat at the bar and each enjoyed a glass of white off their by the glass list, as it certainly felt like white wine weather outdoors. My friend stayed with wine, and I went with a couple of their, very well selected, beers. We also
Enjoyed a great cheese and meat platter. My friend ended up purchasing two bottles of rye as well, but those were to take home. The price was right at what The Wine and Cheese Place was getting for the same rye, yet another reason to go to 33 and not TWCP.

For beer, their draught and by the bottle selections are top of the line. They’ve got quite a few bottles in standard, bomber, and 750 ml sizes. I believe they’re limited to six draughts, but you can tell much care went into their selection. While we drank our low proof treats we discussed with Jeff their higher proof options. They have one of the best selections in the city for whiskey, be it Irish, Scotch, Bourbon, or other American whiskey.

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Wether it’s a 28 year Hirsch, 16 year Black Maple Hill, Pappy 23 year, when it’s in stock, or Leapold Bros Colorado whiskey for the Americans, or some high end Scotch, 33 is the place to be for a dram. I can’t remember what Irish they have, sorry, you’ll have to go by to find out for yourself.

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The chalk boards seen just to the left of the booze are a nice way to amuse yourself while you imbibe. The first one is their draught list, the other two are generally some sort of list of places, quotes, artists, or films for trivia purposes.

I don’t feel the need to say too much about their wine selection, other than it’s vast, and reasonably priced. The carry out price is discounted, as it should be. Jeff does a great job selecting the wines for his store/bar.

Another tally on the pro side, is that 33 is the best place I’ve found to have a get together. Be it a birthday party, guys night out, anniversary, engagement, or what have you, 33 or so folks, pun intended, can fit into their back room for drinks from the bar, or you could see if you can prearrange for a few bottles to be poured to your guests. I ordered a toast of grower’s champagne for twenty once, and then left the guests to provide for themselves at the bar. They can put out great charcuterie and cheese plates along with Billy Goat chips to provide snacks for your party goers. If you’re bringing in a crowd you may be able to have the room to yourself without a room charge, call in advance, like a month if you can. Try doing that at McGurk’s or Blueberry Hill. The Dubliner will allow for free room usage and your own bar tender for a certain period of time, if 33 is unavailable and you can’t change the date.

On Thursday Civil Life did a tap takeover. This was not to be missed.

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A couple of the guys behind Civil Life used to be behind the bar at 33. Their beers, especially the American Brown and the English Bitter have no rival.

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In general they brew classic European style beers. You won’t find any overly hopped, ancho chile, chocolate covered strawberry, nonsense there. Not that I don’t love nonsense, Hopslam anyone, but if you want a perfectly balanced beer, brewed locally, using solar power, you’ve got to get down to the brewery or try one of their beers on tap at your better beer bars.

I guess this ended up being a review for two local gems. I’ll be sure to give them both five subjective, arbitrary, but at least INFORMED, and in their cases, well deserves, stars, on Yelp.

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Noble Rot Run

20120227-191026.jpg With Missouri’s ridiculous liquor laws limiting what I can pick up at my local liquor store, I’m forced to use other means to acquire these brews, which are unjustly kept from me by regulations created by big government bought and paid for by big beer.

I so love skirting the law.

In order to get my beers, like Big and Little Enos Burdette, I have to have the stuff ran in from a few states over. Fortunately, I’ve got a gal, and she does it, for the money, for the glory, and for the fun. Mostly for the money.

Whenever she’s back in town, she brings me a sampling of Dogfish Head. The brewery is known for doing some avant guard stuff. They say they do off-centered ales for off-centered people, which is just my style. Their owner, Sam Calagione, had a television show called “Brew Masters,” you may have seen it on Discovery Channel. They’re 60 Minute IPA is probably the best IPA I’ve had. Some of their other beers have been off putting, but others have been quite nice, it’s hit or miss.

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I keep one of each in the fridge, just in case.

Bandit brought me something very interesting this time. Noble Rot by Dogfish Head. For a video about the beer, click here.

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This beer is advertised as a saison like brew infected with viognier grape must. I’m looking forward to trying this beer on some chilly fall evening, until then, it’ll have to cellar, but don’t fret, when I do pop the top on this beast, I’ll be sure to post.

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How to stock; Glassware, Gadgetry, and Guides.

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You’re welcome for the grocery list, hope you didn’t break the bank, but now what do you need to properly prepare and serve your new collection?

I thought I’d break down the basics on glasses, guides, and gadgetry. As always, if your tastes take you in a different direction, run with it, it’s your collection, not mine. And, if you’re doing some type of specialization with your bar, then a greater variety of delivery apparatti may be needed, like tiki glasses, but this list will allow you to prepare and serve most, if not all, drinks, though you may lack in flair.

