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!