Category Archives: Travel

Cocktail time, with Brighton Beach inspiration

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Green tea and tarragon cooler, A refreshing cocktail inspired by the flavors of Brighton Beach

Summer days off call for staycations for this New Yorker. Wandering unfamiliar neighborhoods often results in discovering strange exotic ingredients and specialties readily available to satisfy the cravings of home for the inhabitants who have immigrated from a far away land. Last weekends destination was Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, aka Little Odessa, easily accessable on the B or Q train and filled with a taste of Russia’s flavorful culture.

Lucky for me I had A Russian friend to guide me on my journey through the mountains of sausage, tinned fish, dumplings,  savory pies, farmers cheeses and bizarre beverages tempting me at every market on the main drag.

sausage

Best Buy International

 

Best Buy International Food Company offered up the best selection of everything,  including more cured meats than I could count, an impressive amount of beer and other liquid refreshment, including Tarragon soda, a Georgian treat that my friend explained is Russia’s version of Mt. Dew. We left with bags filled spilling over with exotic treats, including two bottles of the herbal soda to experiment with later.

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Neon green herbal soda

Varenichnaya, our second stop, is a must visit for dumpling lovers! Specializing in succulent skewers of grilled meat and vareniki (a light Russian dumpling boiled and sautéed in butter) this spot filled our bellies with a generous helping of little pockets of paper-thin dough filled with sauerkraut and potato. Chicken and lamb served on red-hot slivers of metal were a delicious steal at under $5 a piece.

vareniki

A plate of Russian comfort

Vareniki and Pelmeni ( a meat stuffed dumpling) are both available to go frozen in bags of fifty for under ten dollars. If you choose to dine in this spot is byob only.

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Eight different selections of take away dumplings

Numerous other stops on the main drag offer up interesting visits including walls of Vodka, savory baked goods made by local ladies and a book store that stocks Russian nesting dolls featuring images of the band Queen and Elvis. Walk on the beach nearby to end a perfect day away, without ever leaving NYC.

Mix up one of my cocktails for a taste inspired by Brighton Beach! It’s a thirst quenching cooler perfect for summer nights in Brighton or the location of your choice.

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Mix and garnish with lemon twist

Brighton Beach Cooler

In large glass over ice build-

2 oz Green tea infused Gin, I used this recipe

juice of one lime

juice of half lemon

1/2 ounce simple syrup

3 ounces Tarragon soda, available online

Stir and top with splash of club soda or sparkling water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under cocktail recipes, Cocktails and Spirits, NYC recipes culture, Travel, Wine Pairing Recipes

Tunworth, a guilty English pleasure

It’s a good idea to cheat on your regular cheesemonger from time to time. Some cheeses are imported in very small quantities and may just be available at one or two small specialty shops, or not in your usual haunt. This is how I discovered one of my new favorite cheeses, Tunworth, an English guilty pleasure! Available at Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope (a dangerous place for any gourmet), Tunworth’s bloomy rind encases a delicious runny paste with a mushroomy savory note. Similar to Camembert it has a slightly sweet finish and nutty undertones.

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Tunworth is made by Hampshire Cheeses, founded in 2005 and owned by Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Spruce.

Stacey, originally from Sydney Australia, had worked in a cheese shop long before she and  her English husband settled with their three young children in rural Hampshire. She found herself thinking fondly of her cheese shop days, missing the inspiration that the little store gave her, before long Stacy began making her own cheese at home.

It soon became clear that she would need a purpose-built creamery to fulfil her dream. With encouragement from the owner of Neil’s Yard Dairy she was soon making this cheese from pasteurized cow’s milk dream that has won a world cheese award and  in 2006 was voted Britain’s Supreme Champion Cheese at the British Cheese Awards beating more than 800 other cheeses. No small accomplishment for sure!

ridge

I’d suggest pairing with one of England’s best fizzy wines, Ridgeview Estate Cavendish, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A sparkling wine from England, you ask? Partly an effect of global warming and the chalky terroir of Southeast England, this stellar bubbly shines next to others outside of Champagne. The vineyards are located in the South Downs of Sussex, part of a region that shares the same limestone ridge with Champagne.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under cheese pairings, Travel, Wine and Cheese Pairings, wine and food culture, Wine Pairing Recipes

Boozy Brooklyn Egg Cream; A childhood favorite for adults only

Sammy's Romanian table side egg cream!

