Cocktail School At River and Rail Restaurant!

cocktail shake

Sunday evening my bubbly friend and I attended Cocktail School at River and Rail Restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia.  Our talented “Cocktail Professors” were Devon Steiner, Manager and Sous Chef John Diaz (pictured above) of River and Rail.

Veuve champagne

We started the evening with Veuve Ambal Blanc de Blancs Brut sparkling wine.  A lovely apéritif, crisp, dry, with notes of fresh apple and a touch of honey. A lively little sparkler!

A bit of history about this bubbly from http://devinewine.com.au

Maison Veuve Ambal was founded in the heart of Burgundy in 1898, by Veuve Marie Ambal, widow of a Parisian banker. Marie returned to Rully to join her brother, a wine lover and wine broker, to make wine at the time “method traditionelle” was being introduced for sparkling wines. The wines immediately gained recognition, and her grandson Charles Roux Ambal, followed by his grandson and current President Eric Piffaut, have continued to build on Marie’s philosophy of quality, and the combination of tradition and modernity which is the signature of Veuve Ambal. With over 200 hectares of vineyards across Burgundy, mainly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Veuve Ambal remain leaders in the production of  sparkling wines today. 

Pale yellow gold in colour, the Veuve Ambal Cremant de Bourgogne shows an exceptionally fine, persistent mousse. The fruity bouquet shows enticing citrusy notes, with a hint of red fruits and some biscuity complexity. The palate is elegant and harmonious, the finish long, crisp and dry. 

strawberry shrub

One of the reasons that River and Rail’s Strawberry Daiquiri tastes so good…they make the daiquiri with strawberry shrub (pictured above).  A shrub is a vinegar-based syrup and referred to as “Drinking Vinegar”. Drinking vinegar is often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in mixed drinks.  Devon and Chef John recommend adding ingredients to match the season such as clove and cinnamon during the holidays.  Our shrub had a little orange zest in it. My bubbly friend and I determined that the shrub made the daquiri taste not as syrupy sweet as commercial mixes which was refreshing. They recommended serving the daiquiri in a chilled coupe glass. Double straining with a cocktail strainer is a good idea for this drink to remove any ice crystals. Always use fresh juices in your cocktails, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

River and Rail Strawberry Shrub

Wash and slice 1# strawberries

Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar, stir to coat evenly

Let this sit with a breathable cover (cheesecloth) for 24-48 hours

Strain syrup through fine mesh strainer or use coffee filter

Add red wine vinegar to taste (Devon likes 2/3 cup for this recipe)

Pour into mason jar and refrigerate. Over time, the shrub will mellow out and flavors marry

  • Experiment with citrus, spices and vinegars
  • Great in nonalcoholic beverages as well

River and Rail Strawberry Daiquiri

2 ounces rum

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce strawberry shrub

1 dash rhubarb bitters

Add ice to shaker, shake hard, double strain into coupe glass. Optional garnish:  Thin lime wheel, strawberry or cherry

River and Rail Bourbon Sour

1.5 ounces bourbon

.75 ounces simple syrup

.75 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add ice to shaker, shake hard, strain into rocks glass

Sour mix:  DO NOT BUY STORE SOUR, make your own. Equal parts lemon juice to simple syrup. Simple syrup:  1 cup sugar + 1 cup boiling water = 1.5 cups simple syrup. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

negronivermouth

June 6 – June 12, 2016 was National Negroni Week. Here’s a link to some fun information about this Italian cocktail: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/negroni-cocktail-facts-history-negroni-week

They recommend serving this cocktail over a “big rock” (large ice cube that fills the glass).  Do not shake this cocktail because shaking bruises the botanicals in the gin.

River and Rail Negroni

1 ounce gin

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 oz. Campari

Combine over ice, stir until glass is frosty, about 30 stirs.  Serve over ice or up.  Garnish: Orange Peel

meatstrawberry bowl

The  lovely hors d’oeuvres included housemade Charcuterie and fresh strawberries.

champagne

Finished this lovely evening on the patio under the stars with this bottle of bubbly: Tendil & Lombardi  Blanc de Noirs Champagne.

