At the beginning of the month I had a huge turnout for No Shots Allowed, my tequila cocktail class. We tasted different grades of tequila on their own, then mixed up a margarita to determine if it was worth buying the good stuff if you're "just" mixing drinks. General consensus was "you bet!" We compared a classic gin cocktail with its 21st century update, then tasted and learned all about Mezcal and what makes it different from tequila. (And why there's sometimes a worm in the bottle - ewww.) Finally, we continued our examination of how cocktails evolve by experimenting with 6 different variations on Mexico's favorite tequila cocktail, the Paloma.
Last week found us celebrating spring and renewal with Flips, Fizzes, Sours and Nogs, a class focusing on the many ways that eggs can be used in cocktails. We started off easy with a variety of egg white cocktails, beginning with sours (traditionally made with a little egg white, but not very often today) and fizzes. We saw how the mellowing effect of an egg white can radically change an ingredient when we mixed up a Fernet Sour (recipe below). And people got a workout shaking up Ramos Gin Fizzes - original recipes call for an epic 12 minute shake, but I only made them do it for 2 minutes! Then we moved the wild and wacky world of flips - cocktails with a whole egg in them - and found that we loved them! We finished up the class with a little eggnog while learning about the Eggnog Riot at WestPoint military academy in 1826.
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shake. Shake without ice for 10-15 seconds, then add ice and shake hard for at least 20 more seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass.
(Fernet Branca is an amaro, a style of bittersweet Italian liqueurs. It can be pretty challenging, with a lot of bitter flavors and a medicinal menthol quality. But this cocktail transforms it into something much more approachable, wit the egg white sending the bitter to the background, keeping just the nice mint and chocolate characteristics up front.)
I've just posted details on my next few months of classes at The Last Word. Check out the Shop page to register.
I've got two cocktail classes scheduled for March. On March 4, join me to explore the finer side of a spirit best known for 21st birthday party disasters. I speak of course of tequila. In No Shots Allowed: Tequila Cocktails we'll taste and learn about tequila and mezcal, mixing up some cocktails along the way.
Then, on March 25, it's Flips, Fizzes, Sours and Nogs! Perhaps you've looked skeptically at drinks on a cocktail menu that list a raw egg white, or even more unusual, a yolk or whole egg? Or maybe you already love Pisco Sours and cherish your family heirloom egg nog recipe. This class will talk about both the whys and hows of using eggs in both classic and modern cocktail recipes.
Classes are held at The Last Word and are hands-on with lots of tasting opportunities. Register for just $35 at the Shop page today.
Join me on Saturday, March 30 from 2-4 pm for a chance to make your own Easter treats! You'll learn all about tempering chocolate and molding as you make hollow
Easter eggs, caramel filled bunnies, chocolate tulips and crunchy frogs. All materials are provided and you'll get to take home everything you make. The class is $45 and you can register on the Shop
page. Directions and other details will be sent to you upon registration.
My spring cocktail class was great fun! This was my first time trying out a new walk-around format, and the feedback was good. Instead of staying at a table mixing drinks there, participants worked their way around 3 stations in the room, making or tasting a few drinks at each one, and getting their passports stamped for that country's cocktail. This wouldn't be a good setup for every class, but it worked well for this casual exploration of national drinks from tropical climes. As you'd expect, there were lots of rum drinks, but South America introduced quite a bit of variety, with Caipirinhas from Brazil, Pisco Sours from Peru, and Fernet con Coca from Argentina. The Hemingway Daiquiri was one of the big favorites from the night, and you'll find the recipe below the pictures. This drink is Cuban, but we had it representing a favorite domestic vacation getaway and favorite of Hemingway, Key West.
Hemingway Daiquiri (aka Papa Doble)
1½ oz light rum
¾ oz lime juice
¼ oz Maraschino liqueur
½ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz simple syrup
Add all ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake, strain into cocktail glass.
