Monday, July 9, 2012

Funky "SoulFuel" Food and Motown - Needle In a Haystack

Needle in a Haystack

2 oz. Incentive Vodka (Big Cedar Distilling Inc.., Sturgis, MI)
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
1/4 oz. locally-sourced maple syrup
3/4 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 drops of Cherry Bitters
2 drops of Chokecherry tincture** (provided by Eric Lester, Professional Forager)
1 small sprig of spruce tree tips (see photo)

Combine all ingredients and shake with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with spruce tip.

**Cherry juice concentrate can be substituted for chokecherry tincture

Photo courtesy of Angie Jackson, The Traveling Elixir Fixer

"Cause findin' a good man, girls, is like findin' a needle in a haystack"
The Velvelettes

On a recent trek to Fernwood Botanic Garden in Niles, Michigan for a "Woods to Glass" Cocktail Workshop, sponsored by Edible Michiana, the Traveling Elixir Fixer created a PURE MICHIGAN cocktail honoring her elementary school music teacher, Bertha Barbee McNeal, a member of Kalamazoo's hometown Motown girl group, The Velvelettes.  Feeling the funky "soulfuel" sensation of pure sensory analysis, the vegan and vegetarian restaurant, Fuel -Unpredictably Vegetarian, was used as the backdrop for the cocktail photo, Needle in a Haystack, named after one of The Velvelettes hit songs.  

Fuel is an outpost hot spot, chill spot, and a home to healthy living.   A home of culinary wellness and creatively hatched by Executive Chef Denise Miller.  Head-bobbing hip with honest food, local food and comfort food. Foods of the world, robust and imaginative, deeply flavorful with textures and colors that go pop to the eye and tantalize the tastebuds. Beautiful plates but more - Plant-based, grain-based, eco-responsible and nutritious all wrapped up in a socially-conscious and aesthetically inspiring environment sprinkled with a dash of local art, artists, poets and musicians, guest chefs and djs. Fuel is filled with tables of understanding - and they have a chair with your name on it.  I've described Fuel as a combination platter of Chicago's Wishbone meeting Karen's Raw. 

Fuel is a funky 18-seat completely vegetarian eatery set inside a vintage filling station at the busy corner of South Burdick and East Alcott Streets in the southside neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan and is open Thursday - Saturday, 5pm - 9pm and Sunday, 10am - 2pm. Reservations are accepted and highly recommended.

From Wikipedia:  "The Velvelettes got their break chartwise in the spring of 1964 thanks to young producer Norman Whitfield, who produced "Needle In A Haystack" as a single for the group, on Motown's VIP Records imprint. "Needle In A Haystack" peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in mid 1964." 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Ginful Apple Featuring Bilberry Blackhearts Gin and Thatcher's Blood Orange Liqueur

The Ginful Apple

3/4 oz. Thatcher's Blood Orange Liqueur 
1 oz. Indian Summer Apple Juice 
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (2:1 ratio)
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
2" cinnamon stick

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston Shaker, shake ingredients for 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

A perfect "Orchard-to-Glass" representation of all things PURE in Michigan, the Ginful Apple cocktail not only uses Michigan distilled spirits, they are also organic.    This is our contribution to great Lenten cocktails for those who chose to give up something other than spirits for those forty days.

Cocktail recipe adapted and inspired by one of my Kendall College HOS 123 - Mixology student's final exam.  CHEERS and ENJOY!

A clean, crisp and bright organic gin with a more forward fruit flavor profile of fig, black licorice that follows with hints of spice and juniper.   

Tasting Notes: "With every sip you'll enjoy the juicy flavor of an orange freshly picked from the grove, noticing just a hint of fresh raspberry."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Delilah's Slap 'n Tickle using W.R. White Rye Whiskey

Delilah's Slap and Tickle

2 oz. W. R. White Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Orange/Honey/Sage Simple Syrup
3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Orange Bitters
Ginger Ale
Sprig of fresh sage (garnish)

Combine whiskey, syrup, lemon juice, and orange bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice to Boston Shaker and shake ingredients for 10 seconds.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and add a generous splash of ginger ale.  Gently stir, and garnish with a fresh sprig of sage and a swizzle stick. Release the essential aroma of the herb by placing the sage sprig in one palm of your hands and "slapping" it with the other hand before garnishing the cocktail.  

Orange/Honey/Sage Simple Syrup
4 oz. locally-sourced honey
4 oz. water
8 oz. Orange Marmalade
1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
Juice of two oranges
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Heat water in a non-reactive pan over medium heat. Add honey, stirring until completely dissolved. Add orange marmalade and continue stirring until dissolved.  Add sugar and the juice of one orange, and continue stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add sage leaves. Steep in syrup for 15-20 minutes or until flavor profile is achieved.  Remove sage, fine strain into a bottle and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Delilah DeWylde & The Lost Boys
This cocktail creation is inspired by Delilah DeDwylde & The Lost Boys' most  recent performance at Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo, MI.   The name was inspired by Delilah's upright bass/lead vocal performance.  She has been described as, "Her outsized stage presence is the centerpiece of the show — one minute singing sweetly, the next standing on her bass and slapping it into submission." The trio describe themselves as "a succession of no-good punks and ill-mannered teenagers that took the best of American roots music — hard-partying honky tonk country, searing gutbucket blues and lonesome hillbilly twang — and distilled it into a potent moonshine known as rockabilly. This combustible formula, passed down through the generations, forms the heart of the revved-up stylings of Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys."  I recently described the band after a live stage performance, "if Buddy Holly, Chet Atkins and Patsy Cline had a three-way at Pulp Fiction's "Jack Rabbit Slim's," the triplets of Delilah and her Lost Boys would have been conceived."

