Thursday, March 17, 2011

Drinks to Set Your World on Fire

The restaurant at which i am currently working has a dessert which involves a flaming cinnamon stick.

The dessert is some sort of chocolate concoction which I have yet to try, but the presentation involves the pastry chef sticking a cinnamon stick in the dessert, lighting it on fire, and then blowing it out, so that a hazy, super-fragrant cinnamon smoke hovers over the plate.

The reaction to this cinnamon incense is invariably one of delight, and it reminded me of how much we all seem to enjoy any food item which includes the use of flame.

BBQs are a prime example as are campfires: what pleasure we derive from building a massive fire and then throwing large hunks of food on it. And I think anyone who has ever tasted a steak or chicken breast, even a simple hamburger, hot dog or ear of corn, that has been cooked over an open flame will agree that everything cooked this way just tastes delicious.

S'mores are also always a great crowd-pleaser; who doesn't have memories involving those delicious, sticky melting marshmallows, or remember with a certain delight the moment at which your marshmallow suddenly caught fire?

How about Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee served tableside? People take pictures of cherries and bananas that have suddenly gone up in flame with oooohs and aaahhhs coming from every surrounding table.

And let's not forget about birthday candles: staring down at the cake while the candles shine up in our faces; trying to blow them all out at once. What about those candles that refuse to blow out? Sure, now we find them kind of annoying, but when they first came out, the squeals of surprise and joy all around the table...candles that won't blow out!!! Burning on my cake!!! Hooray!!!!

Good, clean, firey fun.

Since we have such fun lighting our food on fire, how about our beverages?

There is a whole catalogue of flaming drinks recipes out there, and I thought to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we might share some of these toasty treats with each other.

I found the following recipes on

A note on flaming drinks: be careful!!! Don't let the drink burn too long; close any open bottles of alcohol before lighting the drink; don't add alcohol to the glass once the drink is on fire; never, never drink the drink while it is on fire, blow it out first!!!

Cookie Monster:
1/2 ounce Irish Cream
1/2 Kahlua
1 tsp. 151 proof rum

Layer Kahlua, then Bailey's, then rum in a glass. Ignite. After a few seconds blow out flame and drink with a straw.

French Toast:
1/4 ounce Bailey's
1/2 ounce Butterscotch Schnapps
1/4 ounce Drambuie
2 pinches ground cinnamon

In a shot glass, layer first Bailey's followed by the schnapps and Drambuie. Ignite the Drambuie layer and while the flame is still burning, sprinkle the cinnamon into it. Apparently the cinnamon creates sparks! Blow out flame and enjoy.

Mid-Air Collision:
1/4 ounce Amaretto
1/4 ounce Bailey's
1/4 ounce Kahlua
1/4 ounce coffee liqueur
splash of 151 proof rum

Mix all of the ingredients except the rum and pour in a shot glass. Top with rum and set alight. Blow out and drink.

Let me know if you try any of these, or if you have a favorite favorite flaming cocktail recipe of your own!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wine for Bugs

A few nights ago, I made a yummy dinner with rice and a package of mixed greens I got at Trader Joe's. We have had these greens before and they are a yummy combo of Mustard, Collard, and Turnip greens plus spinach.

I was enjoying my meal when I took a bite and got a rush of a very strong clove-like flavor. Knowing that I hadn't put any cloves in the recipe, it occurred to me that something might be amiss, and I was curious to see what it was that had contributed such a strong flavor.

I spit out the food in my mouth and discovered something slightly black that did indeed look a bit like a clove. When I turned it over, though, I saw the green underbody and legs which let me know i had bitten into a bug! The fact that the bug was headless and partly torso-less told me I had in fact eaten half of the critter.

I have to admit i was a little bothered at first; I didn't like to think I had eaten bug-head, and i found it oddly disturbing to remember that it had had such a strong clove-ey essence to it. Then of course, my imagination took hold and I worried that I had bitten into some strange kind of clove-flavored neurotoxin found only in the Turnip-Green Doodlebug, and that soon I was going to lose control of my bodily functions and fall face-first into my rice-bowl.

When this didn't happen, of course, I found myself thinking about how arbitrary food-rules are. I was freaked out about eating a bug, because in our food culture, eating bugs is not ok. But as we know, eating bugs in other parts of the world is completely normal. Why should it be ok to eat kidney or liver, but not bug? Kidney and liver are, after all, filtering and detoxifying organs, full of waste products. Bugs are just...bugs.

