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Archive for the ‘Drinks’ Category

There are so many memorable scenes from The Big Lebowski, but my favorite is the intro scene in which the Dude, expertly played by Jeff Bridges, cruises an LA supermarket in his signature bathrobe for the sole purpose of purchasing half and half for his White Russians. He takes a sniff of the carton, and then pays for it with a check.

For those of you unfamiliar, a White Russian is a drink made with half and half, Kahlua and vodka served over ice. It’s sweet and creamy and cold, like a milkshake, just not thick. And I love them.

Recently, I was in South Beach, competing with my team, Full Throttle, in the Nautica Triathlon. Post-race, all the team members were relaxing poolside, replenishing lost calories with a variety of beverages.

One of my teammates passed me a blended ice drink. when I asked what it was, she told me it was a Vonder Slide, which was essentially a White Russian made into a blended, frozen drink, invented by and named after another teammate, Karen.

Upon sampling the beverage, and also drinking someone else’s in its entirety (sorry, Jess), I shouted over to Karen, holding up my cup, “The Vonder Slide is going on he blog!” This was met with what I understood to be enthusiasm at the time, and so here it is:

The Vonder Slide

I decided to make a slightly healthier version (ha!) with almond milk instead of half and half. Don’t get me wrong, I love my half and half.  But I thought I would try a little something different. Turns out, the almond flavor goes very nicely with the Kahlua. It also makes the Vonder Slide accessible to all my lactose intolerant readers – bonus!

What You Need:
Makes 2 -3 drinks
A blender
Ice – 2 scoops
1 cup almond milk (or half and half)
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup vodka
Strawberries for garnish

What To Do:
Throw all the ingredients minus the strawberries in the blender and whip it up to your desired consistency. You can add more ice if it’s not icy enough for you.

Once you have established your desired consistency, pour your concoction into tall glasses, and garnish with a strawberry.

Don’t forget the straws!

Slip into your bathrobe and onto the pool deck.

The dude abides.

Karen is not only an accomplished mixologist, but also an incredible athlete. She placed fourth in her group at the South Beach Triathlon which earned her a spot on the podium. Congratulations, Karen!

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I had a special request – a commission, if you will, for some edible artwork. The project outlines were the following:

1. Create an espresso granita like the one a friend had sampled in Tuscany.

2. Whipped cream too, please.

Keep in mind that I had not been in Tuscany with my friend at the time she sampled this delicacy. So I had to ask for lots of details because I was flying taste-bud blind.

Was the espresso flavor strong? Yes.

What was the consistency of the ice? Like little chips, all in different sizes so you could crunch them.

What about the whipped cream? Not too sweet. Just a tiny bit to give a little contrast to the espresso ice.

I began with some research. It’s pretty easy to make granita (really). You really just need to freeze stuff, and break it up with a fork during the freezing process every now and again so you don’t get one giant ice cube. One giant ice cube does not a granita make.

Following this research, I purchased some espresso from Eataly.

This stuff looked pretty good. And I really liked trying to say “Heuhuetenango” too.

Then I brewed some up using my French Press. I like the way coffee tastes brewed in a French Press. It’s STRONGER! I used 5 heaping tablespoons.

Meanwhile, I boiled some water (3 cups) with about 1/8 cup of sugar in a pot. Once it was all heated up, I poured it into my French Press, waiting the appropriate amount of time (3-5 minutes), and then PRESSED.

Then, I poured this lovely concoction into a pan and popped it into the freezer. I tried to give it a stir and break up the ice with a fork every half hour or so. Eventually, I had to use something stronger than a fork (I bent the fork), so I opted for some tongs (please picture a ridiculous scene of me smashing coffee flavored ice with metal tongs). I did this periodic smash until the stuff started to look like this:

And then I made some whipped cream. Initially, I made the whipped cream without sugar. But just a tiny bit of confectioners sugar adds a whole lotta goodness.

