Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In South Louisiana we call that lagniappe

Thirty days hath September, April, June & November. All the rest have thirty one, except for February which sometimes, every fourth year except for centennial years has 29 days...I mean REALLY!??!?  It's a good thing that leap year only comes around every four years because it's by far the most confusing of all the holidays.

The purpose of leap year is to properly align the solar year with the calendar year which keeps all the seasons in place. If you feel the need to delve into all the mathematics behind leap year by all means click here. It's incredibly boring so I recommend having this cocktail first.

Our drink today was created by Henry Craddock for the Leap Year celebrations at the Savoy Hotel on February 29th, 1928. It is a light and lovely top shelf gin sour with a dash of sweetness from the Grand Mariner and Carpano Antica. This drink is so tasty you'll want to drink it 366 days a year.

2 oz Nolet Silver Dry Gin
1/2 oz Grand Mariner
1/2 oz Carpano Antica
1/4oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and serve up with a lemon garnish.

It's a lagniappe day Ya'll!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick Fix: Dill Fingerling Fries

I love finger food, so I'm always looking for interesting appetizer choices for MiddleBar that don't involve a fork. These roasted potatoes are great for guests, easy to make, and obviously delicious!

1 1/2 lbs of fingerling potatoes
3 tbs fresh dill
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 lemon (zest & juice)
olive oil, salt, pepper
2 pinch cayenne

Wash then cut fingerlings lengthwise. Toss potatoes with oil, salt, pepper, cayenne, dill, garlic and lemon juice coat throughly. Place potatoes cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with lemon zest. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes until fork tender and a bit crispy.

Serve with a simple lemon and dill aioli (mayo, s&p, fresh dill and lemon juice).

Try these stubby little buggers at your next cocktail party!
Enjoy Ya'll

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quick Fix: Curry Cinnamon Rice Crispette

I must admit that here at MiddleBar we are huge chopped fans. The concept of choosing random ingredients and cooking them in unique and interesting ways thoroughly appeals to the style of the MiddleBar kitchen. Todays dessert came straight from the pantry made with the ingredients we had on hand. Think of it as a grown up rice krispie treat!

10 large marshmallows
1 tbs margarine
3 rice cakes
3 pinches cinnamon
3 pinches curry

Melt marshmallows and margarine in a microwave safe bowl for about 30 seconds until marshmallows plump up and stir. Break up rice cakes into mini rice pieces on a small sheet pan, cover with marshmallow butter mix, sprinkle with cinnamon and curry then stir well to combine. Press into a small sheet pan and freeze for 10 minutes. Remove from freezer spray PAM butter spray onto clean hands and form balls of marshmallow crisp. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

These are so good Ya'll! Try them or you will be chopped.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras 101: The Fat Tuesday Herbsaint Frappe

Mistick Krewe of Comus 1856. Known as the krewe
"that saved and transformed Creole Carnival"
It's just a Tuesday for most of us throughout the country, but my fellow New Orleanians are celebrating. Today is Fat Tuesday and  there's way more to Mardi Gras than just getting drunk on Bourbon Street.

Fat Tuesday is the final day of the Carnival Season rooted in the rich French Catholic history of New Orleans. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in Louisiana since the 1600s. Many Mardi Gras traditions such as masquerade balls, parades, and krewes (the parade organizations) that are still around today have been running annually since the mid 1800s.

Louis Armstrong & the King of Zulu
The first African American Orginization
created in 1909.
Fat Tuesday as it's so lovingly referred to, is the final day of the carnival season.  The season began on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In Catholic tradition, Lent is the 40 day period of reverence and fasting before Easter Sunday. Basically New Orleanians took that as a cue to eat (hence the fat), drink, and party it up before everyone had to behave. 

Today in celebration of Mardi Gras we will imbibe a classic and distinctly New Orleans cocktail the Herbsaint Frappe. Herbsaint, an anise flavored liqueur, is the creation of two New Orleans natives J.M. Legendre and Reginald Parker. These two fine young gentlemen learned the process of distilling absinthe in France during World War I. When they returned to the states, they perfected their "legal" creation by imparting the flavors of absinthe but without the illegal wormwood. (I won't mention that this "legal" version of absinthe, was still illegal under US law until December of '33) Herbe sainte is the French Creole word for the sacred herb Artemisia Absinthium. Herbsaint can be used in any cocktail that calls for Absinthe or Pastis and if you're really brave you can try your Herbsiant frappe-ed.

Herbsaint Frappe

The Herbsaint Frappe (from

2 oz Herbsaint Liqueur
2 oz Water or Fever Tree soda water
1 tsp simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a large glass filled with cracked ice. Stir vigorously until well frosted, then strain off the liquid to remove the ice. Return the drink back into the frosted glass and serve. This drink has an extremely strong anise have been warned.

Happy Mardi Gras and I hope you get out there and enjoy some good p-rades. If you're like me, missing some Nawlins, you can watch the action live from the Fat Harry's Parade cam: Click Here #paradecam

Laissez les bon temps rouler Ya'll!!!