To help, where you see the hyper link on the word “glasses” or on a product, click and it should take you to an A-D approved version available online, or an example to then find your own unique version elsewhere. Further down I will explain those products which might not immediately come to mind for bar stocking. I will also discuss multitaskers that might not be as obvious to those who’ve not spent much time behind the stick. In a later blog I will break down a dozen or so must have kitchen items.

Glassware
12 Red Wine glasses
12 White Wine glasses
8 Old Fashioned glasses
8 Coupe glasses
8 Grappa or Port glasses
8 Sipping glasses
8 Vodka or Cordial glasses
12 Pint glasses
12 Champagne flutes
12 Highball glasses
12 Tom Collins/Mojeto glasses
1 Punch Bowl
24 Punch Cups/Sherry glasses 2-4 oz
12 coffee mugs (Irish Coffees/Totties)
1 Carafe (water for tastings)
1 Pitcher (stirring/pouring eye openers)

Here is my collection, minus the Waterford old fashioneds, martini glasses, and my pint glasses.

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One of my glassware cabinets.

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Another cabinet.

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Some sweet vodka/cordials my boss gave me.

I’ve got a bit more than I need.

Especially for the glassware, the examples I’m giving are those located at your local Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel. Look them up and get ideas of your own. By all means, please, find something second hand. Or if your tastes differ, then something a bit more flashy may be needed. But I’d suggest looking at the size and type of glass I’m suggesting before heading out shopping in antique stores. Smaller volume is generally better, cocktail recipes are usually about three ounces of booze, plus the ounce or so of melted ice that’s been diluted, leaves you with four ounces total of liquid, you don’t need a twelve ounce glass for four ounces of liquid. I use my old fashioned for a lot more than just an old fashioned. I like a very heavy bottom on those glasses. I like to feel I could throw one through some dry wall wall.

Glasses that can be used for more than one purpose are the way to go. Martini glasses are generally too large, unless you get antique versions. That’s why I suggest coupe glasses. They’re smaller and will work for any classic cocktail served up, or for champagne. Think of the glasses you see at Rick’s in Casablanca, or the glasses you see at any cocktail bar worth it’s salt. Again, you’re not looking to serve four ounces of liquid in a fish bowl. On the highballs and Tom Collins glasses, you may choose to go with one or the other. There is really no reason you can’t make a mojito, Tom Collins, El Diablo, rum and coke, cooler, or seven and seven in a highball, Collins, or standard pint glass. I prefer to have a second option other than pint glasses, because mine have logos, and that’s not classy. On pint glasses, just shop at your local tavern or brew pub. These random glasses also work well as conversation starters.

Another note on size, those individuals you deem worthy of an invite to have a drink at your home bar, should trust you’ll pour a proper pour of a good product, so, you don’t need to wow them with glass size and style, just with what’s in the glass. A well made three ounce drink in a heavy six or seven, volume, ounce glass is ideal, and you can always ask for a second cocktail, I know I’d join you.

Gadgets
Le Creuset Citrus Juicer
Bar Spoon
Hawthorne Straine
Julep Strainer
Boston Style Shaker
Yarai Mixing Glass
Channel Knife
Kuhn Vegetable Peeler
Pairing Knife
Nutmeg Grater
Bottle Opener
Cocktail Picks
Tea Strainer (for double straining)
Milk Shake Spoons
Wine Key
Blender
Muddler

I like a Boston shaker, I’m not a fan of cleaning those three piece shakers, plus it like cooler and has more volume for making larger batches, but a safety note, never more than one egg at a time. I like the stirring pitcher, I think they add a touch of class over a pint glass when you’re building a Manhattan or Martini. For bar spoons, I have an antique one, if I were to buy a new one I’d go with something with a fork on the end for fishing garnishes out of jars. Some spoons have a flat Muddler on the end, these aren’t necessary due to the fact that you’ll naturally follow my advice and get a nice maple bat styled Muddler. Try cracking ice with a bar spoon, then try it with a maple stick. Both are possible, but I like that batty. You need the tea strainer for double straining your drinks, especially your fruit juiced concoctions, but also to strain your tea. Milk shake spoons are a nice addition. They can be used to sip and stir drinks. They’ll have a spoon end with the straw opening behind it. The various knives and peelers will make garnish preparation much easier. Most of this stuff will help you in the kitchen as well. I keep a lot of this stuff, juicer, grater, peeler, etc in the kitchen. The strainers, spoon, and shaker are the only things I have down in the bar.

These tools will have you stylishly crafting and serving fine drinks, but how will you know what booze to use?