Gather 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar. Put them in a mixing bowl and with a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream and sugar until it’s whipped and soft peaks form.

Scoop some granita into a bowl or fancy glass (I used retro snow cone holders) and top with whipped cream.

Now for the ridiculous part of the story….you knew there was one, right?

I was meeting my friend after work for her to try this granita and give me the final word. But how to transport it? It’s ice, it melts. So, I:

Brewed the coffee at home.

Poured it into one of my insulated Camelback water bottles.

Transported it to work.

Transferred it to a baking pan and put it in the office freezer.

Then from time to time I would get up from my desk to go smash ice chunks. It was actually a very therapeutic workplace activity.

Before I left work, I whipped up the cream and transferred the granita BACK into the Camelback (I was hoping this would prevent it from melting). Then I walked to a bar, commandeered us some fancy glasses and served it up.

Final determination: success. The espresso granita is crunchy, strong and slightly bitter which pairs nicely with the smooth, creamy and ever-so slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Note: The first time I made the cream, I made it without confectioners sugar, but all the tasters agreed that a lil’ bit o’ sugar greatly improves it.

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Hello, everyone! We have a special feature today over at Brooklyn Exposed. John and I run rampant through Brooklyn sampling chocolate from Mast Brothers and Nunu Chocolates. You can read about it here. Also included is a recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate featuring a Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

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Due to the past success of Dinner with the Megs: Cheese and Wine night, the Megs and I decided to have another go at it, this time with cupcakes and wine. Pairing drinks with desserts is not a new concept (digestif, anyone?), but it has become a trend in recent years.

We didn’t want to jump on any bandwagons, but we did want to eat cupcakes. And drink wine. At the same time. So, the Megs and I embarked on Pairing Dinner Volume II: Cupcakes and Wine.

The Rules: This time the cupcakes would dictate the wine we chose. We needed:
1 type of Savory cupcake (this was my responsibility)
1 type of Sweet cupcake that was NOT chocolate (Meg L)
1 type of Sweet cupcake that WAS chocolate (Meg H)

You also needed to bring a wine that paired with your chosen cupcake. As an added rule, we decided that the cupcakes could either be homemade or store bought (sometimes it’s hard to work cupcake baking into daily life, try as we might).

For the savory cupcake, I made Butternut Squash, Kale and Sage cupcakes, and topped them with a dollop of cream cheese (as a stand-in for frosting). You can find the recipe here. These cupcakes are a great savory choice, as the butternut squash adds an element of sweetness which contrasts the with saltier ingredients, such as the Parmesan cheese.

The wine that the helpful staff at Bottlerocket on 19th street chose to pair with this cupcake was Zaccagni il Castello (2008), a smooth Italian white that has a hint of bitterness that goes well with the sage in the cupcakes. I should note that this wine was VERY well received by everyone – many thanks to Bottlerocket for the recommendation.

For our Sweet but not Chocolate cupcake, Meg L procured some pastel-frosted Vanilla Buttermilk confections from Magnolia Bakery. The icing on these cakes was something to behold – as well as taste. Swirling mounds of lavender, mint green and pale cream frosting topped off light yellow cake.

For wine, Meg L chose a Blueberry wine from Alba Vineyards in New Jersey, which really did taste like blueberries. Almost purple in color, it presented a strong flavor contrast to its lighter, vanilla counterparts.

Finally…chocolate! Meg H traveled to the Cupcake Stop’s Limelight Marketplace outpost to bring us these chocolate cake/icing beauties. The dark chocolate cake was topped with two dollops of a lighter, creamy frosting, drizzled with a bit of white chocolate.

I think Meg H was unaware, but Brachetto D’Aqui is one of my favorite sweet wines. It takes all my restraint not to just throw a straw in the bottle and sip away. When Meg H unveiled her Pineto Brachetto d’Aqui, I squealed with delight (and started searching my cabinets for straws).
The Brachetto has a nice effervescence that, while still a red, gives it a lighter quality. It doesn’t overwhelm the chocolate cupcakes.

