Monthly Archives: November 2015

New To Me: Arak

New To Me
Gantous & Abou Raad Arak

  

Arak is liquor distilled from grapes and flavored with Anis Seeds.

It is the traditional alcoholic beverage in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.

The Arak I tasted last night is from Lebanon and clocked in at 100 proof.

It tasted like a less viscous, more potent sambuca. 

Like Sambuca, Arak is also compared to Ouzo, Pastis & Absinthe.

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Filed under ANIS, ARAK, BOOZE, FLAVORS, LIQUOR, NEW TO ME

Apple Cider Maple Syrup

Photos from a batch of flavored simple syrup I made this week:

 

 
 

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Filed under APPLE CIDER, FLAVORS, KITCHEN EXPERIMENTS, MAPLE SYRUP, MIXERS, PHOTO POST, SIMPLE SYRUP

Comics & Cocktails #6 • Dottie Quinn/The Fade Out

COMICS & COCKTAILS
Dottie Quinn and The Fade Out

Issue number 10 of “The Fade Out” recently hit comic shop shelves — and the book sets up pretty much all the pieces for the big conclusion coming in the final two issues.

Since debuting some many months back, every time an issue of “The Fade Out” arrives, I want to frame the comic for its cover alone.

For this month’s cover, one of the secondary characters, a gal named Dottie Quinn, was featured. 

Dottie does PR for the movie studio where the story is set, and has a personal and professional relationship with the main character.

Dottie Quinn
 

As a fan of comics and detective fiction, I have a great love for this hard-boiled era in which “The Fade Out” is set. And as a professional bartender, I’ve also got a great love of the pre-prohibition and post-prohibition eras and all the the drinks which were created in those years.

So in honor of the comic and the character Dottie Quinn, I put together an original cocktail recently which felt like a throwback — bourbon, coffee liqueur, banana liqueur, Grand Marnier & orange bitters. And I garnished it with a banana chip. 

 

It’s sort of a blend between a “Talent Scout and a “Revolver,” but with the timing and arrival of this new issue of “The Fade Out,” I figured I better call it a Dottie Quinn — sweet and strong, with a stiff bitter side that’s not overwhelming but is surprisingly balanced and complex.

THE FADE OUT

This series is one of the best comic books being published right now.

Written and drawn by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, respectively, “The Fade Out” is published by Image Comics and set in post-World War II Hollywood. My podcast buddy Jason Sample has compared the comic to the film “L.A. Confidential” and that comparison is right on the mark. This book is noir done write — written and drawn by two guys who’ve proven themselves to masters of this genre.

Brubaker and Phillips are well known for tackling not only this era, but the gritty pulp world— with the series “Fatale” being just one example.

“The Fade Out” started as a murder mystery, with an actress’s death covered up as a suicide in issue number one. It has since evolved into a scandal so large in this pseudo-real Hollywood setting that our two main protagonists don’t even care if they solve the case, they just want to go down swinging and maybe make enough noise that it’ll draw some attention to the crime.

Our main character in the book is the scriptwriter for the movie being shot in the comic, and after coming across the corpse of the actress, he removed himself from the situation and then read in the newspapers the next day that it was a suicide — but he knows better.

Someone in his studio covered up the crime, and rearranged the crime scene to look like a suicide. 

Now that we’re 10 issues in, he and his fellow writer, who’s been made aware of the crime, are on the warpath. They’ve discovered an even deeper issue below the murder of this one, individual actress — and they mean to expose it.

“The Fade Out” is a great little story that’s really taking its time to develop. Brubaker and Phillips immerse the reader in this sleazy Hollywood era and spend each of the first few issues introducing us to more and more players in the story. The middle set of books in the series really catapult the story forward and now I can’t wait for the final issues to bring it all to a head.

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Filed under BANANA, BOURBON, COGNAC, COMIC BOOKS, COMICS AND COCKTAILS, GARNISHES & OTHER EDIBLES, LIQUEURS

24 Hours In Buffalo — Cecelia’s & Blue Monk

For the second half of our overnight in Buffalo, we started Sunday morning with brunch at Cecelia’s.

Cecelia’s a small restaurant located on Elmwood across from Blue Monk. I’ve blogged about it before.

Cecelia’s Ristorante & Martini Bar:


And the exterior:


The last time my wife and I were at Cecelia’s was a weekday, and we ordered off the lunch menu — a salad, pizza, hamburger and other delicious lunch items. However, the first time we ever ate at Cecelia’s was several years ago on a Sunday, and the brunch we had was one of those meals that the two of us have brought up to each other time and time again throughout the years.

Thankfully, we were lucky enough to get seats at the bar this trip. We didn’t have reservations for brunch and there weren’t any tables available.

Since it was 11 o’clock, no one could drink (as per New York State law). But like clockwork, the mimosas started flowing right at noon.

Everyone who orders one of the restaurant’s premium brunch dishes is entitled to a free mimosa.

By 12 o’clock though we were just about done with our meal: a crepe to share and a dish of their eggs Benedict for each of us.


Even though we were each entitled to a mimosa, we passed on them — and that would have been the end of our Cecelia’s experience but I saw a bottle of Strega behind the bar.
The last time I was at Cecelia’s I got to try an amaro is never had for the first time. And so similarly this trip I decided to end my meal with a shot of Strega.

