Holiday Merriment: Chilean PISCO COCKTAILS

Change up the routine with a new, lighter taste from the pristine lands of Chile. Chilean Pisco is the result of distilling wine and aging for a minimum of 2 months, resulting in a floral-y spirit. For a crowd, make your entertaining simpler by setting out the pretty punch with start fruit, or for consumate home-bartenders, thrill guests with these special libations from NYC mixologists. Brands available in the US: Kappa, Capel, Alto del Carmen and Control C.

The peels of three lemons, each cut into spirals with a vegetable peeler
.75 cup sugar
.75 cup fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
1 750-ml bottle Chilean Pisco
1 quart cold water
1 star fruit
Muddle the lemon peels and the sugar together and let sit for at least 90 minutes. Muddle lemon and sugar again and stir in the lemon juice. Add the pisco and the water and stir. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Before serving, cut star fruit into ¼ to ½ inch slices. To serve, pour into a one gallon Punch bowl with a large block of ice in it and float star fruit slices.

1.5 oz Chilean Pisco
.75 oz lime juice
.75 oz orgeat
1 egg white
Topped with .25 oz to .5 oz float of Chilean white wine
Shake all ingredients, except for the wine, with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float the Chilean white wine on top (this can be done by pouring the wine slowly over the back of a barspoon).
—The fun thing with this drink is that it can change slightly based on the Pisco, wine, or even orgeat that you use. Josh Perez, Booker & Dax

1.75 oz Chilean Pisco
.25 oz Grand Marnier
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
.25 oz Amaro CioCiaro
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing glass with ice. Stir thoroughly to chill. Strain over a large cube of ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a wide orange peel.
—Andrew Seymour of Vicktor & Spoils

2 oz Chilean Pisco
4 oz Jarritos Tamarindo
Pinch of salt
Squeeze of lime
Pour Pisco and Jarritos in a highball glass over ice. Add pinch of salt and squeeze of lime. Swirl and garnish with a lime or orange.
—Jason Littrell of Jbird

34º Sweet Crisps: Indulging to a Lesser Degree

Compliment your party snacks with ultra-thin wafers that offer a touch of sweetness. Light flavors of Caramel, Chocolate, Cinnamon, and Graham do well on a cheese board, and contain only 60 calories for 7-8 crackers. Also great for doling out to kids looking for a sugar fix—top with peanut butter and slice of banana or ricotta cheese and drizzle of honey. 34º offers a full line of super low-cal cracker choices.

Spice Cookbook: The Art of Blending

Give the gift of ongoing culinary experimentation. The Art of Blending by Lior Lev Sercarz features recipes by chefs around the country who are regular recipients of his special spice mixes. The book showcases the stories behind his 41 extraordinary blends, with recipe and inspiration for creating your own dishes. Beautiful photos accompany the recipes by Thomas Schauer. It’s cooking from a purely global perspective, and a true treasure trove of cooking ideas.

Bottles to Bring: Il Poggiolino Chianti

Introducing Il Poggiolino, a collection of traditional Chiantis debuting in the US. First an amusing little “history” lesson. In the Middle Ages, Florence and Siena both wanted to rule the beautiful Chianti region. To bring an end to their conflict, it was decreed that a knight from each city would leave at dawn (when the rooster crows), and the border would be established where they met. The Sienese chose a white rooster. The Florentines chose a black one, which they did not feed for days—causing the rooster to crow way before dawn on the day of the contest. The Florentine knight ended up only a short distance from Siena, thus bringing the Chianti region under Florentine rule. Today the symbol of a Black Rooster appears on the neck of bottles of wine from the Chianti Classico zone. If the seal has a red border, it’s considered “Standard” which means the wine is young and meant to be enjoyed shortly after purchase. A gold border represents a “Riserva” that can age for many years. I got to sample both varieties and thought they were all fantastic. There were also a sweet after-dinner wine, Il Vin Santo, that would make a great accompaniment to desserts or cheeses. The farm at Il Poggiolino also houses 5 acres of olive trees, and the olive oil produced is a pretty bright yellow, mellow, and amazingly fresh. (lately been coming across amazing olive oils, lucky me!) Bites were provided by The Leopard at Des Artistes restaurant, including the crostini with chicken liver, also with sauteed eggplant and red peppers. (correction: as of this writing, wines are not yet available in the US, stay tuned for their official launch coming soon)
Importer Dina Gianella at the helm.
Poggio alle Balze: a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 15% Colorino grapes. A casual, young wine.
Il Classico: Loved this one, very soft, round, velvety and feminine. Nice to drink on its own. 95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino
La Riserva: Getting more complex, earthier, spicy, berries, dark nose, even overall. 95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino.
Le Balze: Uses only the best vintages of Sangiovese grapes. Full-flavored, intense nose, ripe tannins.
Vin Santo: From the best vintages of Malvasia, Trebbiano, San Colombano, and Canaiolo grapes, picked in October and dried before pressing. Aged 12 years. Only the best is taken from the barrels. A lovely, sweet wine, but not overly so.
Delicious olive oil, packaged with the perfect pouring top, come from the same land.
Italian bites provided by The Leopard, eggplant caponata, and chicken liver on toasts