I decided to use W. R. White Rye Whiskey from Journeyman Distillery (Three Oaks, MI) as the backbone of this creation. Rye Whiskey has a clean, crisp and slightly spicy flavor profile, very reminiscent of the trio's Friday evening performance, as opposed to the bitter/sweet flavor profile of corn-based moonshine. The orange/honey/sage simple syrup flavors represent each member of the trio. Honey represents Delilah DeWylde (Upright Bass/Lead Vocal) with its sweet and astringent heating components, just like Delilah heats up the crowd with her onstage performance and her sweet, pure and earthy vocals. Orange represents Lee Harvey (Guitar), who happens to play an orange Gretsch Guitar.  Orange gets brighter with the flavor of lemon, and Lee Harvey's relationship with his guitar is a bright and vibrant one that heats up as the evening progresses. Sage represents drummer D. J. McCoy.  Sage is a moderate-heavy weight herb and speaks in loud volumes as the driving flavor force in the syrup.  D. J. brings everything together with the backbone beat just like Sage adds the perfect element to this flavored simple syrup.  
Delilah's Slap 'n Tickle Cocktail
Pictured with The Carter Family
Be sure to catch this fabulous honky-tonkin' rockabilly trio next time they grace the stage in your area.  In the meantime, enjoy this little one minute video I captured at their recent show at Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  CHEERS!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day Trippin' on a Liquid Mission to Harbor Country

There comes a time when everyone needs to get away for an afternoon.  This time was well overdue for two Chicago Mixologists.  We were ready to get away and experience SW Michigan's Harbor Country in all liquid forms.  Yes, we were on a liquid mission.  My most amazing friend, traveling companion and co-pilot, Ms. Lynn House, Chief Mixologist at Blackbird Restaurant, and I decided to go day trippin' on a liquid mission to SW Michigan one day in late December 2011 (no, not '63, Frankie Valli Fans).  We were armed with a Jeep full of gas, a bottle of Pineapple/Brown Sugar/Habanero Syrup, a Christmas tree ornament shaped like a margarita (compliments of The Cocktail Cottage), and a pre-bottled cocktail for Jill Sites at Greenbush Brewing Co. using Journeyman Distillery's W.R. Welter White Whiskey as a belated birthday cocktail. 

The first stop on our liquid adventure took us to David's Delicatessen in New Buffalo, Michigan where Joe treated us to one of their tantalizing iced tea creations using Intelligentsia's Pomegranate Tea, and a fine roasted cup of java to get the day sippin' started.

We felt it only fitting to stop at Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks.  After all, we were on a liquid mission and we had heard through the Michigan grapevine that the newly released Bilberry Black Hearts Gin was available and ready for tasting.  A New World style gin, Bilberry Black Hearts Gin introduces a new flavor to gin lovers. Bilberries are closely related to North American blueberries and huckleberries. Bilberries produce single or paired berries on the bush instead of clusters, as the blueberry does. The fruit is smaller than that of the blueberry, but with a fuller taste. Bilberries are darker in color, and usually appear near black with a slight shade of purple.  We were both impressed with this gin interpretation that has a more fruit-forward expression with a gentler juniper  flavor profile.  We found that this would be an exceptional gin in the classic Gin and Tonic, Tom Collins, Gin Rickey and the French 75.  This would also make an exceptional gin style for lighter food pairings and brunch gatherings.  We also brought good tidings of cheer to our friends at Journeyman in the form of spiced orange honey syrup.  We mixed the syrup with Bilberry Black Hearts Gin and a little fresh squeezed lemon juice.  This syrup danced beautifully with the Bilberry Blackheart Gin and with a light dusting of Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co's Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon, this would be a fantastic and simple cocktail to ring in the holiday cheer with family and friends. 

Greenbush Brewing Company, Sawyer, MI
Our liquid journey down Pure Michigan's Life Highway (a.k.a. Red Arrow Highway) took us to Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, Michigan.  We both were excited to sample their beer offerings.  Lynn's beer flavor palate falls under the bitter and scorned IPA family side of the beer style spectrum, where my flavors fall under the lighter and less serious wheat side of the family. With our two completely differing palate preferences, we were ready for Greenbush Brewing Co.  Jennifer Piotter, reigning Beer Ambassador and Goddess of Charm, greeted us like we were family, so we decided to leave our tasting decisions up to our most awesome hostess who promptly chose the following for our sample flight.

My three favorites revolved around Apathy Oatmeal Stout, Distorter Porter and my winning, "I'll pick up a six-pack anytime I get the chance" vote, the Red Bud Wheat Ale.  What can I say?  I have a tendency to favor and prefer my German/Austrian ancestry roots when it comes to beer.  I return to my true blooded American roots with Bourbon.  I can handle an IPA every now and then and Triple IPAs just scare me.  They remind me of Triple Dog Dares, I run away every time with my tail between my legs from that prominent bitter, hopped-up flavor profile.  Even the "Quadruple-IPA Explorer of Hops," Lynn House, enjoyed the Red Bud Wheat Ale.  Described as a "directionally-challenged ale," we both found Red Bud to be a fun and unique expression of an American Wheat ale with just enough body to keep intermediate and advanced craft brew sippers happy and light enough to enjoy throughout the day.

