Category Archives: vodka

The S&C Celebration

A big thanks to everyone who came to the one year S&C anniversary celebration! We had a fabulous time at The Source. I do need to give a special shout-out to the restaurant, as they were super accommodating and great to work with — just all around nice people over there. They went out of their way to make sure we had a  memorable experience. Including, creating a specialty cocktail to commemorate the occasion. Ms. S&C told them ahead of time that she likes bubbly concoctions, and that’s just what they made. Cheers to the Elderberry Spritz!

elderberry-spritz

Elderberry Spritz
serves one

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Absolut Vodka
  • 1/3 oz. St. Germain Liqueur
  • 2/3 oz. Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
  • Henriot Champagne
  • Grapefruit wedges, for garnish

Directions:
Combine the first three ingredients and shake over ice. Serve in chilled martini glasses. Top with Champagne, or other sparkling wine. Garnish with grapefruit wedge.

Note: There’s a little bit of guesswork on the ingredient proportions. The drink came across a little strong for some in the group, so we may need to go easy on the vodka and/or include an extra dash of St. Germain and grapefruit juice.

Thanks again for a great year!

posted by Ms. S&C

One Cocktail-Filled Weekend

A recent weekend trip to Charlottesville found me hiking in the mountains, sampling Moroccan fare at a new restaurant (complete with belly dancers), brunching with friends and sampling a wide variety of exciting cocktails over the course of two days.

My first out-of-the-ordinary sampling was a sweet concoction at Maya: the Peanut Butter Martini. While sitting at the bar, my friend grew curious when she spotted a container of peanut butter sitting behind the cash register. When we found out that the jar of Jif was intended to play the starring role in the Peanut Butter Martini, my friend was quick to order a couple to satisfy our curiosity. This is definitely a dessert-style drink best suited to those sweet of tooth. The ingredients are top secret—in fact, the martini menu lists ingredients for every other drink except for this one; under Peanut Butter Martini, the only information you’ll find is “??????????????????????” 

Our next stop was at the Box, a tiny bar located just off of Charlottesville’s pedestrian downtown mall, for some beers. Only when I ordered two Magic Hats, the bartender misunderstood my order amidst the din and served up two lemon drops instead (go figure). But these weren’t just any lemon drops – they were Ginger Lemon Drops with a sugary rim. Delish.

The next night, at the aforementioned Moroccan restaurant Alhamraa, I indulged in a Hibiscus Cooler. The refreshing drink combined homemade hibiscus concentrate, Bombay Sapphire and cava. It was a bit on the sweet side (and were those notes of cinnamon I detected in the hibiscus concentrate?), but it was definitely something different.

We continued our evening at Bang, an Asian-inspired tapas restaurant. Bang has an extensive martini menu, and Miss Mojito found herself partial to “The Joe.” Although Miss M was less than reliable in her note-taking, she recalls a delectable mixture of gin, Chambord, white cranberry juice, ginger syrup and lime.

The winner of the evening? It was the accidental lemon drop. The ginger added a kick to the traditional—and sugary—lemon flavor, resulting in a winning combination.

Recipes for Ginger Lemon Drops are few and far between, but this one sounds promising.

Ginger Lemon Drop

  • Ice
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce ginger syrup, recipe follows
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Twist of lemon
  • Superfine sugar

Fill a shaker with ice. Add the vodka, ginger syrup and lemon juice. Cover and shake vigorously until combined and chilled. Strain into a martini glass rimmed with superfine sugar. Add twist and serve.

Ginger Syrup:

  • 1 lemon, peel removed with a vegetable peeler into strips
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh ginger (peel too)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

Add the ginger chunks and lemon into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a pan and add sugar and water. Mix and simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain the mixture and cool. It can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Credit: JeMangeLaVille.com

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Love is in the air

Happy Valentine’s Day! The theme of love continues over here at S&C. Ms. S&C had two good friends marry a few weeks ago and thought now would be the time to share a few details.

