Community Garden Plot

Why, the subtitle of this blog is “Cocktails, food, and gardening…” and I have yet to put up any garden pictures!

Today we did a bit of a cleanup of our community garden plot and planted some herbs we got last weekend in Paso Robles.

This guy I rescued about 2 years ago in the discount section of our local garden center. It is finally doing well.

This is Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum). According to the plant tag, it repels dogs and cats.

Some sort of perennial African Basil.

Winter Savory (Satureja montana) is a plant I always like to have around.

You can’t make “Whiskey Tansy” without Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).

True Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii).

Yerba Buena flower.

This Silver Thyme I planted earlier this year, still doing well!

Lemon Thyme.

Formosa Lily. Grew this from seeds I traded for on the Internets.

Our little plot.

Bar Land

Weird things happen in Bar Land.

Normally I’m kind of a stay at home kind of guy. Wife, cats, small groups of friends.

But, last night I met up with an acquaintance to chat at a bar.

We had a couple of drinks, and there was a woman sitting next to us at the bar, I guess a regular, who was making small talk with the bartender.

As those things go, we exchanged some words with her about the drinks we were enjoying.

The she said, apropos of nothing as far as I could tell, “Oh, I just have to show you guys the book I just got!” and pulls out a book called, “Naked Chicks with Weed”.

Now I’m a good Midwestern boy, and am not normally sure what to do when the person next to you pulls out, (admittedly tasteful,) Porn and starts flipping through the pages, aside from averting my eyes, trying to change the subject, and probably turning beet red.

But, she would not be diverted from the subject, and went on to extensively describe her fondness for nakedness, the sexual act, and weed.

Ahem, well, there you go!

Different strokes, as they say, for different folks!

There is no moral to this story, aside from saying again, “Weird things happen in Bar Land.”

Whip It Out (Explained)

Ahem, Mrs. Underhill was giving me a bit of a hard time about my “spicy” language in the previous Whip It Out post.

So, I suppose I should explain.

The name is actually an allusion to a Mothers of Invention song called, “Ian Underwood Whips it Out.” The song begins with a little narration where Ian Underwood explains how he came to be in the band. He had seen them play a couple times and was impressed. The second time he approached a band member and told them he would like to play for them. He then showed up at the recording studio where the Mothers were recording. According to the anecdote, Ian Underwood approached Frank Zappa and said, “How’d you do. My name is Ian Underwood. I like you music and I’d like to play with your group.” Zappa said, “What can you do that is fantastic?” Underwood, “I can play alto saxphone and piano.” Zappa, “All right, whip it out….” At which point the song breaks into music and Ian Underwood plays a long saxophone solo.

Obviously, the name of the song is a bit of a joke, you know, about those things we get so much spam about.

But, it has always illustrated the kernel of most of the initial encounters I’ve had with other men.

You may eventually become fast friends, who will forgive each other anything; but, it always starts out with that, “What can you do, (or what do you know,) that is really cool?”

Until you’ve passed that test, you’re just another guy.

Wowie Zowie!

PDX Express

A quick trip to Portland, Oregon, this last weekend.

I’d read about Bailey’s Taproom on some Portland forum or another. It recently opened across the street from the restaurant we were dining at later in the evening, Saucebox. A nice selection of what I would call “Extreme” beers. Beers from Stone, Russian River, Deschutes, Amnesia, etc. Almost every beer on the menu over 6% alcohol. We tried a couple of very nice examples of the style. If you’re in the mood for this sort of thing, Bailey’s is the place to go.

Saucebox was all right. A West Coast take on kind of Asian/tiki food and cocktails. A little mirror-ey, clubby for me.

For breakfast the next day we went to Mother’s, a Portland institution. I’d heard Portland was a great breakfast town, and Mother’s didn’t let us down.

Every foodie I talked to recommended we go to Park Kitchen, and they were right. Unfortunately, nearly the whole restaurant was booked for a wedding party. But, we got there early enough to get one of the first come first serve tables on the sidewalk. Fantastic, friendly service and fantastic food. I’ve been kind of down on fancy dining lately, and Park Kitchen went a long way to restoring my faith in the institution.

