Alright, here is the first of the recipes and of course I start with booze! This recipe I found on Saveur’s website. I thought it sounded amazing and it was! How can you go wrong with bourbon and cider? I make a similar version that involves bourbon, cider, and sparkling wine — very festive. Anyhoo, here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 oz. bourbon
- 1 oz. cider syrup
- strip of lemon zest
Combine bourbon and cider syrup over ice and stir. Twist the lemon zest to release the lemon oil and drop into the drink. Stir again and serve!
Notes — Cider syrup is essentially some cider that has been really boiled down. I started out with about 6 – 7 cups of cider and boiled it down to about a cup or a cup and a half. It maybe filled the syrup dispenser shown in the pics to about 80%. According to the recipe, you’ll need to boil it down gently for about 2 hours; mine took about 3. . . The bourbon that I used is from the Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City. I had gone up there for a vacation just before the summer tourist season started. I was absolutely floored by it! This was one of the places that I had definitely wanted to visit while up north and I was not disappointed. They only make some small batches and they only had a few bottles left when I was there. Luckily I had picked up a bottle for me and one as a gift. What’s nice is that they do their very best to use locally produced grains to make their spirits. I believe that everything is Michigan made, except for the bourbon — I think they need to get the barley from out-of-state. If I remember correctly, it is 70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% barley. I was familiar with their high quality vodkas and now they are working on making a gin and rum as well. I can’t wait to go back and see what else they’ve got and luckily they are building a tasting room in Novi, MI so I won’t have to drive up to Traverse City to get myself a taste!. . .
Hey y’all! I’ve had a weird week, and not in a good way. I had a weird interview followed by back-to-back days of unrelated volleyball injuries. Huzzah! Well, watching this video made me feel better. It is fall and if you remember my post from a couple of weeks back, it is time for Pumpkin-Spice everything! This video shows how some people might feel about that. And yes, I did post this on Facebook yesterday, but I liked it so much I wanted to share it here.
Bonus post! Aren’t you excited? And you thought Friday the 13th is bad luck! Just saw this yesterday on the blog by Amy Blandes and just had to share. This is my favorite time of year. Check out this post from a couple of weeks ago which helps explain why. It just makes me think of cozying up with friends and family with a lot of food and booze. And it’s good to celebrate with your peeps!
But it’s not just the time for pumpkin this and pumpkin that. There’s pumpkin-pie-spice-flavored everything, too. Like those M&Ms that I’ve never seen before. Oh well, Happy Friday!
Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it — the smells, the cooler days, the crisper nights, the colors, the pies, Halloween, Thanksgiving, volleyball and football start up again — what’s not to love? Alright, I admit there is one thing I don’t like — cleaning up all those damn leaves on my property. I own about an acre of land with maybe 20 giant oak trees. So the leaves can pile up and pile up quickly. And unlike in some neighboring cities, I can’t just push my leaves into the road, so I either have to do it myself or hire someone else to do it. But that’s a whole other issue. . .
Anyhoo, I saw this the other day on Facebook and wanted to share. This appeared on my feed from the magazine Midwest Living. This sums up everything that is awesome about Fall and I wanted to share it with y’all. What do y’all like about Autumn? Just let me know — either here or on Facebook! I gots a recipe for some Gluten-Free Rocky Road Brownies coming up later this week, and hopefully some other fun stuff.
It’s August and Summer is in full swing here in Michigan. Actually, with the weather we’ve been having here the past few weeks, it feels like Fall. Not that I mind the cooler temperatures; I’m just hope the mild summer is not going to translate into a brutal winter. But enough about that — nothing says summer quite like a nice boozy watermelon punch.
I did just have my summer shindig recently and made this again. I usually have 4 big get-togethers each year when I invite my close friends (actually I consider these guys to be family) and treat them to some free food and booze. Sure this explanation is a little simplistic, but y’all don’t need to get into my big bag of crazy when it comes to planning and prep. I actually don’t remember what else I made, other than stuff on the grill. But I did remember this! Making this concoction this time seemed a lot easier, but last time I was face down in my backyard all afternoon so who knows what my recollection can actually count for. And, of course, I could not find my old recipe no matter how much I looked around for it. So this is a whole new deal.