Finally, because we thought this meal might be a touch on the sugary side, we threw in a kale salad. And throw it together we did with the following ingredients and in the following manner:

What You Need:
1 bunch kale, rinsed, stems removed and chopped
2 cups roasted butternut squash (left over from the savory cupcakes)
Handful of sun dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1 yellow zucchini, washed, cut into rounds
½ cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic Vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for dressing

What To Do:
Get out a big salad bowl and throw in your washed and chopped kale. Go on, literally THROW it in there. You won’t hurt the kale.
Add in your butternut squash chunks (more gently), the sun dried tomatoes, zucchini (resist the urge to throw these around your kitchen like mini-frisbees), and everything else.

Drizzle with as much balsamic and olive oil as you like and give it a toss to coat evenly.

Then promptly ignore this salad in favor of cupcakes.

No, it’s actually a very good salad. And since kale is essentially spinach with ruffles, it’s just fancy enough for a cupcake and wine party.

Cheers!

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Aaaaaaaand we have a winner! You guys didn’t think I forgot about this, did you? Clearly, I did not.

The winner is JORDAN!

Jordan, you just won the fancy, Italian powdered chocolate with which you can make the Mexican Hot Chocolate featured here. Or you can make any other kind of hot chocolate, it’s really up to you.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Jordan!

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Baby, it’s COLD outside. Dammit. I was really hoping that the slightly warm-ish weather was gonna stick around. Until May, when it would really warm up. But it’s not to be.

Instead, it’s time to hunker down with pots of hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps, catch up on our DVR and Netflix queues and reflect on the good ol’ times when our skin wasn’t so pasty.

However, in spite of pastiness, I am feeling very festive this year. So festive, in fact, that I have arranged for another giveaway! Yet something else I brought back from Italy (don’t worry, it was vacuum sealed, so it’s in A-OK condition): Hot Chocolate or as the bag tells me in Italian: Cacao Amaro in Polvere. Fancy, right? This particular chocolate powder is sugar free, which I think is the way to go because you can add your own amount of sugar to taste.

Basically, you heat up some milk (or water – it seems that you can use either according to the directions and my limited knowledge of Italian), mix in some chocolate powder, some sugar (I actually like to use confectioners sugar) and PRESTO! you have hot chocolate. Really good hot chocolate too.

Now, there are a few things we need to discuss:

1. How do you win this hot chocolate powder?

2. How do you make hot chocolate BETTER, even if you don’t win the prize?

I will answer both questions, in order.

1. To win the hot chocolate, you must leave a comment on this blog. From NOW until next Friday at midnight. That’s all.

2. To make the hot chocolate BETTER, even if you don’t win the prize, I have provided the following recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Made with Italian Chocolate Powder and Spiked with Dr. McGillicuddy’s Peppermint Schnapps. I have just combined a lot of nationalities for this recipe.

What You Need:
3 ounces (tablet or cone) Mexican chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, OR the Prize Chocolate. And honestly, I say put in as much as you like, you’re drinking it after all.
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar – really go slowly on this.
Pinch of salt
Pinch of chile pepper – for KICK!
6 cinnamon sticks (preferably Mexican canela), for serving

What To Do:
If using the block chocolate, get a sharp knife and break up the chocolate into smaller pieces. In a saucepan, combine the chopped chocolate, milk, sugar, salt and chile pepper over medium-low flame. Heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and milk is very hot, but not boiling, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and froth the chocolate milk with a mini whisk or molinillo. Divide the hot chocolate among big mugs (those ones with giant snowmen on them are fun) and serve with the cinnamon sticks.

Optional: Throw a shot (more or less) of Peppermint Schnapps into each mug. Now hunker down with those X-Files DVDs and have yourself a winter!

But first drop a comment on this blog so you can win yourself some chocolately swag!

• Recipe thanks in part to Tyler Florence. I modified it a tiny bit.

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