Saturday, December 31, 2011

MiddleBar Guest Chef: Rachel

It's Gingerbread season and our resident pastry chef Rachel brought us a Superdome (ok more like who-dat house) for Monday night's game. We liked it so much we asked her to share the recipe with us. 

"This was a staple of the holidays when I was growing up. Every year, my mom made a delicious Gingerbread house which we demolished with glee on New Year’s Eve. I remember being small and standing on my step stool at my place section of the counter watching as she rolled out the dough. I got to help cut out cookies and place trees and make the blizzard. As I got older I got to have more responsibility such as attaching the roof or actually cutting out the pieces. It was such a fun thing to do with my mom as a kid and so when I grew up and moved out on my own, the tradition continued.

The recipe below is taken almost verbatim from my mother’s cookbook except for a few minor tweaks I make and really enjoy." --Rachel

Gingerbread Dough (yields one small gingerbread house and 2 dozen small cookies)
1 1/4 cups sugar 
3/4 cup maple syrup 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
1 tablespoon ground cloves 
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg 
3/4 cup whipping cream 
1 stick butter, melted 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
4 cups flour (I like the light Whole Wheat from Trader Joe’s but, hey, that’s just me)

Step 1.) Making the Dough
Measure all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix until completely smooth and free of lumps. (If the dough feels too heavy to mix, hand knead it until smooth.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight, preferably for two days. 

Download and Print out for your house!
Step 2.) The Procedure
On a well-floured board, roll out about 1/5 of the dough to a thickness of a little more than 1/16 of an inch. Roll from the center out. After a few passes with the rolling pin, lift the dough off the board to rotate and, if necessary, to add flour to prevent sticking. Keep your hands and the rolling pin floured as well. Working in a cool kitchen helps, too. 

Lay the paper patterns over the dough and cut along the edges with a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or cookie cutter. (For a traditional cottage: one end wall should have a door as in the picture on top of this page; the other end should have a window.) 

Remove each piece with a spatula immediately after cutting and place on a buttered cookie sheet. (I used Parchment Paper this year and it worked great!) Roll out additional dough as needed to cut out all the house pieces. Then cut trees, shrubs, people, animals, skis, fences, ladders--whatever you would like to see in the "yard". Use another large chunk of dough to roll out a 10x12 inch oval, slightly thicker than the house pieces. This will be the "lot" your house will stand on. 

Step 3.) The Baking

Bake the pieces for five or six minutes in 350°. (As oven temperatures vary, bake a test cookie first.) Keep an eye on the small pieces to keep them from turning too dark. Let set for a minute or two on the cookie sheet, then remove carefully with a spatula and let cool on a wire rack or wooden board. Because it is thicker, the "lot" will take several minutes longer to cook. 

Step 4.) The Decorating

Mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 5 tsp of water in a small mixing bowl until spreading consistency.  If you do not have pastry bag, make a funnel out of piece of waxed paper folded in two. Roll into a cone and secure with two or three pins. Fill with frosting and cut a small hole in the tip. Carefully squeeze out frosting to draw a straight or wavy line around all the house pieces. Draw shingles on the roof and add hearts and other little touches where they look nice. (Here's where you get creative even if using my standard house design. The decoration says it's your very own house.) Let dry several hours, preferably overnight, before assembling the house. 

Step 5.) Putting the House Together
Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a frying pan. Melt carefully over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. When the sugar begins to turn brown around the edges, begin to stir to avoid burning. Then turn the heat down and keep it as low as possible. The sugar should remain liquid but not start turning really brown. 

Working carefully (Ouch! Hot sugar hurts!) but quickly, dip the bottom of the back wall in the melted sugar and place it in the back of the "lot". Hold for a few seconds to set. The sugar hardens quickly and the wall will soon stand on its own. Then pick up a side wall. Dip the end that will form a corner with the back wall, then dip the bottom, and press the wall in place. Repeat with the remaining walls. Watch out for your fingers! If the sugar hardens too quickly to form a good joint, pick up extra sugar with a teaspoon and pour it into place. To put on the roof, use a teaspoon to put some sugar on top of the walls and press the roof sections in place. Drizzle an extra spoonful of sugar where the roof sections meet to reinforce the seam. 

Step 6.) More Decorating!

Decorate the yard as you wish with trees, animals, and people, Walnuts make nice rocks, and raisins and chocolate chips can edge garden paths. Last of all, put some powdered sugar in a tea strainer and make a snowfall.

Give it a try, have fun, and after the oohs and ahhs die down, break that sucker open and eat your hard work!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh My Darlin' Clementine

It's clementine season again and these gorgeous little cuties are in every grocery store. The clementine is a sweet California mandarin harvested only in December.  Mandarins are not just "mini oranges" they are seedless, grow on smaller citrus trees, and are much easier to peel.

Clementines are unbelievably sweet and tender and are perfect for only a few weeks. Enjoy this clementine themed dinner quickly before these December treats are out of season!

Clementine Grilled Chicken Marinade
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp Angostura bitters
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 5 clementine oranges
1/4 cup olive oil

Score 2 chicken breasts crosswise and salt & pepper liberally. Add the chicken and marinade in a plastic bag and massage the chicken to cover with marinade (Reserve 2 tbsp of marinade for couscous).  Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 2 hours massaging the chicken a few times throughout the marination.  Grill and serve with Clementine Couscous.

Clementine Couscous
1 cup Israeli couscous
3 clementines
1 tbsp chopped shallot
1 tbsp fresh mint
Juice of 1 clementine
2 tbsp of reserved chicken marinade

Cook couscous to package directions drain and cool. Add shallot, mint and reserved marinade. (NOTE: please don't cross contaminate your chicken marinade with couscous marinade I don't think I need to say that, but just so we are clear.)  Peel 2 clementines and add pieces to the salad mixing them well with the marinade so that they don't dry out. Serve at room temperature with clementine chicken garnished with fresh mint.

