Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: Summer Blush

Summer Blush

I chose Summer Blush for tonight's cocktail, since we have fresh cucumbers and we were watching Desperado, so it felt like a good time for a tequila drink.  This one calls for silver tequila, but since we had some nice Cabo Wabo on hand, I used that.

Summer Blush

1 1⁄4 oz Silver (Blanco) tequila
1 oz Elderflower liqueur, St. Germain
1⁄2 oz Lime juice
2 ds Rose water
4 ds Peychaud's Bitters
2 slices Cucumber

Muddle cucumber slices with rose water, Peychaud’s and lime juice. Add tequila, St. Germain and ice and shake. Double-strain into a cocktail glass, rub another cucumber slice around the rim and place on the rim for garnish.

Summer Blush

The verdict: I was surprised at how girly it looked, when I mixed it up. I think the light pink color was thanks to the Peychaud's. Scott thought it was very girly, but still good. Personally, I didn't find it any more girly in taste than a margarita. With the knowledge of the amount of elderflower liqueur and the use of rose water in the drink, I was surprised that it wasn't more flowery. I thought it was nicely balanced by the tequila, and the cucumber kept it fresh. My one issue was that I was rather annoyed by the way the cucumber slice garnish kept sliding around toward my mouth, so I ended up tossing it into the drink.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Birthday Dinner

Ocean Perch En Papiotte

As I mentioned in my cocktail post, I ended up cooking Scott's birthday dinner on Wednesday. I chose to make fish, which he loves but doesn't get often, accompanied by fresh local veggies from our garden or the farmer's market at Eastern Market downtown.

Ocean Perch En Papiotte

I tried a new-to-me technique of baking the fish en papiotte, which means that you cook it in a little parchment paper package, usually with thinly sliced vegetables, or small tender things like snow peas. Baking these packages for 15 minutes at 350ºF basically steams the fish and accompanying veggies, keeping them moist in their own juices, and infusing them with whatever spices you have included. In my case, that was oregano, basil, lemon and garlic, whereas in other recipes it is ginger and orange. You simply cut the package open to release the steam and access the final dish.

I also sautéed up some green beans and tomatoes from our garden as an additional side dish.

Chocolate cake

Meanwhile, I had completely forgotten that I had promised chocolate cake, until I arrived home from the fish market. Usually, it takes a bit of time to bake a cake and frost it - especially frost it nicely, so I was a whirlwind trying to get it done. I made Whisk Kid's Super Chocolate Cake Recipe and popped the two 6" pans in the oven while slicing up the veggies for the dinner. The cakes came out of the oven just as I was ready to put the papiottes in, and then the cakes went straight into the fridge, hoping they would soon be cool enough to frost. As the fish baked, I made Sprinkle Bakes' Milk Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting, finishing just as the main course was done. After eating dinner, I took some time to quickly level, split layers, and frost my cake. The marshmallow frosting was a bit of a chore, and the cake layers slid all over the place. In retrospect, it may have worked if I had chilled the frosting a bit, but as it was it was impossible to get the layers to stand up straight, let alone a level frosting, so I just did the best I could do quickly enough to serve the cake before anyone fell asleep. If the fish en papiotte hadn't been so quick and easy to make, I would never have managed even that. The taste, at least, was a rousing success.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Asterisk

The Asterisk

This week's cocktail, The Asterisk, is a twist on one of Scott's absolute favorites, The Last Word.  On his actual birthday, we went out to dinner with friends, so on Wednesday, I made a birthday dinner and a chocolate cake, with this drink I felt sure he would like.

The Asterisk

3⁄4 oz Brandy
3⁄4 oz Green Chartreuse
3⁄4 oz Lemon juice
3⁄4 oz Maraschino Liqueur

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

Note, I dialed back the lemon juice to 1/2 oz in deference to Scott's acid reflux, and we thought it was a good acid balance at that amount.

The verdict: We all liked this drink. It really demonstrated that the Chartreuse and the Maraschino are the primary flavors in both drinks, and that our palettes and perhaps our memories are not so refined, because we could hardly pick out the differences from The Last Word, without having it there to compare.

How well does your memory serve when you're trying to compare drinks? How about when trying to compare chocolate cakes, or replicating some secret family recipe?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Three Ships

The Three Ships Cocktail

I chose The Three Ships for tonight's cocktail because I was looking for something using St. Germain, and I had some lovely ripe pears that I kept forgetting to eat, and I didn't want to end up losing them like the pineapple I cut into this evening that was supposed to be part of our dinner. I thought the pear might be a nice pairing for the pork roast I ended up making.

The Three Ships

2 oz Vodka
3⁄4 oz Elderflower liqueur, St. Germain
1⁄2 oz Simple syrup
3⁄4 oz Lemon juice
1 Pear, cut into chunks
1⁄8 t Nutmeg, ground

Muddle pear and nutmeg together until well mashed. Add all other ingredients and shake vigorously over ice for 30 seconds. Fine strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a thin slice of pear dusted with ground nutmeg.

The verdict: My source described this as a fall drink, and of course the nutmeg adds that element, but the floral notes of the St. Germain and the brightness of the lemon brought it to a more versatile place in the palate. It is sweet, and has the pear flavor, but it's not a typical fruity drink, and despite the floral liqueur and added syrup, it's not a girly drink. I liked the drink and so did our guest. Scott didn't have any because his stomach was acting up. The hard thing about this drink is straining it. I ended up having to get out a big strainer with a fine mesh and pour it into a pitcher with a wide mouth before pouring it into the glasses.  If you're going to have to get out the big strainer and the pitcher anyway, that's a good reason to make a big batch, thought the shaking might be an issue.