Guides
The Joy of Mixology
Imbibe
Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits

The Joy of Mixology has about every drink you can imagine, besides the Last Word. It has a section on bar tools and stocking a bar. It also has a section on a sort of Bartender’s code of ethics as well as some insight on running a bar. It’s a solid reference guide. Imbibe goes deep into the origin and history of the cocktail, types of cocktails, and individual cocktails. It is an excellent resource for those wanting to geek out or to show off. I suggest only using it for geeking out purposes, otherwise you may find yourself in a “Harvard” bar situation, being schooled by some page quoting, original, individual who will be serving your children French fries. That would make you an unoriginal douche, and that can be embarrassing.

Another fun guide, that marries the first two, is Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits by Dr. Cocktail, Ted Haigh. This is a great book, full of history and tasty drinks. If it’s not in Haigh’s book or Hess’s, you probably don’t need to serve it. Unless it is a punch, but if you need a punch just email me. Unless, you’re really into this stuff, then go buy Imbibe’s companion Punch a great history and recipe book.

I might also throw in, the above mentioned, Robert Hess’s guide, The Essential Bartender’s Guide. It’s easy and quick to use and has color photographs. It is not as comprehensive as Joy of Mixology, but it’s a good starter and more approachable.

I’ve got a few more,

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they’re great reference guides and are full of interesting tidbits and variations on the same drinks, allowing you to try these variations, learn these tidbits, and figure out which you enjoy most, and tell it’s story.

On guides, please search them out in a local, independent book store, like the Left Bank Book, if not, some day, we’ll only be able to read what Barne’s and Noble allows us, and only mix the cocktails B&N informs us of. On the glassware, try local boutiques. On the liquor, local liquor stores, I prefer the business practices of The Wine Merchant and 33 Wine. And when snagging pint glasses, snag from local pubs, but make sure and advertise for them at your home bar.

I know you’ll have more shopping to do now, but, I find that there’s no use pouring crap booze into generic glassware based on bad ratios from juvenile guides, so, I don’t, and if you cared enough to read this, you shouldn’t either, so just bite the bullet, this stuff doesn’t go out of style.

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Bourbon Milk Breakfast

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I was still in a Mardi Gras mood with Fat Tuesday coming earlier in the week and felt like a NOLA themed eye opener this morning.

For my one brunch at Brennan’s in the French Quarter I remember starting with a Harvey Walbanger, and working my way through the several course meal with white wine, then topping it all off with a Bourbon Milk Punch.

Bourbon Milk Punch
1.5 ounces bourbon
4.0 ounces fatty milk
2.0 tsp simple syrup
2.0 dashes vanilla extract

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Shake the ingredients vigorously. I actually wrap a towel around the shaker so I can shake past the point of the contraption being too cold to hold. You want a lot if air and frothiness in the final product. I use heavy cream instead of milk, but thats because heavy cream makes everything better. Stay away from skim milk here, you want a decent fat content, for a compromise get yourself a gas station size bottle of red lid, that’ll be enough for two drinks. I also use my rich simple syrup for this, and most all, drinks. Anyway, once a nice cold frothiness has been achieved, double strain and top with freshly grated nutmeg. For a video of Robert Hess preparing one, click back where is says video.

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Use a spicy bourbon here. Because the drink is so cold, you lose a lot of the baking spice flavors, the addition of the nutmeg on top to greet your nose helps, so does drinking it in a snifter. I may try this drink with a one ounce pour of bourbon and a half ounce of dark rum, and see if that elevated the flavor. It’s a good drink as is, but there’s always room for improvement.

I paired my punch with some of the wife’s chocolate cake.

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After a meal of toast two ways,

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one piece with butter and locally made raspberry jelly, the other under yard fresh eggs from Thole House topped with grilled onions, house peppers, thyme, and grated cheese.

A pretty good breakfast, no Brennan’s, but this one didn’t cost $240 for two.

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How to stock your bar?

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My notes for this blog, a real head scratcher.

A friend has acquired a beutiful slab of end grain rock maple from my good friend Norbert at John Boos in Effingham, IL and used it to create a basement bar. As it was my advice that brought him to Boos and therefore the focal point of his bar, he naturally asked me my opinion on stocking the beast. Before doing so, I did a quick check on the google and was surprised at the lack of quality advice on the matter, hence, this entry into Amuse-Douche.

The first thing I came across on the interwebs was a blog titled The Art of Manliness, if the other articles are on par with the one on bar stocking, reading this thing will only make you a douche, an unamusing douche. Anyone typing that white rum is better for mixing, excuse me, but what about the Pimento, listing Patron as a preference, or that clear tequila is better for sipping, I’ve got a couple reposados and añejos that would beg to differ, blended single malts, what, Grey Goose, try Tito’s, and suggesting Jim Beam for an Old Fashioned, look, asking for an Old Fashioned and having it made with bourbon is like requesting Radiohead and getting Cold Play, sure, it’s music, and to the unintelligent listener it may sound similar, but Cold Play couldn’t hold Radiohead’s jock, and rye, not bourbon, goes in an Old Fashioned. That being said, the guy makes some okay points. It’s really just his selection of booze that I take umbrage with.

