Friday, February 24, 2012

Half drunk bottles

Most people I know who drink whisky aren't worried to much about saving it.  Once a bottle is cracked, it's fair game until it's empty.  That's what it's for, right?  But now and then, you get a bottle that you want to savor.  Either it was out of your usual league pricewise, or it's a rare find.  As long as the bottle is more than half full, that's fine.  But less than half and it will start to oxidize after a few months.  If you don't believe me check out an experiment conducted on this L.A. food blog: whisky, age, and oxygen.  So, what can you do to prevent blowing through the bottle in an effort to preserve it's peak taste?  Re-bottle it.  I will say as a full disclaimer I lifted this idea straight from my favorite bourbon blog, Sour Mash Manifesto.  Read Jason Pyle's post about whisky storage here.  I ordered bottles from Specialty Bottle, I chose 2oz and 4oz boston rounds.  When they came in, I washed and dried them (learn from my mistakes, don't do this in the dishwasher, the gunk gets in the tiny bottles and it's a pain in the ass to clean them out).  Then I chose a few whiskies that I had that I wanted to preserve.  I bottled up the rest of my Van Winkle 12, and of course the George T. Stagg.  And a few others that some of the readers out there may discover later...Now it can sit on the shelf as long as I like. 

The end result looks pretty cool:

A hobby gone too far? Maybe it's a little crazy, but that's part of the fun. The key is using some form of label to not forget what you've done.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pub Review: Stateside

Stateside is the newest addition to the East Passyunk dining scene.  It's a great location, with big windows overlooking the fountain just below 11th street.  It's from the folks who do Green Eggs, maybe the best brunch place in the city with locations in Northern Liberties and South Philly.  I had high hopes for this place, let's see if it lived up.

The bar is the central feature of this spot.  The bartenders were very knowledgeable; one of them accurately pegged a patron as a sweet white wine drinker pretty quickly.  In the beer department, they have about 8 taps, with a thoughful selection of mostly locals but a few others, like Alewerks Porter from Williamsburg, VA, and Ithaca saison (my choice).  But this is not a standard beer bar.  They feature a huge whisky list, primarily american whisky, bourbon, and rye.  They had several bottles from the Van Winkle line and a few other real nice bottles (a shot of Pappy 23 ran you 60 bucks!), some standards at lower price points, and everything in between.  For me, the highlight of the bar was the cocktail list, which features about 8 cocktails, each costing either 8 or 9 bucks.  I had a clover club (a classic cocktail), and my wife had a sort of riff on a mint julep.  They were both very well made, and thus a great value.  I like the fancy cocktail bars and speakeasies elsewhere in the city, but Stateside showed just how overpriced alcohol can be.  I've definitely had a shoddy manhattan or two and paid upwards of 12 bucks a pop in this town. 

The food here was simply fantastic.  They have some larger plates, but really this is a small place joint.  They recommend 2-3 per person.  A quick rundown.  The cheese plate featured some artisanal cheeses with a lot of thought put into the accompainiments, e.g. blue cheese from Vermont with bacon caramel sauce.  The foie gras mousse on toast was good but somehow tasted just like Corn Pops breakfast cereal.  A side of house made pickles was good but unnecessary.  The beet salad was my least favorite dish, it was tasty and hearty but I like my beets a little crispier.  There was a smoked trout salad which was very delicious.  The maple pork belly with grits and a cider jus was delightful, and my wife's favorite dish.  But my favorite dish was the steak tartare.  It was topped with a raw quail egg, and each forkful was so salty, meaty, and wonderful.  For dessert, an apple cider type donut with candied bacon and a vanilla caramel glaze.  Out of this world.

We waited an awful long time for our table, and the bar is not exactly roomy.  Some folks were quite rude about pushing past us to get seated at the bar while we had been waiting.  But the host was so apologetic and attentive, taking our coats and repeatedly checking in with us.  He wound up comping our bar drinks, and we got a nice table so in the end the wait was worth it.  As far as price, we went all out, with 3 drinks each, dessert, and the maximum recommended dishes and got out for 100 bucks (before tip, and keep in mind 2 of the drinks were free).  I think you could do it quite a bit cheaper and still leave full and have an enjoyable experience (the plates are smallish but not so small as some other tapas places).  The food itself was superb, sort of a stepping stone between gastropub and high end restaurant.  I look forward to my next visit, for sure.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Dinner in Pictures

For my father in law's 60th birthday--or beginning of the end, as he called it--my wife and her sister decided to make him a 10 course dinner of the sort he will never forget.  Somewhere along the way the idea of making the dinner a culinary journey through his life came about.  For a man who has lived in Africa, Asia, on the West Coast, and in the midwest, this was no small feat.  The pictures below are the overview of the dinner, with brief descriptions.
My wife made the menus. 

To start, I made a cocktail called the Rickshaw, with gin, basil syrup, and lime juice.  I don't have a picture, sorry.

The table awaits.
Salmon roe on shrimp crackes.  My sister and law and her boyfriend made the crackers by hand.   The result was a salty, crunchy first bite that got the dinner off on the right foot.  Salmon represents Oregon, the Pacific Northwest.

Andrea's boyfriend made a fantastic scallop in ponzu sauce, I dont't have a great picture though.  The picture above is tuna shipped in from Oregon.  It was caught by my father-in-law's brother-in-law.  Try and keep up.  The pink stuff is pickled lotus root and ginger.

This was probably my favorite dish.  Shrimp two ways, made by my wife.  On the left, a grilled shrimp with african spices, on the right, olive oil poached.  Fantastic.

Here is my dish, which I hacked from a Jose Garces restaurant.  Serrano ham wrapped duck confit on a baguette with capra verde (green goat) cheese and a cherry.  I was very happy with it.  The duck represented Oregon, as in "Go Ducks."

Trio of satays: pork, steak, chicken, in a peanut sauce.

Black pepper crab, a Sinaporean favorite.

Curry glazed pork belly with savory yam buns.  The steamed yam buns were sensational, filled with pieces of shrimp and whatnot.

Some wonderful Oregon pinots to pair with the richer late courses.  We also had a Bells beer called Hopslam, a double IPA with honey that did not taste at all like it was 10 percent ABV.  I thought the wines were awesome and the IPA did a great job of scraping the palate without overwhelming it.  Also served was an Ethiopian spiced white wine called Tej.  I'm pretty sure it was purchased illegally.

First dessert couse, a cheese board with blue cheese from Rogue creamery in Oregon, and a padano like cheese made in Kentucky and purchased at a local place in Indy called Goose the Market.

Basil panna cotta with blackberry compote and candied hazlenuts; a labor of love.

All in all, a fun dinner that took a lot of preparation, ideas, and teamwork.  A good birthday gift to give someone, for sure.