Friends SB and LD were married in a courthouse ceremony, so they spent their wedding day with a small gathering of family and close friends — until an evening reception when many more of us joined them to celebrate. When I saw SB, she was stunning in a Tahari dress. The dress, knee length, had gorgeous silver detailing, a cut-out neckline, and was finished with a belted bow. I so wish there was a picture to share. It was very Jackie O/Audrey Hepburn-esque. SB said a courthouse wedding seemed a bit retro so she went with a vintage late 50s/early 60s look.

Naturally, I wanted to see what shoes she paired. And she really couldn’t have found a better match for the dress. The shoes were beautiful and elegant and had P-E-R-F-E-C-T bow detailing to compliment the belt on the dress. She picked up this ivory pair over at DSW, where there are more color choices. And with a price tag of $49.95, I’m very tempted to get the black ones.

wedding-shoes

SB’s perfect wedding shows with bow detail

Another fun retro-y detail — at the reception, instead of wedding cake, red velvet cupcakes were served. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a better cupcake. The baker has a blog where she shares the recipe, and she comments that “the intense red color of the cake has some sort of hypnotic effect, because people are always delighted just to lay eyes on the cake, and then absolutely smitten when they finally taste it.” Absolutely right, sista.

red-velvet-cupcakes

Delicious red velvet wedding cupcakes

To further celebrate this heart-filled holiday, here’s a romantic cocktail that fits the occasion. It was inspired by the Rose Royce Cocktail, courtesy of OVAL Vodka. One of the original ingredients in the recipe was rose syrup. I subbed St. Germain elderflower liqueur because it of its floral notes and because I already had it in my cabinet. I used grenadine instead of simple syrup so the drink would have a slight pink color. I also didn’t have any fresh thyme, but the rosemary in my garden has survived the winter (and it seemed a better fit, both in name and flavor). All in all, a lovely drink.

The Rose Cocktail
makes one drink

1 oz. Vodka (Oval recommended)
1/3 oz. St. Germain
1/3 oz. Grenadine
2/3 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
½ glass Champagne

Shake all ingredients well over ice and pour into a flute half-filled with champagne. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Super Bowl

Mr. and Ms. S&C hosted their seventh annual Super Bowl party over the weekend. I realize the Super Bowl has been covered ad nauseam, so there’s no need for a recap of the game, the commercials, or the Boss here. I will say Jennifer Hudson looked fabulous and I would kill for her outfit. Loved the jacket, the shoes and the jewelry.

Even Top Chef jumped on board for the media overload, so I may pass on the Top Chef recap/drink pairing from last week’s episode. Except to say, it was pretty cool that the Quickfire Challenge involved squares. I love playing football squares.

There were two items from our party I feel bound to share — bloody mary’s and the world’s best lasagna.

As of late, I’ve heard many cocktail enthusiasts who have been advocating a return to the original Bloody Mary. The original recipe, thought to have been created by either a bartender at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City or one in Paris, started with equal parts tomato juice and vodka. Some mixologists highly recommend this simplified version, with maybe a dash or two of Worcestershire, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Ms. S&C personally loves the bold spiciness that can come with a Bloody Mary. Lots of horseradish, Tabasco, old bay, celery seed, citrus — you could call it “the works.” And, I love to experiment with garnishes — maybe a fresh jalapeno and a shrimp, maybe bacon? Celery is an old favorite, but cucumber is now my go-to garnish of choice.

bloody_mary_bar

Bloody mary bar at the Super Bowl party. Cool football shaped glasses
were a gift from an aunt.

Our Super Bowl parties have usually featured traditional fare such as chili and sandwiches and the like. This year, we served lasagna. And, I have to say, it was pretty incredible. So good, that I’m going off-topic. The first time I made this lasagna, it was right after our trip to the city of brotherly love when I used a lot of fresh ingredients from the Italian market. I recommend you splurge on some premium canned tomato products because the sauce is the best part.

World’s Best Lasagna
(adapted from the recipe on all recipes.com)

Ingredients:
1 pound ground Italian sausage
¾ pound lean ground beef
1 cup minced onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine
3 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lasagna noodles (it is okay to use the no-boil noodles)
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and red wine. Season with basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 4 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. (Note: the sauce can be made a day in advance.)