So, what do you need? Let’s start with the mixers and work our way up.

Mixers
Coca-Cola Classic
Ginger Beer (Goslings)
Club Soda
Tonic Water
7-Up
Limes
Oranges
Lemons
Grapefruits
Grenadine

That’s really all I offer. I generally don’t consume any carbonated beverages, but have those listed just in case. My tea toting friends seem to enjoy the Ginger Beer. The juices should always be fresh, I like the reemer in a bowl juicer. Also, always double strained. I like having the fresh fruit around for cooking as well. Limes for pico, guacamole, marinades. Lemons for tea or fish or a pie. Oranges and grapefruits for fresh juice or breakfast eating. Some times you look in the refrigerator bin and see you’ve got a little penicillin farm, but you pay the cost to be the boss, and sometimes the cost is tossing moldy citrus into the compost.

garnish
Various citrus peals
Cocktail olives
Cocktail onions
Cherries
Mint
Nutmeg

I also choose to have cinnamon sticks, cloves, and various other baking spices available. In addition, as a home pickler, I have asparagus, okra, and green beans to garnish my savory drinks. I also keep cherries soaked in kirsch, house maraschino cherries, and brandy soaked cherries on hand.

Ice
1 inch cubes
2 inch cubes

I also offer two inch ice balls. The balls and larger cubes melt slower and thus, don’t dilute your cocktail. Dilution is necessary in drink preparation, as about a quarter of your drink is water after stirring or shaking, but you don’t want further dilution while sipping. Good quality ice made with clean water is key. Funky ice equals bad drink. Fortunately those of us in St. Louis profit from Anheuser Busch’s early decision to filter the water they use, not at their brewery, but at the source, so all the city could enjoy crisp, clean, water, and good ice.

Modifiers
French (dry) Vermouth
Italian (sweet) Vermouth
Lilet
Cynar

I buy half bottles, or splits, of Nolle Prat dry vermouth. I don’t use a lot of it so I’ll have one opened in the fridge and one sealed in the cabinet. This ensures I have some in case the fridge bottle has expired. I keep full bottles of sweet vermouth around in several flavors. I suggest Dolin Rouge for it’s price and approachability. If you want to upgrade, I’d suggest Punt a Mes. Carpano Antica, though exceptional, is not the catch all, do anything, sweet vermouth you need when you’re just beginning. Lilet is a nice apertif and can be served alone or mixed into a cocktail, I enjoy it with four parts gin to one part Lilet. The Cynar is your Italian bitter bottle. It’s not as flashy as Fernet Branca, but it’s, again, a catch all, and that’s what you should be trying to get when starting to build a bar. You don’t want niche bottles sitting around collecting dust when you could have something more useful in that shelf space. Averna would also make a nice addition, but if you get a bottle, as with the Lilet and your vermouths, refrigerate once opening.

Liqueurs
Maraschino Liqueur
Cointreau
Creme de Cassis or Chambord
Canton, The Big O, or Stirrings Ginger
Cherry Herring
Aperol or Campari, I’d get both
Drambuie (375)
Benedictine (375)
St. Germaine (375)
Galliano (375)
Pimms
Green Chartreuse
Kahlua
Swedish Punsch
Ameretto

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All of these aren’t necessary. It really depends on how much cocktail making you do. As you taste cocktails at Sanctuaria, Taste,Franco, or Blood & Sand ask what liqueurs are in the ones you particularly enjoy, then purchase those bottles and experiment at home. As you frequent one of the above mentioned establishments, you’ll find that if you ask, they will let you taste any modifier, liqueur, or base. This is very helpful when building a bar.

The list I gave is by no means complete or completely necessary. I’d start with Cointreau, Maraschino, Creme de Cassis and one of the ginger flavored options. Once summer rolls around I’d score a bottle of Pimms for the Pimms Cups. If you’re a Blood & Sand fan, you’ll have to pick up a bottle of Cherry Herring.

I really only have the Chartreuse on the list because I love Last Words. I bought my Maraschino Liqueur for Aviations, but enjoy it in the occasional Manhattan, as the base for my cocktail cherries, and as a dressing for fruit salad, along with the many cocktails I now know it to be an ingredient in. I suggest purchasing 375 ml bottles for the liqueurs where you can. Many are very flavorful or overly sweet, and you’ll only need a quarter ounce or so.

