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Review: Artesano Mead- Essence

27 Jul

Artesano is a small mead company whose facility is located in Groton, Vermont amid the beautiful, flowery landscape of the Green Mountains. They are a small scale operation and by no means competition for bigger companies such as the Londonderry, New Hampshire company, “Moonlight Meadery.” Artesano may occasionally be found at retailers, health food stores and Farmers’ Markets.

“Essence” mead, the company’s only dry variety, costs 16.99 USD for 500ml. It is packaged in a stout looking bottle and sealed with a swirled wax stamp on the cork.

Essence pours smoothly. Thin and silky, it does not coat or adhere, but rather sinks to the bottom of the glass.

The smell is robust, semi-sweet and slightly tangy. It is difficult to sense the dryness through the fruity and effervescent smell. It is pale, with about two more shades of light than a typical chardonnay.

It touches lightly on the tongue and disappears without linger. It is dry, but still allows the distinct taste of honey to surface. By no means is essence as full bodied as it’s smell, it’s effect on the palate is airy, smooth and lacks the fullness that the smell imbues.

Superficially tasteful, but lacking in complexity, this spirit is by far not the finest in it’s class. It is not, “at the top of the game,” but it is enjoyable.
This is the mead that one would not serve at a dinner party, nor use to celebrate a special occasion, but rather one which may be brought on a picnic, sipped to compliment a weekday dinner or paired with light cheese while enjoying sunshine and outdoor scenery.

Not a spectacular value and not a remarkable product, but by no means a poorly made product, Artesano Mead, still up and coming, has a lot of coming up to do.

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Local Review: Prospect Park Gelato-Caramello

13 Jul

The question everyone is afraid to ask: What is gelato? The answer: An ambiguous sort of ice cream [generally] with lower butterfat content.

To properly examine this shop, let us first examine the area. Is this a place that will remind you of where you used to go with your friends after school years ago? No. Is this a place where everybody knows your name and there is always a smiling face; the dairy version of, “Cheers,” if you will? No.

Is this a place with snotty hipsters who over-enunciate all the wrong parts of words in a poor attempt to sound like they are not ordering from a store with all American speaking clientele and employees? Yes.

If you are uncomfortable with pretense, then you will have nothing against this store, it is a wonderful place with wonderful and friendly people behind the counter. The consumers, however, as in many adjoining establishments, are filled with pretense- among other things. You will hear people order “pawna coTTAH,” instead of, “panna cotta.” You will hear people order, “cho-koe-lawT,” instead of, “chocolate,” and you will hear people order “jay-lah-toe,” instead of, “gelato.”*

That being said and not to minimilise the discomfort of hipsters pretending that the trip through the storefront having turned them into Italian natives and transported them to Naples; the place is absolutely terrific.

The flavours are made in-store and are unique and delicious. There are classics like mint chip and chocolate as well as other more unique ones such as tiramisu, toblerone and even olive oil and corn, all made with authentic ingredients.

The ordering process consists of choosing the size desired upfront at the counter and then following the person behind the desk down to where the ice cream is to choose your flavours.

Not to call out any other overrated, underachieving establishments similar in neighbourhood and demographic, don’t think I mean say, Blue Marble Ice Cream, for example; but this place offers a punchcard which entitles you to free ice cream after 9 purchases, they will not refuse to take your order because they want to close early, a pint of gelato costs less than one minuscule soft serve and one root beer float with a single paltry scoop of vanilla ice cream and there seems to never be a big crowd.

The interior is clean and as mentioned before, but is worth emphasis, the staff are polite, friendly, cheerful and willing to deal with annoying clientele and difficult orders. Orders are expediently delivered to the customer in quite ample portions. All in all, despite any claims that convenience must be sacrificed for quality or vice-versa, this place proves that overall efficiency and quality can be succinctly combined to merge great experience and terrific products.

The Caffe Crunch and the Panna Cotta gelato are specifically worth mention. Caffe Crunch is not that much different than coffee ice cream, the true distinction is in the “crunch.” Bits of delicious hard toffee coated in chocolate embedded sporadically within the ice cream, which is inexplicably exciting when one starts out with the belief that they just made the mistake of getting some plain old coffee ice cream.

