Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Halloween is easily my favorite time of year. Crisp autumn air, harvest flavors, and a palpable childlike excitement. On the Table Set this week we're discussing our favorite Halloween parties past, spooky new ideas, and of course what kind of booze is the scariest to serve your house ghouls. While overall we decided moonshine was a pretty badass spirit for All Hallows Eve cocktails and punches, we also pondered making a pumpkin-infused bourbon for the purpose of a layered "candy corn" shot (lowbrow/highbrow! Classic ChocoMeat). The layering didn't quite pan out... but I took the ingredients I was working with and instead made a refined cocktail for more sophisticated costume parties to toast the night with. I had to include Strega (which means 'witch' in Italian), a bright yellow Italian herbal liqueur possessing a complex structure with fennel, mint and coniferous notes. I rounded the cocktail out with Royal Combier, a blend of Combier’s original triple sec, cognac and Elixir de Combier (a 19th century French hygienic liqueur which includes aloe, nutmeg, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron).
2 oz Pumpkin Bourbon*
1/4 oz Strega
1/2 oz Royal Combier
dash Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a stirring glass over ice. Stir until chilled and [double] strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a flamed orange peel.
1 bottle of decent Bourbon, such as Bulleit
1 sugar pumpkin, hollowed, peeled, and sliced
1 vanilla bean
1/2 of a whole nutmeg
Cut 1 vanilla bean in half lengthwise. In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart jar, combine vanilla, pumpkin slices, and nutmeg. Cover with Bourbon (saving empty Bourbon bottle). Seal jar and rest at least 4 days or up to 3 months in a cool, dark place. Once desired flavor intensity is achieved, strain liquid through cheesecloth and funnel back into Bourbon bottle.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
"A man who used to bartend here in the seventies came in, told us they used to pry .45s out of the bar - that's how old this place is," a wide-eyed bartender with a sly smile told me, sliding a gold-rimmed glass of punch my way.
Clearly history is omnipresent in the new incarnation of the bar, a gilded sideshow rightfully called One-Eyed Gypsy.
Villains Tavern, Cliff's Edge) and reads like a valentine to a sword swallower. The massive bar plays center stage, braced with gold-framed mirrors, busts and statues. Circus-like curtains are drawn about a cabaret stage - only to be raised for any number of off-beat entertainer, be it magician, singer, or fire eater. Candles flicker. Chandeliers drip with Bedouin jewelry imported from Egypt. Functioning fortune telling machines flash their weathered boardwalk bulbs.
Odalisque designer Hollister isn't not messing around on this one. Not to mention the Medusa wallpaper was custom designed and coffee-stained by hand.
So what about the potables? The Surley Sailor is a tastier grog than the sum of its parts (Gosling's Dark Rum, white rum, 151, blackberries, fresh pineapple, lime), but I preferred The Riddler's Punch, a refreshingly dry sangria with Haute Vodka, Cabernet, fresh fruit & citrus juices. A selection of "Cheap Dates" run only $8, including Gypsy Juice, a sexy hippie sipper of Plymouth Gin, citrus, sloe gin & hard apple cider.
I nibbled on selections from the menu's twisted county fair fare, such as sweet potato tots and bbq pork & jalapeño pizza, while the same eccentric barmaid spun tales of "ghostly white woman" who used to walk the halls upstairs (before an earthquake in the eighties leveled that story).
"Tell yours, Dave!" she called to bar manager Dave Young, who reticently recounted a day when he was stocking the bar and a voice behind him softly said his name, only to find he was in fact all alone. I saw the bartender's eyes shift to the woman behind Dave.
"Oh, hey - Are you the psychic?"
901 E. 1st St., Downtown LA 90012
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Joy the Baker and Tracy Shutterbean Benjamin are the stars of the Joy the Baker Podcast on a little network I sometimes talk about called Homefries. They like to have fun, talk about doughnuts, relationships, cookies, travel, sticky buns, and wombats. But what if for one weekend they could [literally] share the fun with their listeners?
One house in Palm Springs, some help from some friends, and a freezer full of ice cream later and Homefries U was totally in session!
The Crush came out to teach everyone how to be a sexy sparkling wine dilettante in four tasty steps. And a frugal one at that, each wine is available for under $20 at DomaineLA.
knows her stuff. And this Grotta del Sole Gragnano rules.
Genever, a malty juniper spirit back on the market thanks to Lucas Bols, the oldest Dutch distillery still in production. A distilled malt wine, Genever resembles a malt Scotch or white whiskey more than gin, and is great on its own, sipped out of a tulip glass alongside a beer (the traditional way) or mixed in an old-fashioned.
Hendrick's. If anything will convert a room of skeptics, a chilled sip of Scottish Hendrick's Gin with a cucumber slice does the trick. To lead into dinner we mixed up a bevy of Aviation cocktails with Plymouth Gin, the most winning of the pack.