Drink like a local. Welcome to NOLA!

Welcome to New Orleans! Heather and I just had an opportunity to take a quick honeymoon over Columbus Day weekend. So thank you, Mr. Columbus, for discovering our world and providing us with a long weekend!

When we visit somewhere, I really do try to drink in the local culture. Our first day, it was an Abita Amber that fit the bill. It was smooth and malty with a touch of caramel. Excellent! Perfect to sit back, relax and listen to some local jazz at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. I’m sure there are many great local brews, but this was one of my favorites.

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As we wandered into the colorful little club with tons of character, Rites of Swing was letting it all hang out. Yvette Voelker jumped in for an awesome vocal performance. I highly recommend that you track them down.

More posts from NOLA coming soon. Cheers!

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The Aviation. Purple drinks are cool!

Purple is a cool color….so I think a purple drink is cool too! We were introduced to this cocktail in New Orleans at the Green Goddess. As we sat and watched one being made, we couldn’t help but ask about it. Which led us to try one and realize how good it is! It is perfectly refreshing on a warm evening!

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I did a fair amount of research to find the right recipe for this. There are many variations and theories on when it was invented. But most lead back to the start of the twentieth century and Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Ensslin’s recipe called for 1½ oz. El Bart gin, ¾ oz. lemon juice, 2 dashes maraschino liqueur, and 2 dashes crème de violette. I settled on the NY Times recipe and added a touch of simple syrup to balance out the citrus. I like it both ways, but since I’m generally creating cocktails for Heather this is the official 2eat2drink recipe!

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/4 ounce Crème de Violette

FIll a cocktail shaker with ice, gin, lemon juice, Luxardo and simple syrup. Shake to chill, then strain into a martini glass. Slowly pour Crème de Violette into the glass to create a purple swirl that settles near the bottom. Garnish with a twist of lemon or a flamed lemon peel.

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It’s experiment time! I created an animated gif of the pour. It may only work if you click on it, based on my preview. Let’s see what happens…

Click to animate!

Click to animate!

Cheers!

Mirbeau = Indulgence

This week marks the anniversary of our first date! Last year, we commemorated the occasion with a quick getaway to Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles. With the French countryside and the works of Monet as its inspiration, Mirbeau provides gorgeous accommodations and excellent cuisine in a soothing, romantic environment. When making a reservation, be sure to mention whether you would like to stay in a cottage, allowing you to stroll through the lovely gardens on your way to the main building, or in the main building itself. We prefer the cottages, but have stayed in the main building during the winter to avoid walking outside for the spa and dining options.

The lovely grounds of Mirbeau.

The lovely grounds of Mirbeau.

As we entered our cottage, classical music was playing softly. We felt any lingering tension start to slip away as we took in the French country décor, complete with a fireplace. The bathroom was like a gorgeous mini-spa with its oversized soaking tub, large walk-in shower, and Mirbeau’s “Essentials” body and hair products.

After settling in, we took a short walk to Spa Mirbeau. Rather than booking a spa treatment, we opted to simply change into our swimsuits, wrap ourselves in thick, soft white robes, and visit the Aqua Terrace. This remarkable outdoor space boasts a large, naturally-shaped Jacuzzi (complete with waterfall and landscaping), a huge stone fireplace, and a small bar. We ordered a lunch of finger sandwiches and wine from the barman, then perched beside the fire to eat. It was a fabulous meal with which to begin our twenty-four hours of indulgence! The sandwiches were delectable, the wine delicious. We lingered by the fire a bit more, then spent a lovely afternoon relaxing in the water.

It was then time to get ready for dinner. Formal attire isn’t required, but I just love any excuse to dress for dinner! We freshened up, changed, and strolled to the Wine Bar. Although we love the Dining Room at Mirbeau, we’d never dined at the Wine Bar, and thought this was an excellent opportunity to do so. The cozy space has its own large fireplace and comfortable seating. You can use the automatic wine machines to sample a variety of vinos, or simply order off the menu. We tried a couple of wines and several small-plate-style appetizers. Everything was delicious, and the atmosphere was enhanced by chatting with our fellow diners at the Wine Bar – Sean and Dee from Buffalo, locals Peggy and Jimmy, and Bill the car guy. Add in the excellent bartenders, Ed and Tim, and it was a lively, fun evening!

The comfortable bed provided for a very good night’s sleep, which was followed by the complimentary European Continental Breakfast. This was so much more than the typical freebie breakfast, both in variety and quality. We particularly loved the almond pastries, so much so that our server obligingly wrapped some up for us for the ride home!

We made the short drive into the charming town of Skaneateles, walking through its downtown area and checking out shops and galleries. Our original thought was to have lunch in town, but we just couldn’t resist one last meal at Mirbeau. So off we went, back to the Dining Room, for a famous Mirbeau Hamburger. This decadent burger is served on a brioche roll with Portobello mushrooms, balsamic red onions, gruyere and spinach, with bistro fries, béarnaise sauce, and bordelaise sauce on the side. It is well deserving of its accolades.

