Cocktail1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

12.6.16 Take Root

Big changes can unseat us, make us feel wobbly and uncertain, as though the ground beneath our feet has shifted uncomfortably. Though we can't see the future, we often operate under the delusion that we know what's coming and that brings some measure of comfort. But, inevitably, our roots are disturbed and we must find a way to regain our equilibrium.

 

A few months ago, my life unexpectedly changed shaped and fear and anxiety threatened to overtake me. It required a lot of strength (and support from people in my life) not to react from a place of despair. Instead, I have chosen to remain calm, to give myself space and to simply exist in the in-between moment—a limbo I have historically found untenable. The eternal temptation is to take action to fix a problem.

 

This is where a regular meditation practice can be very helpful. It turns "Don't just sit there, do something!" into "Don't just do something, sit there!" The very act of sitting calmly allows you to feel grounded—in yourself. Your root chakra, located at the base of the spine, the pelvic floor and the first three vertebrae, creates a solid foundation that provides a sense of safety and security from within, regardless of your circumstance. Bit by bit, I am starting to feel more connected to myself, to my true nature.


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Jaggery 790 xxx
photos by Pernille Loof

1.19.16 Brown Sugar

Here's what it takes to open a bar and café: Vision. Perseverance. Capital. Architectural plans. Guts. Determination. A liquor license. Blood, sweat and tears. Support from friends and family. Creativity. Passion. Prayers. So if I haven't been around these parts much lately, you'll understand why. We're making progress with Fish & Bicycle and every day we come a little closer to bringing this crazy-beautiful dream to life. I'll share more details and photos with you as they come to light. In the meantime, I've got some gorgeous images from a shoot I was privileged to collaborate on with the gifted Pernille Loof, and a recipe for a delicious cocktail I developed just for the occasion.


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Mastiha 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.1.15 What a Sap

Traces of my recent trip to Greece still echo through my kitchen. The Greek salad simply does not grow old, and I now crave the strong herbal presence of fresh oregano, something I previously shunned. Another very particular flavor I discovered and adore is mastiha, "mastic" in English. This natural sap that weeps from the lentisc tree (Pistacia lentiscus), known as "the tears of Chios" (pronounced "hee-os"), is found only on that particular Greek island. Sun-dried into brittle, translucent bits of resin, mastiha becomes soft and gummy when chewed. In fact, its name derives from the Greek word meaning "to gnash the teeth," and is related to our "masticate." Used since antiquity for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, mastic has a sharp, piney aroma that reminds me of the rosin string players use to treat their bows. Its flavor is equally pungent and strangely compelling.


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Cocktail 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

5.2.14 ¡Salud!

Cinco de Mayo is not the day to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day. Not to be irritatingly pedantic, but that's September 16th. May 5th is actually a much less significant date on which Mexicans from the state of Puebla commemorate an 1862 victory over French forces. But the U.S. has appropriated Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and that's fine by me. On Monday, I'll be raising a glass in honor of this holiday, my own Mexican genes and a beautiful bottle of aged mezcal I was gifted by Zignum. This grand producer is about as far away as you can get from the tiny artisanal distillers I met on my recent trip to Oaxaca (read about that here) and their mezcal is not exactly comparable. In fact, true mezcal purists might scoff at the notion of Zignum's mezcal añejo, which is aged in oak barrels for a smooth, rich taste. This ages-old spirit with roots in indigenous Mexico is traditionally sipped in its blanco (white) state, which has a decidedly sharper, more fiery quality. While Zignum's almost bourbon-like añejo does not retain the same flavors of smoke and agave, it is nevertheless quite delicious in its own right.


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Espadin 790 xxx
photos by george billard

2.7.14 Spirit Guide

Until you delve into the world of mezcal, it has a sort of hazy outlaw connotation, what with the worm and all. It's easy to imagine it as the drink of choice for that bad-ass bandido with the glinting gold tooth and a bandolier of ammo criss-crossed over his chest. But then you travel into the heart of artisanal mezcal terrain and you discover that this mystical spirit has a complexity akin to that of wine, with a similar display of terroir. A product of the ancient Aztecs, mezcal is thought to derive from an even older drink known as pulque, the fermented sap of the agave plant that is milky and lightly alcoholic. Once cooking and distilling entered the process, the flavor and potency of pulque were amplified into what is known as mezcal. It has been made for centuries from the many varieties of the agave plant or, as it's called in Mexico, maguey. This is not actually a cactus, but a type of succulent that includes the espadín, pictured above. During our recent trip to Oaxaca, we were lucky enough to get a glimpse into artisanal mezcal production under the tutelage of local connoisseur and scholar, Ulises Torrentera. A writer who fell in love with the mysterious poetry of small-batch mezcal, Ulises has a deep collection of carefully sourced spirits he serves at his groovy little mezcal bar in Oaxaca City, In Situ. Spending the day with him really left us in high spirits.


