Friday, July 19, 2013

Berry Week 2013 - PNW 75

Iiiittt'ssss.... BERRY WEEK!

I've always loved berries. Growing up, I would have thrown my brother over a cliff to take his share of straberries. He would have willinginly done me in for my share of devonshire cream. In the end, our cahoots and loittering would have been better matched except that we seemed to care more about the other failing than succeeding ourselves (ah, childhood).

As I've grown up, my love of berries hasn't waivered. While strawberries are still my favorite, my time in the northwest has cultivated a special love of blackberries. After my recent trip abroad, I already shared the magic that is tea-based simple syrup. As we started talking about berry week, and with a case of home-sickness after being out of town for most of June, I really wanted to play homage to the Pacific Northwest. It didn't take long for me to arrive at a Pacific Northwest version of a French 75.

French 75s are fantastic little treats that (like many things I've come to love) sounded terrible at first. The cocktail consists of gin and simple syrup mixed with champagne, finished with a lemon twist. Since initially hearing about this concoction, I remained weary until I was able to try some truly fantastic options at classy bars. By using a dry champagne, the sweetness of the syrup does not overpower. And also it turns out that I haven't met a glass of bubbles (in any form) that isn't my BFF. In this cocktail version, I substituted lemon for blackberry, and used some of the reserved simple syrup from the link above.

I've included two versions below - one more traditional style using just gin, and a second version substituting some of the gin for a tea-infused vodka I found while wandering around the liquor store. I thought the gin version was great - but the tea flavor was not as strong as I prefer. My favorite part about the vodka was that it added more tea flavor without sweetness. But even as I wrote out the recipe, the combination of vodka and gin sounded... terrible. It is not. And I didn't even get a hangover after drinking testing two whole cocktails. 

After having a little sip on this cocktail, don't forget to check out the other wonderful contributions (edible and drinkable!) for Berry Week!

PNW 75
Makes 2 cocktails
3 blackberries
1 jigger earl grey simple syrup
1 jigger Tanqueray gin
1 jigger  Absolut Wild Tea vodka

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 blackberries with some ice. Add in the syrup and two liquors. Top with ice and shake vigorously until the shaker is frosty on the outside. Strain the mixture between two cocktail glasses. Top with champagne (almost 1:1 ratio). Sit back, sip, enjoy. 
Repeat as needed following travel.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Traveler Returns

Let me start by saying that a lot has happened since I truly gave a detailed share-time here.
For starters, I was laid-off back in March. It was a terrible learning experience. I'm still learning from it... The most scarring part of the experience was that the news came in the middle of my incredible trip across Israel. It soured the second half of the trip. I have enough trouble focusing on the moment due to my mild anxiety, but this was truly distracting. Luckily I met some wonderfully amazing people who helped me talk myself up and even comforted me during my unannounced sobbing panic fits on the plane ride home.

I sat at home for 7 weeks.

I cleaned, I cooked, I cried, I did laundry, I organized my spice cabinet, I cried some more, and I dusted the tops of book shelves. And when Monday was over...

That is only a slight exaggeration. Most of my days included about 12 hours of job hunting/networking/resume writing and rewriting and over analysis of what I would wear on interviews. Occasionally, I would get an interview.

I pictured myself blogging a lot more during that time. But frankly, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself in between my bouts of panic and while I did plenty of cooking, photographing, and eating, I didn't really feel up to writing about it.

But on the 8th week there was work. And it was good. The natives rejoiced throughout the land.

And I haven't stopped moving since. Since May when I returned to work, I have been to Las Vegas, Prague, Vancouver BC, Australia, Portland, and the Washington coast. All of the international trips were for business and took up most of June. Honestly, it's taken me until about last week to truly recover from jet-lag. My hubs has been incredibly patient while I have no desire to cook and we went through a particularly shameful week of eating out for every dinner. When my job isn't sending me around the globe in 21 days, I'm working long hours and spending most of my creative juices on impressing my boss instead of sharing here. If you remember that I'm an introvert, this makes sense. Trust me.

But as I dusted off the blog to ready my typing fingers for Berry Week, I found myself wanting to talk. So here's a little bit about Australia (including a cocktail!) and hopefully I'll soon share the rest of my travels.

I spent a week between Melbourne and Sydney. And as glamorous as that sounds (and I never tire of saying it), I assure you it was not. The working days (all but one) were spent at the hospital, averaging 10 hour days. It's winter time down undah, so the days were shorter and colder. I had essentially zero time in Sydney. We drove past the opera house, but was working the rest of my time there. I was lucky enough to walk a bit around Melbourne, though.

Melbourne is a stunning city. It reminded me of a larger Portland with the liveability and culture. As a foodie, I was truly impressed. I experienced a wonderful tapas meal with Spanish wine and such care and civility to the dining experience that exceeded my best experience in Barcelona. I sneaked a snap of the menu so I could remember it.