Oh MY darlin'!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Fix: Pesto Martini

Bring basil to your cocktails but do it with style. Basil adds a great flavor to your drinks and pairs nicely with the juniper profile of gin.
Try the Pesto Martini for a treat tonight.

2 1/2oz dry gin
1/2oz dry vermouth
3 basil leaves
1/2oz jigger of pine nuts

Gently muddle 2 basil leaves and pine nuts in a mixing glass. Add ice, gin, vermouth, and stir. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a large basil leaf and a few pine nuts.

If it's good enough for pasta it's good enough for gin.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MiddleBar: Christmas Fix

Ok, ok, I'll stop blogging about eggs, I promise.


Not until after Christmas because no other beverage is tied to the holidays quite like eggnog. Since you just learned all about eggs this week, you can drink your eggnog the proper way, instead of from that crappy bottle they sell at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, I hate eggnog so there is no existing MiddleBar recipe for this classic Christmas delight. Have no fear loyal readers, I have found a recipe that I think you'll enjoy, and just for fun I've thrown in a recipe for everyone's other favorite holiday treat.....Fruit Cake!!!

River Road Recipes
Both recipes come unedited from the River Road Recipes Book the unofficial textbook of Louisiana cuisine.  This book is in every self-respecting southern cook's home and includes recipes from "How To Make A Roux" to "Squirrel Country Style" (no, I am not kidding).

The book was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge in 1959, so the recipes found in it are a bit dated (and by a bit I mean extremely dated). It's an amazing snapshot of the southern kitchen and definitely one for your collection. I mean because really, where else are you going to find a recipe for "Jellied Guacamole Salad"?

I hope you enjoy these two recipes around the tree tomorrow morning and consider the River Road Recipes Book my gift to you!

Mrs. L. C. Kuttruff's Date Fruit Cake
8 eggs
2 cups white sugar
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
8 cups nuts
1 lb candied cherries
1 lb candied pineapple (cut up)
2 lbs pitted dates

Set oven at 250 and grease and flower loaf or tube pans. Beat eggs together. Add sugar slowly, then 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt, which have been sifted together.  Add flavoring. Use other cup flour to flour fruit and nuts. Then add to cake mixture. Pack in lined, greased, and floured tins. Bake 2 1/2 hours at 250 with pan of hot water in oven under cake. Leave fruits and nuts in original pieces except for pineapple.

Mrs. Ralph Pearlman's Eggnog II
1 dozen eggs
1 quart of cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pint whiskey
Separate eggs. Beat yolks and add sugar until creamy.  Add whiskey slowly.  Add whipped cream and stir well.  Whip half of the whites (6) and add to the above mixture by folding them. Chill well. Serves 12-14.

MiddleBar wishes you a Merry, Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick Fix: Bacon & Eggs

Bacon & Eggs Cocktail
Yesterday's post covered the use of raw eggs in cocktails and since you're no longer afraid you should try this!  I don't usually recommend whiskey for breakfast but breakfast for whiskey is fantastic.

2oz MiddleBar House Bacon Bourbon
1/4oz good maple syrup (spring for the expensive kind, sorry Aunt Jemima)
3 dashes of orange bitters
1 small egg yolk

Dry shake (if you read yesterdays post you know what this means) your bourbon, syrup and bitters. Once the ingredients are fully enmeshed, add the ice and shake well again*. Strain and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass with a slice of Bacon brushed with maple syrup.

*Due to the grease of the bacon and lack of acid in this cocktail egg whites will not froth in the same way as in a sour so don't dunk your bacon in the drink. 

MiddleBar House Bacon Bourbon is a great holiday treat, check out our blog post Drunken Pigs for more information on creating your own house blend.

Good Mornin' Ya'll!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The incredible edible (and drinkable) egg!

A little squeamish about cracking an egg into your cocktail? I'm not surprised, many people are. I was skeptical myself and it took some major cajones to take that first sip that I thought was certainly going to contain salmonella. Guess what? It didn't.

Now don't assume that the alcohol in your cocktail will kill the germs that lurk in egg whites. You've got to take good care of yourself and your customer (aka your friends) when using raw eggs. Although there are much harsher FDA requirements these days raw eggs still come with some degree of danger. It's best to buy extremely fresh eggs, keep them super cold, use them quickly, and wash them (and your hands) thoroughly before and after using eggs. I also encourage washing your bar tools quickly after each use to combat germs and smells.

Farm fresh eggs are easy to get your hands on these days so buy them! Spending a little more money for a safer product seems like a no-brainer to me, and it's important to support local farms. To learn more about my favorite local farm, Bayou Farms, and their farm fresh eggs click here. 

When using raw eggs in your cocktails there are a few notes to follow:
1. It's definitely not recommended to served cocktails with raw eggs to children and pregnant women. Since they shouldn't be having cocktails anyway you should be in the clear.
2. Egg whites stink, make sure there is something "on the nose" such as bitters or mint to mask the smell.
3. Get creative, experiment with making designs in your whites, running a toothpick through a few drops of bitters on top of whites gives your cocktails a SUPER professional look.
4. Keep it cold and clean (surfaces, tools, hands, glasses, etc.)
5. Dry Shake (super nerdy explanation below)

Dry shaking is the process of shaking a drink without ice to encourage emulsification. Egg whites when combined with oxygen stretch the egg's protein molecules and traps this oxygen inside creating the foam.  The pH of albumen (egg white) changes when an acid is added which stabilizes the foam. This is why the head of a pisco sour is so frothy and foamy. Acids and egg whites are difficult to mix so the shaking process will take some muscle but the result is a thick foam. When egg whites come in contact with any sort of fat or oil the proteins break down causing the oxygen to escape so keep your fingers and bacon out of your drink!