Greenbush Tasting Flight

I mentioned that Lynn House is a worldly explorer of hops. She searches the world hoping to find the lost ark containing the most bitter of the bittered hops. She dreams of the day when someone creates a Quadruple IPA for her, and every year she adds this to the top of her Christmas list in hopes that this year will be the year her wish and dreams are fulfilled. Lynn's dreams were answered at Greenbush in the form of Anger Black IPA, described as "a haughty black India Pale Ale with a bit of pent-up attitude for those "special" days.  An addicting little cascadian black IPA using Belgian dark malts and dry-hopped for intense aroma. Release some bottled-up Anger and learn to enjoy life a little." Lynn didn't get angry; in fact, it made her very happy. She smiled, laughed and said, "oh yes, I am HOME." Another winning contestant for Lynn came in the form of Greenbush's Closure Pale Ale. Closure doesn't stick around long as a new and different hop variety is introduced every time they brew a batch. This is what Lynn calls a great "session" beer, in other words, something that can be sipped on throughout the day and enjoyed the entire experience. We both agreed there is a beer for everyone at Greenbush. Their beer stylings spoke true to the categories and came with great balance.

We decided to have some lunch while sampling our tasting flight, and Greenbush was a great place to grab a snack and a sandwich. Greenbush doesn't sport a large food menu. They don't need to - they focus on serving what they have for the day and we both agreed, they do it quite well. We each ordered the turkey cheddar melt with bacon and remoulade as well as the pub cheese and pretzels. The turkey cheddar melt was the kind of sandwich you want to make at home but never have the time. All paired exceptionally well with our tasting flight. It was heaven in liquid and solid form and all served at a bar stool in Sawyer, Michigan.

The next leg of our day trippin' journey took us to Hickory Creek Winery in Buchanan, MI. Mother Nature played some serious tricks with the Midwest winter weather.  We honestly felt like it was early November and not late December, with virtually no snow and temperatures in the 40's.  Driving down the back country roads leading to these fabulous SW Michigan wineries was half the fun.  These are the winter vines at Hickory Creek Winery as we entered the driveway of the tasting room.  

We sampled the 2009 Pinot Gris. This Pinot Gris is reminiscent of Alto Adige. Rich aromas of dried hay and floral notes. Fresh herbs on the palate with good acid structure. WONDERFUL - produced to huge smiles from our tasters.  Pictured with our Solstice Celebration mascot - the holiday ornament shaped like a margarita from The Cocktail Cottage.

Lynn's favorite tasting at Hickory Creek Winery was the 2009 Zero Oak Chardonnay with it's gooseberry and fruit forward flavorings, Lynn found the acidity to be perfect and very reminiscent of unoaked Australian chardonnays, and by far one of the best chardonnays she has tasted recently with its rich, ripe, and full-bodied flavor on the palate with a lengthy finish.

2006 Melange tasting pictured with our version of a roaving gnome - a margarita-shaped holiday ornament compliments of The Cocktail Cottage. This Melange, a cooler vintage, gives a bright ruby color. Slightly closed, but well-developed red fruit. This blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Merlot has aromas of cherry, raspberry and currant. Toasty cocoa balances minerals and fruit on the palate. This has a lengthy finish with soft tannins. Drink now or cellar - - we chose to drink now...WONDERFUL.

Liquid mission accomplished.  Cheers to you, Michigan.  The world will soon find out just how cool you really are.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Cusp of Magic and the Art of Balance at O’Duffy’s Pub, Kalamazoo, MI

“Just like everything in life, the perfect cocktail is all about BALANCE.” More often than not, I begin a class or cocktail demonstration with this statement. The cocktail is a balancing act of Spirit, Sugar, Bitters and Water with a little bit of magic added by the mixer. Distillation in the late Middle Ages produced strong, fiery and raw spirits. Methods for softening these harsh distillates included flavoring with herbs, sweeteners, or outright mixing with wine, beer, or water. The first art of “balance,” or taming of the Swill, occurred in the early 17th century in India. “Panch,” the Farsi and Hindi words for “five,” contained five elements: Liquor, Sugar, Citrus Juice, Tea (or other spice) and Water. You know “Panch.” We call it “Punch.” Many cocktails began as punches, including the Tom Collins (1820-1830), born in London and created for gin to be stretched out with iced soda water in punch form.

