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Win a little taste of Ardbeg

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

 Win a little taste of Ardbe

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A little about sochu

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

About shochu: The world’s single largest consumed spirit is made from many things, but the Japanese producers (including Iichiko, Japan’s largest seller) brought three main varieties made from sweet potato, rice or barley. All recipes included yeast, of course, but also koji, a cultured rice mold. One other variety is called Awamori and made on the island of Okinawa with only rice, yeast and black koji. Awamori also differs in its single fermentation regime; all others are fermented twice. There were even a couple that used brown sugar as a source of fermentation, I think.

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Bols cocktail compitation

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

The sixth edition of Bols Around the World, the global bartending competition launched by Lucas Bols in 2006, has officially started.

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Bols Around the World is looking for the most inspiring, talented and charismatic bartenders across five continents. In the coming four months, they will be competing for 12 places at the Grand Finale to be held in Amsterdam in May 2012.To make it to the final, bartenders will compete in three heats that will test the three facets of the true bartender.

This is a call to all true bartenders. Those bartenders who master the art of mixing, the fundamentals of bartending and above all those passionate individuals who live the profession at their hearts and portray their own personalitie
life experiences through their creations.

As an international bartender brand, we are constantly on the lookout for new industry trends and trendsetters. Our aim: to build a strong bartender community. In order to connect with the best people we ask for your help to get the message out there.

For more info visit http://www.bolsaroundtheworld.com

Noisy bars / Sweeter drinks

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2012 at 3:51 am

Alcohol tastes sweeter in noisy environments, and in particular when music is played, research has found.

And drinkers find it more difficult to distinguish alcoholic strength when exposed to music, leading to increases in alcohol consumption, the University of Portsmouth research concludes.

The news offers a new opportunity to bartenders to manipulate customers’ drinking experiences through the strategic use of music, but further highlights issues for drivers, the bar industry and local authorities.

The findings build on earlier research which has found there is a correlation between speed of drinking and the quantity of consumption when louder and faster music is being played, while other work has also shown that manipulating volume affects perceptions of freshness in certain foods.

How to Make Flower Essences

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm



Flower essences originated with Paracelsus, the parent of modern alchemy, who collected dew from plants to treat his patients.  They were later developed by Edward Bach, a doctor interested in homeopathy (which also uses ideas from alchemy).  This method for making essences describes using the Sun, but you can also use the full Moon (and even tweak it by choosing the Moon when it’s in a particular sign) or pure starlight (after the Moon has set).  Needless to say, you can also use a particular aspect of the Moon’s phase to develop an essence that speaks to particular level of consciousness, type of emotion, aspect of the spirit, or type of magick.  This describes making an essence of flowers, but you can use the same technique to make an essence of leaves, whole herbs, roots, crystals, etc.

Get a clear glass bowl that has no markings.  Since you have to cover the entire surface of the water with flowers, get a smallish bowl.  You’ll also need some sort of filter (an unbleached coffee filter works well).  A funnel is useful for pouring the resulting essence into a small brown bottle (there is lots of discussion which color bottles preserve best–some people insist on using only brown, others recommend using violet or black).  You’ll need another clean glass container to filter the essence into.  The water you use should not be from the faucet but spring water, rain water, or dew.  The bottle you pour the essence into should be at least 30 ml.

When you decide what you want to make an essence of, ask the plant if you have permission to use it.  You can do this by using your intuition (sit in front of the plant and let it talk to you) or by using a pendulum.  On a sunny morning, fill the bowl half full of water.  Pick enough flowers to cover the surface, being careful to keep them as whole as possible; some people believe that it is best not to touch the flowers but to cut them so they fall directly into the water.  Leave the bowl in full sunlight for three hours.  Make sure shadows don’t fall on it in that time, and that children and animals don’t mess with it.  Remove the flowers carefully (you can use your hand or a leaf of the plant you are making an essence of) and filter the water into the clean container.  Fill the brown bottle half full with vodka, brandy, Everclear, 151 rum, or wine (wine won’t last as long but has its own energy).  Top up with the essence.  This is the mother essence. Label with the flower and the date.  Store in a cool, dark place away from electrical and other energy sources, and it will keep indefinitely.