Still concerned? You can always use pasteurized eggs or Fee Brother's Foam as a substitution.  Using these ingredients will not create the same mouth feel or flavor of your drink but if your piece of mind is important, don't miss out on a great cocktail just because you don't want to use eggs.

Cock-a-doodle-do Ya'll!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Fix: Mint Julep Hot Tea

It's chilly outside and theres nothing better than a nice hot glass of tea in the evening.  Hot whiskey tea has been a longtime favorite of mine for the winter months. Enjoy this Mint Julep Hot Tea this holiday season.

1 Mint flavored tea bag
1 cup hot water
1 oz demerara sugar
1 1/2 oz Bourbon
3 mint sprigs

Steep the teabag about 5 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water. Gently muddle the demerara sugar and the leaves of mint sprigs. Add the hot tea, garnish with lemon and mint sprig.
Nothing's better by the fire. Try it Ya'll!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lemon Truffle Risotto

Risotto is a dish that strikes fear in the heart of many a young chef.  Cookbooks listing precise cooking times and temperatures make recipes calling for risotto easy to pass up.  MiddleBar has perfected a recipe for an amazing lemon truffle risotto that's super easy to make.  It doesn't need a ton of time or constant attention but keep these two things in mind:

1) The more your risotto is stirred, the creamier it will become.
2) The longer your risotto cooks, the creamier it will become. 

It's a classic Italian comfort food and like all great comfort foods, it's made by Italian grandmothers who have a ton of time. If you only have 20 minutes to make dinner, it might be a night for Kraft Mac N Cheese but if you've got some time, don't be Mageirocophobic and make some risotto!

MiddleBar Risotto w/ Grilled Chicken Breast
You'll need:
2 tbsp butter
1 cup Arborio Rice
14oz of chicken broth
1/4 tsp truffle salt
       2-4 cups water
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Truffle oil

Melt butter until it is brown, not burned, brown. Add rice and 1 cup of white wine. Bring to a slight boil stirring often. Add salt. Continue to add water and chicken broth slowly while stirring  for the next 30-45 minutes (do not be afraid to add more or less liquid as necessary to keep your risotto from drowning or drying out). Half way through cooking add the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon. The more slowly you add water and more often you stir will effect the overall creaminess of the dish.  Once the rice is al dente and most of the water is absorbed, remove from heat and quickly whip in cheese vigorously (some recipe's will call for butter at this stage as well but I find that there is enough butter to make it creamy enough but if you want it more decadent, please do not let me stand if your way). Garnish with a drizzle of Truffle oil, lemon zest and cracked black pepper. Serve this risotto as a side dish (serves 4) or as a meal (serves 2).

This is a dish that needs a ton of love and care but don't worry, it's worth it!! And if babysitting isn't quite your thing, you'll just have to come to MiddleBar to get your risotto fix.

Ciao, Ya'll! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Fix: The Cucumber Rose

The Cucumber Rose 
The Cucumber Rose
1 oz Hendrick's Gin
2 oz cucumber water
1 oz lemonade
5 drops of rose water
½ 1 lime
fill sprite

The subtle blend of rose water and cucumber in this cocktail highlights the flavors of Hendrick's Gin. Hendrick's signature method of distillation blends a juniper based distillate from a small batch pot still with a botanical infused distillate from a patented Carter-Head Still. 
This method of blending the 2 distillates rather than distilling all the ingredients together brings the cucumber and rose petal flavors to the nose without being overpowered by juniper.  Speaking of overpowering, be gentle with your rose water it can quickly ruin your drink. 

Cheers ya'll!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Recession Special Quick Fix: Top Ramen

Today's Quick Fix celebrates everyone's favorite college delicacy Top Ramen. You missed out on this little gem back in the day? Don't worry you can learn more about Top Ramen here.
At MiddleBar we were feeling a bit nostalgic so here's our grown up version for all you graduates.

What you'll need:
1 red onion
1 white onion
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 celery root bulb peeled
1 smallish ginger root
2 large carrots peeled
3 celery stalks & leaves
3-5 sticks of lemongrass (outer layer removed cut into 1/2in pieces)
3 limes
1 lemon
2 12oz cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 12oz can of peeled whole tomatoes drained and cut in 1/2
1 cup edamame
1 1/2 cup mushrooms sliced (what ever kind you prefer)
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch scallion
1/4 tsp Turmeric
2 pinches Chinese 5 Spice
2 pinches fennel seed
1ish tsp of Sambal Chili sauce depending on your level of desired spice
Salt to taste
3 packs Top Ramen (you're throwing out that package of "flavoring" anyway so it really doesn't matter which ramen you use)

First things first. Open your Top Ramen packages and rip those packets out, I don't know what the hell's in that mix but I'm sure there's msg.

Turn the broiler to high. Cut celery root into large pieces with 3 whole cloves of garlic and half the ginger root and 1/2 of each onion.  Place under broiler for 7-10 minutes to char, turning once during broiling.

In a large pot or dutch oven sauté the remaining halves of onion, ginger, carrots, and celery. Sweat veggies with turmeric, 5 spice, fennel seed and salt (7-12 mins). Add stock, water, lemon grass and 3 cloves of garlic crushed. Remove charred veggies from the broiler and add to stock. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and discard.  Bring to boil. Cut 1 whole lime in 1/2 squeeze and drop into pot, let steep for 10 mins and then remove. Reduce pot to a simmer for 1hr.  

Add tomatoes, mushrooms, edamame and ramen noodles. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro, scallion, sambal and lime.

This is a great recipe for additions or substituons.

A+ Ya'll!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Prohibition 75 years later

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition the ridiculous 18th Amendment to the US Constitution that intended to keep our country “dry” from the sale and consumption of alcohol. The evil firewater was blamed for a multitude of sins that the American public committed and for 7,302,204 minutes from January 17th 1920 until December 5th 1933 liquor did not touch the lips of one American citizen and everything was rosy... Well at least that’s what the Temperance Movement had intended. 