As you build your bar, I’d suggest purchasing different types of the various flavored liqueurs. To start either Chambord or Creme de Cassis will do, but eventually you’ll want both so you can have the proper ingredient. I’d also suggest in investing in a variety of citrus liqueurs such as Grand Mariner or Mandarin Napoleon. They will allow you to put your own twist on a “house” drink when the standard recipe calls for Cointreau. If you like bitter, I suggest you get more bitter drinks, if you have a sweet tooth, grab more fruity sugar packed liqueurs. If you’d like to spend a little more money, try these,

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but, use them sparingly, as they are full of flavor, but a truely top of the line bar should have oak aged Green Chartreuse, Amaro Nonino, and Carpano Antica.

More than anything, your palet should guide your purchases with modifiers, liqueurs, and most importantly, your bases.

Bases
Whiskey
(American; Buffalo Trace, Rittenhouse)
(Global; Glenmorangie, John Powers)
Tequila (Espalón Reposado)
Rum or Rhum (Flor de Cana white)
Gin (Plymouth)
Vodka (Tito’s)
Eau de Vie (C.C. Pear, Laird’s Bonded)

The bottles listed above would be my suggestion for the basics, for more, read on:

Whiskey, Bourbon, Canadian, Irish, Scotch, Rye, Tennessee, Colorado. What to choose? For the bourbon, go with Elijah Craig 12 year or Buffalo Trace for your mixing bourbon. I’d also stock a nicer bottle, maybe Michter’s. As for Canadian, V.O. Or Seagrum’s Seven will do. I don’t use them much, but stock a bottle for the occasional 7&7 or V.O. press. For the Irish, John Power’s. Scotch, I’d go Glenmorangie for a smooth mixer or sipper and maybe something funky, like Laphroig or Ardbeg 10 year to start. Rye is a must for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. I love Rittenhouse and at $20 it’s a great bargain, Old Overholt is $11, but not nearly as tasty. Thomas Handy makes a $60 bottling of over-proof rye, and is a nice addition to any bar. As to the Tenn and Colo whiskies, those aren’t really necessary, but Stranahan’s and George Dickel could be added once the other components are present, if American whiskey is your thing.

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A few whiskey upgrades, rye, bourbon, Irish, and a Bordeaux finished Scotch.

I like a white dog as well. White dogs are simply unaged whiskies, and are a nice night cap.

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The above bottle is unaged Rittenhouse, and is great on the rocks with a cherry. Don’t try to do anything but slide into bed after one.

Tequila, Espalón, Espalón, Espalón. Unaged and the Reposado. Luna Zule makes an affordable Añejo and I suggest it be added to your list. Don’t throw good money after bad tequila, these will all be $25 or less, no reason to spend more.

Rum, Flor de Cana white and the four year are your basics. Goslings Black Seal is a must for hot summer days in a Dark & Stormy. Smith & Cross is my ideal Jamaican rum. El Dorado 12 year is my sipper of choice, and won’t break the bank. For a couple of odd additions, Cachaca for Caipirinhas and Batavia-Arrack for a bit of funk. Three suggestions if you’re going rum heavy,

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Pyrat is a Jamiacan with lots of Hugo, Zacapa may be the best rum ever, and the 15 year old Rhum Barbancourt may be the best of the French style rums. If you’re going full tiki, you may also choose to add orgeat and velvet falernum.

Gin, Plymouth and Hayman’s Old Tom are necessary, something a bit more London dry, like Beefeater, can be nice for Gin & Tonics. I’d also add an American craft distiller such as Aviation, Cap Rock, or Pinkney to try with your classic gin cocktails. Nothing beats Aviation in an Aviation.

Vodka, Stolichnaya and Tito’s is all one needs.

Eau de Vie, I stock a pear, a peach, a kirsch, grapa, calvados, cognac, etc. These are nice to close an evening with. I suggest Clear Creek Distillery’s Pear option, it will certainly surprise a dinner guest. Laird’s Bonded is a nice aged apple brandy, and for $22 it deffinately earns a spot. Pass it off as Calvados after dinner, it’s just the New Jersey version. My favorite after dinner Eau de Vies are bellow.

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Really, as mentioned, taste, and theme, should drive your purchases. Do you prefer prohibition era cocktails, you may want to offer a greater gin selection. Are you a scotch man, then go with maybe two of each base and a half dozen or so scotches. Running an at home tikki establishment, probably need some 151 along with a few other rums. Margaritaville? Bump up the tequila, add some Mescal, but stick with 100% agave. I have a large selection of American whiskies, be they bourbon, rye, wheat, Tennessee, or originating from another state. I have some low price, high quality options, as well as high end high quality options.

