Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: September 2010

Valencia in ice bath

September 27/28,  2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

Got a bottle of Bodegas Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleon. Time to try a spanish martini.

Also got a bottle of Sutton Cellers Brown Label Vermouth.

Love both. The butterscotch/caramel in the sherry is unlike any of my martini experience.

The brown label vermouth adds a particular orangeness to the drink that is borderline poetic. Interestingly, I don’t think much of it straight. Yes, it tastes fresh compared to Noilly Prat. But more like a mediocre white wine lightly infused. But in a martini … it is glorious.

Valencia from The Essential Cocktail (Makes 1):

  • 1 part Bodegas Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleon, or Sutton Cellars Brown Label Vermouth
  • 5 parts Tangueray gin
  • Flamed orange peel (essential)


  1. Shake with ice until ice-cold. Strain into a martini glass.
  2. Cut a square-ish orange peel. Cut it thick with some white pith. Have a lighter ready and going. Fold the orange peel in half over the drink right next to the flame so the essential oil squirts out and ignites. Drop the peel into the drink. Serve immediately.

Cold Tomato Soup with prosciutto chip

When it’s 90F outside, something cold seems like a reasonable way to go.

Leftover heirloom tomatoes from the weekend party, and hand-picked by yours truly at Full Circle Farm. There is no reason to let it go waste.

So here it is: Same dish, served and dressed differently.

Sans garnish

The adult version is with a farm-fresh egg from Full Circle Farm, and a piece of oven-dried La Quercia Prosciutto Picante. 

Hayden is fine drinking his out of a recycled laundry detergent measuring cup, without any garnish.

Based on José Andrés’s recipe in Made in Spain (Makes 2 adult appetizers and some, or 6 amuse):

  • 12 oz ripe tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 young garlic clove, also from Full Circle Farm
  • 1 – 1.5 tbsp sherry vinegar (depends on the ripeness of your tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp extra vergin Spainish olive oil
  • 0.8 oz stale rustic white bread (like La Brea’s demi baguette), torn up.
  • salt to taste


All done in an immersion blender. No heat.

For garnish:

  • 1 hard-boiled egg, preferrably free-range, pastured. Peeled and cut in half
  • 2 slices of prosciutto, speck or jamon serrano.
  • spanish extra virgin olive oil
  • sherry vinegar (optional, depends on how much vinegar you put in the soup already) 

Padrón vs. Shishito (right), uncooked

Ever read you can substitute padrón with Japanese shishito peppers? There are two problems with that proposition.

First, shishito is not any easier to find. It is like suggesting substituting asparagus with fiddlehead. Second, they may look similar but taste-wise, quite different.

As a padrón lover, I am biased. But in this particular side-by-side tasting, shishito has a tougher and thicker skin. So to start, the mouthfeel pales by comparison.

Like padrón, shishito is thin-walled. Its thicker skin results in a lower flesh ratio, which produces a rawer taste. More like green bell peppers, instead of the sweet, mild flavor of padrón.

But it is not hot, so it is toddler friendly.

It is ridiculous to declare shishito the loser because I have eaten it once.

Fried Shishito and Padrón

It could be that Pinnacle Farm  where I got my shishito from in Cupertino Farmers Market, let them stay on the plants too long therefore they are older and tougher. For this tasting, I actually hand-picked the padrón from Full Circle Farm.


September 26,  2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

My current favorite gin is Bols Amsterdam Genever 1575. Soft, silky, herbaceous and balanced. I love it straight and really cold. The taste is transcendent.

It is natural to wonder: Wouldn’t it lift any gin-based drink?

David Wondrich said in Imbibe! that genever doesn’t mix well with white vermouth. But how about vodka?

James Bond (or Ian Fleming rather) *invented* Vesper in Casino Royale with an explicit instruction: “3 measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, and half a measure of Lillet. Shake it very well until it‘s ice-cold.” Dale Degroff uses flamed orange peel as the crowning touch.

It is divine.

Based on Vesper from The Essential Cocktail (Makes 1):

  • 1 ½ oz (3 tbsp) Bols Amsterdam Genever 1575
  • ½ oz Hangar One vodka
  • ¼ oz Lillet Blanc
  • Flamed orange peel as garnish (essential)


  1. Make sure it is shaken until ice-cold. Strain into a martini glass.
  2. Peel a square-ish orange peel. Have a lighter ready and going. Fold the orange peel in half over the drink right next to the flame so the essential oil squirts out and ignites. Drop the peel into the drink. Serve immediately.


Whenever I say, out of old habit, that I LOVE food, I feel like a fraud.

With the way my typical meals go, I feel quite opposite about eating. Eating is an endurance sport that has to happen two-times a day for at least 90 minutes long each time, whether I feel like it or not.

It starts with a question: What am I going to feed Hayden?

Is it ’Egg Day’? No. Had that yesterday.

Pasta? What shape? Shape matters. What sauce? Sauce matters.

Don’t like cheese. Don’t like pizzas. Don’t like meat. Don’t like burgers.

Don’t like the same thing twice in a row.

Quesadilla is only welcomed once in a while. “Has it been 2 weeks?”

Is it time for rice? Had that last night, which means tomorrow is OK. Mental note to set up the rice cooker in the morning.

