Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Right after I left Chicago back in 2011, I started hearing about this wormwood liquor called Jeppson's Malort, that could only be found in Chicago. Due to its unique (and to some, off-putting) flavor, a shot of Malort is considered a right of passage for "true" Chicagoans. Challenge accepted! I knew I had to get back and try it.
I finally made it back last week and tried not one but THREE brands of Malort! Jeppson's is the original, and what most people assume you're talking about when you say "malort." The front is herby and ever-so-slightly bitter, but gives way to a smooth and lingering after-taste reminiscent of bread and butter pickles. FEW's Malort is much milder. A little sweet and very herbaceous, it reminds me more of green chartreuse than anything else. The last I tried was Letherbee's Malort, which had the most anise flavor of all of them (Binny's categorizes it with the absinthes).
I ordered my very hearty pour of Jeppson's Malort from Headquarters Beercade, home also to all the free vintage arcade games you can imagine, and a delicious "Hop Scotch" cocktail [Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, IPA, fresh lemon & Angostura]. You can get Letherbee's Malort and a $3 shot of Jeppson's from Scofflaw.
I don't pretend to be a cocktail expert, especially when it comes to making them at home. I just know I like drinking them! I also like that it seems to be an endless topic to learn about...the combinations are nearly infinite.
Usually you would name a variation on a Moscow Mule after another place, but narcissistically, I named this cocktail after myself. I trafficked a bottle of Malort to my friend in Cleveland. And so...the Malort Mule was born.
2 oz. FEW Malort
1 oz. fresh lime juice
lime peel to garnish
Fill a rocks glass with ice, add the malort and lime juice and stir. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer and garnish with the lime peel.
This recipe really only works with the FEW version of Malort. Jeppson's would be better suited for a Bloody Mary or something like that. Who knows, more skilled and creative individuals than myself have probably used it in many a delicious cocktail. But like I said, I'm a beginner, so this is a cocktail for beginners.
at 11:18 PM
Monday, October 14, 2013
Quench your thirst next Sunday with a Steigl Radler. It's one part beer, one part grapefruit soda and clocks in at a mild 2.5% alcohol. I like to call it the Poor Man's Mimosa for its sparkling, juicy qualities. It's quickly growing in popularity, not just as a day-drink, but as a boozy mixer in cocktail joints everywhere.
I ordered mine at Northside Social in Arlington, VA and Firkin in Libertyville, IL.
at 3:26 PM
Monday, September 23, 2013
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Since my sticky first attempt, I've mastered the technique of perfect risotto! The keys to my success: knowing what consistency properly cooked risotto should be, a heavy-bottomed pot (one that transfers heat evenly), and not over-stirring (thanks again, Fabio!).
The inspiration for a version of this dish came over the summer. One of my favorite things to eat when I'm home with my parents is lobster, especially since I can't really afford to make it for myself. I kept trying to get them to make lobster stock with the shells since they usually end up smelling up the garage. I didn't have anything particularly important to do this summer, so I decided to make it myself. I used the bodies of 4 lobsters, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns, covered with water, seasoned with salt, and simmered for about 2 hours.
I was left with about a quart of strained lobster stock I now had to find a use for. Visions (thats right, visions) of lobster and summer corn in a creamy risotto came to my head. I added steamed clams in case I ran out of stock.
At school without a surplus of time or lobster shells, I adapted the recipe to use store bought seafood stock (I like the Kitchen Basics brand, even though it smells pretty foul) and mussels, but you can substitute any kind of shellfish.
If you're new to risotto, you should probably read this article from Williams-Sonoma. It does a better job explaining the logic behind the process than I can. It can also serve as a template for you to design your own recipe with your own unique combination of flavors.
|Risotto should have a creamy, saucy consistency that's not stiff. It should spread out on a plate.|
3 Tbsp butter, plus more for finishing
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
3 handfulls arborio rice
1 lb mussels
1 quart seafood stock
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a large pot, bring an inch of water to a boil and add the mussels. Cover and steam until mussels open, about 7 minutes. Reserve the cooked mussels, discarding any that haven't opened, and strain and return the cooking liquid to the pot and bring to a simmer.
In a saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or pan, melt the butter and sauté the onion until translucent but not brown, adding a little salt. Add the rice and toss to coat. Stir until the outer edges of the rice grains become translucent and only a white dot in the center remains.
Then add enough of the warmed stock to just cover the rice. Let simmer (without stirring) until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir and then add two more ladles full of stock. When stock is almost absorbed, repeat the process with either more stock or some of the cooking liquid from the mussels as necessary, until the rice is tender and surrounded with saucy creaminess.
Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and 1 Tbsp of butter. Plate the risotto and top with the reserved mussels and garnish with lemon zest and parsley.
at 8:36 PM
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
When Jacob visited for my birthday weekend the weather was perfect for a Saturday on the town. We went to the West Side Market armed with his fancy new camera. The mission: to find ingredients for dinner, specifically lamb shanks.
|This little piggy went to market...|
|...and so did a lot of other pigs.|
I love that the meat vendors there usually just sell one kind of animal but in every cut imaginable. Not only can you find unusual cuts you can't find in the grocery store, but it gives the impression of efficiency and specialization. All-pork, lamb and goat, all-poultry, and all-beef vendors means less waste and higher quality (hopefully).
I was having a lot of fun with this camera. Can you tell? Buy a bunny for your honey!
