Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seelbach Cocktail: A Serious Drink for a Serious Palate

The Seelbach Cocktail is likely unfamiliar to most people, which is a shame, since it's a great way to drink sparkling wine or champagne. It is also significantly different and more aggressive tasting than other champagne cocktails, such as the French 75.

The Seelbach was created at the stately Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, KY in 1917. Unfortunately, the recipe was misplaced during Prohibition, and was not uncovered until 1995, when a hotel manager came across the recipe.

The drink is unique for the generous use of bitters, both Angostura and Peychaud's, and as such, may not appeal to those who dislike some degree of bitterness.

While it will be unusual to see this cocktail on a list in San Francisco, most patient bartenders should be able to easily make one with a little guidance.

The Seelbach Cocktail:

1 oz bourbon (a 100 proof bourbon is a good choice)
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud's bitters
5 oz of chilled brut sparkling wine or champagne (a higher quality sparkler will greatly enhance the drink)
Orange or lemon twist for garnish

Add all ingredients to champagne flute, stir gently, and garnish. For a sweeter drink, increase the Cointreau slightly.

For those that make it to KY, information about the hotel can be found here:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Extra Anejo Tequila without the Extra Anejo Price

Costco is often a great place to buy liquor, especially when stocking up for a party or looking for cocktail basics. While their premium liquor selection is often small, the prices are hard to beat. Recently, Costco has entered the realm of private label spirits under their Kirkland label, starting with a vodka made by the same company that produces Grey Goose. The next spirit in this line is an extra anejo tequila, which hit the shelves late last fall.

The extra anejo category is a new one for tequila, only existing as a classification since 2006. These tequilas have been aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels, more than regular anejo tequila that must be aged for a minimum of 1 year. At 3 years, tequila loses most of its fresh agave flavor, and takes on a taste closer to bourbon. Some well known extra anejo tequilas include the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia and Don Julio 1942. In addition to the aging requirement, most extra anejo tequilas have in common a premium price. The Reserva de la Familia and the 1942 both retail for $80 to $100 per bottle, a high price for a 3-year old spirit.

Enter Costco. Their recently released Extra Anejo tequila breaks this price barrier and retails for $23.99. It's aged for 3 years in American oak barrels in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, by the Fabrica de Tequilas Finos. This company also makes the upscale Tonala brand. While not as smooth as Reserva de la Familia or Tonala, the Kirkland brand does have nice oakey tones, good vanilla sweetness, and a peppery finish. Though it is drinkable straight, an ice cube or two will tame the slight burn. Overall, it is an excellent bargain at this price, and is cheap enough to use in a margarita or other tequila cocktail. It is also the same price as a decent bourbon, and might be a good way to introduce a bourbon drinker to aged tequila.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Your Brief Guide to Bay Area Cured Meats

If you haven't noticed, the Bay Area culinary scene has become more adventurous over the past few years, especially in regard to meat.

A number of establishments have opened specializing in salumi and charcuterie, salumi being the Italian term for cured meats and meat products, often made from pork. In fact, San Francisco has long had a connection to Italian meats, ever since companies such as Molinari & Sons and Columbus Salame Co. were founded in the early 1900s. Those who are on the “whole hog” bandwagon have probably already known about these new places for some time, but several are worth highlighting.

Founded in late 2007, the Boccalone meat factory in Oakland makes some pretty tasty products under the slogan “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”. Owner Chris Consentino, executive chef at Incanto in Noe Valley, makes a range of products including salami, mortadella, pate, and an addictive soft salami called Nduja. Some of their products, such as the spreadable lard, may not appeal to most, but the Nduja is something unique and different. Native to the Calabria area of Italy, Nduja is a spicy, citrusy, and extremely flavorful spreadable salame. Boccalone is the only U.S. producer making the product, and it is next to impossible to find fresh Nduja imported from Italy. It has a pungent, over the top, meaty flavor and is made from ingredients including pork, salt, citrus pulp, spices and red pepper.

Those who are a fan of strong tasting foods and drinks such as English Stilton, Spanish Queso de Cabrales blue cheese, pickled herring, Double IPAs or Islay Scotch whisky will likely appreciate the flavor and complexity. The sausage comes in a natural pig casing, and is great to spread on toasted bread or crackers. Mixing an ounce or so with scrambled eggs and extra sharp white cheddar makes a particularly pungent and flavorful breakfast dish.

The best place to purchase Nduja is at the Boccalone store in San Francisco, located in the Ferry Building market place. At $11 per chub, it's not cheap, but well worth the money. In addition to Nduja, you can buy their other products and an assortment of sandwiches. Create a lasting impression on a date by buying a “Meat Cone” to share, which consists of a paper cone full of various meat delicacies. For those not in San Francisco, Boccalone sells some of their meat products on its web page. A package of two Nduja chubs is $24, plus shipping. Fans of Boccalone's products will also enjoy charcuterie products from the Fatted Calf, which is based at Napa's Oxbow market, but also has a stall at the Saturday Ferry Building farmer's market.

Another new company is 4505 meats, who have created their own version of chicharones (aka pork rinds). 4505's version has a super light texture and mouth feel, similar to a Japanese shrimp cracker. Chef Ryan Farr created the product, and they are fried in rice bran oil. It's fully priced at $3 per 1/2 oz package, but might appeal to those normally not a fan of puffed pork skin of the super market variety, or the typically greasy, heavier type common in many Latin American butcher shops. For a little fun at your next party, supply a bowl of 4505 meats' chicharones, and once they've been eaten, inform everyone that they weren't eating rice crackers. 4505 Meats operates their own booth at the Thursday Ferry Building farmer's market, but also distributes through other fine purveyors.

Across the Bay in Oakland is Adesso, a restaurant/bar devoted to its own house made line of salume. Go during happy hour when they put out a free buffet of small dishes, some of which include their salumi. Your host is not typically a head cheese fan, but Adesso's version is undeniably savory.


Places Mentioned:

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 433-6500

Fatted Calf Charcuterie
Oxbow Public Market
644 C 1st Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 256-3684

4505 Meats
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(Thursday market only)

4935 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 601-0305
Happy Hour: 5-7 pm Monday through Saturday, and the last hour of business every day
No webpage