You can make stock bottles by putting one to seven drops of the mother essence into a bottle filled with either alcohol or a 50/50 mix of alcohol and water.  If you are sensitive to alcohol, you can use glycerine or vinegar.  In turn, use essence from the stock bottle to make a medicine bottle, adding 2-7 drops of the stock essence to a bottle of alcohol or alcohol/water mix.  You can put them in plain water if they are going to be used relatively quickly.  With essences, the greater the dilution, the greater the power

 

Cherry Blossom Varieties (Sakura)

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm
Below is a guide to some of the representative varieties of these 300.
Edohigan
Edohigan
[petals: 5 / color: faint pink and white / season: late March – early April]
Edohigan got its name from the fact that it starts blossoming around higan (spring equinox) and can be seen a lot around the Kanto region (of which the center was Edo a few centuries back). Today the blossoms can be appreciated in most parts of Japan excluding Hokkaido and Okinawa. Edohigan has one of the longest life span among the cherry trees and there remain many trees that are known for its age and beauty. It is one parent of the most common Someiyoshino kind.
Oshimazakura
Oshimazakura
[petals: 5 / color: white / season: early April]
Oshimazakura, as its name tells, is a kind of cherry tree that have its origins in the Izu Oshima Island located south of main prefecture Tokyo. It is estimated as a coastal or island type of Kasumizakura. The blossoms have a good fragrance, and most of the leaves used forsakuramochi (a kind of Japanese dumpling sweets which is wrapped with salt-pickled sakura leaves) are of this kind. Oshimazakura is many times used as a parent of various cultivated sakura trees. If it had not been for this kind there probably would not have been as many sakura seen in Japan today.
Someiyoshino
Someiyoshino
[petals: 5 / color: faint pink / season: late March – early April]
The most common kind of sakura trees seen in Japan today is actually a cultivated kind believed to be of Edohigan and Oshimazakura. It is said that the beginning of this kind dates back to some time in the late Edo Period when a gardener in the Edo Somei Village sold it as Yoshinozakura. All of the Someiyoshino trees which we see today in Japan are grown by human hand with vegetative reproduction such as grafting. For this reason, though the parents have long life span of centuries, Someiyoshino’s is short only lasting several decades.
Kanhizakura
Kanhizakura
[petals: 5 / color: dark scarlet / season: early to mid March]
Kanhizakura is one of the earliest sakura that starts blossoming in early March, and for its dark color the blossoms they are called kanhizakura (cold–scarlet–sakura). There are wild trees growing on the Ishigakijima Island of Okinawa (southernmost Japan) and because it grows wild in the warmer areas the kind is weak against cold climate. Its scientific name is “campanulata” means “the shape of a bell”, which is believed to have come from its drooping figure not opening the blossoms all the way.
Ohkanzakura
Ohkanzakura
[petals: 5 / color: faint pink / season: early March]
A mixed breed of Kanhizakura and Oshimazakura. Like its parent, the blossoms do not open fully and droop even at full blossoming. As compared to its sibling Kanzakura the blossoming season is slightly late, yet has a head start from most of the other kinds.
Kawazuzakura
Kawazuzakura
[petals: 5 / color: faint purplish pink / season: early to late February]
Kawazuzakura is probably the earliest blossoming sakura, so early that it is sometimes confused with plum or peach. It is a mixed kind of Kanhizakura and Oshimazakura, yet not cultivated but found wild. Later on the trees were transplanted to Kawazu Town of Shizuoka Prefecture, and today it invites a number of tourists to the town in early spring. The petals open widely and flatly but blossom facing slightly downward.
Shidarezakura
Shidarezakura
[petals: – / color: – / season: -]
Shidarezakura is not a name for a particular breed but a name for the form of the trees namely branches. As it is written in kanji it literally means “sakura with drooping boughs” and is commonly known as “weeping cherry tree” in English. It is believed that the boughs hang down because of precocious development. Many of them are of Edohigan kind, and from the old days these trees are planted on the grounds of temples and shrines. Like the “straight” Edohigan trees it has a long life span and often times grows into giant trees.
Yaezakura
Yaezakura
[petals: 10-20 / color: faint pink, white, dark scarlet, etc. / season: late March – late April]
Yaezakura is a general name for the blossoms that have more petals than the usual five. The word “yae” (yah-eh) means “in eight layers” and commonly the Yaezakura blossoms have from 10 to 20 petals. Various kinds of Yaezakura can be seen across Japan in different colors. From its shape which resembles that of peony some of them are known also by the name of “Botanzakura” (peony sakura). As compared to the other breeds Yaezakura blossoms rather late pulling the sakura season after the Someiyoshino blossoms have fallen.
Youkou
Youkou
[petals: 5 / color: dark purplish pink / season: mid March]
Youkou (yoh-koh) is a cultivated kind mixing the Amagiyoshino kind and Kanhizakura. This type blossoms before Someiyoshino, and has big and dark colored blossoms.
Yamazakura
Yamazakura
[petals: 5 / color: white – faint pinkish white / season: early April]
Wild Yamazakura can be seen in a wide area of southern half of Honshu (main island Japan). It has the second longest life span next to Edohigan, and like Edohigan there are a number of old and famous tress all over Japan. Though it is an independent kind, it has a wide variation in the ways it puts on blossoms from the colors and shapes of the buds and blossoms. There are even ones that never put on blossoms. Most of the sakura trees growing on the mountainsides of Yoshinoyama (Nara Pref) are of Yamazakura kind.
Ukonzakura
Ukonzakura
[petals: 10-20 / color: faint yellow green / season: late April]
A very rare kind of sakura also known by the name of “kizakura” due to its color of faint yellow green to green. The name Ukonzakura came from its color resembling textiles dyed with ukon(turmeric) stem and root. It puts on blossoms with several layers, after most of the other kinds have welcome the season’s blossoming.