If you haven’t watched Ken Burns documentary on Prohibition you should, it was fantastic. But if you are never going to get around to watching all 5 ½ hours of it don’t worry because I did and here’s basically what you missed:

According to a bunch of rural religious folks living in small towns throughout the country there were too many drunks destroying American society. They thought that if alcohol was prohibited the country would be restored to order.  Much to the dismay of  urban dwellers the 18th Amendment was passed which banned the sale and consumption of alcohol. 

People kept on drinking and states struggled to enforce the new regulation. Organized crime skyrocketed to keep up with the high demand for liquor. . The country went on a 5071 day bender drinking bathtub gin provided by gangsters in the shadows of speakeasies and the 1920s roared! Slowly people began to realize that the law created to clean up the country was actually corrupting it further. Oops. 

Finally on this fateful day 75 years ago everyone finally admitted that Prohibition was a total flop and passed of the 21st amendment nullifying the 18th.  Today we raise our glasses to one of our country’s biggest faux pas. So celebrate your inalienable right to cocktails today and enjoy Ya'll! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quick Fix: Pre Thanksgiving Jazz Brunch?

Feeling like an authentic New Orleans Jazz Brunch? Tune into streaming live. Make yourself some sunny side eggs and add these grit cakes with a  MiddleBar Bloody Mary and you're sure to hit some high notes!

1 cup water
1/4 cup quick grits
1 oz Southern Comfort
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
1 pinch sugar (optional)

Bring water and oil to boil.  Add grits and soco stir for 4 minutes uncovered. Stir the entire time to avoid clumping.  Oil 1/2 " ramekins and add grits. Refrigerate for 30 mins. Oil a skillet and when scalding hot add grit cakes.  Fry on high for 2 mins per side and serve. (Makes 1 serving. Double, triple, and quadruple as needed)

Good Mornin' Ya'll!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Fix: The Bulleit Chocolate Shake

Bulleit Shake
2 scoops of Chocolate gelato
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup crushed ice
1 1/2 shot of Bulleit Bourbon
1 cup fresh whipping cream
1 Gourmet chocolate bar

Chill a metal bowl and metal whisk in the freezer. Blend gelato, milk, ice, 3/4 chocolate bar and bourbon in a high powered blender. Whisk the whipping cream vigorously in the frozen bowl until it is light and airy. Top with fresh whipped cream and broken chips of the 1/4 remaining chocolate bar.

Now rest your weary arm from all that whipping and enjoy ya'll!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Up, up and away!

A girl walks into a bar…and thinks what’s the deal with all those random, unrecognizable  bottles of booze behind the bar. Where’s my Stoli Raspberry? Can’t a girl just get a cosmo? If you’re jonesing for cosmo, or anything called a ______-tini, go to the Cheesecake Factory. If you’re curious about those crazy bottles behind the bar of some of the coolest new spots in town, here’s a beginners guide to help you navigate that weird European terrain.

With the rise of the classic cocktail Maraschino (marr-e-skee-no) Liqueur and it’s fellow friends like Chartreuse, Dubonnet, and Absinthe are making a huge comeback. Growing up in New Orleans I had seen Maraschino gathering dust behind the bar in some prehistoric hotel. The graceful green bottle is wrapped with a raffia label and looks like something antique and I certainly had never owned a bottle of it. Since the bottle literally lasts forever, (no really, the Luxardo company claims the shelf life of Maraschino is “indefinite”), I went ahead and added it to Middlebar’s collection.

The first taste of Maraschino was overwhelming and to tell you the truth kinda tart and overly sweet.  You could just taste the Italian herbal flavors. It reminded me of Italian sweet vermouth with a fruit rather than liquorice flavor. That’s when it hit me! This must have been the secret ingredient that the head bartender at Tony Angelo’s put in the best Manhattan I’d ever drank! (the Manhattan which features Maraschino)

French and Italian liqueurs have been around for centuries so they are obviously doing something right, but here’s the deal: they are sometimes disgusting even to the advanced palate (yep I said it). Maraschino is the least offensive of them all and it blends really well with anything from gin to bourbon, cooking, and fruit salads (see future Middlebar posts).

This 750ml bottle at ¼ oz at a time is gonna take you 101.4 drinks to use up that bottle, so why not branch out and try Maraschino’s most famous cocktail the Aviation.

The Aviation is a classic cocktail from the early 20th century created in New York at the Hotel Wallick.  The original cocktail called for 1/4 oz of Crème de Violette Liqueur that turned the cocktail a pale sky blue color, hence it’s name. When the Aviation first appeared in print in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 the Crème de Violette was omitted but the cocktail kept it’s name. 

Crème de Violette is easy to find these days in most upscale liquor stores but as Savoy states is not necessary to create a tasty drink.  The Maraschino and the Aviation may not appeal to the Cheesecake Factory crowd due to it’s potent flavors, but for those who’d like to try something different this is one’s a true classic!

The Aviation Cocktail
2oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flaming orange zest or a lemon twist.

Take off Ya’ll!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

House Caesar

{MiddleBar's House Caesar}
The Caesar salad, the emperor of all greens has been America's favorite throughout 20th century.  Although it’s a dish synonymous with Italian restaurants the Caesar did not hail from Tuscany, it was actually created in Tijuana.

Whenever there is a fantastic epicurean favorite there seems to always be a mythical story about the creation of the famed dish.  Most legends include a chef caught off guard either at the end of the shift, when the restaurant is closed, or when stocks are low.  As the story usually goes, these unsuspecting chefs go to any length to please their inconvenient customers by creating a sort of “kitchen sink” recipe. You’d be surprised at how many times this legend is used to describe many culinary inventions:

Was the Cobb Salad created by Robert Cobb after a long shift where he was hungry and threw all the kitchen leftovers into a bowl?

