Tuna Casserole

Now that Macaroni and Cheese area has been thoroughly gentrified, maybe it’s time to start colonizing some of the other neighborhoods of my Midwestern childhood.

It’s fine enough, when you hear a chef talk about their youth in the bucolic countryside of Austria, or how they had their Oyster epiphany visiting family in Brittany.

Yeah, it’s fine, whatever, if you’ve earned what you do. But sometimes I wonder, how could you not? You’re not even having to try, basically just waking up with a pedigree which includes the best food in the world.

But can you make a decent Casserole? How is your “dish to pass”?

Tuna Casserole


1/2 Pound Pasta

1/2 onion, chopped
8 Mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil or butter

2 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP Flour
1 Cup Warm Milk
1 Cup Warm Chicken Stock
Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Can Tuna, preferably Italian
Frozen Peas
Spinach, roughly chopped
Fresh Thyme
Bread Crumbs (Or to be more authentic, crushed potato chips)


Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Put on water to boil your pasta. Slightly undercook, drain. Saute the mushrooms until they have given up their moisture. Add chopped onions to pan and cook until tender. Deglaze with dry white wine or Dry Vermouth and reserve. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. When it is melted and the water cooked off, add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until it smells of toasty bread. Stir milk and chicken stock into roux, a little at a time at first so it doesn’t clump. Bring liquid to a near simmer, it should thicken nicely. Grate nutmeg into sauce and check the salt level, it will probably need quite a bit. Combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs in oven proof dish (Or pasta pan, if it is oven proof. One less pan to wash.) Top with bread crumbs and cook until it is bubbling and the bread crumbs are toasted.

Enjoy with the not too fancy beverage of your choice.

Not that I can really complain, I had a great upbringing, it’s just that the foods which were awesome in my youth still aren’t really enshrined as shining examples of world cuisine. For example, pies, cookies, and doughnuts. My grandmother was a great cook, a fantastic cookie baker, but not much for recipes. I’ve never had cookies, fry cakes, or pie crusts as good as hers were. I think those tantalizing treats are probably lost forever. Though, I just about started weeping when they served a Krumkake with our dessert recently at Bar Tartine. Even the fantastic t-bone steaks my Dad would grill in the summer. Oh, though, the best example were the strangely named “Corn Boils”. Sweet Corn fresh from the field, soaked briefly in salt water, and grilled over hardwood. Every time I smell the sweet smell of burning corn leaves, it takes me back to those hot Summer nights in Wisconsin.

I know envy is embarrassing, and I shouldn’t be grumpy or jealous of others’ experiences.

I have mine, and they’ve made me who I am. Given me the taste for the food and drinks that I have and allowed me the chance and ability to sometimes share it with others. And, no, I don’t really want to pay $24 for a fancy version of Tuna Casserole. Thanks, but no.

Tipping Hints

“A bartender gave me some free stuff. Was I a douche for not tipping?”

Well, first off, you’re not a douche. Being a “Douche” is a binary thing, you either are, or you aren’t. The fact that you are feeling guilty and even wondering about not tipping, indicates to me that you are probably not a douche. If you were a douche, you would feel perfectly comfortable and deserving of every free thing that came your way.

However, you should have tipped. One thing someone said to me once, which has always stuck in my mind, “If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to drink.” I know you had some excuse about only having a credit card and not getting a bill. The thing to do, in that case, is to ask the bartender, “Could you charge me for something, so I can leave a tip?” Most likely the person will waive you away and tell you to, “get me next time,” but at least they know you weren’t stiffing them. In any case, even if you did forget, you’re not a douche, and there was drinking involved, so likely they’ll figure it will all come out in the wash eventually.

Some handy reading…

10 Rules of Drinking Like a Man #6 Use Cash, the Etiquette of Dollars

Ask Your Bartener: Buybacks

At all the places I’ve worked, a certain amount of free drinks or discounts are allowed (and accounted for) per shift, at the bartender’s, or manager’s, discretion. Further confounding the individual joys and benefits of “buybacks”, everywhere I’ve worked is a pooled house. That is, everyone working receives a certain amount of shares of the night’s tips, including waiters, bus boys, and naturally, bar backs.