100 % pinot noir champagne. Creamy mousse, crisp apple and raspberry notes with a hint of toast.  Wine Spectator rated this champagne “90 points”.

L Asiatic Trogon Lily

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This Red Carpet Cocktail Deserves An Academy Award!

chili oil on red carpet cocktail

Link to The London Bar, NYC: http://www.thelondonnyc.com/photos-en.html

Jean Carlos Parra, Bartender, The London Bar, NYC creates this fanciful cocktail: The Red CarpetI was intrigued by the Thai Chili Pepper-Infused Oil drizzled on the top of this fabulous raspberry blood orange cocktail. Here’s the original recipe and a couple of my twists – very easy to make and very sippable!

The Red Carpet

10 fresh raspberries (I did not have fresh raspberries so I used 4 tablespoons frozen raspberry puree that I had in the freezer – I made the raspberry puree by placing fresh raspberries in a saute pan, heating and smashing them with a fork until they are mushy and juicy. Strain the puree through a fine sieve. Discard seeds from sieve. Place juice in a freezer container and freeze until ready to use. )

2 ounces blood orange puree (I did not have blood oranges so I substituted 2 ounces of blood orange European soda – the soda has a little carbonation in it – this soda is sold locally at Fresh Market.)

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar

3 ounces vodka (I used 1 ounce of Sunset Hills Virginia Gin…I did not want a strong drink so I used less than the 3 ounces the original recipe called for and I wanted to make a gin drink so I used the Sunset Hills. I like this particular gin because it does not have a strong juniper berry flavor or aroma.  https://sipologyblog.com/2012/04/24/sunset-hills-virginia-gin/ (Other types of gin may be too strong in juniper berry flavor for this drink.)

5 – 10 drops of Thai chili-infused oil (optional) (I found this oil at our local Asian market.)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle approximately 10 raspberries (if using raspberry puree place puree in cocktail shaker). Add blood orange puree (or blood orange soda), lime juice, agave nectar, and vodka (or gin) and shake vigorously. (I added a few ice cubes to the cocktail shaker to make sure the cocktail was icy cold.) Strain into a chilled martini glass. For an added kick, top with Thai chili-infused oil.

 

Flûte! Champagne Bar and Lounge, Midtown, NYC

stary night

It was a Starry Night…

(Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC)

flute me 2

The perfect night to visit Flûte Champagne Bar and Lounge in Midtown, New York City…

http://www.flutebar.com

Flûte Bar & Lounge opened in midtown Manhattan in 1997, taking over the space that once operated as the notorious speakeasy, Club Intime. At Flûte Midtown, we take champagne out of the nightclub VIP room and bring it into the chic, intimate, comfortable setting of a New York lounge: French art de vivre meets New York City nightlife.

Down a short flight of stairs from the sidewalk, but worlds away from the bustle of Midtown Manhattan, Flûte Midtown operates in a space that was once a speakeasy run by the notorious Texas Guinan. Texas Guinan was infamous for her brazen disregard of Prohibition, her army of scantily clad showgirls, her witty catch-phrases and her string of New York nightclubs where writers, socialites and shady types rubbed elbows. Flûte Midtown’s speakeasy history is preserved in its subtle lighting, cocktail menu and honeycomb of intimate booths, and it continues the tradition of providing a haven to the chic, the literary, the night owls and those in-the-know.

flute glasses being served

flute flight

“The Magic Flûtes”

“Le Vie en Rose”

Champagne Tasting Flights

Reasons to love this place:

  1. 100 champagnes and sparkling wines, a full bar, specialty sparkling cocktails and small plates.
  2.  Two-for-one drinks, including champagne, every Tuesday until 8pm.
  3.   They have a champagne school!  Join Flûte’s experts every month to learn about champagne and sparkling wine by tasting wines side-by-side, with detailed information presented on each wine and time for questions.
  4. Lots of super cool events and jazz music…check out their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/flutemidtown/timeline

champagne school

flute lady

 

U.S. Sparkling For The Summer!