Now I really like this recipe. I didn’t think it was overly sweet and you could still pick up on all the ingredients. And if you are like me, you may just have a couple of portions of mint syrup just hanging out in the freezer for emergencies.
I did hollow out the watermelon and use it as a serving utensil, which is completely optional. I like the presentation. If you were interested in serving it this way but don’t know where to get a spigot like this, you could check out your local brewer’s supply shop. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 watermelon (medium-sized, I guess. Use the pictures as a reference)
- 1/2 – 1 c. vodka
- 1 c. cachaça
- 1 1/2 c. rum (I used a dark 8-year-old rum)
- 4 oz. Midori
- 6 limes, juiced
- 2 c. mint syrup
1. Take your watermelon and see if it’s able to stand on its end. If not, just cut off a small slice to level it off, making sure not to expose any of the inner flesh.
2. Cut off the top couple of inches of the watermelon to expose some of the red flesh inside (wow that sounds a little macabre). Using an ice cream scoop, start scooping out the fruit (berry?) and place it in a food processor. Pulse it in batches until smooth and run the purée through a fine sieve set over a large bowl.
3. In a large pitcher or jug, combine the vodka, cachaça, rum, Midori, lime juice, and mint syrup. Stir to blend.
4. Add the strained watermelon juice and stir to combine. You can refrigerate this overnight, just be sure to mix it before hand.
5. Pour yourself a little happy. Add some ice if you like!
Notes — you may want to run the watermelon through a very fine sieve. you could just line a sieve with some paper towel, but that sounds like a long process. . . if you cut off too much on the bottom to level the watermelon, it’s not the end of the world. just be sure not to hollow out the watermelon too much or you will have a boozy, leaky mess on your hands. . . also, be careful not to take out too much of the pulp (is that the right term?). if you are overzealous with your scraping, the hollowed out shell might crack and there’s another boozy, leaky mess. . .
Today is Paczki Day! While other folks may be celebrating Mardi Gras or Carnivale, here in the Midwest we have Paczki Day. Well, it might not be particular to the Midwest, because if you live anywhere with a large Polish population, you probably know about Paczkis. But here in SE Michigan, we can’t get enough. According to AnnArbor.com, we here are crazy about paczkis and lead the nation in Google searches about Paczki Day. Personally, I never even heard of a paczki until I started living in Michigan. And thanks to the large Polish population in Hamtramck, MI (which is a city within Detroit), I am hooked!
But, let me back up a little bit. Some of y’all might not know what a Paczki is. First of all, it’s pronounced POONCH-key or PUNCH-key. These are Polish jelly-filled donuts which are traditionally served the day before Lent, which is the 40 days of sacrifice and penance before Easter. They came about as a way to use up all the lard, butter, sugar, and eggs in the pantry, because if you do celebrate Lent, you won’t be using any of those ingredients for the next 5 1/2 weeks. So, much like Mardi Gras, paczkis are one last indulgence before 40 days of fasting.
In the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, probably all over Michigan, you can find local big box grocery stores stocked with them. I even found them as early as the first week of February. At places like these, you can find fillings like strawberry, lemon, or custard, but you probably won’t find the traditional flavors like prune or rosehip. Prune you’re more likely to find, but you have to work to find rosehip. Again, if you don’t know, rosehips are the fruit of the rose. When you leave the rose on the bush (particularly Rugosa roses) and allow it to wither, what eventually develops is a rosehip. They kinda look like those tiny tomatoes you find at the grocery, but on a rose bush. And in case you were wondering, they are very, very, very high in vitamin C.