Did Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invent nachos by throwing cheese over some leftover tortillas when his restaurant was closed to please some US soldier’s wives?

And was it Cesar Cardini in his Tijuana restaurant who produced the Caesar salad after he ran out of supplies on July 4th 1924 (or perhaps it was his brother in 1927)?

Were all these combinations just made out of necessity not ingenuity? Or perhaps a little bit of both?

The Caesar Salad’s beginning is often disputed and even the Cardini’s themselves disagree on the origin. It is clear that the salad became very popular among socialites and Hollywood celebrities that spent their weekends partying south of the border during prohibition. That being said, it was probably either Caesar, his brother Alex or their partner Paul Maggoria at their restaurant in Old Tijuana that concocted the salad.

{The Original Caesar's Bar and Grill 5th and Main Tijuana Old Mexico}
Even though the Caesar was not documented on any menu until 1946 people were apparently loving it. Julia Child claimed to have tasted the salad made table side by Caesar himself when she visited Tijuana as a child with her parents.  The Caesar owes quite a bit to Ms. Child who further popularized the salad in her book years later after consulting with Caesar’s daughter Rosa on her father’s original recipe. 

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remember his every move, but I don't. The only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.
~Julia Child’s Kitchen

The original salad was simple, creative, and delicious.  The House Caesar is a deconstructed take on this classic. This caesar doesn't contain raw eggs because we're saving those for the Pisco sours ;) We substitute butter lettuce for romaine and anchovies for the worcestershire sauce seen in the original recipe. Caesar's recipe did not "officially" call for olive oil but with salad it is a must! 

1 head of living butter lettuce
1 large lemon
Colavita Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 jar of rolled anchovies with capers in oil (white anchovies make an amazing upscale addition but a jar of high end anchovies works just fine)
salt, pepper, garlic salt, shaved parmesan cheese

On one large platter fan out a cleaned head of butter lettuce.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the entire salad. Add salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and top with rolled anchovies and parmesan cheese. 

The one thing that makes it authentic is the ability to eat the salad by hand which was how Caesar would want you to enjoy it!

Godere (that's Italian for enjoy) Ya'll!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Professor and his Blue Blazer

In order to better understand the history behind many of the drinks I describe in this blog, I feel that it's important for you to know a little about the man who made it all possible, a man we call, The Professor.

Jeremiah P. Thomas was born in 1830 in Sacket’s Harbor, New York, a small port town on Lake Ontario.  Documentation of Thomas’ birth date and information on his youth is a mystery (much like Jesus) but instead of attending the Naval Mathematics School in his hometown, Jerry traveled to Connecticut to study bartending before becoming a sailor.  By 1848 the young Thomas headed west for gold and instead of mining for it, he mined the 49ers.  Why spend all day in the hot sun panning for gold when you could be slinging swill to the thirsty 90,000 gold seekers?

Thomas made a fortune during his years in San Francisco amassing wealth upwards of $16,000 (the equalivent of $300,000 today) With all that cash, Thomas had the opportunity to travel back East and spend (which he did well on women, ponies, and God knows what else) before opening his first bar under Barnum’s Museum in New York city.   A few years later as David Wondrich explains in his book Imbibe, Jerry embarked on an sporting journey across America and as far as London, tending bar at different establishments along the way.  

Thomas had style and a whole mess of talent. His flashy diamond cufflinks and solid silver bar tools were only part of his bottle juggling while tossing flaming drinks from glass to glass show. (The Blue Blazer was Thomas' signature drink, see below).  Thomas picked up the nickname “The Professor” due to his extensive knowledge of spirits and his ingenious concoctions and is still considered America’s most famous bartender. 

Thomas’ greatest contribution to modern mixology is The Bartending Guide, otherwise known as, How To Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion (the book was published under all 3 titles).  Similar books had been produced in Europe prior to Thomas’ 1st edition in 1862 and thousands have been written since.  It's important to note that Jerry broke the mold back in the day when he compiled all the knowledge from his extensive training and traveling into one American encyclopedia. 

After publication, Thomas opened his own famous bar on Broadway between 21st and 22nd with his brother George.  The bar itself was grand success but Thomas’ champagne tastes, and penchant for gambling caught up with him and even though the bar still had patrons, Thomas was forced to close it's doors. He sold the bar on Broadway, always threatening to open a new venue, but unfortunately never did. Thomas died of an apparent heart attack in 1885 at the age of 55 two years before the 3rd edition of his book was released.

The Professor left an amazing history in the pages of his guide book. Had it not been for Thomas’ willingness to break the bartending code and compile every beverage of the age into one volume, many of our most famous American cocktails would be lost. Thanks Jerry!!

The Blue Blazer
(Taken from David Wondrich's Imbibe, click here for an awesome video of David rocking out this drink)
I have not ever tried to create my own Blue Blazer because I'm pretty certain that my landlord would not be pleased if I set the whole place on fire (this also the reason I don't distill my own liquor so, don't do that either!!) But if you are brave enough, feel the supreme need to show off, and have a fire extinguisher handy, here is the recipe for the Blue Blazer.

2 silver plated mugs with handles
2 oz Scotch Whiskey
1 1/2 oz Boiling Water

Put the whiskey and the boiling water in one mug, ignite the liquid with fire, and while blazing mix both ingredients by pouring them four or five times from one mug to another as represented in the cut.  If well done, this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire.

Sweeten with one teaspoonful of pulverized white sugar, and serve in a small bar tumbler, with a piece of lemon peel.
Source: Jerry Thomas, 1862

It's a very, very, VERY cool drink to make , but don't blame me if you burn your house down!!!!!!!