O'Duffy's Irish Pub
(photo courtesy of O'Duffy's Pub)
On a recent trip to Kalamazoo, we decided to visit the only neighborhood Irish pub in the area. We had heard through the grapevine this little tucked-away watering hole was modeled after the neighborhood pubs in Chicago that are lively and prevalent throughout every neighborhood.  O’Duffy’s Pub is family-owned with real food, real beer, and really wonderful people. Serving Gold Standard Award Guinness Pints every time, O’Duffy’s opened in the summer of 1999 and is located at the corner of West Vine and Locust Streets in the historic Vine neighborhood, a neighborhood filled with architectural beauty that houses a beautiful and diverse group of inhabitants. Upstairs is Cosmo’s Cucina, a contemporary oasis offering affordable gourmet cuisine through simply creative cooking, and was established in November 1992.  The pub was lively and filled with an eclectic group of patrons that ran the gauntlet from senior citizens, to college students who lived in the area, to young families with their children.  We were greeted by quaint and historical charm in the form of fabulous wood floors, a tin ceiling and a magnificent Brunswick Bar.  (The Bar fixture was built somewhere between 1890 – 1915 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Sold by a billiard dealer on North Halsted in Chicago, and delivered to Mr. Paul in Michigan City, Indiana.  This piece of bar “art” more than likely was housed in the Spaulding Hotel.)  It was VERY cold out this particular Saturday.  The temperature was painful outdoors and ranged between 10 to 15 degrees, depending on if you caught the sun for a brief moment between snow showers. We sat down and my natural instinct was to order some whiskey to warm up.  What else would one order at an Irish pub?  

My eyes began to gaze across the beautiful wood of the Brunswick bar and noticed a rather large glass infusion jar with a spigot.  I pointed out this little liquid treasure to my companions and we decided we wanted to know what Pandora’s Jar had in store for us.  Our server, Brittany, returned shortly to see how we were doing and we asked the question, “So, what’s up with that canister of infused goodness sitting on the bar?”  Brittany, whom I should mention NEVER stopped smiling the entire time we were there, promptly filled us in.  

O'Duffy's Pub Winter Sangria
The magical canister contained winter sangria that was created by the bartender, Larissa Long.  Brittany further explained the sangria contained rum, chardonnay, triple sec and triple citrus flavors.  Ding Ding!  We had a winner and we wanted a glass.  Besides, Brittany’s description was spot-on and her natural excitement as she described the libation was enough to get us to want it even more.  I noticed a nice balance with my first sip.  We settled in and I continued to enjoy my crisp and effervescent wintery blend of what we soon named, “Snow Globe Sangria.”  Lake effect snow bands were kicking up at intervals during our stay, and at times snow was coming down in large fluffy flakes at a rapid rate.  The snow shower resembled the snow created in a snow globe and we felt like we were in our own little Irish Pub version of these nostalgic art pieces.

Larissa Long - O'Duffy's Pub
Larissa Long began bartending 2 ½ years ago, and is mixing and balancing her libation craft at O’Duffy’s Pub.  Larissa explained that she used Blanco (Silver) Rum, an older, and aged chardonnay that was dry with heavy oak and butter notes that she balanced with the earthy flavor profiles of agave nectar.  She followed up with triple citrus flavor profiles in the form of lemon, lime and orange juices and triple sec.  The winter sangria is served on ice with an appropriate spritz of seltzer water.  Larissa is currently training to be a Yoga Instructor at Sangha Yoga, a locally-owned and operated industry leader since 2003. Sangha Yoga teachers are certified and highly qualified to guide others into a safe and meaningful yoga experience.  They offer a holistic (mind, body spirit) and therapeutic approach to yoga practice.

Yoga is defined as “A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.”  In Hindu scripture, this sense of the term "yoga" mentions, "When earth, water, fire, air and akasa arise, when the five attributes of the elements, mentioned in the books on yoga, become manifest then the yogi's body becomes purified by the fire of yoga and he is free from illness, old age and death." - wikipedia

Maybe this is why Larissa understands balance.  She used all five elements of “Panch” or Punch (Base, Modifier, Sugar, Bitters, Water) in her Sangria and I’m sure she practices the five attributes of the elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Akasa) while studying to be a Yoga Instructor.  I watched her “balance” the bar by working her bartending magic to each and every guest at O’Duffy’s that cold Saturday afternoon.  Besides being advocates for “balanced” lives and mixers of elixirs, Larissa and I both share a special “magical” trait.  We share the same birthday of June 23, which falls on the Gemini/Cancer Zodiac Cusp known as The Cusp of Magic   (19 June - 23 June).  Those born on June 23 often remain youthful and lighthearted their whole lives. These people have a strong association with food and a willingness to always try something new; they often make excellent cooks. Their many interests make them entertaining and stimulating conversationalists who really love people. The great strength of the Gemini/Cancer-born is in their blending of intellectual and conversational skills. Those born on the Gemini/Cancer cusp display great imagination and tend to be very expressive. June 23 people want all that life can give them. They have the patience to wait for their goals, understanding that much of what they desire must come over a period of time. They're never without a new dream.   

It sounds like we both picked perfect professions that utilize our “magical” abilities and “balanced” traits.  Here is a little recipe gift to those wonderful people who put a little magical Irish Pub in the Historical Vine Street neighborhood and keep the magical libations flowing with bright, vibrant smiles and personalities. 
The Great Chicago Shuck n Suck -
Chicago Food Film Festival, Kendall College
Renaming one of my cocktail creations that I designed for 2011’s Chicago Food Film Festival, this “spicy” Irish version of a classic John Collins uses ginger-infused simple syrup and Jameson Irish Whiskey, a perfect aphrodisiac liquid accompaniment to the Film Festival’s evening theme of “Food Porn.” The Festival’s food featured Low Country oysters fresh from South Carolina, as well as savory sides by Chef Mark Steuer of The Bedford, including cornbread, Brunswick stew, and boiled peanuts.  