Sammy’s Romanian table side egg cream!

I love egg creams! Whether crafted from vanilla (Manhattan style) or made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup (Brooklyn style) they are a favorite treat with a long history. Traditionally they contain no egg or cream, just the perfect ratio of frosty cold milk, bubbly seltzer and sweet syrup. The inventor of this NY iconic beverage remains a mystery but mentions date back to the 1880s, with one possibly theory that it was based on a try at recreating a favorite French drink enjoyed by Yiddish theatre poineer Boris Thomashevsky in Paris. Another popular theory is it was created on accident by Louis Auster. In the 1890s Brooklyn candy shop owner Louis Auster sold hundreds of egg creams a day, he even had his own secret recipe for chocolate syrup that he took to the grave.

Today, Sammy’s Romanian, my favorite NYC kitsch palace, turns this simple classic into a table side presentation, ending with a drizzle of Fox’s U-Bet swirled on your table. Eisenberg’s, one of NYC’s oldest deli counters serves countless egg creams paired with their deli sandwiches to happy customers daily. Down in the East Village Gem Spa newsstand is a stop on more than one food tour searching for the perfect egg cream!

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Boozy delicious egg cream!

When I first tasted Kings County Distillery’s chocolate corn whiskey I immediately though of trying my hand at egg cream greatness, but, with a boozy twist. This unusual whiskey, made in Brooklyn, is crafted from a blend of 80% NY state organic corn and 20% malt barley. After distillation it is infused with ground cacao bean husks from Mast Brothers Chocolate factory, also in Brooklyn. Smooth and rich it tastes like a bitter, silky, dark chocolate, without any sweetness. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever have a need for chocolate whiskey, but, this is truly a phenomenal tipple that is perfect on its own or for mixing. Combining the rich chocolate flavor with vanilla I found adult egg cream heaven! Serve the traditional way with a salty pretzel on the side and enjoy a classic with a twist!

Boozy Egg Cream

4 ounces ice cold whole milk

1.5 ounces Kings County chocolate whisky

4 ounces chilled seltzer

2 tablespoons vanilla syrup

Blend milk, whiskey and 1 tablespoon syrup in fountain glass. Pour in seltzer, stir and drizzle additional syrup on top.

King's County Chocolate Whisky

Kings County Chocolate Whisky

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Teeling Irish Whiskey and County Cork artisanal cheese; A perfect pairing to enjoy year round

Celtic Whiskey on the Green, Dublin

Celtic Whiskey on the Green, Dublin

A few months ago I made a pilgrimage to Dublin to discover my Irish roots, and taste the famous whiskeys and cheese I’ve read so much about. As I soaked in the wave of luscious liquid made by Irish craft distillers, I nibbled on cheeses transformed from the milk of herds grazing on lush green pastures. Instantly I knew I’d be longing for these gems at home…..

At one time Dublin was home to over thirty-seven distilleries with many in the Liberties area of the city also known as the ‘Golden Triangle’, due to the vast amount of delicious elixir produced in a one mile radius. But, Irish whiskey fell on hard times and the last still ran dry in 1976. That is until Teeling decided to fire up 3 copper pot stills and revive the traditional style of Dublin distillation. Teeling’s facility is located a stones throw from its original Dublin location in the market square known as Newmarket. I had the pleasure of sampling Teeling’s vast range of Irish whiskey at The Celtic Whiskey Shop on the Green (a mecca of Irish whiskey) and wished I could cram more than a few bottles in my suitcase.

