Saturday, August 20, 2011

L'Entente Cordiale

A few weeks month* ago happened to be not only Bastille Day, but also the First Night of the Proms two days in a row.  Thus, in order to celebrate the occasion, I threw a little bash with a Franco-Anglo theme.
 I must thank Felicia immensely for her wonderful artwork and the effort she put into designing both the invitation seen above and the menu seen below.  For the invitation, I had simply asked for something along the lines of Alphonse Mucha's recognizable art nouveau style.  Since Mucha invariably had female figures in his posters, I suggested Britannia and Marianne as symbolic figures.

Menu front

Menu back
As is obvious on the menu, half the drinks were inspired by the Union Jack and the other half by the Tricolore.  There are number of classic cocktails on the menu, including the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Lion's Tail, English Rose, Blue Train Special, Absinthe FrappĂ©, Boulevardier, Vermouth Cassis and the French 75.  In addition, I included a couple drinks from the local bar scene: the Parisian Orchid from Green Street and the Thames River (which I misremembered as the River Thames when writing my menu) from Fred at cocktail virgin slut.  Lastly a couple drinks are variations of my own.

The cucumber gimlet is an idea that I've seen floating all over the place, but I think my method is slightly unique.  To be more correct in my nomenclature, the drink is rather a sweetened rickey rather than a gimlet.  At the time I wrote the menu, my intention was to use cucumber juice to make a syrup to sweeten the fresh lime juice in a gimlet rather than using Rose's lime cordial.  However, I drifted away from this idea in favor of making a cucumber-infused soda because I wanted more subtlety.  The soda was made by first shredding a whole cucumber and letting it steep for 4 hours in 1 L of water.  Then, I transferred this cucumber flavored water into my iSi soda siphon along with 4 thin wedges of cucumber, seed removed.  I proceeded to carbonate, borrowing a trick seen at Clio and Drink of flash infusing the liquid inside.  The resultant soda had a noticeable cucumber taste, but one that was more subtle and fragrant.  This flavor was not lost when used in the rickey, and provided a refreshing, herbaceous background that flitted in between the gin and lime.

The second original drink on the menu is the Stone of Scone, named after the legendary Scottish stone upon which the monarchs of Britain are crowned.  As should be obvious from the name, the drink uses scotch as a base.  I was thinking about the use of tea in a number of punches and cocktails, and while the tea is usually brewed separately as an ingredient or turned into a syrup, I wanted to use tea without the dilution.  Thus, I decided to infuse the scotch with tea, using Earl Grey in particular because I wanted the rich citrus fragrance of bergamot in addition to the tannic tea.  For the infusion, I used 4 Earl Grey teabags in 2 cups of scotch and allowed it to infuse for 2 hours.

To balance the tannins and the scotch, I added lemon juice to the mix.  During this thought process, I also saw a guest post in cocktail virgin slut about damson gin.  I rather like the idea of damson gin and was about to start from scratch to make a cocktail featuring it instead of scotch, but I was sadly unable to procure a bottle in time, so I found the next best thing to be Japanese plum wine.  As the plum wine is quite sweet already, only a dash more grenadine was needed to round it out.  I also used a dash each of Angostura and orange bitters.  Lastly, the Famous Grouse I used for the infusion was not smoky enough for my tastes, so I decided to rinse the glass with a bit of Bowmore, the only Islay I had on hand.

Stone of Scone
2 oz Earl Grey-infused scotch
3/4 oz plum wine
1/2 oz lemon juice
Dash grenadine
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash orange bitters
Shake and strain into a glass rinsed with an Islay scotch. Lemon twist.

Stone of Scone
 As for the name, there's an extra bit of wordplay.  The stone is so named because it was kept at Scone Abbey in the village of Scone near Perth.  However, the word scone is also often associated with afternoon tea.  Pronounced differently despite the identical spelling, perhaps, but I thought the idea of Earl Grey and plums also hearkened of afternoon tea.  The next step would be to somehow incorporate some clotted cream..

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


 If only there were no high-voltage transmission lines..

I would rather not bore you with all the quotidian details.  Suffice it to say, weather was lovely for refreshing constitutionals and the scenery most charming.  Aside from the sunshine, coastal breeze, montane air and abundant verdancy, the comestibles have been delightful.  A quick summary of particularly noteworthy nosh follows:
  • Nita Lake Lodge charcuterie, Caprese salad with balsamic sorbet, and roasted pheasant with potatoes au gratin (Alta Bistro, Whistler)
  • Steamed mussels with coconut, lime and white wine; venison with mushrooms and spatzle (RimRock Cafe, Whistler)
  • Late night snack: Nostrala raw cows' milk cheese from Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co. and venison prosciutto from Oyama Sausage Co. on Granville Island paired with Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Valley merlot 2009
  • Local cherries and blueberries from the farmers' market; wild blackberries picked at a scenic overlook off the Sea to Sky highway
Abundance of fruit at the Granville Public Market
  • Food truck hopping: Okonomi dog at Japadog and Korean short rib taco at Roaming Dragon
  • Beard Papa! (nostalgically reminds me of Taipei)
  • Takoyaki, seared marinated ahi tuna steak, grilled beef tongue, yaki udon, and stewed pork belly at Guu Garlic 
Takoyaki at Guu Garlic
  • Miso ramen at Benkei
  • Dim sum at Good Choice including some very good congee, har gow, pea shoots, fupi juan and dan ta.  The dan ta were so good in fact that we ended up tripling our initial order after having relished the first.
While I was unable to try any of the cocktail bars in Vancouver for one reason or another, the trip was marked by a significant consumption of local wine from BC's Okanagan Valley.  I certainly was not really aware that BC had a wine growing region, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality.  Other than the Jackson-Triggs mentioned above, a couple favorites:
  • Cassini Pinot Noir 2008: strawberries, cherries, floral hints of violet or lavender, earthiness of damp loam lurking, silky tannins, but noticeably still a bit young, would definitely improve with a couple years of age
  • Cedar Creek Merlot 2008: lots of ripe blackberries, blackcurrant jam, round and satiny, chocolate covered cherries, the type with a bit of kirsch, touch of warm wood sitting by a fire to dry
Sad to have missed many things including cocktails, oysters and sashimi, but that simply means that I'll have to return in the future.  The climate definitely suits me.

UBC Rose Garden looking across the Strait of Georgia