As a customer, the rule you should go by, is: You must tip on the full value of services or products received, end of story.

How much?

The phenomenon of celebrity and star bartenders aside, in California, bartending is a minimum wage service job, Period. Very few benefits, no paid vacation days, and no sick days. You were wondering why so many of your favorite bartenders quit the job for “Brand Rep”, management, or consulting gigs as soon as they accumulated enough credibility? The only way for bartenders (and waiters) to make any sort of decent money is through tips.

In my opinion, you should apply the exact same criteria to tipping bartenders, as you do towards waiters. 15-30% of the total goods and services received, based on your feeling about the quality of service and the drinks received. Anything less, unless you are really trying to make a statement, is kind of cheap. Anything more, and we kind of feel like you’re trying to buy our attentions. Though, sometimes, when a huge credit card bill is looming, I don’t mind feeling bought…

And as regards credit or debit cards, yes, small businesses pay fairly hefty fees on each credit or debit transaction, so if you truly want to support the bar or small business, and give them 100% of the dollars you spend, pay in cash. Do you really want to give Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Chase any more of your money than you already are? Are you concerned about your favorite bar going out of business or your favorite bank? I think the Fed has your bank’s back, it’s up to you to support the restaurant or bar. However, if the only way you’re going to go out, is if you use a card, then, please, by all means, pay and tip with the card.

I hope this helps!

Long Tom Cooler

Long Tom Cooler
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon. (Juice 1/2 Lemon)
1/2 Tablespoonful Sugar. (1/2 Tablespoon of Rich Simple Syrup, or to taste)
1 Glass Dry Gin. (2 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin)
(dash Angostura Orange Bitters)
Shake well, strain into long tumbler, add 1 lump of ice, and fill with soda water.

Again, the Savoy editors did not do a particularly good job of translating a recipe from Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”:

Long Tom Cooler.
1 pony Sugar Syrup;
Juice of ½ Lemon;
1 drink El Bart Gin.
Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain into a Collins glass, add a cube of ice and 1 slice of Orange, fill up with Club Soda.

And again, moronically, I failed to look at Ensslin’s book before making the drink, or this would have looked a bit different.

Anyway, the other Savoy Night at Alembic Bar, a friend asked me for a drink that was “not too alcoholic”, and this sprung immediately to mind. Basically a dry-ish lemonade with a generous pour of soda and a splash of gin, this is a very refreshing and mild hot weather drink.

However, there may be a slight problem with serving a drink called “Long Tom” to a male customer. My advice? Don’t do it, unless you’re sure your gesture won’t be misinterpreted.

And, yes, there is basically no difference between a Long Tom Cooler and a Tom Collins, maybe the Long Tom is a bit sweeter? Anyway, for the record, while there are many similar drinks to the Tom Collins in Ensslin’s book, he does not specifically include instructions for making one.

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

Lone Tree Cooler

Lone Tree Cooler
The Juice of 1/4 Lemon. (Juice 1/4 Lemon)
The Juice of 1 Orange. (Juice 1 orange)
1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth)
2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Hayman’s Old Tom Gin)
1 Liqueur Glass Grenadine. (1 oz Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
(2 dash Absinthe Verte)
Shake well strain into tumbler and fill with soda water.

I dunno, I just felt like a little Absinthe would add some interest to this rather odd recipe. Vermouth in a Cooler? Juice of 1 Orange? Anyway, it’s another cocktail where I wish I had cracked a book and done some research before making it…

As usual, the theoretical source for this recipe was Hugo Ensslin’s 1916, “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”.

However, Hugo’s recipe is hugely different:

Lone Tree Cooler
Juice of 1 Lemon;
Juice of ¼ Orange;
Pony Grenadine.

Made and served same as Apricot Cooler.