The market is celebrating it's 100th anniversary any day now. From an architectural standpoint I think it may be my favorite building in Cleveland. I love the clock tower and the huge windows at the front and back reminiscent of some imaginary train station. Contrary to what I used to think, this building never served any other purpose than holding the market. The market is actually older than the building it's in.
|Photo credit: Jacob Wade|
After buying all our ingredients and drooling over all the food, Jacob and I went to the Great Lakes Brewery to have lunch and a beer flight. This was a lot of beer for two people...but totally worth it and a lot of fun. There's nothing finer than sitting outside on a gorgeous day, sipping a beverage (or several) in good company. I'll be remembering this day for a long time.
|Photo credit: Jacob Wade|
When we got home, it was time to cook! Jacob helped me with all the prep work. He's getting to be a mighty fine chopper. This was a gourmet meal if there ever was one. See the recipe for braised lamb shanks with chanterelle-sausage crust and mashed brussels sprouts from Chef Brittany Baldwin in Portland.
at 2:02 PM
As I was writing a personal statement for a scholarship application, I realized I would have to explain a lot about what it's like to be a musician. What came out is a fairly interesting piece of writing that might enlighten some of my non-musician friends and readers. For the musicians reading, this might be preaching to the choir, but on the other hand it might be thought-provoking. Here's part of my essay:
Like many people my age, I graduated from school with an undergraduate degree, a pile of debt, and poor job prospects. Unlike most people however, the poor job market for musicians is not something recent. As a music performance major, the prospect of “winning” a job in a professional orchestra has always been slim; musicians call getting the job “winning” because of the rigorous audition process one goes through in order to get the job. Instead of an interview, applicants travel to the audition site after passing the resume round, and after months of preparation, play a 10 minute audition behind a screen for a panel of judges. From there, an applicant pool of anywhere between 20 and 100 players becomes two or three finalists who play for the judges again before a winner is selected. There are three or four oboe positions in every orchestra, and an estimated 20 orchestras in the country with livable salaries. With these odds, getting the job takes intense training and with the addition of hard work, really does feel like winning the lottery.
For me, playing the oboe has been a passion of mine since I was 10 years old, and when I was applying to college at age 17 there was no other option in my mind than to play the oboe for the rest of my life. I have grown up and learned a lot about the world since then. I realized that just as one would not study political science with the sole goal of becoming the President of the Unites States, an orchestra job is not the only career option for a person with a music performance degree. More importantly, I realized that it is all right to want something different than every other music major, and that it is not inferior to do so.
Since earning my bachelor’s degree, the plight of American symphony orchestras – specifically, musicians’ strikes, declining audiences, budget cuts, and bankruptcy – has led me to the point of view that the classical music world needs innovation. I have always been convinced of the importance of music, both as an activity and an art, but there were a few events that showed me that classical music could be truly innovative.
At Northwestern I participated in an event called Music Marathon, a fundraiser for the People’s Music School, which provides free private music lessons to under-privileged children in Chicago. In order to participate in this 26-hour concert, my chamber group had to raise a minimum of $100. I was surprised by those who contributed: new and old friends who had life-changing experiences with their grade-school music programs, and parents thankful for the positive influence music had on their children’s lives. These people were willing to donate to a cause that was, in some cases, up to 2,000 miles away because they still believed in the importance of music education. Music Marathon offered them a unique opportunity to show their support for music education; instead of having to sign a petition to save a music program from being cut, they single-handedly created the opportunity for a child to receive an education in music.
Music Marathon was unique in that it showcased classical and popular music on the same program. As someone who avidly enjoys both the classical and popular music genres, I see these two media as more similar than different. I believe that the intersection of these two worlds is where classical music is going to be most successful at attracting new audiences. One particular inspiration is the Chicago Symphony’s composer in residence, Mason Bates, who moonlights as a DJ and uses electronic music elements in his orchestral compositions. The orchestra has built unique events around Bates’ music, including standing-room-only DJ sets with small groups of orchestral musicians. Putting classical art music in nontraditional environments, such as a club-like setting, attracts newer, younger audiences.
Here in Cleveland, there is a group called Classical Revolution (there are chapters in many cities across the country), which organizes chamber music concerts in bars around town. The first of these concerts I attended was at a bar called Happy Dog, which serves house-made hot dogs with custom toppings in a dive bar atmosphere. This is one of Cleveland’s “hippest” restaurants, attracting 20-somethings and locals alike. In addition to hosting Classical Revolution concerts once a month, they have weekly performances by local rock bands. The genuinely fun atmosphere in the bar fascinated me: the way the performers dressed in street clothes like rock stars instead of wearing tuxedos, the way the audience was attentive but not silent, bar regulars mixed with those who came just to see the show. The combination of the high-brow art and relatively low-brow food and beverage – hot dogs and beer instead of foie gras and wine – created an approachable, easy-going atmosphere for art to be enjoyed.
The biggest complaint for new orchestra-goers is feeling intimidated by the ritualistic traditions of a concert: knowing when to clap, how to dress, etc. Taking the same music out of the concert hall and into a relaxed, fun setting is a new mission of mine. It has become a long-term goal for me to combine my love of music and my hobby of being a foodie in a way that revolutionizes the classical music-going experience. As it is today, Classical Revolution does not have a way to pay its musicians. I want to find a way to make it a sustainable part of a freelance career.
at 12:29 AM
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Fall is nearly here. Although it's my favorite season, I am sad to say goodbye to my favorite photogenic fruit, the tomato. From now on I will be stuck with eating grape tomatoes by the pint.
to fully express my love
of the tomato.
Worst haiku ever.
at 8:59 PM