That’s planning.

The execution requires cooking as well as a confident know-how of defending for yourself without harming your opponent. Ever had your pants pulled down while manning a hot stove? Some sexiness could have been felt if not for the relentless screams of “Mommy! Come now! Mommy! Stop!”

And the whole time you are thinking: All these is probably a waste of time anyway.

Will he get in “the chair” willingly? Or it requires a wrestling match which can evolve into a meltdown.

Then comes the actual consumption.

Watching your carefully calibrated food, nutritionally, ergonomically, and aesthetically, being refused, spat out, rubbed into hair, neck, palms, nooks and crannies of the high chair or thrown down onto the floor either intentionally or unintentionally, is … deflating, to put it mildly.

Once in a while however, two disasters in any home-entertaining handbook can produce the most unexpected outcome and that gives you hope.

Last night, due to a miscommunication on ‘dates’, our dinner guests didn’t show up. Hayden, having had too much fun playing with dry beans, refused to get into his high chair and descended into a total meltdown.

William and I retreated to the backyard for a glass of 2003 Copain Gary’s Vineyard Syrah. After putting Hayden in his room for a 30 minutes timeout, we enjoyed a rare meal at home with just two of us. And eating, for those 30 minutes, was not to be endured but to be savored again.

If only the background noise could be turned down a bit.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club

September 24, 2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

Been dying to try my Fee Brothers Falerlum, a syrup of lime, maybe cloves (and almond?) and other flavorings.

This drink reminds me of Mai Tai from the same book: principle ingredients of dark rum and lime juice. The falerlum seems to have hints of almond, just like the orgeat syrup in Mai Tai. Both are sweet and tart with the alluring aroma of Gosling’s Black Seal.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club from in the Land of Cocktails (Makes 1):

  • 2 oz (4 tbsp) Goslings Black Seal or other Bermuda rum
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • 2 tsp Fee Brothers West Indie style Falerlum
  • ½ tsp Grand Marnier
  • A lime wedge for garnish (optional)

In search of Negroni

September 22,  2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

Today is the day I officially throw in the towel on classic Negroni.

I love bitters, but with Campari, its bitterness has to come with a sweetness that’s not only cloying but also artificial.

I don’t know which one came about first, Campari or Robitussin, but whoever came second must have stolen and copied the formula from the other one.

I have had Negroni a few times before, and feel especially inspired after reading Dale Degroff’s The Essential Cocktail. But the 1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth is so throat-cuttingly sweet I just can’t stomach it, every time.

Today, I experimented with a 3:1:1 ratio, then 4:1:1, then 4:2:1. I even tried adding orange juice, lemon juice … all in an effort to somehow retain the bitterness but disguise the cough syrup taste.

At the end, there’s one version I can find myself drinking. Use white vermouth and lose the red all together.

With a ration of 2:1:1, it is reminiscent of martini and the sweetness is significantly toned down. Bitter enough to make you sit up and pay attention but not wince.

White Negroni (Makes 1):

  • 1 oz (2 tbsp) Tanqueray gin
  • ½ oz (1 tbsp) Noilly Prat dry vermouth
  • ½ oz (1 tbsp) Campari
  • 1 orange slice as garnish (optional)


Fill a glass with ice. Pour in all the ingredients. Stir and serve.

Bronx Cocktail

September 21,  2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

Bronx is basically a martini with orange juice. I do find it a bit diluted for my taste but the additional orange bitter in this recipe makes it more interesting than the usual.

I cut 1/3 of the orange juice to make a stronger drink and the rest of the ingredients has a chance to come out.

Based on Bronx Cocktail from MIXSHAKESTIR (Makes 2):

  • 3 oz (6 tbsp) Tanqueray gin
  • 1 oz (2 tbsp) Martini & Rossi Rosso sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz (2 tbsp) Dolin dry vermouth
  • 2 oz (4 tbsp) fresh orange juice
  • 5 drops of Fee Brother’s orange bitter
  • 2 orange slices as garnish (optional)

Applejack Rabbit

September 20,  2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

My neighbor just gave us a big bag of oranges from his backyard tree. It will be the theme for the next few days.

Of all the applejack drinks I’ve had, this one is my favorite. How can anyone not be smitten by maple syrup, as the season slowly changes into fall?

Based on Applejack Rabbit from MIXSHAKESTIR (Makes 2):

  • 3 oz (6 tbsp) Laird’s Straight Bonded 100 proof, or other apple brandy
  • ½ oz grade B pure maple syrup
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 thin slices of fresh apples as garnish (optional)

Whoa, Nellie!

September 17/18, 2010 (part of Cocktail Chronicle)

Well … I didn’t get any Whoa! from this drink. It tasted pretty ordinary, to me. But to be fair, I didn’t have ½ oz of grapefruit juice so I substituted it with lemon juice. That could be a factor.

Based on Whoa, Nellie! from in the Land of Cocktails (Makes 1):

  • 1 ¼ oz Old Overholt, or other rye whisky
  • ¾ oz Gosling’s Black Seal, or other dark rum
  • ¾ oz Grand Marnier
  • 4 dashes of Angostura bitter
  • 1 oz lemon juice (or ½ oz lemon juice and ½ oz grapefruit juice)
  • ¼ oz simple syrup