Hellenic Beetons

Single  Layer Mrs. Beetons

I just finished my final project for the Ravellenic Games, using up the last bit of that lovely cashmere and completing the set with a pair of wrist warmers. The pattern I used is Mrs. Beeton, by Brenda Dayne. Brenda is also responsible for the Cast On podcast, a perennial favorite of mine. She also wrote the Pembrokeshire Pathways pattern I used for a pair of socks back in 2008, and she has written an upcoming pattern book, Welsh for Rainbow, which is already available in part in digital form.

Single  Layer Mrs. Beetons

Based on the amount of yarn I had remaining, I chose to knit only a single layer of ruffles, and not to worry about beads or picot edging. I am still quite pleased with the result. They should doo a goot job of keeping me warm while peeking out of my coat-sleeves this winter.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hellenic Eleanor

As I mentioned yesterday, I chose to knit a hat and cowl set for the Ravellenics.  Last night I finished weaving the ends on the cowl and blocked it, ready for the photograph I took this morning.

Hellenic Eleanor Cowl

The pattern I used is Eleanor Cowl by Audrey Knight. I chose this cowl not only because the pattern is beautiful, but also because it features a similar motif to the hat I made.

I didn't swatch for it, so I ended up decreasing needle sizes faster than called for by the pattern, until I got a fabric I was satisfied with. On the bind-off, upping the needle size was insufficient to make a top edge that easily passes over the head, so I ripped it out and used the same needle size for a Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off. That worked like a dream, so all that was left for yesterday was weaving ends and blocking.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hellenic Marnier

One of the things I have been doing while not updating my blog is participating in the Ravellenic Games over on Ravelry. The idea behind this event is to challenge yourself in your chosen craft while the olympians challenge themselves in sport. Generally, any project must be started after the opening ceremonies begin and finished before the end of the closing ceremonies. Some people are ambitious enough to knit an entire sweater or blanket during the two short weeks. Others try complicated techniques that have intimidated them in the past. I have generally tried to knit about as much as I knit in a month, with only half the time. Some people challenge themselves to finish projects or use materials that have been languishing for years. There is no competition between crafters, just the spirit of pushing yourself to do your best.

Cashmere -mmmm

For my personal challenge, I decided to use the luscious Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere in Caribbean Mist that my friends Duien and DJspinmonkey gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I started the Games a little behind, because I had neither decided what to knit nor wound my yarn from a hank into a ball to knit from. I knew I wanted to knit something that would be close to my face so that I could take full advantage of the soft cashmere, but I was a bit unsure of how to use the yardage. I decided to knit a hat and cowl set, selecting two patterns that are written by different designers, but share similar motifs.  By the end of the opening ceremonies, I had knitted about two rows.

Hellenic Marnier

Yesterday, with the addition of a ribbon as the final touch, I completed my first project of the set, a cloche hat using the Chapeau Marnier pattern by Marnie MacLean. Marnie has emerged as one of my favorite designers after I discovered her on Twist Collective and used her pattern, Lily, for the first sweater I ever knitted.

Hellenic Marnier

This hat was surprisingly fast to knit, and though I was afraid as I finished it up that it wouldn't fit properly, or that the scalloped edges would flare strangely, once I washed and blocked the completed knitting, it turned out beautifully. Off I go to collect my medals.

Cocktail Wednesdays: French Pearl

French Pearl

This week's cocktail, The French Pearl, was created by Audrey Saunders and Kenta Goto at the Pegu Club, New York, NY. It was originally made with pastis, which emerged as an absinthe substitute in France after absinthe was banned. It has a lower alcohol content, and unlike absinthe -- which is made using wormwood and green anise -- pastis gains its licorice flavor from star anise and licorice root. Pastis is also a "liqueur", meaning it is always bottled with sugar. Still, I see no reason not to substitue the original spirit that inspired pastis, if that's what you've got on hand.

French Pearl
2 oz Gin
1⁄2 oz Lime juice
3⁄4 oz Simple syrup
1⁄4 oz Absinthe
1 sprig Mint

Muddle mint with other ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake over ice, and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Note: If made with pastis, increase lime juice to 3/4 oz.

The verdict: This drink is crisp and bright. I expected it to have a less strong absinthe or licorice flavor, and Scott expected the flavor to be stronger. Our guest, I found out, is not a fan of licorice, and it was a bit too much for him. I felt that the licorice flavor was louder than the citrus or juniper flavors, but I found myself enjoying the balance of flavors more as I kept drinking it. Scott, on the other hand, found that the acidity started to bother him, though he usually doesn't have a problem with lime, and there isn't a huge amount in the drink. He says, "I didn't like it. It tasted good, but it burned my stomach."

After speaking with him a bit, the mystery is solved. Usually, I mix the drinks, but this time, he mixed the drinks while I made dinner. For whatever reason, he misread the recipe and actually made it it with lemon juice. Be sure to make it with lime, and you'll have less struggles with acid reflux sensitivity.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cocktail Wednesdays: Monticello Lawnmower

Monticello Lawnmower

Sorry for not getting this out earlier, but here is last week's selection, an iced highball drink called the Monticello Lawnmower.

Monticello Lawnmower

2 1⁄2 oz Rye
1 tsp Sugar
3 ds Bitters
3 sprig Mint
2 slices Lime
2 oz Ginger beer

Combine mint, syrup, bitters and lime in mixing glass. Muddle. Add rye and shake. Pour into ice-filled Collins glass. Top with ginger beer.

The verdict: It is like a mojito, but spicier thanks to the rye, bitters, and ginger beer.  I probably shouldn't have strained it.  That way, it would have had a more appropriate look for a drink named "lawnmower".  We enjoyed it.

P.S. In the background of this photo, our dinner consists of I-can't-believe-it's-not-crab cakes with remoulade, toasts with tapenade, and a corn and red bell pepper hash.