La Boîte Biscuits & Spices: Art and Spice

Chef Lior Lev Sercarz is a spice master with a playful side. Twice a year he finds inspiration from an artist to create a special series of flavored biscuits. I attended the latest exhibit, Pure Real Taste, with minimalist herb photography by Thomas Schauer. Six photos were chosen to represent the seasons’ collection, one of which decorates the biscuit box, seen in the photo above with the chef. Flavors of the biscuits range from savory to sweet. In this collection: Zuta: wild mint, dates, vanilla; Basil: sesame seeds, basil, dark chocolate; Canella: smoked cinnamon, brown sugar, white chocolate; Breeze: salted butter, walnuts, anise. You can purchase the collection at this link, for $62 (page 2 on the site) or visit the store at 724 11th Ave /51st street. If you do go to the shop, be sure to check out his exquisite spice mixes. There are 40 blends using spices from around the world, providing a shortcut for livening up a simple dish, topping desserts, or incorporating into cocktails. Lior has been providing blends to top chefs, and, upon request, will create a signature mixture for you. Here are some that are available at the store, or online at this link: Apollonia Spice Blend: Fine quality cocoa powder blended with orange blossom; Breeze Spice Blend: Tea leaves, anise, lemon. A zesty floral blend perfect for seafood, duck, mixed greens, desserts. Galil Spice Blend: Flavors of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, verbena, white cardamon, sage. See more about Chef Lior's background at this link.
 Photographer Thomas Schauer stands in front of one of his pieces, a passion fruit flower.
 More photos by Thomas Schauer.
 My friends Laura and Jude enjoyed the exhibit, one of our stops of the night.
 Biscuits were served at the event.
 A close up view: I believe this one was the Zuta: wild mint, dates, and vanilla.
The boxes set of biscuits for Pure Real Taste. Order one soon!

2013 Michelin Guide: NYC

The winners have been announced! Check out the new Michelin Guide to see which 896 restaurants in New York City are considered the finest. The guide contains full descriptions of each establishment, rated by anonymous appraisers who judge the food based on the quality of ingredients, the mastering of flavors/techniques, the personality and value of the cuisine, and if it is done consistently. A one star rating means good food prepared at a high level. Two stars are awarded to places that are outstanding. Three stars denote a spot which deserves a special journey, whose dishes are distintive and use the best ingredients. This year’s guide also contains the Bib Gourmand section, awarding 126 restaurants a spot based on the pricetag of $40 a person for two courses and wine or dessert. I went to the launch party last week at Capitale, where many of the award-winning chefs came to celebrate. Chef Marc Murphy of Landmarc opened the remarks, then new director Michael Ellis (photo above) told the story of how the Michelin guide started. (I had always wondered why a tire company was involved in cuisine.) Well, it seems that in Europe the Michelin Guide was instrumental for drivers in planning their vacations, so that they could count on finding a restaurant that was consistently good. And, being a tire company, Michelin wanted people to do a lot of driving. Now I get it! You can purchase the guide at this link, or just see the list of winners on the website.
 The bartenders were busy.
 Chef Eduard Frauneder of Edi and the Wolf and Seasonal.
Chef Brad Farmerie of Public, Saxon and Parole, The Thomas (just opened in Napa) with wife Jocelyn.

