Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shake It

On a hot summer afternoon such as this, why not take your leftover morning coffee and shake yourself up and icy treat?

Of course you may use whatever coffee you choose--freshly brewed or freshly pulled--but I like the concentration of leftover coffee because it stands up well to the ice cubes.

Put the coffee in a cocktail shaker along with a pinch of sugar, a splash of milk and a few ice cubes. Then shake until your hand turns cold.  Pour into a nice long glass and enjoy.

I understand this drink is a hot weather staple all over Italy. Interestingly enough, it is known as the Caffe Shakerato, a word that sounds a lot like John's fractured Italian.  Regardless, this is what I've been taking in place of my afternoon cup of hot black coffee. Perfect.

You may also enjoy reading these posts by Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

National Tequila Day! Ole!

Although the origin of National Tequila Day (July 24, 2011) is unclear, I am betting the idea came from a major tequila company.  What do you think?

However the day was founded, the idea of honoring the blue agave plant is a happy one; and John and I plan to mark the occasion.

According to Wikipedia, tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave plant primarily grown surrounding the town of Tequila, 65 kilometers northwest of Guadalajara, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco.  The blue agave grown in this highlands region in red volcanic soil is larger and sweeter than that grown in the lowlands.

Although the Aztecs were fermenting a drink from the agave long before the Spaniards arrived, it was Don Cenobia Sauza, Municipal President of the Village of Tequila, who first exported tequila to the United States in 1873. There has always been much myth and mystique surrounding tequila, and this story is beautifully written and photographed in Karl Petzke's gorgeous book, Tequila.

My tequila education came first hand when we lived in Guadalajara around the corner from the Tequila Sauza factory. That's right.  Around the corner.  Every weekend when we passed the factory music and laughter abounded from the large rented party space at Sauza. There was something to this tequila thing.

 Of course, like most students (John was the student here) our introduction to tequila came with partying and  a lot of lime and salt.  Can you say "puckered lips?" As we grew as people so did our appreciation for good tequila.  We learned about the different types of tequila and the taste of each. We learned that in Mexico tequila is sipped without lime and salt to blunt the taste, and that it is often taken with a sangrita chaser.

As tequila became more popular and appreciated in the United States, we began to experience some very good tequilas here. Alas, my two favorites, Don Julio 1942 Anejo and Jose Cuervo de la familia Anejo have become so expensive that we consider them a very special treat once in a while.

We have had the pleasure of sharing many tequilas with John's family in Mexico City, and they never arrive in the States without a bottle of something that is not available here.

So whether you are sipping a premium anejo or mixing a good plata into a frosty drink this weekend, Salud!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Short And Stout

The idea for Friday night's dinner began with a short posting on Facebook by The New Jersey Beer Company that they were having a tasting at their brewery.  And since is was a cloudy Saturday afternoon and just a short ride away, John and I decided to check it out.

It could be a bit tricky to find this warehouse microbrewery.  But find it we did; and, boy, were we glad.  We spent a very pleasant hour with co-owner Matthew tasting three beers that he had on tap. We started with an old world Belgian-style ale; then onto an American pale ale with a refreshing hoppy taste; and finished with Garden State Stout--"full-bodied chocolate stout brewed with Belgian dark chocolate, malts and just enough hop character for balance."  It was the stout that we took home with us.

A quick call to L and J to come for dinner and  help us drink this growler, and dinner was set for Friday. After a bit of researching the perfect--or at least acceptable-- pairings for stout I came up with a dinner menu.

To start we paired some tequila and sangrita chasers with  appetizers of queso fundido, salsa and warm tortillas; refreshing jicama and cucumber slices sprinkled with lime and chile; and beautiful guacamole.

Playing to the chocolate in the stout, we served enchiladas de mole Poblano--which proved to be the perfect accompaniment; refried  pinto beans, salsa and guacamole.
And dessert? What about Chocolate Stout Ice Cream to serve with the last of that Garden State Stout?

Perfect together!  And the perfect way to usher in the Holiday Weekend.  Happy Fourth!