The Panna Cotta is creamy and sweet, as may be expected; if you ask about it, the misinformed staff behind the counter will tell you that “panna cotta is an Italian pastry and they make it into a gelato like this.” This is not true, panna cotta is more similar to a custard, pudding or flan than a pastry and the consistency of the gelato is very much like a very well made custard, not too sweet, not chunky, just smooth, sweet and pleasant.

Overall, food industry experiences are subjective, one may love this place or not, but the odds are that anyone who dislikes one thing about it can find another two that they like. A clean and friendly atmosphere, with beautifully arranged confections and a taste that is worth the markup from Carvel or Baskin Robbins, Caramello is a great place to satisfy your hunger for human flesh. Or ice cream. Or gelato. Whatever. Same thing.

*To anyone who reads this and says, “that’s so cool, that’s what I do!” Here is what comes to mind to most people who are not you: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/digital-shorts/video/enchilada/1353699/

How to: Make Fresh Italian Garlic Bread

8 Jun

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Garlic bread tastes delicious, is easy to make and believe it or not, is in some ways very good for you. Garlic lowers the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease), improves digestion and has been shown to increase testosterone in the human body. Olive oil is a free oleic fatty acid, it binds to protein albumin in your body and improves your metabolism by serving as a fuel source for muscular contraction and being consumed by mitochondria thereby allowing them to create ATP. There are dozens of studies on these two foods, but before we delve too far into the lab, let’s enter the kitchen.

Necessary items:

Oven or toaster

Tin foil

Garlic press (suggested, but optional)

Knife

Ingredients:

Bread; a fresh baguette works very nicely, but feel free to experiment.

Basil

Dried Parsley

Parmigiano cheese (optional) (same thing as “Parmesan,” except that, “Parmesan,” is French)

Olive oil and/or butter

Garlic

Salt (optional)
Steps:

  1. Cut the bread horizontally and then into vertically.  Each two half section should be about 3-6 inches.
  2. If you are using olive oil then pour it evenly across the inner half of each section so that the bread is not drenched but you cover the entire surface, you could use a brush for this if you prefer.  If you are using butter, melt it in a pot or container and do the same thing.  Feel free to use both, it turns out very nicely when you do this.
  3. If you are using a press then press your garlic onto the bread, if you are using a knife, dice the garlic into very small pieces, the most effective way is cutting along the length so you get little circles and then cutting those in four pieces or so.  If you like garlic a lot then use about 1.5 cloves per square.  If you like garlic, use 3/4 of a clove per square.  If you are okay with garlic then use .5 cloves.  If you don’t like garlic, why are you reading this?
  4. Sprinkle on the parmigiano if you are using it, about 1 tablespoon for the whole loaf of bread.
  5. Sprinkle basil across.  Fresh if possible.  Use about a teaspoon and a half.
  6. Use about half a teaspoon of dried parsley.
  7. If you want salt on it then lightly sprinkle the baguette with salt now.
  8. Close the bread like a big, sectioned sandwich and wrap it in foil.
  9. Put the foil in the toaster or oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. You will probably smell when it is done, but just in case you don’t, the idea is that the outside will be crispy and the inside will be soft, so check periodically and press the foil.  When you feel a “crunch,” on the outside it is done, the inside should be soft enough to be pushed in without much resistance.

That is really all there is.  Enjoy your garlic bread with friends.  It may look slightly green due to the oxidation of the garlic, but don’t worry, it is safe and will not affect the taste or quality.

To make Caesar salad croutons, cut into crouton shapes, cook unwrapped and allow to harden or use my method, leave on a windowsill and sun-dry.

How to: Make Coffee Infused Bourbon Whiskey

4 Jun

Back when we talked about How to Appreciate Scotch Whisky we explained that the difference between, “whiskey,” and “whisky,” was point of origin. Bourbon whiskey originates in Kentucky, hence the popularity of the, “Mint Julip,” a cocktail with Bourbon whiskey as the main ingredient.