Amali Restaurant: Greek, Italian, and Turkish Delights

A surprise visit from my cousin a few weeks back led to dinner at Amali to celebrate her birthday. It had been on my list of places to go, especially since I am a big fan of their sister restaurants, Il Cantinori and Bar Six. At Amali the delightful surprises continued, starting with a butternut squash salad which was served raw. Paper-thin slices of butternut squash sat amidst paper-thin slices of sweet apples, tossed with wild sea beans (which tastes like seaweed, but is not), and garnished with flash fried kale. Simple and refreshing, the apple cider vinaigrette played perfectly with the other flavors. (My cousins were so inspired, they made a version of this when I went to visit them upstate with fresh squash from their garden and apples picked right off their tree.) I loved discovering this quick way to serve squash, I had never thought to eat it raw. Our entrees continued the splendor: Whole Grilled Dorade with meyer lemon and fennel fronds (which they, thankfully, deboned for us), Fresh Spinach Pasta with Sweetbreads, and the most amazing dish of all: Goat. We weren’t sure what to expect, so when a  perfect square of meat was presented we were even more curious (photo above). One bite was all that was necessary to determine it’s succulent, flavorful, and tender deliciousness. I just had to know how they made it, and owner James Mallios was nice enough to provide the technique (see below) from Chef Nilton Borges, Jr. I am sure this could be accomplished with brisket, or other cuts of meat, and is well worth the time put into it.

BRAISED KID GOAT with Roasted Carrots, Buttermilk Gel, Carrot Jus, Rye Crumbs
• Braise the goat with red wine and aromatics for 6 hours. Pull apart the goat meat, season it and press it into a block.
• Roasted Carrots: Reduce the braising liquid/meat scraps. Slow poach carrots in olive oil, then pan roast with the braising liquid.
• Carrot Jus: To accentuate the sweetness of the carrots, reduce carrot juice and add thyme. 
• The Buttermilk Gel is made by combining a bit of molecular gastronomy and buttermilk from Battenkill Farms to add another level of flavor.
• Just before serving the goat, pan sear the square to get a crust on top/bottom.

 butternut squash and apple salad with sea beans and fried kale
 Whole Grilled Dorade with meyer lemon and fennel fronds
 broccoli and corn side dish
 pasta with sweetbreads
 a dolled up dessert for my cousin's birthday
pumpkin panna cotta with balsamic ice cream


2E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre: Fall Cocktails

Mixologist Sachin Hasan is debuting five new cocktails in honor of the Pierre’s 82 years in NYC. Starting with tweaked classics that honor the history of the space at 2E Bar/Lounge and lead up to its present and future, they all pack fantastic combinations and some unique ingredients. Photo above shows Sachin pouring the JP Getty’s Gimlet, a combination of Stolichnaya Lemon, Beefeater Gin and St. Germain (finished drink below). Representing the future is the Star of Taj—which has a flame as one of the ingredients. Sachin capitalizes on his Indian background, incorporating herbs and spices for maximum effect. While trying the cocktails, we got a taste of the new menu as well, available till the end of the year. Scroll down through the photos below for details.
JP Getty’s Gimlet
To create the Star of Taj Sachin Hasan lights the Green Chartreuse, Absinthe, and mix of Indian spices: curry leaves, cardamom, and peppercorn. 
The lighted mix gets added to the other ingredients, which were previously shaken: Bombay Sapphire Gin, Creme de Cassis, Passion Fruit and Orange Juice.
Note the flame still going in the glass!
The final step: stirring it all together.
Sampling the menu: From front to back: Quinoa Tabouleh with Quail Egg and Truffle Hollandaise, Seared Tuna with Avocado Pulp and Lobster Vierge, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Paprika and Lemon Creme Fraiche, Curried Shrimp with Green Apple Salad, Bruschetta with Roasted Kabocha and Burrata. 
A closer look at Seared Tuna with Avocado Pulp and Lobster Vierge.
A closer look at Curried Shrimp with Green Apple Salad.
Also on the cocktail menu, Rotunda’s Whiskey Sour: Maker’s Mark infused with Lemon Verbena Tea, Fresh Citrus Mix of Lime, Lemon, Yuzu, Pasteurized Egg White and Old Aromatic Bitters.
Loved this one. The Pierre Sparkle: Tanqueray Ten, Lychee Liqueur, St. Germain, topped with Champagne.


The Latin Road Home: Jose Garces’ Recipes from Equador, Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Peru

If you are a Latin food lover, here is your best opportunity to tast top-level dishes featuring the cuisines from five countries. Iron Chef Jose Garces is throwing a bash on October 9th to celebrate the launch of his new cookbook: The Latin Road Home. The book is a testament to his culinary history, featuring recipes gathered from his experiences as he traveled through, lived in, and founded restaurants based on the cuisines from Ecuador, Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Peru. Honoring this, the event will have a food station set up for each country. Festivities will be held at JG Domestic in Philadelphia, located only steps away from the 30th Street train station. See details and buy tickets at this link. I plan to arrive at 6, and take the last train back to NYC. (I worked with Jose and the fabulous team at Lake Isle Press to design the book, and am overjoyed to see over 2 years work come to fruition.)  Don’t miss this event—and be sure to check out the super recipes in the book. See pages from the book below.