 

Blooming Sakura Tea

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Well its the height of cherry blossom season here in Washington D.C. and I was wanting to keep a memory what better way than with a cup of tea. Take a look at this post I found, I have done this and also preserved the blossoms in corn syrup and cherry blossom essence.

 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shidare zakura no Shiozuke

It’s official. Spring is in the air, as evident by the burgeoning blooms on cherry blossom trees I saw on my way to work. While talking to K, I discovered that the Japanese pickle the blooms and the leaves for food, as an accent for drinks and desserts, and even drunk as a savory tea called sakurayu. How does pickled sakura taste like? Very much like Japanese preserved plums or Ume, me thinks. Hence, it is not surprising that the 2 get paired rather frequently in culinary matrimonial bliss.    Piqued by the thought of making my own batch, I enlisted help in searching for a recipe. The problem is, the recipe does not specify what variety of sakura tree the blooms should be used from. We saw a variety by our workplace called Somei Yoshino, which has light pink flowers with 5 petals. (and proceeded to pluck away) Here’s what we have in a small cup for the curing:

Second Round of Blossom picking at the Esplanade, Boston.

Light source was a street lamp!

(Harvested April 6, 2010)

To make the sakura no shiozuke, you need:
  • 100 g sakura blossoms with stems
  • sea salt-1 Tbs for dehydration, 4 Tbs for storage
  • 4 Tbs plum vinegar (which is essentially gently-fermented brine from salting Japanese plums or Ume.)
Step 1: Wash the flowers carefully and remove the waxy (red) bits by the stems. Drain well and blot with a kitchen towel.
Step 2: Scatter sea salt on top of your flowers. Shake, but do not mix or the petals could separate from the stems. Cover with clear kitchen wrap and place a heavy jar on top of the blooms to force liquid out while soaking them in a brine. (If you have a Japanese pickling press, all the better) Leave overnight or for 1 day.
Step 3: Squeeze the flowers out of excess fluid and place in a jar or bowl. Add the plum vinegar and allow to gently ferment for 3 days.
Step 4: Line a baking tray with kitchen towel. Arrange the flowers and allow to dry in a shaded area. (~3 days)
In this case, my error was in picking fully-open blooms. After the pickling and pressing, the petals fell out, exposing pistils and stamens. Bald (hage) flowers are not pretty. I ended up plucking the petals off, then rolling them into tiny boules before drying them. It is my vision that these boules of petals would unfurl into the steaming hot tea. We’ll see if that happens. *Update: they did!



Step 5: Place the blooms in a small jar and add sea salt for storage. Voila! Your very own salt-cured Somei Yoshino Cherry blossoms!

(Shirotae, Harvested April 7, 2010)
For more sakura varieties, K and I went night sakura-picking by the Esplanade at the Charles River after our wine and cheese party at work. While lovers were whispering sweet-nothings to each other in the dark, the both of us took constant flash photography and suspiciously hovered around the sakura trees picking at the buds. 🙂 I then tried this recipe with Shirotae Cherry and a darker pink species called Shidare-zakura (Weeping Cherry).
(Shidare, Harvested April 6, 2010)

Of the three, Shirotae was white, Somei Yoshino was pale pink, and Shidare was the darkest pink (and most similar to the recipe). However, in terms of aroma, Shirotae was most aromatic, followed by Somei Yoshino. Shidare smelt the least alluring of the 3 varieties I picked. Trade-off between color and aroma! Well at least I have 3 different flowers to mix and match.
(Finished Shidare Zakura no Shiozuke!)