The O’Duffy Smutty Collins 
(a.k.a. the Jenna Jamison)

1 ½ oz. Jameson Irish Whiskey
¾ oz. Ginger Infused Simple Syrup
¾ oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Seltzer Water
Lemon Twist/Candied Ginger Piece (Garnish)

Combine whiskey, simple syrup and lemon juice in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston Shaker, shake ingredients for 10 seconds.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top off with a splash of seltzer water.  Garnish with a lemon twist and a piece of candied ginger.

Ginger-Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup water
2 cups fine granulated sugar
¼ cup cubed, skinned ginger root

Heat 1 cup of water in a non-reactive (non-teflon) pan over medium heat.  Slowly add 2 cups of sugar and stir well, continue stirring and adding sugar until completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and add ¼ cup of cubed, skinned ginger root.  Allow ginger to steep in the syrup for 20 – 40 minutes, until desired flavor is achieved.  Remove ginger chunks, fine strain syrup into a bottle and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
The Traveling Elixir Fixer pictured with the two fabulous gentleman
that drove 7,000 oysters from South Carolina to Chicago
for the Great Chicago Shuck n Suck Event
and enjoying a "Smutty" Collins, a.k.a., the Jenna Jamison
For more information on the Chicago Food Film Festival, be sure to check out the Delicious Dirt Recap at Elevate Your Presence.  Cheers!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Something's Brewing with the Blues in the 'Zoo Inspired by a Dance with KoKo the Queen

Here is a Michigan-inspired cocktail recipe using locally-owned Something’s Brewing (Kalamazoo, MI) hot chocolate, Grand Traverse Distillery's Chocolate Vodka (Traverse City) and appropriately named, The Kazoo KoKo Taylor.

The Kazoo KoKo Taylor

1 ½ oz. Grand Traverse Distillery Chocolate Vodka (Traverse City, MI) or substitute
1 ½ oz. W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey (Three Oaks, MI)
4-5 oz. Something’s Brewing Hot Cocoa (Kalamazoo, MI)
4 chilled egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3 oz. simple syrup (2:1 ratio)
Fresh grated nutmeg (garnish)
Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co's Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon (Glenn Arbor, MI)

Combine spirit and hot cocoa in an Irish coffee mug.  Stir well.  

BEAT egg whites and cream of tartar in mixer bowl with whisk attachment on high speed until foamy. Beating constantly, ADD simple syrup 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating after each addition until sugar is dissolved before adding the next. Continue beating until whites are glossy and stand in soft peaks. Spread meringue over drink using a small spatula.  Lightly toast meringue with a creme brulee torch.  Sprinkle with a dusting of fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon.  We are very fond of using Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co's Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon in our cocktail creations.  Vietnamese 'Saigon' Cinnamon is considered the finest quality and most flavorful cinnamon in the world due to its high oil contents and rich, dark, distinctly sweet flavor and complex aroma. Use in baking, meat dishes, soups, and add a pinch to hot drinks and cereals.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of “The Blues” is:

“Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll is characterized by specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues chord progression is the most common. The blue notes that, for expressive purposes, are sung or played flattened or gradually bent (minor 3rd to major 3rd) in relation to the pitch of the major scale, are also an important part of the sound.” 

Sounds pretty difficult and complicated; but, if you presented this definition to any blues aficionado/player/singer, they would look at you with a blank stare.  Most would probably correct you by saying, “honey, you thinkin’ too much.  Blues gotta come from within, from the soul. You gotta FEEL it and you gotta LIVE it.  That’s all I know.”

Kalamazoo has a nice little thing going with KalamazooValley Blues Association (KVBA).  KVBA was originally founded in 1994 with the sole purpose of organizing the first annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival. The resulting success gave birth to the ideals in which the organization embraces and utilizes today. Their goal is to keep the blues alive in Southwest Michigan, and they do a great job doing so.  I’ve always been impressed with SW Michigan’s musical talents.  I’m sure these talented musicians study, and one cannot possibly study music without crossing paths with the 12-bar blues. KVBA keeps the opportunity alive for these aspiring musicians by bringing in national performers and supporting the local blues music scene.  I began my love of the blues with this organization and had the pleasure of experiencing these events before moving across the pond to Chicago, where I knew I was going to experience the blues firsthand.

Many years ago, I worked at one of the best blues clubs in Chicago.  Originally, this masterpiece of a music venue was Famous Dave’s Rhythm, Blues and BBQ, located on Clark Street just south of Chicago Avenue, across the street from Blue Chicago.  After two years, the club merged with the original “Chef” himself, Isaac Hayes, to become Isaac Hayes’ Music, Food, Passion with Famous Dave’s BBQ.  The club was an enormous 2-story structure with a stage to house at least 12 musicians.  The seating area was decorated and set to resemble being below Chicago’s famous EL train tracks.  An enormous square bar with a tin roof meant to resemble a Delta-Blues juke-joint was at the other end facing the stage.  Oh yes, I was home in Sweet Home Chicago and I was ready to hang my bartending hat here for quite some time.

