Twice-Cooked Five-Spice Lamb with Red Chile & Day Drinking

Back in the days of braising weather, the routine would be that I did the meat braising before Emily arrived an hour or so before serving time. Then Emily prepped and made the side dish, while I made drinks for us to sip on while cooking. For the evening of lamb shanks 2.0, Emily came over to braise with me which left us about two hours with nothing to do while the lamb simmered away. Together with roommate Alex we decided to grab a few drinks at The Passenger, Alex and my favorite bar of all time and, conveniently enough, the bar that is closest to our apartment. We set the stove top to low, prayed that the apartment wouldn’t blow up while we were away, and made the early evening trek to the Passenger.

I took advantage of the light crowd and the early drinking hour and ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, a tart gin based drink with equal parts cointreau, lillet blanc, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. After the first round of drinks, the three of us felt a little hungry so we asked for an order of beef jerky with our second round. I love gin and all but my heart belongs to whiskey so I asked for a manhattan made with Jefferson’s Rye. Beef jerky and a manhattan, a pairing after my own heart.

After two rounds, we called it quits and headed back to the apartment to finish making our meal. We were happy to find the apartment just as we left it, except it smelled even more aromatic from the braising lamb shanks. Alex and Emily got to work making stir-fried baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms while I made fried rice to soak up the sauce of the lamb shanks. Soon enough, we were ready to plow into our meals. Our efforts, both sober and not as sober, produced one of the best Sunday dinners of 2012 to date.

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Mother’s Ruin Punch

I first heard of Mother’s Ruin Punch back in the summer of 2009 when my friend Gabby said she was planning on making the punch for our friend Krista’s bridal shower. As someone who has never liked grapefruit, I wouldn’t have ever made this drink without the seal of approval from a trusted drinking companion. A mix of gin, sweet vermouth, sparking wine, and lemon juice renders the bitterness of the grapefruit juice nearly undetectable. Instead, the ingredients work together to make a refreshing and potent drink.

I have made this drink several times since Summer 2009, mostly recently for the Mad Men Season 5 premiere party Alex and I hosted. Ideally I would have made old fashioneds and martinis for our guests, I didn’t want to spend most of the party playing bartender so opted for some Mothers Ruin Punch instead. I did have to warn our guests that while the drink is mostly tart and sweet, it is probably as strong as a martini due to the three different kinds of alcohol used. We did not want a repeat of this.

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Turning 30

I turned 30 two weeks ago. I am not one of those people who dreaded turning 30, although I wasn’t particularly excited about it either. On one hand, I’m glad my twenties are behind me. Although I had a lot of fun, my early twenties were pretty unstable and at times a little messy. On the other hand, in turning 30 I had to look adulthood in the face and figure out what I am doing with my life.

Anyway, my gift to myself this year was to shove all these existential questions aside and get down to the business of celebrating in style. Because I have great and patient friends who admirably tolerate and indulge in my crazy desires, I turned my 30th birthday party into a three-day festival of gluttony.

After a crazy week at work, I flew out of the office as soon as the clock hit 6:00pm in order to meet Pete and Emily at the Kennedy Center for some National Symphony Orchestra action. One of our running pals works at the Kennedy Center and offered us comp tickets for that evening’s performance as it was undersold. On the program was Strauss’ Metamorphosen and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the Eroica. Beethoven is my favorite composer of all time and the Eroica may be my favorite symphony of all time. The NSO’s performance was really outstanding and got my birthday celebration off to a great start.

Me, Pete, & Emily at a previous NSO concert

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Hanky Panky

This past summer, my friend Ben came to D.C. for his one year Howard Hughes Institute Fellowship. Ben drove all the way to D.C. from Iowa and on the way, stopped in Rhode Island and had a Hanky Panky cocktail. When Ben first told me about this cocktail, I couldn’t believe it was a real drink. I insisted that it was something the restaurant had just made up and put on their menu, but Ben told me it was a legitimate classic cocktail and made it his mission to find one in D.C. Only a few days later, I was visiting my favorite bar and there on their chalkboard was a drink called the Swanky Panky that had all the ingredients of a Hanky Panky. This thing does exist outside of Rhode Island. In fact, the cocktail is credited to Ada Coleman head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

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Mania (Part 1)

After relative success with entry level pumpkin related baking, I felt comfortable being a bit more adventurous. Soon after the Washington Post Food section published its annual cookie issue on December 6, my friend Emily and I got together for a Sunday afternoon of baking. We had previously decided that we would make the Cheesecake Pecan Bars, Cherry Pistachio Oatmeal Cookie, and Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints — all published in the Washington Post.

To settle in for an afternoon of baking, I decided to make a batch of glögg, a traditional Swedish beverage. Drinking while baking may not be wise, but it will be fun! To make the glögg, I again turned to the Washington Post. While traditional glögg is made with aquavit, a special Scandinavian liquor, I decided to use vodka instead as there are three bottles in my freezer.

Glögg (adapted from the Washington Post)

INGREDIENTS:
10 whole black or green cardamom pods, cracked
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger
10 whole cloves
3 one inch pieces of orange zest
3/4 cup golden or dark raisins, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 750ml bottle of good dry red wine, such as a cabernet sauvignon
1 1/2 cups vodka, separated
1/2 cup dark rum
sliced almonds (to serve)

DIRECTIONS:

Clockwise from top left: crystalized ginger, cinnamon sticks, cracked cardamom pods, orange zest, raisins, whole cloves

Bottle of syrah & the remains of the Menage a Trois wine from Folie a Deux

Combine the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, orange peel, 1/2 cup raisins, sugar and wine in a large saucepan over medium or medium-low heat. Stir to mix well.

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The Most Perfect Drink

Although I am originally from San Diego, I have a sick love of cold weather. I love wearing sweatpants and hoodies around the apartment, I love sleeping under heavy blankets, and I love running in tights and layers with the cold air in my face. Most of all, I love cold weather adult beverages. When the temperatures start dropping, I eagerly anticipate the moment it is just cold enough to fix my favorite drink: the manhattan. The combination of bourbon (or rye), sweet vermouth, and bitters create a boozy harmony that surpasses all other mixed drink combinations.

Sometime in mid-December, temperatures here in D.C. finally dipped into the low 50s which is actually not too cold winter weather wise, but cold enough for me to mix my first manhattan of the season. For this occasion, I went with the combination of Whistle Pig Rye, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, and angostura bitters.

Whistle Pig Rye, Angostura Bitters, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, and Brandied Cherries

For the most part, I like to keep things simple and stick to a two parts bourbon/rye to one part vermouth ratio with a few dashes of bitters. To finish the drink, I dropped in a home-brandied cherry. Since I planned on savoring my first manhattan of Winter 2011-2012, I poured this one on the rocks. I was immediately in a better place.

Manhattan on the Rocks

First Manhattan of Winter 2011-2012

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