To Jerry Ya'll!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Simply Complex

Simple syrup is not as simple as its name implies because there are quite a few different opinions on which ratios to use when making your own simple syrup.  The MiddleBar simple syrup is based on the 2 to 1 (sugar to water) measurement that adds a certain thickness and creamy mouth-feel to your sugar coated cocktails.

The viscosity of the 2 to 1 method makes your syrup more like the traditional bar or gomme (gum) syrup. Gum syrup is created when the ingredient of gum Arabic is added to the disolved sugar and water mixture. Gum Arabic is a natural emulsifier harvested from the acacia tree that is used in many classic cocktails to help combine spirits and juices more easily. Nowadays, finding gum Arabic is slightly more difficult but some specialty food stores do carry it (be prepared for quite the wild goose chase). If you do find it, make sure that you are using the food-based version and not the type used in photography, lithography, and even the making of fireworks!

Gum syrup is highly regarded by top bartenders as the only syrup that should be kept behind the bar, but you will not die or destroy a cocktail by using syrup without gum. Stick with the simple 2 to 1, simple syrup and you will be just fine because the average drinker (and many bartenders) most likely will never know the difference. 

1 cup water
2 cups sugar

Stir over low heat stirring continuously until sugar dissolves completely. Let cool and fill in a bottle for storage and refrigeration. If you will be storing for long periods of time and will be using your syrup for solely cocktails (not the lemonade for example) add a teaspoon of a distilled neutral spirit like vodka to extend the life of your syrup and don’t forget to refrigerate.

Sweet Ya’ll

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Florodora Girls & Their Cocktail

Florodora was a smash hit on Broadway in the summer of 1900. A double sextet of sexy Floradora chorus girls (see below for 1900s “sexy”) and dapper young gents wowed audiences for a record setting 552 curtain calls.  This fun filled musical comedy was well loved by the smart and trendy Broadway spectators of the day so it’s appropriate that there is an equally fashionable and fun cocktail in its name.

The Floradora is a great drink in your arsenal because of it’s quirky history and fruity, charming flavor. And although these drinks go down easy they pack a punch. So beware, your once flirty girl will turn into a devil woman the morning after if you happen to overindulge on this beverage.

MiddleBar uses Hendrick’s Gin because of the rose and cucumber flavors that are blended along with the juniper berries in distillation (Floradora’s plot line is about phrenology and perfume manufacturing so it seems appropriate that roses are included).  I’ve used Bundaberg Ginger Beer in this recipe but in a pinch you can even get away with good ginger ale. The raspberry syrup can be made fresh by adding more sugar to a raspberry puree and reducing it.  But specialty markets and liquor stores often carry bottled raspberry syrup that works just as well.
Glassware: Highball, Collins glass or mason jar

1 ½ Hendricks gin
½ oz raspberry syrup
½ of 1 fresh lime

Stir with a long bar spoon until icy cold and serve.

Garnish: The traditional Florodora was garnished with a cherry and a slice of orange, but a simple lime wedge and some fresh raspberries are perfect.

Notes on Execution: This drink can be made in the glass that it is served in and requires no shaking. (remember the martini and our gentle gin). You can also make an “Imperial” Florodora by substituting the gin for Congac, Chambord for the raspberry syrup and Champagne for the ginger beer (in this version skip the lime and the stirring and garnish with a twist).

Bring the Florodora girl your next party and she’s sure to be a smash hit. Your guests will beg for an encore!

Enjoy Ya’ll!

Friday, September 9, 2011

New York State of Mind: Manhattan Cocktail

In 1964 United States Legislation officially named Bourbon America's native spirit.  This weekend is a very important one for our country and especially for New York. With those thoughts in mind, I think it's appropriate that we discuss the Manhattan. 

Any discussion of the Manhattan (or the Martini for that matter) should start with vermouth.  Vermouth, from the German word “wermut” or “wormwood,” is an aromatic wine fortified with grain or grape sprit.  Like absinthe, vermouth in its infancy was made with wormwood but after the illegalization of this powerful substance, vermouth makers quietly removed its namesake from the recipe and just stuck with grape juice, herbs, roots and flowers. 

Vermouth comes in two distinct styles, the Italian sweet, red variety and the dry white French type.  Originally vermouth had its own cocktail consisting of vermouth, ice and a twist which was a common hangover cure or a drink for those who did not enjoy the strength of hard liquor. Perhaps the vermouth drinkers wanted more kick or the hard liquor drinkers wanted less because by the mid 1860s vermouth had found it’s way into many fashionable cocktails. The Manhattan is one of the original cocktails to feature vermouth even though the Martini eventually made it famous. 

The Manhattan is obviously a New Yorker, but when and where the drink was actually created is often argued. Was it Winston Churchill’s mother at the Manhattan Club? Or a man named Black on Broadway? No one really knows, but one thing is for sure, when the New Orleans Times-Democrat Newspaper in 1885 called it “a juicy and delicious compound” they were right.

MiddleBar Manhattan

Glassware: Served on the Rocks or Up

2 oz Bulliet bourbon or rye
¾ oz sweet vermouth
1 bar spoon Maraschino liqueur
3 dashes of bitters

Shake well and strain up or stir over rocks and garnish with a Maraschino cherry

Notes on Execution:
The original Manhattan was typically made with rye whiskey but bourbon works fine so the choice is yours. Some prefer the taste of Angostura bitters and I sometimes use Peychaud’s as a nod to the absinthe taste in vermouth’s history, but try it with orange, that’s what they historically do at the Manhattan Club.

A toast to New York...
Cheers Ya'll 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bond, James Bond: How To Make a Perfect Martini

Sean Connery celebrated his 81st birthday last week and to celebrate, Martini's, of course, darling.  The Martini is posh, potent, and particular just like Mr. Bond himself. Gin, vodka, shaken, stirred, dirty, wet, dry, up, rocks, the options are endless. Now there will be Martini posts in the future not only because I love and appreciate the Martini but also because there is enough information about the Martini to write an entire novel on the subject.  Today in honor of James Bond, I’ll talk about shaking and stirring. 