As to the bitters, read my blog “Everyday I’m Bittering.” Please, don’t forget them. Not bitters, but made by Fee Brothers, orange flower water is a necessity when having a Ramos Gin Fizz or Pisco Sour for breakfast.

I keep the bulk of my booze in the basement,

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the basics in the kitchen,

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and a few nice things to sip on in a barristers book shelf,

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this way, no matter where I am in the house, I’m never more than a few feet from a proper drink.

None of these suggestions are in anyway biased by advertising or sponsorship dollars. At the moment, this is a true, no spin zone. That being said, everyone has a price, and if properly incentivized, I can whore like no other. If you’d like your product pushed, shoot me an email at Amuse.Douche11@gmail.com or direct message me on Twitter @AmuseDouche11.

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Business Lunches

Every now and then, I can’t bring a bagged lunch or whip up a meal in the kitchen, so I choose to go on field trips. These ventures into the restaurant and bar world allow me to try new things, steal ideas, talk to the pros, and gather information to pass on to friends, family, and readers. Yesterday and again today, were such opportunities.

Yesterday I made my way into Washington, MO to the Old Dutch Inn.

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Had a seat at the bar, my favorite place for eating alone, because with the bartender there, you’re never actually alone.

Started with a Bells Two Hearted Ale and a bowl of beer cheese soup.

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Nice, salty, creamy, soup. The ale, with it’s crisp hoppiness, cut through the soup perfectly. Next came the Reuben.

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The sandwich was very flavorful, but the a bit tough. I could not cut through the meat with my bites of the sandwich. Pieces of corned beef would exit from between the bread as I took bites, not good.

I should have gone with the open faced roast beef sandwich, but I love to try reubens when offered. It’s a good way to judge a place, like how they prepare their burger.

If you’re out in wine country stop into the Old Dutch for dinner or lunch, stay away from the reuben, and check out the beer list. If you’re in town for breakfast I’d suggest Cowan’s, it’s your run of the mill mile high pie establishment, which is to say, sunny side up, sausage patties, grits, a piece of that pie, and coffee, black, please.

Today, I was at a U-Law symposium on the exclusionary rule and accountability. Unfortunately, as far as police are concerned, there is none. That’s not really germane, for these purposes, other than to explain why I was able to have lunch at Diablito’s Cantina.

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Diablito’s is located in the old Pasta House site in SLU’s campus. It’s run by the same folks who run Sanctuaria, which is why I thought to check it out.

They certainly are festive,

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but, I don’t eat at places for the decor, though it is a factor, when it’s white table cloths, but when it’s authentic Mexican, I feel there is a zero sum gain, more quality “Mexican” ambiance, less quality food.

I found the decor to be that of a generic Mexican restaurant on steroids, which didn’t bode well for the food. Its also a bit distracting, very in your face. Though their target audience, or loss leader, I assume margarita by the pitcher swilling coeds, may feel it’s a talking point while they try to score numbers and other things.

I ordered the Smoke & Mirrors margarita. It contained mescal along with the standard margarita ingredient list. The mescal was the smoking agent and it did deliver some smoke.

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Unfortunately, the drink itself, though a bit smokey, seemed watered down and was quite thin, I should have just ordered a shot.

For the none liquid portion of my lunch, I went with my Mexican joint litmus test, tacos al pastor.

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My first thought was, this is it? Second was, where’s the cilantro and lime, or any flavor other than sumptuous perkiness. The meat was tasty, but instead of this being the flavorful dish I’m used to when at cantinas, stands, or trucks, the non-pork flavor component was was missing. These tasted like carnitas tacos with some pineapple to sweeten, not al pastor. I love carnitas, but al pastor should be so much more. The rice and beans were okay, but there weren’t enough of them to leave me full after re three scant tacos.

Both lunches ran me $20, which is outrageous for me. Diablito’s won’t be a place I visit again, or recommend, and I feel that is very unfortunate. Cherokee Street and Las Palma’s in Maplewood will have to do when I need a taco fix. As I said earlier, I do recommend Old Dutch, and will be dining there in the future.

Both ran $20 with tip, had I stuck with an entree and tea, I’d have probably kept the bills under $12. Its easy to keep your lunch field trips under budget, just like when on a date, splitting a salad and a dessert, not boozing, and staying away from things like the filet or crab cake appetizer, which you can do just as well at home, will keep your date night field trip bill under control.

All in all, a nice, or at least informative, little couple of field trips for nourishment and reconnaissance.

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Wednesday Night Tradición

Today is National Margarita Day and I felt like enjoying one this evening. Unfortunately, the Margarita isn’t on Sanctuaria’s cocktail club member’s list. So, I went with the next best thing.

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The Maria Antoinette at Sanctuaria.