STREGA

Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur that’s been in production since 1860. Like so many bitter digestifs, it contains saffron which gives it its yellow color — though it’s a little less yellow than Galliano.

Although it’s termed a liqueur, Strega is 80 proof (40% abv) and among its 70 herbal ingredients are mint and fennel.

It is slightly sweet, semi-viscous, and has a bold, complex flavor with strong minty or coniferous notes.
Another neat fact about Strega is that it’s the Italian word for “witch,” which made it an appropriate drink for the Halloween weekend.

One last thing about Cecelia’s, as if I haven’t gushed enough, is that I love the natural light they get in their bar from their skylights:



BLUE MONK

Also along this section of Elmwood is Blue Monk.

I had a quick beer at the popular beer bar after Cecelia’s, but we didn’t stay long. We’d purchased some sponge candy at Watson’s and were itching to get back to Resurgence to pair the candy with the brewery’s stout.

My short stop at Blue Monk did yield me two badges though:

  
 

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Filed under AMARO, BRANDS, BUFFALO BARS, BUFFALO RESTAURANTS, BUFFALO SHOPS, CRAFT BEER, NEW TO ME

24 Hours In Buffalo — Savoy & Vera Pizzeria

The reason I went to Buffalo over the weekend was to get myself some quality craft cocktails for my birthday.

My first stop though was for a quick beer, as I detailed in my last post, but the plan for the evening was very much about craft cocktails. We checked into our hotel and got gussied up for Halloween, then headed first to Savoy for a drink and Vera Pizzeria for dinner.

Savoy’s Beet Around The Busch:

  

My wife had a non-alcoholic cocktail which the bartender shook up and topped with ginger beer.

The first drink I had at Vera was a cocktail called Dill Breaker:

  

My second drink at Vera was a cocktail called Vice Admiral:

  

By the time we got to Vera it was very dark out, and the house lights were low (for Haloween I’m guessing) — and so I brightened the above pictures as best I could. Apologies for all the graininess, but I’m happy I at least got a pic at all for the blog. I easily could’ve left my phone at home and just enjoyed the atmosphere and overall experience. 

Our meal was excellent and the staff members at Vera were knowledgable and friendly. I finally got to try Amaro Di Angostura and the bartenders were kind enough to chat with me about their Fernet-Branca on tap!

The two cocktails I had are on Vera’s new Fall 2015 cocktail menu:

The Dill Breaker:

  

The Vice Admiral:
  

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Filed under AMARO, BEET, BIRTHDAYS, BRANDS, BUFFALO BARS, BUFFALO RESTAURANTS, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, DILL, HOLIDAYS, PISCO, RYE WHISKEY, WHISKEY

24 Hours In Buffalo —Resurgence Brewing

My wife and I went to Buffalo over the weekend for my birthday.

It was a whirlwind trip, and we managed to pack a ton of stuff in throughout the course of only 24 hours.

The first stop we made was a first-time destination for us. 

We were on the 90 approaching Buffalo and wanted an early afternoon snack, but had no particular place in mind. 

I’d seen friends post pictures of a place called Resurgence Brewing on Facebook so we dialed up OnStar on a whim and took a chance on it:

  

We had such a good time at Resurgence on Saturday that we decided we’d end our weekend there as well, and we did!

When we left Buffalo on Sunday afternoon, we stopped again so I could try the Sponge Candy Stout — and I ended up winning a beer stein as part of a fundraiser being held at the brewery.

  

I love that I’d never had this brewery’s beer before nor had I ever been to this brewery, yet it ended up being the beginning and end to my weekend — a sort of bookend for my birthday. And both visits were exceptional in their own unique ways:

SATURDAY

I had two beers on Saturday, the WNY Fest and the Oktoberfest.

We also had two snacks while at Resurgence on the first day, a chip-and-dip with a peppers-and-cheese sauce as well as an order of pretzels which came with its own trio of other dips.

Perfect food for a beer-drinking afternoon, but grab plenty of water — most of those dips were spicy.

Saturday was Halloween and we were too early for the brewery’s costume contest (and we weren’t in costume yet), but one of Resurgence’s staff members was an excellent Ace Ventura.

Before leaving, I bought a six-pack of Resurgence’s IPA (which I still have yet to try) — and on our way out we sat by the outdoor fireplace which the brewery has in its closed-off backyard. It was a great way to spend a beautiful October afternoon.

SUNDAY

After brunch at Cecelia’s and a quick beer at Blue Monk, we bought sponge candy at Watson’s and then headed back to Resurgence for the brewery’s Sponge Candy Stout (pictured at bottom):

 
Top left is the Oktoberfest and top right is the WNY Fest.

Both days had their own unique energies at the brewery — Saturday was all abuzz with holiday joy and twentysomethings playing brewery games (cornhole, Connect Four, Jenga). On Sunday there were people there for the football game and also to support the fundraiser happening. 

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Filed under BEER, BIRTHDAYS, BREWERIES, BUFFALO BARS, BUFFALO RESTAURANTS, CRAFT BEER, NEW TO ME