There is much debate on the subject of stirring or shaking and as I see it, it’s a matter of personal preference.  There are purists that believe there are some “rules” as to why you would shake or stir. The most common of those "rules" are:

Shake: Eggs and dairy (always) and sometimes juice
Stir: drinks with only spirits
Neither: anything served neat, with soda or tonic. (duh)
A vodka martini, as Mr. Bond would order, is best served cold.  In Russia, vodka is traditionally served ice cold (aka negative degrees Celsius) and since they’re kinda the authority on all things vodka, I’m going with them.  That being said, the most obvious way to chill any bar beverage is to shake it.  (Something chemically happens with the shaking, the alcohol, the ice, and the tin, etc. but I’m not a scientist so I’m not going into all of that). So shake the crap out of your vodka like Mr. Bond and enjoy. 

Gin on the other hand needs to be handled more gently according to the Dutch, and since they are the authority on all things gin, I’m going with them on this one. Stirring with the rear end of a bar spoon in a non-reactive glass is best for delicate handling of the gin.  This process chills the beverage slowly and doesn’t break the ice into tiny pieces thereby diluting or “bruising” the drink. Mixing in the bar glass supposedly reduces the “metallic” taste from the tin according to some. But really people, can you really taste a tin flavor, come on?!?

In either case there is no right or wrong even if the snobs tell you differently. Enjoy your Martini however you like because the “Professor” Jerry Thomas himself couldn’t make up his mind.
Glassware: Classic Martini glass chilled

1/8th oz of dry vermouth
3 oz Hendricks gin
2 large stuffed olives

In a bar glass pour gin over the ice and stir gently for at least 30 seconds, on a hot day stir even longer.  Quickly rim the inside of your martini glass by turning the glass in your hand at a 45 degree angle coating the entirely then discard the leftover vermouth.  Strain into the glass garnish and serve. 

Traditionally spear 2 pimento olives although any stuffed olive will do and drop into glass. For a Gibson (my personal favorite) spear 2 cocktail onions.  For a Dewtini, add one spear on stuffed peppadew.  

Happy belated, Bond.
Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Every white will have its black, And every sweet its sour." -Thomas Percy

I think we can all agree that the most common mixer behind the bar is sweet and sour. Slings, Fizzes, Collins, and countless contemporary cocktails all call for the sour base.  The “Sour” is a classic cocktail recipe dating back to the 1850s and the key to the longevity of the sour is it’s simplicity. A liquor, lemon juice, sugar, over ice. The sour is most often seen in the form of a whiskey or brandy sour and the inexperienced drinker will take their sour with amaretto. 

Sweet and Sour Mix can be purchased anywhere liquor is sold and even your local supermarket.  But since sour mix is so simple why buy it when you can make your own? Store bought mixers are often overly sweet, tart, high in caloric content and can quickly overpower any drink when not used in moderation. 

Home made sweet and sour mix is simple, cheap, and far more flavorful than any retail variety. Plus the home mixologist looks pretty fancy pulling out their own personal sweet and sour mix rather than that unsightly plastic jug of Finest Call. 

1 cup simple syrup (see tips and techniques)
1 cup lemon
1 cup lime
splash of soda water

This recipe makes about ¾ bottle of mixer (obviously 3 cups).  Double, triple, quadruple as needed and volia! Your drinks are guaranteed to taste 100% better when using your own mixers, so it's worth the extra time and effort.  Trust me. 

Cheers Ya'll  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


How could I post about salsa last week and leave it’s poor friend the Margarita left out!! So here it is, and since it's the Labor Day weekend enjoy this recipe at the last party of the summer season.

The Margarita’s origin is "officially" unknown and everyone wants to take credit for it. Looking at the drink closely you can see the ultimate progression of how this drink was made and that eventually someone would have come up with it.  The margarita seems to stem from the Sour of the 80s (the 1880s that is). The sour gave birth to the Sidecar, then the Daisy and these 3 beverages show the signs of the Margarita’s origin.

Sour = Liquor, water, sugar, lemon
Sidecar = Liquor, orange liqueur, lemon with a sugar rim
Daisy = Liquor, orange liquor, water, sugar, lemon
Margarita = Tequila, orange liqueur, water, sugar, lemon, lime, salt rim

So basically the Margarita is sort of a Tequila Sour Sidecar Daisy that swapped it’s sugar and lemon rim for lime and salt. And boy is it tasty!  I should also mention that the Spanish word for daisy is margarita so it stands to reason that the daisy is the margarita's namesake.

The Margarita is the most popular Tequila based beverage in the United States but in Mexico, the Paloma is the household favorite. The Paloma is a Margarita made with grapefruit soda as opposed to a lemon and lime sweet and sour mix.  The Margarita has endless variations and depending the produce available, MiddleBar has been known to offer varieties with orange, mango, strawberry, etc.  The current favorite is the Margarita and Paloma twist, "The Daisy & Rita." The Daisy & Rita is made from scratch with homemade sweet & sour, simple syrup, fresh squeezed grapefruit, and fresh strawberry puree. {Due to the sugar content of all retail fruit juice and mixers substitutions will drastically effect the taste of this drink so if you're following this recipe don't cut corners} 

Rocks glass, salt & sugar rim (optional lime or strawberry garnish)

1 oz Top Shelf Silver Tequila
½ oz triple sec

Shake well and strain over ice.

The sugar and salt rim does make a difference. The sugar accents the sweetness of the strawberries and the salt plays on the lemon and lime notes.  If grapefruit is not available 3 oz of sweet and sour and 1 oz of sparkling water is a nice twist.  The Daisy & Rita should always be shaken over ice, NEVER blended. Because at MiddleBar, the blender is always broken.