Bunuelos de bacalao, caballa ahumado, queso, pollo escabache al miguel, bistec tartar de wagyu, setas asadas con jerez, and cecina were all gorged on.
Right around the corner from our hotel was an amazing breakfast place who grew their own honey on the roof. They had other impressive qualities, like locally source ingredients and a seasonal, low impact menu, but I was entranced by their honey. On my first visit, I was foolish enough to order "just" a latte. My colleague ordered a milk 'n honey (steamed milk with honey and cinnamon) that was so fragrant that I could smell it over my french toast and bacon. The next trip, I asked them to add honey to the latte and suddenly the world shattered around me and I found my new favorite morning drink: Milk 'n Honey Latte. Seriously you should try it. Starbucks in the states will even make it (I've tried). But everywhere I went in Melbourne had honey at hand and could whip me up one of these special treats. I'm in coffee love. It's like experiencing coffee all over again. I had fabulous quinoa, coq au vin, chicken parmagiana, benedicts, pork-fat-fried potatoes, and risottos. I was never hungry. Except for that one time we went shopping walking and forgot to eat and found out the hard way that most places are closed between 2 pm and 5 pm.

Bikes abound, polite locals, and beautiful foliage framed by time in town. One of my favorite meals all week was at The Aylesbury. The lunch featured a roasted carrot on a bed of creme fraiche with quinoa, sunflower seeds, and pomegranate seeds. The bread was... out of the this world. Unworldly. But I had a supremely executed cocktail and if it wasn't for the fact that I was dining with my boss and it was 1 pm, I would have had 2 more. They called it a "My Name is Earl". Served in a tall glass, it contained gin, creme de peche, earl grey tea, and lemon. It was surprisingly tea-like and not too sweet or alcoholic. Definitely one to go down smooth. Below I tried to recreate it.

After a week of hard work, which came hot on the tails of two other business trips, I was so ready for bed. I slept on the way home and was welcomed to a weekend of fundraisers and bridal showers across two states. But nothing was warmer than finally being in my husbands arms again. And two cats who didn't notice I was gone.

Below is my recreation attempt at the Aylesbury's drink. Mine came out more of a sweet tea, but was still very tea-like. I don't care much for real sweet teas, but I didn't find this version bad at all. It's a wonderful accompany to your porch-side evenings this summer!

Sweet Earl
Makes 1 cocktail (and extra syrup)

For Earl Grey Syrup
1/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/4 cup sugar

In a large mug, place the tea leaves. Cover with boiling water and let steep until very strong (5 minutes). Strain the loose tea out and pour the tea into a small saucepan. To the saucepan, add the sugar and stir to combine. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves completely and reduces slightly (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the Sweet Earl:
1 1/2 jigger gin
1 jigger earl grey syrup
3/4 jigger peach schnapps
2 jiggers brewed earl grey tea (cooled)
Lemon slices

In a tall glass, add ice. Pour all liquid ingredients into the glass and stir to combine. Add the lemon slices and serve.

Monday, July 1, 2013

OKMH Reveal: June 2013

It's my new favorite holiday: OKMH Box Reveal!

The Women

The huge hearts and open kitchens of these seven women come together to give gifts of wonder and delight every other month. And this month's theme is oh-so-summer appropriate: Picnics!

This month I received from Mads and I am (as always) so thrilled and giddy with the contents.
Here's the haul:

Contents include the bare essentials (except for the cheese) that you would need for basically the best picnic ever: Wine. Oh, and plates, napkins, tablecloth, and some food and witty tea towels. But let's focus on the essentials: WINE. Travel size wine. If there's two things I love, it's wine. Let me start over... If there's two things I love, it's wine and travel-sized things.

Classy wine, classy meat, and classy crackers
There's not a lot of sun in Seattle, so planning for picnics is difficult when you also need a blue tarp, rain coat, and the flexibility to eat soggy sandwiches when your sunny picnic falls on one of the 300 rainy days we get in a year. But with just a few essentials, I can basically keep an "Emergency Picnic" kit in my car, set for those rare sunny days (let alone on a weekend!).

Now, as I write this, we are mid-way through a sunny, warm streak and Seattle is actually seeing some summer weather that so-often eludes us. So you might think that I'm exaggerating when I say that picnics (or any other activity) often get rained out here. That's fine. I don't mind when you sit there being wrong in your wrongness. But since we can't relate and are now fighting, I'm going to share my wine with someone else. Like... my other hand.

*UPDATE: Mads also included some out-of-this-world chocolate chip cookies. They're not pictured because I had to eat them immediately.

Don't mind me... I'm just delusional and belligerent from a weekend of more sun than I've had the rest of the year and my skin is now a sassy shade of pink (a side effect of impromptu picnics... pack sunscreen, too!)
And without further ado... check out what the other gals sent/received for picnic month!
I sent to Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic.
Kirsten sent to Jeanne at Inside NanaBread's Head.
Jeanne sent to Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver.
Megan sent to Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World.
Allison sent to Kat at Tenaciously Yours.
Kat sent to Mads at La Petite Pancake.

What are your picnic essentials?