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

To assemble, spread 1 ½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with noodles. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Top with sauce. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. To prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

posted by Ms. S&C

The city of brotherly love

Mr. and Ms. S&C recently took a short trip to Philadelphia.  We visited the city of brotherly love to catch the Neil Young and Wilco concert at the old Spectrum arena.  Before the show (which was awesome), the mister and missus stopped off at two places that couldn’t be more different.  Our first stop was Midtown II, the quintessential dive bar.  It is a 24-hour, greasy-spoon type of place, that’s dirt cheap, and where you’re not too far removed from the grittier side of Philly.  And, it has a jukebox.  I love bars with jukeboxes.  It is also the type of place that doesn’t serve a garnish in your gin and tonic.  Mr. S&C is usually the one to seek out these bars, and I’m so glad he does.  While I don’t get the off-the-charts inventive cocktail, I get a strong cocktail.  And, I get a lot of atmosphere.

After a few drinks at Midtown II, we headed to its antithesis, Continental.  Continental is an upscale diner plus martini bar.  It has an extensive cocktail menu, and it is place where the beautiful people go.  While the people are not nearly as interesting, we had a great bartender and really good drinks.  I started off with a Side Car, a classic I’m loving right now.  Then, I had a Pimm’s Cup with champagne.  Mr. S&C had a refreshing Tom Collins and a martini with a blue cheese stuffed olive.

side_car

Side Car (circa 1922)

  • Hennessy
  • Cointreau
  • Lemon juice
  • Served with a sugar rimmed glass

Pimm’s Cup (circa 1823)

  • Pimm’s no. 1
  • Champagne
  • Ginger Ale
  • Lemon
  • Slice of cucumber

Tom Collins (circa 1902)

  • Gin
  • Lemon juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Topped with club soda

The Continental

  • Zyr vodka
  • Blue cheese stuffed olive

The remainder of the trip had nothing to do with shoes and cocktails, but it was a great time, so I’ll share it nonetheless.  The next morning, we headed to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast and a little gift shopping.  It is must-see attraction when you’re in Philly.  It is an extraordinary farmer’s market with fresh produce, baked goods, meats, crafts, etc.  Lots of Amish specialties and ethnic vendors too.  Next, we went to the Rodin Museum, which holds his largest collection outside of the Paris museum.  I never get tired of looking at the Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais, and was able to see a new sculpture, The Martyr – all so haunting and tragic.  Rodin was a genius.

We saved our grocery shopping until we got to the Italian Market in South Philly, where I picked up ingredients for lasagna: fresh pasta, fresh mozzerella, Sicilian sausage — everything needed for the best lasagna I’ve ever made.  Then, we capped off our trip with an authentic Philly Cheesesteak at Pat’s.

italian_market

pats

A lot was accomplished in the 24 hours we were there.  And, I would go back to every single stop next time.

Seven good years

Mr. and Ms. S&C have been married seven years now.  It has become a tradition to celebrate the occasion with a super fancy dinner – one of those dinners you can only afford once a year.  After year one, we went to Marcels, and we’re still talking about the duck confit and chesnut soup we had.  Last year, we visited the tasting room at Restaurant Eve, and it was a marathon of 12 courses.  On Saturday night, we headed to CityZen, at the Mandarin Oriental, with high expectations.

We opted for the amazing six course tasting menu and the sommelier’s wine pairing.  Before I get to the food and wine, let me say that they do everything right over at CityZen.  They anticipate your every need, and no detail is too small.

The gentleman started the evening off with a Chivas and soda.  He appreciated that the soda was served on the side, so you can add as much, or as little, as you want.  The lady began with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, the Peachy Keen, made with a peach-ginger flavored vodka, iced tea, and peach puree.  It tasted like peach iced tea and was a little too sweet for my liking.  That’s okay, she knew she had six rounds ahead of her.