There are several places around here where you can find some paczkis. All the big grocery stores have them — Kroger, Meijer, and Busch’s — and some other specialty establishments like Plum Market and the renowned Zingerman’s. Normally, I go to Copernicus Deli (where you can find some rosehip), but this year I got my first sampling of the goods from Ypsilanti’s Dom Bakeries. They were already my favorite donut shop in town (their apple fritters are ridiculously good!), but I never thought to stop in for some paczkis. But I’ll be heading to Copernicus this morning anyway to get some rose ones due to a special request from a Michigan ex-pat down in Key West.
So, if you have a Polish neighborhood in town, be sure to go on a hunt for paczkis today. Better yet, make a trip down to Hamtramck, MI and participate in the festivities throughout the day (I really should work for the Michigan tourist board). Don’t deprive yourself of this yearly event of sweet, deep-fried culture. And be sure to visit me on Facebook — I’m up to 7 likes now!
I was hoping to post this sooner, but I was having some problems with editing. For whatever reason none of my revisions were saved and I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Eventually I figured it out so I apologize for being behind on posts. But I digress. . . On to my story. . .
I am a car nut. Not a gear head, mind you, because I can barely change a tire. I can do stuff like switch out headlamps, but adding some forced induction to boost performance is way, way, way over my head. I just love driving them (one of my favorite pastimes [I think that’s spelled wrong] is going out for test drives of new cars). I like seeing what’s new and improved, seeing what sexy concepts are coming, and following all the latest automotive news. And one of the great things about living in SE Michigan is that the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is held every January right in downtown Detroit. Luckily I got a chance to go on the last day of the 2012 show on Sunday, January 22nd. Now if you love cars, this is one of the best shows in the country, if not THE best. Over the past couple of years, the NAIAS saw a drop which coincided with the economic downturn. Automotive companies withdrew from the show, major debuts and premieres were shifted to places like Chicago, New York, or Geneva, and attendance dropped. But from the looks of everything, the show has come back in a big way.
Another great thing about SE Michigan is Slow’s BBQ. For the past couple of years, our new tradition has been to go to the auto show and afterwards head on down to Slow’s for some beers and a meal of barbecued deliciousness. Slow’s has generated a big name for itself not just among locals, but across the country. There was even a nice article in the New York Times about how Slow’s is helping to revitalize downtown Detroit.
So let’s get down to business. . . after hanging out at the auto show for a few hours, we got in around lunchtime (like around 1:00), so it was packed with an hour wait (the crowd does thin out around 3:00 so that could be a good time to go). You could try and get a seat at the bar, but I wanted a table and didn’t mind the wait. Besides, it gave me a chance to look over all the pics from the auto show. Plus, I get a chance to figure out what beers I want to try — they have about 60 bottles and 20 beers on tap.
We started out with the Fried Catfish Appetizer and a couple of beers — specifically Bell’s Hopslam and Short’s Sour Puss. These are two of my favorite breweries and if you come across either of these two I definitely suggest you try them. The Hopslam is hoppy, and bright, and has strong flavor of grapefruit (especially on the aftertaste). This is another one of the Bell’s beers that has a cult-like following, especially since it’s available for only about one month out of the year. It is a lot stronger than your average ale, with a 10% alcohol rating. Now, as for the Sour Puss, I was not familiar with it and I couldn’t find any info about it at all on their website. So I had to drop the brewery a line; I haven’t heard back from Short’s so your guess is as good as mine. But I will be scouring stores in my area to see if I can get my hands on some. No surprise, but there is a very strong sour flavor and it was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. It was layered and complex, but I have no frame of reference for me to compare. I just know that I loved it! Unfortunately for a lot of y’all, Short’s beers are available only in Michigan, and they don’t have any plans to change that any time soon. But hey, that’s a great reason to come and visit the state and visit Short’s Pub in Bellaire, MI.
So, on to the catfish. . . these morsels were perfectly cooked and served hot with a side of remoulade. These were described as having a “tempura” batter, but that really wasn’t the case. It was a lot more substantial than you would find in a tempura, but it didn’t overpower the fish. I think that the cornmeal in the batter helped out with that.