The name amaro - plural, amari - refers to a style of Italian bittersweet herbal liqueurs. Traditional served straight as an after-dinner digestif to help relieve your stomach from over indulgence, there are over 300 different Amari produced in Italy. Only a small percentage of those 300 are imported into the US, but bartenders all over the country have embraced them for the unique complexity they add to cocktails.
For my January 28 cocktail class at The Last Word, participants got to taste 9 different amari, both on their own and in cocktails. The diversity of just this small sampling was amazing, running the gamut from light & citrusy to rich & smooth to bitter & almost medicinal. We started off with some apertif amari - Campari and Aperol, before moving into a trio of "medium" amari - Averna, Amaro Montenegro, and Cardamaro. Then a couple of oddballs - Nocino (made from unripe walnuts) and Cynar (artichokes are a key ingredient). We finished things off with what is probably the most (in)famous amaro - Fernet Branca and another Fernet-style amaro, Santa Maria Al Monte.
As we explored in the class, many amari can be used in place of sweet vermouth in classic cocktails, for a unique, modern twist. My favorite drink of the night was one of those. The Black Manhattan does a simple substitution of the mildly bitter Averna for sweet vermouth, but creates a unique and memorable drink that I'm enjoying having in my rotation!
2 oz rye
1 oz Averna
1 dash angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: brandied cherry
Combine all ingredients except garnish in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled (at least 50 revolutions). Strain into cocktail glass, garnish, and enjoy!
My next class will be February 18. Take a vacation in your glass as we explore tropical cocktails from spring break locations! Tickets on sale now.
I'll be back behind the stove at Selma Cafe this Friday morning, February 1. C'mon out between 6:30 and 10:00 am for your choice of my two specials - Moroccan Ragout with Lamb Merguez Sausage and Fried Egg (served with crusty bread and hoop house greens) or Blueberry Noodle Kugel made from Al Dente Pasta noodles (served with hoop house greens and optional bacon). Or you can always choose from standard house items of waffles, bread pudding, or granola. Be sure to stop into the kitchen and say hello!
Join me for my next cocktail class on February 18, Spring Break Cocktails! You'll get your passport stamped in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bermuda, Jamaica, Cuba, Hawaii and the Florida Keys! In keeping with our vacation theme, this class will feature a relaxed, walk-around format with more opportunities for socializing than my usual classes. But you'll still get a chance to mix and taste plenty of cocktails, as we learn about the cocktails associated with all these locales. Starts at 7:30 pm at The Last Word
, tickets on sale now
Sihem’s Tunisian Deli
Ann Arbor’s teeniest and most eccentric restaurant strip is now even more interesting. The block of Liberty between Stadium and Maple is home to a bunch of small
ethnic restaurants. The hit of last summer was Taco King, located inside
La Tienda de la Libertad market. It’s now sharing kitchen space with Sihem’s Tunisian Deli, and the two restaurants operate side by side. I’m
no expert on Tunisian food, but I really enjoyed the three dishes I
tried on a recent trip. My favorite was the Breek, with hot and crispy
fried phyllo dough stuffed with potatoes, capers, and tuna. The
Meshweeah salad wasn’t at all what we expected, since the grilled
tomatoes, peppers, onions were cooked down and pureed together. But it
was delicious scooped on top of pita bread. As was the Ojja Merguez with
eggs and lamb sausage cooked in a sauce of tomatoes and olive oil.
Juicy Kitchen Café
When I heard about this breakfast and lunch spot from Susan Todoroff opening at Maple and
Miller, I was worried about how’d they survive in that suboptimal
location. But it was standing room only at a recent Saturday lunch trip,
and with good reason. An offshoot of the home food delivery service
Juicy Kitchen, they are focused on creating healthy, nutritious food.
But don’t let that scare you, because you won’t even notice you’re
eating health food. The blood orange and quinoa salad was like a
healthier cobb salad or a fresh foods bi bim bop – a big plate of greens
with a mound of quinoa in the center, surrounded by tons of flavorful
ingredients – berries, fresh fennel, cucumbers, walnuts, goat cheese. I
can’t even begin to say how delicious it was. The daily special of
shepherd’s pie was hot, hearty and tasty. If Chef Dan Vernia hadn’t told
me the mashed potato topping was half rutabaga, I wouldn’t ever have
guessed. Just like I noted in my mini review of Hut-K-Chaats, this is
healthy food that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.