The complete tasting menu and sommelier’s pairing is below.  The first course of tuna was paired with an excellent, light Reisling that wasn’t too sweet.  The sweet Semillon, however, was a perfect match for the rich foie gras.  The branzino may have been my favorite course, and it was paired with one of my favorite types of wine, Pinot Noir.  An earthy Grenache/Mourvedre accompanied the succulent veal shortribs.  A trio of micro-brewed beers was a surprise pairing for the plentiful cheese cart that was wheeled over.  And lastly, Port was served with dessert, which was probably my least favorite course.  While a fun idea, I just didn’t love the warm peanut butter and jelly concoction.

CityZen’s Tasting Menu and Pairing

CONFIT OF BLUEFIN TUNA AND TORO SASHIMI WITH HEIRLOOM POTATO SALAD AND PEPPER AOLI
2005 Schloss Gobelsburg, Urgestein
Reisling
Kremstal, Austria

SAUTEED MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS WITH MISSION FIGS AND CELERY BRANCH
2005 Margan Family
Botrytis Semillon
Hunter Valley, Australia

CRISPY SKIN FILET OF MEDITERRANEAN BRANZINO WITH ROAST GARLIC CAVATELLI, DRIED SAUSAGE, ITALIAN PARSLEY AND BOTTARGA DE MULLET
1999 Lignier-Michelot
Pinot Noir
Chambolle-Musigny, France

BRAISED MARCHO FARMS VEAL SHORTRIBS WITH SAVOY CABBAGE, CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS AND BEURRE COLBERT
2005 Domaine de Font Sane, Terrasses des Dentelles
Grenache/Mourvedre
Gigondas, France

ASSORTED ARTISANAL CHEESES
Trio of Micro Brews
Hofbrau Munche Hefe Weizen
Brooklyn Brown Ale
North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

PEANUT BUTTER AND VALRHONA CHOCOLATE CHIBOUST WITH TERRAPIN STATION CONCORD GRAPE SAUCE
1995 Smith Woodhouse Late Bottle Vintage
Touriga Nacional/Tinta Cao
Duoro, Portugal

Assorted artisanal cheeses paired with a trio of micro-brewed beers at CityZen

All in all, I can’t imagine a better dining experience, or a better way to spend my last seven years.

posted by Ms. S&C

Tour de force–part II

The New York City bar hop continues…

Temple Bar was our next stop.  This place was less intimate and a bit swankier than PDT, and probably geared to someone with deeper pockets than moi.  But, I definitely appreciated the friendly service and being able to get a table, as we had three others join us.  A good variety of cocktails on the menu.  Here’s what I sampled:

44 North
I positively adore anything with pomegranate juice.  I love the tartness.  Unfortunately this drink tasted a bit chalky?
Ingredients:
Served over ice in a highball glass

The Arbitrator
I, now, officially prefer gin as my spirit of choice.
Ingredients:
Strained in served in a martini glass

  • Plymouth Gin
  • Sage
  • Peach Puree

Next, we swung by 124 Old Rabbit Club in Greenwich Village.  This was my second favorite place of the night.  It is very unassuming, dark (think basement), hip and cool, and to me, it has New York City written all over it.  It is easy to miss, so look for the black door at the bottom of a few steps.  I think there were mailbox-style letters at the top, but who knows what I saw at this point of the night.  They only serve beer and wine, so I had an Orval.  Correction: they only serve good beer and wine.

Photo by Carmen E. Lopez and AJ Wilheim, New York Magazine

Photo of Old Rabbit Club by Carmen E. Lopez and AJ Wilheim, New York Magazine

I probably should have called it a night after the Old Rabbit Club.  But, we hopped in a cab and soldiered on to The Back Room.  I vaguely recall the bouncer out front and the longer-than-you-think-walk to the entrance.  I do remember the place being gorgeous, with an old-school glamorous décor.  Drinks are served in teacups, as a throw-back to the speakeasy-style environment.  Word on the street is to try the place during the week, because it was c-r-o-w-d-e-d on Saturday night.  I ordered a lame vodka tonic, which I hardly touched.  It was time to head home.