*Henri Schindler, Mardi Gras Treasures: Invitations of the Golden Age

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Fix: Pineapple Sage G&T

When you think pineapple you don't typically think about this time of year. To many, the pineapple is synonymous with Hawaiian beaches and bikinis, but the pineapple is an interesting creature and is oddly enough a winter fruit.

The two most popular pineapples in the US are the Cayenne and the Red Spanish. The Cayenne is the traditional Hawaiian pineapple and although it's available all year round (thanks Hawaii) their peak season is in April and May. The Red Spanish however has two seasons one in August and September as well as January and February.  That being said, it is actually an appropriate time to imbibe a tasty, pineappley beverage to beat the winter blues.

Pineapple Sage G&T
2 oz Gin
3 Sage leaves
3-4 1x1in fresh pineapple cubes
1/2 lime
Fentamins Tonic Water

Muddle sage and pineapple with the lime juice in the bottom of a collins glass. Add gin, ice, and tonic. Slowly and gently stir to encourage flavor mixing without disturbing the bubbles in the tonic water. Garnish with pineapple and a sage leaf and serve with or without a straw.

Even though it's cold outside, who says you can't have a sandy beach right inside your living room.
Pineapple Tip: Choose the best pineapple by scent and the base of the pineapple. If the bottom is too green it means the fruit was picked too early and will never ripen properly. If it's a little orange/red at the bottom and it's scent is fruity and aromatic, it will be sweet and delicious! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taqueria Corona: Cebollitas Fritas

The cuisine of New Orleans is incredibly diverse so finding a good meal is easy to come by. An authentic Mexican restaurant however, is much more difficult to find. Taqueria Corona filled that void in 1988 when Roberto Mendez introduced authentic, delicious, and inexpensive Mexican food to New Orleanians. Mendez's 10 seat cafe grew to a group of successful restaurants over the next 20 years and offers diners a diverse Mexican experience.

The menu features the usual enchiladas, tacos, and burritos but delicacies like pork, chorizo, and even tongue mingle among the usual chicken and beef. Queso fundido, arroz con leche, and flauta dulce can also be found, but the dish I find the most unique is cebollitas.

Incredibly simple, cebollitas are grilled green onions served with salt and lime. Thats it. It's a dish that I look for in every Mexican joint I visit but I've yet to find it (even here in California). Cebollitas are a great appetizer, side dish or even as a garnish. Enjoy this spicy, salty version at your own mexican fiesta! Ole!

1-2 large bunches of green onions (about 30 onions)
3 tsp vegetable oil
3 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1 pickled jalepeno (halved)
1 tsp jalepeno pepper juice (from can)
1 large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil

Line a shallow sheet pan with one piece of foil toss all the ingredients together and fold the ends of the foil together to create a sealed foil envelope so that the juice can not escape and that steam will build up around the onions.

Broil on high for 35 minutes. Unwrap the foil pocket exposing the onions (be careful when opening the foil as hot steam will escape). Add one pat of butter to the onions broil open for 5-10 minutes more until a desired char is achieved. Sprinkle with additional salt and garnish with lime.

Arriba Ya'll!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quick Fix: Savoy's Old Pal

Savoy's Old Pal & Pete Fountain a fantastic combination. 
Today's quick fix is MiddleBar's take on a classic cocktail that was published in the Savoy cocktail book of the 30s. This drink has an extremely herbal flavor to start but mellows and softens as the drink goes on. If you're a New Orleans local, head over to Cure and try their version of the Old Pal, the Boulevardier (it will be served up in a coupe). If you can't make it out tonight, this is a great drink to sip at home in your favorite chair while listening to some jazz records play.

MiddleBar serves it on the rocks so that every sip of this beverage is unique. Each sip changes so much, by the end of your first you'll be ready for a second. Flip the record and fill your glass for another flavor journey!

1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth or Carpano
1 oz Redemption Rye
2 dashes of Peychauds
2 dash Herbsaint

Stir and strain over a large ball of ice. Garnish with flamed lemon.

Relax Ya'll.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quick Fix: Basil Cheesecake Cocktail

Basil Cheesecake
Before prohibition the bar scene was quite a sausage fest. Saloons were off limits to ladies before 1920 and no self respecting woman would even consider stepping into one. Throughout prohibition when liquor was scarce women exercised their right to drink in the only place they could, the speakeasy.  Obviously no one was going to call the authorities and considering the new patrons cocktail attire, no one seemed to object. Once the bars re-opened in 1933 women were a permanent fixture in the bar and so where the cocktails that appealed to their palates.

Creme based cocktails became synonymous ladies and with dessert and when I think dessert, I think cheesecake. This drink is a variation on a classic sour adding egg and cream to the mix. The basil cheesecake makes an excellent nightcap but life is short, eat dessert first!

3 basil leaves
1/2 oz agave syrup
1 small egg white
1/2 oz cream
1 oz lime juice
1 oz gin

Muddle basil in lime and agave. Dry shake with cream and egg white. Add ice and shake well. Serve up in a chilled cocktail glass garnish with basil.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Hot Wings

MiddleBar Hot Wings
It's Superbowl Sunday and you NEED wings for the big game so here's the quick and easy way to do it to wow all of your friends at half time!