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Behold…the Mirbeau Hamburger.

The Dining Room.

The Dining Room.

We’d put it off as long as we could; it was time to leave our little sanctuary. With one last longing look at the lovely garden, we tore ourselves away and headed back to reality!

Hot Dogs a la Casey

Hi, my name is Heather and I’m a Disney addict. It’s been eight months since my last trip to the World. I was going through some serious withdrawal recently, so Rich helped me out by making us hot dogs in the style of Casey’s Corner, our favorite Magic Kingdom eatery and first-meal-at-Disney tradition.

In addition to the typical dogs and fries, Casey’s Corner offers a few specialty hot dogs. Our favorite is the Barbecue Slaw Dog, which is topped with pulled pork, cole slaw, and barbecue sauce. Casey serves it with fries and a soft drink, but we classed it up a little and had them with brown sugar/bourbon baked beans and gin & tonics. Yeah, that hit the spot.

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Hartmann’s wieners topped with Wegmans pulled pork and cole slaw. Served with a side of Bush’s bourbon and brown sugar grillin’ beans for the happiest meal on earth!

Here are a few pictures from our last Disney World fix. Enjoy!

Old San Juan, El Batey, and Ron del Barrilito (take me away)!

We discovered Barrilito “three star” rum on our actual honeymoon and were instantly hooked. Enjoying a glass of this smooth aged rum in our living room always takes us right back to Old San Juan…and more specifically to El Batey, the best little dive bar in Puerto Rico (or possibly the world). Conveniently located right across the street from Hotel El Convento (our Puerto Rican home away from home), this place has cheap drinks, an eclectic mix of songs on the juke box, and loads of character (and characters!)

After our tour of the Bacardi factory in 2008, the Cuba Libre (basically a rum and Coke with lime) became a favorite cocktail of ours . Despite our fond recollections of the tour, we really prefer to make ours with Ron del Barrilito (Rum from the little Barrel) “three star.” That seems to be the consensus of many people we’ve talked with in Old San Juan. The picture below shows a Cuba Libre “El Batey style”: a small glass filled almost entirely with “three star” and ice, then topped off with Coke and a lime.

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The Cuba Libre, El Batey style.

I would also recommend just drinking the “three star” from a snifter.  It’s the older of the two Edmundo B. Fernández, Inc. rums, featuring a blend of rums aged between 6 and 10 years. Sipping will let you enjoy the layers of honey, butterscotch, molasses, spice, vanilla, smoke, nuts, and oak. The finish is warm, smoky, sweet and very lengthy.

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Ron del Barrilito “three star.” Note the neck label, the only difference from the two-star, less-aged variety.

That long finish takes us away to El Batey. The most intimidating bar we’ve ever walked into, it is also one of the most friendly and interesting. Each visit has provided great conversation with the patrons and the bartenders, and endless visual appeal. The highlight of our most recent visit was a brief chat with the owner, David Jones. He is obviously a man who knows how to enjoy himself as he was surrounded by friends, drink, and a bag of cigars. I think this photo captured him perfectly as this is how he chose to sit when I asked to photograph him; elusive, gruff, intense and relaxed all at once.

Owner David Jones.

Owner David Jones.

I leave you with a toast to David Jones, especially for choosing to leave the graffiti on the walls for over 40 years! Peruse through these highlights and imagine yourself sipping a Cuba Libre. Cheers!

A grappa toast post!

There is quite a storied history behind this post. But before I begin, let’s get to the toast. Cheers to our friends Gina and Dave and their new baby boy!

So…now for the story. It starts in August of 2010. Heather and I were on a short honeymoon getaway to New Orleans, eating dinner at the Green Goddess (home of the bacon sundae), when we heard Scotty the bartender and Chris the chef discussing grappa. For those of you not familiar with grappa, it’s basically a spirit distilled from the leftovers of the grapes after making wine. Prior to this trip, I may have referred to grappa as fire water. But  I was intrigued by chef Chris’s description for Suprema grappa refosco, “That’s good frakking grappa!” (Note the Battlestar Galactica expletive, as I’d prefer to keep this family friendly 🙂 ) I ended up trying a taste and replying, “That is good!” Chef Chris just looked at me. “That’s good frakking grappa!” I amended. A cheer was given by all.

So…circle back to Dave and Gina, and trying a couple different grappas at a local restaurant after telling the above story. Both of the grappas fire waters were very disappointing. I finally managed to track down a bottle of this good frakking grappa, and am looking forward to sharing it with Dave and Gina while toasting their new family addition in person. Cheers!

Suprema grappa refosco. Worth drinking from a snifter.

