Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Squirrels Eat Birds

So yesterday I am at my yoga teacher's house - this has nothing to do with cocktails - and she looks out the window and asks me, "Do squirrels eat birds?" My reply was "No..." and then I followed her gaze to her vine-covered pergola, where a squirrel sat perched, eating a bird. I'm serious. He was holding it in his front paws and eating it like an apple or an ear of corn. It was a small bird, maybe a junco or a chickadee. There was no struggle. We stood and watched the squirrel munching for about ten minutes, trying to decide if he was an insane rabid squirrel or a zombie squirrel, but he was just a squirrel. A squirrel eating a bird. "It's not like there's any lack of bird seed in my yard," said my teacher, pointing to the feeders and the seeds scattered in the snow.

Yesterday's lesson was a deep one. Sometimes things don't make sense, or our minds get rocked by new information that we can't integrate and our world paradigm shatters. I don't know where I'm going with this. Trying to find a way to tie it into cocktails here. I don't know if I can. I think I need a drink.

I'll pause for a public service announcement: $1 PBR every Wednesday. Recession Wednesdays, we're calling them. No need to stay home and drink yourself into a stupor alone. Recession does not equal depression, at least not for Felicia-lovers. Come. Sit. Stay. Drink.

Back to the paradigm shift: Things change. Nothing stays the same. Change is a part of life. Maybe it's OK. Maybe it's OK that squirrels eat birds. Maybe.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Watermelon Radish Martini

Make up a drink, any drink. Just have it be something you wouldn’t usually make. These were the instructions from A Mixed Dram, the host of this month’s Mixology Monday, Do you know how hard it is to think up something that you wouldn’t normally think up? For inspiration, we turned, as we often do, to our refrigerator.

Belonging to a winter CSA means we end up with a fridge full of winter produce and no idea what to do with it. Maybe we’re a little lazy. Ok, we are lazy. I can only eat so many raw carrots and mashed turnips. Staring out of the fridge today was this turnip:

That picture reminds me of something. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is giving me goosebumps nonetheless.

Behind the voluptuous hairy turnip, I found a watermelon radish. We decided it would make both a delicious and gorgeous garnish. These are great big greenish-skinned radishes with fusicia rings on the inside. The flavor is like a sweet, mild radish, minus the hot burning sensation.

Somehow, Leah managed to get capers into our drink recipe, the flower buds of a Mediterranean plant. I think it was because we did not have any vermouth in the home-house during the cocktail photo shoot (though of course we have it in the bar-house). The final product: A crisp gin martini with the floral hint of capers, garnished with one of the most beautiful and colorful vegetables on the earth.

Um, oh yeah, how this fits in with Mixology Monday's "new horizons" theme: Well, garnishes are often an afterthought for us. We are so focused on the drink itself that our garnishes tend toward fairly simple. I can also say with conviction that this is the first time we have made a cocktail with either watermelon radishes or capers. Even if you don't try the drink, seek out a watermelon radish to munch on. Why these snappy veggies are not available at the corner grocery store is a mystery to me.

Rad Martini

2 1/2 ounces of Bombay Dry or Plymouth gin
1/8 ounce juice from a jar of capers
watermelon radish slice

Stir gin and caper juice in a shaker with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with radish.

radish garnishhairy turnipwatermelon radish

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Foodie Detour: Harvard Beets and Sausage Gravy

Not beets and sausage in the same dish, though that might be an interesting experiment...

Leah made us a thick, chunky gravy for breakfast from sausage we bought down the road in Trumansburg at High Point Farms. They make some of the best all-natural happy-pig sausage that I have ever had. Leah layered fun-shaped biscuits, grits, sausage gravy and a fried egg to make this delicious Birmingham(Alabama)-meets-Birmingham(England) indigestion-inducing breakfast.
Regarding the beets, I referenced Harvard Beets in my recent post about the Spiced Beet Bubbly champagne cocktail. Then I found a copy of my mother's original recipe card, from back in the day when we still ate "oleo."


Monday, January 5, 2009

Road Trip! The Commons

Ok, it wasn't really a road trip. More of a sidewalk trip. The Commons is a portion of Ithaca's State Street that was cemented over in the 1970's to make a pedestrian mall, in theory, to increase traffic to hip, local small businesses. It is a short, four-block stroll from Felicia's Atomic Lounge.

In its heyday, The Commons was THE place to hang out on a sunny day. You could get a half-moon cookie or cafeteria-style lunch from Home Dairy, peruse quirky handmade stuff at People's Pottery, buy a pair of cowgirl boots at Leather Express, and purchase a new houseplant to kill from The Plantations. Now it seems to be mostly depressingly empty storefronts, with just a few cool businesses left like Volume Records, Taste of Thai and Autumn Leaves Bookstore. The city of Ithaca wants to pay a consultant $250,000 to come up with a new design for The Commons next year. This doesn't include any construction. Why spend a quarter of a million dollars to come up with ideas to redesign a pedestrian mall filled with empty store fronts? They should lower the rent or forget about it. I'll take my $250K in small bills, please.

Back to the food. Brotchen is one of the current gems on The Commons that is worth checking out. Brotchen is a German-Austrian bakery/specialty shop that opened a little over a year ago. I can't say the name. Don't ask me to. If you are looking to get fat, this place is for you. The glass cases are filled with beautifully crafted desserts (I recommend the apple strudel), and you can get a cappuccino or tea to accompany your sweet treat. If you want to grab-and-go, there are a bunch of pre-made sandwiches with meaty German-looking meat and hearty cheeses.

Above you will see the make-me-drool photo of their kickass chili, which was a generous enough portion that I got to eat it for lunch the next day, too. Brotchen, will we see you at the Ithaca Chili Fest this February? Leah got a big bowl of cheesy-something soup. Ok, I can't remember all the details, so you should just go try it for yourself. Brotchen is the perfect lunch spot, and one of those places that makes you feel like you are out-of-town, maybe even in Europe.