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Bloody maria 790 xxx
iphoto by gluttonforlife

10.7.13 Bloody Sunday

It's not cliché to serve Blood Marys at brunch when they have been elevated by the likes of Lior Lev Sercarz and Jim Meehan. The former is a master of all things related to spices—he recently launched a spice-infused beer with Brooklyn Brewery and a divinely spiced hot chocolate blend—and the latter is a highly original mixologist and owner of PDT (Please Don't Tell), a unique cocktail den in New York City. (Check out his greatest hits in The PDTCocktail Book.) These two put their heads together to reinvent the classic Bloody Mary with a judicious use of spices and clever combinations of fresh ingredients, spirits and aromatics. The result is 4 complex spice blends accompanied by 4 distinctive recipes for delicious tomato juice-based drinks that aren't just for brunch.  Not a drinker? You can also use the spice blends to make very nice virgin versions. Try the classic B-Mary, with vodka, smoked paprika, celery seeds and black pepper; the B-Marion, a Scandinavian version with aquavit, caraway, anise and orange; the B-Marlene, with gin, juniper, coriander and cardamom; and the one I made yesterday, the B-María, with tequila, green chile, cilantro and chipotle. It's spicy, piquant, highly flavored and truly addictive—perfect for entertaining, even if you're all alone.
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Lovage 790 xxx 790 xxx
photo by gluttonforlife

7.19.13 Oh, Your Daddy's Rich...

It's Friday and I promised you a cocktail. But in rebooting my computer, my last two weeks' worth of photos somehow disappeared, so I can't tell you about the wildberry gin I have been infusing. Long exhale. Mopping of brow. It's too hot to despair. The perfect solution? Exhorting you to make one of my all-time favorite summer cocktails: the Lovage You Long Time. You can do it! You can do it!

Don't got no lovage? Try infusing the simple syrup with a combination of celery leaves and stalks instead. The rest is just fresh lemon juice, Hendrick's gin, celery bitters and plenty of ice. A couple of these and the living will, indeed, be easy.
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Bonfire 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife & friends

10.10.11 Gather Together

The plan was to invite a bunch of friends to our new property by the reservoir in Forestburgh on peak leaf weekend to gather around a big bonfire, eat chili, sip mulled wine and make s'mores. Wrong. Each morning during the week leading up to our party, G would tell me the weather forecast, and each day it would go up several degrees. By the time the actual day dawned, we were preparing for a scorcher, and the leaves had only just begun to display their showy colors. But what a glorious day it was! Perfectly clear and without a trace of humidity. I had been threatening to change the menu if the mercury rose above 70º, but in the end—despite it hitting 77º—we stuck with the chili and just swapped out the mulled wine for rosé and cocktails on the rocks. Later this week I'll post the recipe for the thick, brick-red Texas-style chili, made with plenty of beef and no beans; and also for the caramel apples that were dessert, a great easy treat for this time of year. But for now, some photos to inspire you to get together with friends wherever/whenever/however (preferably outdoors while you still can), and a recipe for the perfect bourbon cocktail.
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G2 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

9.20.11 Concord Territory

If you're trying to eat more local foods, grapes may be something you don't get often enough. All year long, I pass up those gargantuan globes flown in from Chile, so it's quite exciting to see the gorgeous blue-black clusters of Concord grapes at the farmers markets. And to smell them! Their gorgeous perfume attracts the bees even in the middle of New York City. I'm lucky enough to have access to another local grape, grown by our friends at River Brook Farm along the Delaware River. Himrod is a native white grape, a choice seedless variety known for its sweet, floral quality that is quite similar to the related Concord. (This is sometimes called a "foxy" flavor because of its musky intensity.) I love its pale chartreuse color, a last lovely reminder of summer's greener pastures. And I've found that it goes perfectly with gin...
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Ginger lime rickey1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

6.24.11 Vintage Soda

The Rickey, a mixed drink featuring lime and not much sugar, was originally created in the 1880s with bourbon by Washington, D.C. bartender George A. Williamson, purportedly in collaboration with Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey. Thus the name. Years later, mixed with gin, it became something of a worldwide sensation. Change that to rum, add a little mint and it’s basically a mojito. I first came to know it in the delis and little corner “spas” that dotted the East Village in the 1980s. (Remember those days? I was making $250 cash a week and living in a 3-bedroom-2-bath apartment on Avenue A that cost $1,550 a month. Total. And I had really big hair.) There, it was a huge glass stuffed with halved, squeezed-out limes, plenty of sugar and lots of ice, then topped off with seltzer. Not necessarily the soul of sophistication, but damned refreshing on a sweltering New York City afternoon. I've brought it to a slightly different place with the addition of a ginger-infused honey syrup (you can sub simple syrup, or even superfine sugar) and a splash of bitters, but it remains a thirst-quencher of the first order. Spike it with gin, and it's the perfect summer cocktail.
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