Maria Antoinette
1.5 ounces Añejo Tequila
0.5 ounces Cognac
0.5 ounces orange juice
0.5 ounces lime juice
.25 ounces agave nectar

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Shake all ingredient with ice, double strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a flamed orange. Flamed orange? Yes, take a swath of orange, run a lighter across it a couple times, and then squeeze the orange piece so as to express the heated citrus oils into the flame and across the top of the drink. Then float the orange piece on top of the drink.

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Use a juicy Cognac such as the one above, in this recipe the Cognac is adding sweetness, flavor, and French fanciness. Reposado tequila will also work, if you don’t want to use Añejo. I used Espalón’s Reposado. I’m not going to use Añejo tequila on a mixed drink, unless I’m charging money for it. For Margaritas I use Reposado over crystal or Añejo.

The classic Margarita by Robert Hess, created here, uses the following ratio:

2.0 oz Tequila
1.3 oz Cointreau
.67 oz fresh lime juice

This 2-1.33-.67 ratio is much sweeter than a 4-1-2 ratio base-sweet-sour we saw in my Save our Sour blog. But, as I mentioned in that piece, many like their Margarita’s a bit sweeter than their Whiskey Sours or Daiquiris. When recipes call for a liqueur as their sweetener, you’ll generally see more sweetener used in the ratio.

Gary Regan, who likes his drinks stiff, uses a 3-2-1 ratio in “The Joy of Mixology.” He also talks of a 3-2-1 ratio being used in many other drinks, including his Sidecar recipe, which Alton Brown claims is the base for the Margarita, but Ted Kilgore scoff at that, so who knows. The Cosmopolitan is another 3-2-1 cocktail, just with a splash of cranberry.

Be it the Marie Antoinette, whose proportions are closer to a SOS Sour, or the Margarita, try a recipe, and then tinker with it until you get your own ratio down, because in the end, it’s important to know what a drink is supposed to taste like, but it’s not necessary for you to make it that way.

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Hopslam

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I scored my annual allotment of Bells Hopslam yesterday. About a million IBUs, 10% alcohol, brewed with honey, amazing stuff.

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Popped the top on my first one tonight. Damn good, hoppy, but smooth.

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If you can find it, buy what you can. Mine was packaged on 2/09/12, I’d suggest checking the dates, especially if it’s been sitting out. This stuff is unpasturized and belongs in a cellar or fridge.

Hopslam is one of the annual releases that beer geeks truly geek out on, and I dabble in beer geekery. The only reason I scored any is that I follow the major craft beer retailers on Twitter, and saw that The Wine and Cheese Place had some available. If you like this sort of thing, I suggest you check A-D’s twitter followee list @AmuseDouche11. Come by and try one here if you like.

Otherwise, if you don’t want to work, or deal with me, for your beers, stop by 33 Wine and sip a bottle, unless you’re fortunate enough to find it there on draft, that would be choice. I saw the owner the other day at Kaldi’s and he said they still had a barrel untapped in the cellar.

You heard it here first! Hopslam!

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Fat Tuesday

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Mardi Gras is upon us, what to reach for? Abita Turbo Dog or Purple Haze if beer is your thing, Hurricanes mixed from a powder, I hope not, bourbon milk punch, for breakfast, sure. But what if you’re looking for something with a bit more bite and authenticity? I did a write up on the Vieux Carre, that would work, but what about something somehow even more New Orleans?

The Sazerac
2.0 ounces good whiskey
2.0 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
0.5 tsp sugar (half a cube)
4.0 drops Absinthe
2.0 twists lemon peal

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Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice, then take a mixing glass and muddle the sugar and a bit of water, add everything but the absinthe and one twist. Fill with ice and stir. Take the first glass and empty it, then add the absinthe, and swirl/rinse the glass. Now strain the cocktail into the rinsed and chilled glass. To garnish twist the last lemon peal over the cocktail and drop it in.

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This drink has been around forever. Now that real absinthe is available here in the states, and there are a plethora of ryes available, so no excuse to not enjoy this classic. I enjoy the Thomas Handy over proofed rye for my Sazeracs. It has the additional heat needed to cut through the sweet and herbaciousness of the absinthe.

To do a real throwback drink, use a dry cognac, or use 1.5 ounces dry cognac and 0.5 ounces rye. Originally the Sazerac was a brandy cocktail.

The picture I lead off with is from the Sazerac bar in the Roosevelt Hotel off Cannal. It was closed for some time, but has reopened in a post Katrina NOLA and is a welcome sight to any traveler tired of the French Quarter scene, and needing a quiet, sophisticated, cocktail. They are also available at most any New Orleans bar, Napoleon House, Tujague’s, or the great and venerable Commander’s Palace, and also at bars here in this old French city.

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The Sazerac at StL’s Taste Bar.