Living on the western outskirts of Ann Arbor, Zingerman's Roadhouse
is pretty much my neighborhood restaurant. But with so many new
openings downtown, I hadn't been in quite a while. A visit earlier this month reminded
me of why I really ought to keep it in the rotation - the Creole Pot
Likker Fish Stew is my new bargain buy at the good but often expensive
Roadhouse. For $18 I got a huge plate of food that was enough for two
generous meals, chock full of really fresh fish, big meaty scallops,
creamy grits, and collard greens. All surrounded by the flavor bomb that
is pot likker (the liquid left after cooking collards wiht ham hocks
and bacon). Highly recommended!
A group of mostly Bourbon-neophytes turned out for my January 7 cocktail class at The Last Word, Along the Bourbon Trail. They sipped mint juleps while learning how bourbon was made and then sampled several different varieties on their own before mixing up an assortment of cocktails.
The Derby is a somewhat unusual bourbon cocktail since it uses lime rather than the more common lemon. With some Grand Marnier and sweet vermouth, it provided an interesting backdrop for experimenting with how the different brands of bourbons worked in the same cocktail. For many people, their favorite sipping bourbons didn't necessarily end up as their favorite in this particular mixed drink, which just goes to show that it's worth experimenting with brands.
From there we turned to some classic drinks, the Whiskey Sour and Old Fashioned, before trying a couple of variants of one of my favorite ways to use bourbon. With its inherent sweetness from the corn base, I find that bourbon has an affinity with most fruits, and love to use it in smashes. In the summer I might combine bourbon, peaches and mint, or in the winter, bourbon, cranberries and rosemary. In the class we mixed up two smash variants that are currently on The Last Word's menu, the Spaghetti Western (tomatoes, campari, smoked salt and beer!) and the Little Boy Blue (You're My Boy). Check out the recipe for the latter below.
Our final pairing reflected the rise, fall, and rise again of bourbon's popularity, from the Prohibition-era Boulevardier, to modern mixologist and cocktail guru Toby Maloney's Son of a Preacher Man.
Join me for my next class, Amaro Amore, where we'll be exploring the wild and wacky world of Italian bittersweet liqueurs. It's on Monday, January 28, and tickets are available now on the Shop page.
Little Boy Blue (You're my Boy)
1¾ oz bourbon, preferably Elijah Craig
¾ oz St Germain
½ oz lemon juice
1 bsp simple syrup
Garnish: lemon twist
Muddle blueberries. Combine remaining ingredients except garnish in shaker with ice. Shake, double strain into cocktail glass. Garnish.
2012 was a great year for Tammy's Tastings.
On the culinary front, I had fun serving up TT Supper Club dinners for Casa Latina and SafeHouse. I also served a 5-course brunch for Mother's Day and a Sunday Supper. I catered several private dinners, including one where I got to make mustard ice cream and red cabbage gazpacho for a group of enthusiastic diners. I led a team from ZingNet in making their own dinner using Modernist/molecular gastronomy techniques. I helped kids play with their food at a couple of chocolate truffle workshop birthday parties. And I cheffed at Selma a few times over the course of the year.
But mostly, 2012 was the year of the cocktail! I had the great privilege of sharing my enthusiasm and love of cocktails with 250 attendees at 16 classes throughout the year. I also did a few private bartending events here and there and, along with my friend Patti Smith, started writing a weekly drinks blog and monthly column for iSPY Magazine.
Of course, I couldn't have done any of this without all of my awesome supporters. Thank you so much! As a thank you gift, I've compiled a little book containing all the cocktail recipes we made in classes in 2012. You can download it below.
2013 promises to be another year filled with fabulous food and drink experiences. I hope to see you at an upcoming class, or to work with you to craft your perfect event. Thank you!