The first cocktail I made when I received the Death & Co cocktail book used muddled apple, an ingredient that evokes fall. Taking the inspiration further, fall also puts me in the mood for calvados, the French apple brandy from Normandy. In France it is not uncommon to have a “trou normand“, a small glass of calvados that is enjoyed in the middle of a long leisurely meal, supposedly to help with digestion…
Last year when I got a chance to spend time in London, I immediately knew that I wanted to eat at St. John, Fergus Henderson‘s restaurant in Smithfield. It was not because of the huge hype generated by Anthony Bourdain who visited the restaurant in 2001 for his show A Cook’s Tour (this actually was a bit of a concern), it was about the Nose to Tail concept, which is so engrained in my own French culture. There is truly an art in using all the parts of the animal, and making remarkable things out of them. In the US, Chris Consentino did something similar at Incanto (now Porcellino). For me, this is the ultimate type of comfort food, prepared with an expert hand and a lot of attention to detail but done in a rustic, earthy way.
This month’s Mixology Monday challenge, Perfect Symmetry, explores a way to create cocktails which consists of taking one element in an existing recipe and splitting it into two related elements, in equal parts. The most famous example is probably the Perfect Manhattan, where the vermouth is divided into sweet and dry. This concept is nothing new, and as I was sipping on a rye and armagnac Sazerac earlier this week, I realized that it already met the requirements of the challenge.
Although the classic Improved Gin Cocktail is a favorite, gin-based Old Fashioneds are not something you see very often. So I was intrigued when I saw one in Death & Co new cocktail book. Even better, this particular one was an occasion to use my homemade orgeat (I used a coconut orgeat that I made with a fresh coconut using the same technique I normally use with almonds).
Next week will be the official release of New York City bar Death & Co‘s long awaited cocktail book. Bar founder David Kaplan managed to get an impressive $250,000 advance for the book, part of which he redistributed to his employees.
The bar opened in 2007 with Phil Ward of Pegu Club as head bartender, joined behind the bar by Brian Miller and Joaquin Simó. Phil Ward has a special connection to San Diego; he trained the bartending staff at Craft & Commerce and helped design its cocktail menu which includes several punch options, including his phenomenal Mother’s Ruin Punch.
Chiltern Firehouse might be one of the most sought-after reservations in London these days. Since it opened a few months ago, it’s been impossible to get in unless you are rich or famous. Try googling the restaurant and you will see the daily log of celebrity visitors (from the past few days: “Rita Ora almost suffers wardrobe malfunction at Chiltern Firehouse” and the very intriguing “Clive Owen is seen arriving at Chiltern Firehouse with two mystery ladies”).
I was interested in trying the restaurant, not for his celebrity clientele but because, believe or not, I really like the food of chef Nuno Mendes, who used to helm the kitchen at Viajante and the Corner Room in Bethnal Green. After corresponding with the restaurant for a few weeks, I finally manage to score a reservation for a week lunch in early August.
Finding the restaurant is not difficult, however its entrance behind a large wooden gate is not so obvious (the security guards in black suits in front of the gates should have been a clue). Past the gate is a very nice outdoor patio. The vibe is very much like celebrity hot spot the Ivy in LA. A little bit of LA in London – not surprising, considering that the owner of Chiltern Firehouse is no other than André Balazs of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.
This month’s MxMo theme, The Unknown, immediately prompted me to dig up ingredients I had collected but not used much in cocktails – Acids! A recent experiment with acid phosphate had showed me that a few drops could liven up a drink. Citric, malic, and tartaric acids were still uncharted territory for me. Since a visit to White Lyan in London a couple of weeks ago, I knew this was something I wanted to tackle. The bar is famous for not using any ice or citrus, although they are still able to offer a Daiquiri and other classic sours on their menu. How do they do it? Acids of course! By carefully blending different types of acids at carefully established concentrations levels, they are able to replicate the taste of lime or lemon and produce well-balanced cocktails.