Whiskey and alcohol in general are not commonly used as an alcohol to infuse, however, it is more than appropriate to pair with coffee and when you think about it, commonly is; whether you are thinking about Kahlua, Irish Coffee or any other alcohol and coffee based beverage.

What you will need to get started:

A bottle of bourbon whiskey, 750ml; do not use top shelf whiskey and do not use call whiskey. This means that it should be a medium price and quality whiskey; nothing special but not cheap enough to make you burp flames.

A jar or container with a tight seal, more than 750ml, the one pictured is Italian made, but does not create a water-tight seal.

High end whole coffee beans; the ones pictured are organic Mexican ones and are medium roast as bold may be overpowering. You can really use whatever coffee beans you are comfortable with, purchase from a market, coffee shop or organic store.

The original bottle or another in which you can store the finished product

Fine strainer

Step 1:
Rinse the container

Step 2:
Dry the container

Step 3:
Measure out approximately 1/2 cup of coffee beans and pour them into the container.

Step 4:
Pour in the whiskey. No particular method, just don’t spill.

Step 5:
Close container, shake gently and put in a place away from direct sun exposure or heat.

Step 6:
Leave for 1-5 days, shaking periodically, 3-5 times each day.

Step 7:
Pour contents through strainer or colander or tea infuser. Whatever your filter method.

I will be using a coffee filter and pouring it cup by cup into the storage container, but have not yet reached that point with the batch pictured, I just set it up about 4 minutes before I finished this how-to article.

Step 8:
Enjoy, put in a flask and gift to a friend, use for cooking/baking or do something else. Let us know how you used yours.

Coffee Infused Bourbon in the Making

UPDATE:
I used pretty strong whiskey, it turned very dark and got very aromatic already, so I strained it and re-bottled it [1 day after].
If anyone needs ideas for straining the bourbon, I used coffee filters and a cocktail shaker and then poured from the shaker into the original bottle. There were losses but it was only a couple of ounces or so. The infusion came out great though.

 

**Note: Coffee and bourbon both have a pH of about 5, this makes them acidic and something that you should be conscious of; especially those who suffer from hyperchlorosis, acid reflux etc.

How to Choose and Enjoy Scotch Whisky

26 May

Scotch Whisky [notice the spelling is distinct from, “Whiskey,” which denotes Irish Whiskey; American spelling varies] is by most accounts the most complex and suitable for whisky aficionados. Malt whiskey is made from malted barley, “Single malt,” is distinguishable from, “blended whisky,” in that it comes from one cask of one specific age, as opposed to being from several casks of varying ages.

Now that we have gone over the basic terminology, let’s move on, shall we?

Whisky is aged for a variety of reasons, in different types of wood barrels, for different periods of time; each barrel and recipe is meant to affect the after-product in its own distinctive fashion.

There is one deciding factor in choosing the greatest whiskey.

Taste.

Whatever be the case, what really matters in the end is, “does this meet your fancy?” If not, move on. If so, then add a bottle to your collection.

Fine whisky is like a fine movie, the more you partake of it, the more you notice about it and the more you realize how much you enjoy it.

It is important before the reader is turned into a complete snob, for him (or her) to understand some basic concepts: A) There is nothing wrong with enjoying inexpensive and even blended whisky. Just like cigars, as your taste matures, you may gravitate toward, “better,” ones. However, even if that never happens, your enjoyment of the product is more important than showing your affluence.

B) Beauty before age. It is what’s on the inside that counts. Your whisky could be older than Keith Richards and taste just as dry as he would and if that is not what you are into, why invest?

C) Converse to what we’ve been saying, there is also no point in being cheap. If you are going to have vices or hobbies, then you must be willing to invest, even if it is never necessary.

Trial and error is a great way to start, because if you have never tried it, then you do not know for what you are looking.

Whisky can be sweet, sharp, bitter, smooth, rough, peaty etc. The main things to look for when trying to appreciate whisky are the, “Nose,” or aroma; colour, palate, and finish. Feel free to use the mnemonic, “NCAPF,” if it helps you to remember these.

The colour is an obvious factor, but one should take adequate time examining it, as it can be very pleasant and add to the experience.