Righto. Well, there you go, cough, no booze at all, that’s way too brazen to be a typo. I guess whomever wrote the Savoy Cocktail Book felt the Lone Tree Cooler was good, but needed a little something to juice it up, like Gin and Dry Vermouth. Of course, then I came along and felt like it needed even a little more electricity, a la Maurice, and added Absinthe.

It is a wonder the same drink gets made the same way in more than once!

Ha! Sometimes I wonder if the same drink IS ever made more than once!

Well, if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink, you could certainly do worse than this lemonade sweetened with Grenadine, or, alternatively, slightly tarted up Shirley Temple.

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

Highland Cooler

Highland Cooler
1 Teaspoonful Powdered Sugar. (Er, I, uh forgot the sugar.)
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon. (Juice 1/2 Lemon)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (dash Dr. Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters)
1 Glass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz Highland Park 8, The Machphail’s Collection)
1 Lump of Ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with Ginger Ale (Err, Soda).

The first time I made this, I didn’t read the recipe very closely, forgot the sugar, and filled the drink with soda instead of Ginger Ale.

I kind of liked it. I was surprised how much “sweet” character comes from the Highland Park alone. A dash or two more of simple and this was really good.

I also didn’t have any Ginger Ale or Beer in the house at the time, so a redo would have to wait for another day.

Highland Cooler
1 Teaspoonful Powdered Sugar. (1 tsp Rich Simple Syrup)
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon. (Juice 1/2 Lemon)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. (dash Angostura Bitters)
1 Glass Scotch Whisky. (2 oz The MacAllan Cask Strength)
1 Lump of Ice.
Use long tumbler and fill with Ginger Ale (Bruce Cost’s Ginger Beer).

The second time, a couple days later, I managed to get everything in the drink. Of course, by this time, I had also remembered the Mamie Taylor, which is pretty much exactly the same drink, with lime instead of Lemon.

Both are good, but I kind of enjoyed the soda version a little more, it is a better feature for the Scotch Whisky, if you are using something nice. It also could be just due to the fact that I prefer the Highland Park 8 to the MacAllan Cask Strength.

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

Harvard Cooler

Harvard Cooler
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon or 1 Lime. (Juice 1/2 very large Meyer Lemon)
1/2 Tablespoonful Sugar. (Generous TBSP Rich Simple Syrup)
1 Glass Applejack or Calvados. (2 oz Montreuil Calvados Reserve)
(2 Dashes Miracle Mile Gingerbread Bitters)
Shake well, strain into long tumbler and fill with soda water.

Again, Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, “1 pony Sugar Syrup; Juice of ½ Lemon or 1 Lime; 1 jigger Applejack. Made and served same as Apricot Cooler.”

Boy, I really like this!

It’s a little weird, at first, to get your head around a mixed drink which ends up about the same strength as beer or hard cider, but once you get past that, it’s really refreshing, especially with all the hot weather we’ve been having lately.

OK, fine, it’s a lemonade with a dash of Calvados, but what’s wrong with that? I’ve been making them all week, much to the dismay of the level on the side of the bottle. The bitters were a bit of a modification, but you’ll see them in quite a few of the upcoming Coolers, along with other weird and unpredictable items.

Speaking of Coolers, as far as I can tell the only real “category” delimitations regarding Coolers are that they should be served in a tall glass, say a 14 ounce Collins Glass, and that they should be sparkling. Some have citrus, some don’t. Some have bitters, some don’t. Some have a lump or two of ice, and some don’t. One even uses Ginger Ale instead of Soda Water. As far as I can tell, as long as it is fizzy and in a tall glass, it can be called a Cooler.

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


Spatchcocked Chicken, rubbed with Sage and Spring Onions.

Started Roasting some small yellow potatoes with a couple Rosemary Sprigs. When the potatoes started showing some color, I removed the Rosemary sprigs. Put the chicken on top and roasted until done.

Side dish is a spicy succotash of corn, chard leaves, chard stems, and onions. Made a pan gravy with the drippings.

Served with a bottle of Navarro Vineyard‘s delicious table wine, Navarrouge.