As luck would have it Teeling’s has recently launched in NY! I couldn’t wait to enjoy it with another rarity, Irish farmstead cheese. While Kerry Gold may be in almost every supermarket in America artisanal cheese from the Emerald Isle is only available at specialty cheesemongers. Like Irish whiskey Irish cheeses are also going through a long-awaited revival with many farms just starting up production in the last 20 years and many are not exported due to such small amounts being produced.

A tasty array of Irish cheese made from rich cow's milk

A tasty array of Irish cheese made from rich cow’s milk

Whiskey and cheese can be a magical experience but even better when you can taste the passion of a product crafted at small family run farm or distillery! Try the suggested pairings below and you’ll be in Emerald Isle heaven!

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Irish whiskey and cheese, a match made in Emerald Isle heaven!

Teeling Single Grain- 

The fruity notes in this beautiful whiskey melded well with the washed rinds of both Gubbeen and Durrus. Try it with any of your favorite stinky smear rind cheeses and candied pecans for a perfect cheese course.

Recently Awarded World’s Best Grain at the World Whiskies Awards, 2014. This award-winning addition is one of only a handful of Single Grain Bottlings in the world.

It is fully matured in Californian red wine barrels resulting in an intensely fruity and beautifully amber liquid, with lush berry notes.

Teeling Small Batch-

This flagship whiskey paired well with all of the selected cheeses! Also try with your favorite cheddar and a drizzle of honey. My new favorite sipping whiskey!

This small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels imparting extra character and smooth flavour unique to Irish whiskey. By bottling at 46% with no chill filtration completes an Irish whiskey of true character.

Gubbeen-

Made with pasteurized cow’s milk by Tom and Giana Ferguson in County Cork and distributed by Neal’s Yard Dairy. This soft, washed rind has a pliable texture and a pinkish-orange rind. Full-bodied, earthy, nutty, mushroomy…

Durrus-

This semi-soft, washed rind cheese produced in Jeffa Gill’s dairy is very famous in West Cork as one of the finest artisanal farmhouse cheeses. Made with raw, unpasteurized milk, Durrus has aromas of hay and wet soil and tastes buttery, mild and slightly acidic. Only milk from Friesian herds of two local farmers is used to prepare this Irish delicacy.

Coolea-

This raw milk, Dutch Gouda-style cheese is simply amazing. It has all the nutty, butterscotch-y qualities of Gouda, but made with the rich and floral milk that Ireland is famous for.

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Strange fruit; Narince, an indigenous Turkish delight

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I’ve written about Vinkara Winery in the past, they happen to be my favorite producer of Turkish wines available in the US. Distribution is growing on the East coast as Fine Terroir Selections LLC, based in Ct. has taken on a number of Vinkara’s best wines. While I’ve always been a fan of Vinkara’s Kalecik Karasi (a juicy red full of sour cherry, red currant and stoney minerality), their Narince was something I’d never tried.

Narince (pronounced Nah-rin-djeh) means “delicately” in Turkish. Grown mainly in the Anatolia region with most plantings in Tokat and along Yeşilırmak (river), Narince’s large, plump, oval grapes produce highly aromatic wines, full of lush scents of apricot, orange and fruit blossom.  The best examples are capable of aging due to its high acidity and balance that can be achieved in stellar vintages.

ImageWhile both Narince’s from Vinkara are delicious wines filled with flavors of ripe fresh apricot, white peach and orange blossom I prefer the 2012 for its fresh, clean finish. Fans of Chardonnay will love the 2011 Narince Reserve,which has a fuller, heavier mouth feel with a touch of spicy flavor, due to a 14 month stint in oak followed by further aging in bottle. To pair I suggest Turkish dolmas, a dish made from the prized leaves of Narince, rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, flavored with olive oil, lemon and spices.

Check out Vinkara on Facebook for news and availability in US

Stuffed Dolmas

Stuffed Dolmas

Dolma recipe

Serves 8 people.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1 tbsp. ground sumac
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves
Garnish- Chopped preserved lemons, crumbled feta if desired

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender, then add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the rice, stock and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-cooked, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.

When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, vein sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is totally cooked.

Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped preserved lemon and feta.

Enjoy!

 

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