The nose is, to put it basely, smelling the whisky. Otherwise, it is to experience the whisky using one’s olfactory senses. Gently inhale through your nose, do not tense your face or snort quickly inward, move your cup in a circular motion and allow the aroma to travel to your nose, which should be 3-7.5 cm away from the glass.

Let us here note, you may add distilled or spring water to your whiskey if that is your preference, but this is generally done with cask strength whisky, specifically. Not all whiskey. Take care not to drown it, or I will find you.

There are different opinions on how much you sip to properly examine the palate, one medium sip, or quarter mouth-full should be a fine settling point. Gently roll it over your tongue and move it around in your mouth, being careful to remember that it is not Listerine and should not be used thus. Make a mental note of your impressions of the taste and then swallow. This whole process should not take more than 2-4 seconds.

Once swallowed, you are on the last step, the finish. What tastes or impressions has it left? Did it linger or leave an, “after-taste”?

Now that you are educated, time for the fun stuff, yeah?

Let’s go shopping.

“What is this? The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve Barrel is so inexpensive and 15 years old, I could get it and impress my friends!”

If your friends know anything about whisky, they will not be impressed. If something is cheaper than a, “bottle of Jack,” there is probably a reason. There is nothing wrong with starting with something cheap, but when I see an “affluent” man who pretends to have knowledge of whisky and then starts boasting about his great collection of whisky, only to proceed to pull out a bottle of Grant’s and the aforementioned vintage; (true story) I shudder and feel the need to bite my tongue to keep it from being too honest.

Again, there is nothing wrong with trying those, or even enjoying them; but if you are going to be boastful, if you are going to put yourself and your collection on a pedestal, you had best be better to stand and deliver, so to speak.

Some suggestions, whether you like them or dislike them, (you will likely dislike at least 2) you are making progress in deciding your tastes:
Glenrothes
Laphroaig (I personally enjoy the 10 year old, cask strength* and non-cask)
Glenmorangie
Glenfarclas
and The Bowmore

I do not like all of these, but I do own a few of them, the others are listed for you to expand your horizons, as we have said, all tastes here are subjective.

*Cask strength whiskey is very strong and high in alcohol content. If you drink this straight, be prepared to drink like a Gael.

Great? Horrible? Try anything that you would suggest? Hate the world and want to yell at us for not understanding you? Comment and let us know.

TriBeCa Film Festival Afterparty Feature: Doggy Bags

21 May

“Thanks to everyone for coming and enjoy the rest of the party.” This was the first sentence director Ed Burns directed toward the bourgeois at the date-night themed after-party for his film, “Doggy Bags” earlier this week. The first half of the speech and the party itself were spent thanking and jumping through hoops for American Express, the corporate sponsor of the event and addressing those of the crowd who had a reputation for their large wallets and small inhibitions.

Indeed the party was heavy on Amex paraphernalia, the only thing to imply that it was not just an Amex promo was the last television, all the way in the rear of AOA Bar and Grill on which an hour-long film on the making of the 14-minute feature was playing.

There was a very lethargic air to the party, many guests did not see the film and were unable to even identify the actors until pictures were taken. “I don’t really know about it, I just thought it would be fun to come,” says guest Susanne Williams, 23, with a shrug, “I guess those are the film people, they are sitting at a reserved table.”

Matt Bush, 26, was definitely the ideal choice for a, “polite guy.” He is unimposing and shy with a slight build, his words are friendly but soft-spoken and he conveys authenticity and interest when he speaks. “I started with commercials six or seven years ago,” says Bush, “I went to school for business, a small college called Rowan University in Jersey and I just kind of dropped out.”

The cast and crew were apparently not very well associated on a personal level, to the obvious chagrin of actress Daniella Pineda, who was sure to introduce Burns to her boyfriend, mother and father and give a thorough overview and evaluation of each; leading to some impatient foot tapping from Burns’ wife, Christy Turlington.

The screenplay for “Doggy Bags,” is listed on the TribeCa Film Festival’s site as written by director Ed Burns, however, in actuality no name screenwriter , Susan Brennan, supplied the script via a promotional contest held by American Express. “He is very relaxed, very easy going,” Brennan says of Burns, “He is really great.”