I crossed paths with many of the great blues players, Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater, Lonnie Brooks, Buddy Guy, you name them, I probably poured their beers, mixed their drinks, ordered their food, chased after them to pay their tabs, listened to their sets and wished them well when they left, even if they stiffed me.  Although each one of these artists gave me great memories, two encounters with two legendary performers gave me two unforgettable experiences that I will never forget.  I smile fondly when I think of these memories.   

One night the club was getting pretty busy and the bar was filling up.  I noticed what looked like a homeless man had entered the club and sat down at a nearby high-top table next to the bar.  He sat there, didn’t make immediate eye contact with me, and was getting into the groove of the evening’s blues entertainment.  This man looked like he had been on the streets for weeks.  He was smoking what looked like a cigarette he picked up off the street and his clothes were disheveled and dirty.  He looked like he was truly living the blues. (Side note: smoking was still allowed in the bars in Chicago when this occurred. It is not anymore.) I was betting he didn’t have any money and just wanted to warm up a bit and check out the entertainment so I decided to buy him a drink.  When we made eye contact, I smiled and asked, “Hey there, I would like to buy you a drink.  What’ll you have?”  He nodded and replied without a smile, “I’ll have a Crown Royal straight.”  I handed him the drink, which he graciously accepted, and continued to enjoy the entertainment.  He promptly gulped the drink down and demanded another.  I was slightly startled as I was pretty sure this man had no money and he downed the drink in record time.  I replied, “Sweetheart, the first one was on me, you will have to buy the next one.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few wadded up dollar bills and a bunch of change.  I made him the drink, charged him appropriately, and he paid with exact change.  I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m done with this guy” and continued servicing the rest of the customers at the bar.  He promptly swilled back the next round of Crown Royal, jumped off the high-top chair, came to the bar top, slammed the glass down and stated, “Woman!  Bring me another Crown Royal.”  Those who know me know that I do not take kindly to these kinds of words, and I have a knack of ensuring that this never happens again.  I looked at the current bar guest I was serving, smiled and said, “Would you please excuse me for a brief moment?”  I turned and slammed my beer bottle opener down on the bar and announced, “EXCUSE ME?  My name is Angie, not WOMAN.  In fact, YOU will now address me as Ms. Jackson. Now, I’m going to give you a few minutes to think about how you disrespected me and when you have chosen an appropriate apology, I will be back.”  The rest of the bar guests applauded and shouted, “You get ‘em, Ms. Jackson!”  I promptly continued servicing my bar guests and after a few minutes he called me over and said, “Ms. Jackson. I am very sorry for the way I disrespected you.  May I please have another Crown Royal?”  I replied with a smile, “Of course you may.  Now you know my name, what is yours?”  He answered, “I’m Little Eddie King and I’m the next performer for the evening.”  From this day forward, he called me Ms. Jackson. 

“Little Eddie King (born Edward Lewis Davis Milton, April 21, 1938) is a Chicago blues guitarist, singer and songwriter.  His parents were both musical, with his father playing guitar and his mother a gospel singer. King learned basic guitar riffs from watching from outside the window of local blues clubs, and was inspired by the playing of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter.  He relocated to Chicago in 1954.  Given a break by Little Mack Simmons, he first recorded under the tutelage of Willie Dixon and, in 1960, played on several tracks recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson II.  He then became the guitarist backing Koko Taylor, a role he undertook for two decades.” - Wikipedia

I passed a bit of this historical encounter on to my friends at Journeyman Distillery.  Remember the beer bottle opener I slammed down on the bar after being addressed as “WOMAN”?  The opener became bent at the end after this altercation.  Stop by the Tasting Room in Three Oaks to check it out.  It is alive and well, kept under the supervision of Matt (J-Man) Janotta, the Bar Manager.

The other encounter didn’t begin on the wrong foot; in fact, it was the right foot.  The club was hosting one of the pioneers of the Chicago blues scene, the Queen of the Blues herself, Koko Taylor.  We had a back stairway area where artists entered and exited the Green Room.  The back stairwell area was a space allotted for artists and employees to smoke. I was back in this area taking a break when I heard the band begin playing one of Koko’s most signature songs, “Wang Dang Doodle.”  I love this song and didn’t want to miss one of my idols perform this live at the venue I happened to be working.  I came running out of the back stairway area which led to the kitchen area entrance where artists entered the stage.  I was grooving along, dancing to the music when I looked up and saw Koko Taylor standing in front of me smiling.  She said to me with a sly grin on her face, “Girl, you got some smooth moves!” and began dancing with me.  What a thrill!  I was happy just to be able to see her and now I was dancing with her in the kitchen area of the club I worked at to her most famous song.  We briefly danced together, both smiling and laughing when I said, “sweetheart, you probably should go out there and get on stage.  I think the band is waiting for you.”  She replied again with a little smirk, “They can wait.  I’m busy.”  What a thrill to continue dancing for another minute or so with the Queen of the Blues herself, KoKo Taylor!  The time came when the Queen needed to be on stage.  I promptly kissed her hand and said, “You are fabulous! Thank you for spending a few minutes with a fan.”  She smiled, continued dancing through the doorway, turned to me and blew me a kiss as she grabbed her microphone and began singing and heading towards the stage. 