In anticipation of the summer season, Wine Spectator published an article:  Sparkling Summer ~ As consumers thirst for bubbly, U.S. producers continue to shine.   Here’s a list of U.S. Sparkling Wine from Wine Spectator with rating and release price:

http://www.winespectator.com/wines/list/id/51550

Included in the article are the Top Values ~ sparkling wines that won’t break the bank.  I will try as many of these sparklings that are available to me and will report back here.

Korbel organic

Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar brought in the Korbel Brut California Organic Grapes NV for me.  http://mrbillswinecellar.com/

It rated a score of 90 on the Wine Spectator Top Values list.  They describe it as crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to flavors of pear and blanched almond. $14

I enjoyed the tiny bubbles in the glass and the honey notes and a bit of earthiness in this sparkling wine.  Somehow I can’t get away from the Korbel brand and my memories of “graduating” from Korbel to finer champagnes in my twenties.  The “organic” on the label helped to sell me on this bottle and the $14 price point was appealing.

I freely admit that I arrived at this glass with a positively jaded life experience. Nonetheless this is a nice effort at the price point and is the best Korbel I’ve tasted.

Korbel bottles have the term “California Champagne” on the label…how can they legally include champagne as part of their label?

The French organization Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) regulates the use of Champagne on wine labels outside of Champagne region. The European Union protects the Champagne designation and limits its use on wine labels to wines from Champagne. Many countries signed the agreement and do not use champagne on their wine labels. The United States entered such an agreement as well, but with a grandfather clause. Wineries who were operating and producing sparkling wine before the agreement was signed in 2005 are legally (according to US law) able to use the term “champagne” on their label. One wine company that continues to use the term champagne on their label is Korbel.

Korbel has been producing “California Champagne” since the late 1800s. They have continued to label their sparkling wine as champagne and because they are grandfathered in the agreement they legally they have no reason to change this practice.

Tequila Watermelon Sparkler and Szigeti!

watermelon

This fanciful cocktail was featured in the June, 2016 Food and Wine Magazine.  Tastes like a watermelon margarita on the rocks! Use good quality tequila in this recipe to make a fabulously refreshing cocktail. “Aguas Frescas” is “Fresh Waters” in Spanish.  Fruits, flowers, cereals and seeds are combined with sugar and water to make refreshing beverages often sold by street vendors in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Tequila-Watermelon Aguas Frescas with Prosecco

Makes 12 drinks

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 chilled seedless watermelon (15 lbs.), rind discarded and watermelon cubed (20 cups)

3/4 cup tequila blanco

6 limes, thinly sliced

3 mint sprigs, plus mint leaves for garnish

Ice

1 bottle chilled Prosecco

  1.  In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer the simple syrup to a heatproof bowl and let cool.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon in batches until smooth. Strain the puree into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in the simple syrup, tequila, lime slices, 3 mint sprigs and 1/2 cup water.
  3. To serve, pour the watermelon agua fresca into ice-filled glasses, leaving 1 inch at the top.  Top off the drinks with Prosecco and garnish with mint leaves.

 Make ahead:  The strained watermelon juice can be refrigerated overnight.

Here’s a fun peachie drink to enjoy while we wait for fresh peach season to arrive:

Peachtree City

1 oz vodka

3 or 4 oz lime juice

1 oz berentzen peach schnapps

1 or 2 oz cranberry juice

1 or 2 oz simple syrup

Add all ingredients to shaker tin, fill with ice, and shake.  Double strain into cocktail glass and garnish with channel knife lime peel.

champagne seizler

The name Szigeti is intriguing…this lovely Austrian sparkling wine tickled my taste buds. I was pleasantly surprised at the first sip – creaminess on the palate with crisp apple notes.