(Sakurayu)
*Update: Once the curing process was complete, I plopped a couple off Shidare flowers into hot water and behold.. they did open up a little. I was a little disappointed that their pink color was leached into the tea and that the tea wasn’t reminiscent of the sweet plum smell from the salting. In fact, it smells like cut grass, which really isn’t very appetizing, taste-wise. Use hot green tea to mask the zing, perhaps? I will try them in onigiri (rice balls) and update later on their taste.
(Yamazakura, harvested April 16 with Ws in the pouring rain, just outside Berryline in Cambridge)

 

Adopt a Dwarf

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

 

 

Four Winds Growers is a family owned and operated citrus nursery in California. In the late 1940s, our founder developed the world’s first Dwarf Citrus trees. Today, we offer more than 60 varieties of fine Citrus trees online. These include a selection of rare and unusual Citrus varieties, some of which are not yet available at retail nurseries in California.
Evergreen Dwarf Citrus produce fragrant flowers, followed by full-sized citrus fruit, making them a welcome addition to your garden and table. Carefully hand-grafted, their trees are well suited to growing in containers or as houseplants. They can also be planted in the ground in suitable climates. One of their most popular varieties is the Dwarf Meyer Lemon, which is also well suited for indoor growing. Other favorites are Kaffir Lime, Bearss Lime, Mexican (Key) Lime and Sweet Lime.

Four Winds Growers is a family owned and operated citrus nursery in California. In the late 1940s, our founder developed the world’s first Dwarf Citrus trees. Today, theyoffer more than 60 varieties of fine Citrus trees online. These include a selection of rare and unusual Citrus varieties, some of which are not yet available at retail nurseries in California.
Evergreen Dwarf Citrus produce fragrant flowers, followed by full-sized citrus fruit, making them a welcome addition to your garden and table. Carefully hand-grafted, our trees are well suited to growing in containers or as houseplants. They can also be planted in the ground in suitable climates. One of thier most popular varieties is the Dwarf Meyer Lemon, which is also well suited for indoor growing. Other favorites are Kaffir Lime, Bearss Lime, Mexican (Key) Lime and Sweet Lime.

The Bitter Truth

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Amari, the plural of amaro, an Italian term for “bitters,” refers to distilled spirits containing an infusion of bittering compounds such as herbs, roots, or barks. Basic elements are the aromatic herbs gentian, rhubarb, quinine, saffron, calamus or sweet rush, and centaury, among others. Bitters were originally produced to soothe and relax the stomach after meals, and therefore are often referred to as “digestives.” They are also used as ingredients in some cocktails.

Aperire, a simple Latin word that means “to open,” is the origin of the word apêritif–a beverage that usually “opens” lunch or dinner as a stimulant to the appetite. Most apêritifs are initially sweet with a somewhat bitter aftertaste because of the use of quinine (or cinchona bark). This slight harshness whets the appetite and cleanses the palate.

Although Italy certainly produces the lion’s share of amari, you’ll also find delectable offerings from Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, and the United States. There is no one correct way to serve amari–they are great served neat, at room temperature, chilled, or on the rocks. Each can be served in a tall drink, with sparkling mineral water and a wedge of lemon, lime, or even orange as a garnish. A maraschino cherry on top provides a finishing touch.

APEROL

1.jpg(22 proof) was developed in Veneto, Italy, by Silvio Barbieri in 1919. Made from an infusion of more than 30 aromatic herbs, spices, and roots– including bitter orange, gentian, and rhubarb– Aperol has a luminous, distinctive deep orange color and is made from grain-neutral distilled spirits with natural orange flavors.

 

CAMPARI

2.jpg(48 proof) was first developed shortly after 1862 by Gaspare Campari, a master drink maker by the age of 14 and a native of Castelnuovo southwest of Milan, Italy. This ruby-red, bitter beverage is a mixture of more than 68 aromatic extractions from herbs, roots, plants, and fruits. Campari has a bouquet and taste of bitter orange, cherry, ginger, lemon, licorice, orange zest, and strawberry, with a bittersweet aftertaste.