“Koko Taylor (September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009) was a Chicago blues musician, popularly known as the "Queen of the Blues." She was known primarily for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues stylings.  Born Cora Walton in Shelby County, Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper. She left Memphis for Chicago, Illinois in 1952 with her husband, truck driver Robert "Pops" Taylor. In the late 1950s she began singing in Chicago blues clubs. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to wider performances and her first recording contract. In 1965, Taylor was signed by Chess Records where she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle," a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf five years earlier. The song became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B charts in 1966, and selling a million copies.” - Wikipedia

I want to honor this great woman who gave her soul to her fans and the blues. I also want to give a little kudos to the man who gained more respect for me after I yelled at him.  I also want to give a shout out to the folks who began an amazing organization that continues to keep this genre alive in my home town, the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association (KVBA).  A little piece of Chicago Blues still lives in Kalamazoo.  I recently gave my work shirt from the club to a dear friend who's father is one of Isaac Hayes biggest fans.  She grew up listening to "Shaft" and has amazing childhood memories of her family listening to one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

True North Chocolate Vodka is a wheat-based vodka that has been naturally infused with organic cocoa. Fresh navel oranges are infused secondary and impart a natural sweetness and deeply satisfying citrus twist.  Created in small batches, this product is only available at the distillery.  Be sure to pick up a bottle when visiting the area.  For those of you who want to keep the blues alive in their souls, substitute Journeyman’s W.R. Welter White Rye Whiskey in place of the vodka.  Be sure to pour and serve the bottle from a paper bag for realistic purposes.

Tile designed by artist Nancy DeYoung.  A contribution to Hospital Hospitality House of Southwest Michigan was made by purchasing this limited edition tile (#370/500).  The House provides a home-away-from-home for families and/or patients at Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Methodist Hospital and the West Michigan Cancer Center.  Over 1,000 guests are served here each year.  This tile is proudly displayed in my kitchen to remind me of my "Home Sweet Home" Kalamazoo.

Along with free lodging, guests are provided with emotional support through round-the-clock staffing, laundry facilities, a well-stocked kitchen, donated personal items, bathrobes, slippers and, if needed, clothing.  Hospital Hospitality House is supported entirely by donations like this.

Do a little Wang Dang Doodle dance for the Queen of the Blues today.  CHEERS!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dr. Kellogg's Cornflake Girl using Incentive Vodka and Coffee Liqueur

Going against the “grain” like Tori Amos would do, we chose to ignore Dr. Kellogg’s advice and added alcohol, caffeine, sugar and spice to our corn in this Michigan-inspired Battle Creek tribute cocktail.  “Dr. Kellogg’s Cornflake Girl” uses Big Cedar Distilling Company’s Incentive Vodka, a Michigan-grown corn based vodka, their soon-to-be released Coffee Liqueur (currently available only at the Tasting Room in Sturgis), and Great Lakes Tea and Spice Company’s Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon.  Cheers!

Dr. Kellogg’s Cornflake Girl

1 ½ oz. Incentive Vodka
½ oz. Big Cedar Distilling Co.’s Coffee Liqueur (available in Sturgis, MI Tasting Room)
1 ½ oz. Heavy Cream
¼ oz. Vanilla Agave Nectar
¼ oz. Pure Maple Syrup

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston Shaker.  Shake ingredients for 10 seconds.  Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dusting of Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon.

“The accidental legacy of corn flakes goes back to the late 19th century, when a team of Seventh-day Adventists began to develop new food to adhere to the vegetarian diet recommended by the church. Members of the group experimented with a number of different grains, including wheat, oats, rice, barley, and corn. In 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes as part of a strict vegetarian regimen for his patients, which also included no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. The diet he imposed consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would increase passions.  This idea for corn flakes began by accident when Kellogg and his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to some pressing matters at the sanitarium. When they returned, they found that the wheat had gone stale, but being on a strict budget, they decided to continue to process it by forcing it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and served to their patients. This event occurred on August 8, 1894, and a patent for "Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same" was filed on May 31, 1895, and issued on April 14, 1896.” - Wikipedia

“Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos; August 22, 1963) is an American pianist, singer-songwriter and composer. She was at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s and was noteworthy early in her career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument. Some of her charting singles include "Crucify", "Silent All These Years", "God", "Cornflake Girl", "Caught a Lite Sneeze", "Professional Widow", "Spark", "1000 Oceans", and "A Sorta Fairytale", her most commercially successful single in the U.S. to date.  As of 2005, Amos had sold 12 million albums worldwide. She has been nominated for 8 Grammy Awards. Amos was also named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1996. 

The inspiration for "Cornflake Girl" came from Alice Walker's novel “Possessing the Secret of Joy”, about a young African woman going through the ritual of female genital mutilation. Amos was angered by the idea that a mother could subject her daughter to such a brutal act, and the song arose as an exploration of the idea of betrayal between women. In the song two factions of women are referred to: the "raisin girls" are "multicultural" and open-minded, while the "cornflake girls" of the title are "narrowminded and full of prejudice".

The reference to cornflakes and raisins comes from their distribution in a box of breakfast cereal, implying that "raisin girls" are much harder to find than "cornflake girls". Amos has spoken in interviews about being referred to glibly as "the cornflake girl" due to the song's title being applied to her, when she considers herself a "raisin girl". (In concerts she has also said "cornflakes" vs. "raisins" was a reference to which girls had ready access to marijuana, Tori herself being bereft of the substance.)

