Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gin tasting!

Photo by Paul Sciandra

So. Summer is long gone, but some of us are not ready to give up drinking gin.

Recently, friend Judy’s gin-loving parents, Patricia and Paul, came to visit from out of town. We decided it would be fun to line up a bunch of different brands and render opinions on them. We set up three flights, ranging from absolute crap to the classiest stuff we usually buy.

We tried each gin first neat and then with a splash of tonic. Here are our notes. Enjoy!

Flight #1: Trader Joe’s Jail House Gin
All of us were apprehensive to try this one, but it was cheap and on sale so we figured we'd risk it. Years ago, Judy's parents and I both got tricked by an unreliable recommendation for a new gin. We are still bitter about how good New Amsterdam isn't.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This was the only one we dumped in the spit bucket instead of finishing.

Pat: “I think it smells like gin… of course, years ago I thought gin just smelled like flower water.”
Judy: “It smells like Lake Street.”
Amy: Antiseptic, no evidence of botanicals, rubbing alcohol follow-through.
Paul: “It kind of warms you.” After adding tonic water: “Now it smells like Purell.”

Flight #2: Tanqueray London Dry Gin vs Tanqueray Rangpur
London Dry:
The regular Tanqueray in the green bottle is a favorite for most of us. It’s Amy’s go-to gin.

Amy: “Aaah. Real gin. You can smell the botanicals.”
Pat: “I always flipped between Tanqueray and Beefeaters, but tonight the Tanqueray is sitting better.”

LI-HI-HIIIIIIIIIME. Super smooth, but too much lime. Tonic made it worse.

Amy: “Oh my God, it tastes like Kool-Aid.”
Judy: “Highly drinkable. A kid-friendly gin.”
Pat: “I like it quite well without the tonic.”
Everyone else: Disagreement, laughter.
Paul: “Peel off the label and put on a lime liqueur one.”

Flight #3: Beefeaters vs Bombay Sapphire vs Hendricks
The high-class dames of the gin we can afford.

Amy: “Smells just like that cheap shit!” Taste: Definite juniper, harsher, but better finish than the swill. Tonic makes the botanicals come out! More floral.
Paul’s #3 choice.
Judy: “I like the Beefeaters and tonic. It’s easy. It’s educated but not worldly.”
Amy: “F*** you.”

Amy: Smooth with a botanical flavor. Oh… tonic makes it harsher.
Paul’s #2 choice.

Not many notes are written down about this one because a) by this time, everyone had had 4 shots of gin; b) everyone was so busy nursing their taste of Hendricks.
Amy: “Aaah.” Smooth, with the smell of rose petals.
Paul’s #1 choice.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just sayin': Cake Wreck

Ah crap. Look what happened to the cake I baked my neighbors for National Night out!

In the fridge, a precarious cake edge collapsed. Le Sigh. I knew I shouldn't have put that layer on the top. Normally I would never dare show my cake, or my face, in public ever again. But meh. When your cake is a wreck, the least you can do is wreck it in style. How do you like me now:

Sunday, May 19, 2013


“This is really good. What’s in it? Pickles?”

“I couldn’t have another bowlful, I already ate three.”

“I need some more. The wind blew mine away.”

As it turns out, seasoned popcorn is the perfect festival food. It is easy to make lots, or to make fresh batches here and there all day. Everyone likes it. And the smell of popping corn puts people in a party mood.

I adapted this recipe especially for Art Flare Northeast, which went down in my friend Betsy’s backyard this weekend. If you didn’t make it out there, you should definitely watch this space. Will Art Flare return next year? And will they be serving Flarecorn?

I made a tenfold batch, then kept the butter warm all day in a baby crockpot and popped the corn as we needed it. The recipe is adapted from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook, which wants you to use Chimayo chile powder. I a) do not have any of that and b) would not make it to serve to random Minnesotan strangers. Oh yah, 6000 Scoville yoonits is kinda hot fer us, don’cha know!

Serves 4-6.

½ stick butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t Hungarian paprika
2 t rubbed sage
Pinch cayenne
½ t salt
½ c popcorn

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Toss in the garlic and simmer for a few minutes. Add the spices and simmer for a minute more. Scrape the butter and spices into a big not-plastic popcorn bowl. (Plastic will stain, and plastic + hot fat = bad news.)

Pop the popcorn right into the bowl if you still have one of those old-school air poppers. Take a rubber scraper and toss the popcorn around in the butter, scraping up the butter and seasoning from the bottom, as if you were folding cake batter.

Serve it when everything is about as evenly coated as you can get it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Today’s post is brought to you by the letter F.

F is for French fries, but also for Failure and Fantastic Flop. F stands for the Fry-shop my house smells like. It stands for

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUn words I am going to say now.

What words can I say that start with the letter F?

Cover your kids’ ears.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

V for Vegan Vendetta

If you have a vegan friend to include in a celebration, you had damn well better make sure they have something with which to celebrate. I’m making a separate, vegan alternative to the sheet cake. And since I know that separate but equal is inherently unequal, I’m not shooting for an equally good vegan dessert. I’m shooting for a superior one.

To do this, I paged through the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. It’s the house cookbook of a regionally famous (so I’m told) restaurant in Victoria, BC. I figured that if anyone knows how to smack down a sheet cake, it will be Pacific Northwest hipsters. Hmm, vegan fudge brownies sound good… but wait, whaaaa?

“Sprinkle the top with carob chips…”

No. Nothing says “sanctimonious hater of pleasure” like carob. Plus, I examined a bag of “organic vegan carob chips” at Whole Foods: “Contains traces of milk.” Would someone with a first grader’s reasoning skills please call these people and help them reconcile the front of their bag with the back?!

The icing part of the recipe also annoyed me. You melt together some dark chocolate and some… ech… margarine. Oh hells no, not in my house. I used virgin coconut oil instead. It is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. Just like the butter it is so obviously meant to replace.

Hmm, well it doesn’t look like it’s going to shame any sheet cakes. The middle sank and the glaze did nothing to conceal this fact. So I embellished it with a floopy letter V for Vegan made of slivered almonds. Tomorrow we can add an update about how the brownies taste.

To be continued! Continued:
The verdict: “Super-ass delicious.” The vegan brownies beat the sheet! Haha, now V stands for Victory in my Vegan Vendetta.

Rebar vegan fudge brownies with the crap ingredients replaced
I also left out the ½ c chopped toasted walnuts because walnuts, ech.

1½ c flour
½ c cocoa
1½ c brown sugar
1½ t baking soda
¾ t baking powder
1 t salt
¾ c coffee
¾ c soy milk
⅓ c vegetable oil
½ c dark chocolate chips – NOT milk chocolate, yo.

7 oz dark chocolate
5 oz coconut oil

Heat oven to 325°. Grease a 9 x 9 pan and line it with parchment.

Sift together the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips. Combine the wet ingredients. Then stir everything together well. (Do not mix in any walnuts here. That is just a nasty, nasty thing to do to brownies.) Pour the batter in the pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Bake about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together, stirring well. Pour the glaze over the brownies, then put in the refrigerator to set. Cut into 12 squares.