Grape Varieties: Grüner Veltliner

Region: Lake Neusiedl – Burgenland

Tasting Notes from website:
Lovely golden colour with light green tinges. Delicate aromas of apple with a touch of white pepper. Dry with crunchy acidity, hint of honeysuckle and kiwi over elegant lime notes.

My notes: Creamy, fruity with apple notes.

Locally sourced at Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar, Roanoke, Virginia ($21.00 range)

From Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed Newsletter:

 Wine question of the week:  Which of the following is the driest style of Champagne or sparkling wine?

A. Brut   B. Extra Dry   C. Demi-sec    D. Extra Brut

Answer:  D. Extra Brut is a very dry Champagne or sparkling wine with less than .6 percent of sugar per liter.  Brut is a dry to very dry style containing less than 1.5 percent sugar per liter. Extra Dry is slightly sweeter than Brut. And Demi-sec, with 3.3 to 5.0  percent of sugar per liter, is sweeter than Extra Dry.

Rose kind of day

Rosé Magnum!

Another reason to love summer! Entering my rosé phase!  The June 2016 issue of Food and Wine shares this tidbit of wine advice: The latest Côte d’Azur trend…equipping your mega-yacht with a special refrigerator designed specifically to hold three-liter (or larger) bottles of rosé.

The Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco.

Fortunately rosé can be a less expensive wine choice, so you can keep a copious supply and drink it at your leisure while saving $ to purchase that fancy dancy refrigerator for your mega-yacht.

Rose magnum(Magnum on left = 2 bottles)

Chateau Léoube Rosé de Léoube 2015 Côtes de Provence, France,a blend of  grenache, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre made from grapes grown at the Ch Léoube vineyards.  Very pale pink.  Tasting notes from the Chateau Léoube website: The nose fresh: a blend of exotic fruits with light spice flavours. The palate is supple and elegant without being in breach of liveliness. Under his pale color, the Château Léoube rosé unveils a full complex wine.

Links to fun articles about the current rosé trend:

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/everythings-coming-rose

http://imbibe.com/news-articles/drinks/pale-and-interesting-provence-rose/

Derby Day Gala, Rockledge, Roanoke, Virginia, 2016

 

Mary Ellen hat original

My bubbly friend rocks in her one-of-a kind Derby hat from St. Barts.

Orange hat

On Saturday evening we celebrated the Kentucky Derby with 200 friends at Rockledge on Mill Mountain, Roanoke, Virginia.

 https://www.facebook.com/DerbyDayGala

derby hunter

Celebrity Bartender ~  Hunter Johnson, owner and  mixologist Extraordinaire,  Lucky and Fortunato Restaurants, Roanoke, Virginia, prepared these signature cocktails for us. JP Powell, owner, Lucky and Fortunato Restaurants and  the fabulous Brittany Nicole Jones, mixologist, Lucky Restaurant, also donated their time and expertise at the “Lucky Celebrity Bar” that evening:

http://fortunatoroanoke.com

http://eatatlucky.com

celebrity drinks

Orange hat

derby bartender vest and bow tie

Festive Kentucky Derby Vest!

derby shoes

Hand-Painted Kentucky Derby Shoes!

derby socks

Pink Flamingo Derby Socks!

Proseccochampagne glass

Derby Day Gala at Rockledge Signature Welcome Prosecco ~ Via Del  Milleri Extra Dry “Mille”~ 85% prosecco, 15% verdiso perdra and bianchetta grapes from Veneto region. Nice, affordable bubbly. Notes of bright green apple.

derby sugarDerby sugar detail

Gorgeous centerpiece ~ ornate sugar sculpture by Chef Extraordinaire John Schopp.

pimento cheesePimento Cheese delightfully displayed on charred wood planks.

Derby Day Gala at Rockledge catering donated by the talented Southwest Virginia Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. Chapter President Ted Polfelt, Vice President Darla Mehrkens.

dessert derby

 https://www.facebook.com/swvaacf

derby hat beigederby day hat Martyderby hat orange

derby hat wild

Derby Hatderby hat blue

derby hat yellow

horse

Happy Derby Day!

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