The confusion is probably related to her 1987 commercial for Kellogg's Just Right, made before her widespread fame. Just Right includes both raisins and corn flakes, so the song and the cereal are related either through coincidence or intent.  Atlantic released a series of cornflakes boxes with picture of Amos on them to promote this. They are now collector's items.” – Wikipedia.

Cheers and Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mishe Mokwa Fishtown Punch With St. Julian's A & G Brandy, New Holland Michigan Amber Rum and Black Star Farms Spirit of Apple Brandy

To honor the Great Bear that gave Michigan its recent “Most Beautiful Place in America” distinction by ABC’s Good Morning America and historic Leland’s “Fishtown”, we present our Michigan take on the classic Fish House Punch – The Mishe Mokwa Fishtown Punch, using St. Julian’s A & G Brandy, New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum and Black Star Farms’ Spirit of Apple Brandy.  

The Mishe Mokwa Fishtown Punch is inspired and adapted from Jerry Thomas’ recipe for the Fish House Punch, from How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon Vivant’s Companion.

Mishe Mokwa Fishtown Punch 

8 oz. St. Julian A & G Brandy
4 oz. Black Star Farms Spirit of Apple Brandy
4 oz. New Holland Artisan Spirits’ Michigan Freshwater Amber Rum
6 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
12 oz. Simple Syrup (2:1 ratio)
20 oz. cold water

Stir ingredients together in a large pot, and when ready, pour over large block of ice.

A little history:

According to Chippewa legend, a mother bear and her two cubs fled an enormous forest fire on Wisconsin’s Shoreline of Lake Michigan. After many miles of swimming, the two cubs began to lag behind. When the mother bear reached the shore of Michigan, she climbed on the top of a high bluff and waited. The cubs, exhausted from swimming across the great lake, drowned. The mother bear stayed and waited in hopes that her cubs would finally appear. The Great Spirit, impressed by the mother bear's determination and faith, created North and South Manitou Islands to commemorate the cubs. The legend continues with the wind burying the sleeping bear under the sands of the dunes, where she waits to this day.

Leland is built on the site of one of the oldest and largest Ottawa villages on the Leelanau Peninsula, and it offers trips to North and South Manitou Islands via ferry service. White settlers, who began arriving in the 1830s, also took advantage of the location as a fishing settlement. As early as 1880, commercial fishermen sailed out of the harbor to catch trout and whitefish, building wooden shacks where they processed their catch and serviced their fleet. Up to eight powered tugs once sailed out of "Fishtown," as the buildings came to be known. Today, the historic fishing settlement and two fish tugs, Joy and Janice Sue, are owned by a non-profit organization, Fishtown Preservation Society. Fishtown is home to a working fishery and a thriving charter fishing business. The riverfront is lined by a boardwalk and quaint shacks that have been converted into tourist shops.

Fish House Punch is said to have first been concocted in 1732 at Philadelphia’s fishing club, the Schuylkill Fishing Company, also known as the "Fish House." The Fish House was an august gentleman's society devoted to escaping domestic tribulation, cigars, whiskey and the occasional fishing foray upon the Chesapeake or the Restagoosh River in Nova Scotia. Another version states that the punch originated in 1848 by Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. It was invented to celebrate the momentous occasion of women being allowed into the premises of the "Fish House" for the first time in order to enliven the annual Christmas Party. 

This punch is an elegantly simple recipe that requires only moderately careful adherence to the process of making the punch. Care needs to be exercised while enjoying this tasty libation that has its own poem:
Fish House Punch
There's a little place just out of town,
Where, if you go to lunch,
They'll make you forget your mother-in-law
With a drink called Fish-House Punch.
-The Cook (1885)

Black Star Farms - Spirit of Apple Brandy

Apple brandy was the first spirit produced in America during the Revolution. Following in the Colonial tradition, our small-batch, hand-crafted apple brandy is distilled from a true cider blend of several different apple varieties including Jonagold, Winesap, Rhode Island Greening, Spy, McIntosh, and Jonathan. It is then barrel-aged for three to five years, using both French and American oak. At the precise time, the distiller feels is optimum to showcase the fruit from Leelanau County's bounty, the brandy is bottled - often a single barrel at a time.

Flavor and Aroma:

In this brandy, Black Star Farms strived for a distinctive fruit-driven style when compared to its French cousin, Calvados, which is aged 6-8 years and is typically more oaky. Pale golden amber in color, ours is well balanced with opulent, sweet-wood apple and caramel aromas and mellowed, spicy warmth.

St. Julian A & G Brandy

Aged grape brandy made from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris & Vidal Blanc grapes. The aroma of vanilla, hazelnut & butterscotch intertwined with toast, chocolate, & anise. The palate is soft & smooth with flavors that follow the aromas. 

New Holland Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum

Freshwater Rum is a series of rums inspired by the majestic Great Lakes. Michigan amber rum is distilled from a wash of fermented cane-sugar molasses. Its oak-barrel aging reflects in a caramel color and deep body. A rich and smooth marriage of molasses and oak, Freshwater Michigan is classic rum excellent for classic cocktails or served neat, perhaps with a single ice cube.