How the hot wing caught on as a football snack still boggles my mind considering you're usually covered in sauce. As long as you have a couple of napkins and a cold beer close by, the game just seems more interesting with wings. The history of the Buffalo Wing has been debated for almost 50 years but I stand by the New Yorkers who believe this is the true story:

The hot sauce covered chicken wing was originally created by Teressa Bellisimo at the Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Teressa was the mother of the head bartender Dominic as well as the in house chef. The story, according to the Anchor Bar, is a “kitchen sink” recipe like the nacho and the Caesar salad created for hungry partons when the cupboard was bare. Teressa threw some chicken pieces intended for stock into a fryer and covered them in a secret sauce. The bar flies loved them and soon the wing took flight and crowds flocked to Buffalo for Teressa's Buffalo hot wings.

Over 1.25 billion (yes I just said billion) hot wings will be consumed this Superbowl weekend so join in the fun with this quick and EASY hot wing recipe that you still have time to make!

MiddleBar Hot Wings
24 bone in wings (1st and 2nd wing pieces) de-thawed
1 bottle of Frank's RedHot Original sauce
2-4 tsp of flour
1/4 cup butter melted
1 rib of celery

Preheat your oven to 375. Place the wings on a baking sheet, cook for 35-45 minutes turning once until the chicken is 180 degrees. I like mine a little crispy so I drop them in the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking to get a  light char. Lightly dust the cooked wings with the flour. Not all the flour will be necessary, there should just be a very light dust to help the sauce stick to your wings. Too much flour will cause your wings to taste like flour so tread lightly. In a large bowl cover the wings with sauce (as much as you like) and butter then toss. Serve with fresh celery sticks.

Happy XLVI Ya'll! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mona's Lebanese Iced Tea

Lebanese iced tea how exotic!  But it's just a standard menu item at Mona's Cafe & Deli in New Orleans and I've never seen it served ANYWHERE else.

For years I thought for sure I could never make it myself, it's only at Mona's so it must be a secret. I scoured the internet. Nothing. Growing tired of only having this drink once or twice a year in New Orleans so I set out to create my own.

It turns out that rosewater is pretty easy to find once you're looking for it. I popped into the grocery store and discovered it on the bottom shelf of the exotic foods asile. It comes in an extremely large bottle considering the amount you need for each drink and it costs about $1.50.  As soon as you crack the seal of the bottle the smell of roses is intoxicating.  The key to  rosewater it to use it sparingly!!!! When I say sparingly, I'm talking a few DROPS, not even a teaspoon. It is so potent that it will quickly overpower your drink and anything it comes in contact with. Your tea will smell like your grandmother's jewelry box if you use too much, but when used properly it's amazing.

Mona's Lebanese Iced Tea
1 pint iced tea
1/2 fresh lemon
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 bar spoon rosewater
1 tablespoon of pine nuts

Stir and serve over ice.

Nawlins peeps, try this one and let me know what you think! If you like the rosewater try this cocktail, The Cucumber Rose!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Carpano Antica

Carpano Antica has been gradually making it's way into the American cocktail scene over the last few years. If you haven't tasted it you should and here's why.

Antonio Benedetto Carpano was an Italian distiller in the late 1700s who paired a mixture of white wine with herbs and spices creating a product he would later call vermouth. Vermouth, from the German word "vermut" or "wormwood," is an aromatic wine fortified with grain or grape spirit. If you want to learn more about vermouth, enjoy my post: NY State of Mind from Sept. 2011 by clicking here. Carpano is classified as a digestif and is a great aid to digestion after a large meal, because after all Antica was created for medicinal purposes.

Carpano is a "premium" vermouth and as with most premium alcohols the flavor profile is extremely complex. To truly understand this complexity all you have to do is sip the Carpano over a large ball of ice. The moment the Carpano touches the ice a very strong flavor bursts from the glass. As the ice slowly melts, the dry bitter spice flavors begin to mellow and notes of chocolate, caramel, and berries begin to emerge (if you don't like the first sip, let it rest). This vermouth is fantastic in a cocktail like a  Manhattan adding a deep rich bitterness that pairs nicely with the sweetness of a soft bourbon (something like Maker's Mark is perfect).

Carpano is only sold in a large bottle and does need to be consumed in a reasonable amount of time. Since it is a fortified wine it breathes like any other wine once the bottle is opened. I treat Antica as I would a fine port, drinking it within the first few weeks of opening for maximum flavor. I find that the bottle on the shelf lasts for about a month without "turning" and refrigeration adds a about 2-3 weeks more. The best way to tell if your Carpano is still drinkable is to taste it, it definitely won't hurt you or make you ill, so try it. If you like it then drink it!

This particular drink combines the Lillet Blanc, an aperitif with the digestif Carpano so it's great before or after dinner. Garnish with the zest of a fresh lemon and Regan's Orange to further accent the citric and bitter notes of both liqueurs.

2oz Carpano
2 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
Garnish with Lemon

Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled wine glass. Garnish with lemon.

Delizioso Ya'll!