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Entries in cocktails (2)

Monday
Nov282011

Highlights from a Iaciofano Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! How was everyone's holiday? Still recovering? I thought so. Before we wander too far away from the dinner table, I'd like to recap the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2011.

As usual, Marmo made way too much food. John ate way too much apple pie. Aunt Emily drank way too much gin (thank goodness), The Box did way too much complaining about turkey being unpalatable. And I was generally good natured, pleasant, and fun to be around. I'm sure everyone would agree with that assessment.

Ahem! What follows below are the food-related highlights from our family Thanksgiving. These recipes can be used throughout your holiday season. Some of the (especially the featured cocktail) should be earmarked for use throughout the year....

I learned to make this drink at a Champagne Cocktail class given at the Astor Center. We made a lot of cocktails that night. At least I think we did.... This one is slightly sweet thanks to the Grand Marinier, delightfully citrusy, and fizz-tastic. It's fun, festive, and they go down rather easily.

The Moonwalk Champagne Cocktail

What You Need:
Makes 2 drink cocktails
A Cocktail Mixer, strainer, shot glass
Lots of ice cubes
Champagne - get one you would drink on its own, without additions
Grand Marinier
Grapefruit juice
1 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
2 champagne flutes

What You Do:
Fill your cocktail mixer with ice.

Pour two shot glasses worth of Grand Marinier into the mixer.

Pour one shot glass of grapefruit juice into the mixer.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar into the mixer.

Seal the mixer and shake it well for about 10 seconds. Don't be afraid to make lots of noise - that's the fun part (aside from drinking the resulting cocktail, that is).

Fill the champagne flutes half full with the resulting mixture.

Top with champagne.

With a peeler, peel away a two small curls of orange rind. Twist, and plop into the filled champagne flutes.

Serve! Make more. Serve those too....

This soup was the clear winner of the meal. Is it weird for a soup to walk away with the crown? Maybe but this Roasted Chestnut and Hazelnut Soup had it all: creamy, nutty and smoky (bacon AND prosciutto!). Make this ALL WINTER LONG. Please.

What You Need:
Makes 6 servings - from the Silver Palette Cookbook
1 pound raw chestnuts in shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped bacon
3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chervil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
Creme Fraiche for garnish

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the chestnuts according to this recipe.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, prosciutto, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, chervil, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and the stock. Stir in the chestnuts. Heat to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, toast the hazelnuts in the oven (or the toaster oven!) at 350 degrees until they begin to brown - about 15 minutes (less time in the toaster oven as it takes less time to heat up). Remove from the oven and rub the hazelnuts back and forth in a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, cream and brandy.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, adding a handful of hazelnuts to each batch. Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Gently reheat the soup until it is hot. Ladle it into small bowls and garnish each with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

For the turkey (seen above), there was much debate. Initially, we were going to fry one. All poultry puns aside, we chickened out. Instead, we decided on a Maple Glazed Turkey, based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. We even made The Box go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day to pick up the Riesling. We are nothing if not compassionate.

For side dishes, we did a little experimentation. Usually, we got for a Cauliflower Gratinee – a creamy, baked perfection of a dish that just happens to be vegetable based.

This time, we decided to ditch the cream (I really don't know why) and try out the Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. The combination of raisins and capers was my favorite part of this dish, as it provided that salty sweet flavor combination that I enjoy so much. It was a touch dry, and I prefer the gut-busting cream option (it's the holidays, after all, people).

For dessert the clear winner was the Apple Pie. Every year Marmo claims that this is the best pie she's made yet. She wonders if it's a new kind of butter she used.

To be honest, the pie tastes the same to me every year - AMAZING. It really is, hands down, the best apple pie I have ever had. EVER. The pie was gone by the end of the night. Can you guess who ate the whole thing? It wasn't me this time.

Seriously.

Thursday
Feb242011

The Mulberry Project



This past Friday I met a friend at The Mulberry Project. I haven't been to Little Italy in a while. But the combined enticements of checking out a new speakeasy, drinking custom-crafted gin cocktails, and sampling from an inventive menu had me searching the place out.

And when I say "searching the place out" I really mean it. There's no signage. No announcement, "hey, come in here!" (which is odd for Little Italy, as many waiters stand outside their restaurants and bars trying to encourage people to come inside). Finally, after skulking mysteriously outside what I thought was the location, I broke out the ol' iPhone and Googled to see if any previous patrons left hints as to where/how to get inside. I found some basic but helpful instructions ("look for the green light") and made my way toward the bar inside.

The Scene:
The underground lair is a long, narrow space with the bar on the right side and small tufted-couch booths on the left. The bar has bright red stools tucked under an inventive, peg-board style steel counter top behind which a pair of tall, lanky and ingenious tenders await my beverage requests.



The Grub/Bevvies:
Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to what I requested? Gin, of course. My first drink (pictured above) was a very light, fruity and slightly fizzy concoction. Waaaaay too easy to drink. By which I mean it was excellent. By the time my friend and my second drink arrived (a deeper drink featuring Bols Genever gin...something to sip, with a little infusion of orange peel) it was time for some food.



First up: Sweet Potato French Fries. Those of you who read this post are familiar with my affinity for sweet tater fries. Love 'em. So much I would eat them every day. Mulberry Project's version were a balanced salty/sweet with a slight crispiness along the squared edges. Two added bonuses: delicately fried parsley leaves topped the squishier fries, and a pool of chipotle aioli was waiting in the wings for dipping purposes. We destroyed these fries.

Then we went straight for meat: with Steak Tartare and Lamb Bacon.



I happen to like eating globs of raw meat. And please don't misunderstand, my use of the term "glob" is very positive. These fresh chunks of filet mignon were rolled around with shallots, capers and topped with a quail egg hat, resulting in a gooey, tangy and salty masterpiece. We even fought over the quail egg. A little.

So then we had some more gin (this one had ginger and some kind of floaty herb - it was my favorite drink of the evening).



And then we had the Lamb Bacon.



The thickly cut bacon was arranged into small square towers, like tiny slices of meat lasagna. In the middle, like the fountain at the Piazza Navona, was a refreshing pile of cucumber and caper topped with – can anyone guess? – a FRIED EGG!

I have already sung the praises of fried pickles (you should ALWAYS fry a pickle). I even made some of my own. Now I must move on to eggs. Lightly breaded, and still slightly soft in the center, this little gem was large enough to split (lucky for my friend). However, I would have had no problem eating the whole thing by myself.

The Bathroom:



Clean and tidy with black subway tiles and spacious mirrors, the bathroom was understated and modern. And accentuated by some very interesting art. Obviously the guy in the photo did NOT have the masterful gin drinks that I enjoyed. And does anyone have any thoughts on those polka-dotted pants? Because I may need some.

Take a stroll down Mulberry to find the Project. Walk toward the green light. And then get yourself some gin. And fries. And Lamb Bacon...

Oh yeah, and the chef's nickname is "Kiwi"...

The Experience: Napoleon Dynamite – The Offbeat Success