Suprema grappa refosco. Worth drinking from a snifter. Your initial taste is smooth and refined with a bit of dried fruit, met with a scent of vanilla coming off the top rim. There is a long pepper finish with hints of vanilla and honey. Good frakking grappa!

Café Puerto Rico, Old San Juan. A must do!

For the first post of the new year, I am finally following up on the new years eve post with a must do for all of you traveling to Old San Juan. Heather had done lots of research on where to go for local cuisine, and the first place the hotel concierge mentioned lined up with one of her options. Café Puerto Rico. A few blocks walk from El Convento (more on this wonderful hotel to come), we ended up on the edge of Plaza Colon and entered the cafe. It was crowded and lively and we were told to come back in 38 minutes. Yes 38. Never have we received such an exact return time. We wandered a few doors down to the Parrot Club for a cocktail, and listened to a jazz trio for 36 minutes, then quickly returned.

We were rewarded for our patience with a private table on the balcony overlooking Plaza Colon. I can’t say how lovely a view I, in particular, had without showing you my view.

Heather at Café Puerto Rico, overlooking Plaza Colon.

Heather at Café Puerto Rico, overlooking Plaza Colon.

We ordered mero (grouper) and tiritas de churrascos (skirt steak) mofongos rellenos, and a couple of tropical drinks. This ended up being our favorite meal of the trip!

Here are a few more visual highlights from the evening. More from Old San Juan to follow soon. Cheers!

P.S. If those of you who subscribe (thank you so much for following along!), could let me know if the galleries appear correctly in your e-mail, I’d appreciate it.  They look lovely in the on line post, but it showed up in my and Heather’s e-mail all broken and random. I’ve contacted WordPress about it, so hopefully we can get it resolved. Thanks!

Happy New Year! (Old world style)

This may be an unconventianal New Year’s Eve post, but it really makes sense. Don’t we all ring in the new year by thinking about some highlights from the previous year? And pledging to do more of what makes you happy in the upcoming year? (And kissing your someone special as the ball drops in Times Square!) So….these pictures are from our 5th Anniversary honeymoon trip to Old San Juan — a definite highlight during this past year. And Heather and I call every trip we take together a honeymoon….which I hereby pledge to do more of this year! (Along with kissing her at midnight!)

This latest honeymoon was about eating and drinking in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a lot of cool sights in between sips and bites! I took so many pictures over the course of 4 days that it will end up as multiple posts. Here are a few highlights to get us started!

So here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous new year to you all. Cheers!

Café Puerto Rico cheers. Happy new year!!

Café Puerto Rico cheers. Happy new year!!

Second Breakfast, Anyone?

When we heard that Denny’s was featuring a Hobbit-inspired menu in honor of the upcoming Peter Jackson movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we were so in.

The Hobbit Hole breakfast. Yum!

The Hobbit Hole breakfast. Yum!

I had the Hobbit Hole Breakfast. The menu describes this as “two eggs fried right into the center of grilled cheddar bun halves. Served with two strips of bacon and crispy hash browns topped with melted shredded cheddar cheese and bacon.” I describe this as pure deliciousness. To really take it to the hobbity extreme, substitute a Shire sausage for the bacon. You’ll be glad you did.

Pumpkin Patch Pancakes, featuring pumpkin whipped cream topped with cinnamon sugar.

Pumpkin Patch Pancakes, featuring pumpkin whipped cream topped with cinnamon sugar.

Rich had the Build Your Own Hobbit Slam. He chose the pumpkin patch pancakes, seed cake French toast, Shire sausage, and eggs. He tried to order egg whites, but I told him a real Hobbit would go for sunny side up. Everything was super yummy, especially (in my opinion) the poppy seed French toast.

Seed Cake French Toast.

Seed Cake French Toast.

Denny’s Hobbit menu is only available for a limited time, so hurry in for breakfast. And second breakfast. And elevenses. And luncheon. And don’t forget tea, dinner, and supper.

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As Bilbo would say, “I would give a good deal for the feel of a strong drink in my throat, and for a soft bed after a good supper!”

Chillin’ with red wine at the lake

We recently had the chance to sample two of Montezuma Winery’s reds. I’m not usually a sweet wine kind of guy, but these were perfect to have chilled on a warm day at the lake.

The Fat Frog Red was the sweeter of the two, and Heather quite liked it. In fact, when I asked her what she thought it would pair with, she said that sweet wine goes with anything!

Even though the Frog was a hit, we both actually preferred the Cranberry Bog. This wine was sweet yet tart, almost like a cranberry vodka cocktail. We thought it would be a great addition to Thanksgiving dinner. It would also make a great autumnal sangria, and I believe we will give that a try soon!

Both wines were nice to enjoy on the cottage porch while taking in the sunset over Keuka Lake. Cheers!

Keuka Lake at sunset.