 

CIOCIARO

3.jpg(60 proof) is a dark brown, bittersweet mixture of carefully selected herbs and spices that was conceived in 1873 by Italy’s Paolucci family.

 

CYNAR

4.jpg(34 proof) is a zesty, bittersweet apéritif made from artichoke leaves and herbs, conceived in 1950 by Angelo Dalle Molle. The late A. Charles Castelli, said the organic acid cynarin in Cynar “makes what follows taste softer, taste better.” The brown digestive has a bouquet and taste of almonds, herbs, honey, and walnuts and is bittersweet, with a hint of orange in the aftertaste.

 

FERNET-BRANCA

5.jpg(80 proof) is a dark brown, extremely bitter tincture introduced in 1845 by Bernardino Branca in Milan, Italy. Fernet contains more than 40 herbs and spices (among them, cardamom, chamomile, cinchona bark, gentian, myrrh, rhubarb, saffron, and sage) in a base of grape alcohol, and it is aged for one year in oak barrels.

 

RAMAZZOTTI AMARO

6.jpg(60 proof) was created in 1815 in Ausano Ramazzotti’s small shop in Milan. The naturally bitter apéritif is produced from 33 medical herbs and roots, including gentian, cinchona bark, rhubarb, cinnamon, oregano, sweet orange from Sicily, bitter orange from Curaçao, and other ingredients from around the world.

 

JÄGERMEISTER

 

6.jpg(70 proof) is a dark red, bitter liquor made from 56 botanicals, fruits, and herbs–including aniseed, citrus peel, ginger, ginseng, juniper berries, licorice, poppy seeds, and saffron–that are steeped in alcohol and aged for one year. The name is German for “the hunter,” and the bottle’s label depicts a picture of a noble stag.

 

 

MONTENEGRO

7.jpg(46 proof) has a delicate bouquet and flavor of bitter orange, coriander, cucumber, orange peel, pekoe tea, red cherries, and tangerine. Its initially sweet taste quickly turns mildly bitter.

 

VELOCE

70 proof) is a pale yellow, bitter liqueur made from such selected herbs as absinthe, licorice, and rhubarb for power and the fruits peach and apricots for elegance. A touch of barrelaged nebbiolo grape spirit rounds out the finished product.

Incredible Edible Flowers

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

 

 

 

 

One very important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible.

In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick.

You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.

Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.

Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers, and edible parts of those flowers.

Edible Flower Chart


Crystallized/Candy Edible Flowers:

Candied flowers and petals can be used in a variety of imaginative ways – to decorate cakes large and small – all kinds of sweet things, such as ice cream, sherbet, crèmes and fruit salads, cocktails.

Ingredients:

1 egg white or powdered egg whites

Superfine granulated sugar (either purchased or made in a blender or food processor – just blend regular sugar until extra-fine)

Thin paintbrush

Violets, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, rose petals, lilac, borage, pea, pinks, scented geraniums, etc.

Wire rack covered with wax paper

Directions:

Carefully clean and completely dry the flowers or petals.

Beat the egg white in the small bowl until slightly foamy, if necessary add a few drops of water to make the white easy to spread.

Paint each flower individually with beaten egg white using the small paintbrush. When thoroughly coated with egg white, sprinkle with superfine sugar.

Place the coated flowers or petals on wax paper on a wire rack. Let dry at room temperature (this could take 12 to 36 hours). To test for dryness, check the base of the bloom and the heart of the flower to make sure they have no moisture. Flowers are completely dry when stiff and brittle to the touch. NOTE: To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150 degrees to 200 degrees F with the door ajar for a few hours.

Store the flowers in layers, separated by tissue paper, in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Making Blossom Ice Cubes:

Gently rinse your pesticide-free flower blossoms.

Boil water for 2 minutes for all the air trapped in the water to escape. Remove from heat and let the water cool until room temperature. NOTE: This will ensure that the ice cubes are crystal clear.

Place each blossom at the base of each individual compartment within an ice tray. Fill each compartment half full with the cooled boiled water and freeze.

After the water is frozen solid, fill each ice cube compartment the rest of the way to the top with the remaining boiled water. Freeze until ready to use.

 

via Edible Flowers, How to choose Edible Flowers, Edible Flower Chart, List of Edible Flowers, Incredible Edible Flowers.