Salud Ya’ll

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Berry Berry Quite Contrary: Purred Fruit

There is nothing I hate more than berries that spoil. And strawberries seem particularly good at this activity even after a few days.  So as soon as those berries loose their ripe firmness and before they grow mold, they are perfect for a puree.

Puree comes from the French word meaning purified or refined. A puree is created by putting fruit into a blender, food processor or food mill then passing it through a fine sieve.  Some purees call for cooking to influence the flavor, color and purity but due to the softness and size of strawberries, the MiddleBar Strawberry Puree does not call for this additional step.  This puree is great in a cocktail as well as drizzling over desserts such as cheesecake. Yum! Purees can be made with any berry, stone fruit or combination of the two (I also make a summertime white peach puree with cooked peaches which is perfect for a Bellini).

2 containers of fresh strawberries hulled and quartered
1-2 tablespoons of sugar (omit for extremely sweet strawberries)
filtered water

Place strawberries and sugar into a blender or food processor.  Slowly add water while blending until the strawberries are smooth but still retains some thickness. Adding too much water will overpower your puree and effect the flavor of your cocktails due to it's high water content.  Gently press puree through a fine mesh strainer and into a jar for storage. 

Homemade puree is wonderful for a cocktail, it adds depth, sweetness and has much more flavor than any store bought brand. This puree is perfect for cocktails with rum, gin, and vodka, and is especially tasty in a margarita. 

Enjoy Ya’ll!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mexican Fiesta Part 1- Aunt Sis's Salsa

A very famous MiddleBar recipe is Aunt Sis’s Salsa. I still credit my Aunt Sandy for this recipe although it’s gone through countless changes since the 1980s.  As a child my cousins and I would spend summer Saturdays swimming in the pool at Aunt Sissy and Aunt Debby’s house.  Part of the awesomeness other than countless hours of Marco Polo was cold Coca Cola out of the classic red retro fridge and snacking on yummy tart salsa. 

The recipe consisted of Rotel canned tomatoes, cilantro, lime and salt.  Even though the tomatoes were canned, the salsa was much better than anything that the stores at that time were carrying.  Since then the salsa recipe has changed dramatically especially after  making it's way to California where it acquired a kick and lost the can.  

This salsa doesn’t have that thick tomato sauce quality, which is the reason that most people like it. It’s tangy, salty, dare I say soupy, and it’s definitely drinkable. (Bloody Mary shooters have been made using the strained juice of the salsa at MiddleBar but that’s for another post) The key to this salsa is the freshness of your ingredients and all the proportions should be adjusted accordingly due to sweetness and tartness of your seasonal produce.  I these days will not even make this salsa when tomatoes are not in season, plus salsa just tastes better with that summertime margarita next to the pool. 

I’ve debated actually posting the recipe here on the Internet because I’m afraid to give the secret away but since the proportions of this recipe are estimations, I know mine will still reign supreme ;)



Ole Ya’ll

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Juice is Loose: Fresh Squeezing for Your Cocktails

At MiddleBar we make a point of squeezing all our juice fresh. Buying bottled juice can effect the sweetness of your cocktails because even drinks labeled 100% fruit juice may still contain some sugars.  Using fresh squeezed juice allows you to add sugar to your beverage as you see fit.  Invest in a juice squeezer it’s totally worth it and makes juicing super easy.  Bottom line is, fresh juice simply tastes better.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Do the Dew: Stuffed Peppadew Peppers

What are those crazy little red peppers in the pickle asile!?!?  

The Peppadew is a type of sweet piquante pepper from South Africa, and the reason you may not be familiar with it is because it was discovered in 1993. The pepper just turned 18 and was slowly introduced to the American marketplace so don't feel too silly if you haven't been introduced.  But now that it's legal, it's time to get to know this kid! 

The Peppadew is a relative of the Aji Amarillo Chili found in South America and is most commonly associated with Peruvian cooking. The Peppadew, like it’s cousin, is a mild chili pepper that is pickled in a tangy vinegar brine.  The pepper is almost shockingly sweet followed quickly by a kick of heat that makes your lips pucker at its crisp pungent goodness.

The Peppadew was once only available at specialty food stores but today it’s finding it’s way onto the shelves of many chain grocery stores.  This is certainly a good thing because once you have a MiddleBar “Dew” you’re going to want them…often.

Because of it's age and previous unavailability, many people are not familiar with the pepper so this dish always starts a conversation. (A conversation that usually comes with a request for a recipe) And the best thing about this recipe, is that it’s remarkably simple!  I mean super simple.  It’s SO easy sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit how easy it is, because you would never know it from the taste. 

MiddleBar Stuffed Dews

1 Jar of Peppadew Sweet Piquante Peppers
¼ cup goat cheese
4 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons of Peppadew juice poured directly from the jar
¼ cup chopped chives
Mix well and pipe into peppers
Chill in refrigerator and serve 

Notes on Execution:
The Peppadews are seedless so just dry them on a paper towel (reserving some of the liquid for the filling mixture). You can mix the cheese filling with a spoon if you do not have an electric mixer. As long as you whip it well, it will make NO difference in taste and presentation and cut down on the amount of dishes that you’ll have to do. Also if you do not have a pastry bag for piping, you can cut a small hole in the corner of a regular plastic bag and use that as a piping tool.  When placing the peppers on a serving tray it helps to pipe a very small amount of the leftover filling mixture onto the plate to act as "glue" for your pepper to stay in place.

The flavor and mild spice of the Peppadew is well matched with the creamy coolness of the soft cheeses. Perfect to pop in your mouth and these guys go well with red wines or a craft wheat beer.  The Peppadew is perfect for any occasion so whether it’s watching the game or hosting a fancy dinner party the Peppadew is a great addition to your recipe arsenal. 

Piquante Yall!

P.S. Toss that blue cheese stuffed olive out of your Martini and pop in a stuffed Peppadew!!