Another round of beers. . . another Hopslam and this time I wanted to try the Firkin of Pineapple Ale. Again, I don’t know much about this one and didn’t think to ask. I’m still learning how to be a restaurant critic so I will try to remember to be more inquisitive. . . and to bring a pen and paper because using the notepad on my phone is a pain! Now I’d say that this ale is closest to an IPA but on the sweeter side. I didn’t quite catch flavors of pineapple, but I did get apple and citrus notes. Since it was served closer to room temperature, the other flavors were easier to pick up. Now this is definitely a better choice for the meal, because the Sour Puss might probably overpower the rest of the meal with its intensity.
And now for the main course. . . we got the Longhorn sandwich with a side of waffle fries and the Big Three entrée with a side of green beans and the delicious Mac and Cheese. The Longhorn is a sandwich with sliced beef brisket, onion marmalade, and shredded smoked Gouda. The Big Three is pretty much a sampler platter of their barbeque offerings — pulled pork, pulled chicken, and the brisket. Honestly, I think the brisket is the star. You can get some of the crispy charring on the outside coupled with flavors with some of the fat on the beef (the fat is where the flavor is at!). So not only do you get the layers of flavors, but also layers of texture which add a great deal to the experience. I definitely think the brisket could stand on its own without any additional sauces or additions, but of course, that didn’t stop me from trying different combinations! Don’t get me wrong — I love the pork and the chicken, but they can be a little bit on the lean side which means they are perfect vehicles for Slow’s selection of sauces.
There’s a selection of four sauces — Apple, Sweet, Spicy, and North Carolina. In my opinion, the best all-arounders would be the smokey, sweet Apple and the vinegary North Carolina. I think the Spicy works best with the pulled pork, and the Sweet goes well with the chicken. Keep in mind that there are other dishes there, like the ribs, salmon, jambalaya, even vegetarian options, so these sauces could strut their stuff with other pairings. Maybe one of these days I’ll opt for the ribs and a side of the black-eyed peas. And maybe one of these days, I’ll remember to leave room for dessert.
Slow’s BBQ is quickly becoming an Michigan culinary institution, if it isn’t one already. I think that over hour wait that you’re likely to encounter when you get here attests to that. But if you can wrangle up 5 of your friends, you can call ahead for a table because they take reservations for parties of 6 or more. I love Slow’s and I recommend you checking them out. If you’re careful, your bill doesn’t have to be exorbitant like mine tends to be. But I get here once a year, and what can I say? — I’m a sucker for great food and great beer!
This is one of several “holiday menu” installments, so brace yourselves! Alright, so let’s start the holidays off right with some eggnog. The recipe that I’ve been using for the past couple of years has been adapted from Martha Stewart. Now I was looking on her website a couple of weeks ago and I really couldn’t find the right recipe. I found one for her “Classic Eggnog” but the amount of booze seemed a lot lower than I remember; even if you made a double batch it still didn’t sound right. Luckily I found one on Food.com which was a lot closer to what I remember. Of course, I changed it a little — I changed it from 1/2 c. rum to a full cup because why would you just put 1/2 c. of rum into anything?
In addition to a nice large serving bowl, here’s what you need:
- 12 eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 c. superfine sugar
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 1/2 quarts heavy cream
- 3 c. bourbon
- 2 c. cognac
- 1 c. dark rum
- freshly grated nutmeg
1. In a very large bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar to the yolks, whisking to combine. Gradually whisk in the milk and 1 qt. of the cream. Now add your bourbon, rum, and cognac, stirring constantly. You can make this base of the eggnog a day or so in advance.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff (you can add a little bit of sugar if you like). Gently fold that into the mixture.
3. Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and dollop or fold into the mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
Notes — There is a caution at the bottom of the recipes that I found stating that “raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.” It’s probably a not to let pregnant women, babies, or young children to drink something this boozy!. . . supposedly this serves 24.