I’d been told by drinky friends that the one bar I needed to check out was the Teardrop Lounge. Handily, it was within staggering distance of Park Kitchen, so we stopped in for drinks after dinner.

Opened a couple months ago by relocated San Franciscans Daniel Shoemaker and Ted Charak, it is a pretty fantastic venue. After working in “volume” bars in San Francisco, Daniel and Ted had a dream of opening a true cocktailian bar. Fresh ingredients, quality spirits, homemade mixers and bitters. Unfortunately, the economics of San Francisco didn’t work out, so they looked to Portland. After a brave struggle with the bureaucratic powers that be, they are finally living that dream. If you care about cocktails, you owe it to yourself to check out what these guys are doing.

We had another great breakfast at Zell’s the next morning, and cleared our heads for another day of Portland.

Bartender and bloggerJeffrey Morgenthaler was kind enough to arrange for a tour and tasting of the House Spirits distilling facilities.

House Spirits make several products including a popular Gin, Vodka, and Aquavit.

Owner Lee Medoff gave us the run down on the production of these products and then let some of Jeffrey’s other friends, who also turned out to be bartenders, take turns at making drinks.

I sort of suspected that I might have to take a turn at the bar, but, had luckily spied the ingredients necessary for one of my favorite Savoy Cocktails, The ATTY Cocktail. Whew! Talk about nerve racking! I’d never really made cocktails behind a bar before, let alone in front of 5 bartenders and the manufacturer of the gin I was mixing. Fortunately, I didn’t completely choke, and managed to score a slight victory for an unjustly ignored drink. Well, it does have two very difficult to find ingredients, so will likely remain somewhat obscure for the foreseeable future. Still, the Aviation Gin was very, very good in the ATTY.

While we were chatting at House Spirits, and swilling gin cocktails, Jeffrey mentioned that some of the folks from Imbibe Magazine were going to be at Clyde Common for drinks. What the heck! I’d had a few drinks, surely meeting journalists couldn’t be more nerve racking than mixing drinks for bartenders!

Clyde Common turned out to be an unusual concept. Restaurants in San Francisco have been adding common tables; but, Clyde Common is all common tables. We had some appetizers at the bar, chatted, drank a couple more drinks, and parted ways.

We had one last Portland breakfast at Bijou Cafe, packed up, and flew back home.

Whew! My head is still spinning!

Bloodhound Cocktail

Since I mentioned the Bloodhound cocktail in the previous post, figured I should put up that recipe.

Blood-Hound Cocktail

1/4 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Dry Vermouth)
1/4 Italian Vermouth. (3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz)
2 or 3 Crushed Strawberries.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

This is a great cocktail when strawberries are in season.

Some suggest raspberries instead of strawberries; but, strawberries and gin are a great combo. Use a milder gin like Beefeater or Bombay, and it’s a good cocktail to win vodka drinkers over to gin.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Saturday Night’s Alright

For some reason, since trying the cocktails at the bartender’s competition, I’ve had an idea to try a cocktail which combined strawberries and the St. Germain Elderflower liqueur.

After a couple tries, we thought this one pretty good. It’s basically a riff on a classic cocktail called the “Bloodhound”. Haven’t thought of a name yet. “Bloodflower”? “Flowerhound”? I hate thinking up names.

1 1/2 oz Bombay Gin
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
dash fresh lemon juice
2 medium strawberries

Muddle strawberries in mixing tin with other ingredients. Add ice, shake well, and strain into cocktail glass.

The rest of the dinner was not particularly vegetarian friendly…

Roasted Red and Poblano peppers marinated in sherry vinegar, olive oil and herbs.

Tomatoes (from our community garden) and basil in a vinaigrette.

Niman Ranch Cowboy Steaks (Bone in Ribeye) with a brown sugar, pimenton de la vera, and porcini mushroom “rub” (based on a recipe from the Babbo Cookbook).

Steaks after some time on the grill over searing hot lump mesquite charcoal.

We got some rather nice butter lettuce at the farmers’ market this AM, and tossed it with the marinated tomatoes.

Mmmm… Steak.