Any home bar should have the makings of this cocktail, better booze does distinguish the drink, but Herbsaint and Rittenhouse or worse yet Old Overholt will do. But what if a guest turns his or her nose up at this booze monster, but doesn’t want to settle for something less? Strumming through the most recent Imbibe magazine, I think I found the perfect back up.

Doctor Cocktail
2.0 ounces Jamaican rum
1.0 ounces Swedish Punsch
1.0 ounces lime juice

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Shake these ingredient together with ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel or lime swath.

For the Swedish Punsch use Kronan’s, now available at The Wine Merchant. For the rum, I split the 2.0 ounces in half, half Smith and Cross for the Hugo and half El Dorado 12 year old for the smooth rich flavor.

This isn’t an original New Orleans beverage, but it has all the makings of a staple in my arsenal and can stand up to any classic. I’ll be in NOLA in August this year, and a Doctor Cocktail will be the perfect way to cut the heat when I grow tired of Hemingway Daiquiris and Ramos Gin Fizzes.

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Loafing Meat like a True Patriot

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As it is President’s Day I decided to go with a meatloaf dinner, just like mom would make. This also allows me to lunch like a patriot all week with meatloaf sammies. Today was a meatloaf double up, as I had it for lunch and dinner.

As it was President’s Day I had the day off, and no food. Fortunately, as it was a trading holiday, two friends were also in need of a lunch option. My favorite destination for a weekday holiday lunch is Farmhause and my two companions were more than happy to check it out. A word on their lunch, it’s $10, for salad, tea, and entree. The offer one blue plate lunch item, Monday’s it’s meatloaf. I think Wednesday is fried chicken and Thursday fried fish, not sure on Tuesday. As for the meatloaf,

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it’s wrapped in bacon and accompanied by mashes potatoes and butter poached carrots. The salad,

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does not change on the day. A quick peak at the dinner menu shows the meatloaf runs $15 and the salad $7, so for $10 at lunch you get $22 plus beverage worth of Farmhause. A steal. As for my dinner…

For the recipes I turned to two all American cook books, Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here for the Food” and “Joy of Cooking” by Rombauer and Becker.

Meatloaf
2.0 large eggs
2.0 lbs ground chuck
1.5 cups onion
1.0 tbsp minced garlic
3.0 tbsp ketchup
0.5 tsp paprika
3.0 tbsp red wine vinegar
1.0 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1.5 tsp kosher salt
.05 tsp fresh ground pepper
2.0 tbsp chopped parsley
1.0 tbsp dried red bell pepper
2.0 slices white bread

I substitute the bread with a cup of oats because that’s how my mom does it. I also add a finely diced small green bell pepper. I don’t measure on the onion, I just use a hole medium sized one. Play with the seasoning and adjust it to your personal taste. There are endless possibilities. Maybe do a curry flavored loaf to be ironic.

Back on point, I do become a bit of a knife skills snob for my meatloaf. No one wants some chunky car reck meatloaf. To make sure you get even cooking and a consistent loaf, dice your veggies. This is where you do the cut in half, put slits across, without cutting all the way to the root, then slice parallel to your cutting board twice, then chop, thing with the onion. This will give you nice uniform cubes. With the pepper, cut off the top and bottom, then turn the flesh into match sticks, after removing the seeds and all white matter, then chop the matchsticks into a small dice.

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Sweat the veggies, which is to say, cook them until they are translucent. I do this with a bit of oil and salt, I also do it in batches, otherwise you end up steaming them, and you won’t get that nice sweetness.

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Throw everything into a large bowl once the onion and pepper have cooled. Use a big bowl, the biggest you have, trust me.

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Stir/fold it over sixteen times and them place in a 9×5 loaf pan. Then place the loaf in a 350 degree oven for about 1.25 hours, your looking for about a 165 degree internal temp.

For the Broccoli I simply steamed it in my steamer with a bit of salt, pepper, and a couple slices of lemon.

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For the potatoes I went with the “Joy” recipe for boiled mature potatoes, the ones I scored at Shop ‘n Save weren’t small enough to be accurately labelled “new.” I cubed them for quicker and more even cooking. I boiled them in just enough water to cover, this took about thirty minutes.

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I the drained them well. After which I placed them back in the pot with a towel over the lid for five minutes. I then added a few globs of butter, two tablespoons of grated horseradish, a sprinkling of chives, and some chopped parsley. After the butter melted I gave the pot a good shake to coat.

Now, as I’m about to plate, the loaf

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as it’s resting for ten minutes.

Same with the spuds,

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after sitting under their towel.

Turned out the loaf was a bit lose still, but all and all a tasty meal.

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It’s no Farmhause, but it’ll do for a Monday night.

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