We have a friend who went to Hong Kong recently on a business trip, and when he was taken out to dinner he was served fried jellyfish, fish lips and chicken feet! He said the flavor was fine, it was the chewy texture that got to him. But i take my hat off to him for trying them!

A while ago I was watching an episode of that program that followed Ewan McGregor and his friend Charlie as they motorcycled around the world. When they were in Mongolia, they were invited into the hut of some friendly folks and their families, who were all gathered around the fire, eating bowls of Llama testicles.

Yup, that's right. Balls. Mother, father and children were all happily slurping away at a bowl of balls. Ewan managed to eat a ball with no problem, but poor Charlie spit his out, saying he just couldn't do it. I have to say I wouldn't have been able to do it either!

But it's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? Of what we're used to. Everyone in that tent believed that testicles were perfectly fine and yummy to eat. The westerners had been taught that they weren't ok, so had more of an issue with them.

So many thoughts from one poor half-eaten Doodlebug....

My Wine for Bugs is a 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol. This wine is from Bandol, in Provence France, and comes from an historic estate and is made from the Mourvedre grape. Mourvedre is most often seen blended with Syrah and Grenache in wines from the Southern Rhone in France.

In the Tempier, however, the Mourvedre takes center stage. It is a wonderful full-bodied wine with more earth than fruit; tree bark and spice dominate. We offered it at Masa's as an alternative to an Italian Brunello and served it with our Venison dish.

It also pairs beautifully with Doodlebug.

What is the most unusual food you've ever eaten?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wine for The Solid Gold Oscars

Let's face it, more often than not, The Oscars are a train-wreck. Usually Steve and I record them and watch them later so that we can fast-forward through the embarrassing, boring, or just plain unbearable moments. This usually means that we wind up with about 20 minutes of actual viewing.

Who can stand the horrible jokes, the fake laughter, the cringe-worthy blubbery acceptance speeches and the terrifying musical numbers?

This year Steve and I skipped watching it all-together, choosing instead to watch an advance-screening DVD copy I have of The Social Network. From everything I heard about the ceremony this year, it would appear that we made the right choice. It sounds like this year's hosts were more like watching the stoned guy and the chirpy sorority girl at a college talent show.

Here's how I think we can fix the Oscars ceremony: The Solid Gold Dancers. How many of you out there remember that television show Solid Gold? It was an eighties masterpiece on which the top ten songs of the week were counted down and danced to while being hosted by the likes of Dionne Warwick.

The Solid Gold Dancers were men and women who performed interperative dances to each of the songs. I recently watched a collection of these dances on YouTube and was shocked at the fact that this show was considered good family fun at the time. Now, everyone involved in that show would be arrested. For many reasons.

I think the outfits would be the main reason. Well, the outfits and the hairdos. The outfits defy explanation. The women always wear shiny spandex leotards or short-shorts in a variety of shocking colors and the men....dear God the men....wear shiny tight pants and gold lame tank tops. The pants are so tight you can see their meat and two veg. And the shiny blue color only serves to highlight the packages to disturbing proportions.

The dances themselves are so fabulously horrible it is hard to look away. They really are just pole-dancing without the poles. The dances have absolutely nothing to do with the songs themselves, and pretty much always involve four or five women gyrating in purple spandex with two men also in purple spandex who you know would rather be gyrating with each other and their huge spandex-clad manhoods.

In one dance, one of the female dancers (who I'm actually sure was a man in drag) actually performs an entire dance number with a cigarette dangling of his/her mouth.

Just imagine the Oscar ceremony potential with these dancers!! Brokeback Mountain in spandex! The King's Speech with Colin Firth spandex!! Toy Story spandex!!! The hosts...pole spandex!!! I mean come on, it's brilliant!'s Solid Gold!

My Wine for The Solid Gold Dancers is once again not a wine bur rather my much-loved St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur. This sweet delight is made from Elderflowers gathered from the foot of the French Alps and delivered to market by men on bicycles. I kid you not.

These Elderflowers are then macerated, and blended with grape spirit and cane sugar. The result is a liqueur with a beautiful floral note as well as essences of pear, peach and grapefruit zest.

I love this liqueur when added to a glass of ginger beer, or on the rocks with sparkling wine and club soda. However you drink it, it is best enjoyed by people with big hair who dance inappropriately to Lionel Richie songs while wearing tight shiny leotards and high heels.

How would you fix The Oscars?