Party goer Frank Lincoln, summarized the event thus, “Doggy Bags? Yeah, they are alright, but hey there is free wine and crab cakes here, so who’s complaining?”

*As written for ReviewFix.com, Original Post Date: April 25, 2012

Top 5 Marinades and How to Make a Good Steak

14 Feb

Steak, either you love it or you hate it.  You love it though, otherwise why would you be here?

Measurements should almost always be to individual tastes so I will not include them.  I never use recipes, I just put in what I think will work and it has never not worked, so I am putting 5 of those into writing for you.  Without further ado, well, you know the deal:

I suggest leaving your meat to soak in these for twenty-four hours if possible and leaving it out for one to two hours so that it is at room temperature when cooked.

Photobucket

Marinade one:

This one would be nice to pair with veal, which should be considered a sub-genre of steak.

Rosemary

Dry White Wine

Basil

White Pepper

A small amount of white vinegar

Marinade Number Two:

Nice, basic and subtle.  Great for date night.

Dry Red Wine

Black Pepper

Basil

Oregano

Cayenne Pepper

Fresh garlic-Minced

Sliced Onions

Marinade Three:

Cajun Style.

Beer

Hickory Smoked Garlic Powder

Onion Powder

Cumin

Cinnamon

Cloves

Thyme

Black Pepper

White Pepper

Red Pepper

Paprika

Marinade Four:

All-American.

Whiskey (Do not, under any circumstances, use good whiskey for this.  It needn’t be cheap, but using a good single malt scotch to marinate meat is a crime against humanity)

Hickory smoked garlic powder

Mustard Powder

Cumin

Marinade Five:

Tequila (Go easy on this, too much will nastify your meat.  You may choose to exclude it completely.)

Lime Juice

Red Pepper

Paprika

Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

Part 2:

Creating a steak.

“Great steaks are not born, they are made.”

You will need:

A nonstick pan; preferably a cast iron skillet.

Oil.

A rill or an oven.

Granted certain cuts give you more to work with, but better to have a bad steak made right than a good cut ruined.

Now, let us go over the 10 commandments of meat.

1. Though shalt not base your recipes on, “what is cheapest and/or easiest.”

2. You will never fry steak. (The frying pan will be explained soon.)

3. Prepping is directly related to cooking but it is independent and either one does not necessitate the next.

4. As with all foods, but especially fish and meat, fresh is preferred over frozen.

5. Ketchup should be eliminated or at least minimised.

6. Remember the pnemonic “RAMSAC.”  Rinse and Marinate, Sear and Cook.

7. Try to avoid spice mixes, they are the easy way out.  The Mona Lisa was not paint-by-numbers.

8. White wine is absolutely, terrifically, completely, abhorrently innapropriate to consume with red meat.  In some social circles you are subject to capital punishment for violating this rule.

9. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

10. Meat can be good even if you don’t put much into it.

Now, on to the process.

Step One: Marinade and let sit until the meat is at room temperature, take care to occasionally turn the meat so that it is marinated on both sides.  Preheat oven to 275-350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step Two: Heat your skillet and add not more than a table spoon of oil, you want in fact, as little as possible.  This step is not “frying,” it is “searing.”

When smoke starts to rise off of your pan and your oil is evenly distributed, put the steak in for no more than 15 seconds on the first side and then either flip or turn it for no more than 15 seconds on the next.

Step Three: If you cut onions, mushrooms, garlic or other supplementary items then put them in your skillet before the end of the second 15 seconds.  If you are using a cast iron pan, put it directly into the oven.  If you are using a frying pan, slide everything into a prewarmed baking dish.

Step Four: A true coinoisseur has discerning tastes.  The answer to, “How do you like your steak?” should never be, “Mmmmmmmmmeye dunno.”  When the steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the oven.

Step five: Do not let it sit for more than 5 minutes, now is your chance to add garnishes, such as a bit of parsley, onto the dish and to pour some wine, scotch, or what have you.

Step Six: Stop reading.  Enjoy your steak.

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