Friday, March 30, 2007

Cherry Blossom (Hay) Fever?

Oya - The Great Escape

Its that time of year when the banks of the Potomac burst into color, tourists descend upon Washington like locusts, and Springtime allergies make your head feel like its filled with cotton.

Avoid the crowds and self-medicate at elegant and stylish Oya, this weekend, where the locals know how the Cherry Blossom Festival is really celebrated… with a drink!

All month, Oya features a f
light of 3 rosé wines (for a reasonable $12): Bon Bon Rosé from South Australia, Domaine Aubert la Chapelle Pineau d'Aunis Rosé from the Loire Valley of France, and Kluge Estate 'Albemarle' Rosé, from Virginia.

There are also two specialty cocktails: The Blossomtini is made with Effen Black Cherry Vanilla Vodka, Paringa Sparkling Shiraz wine, sour mix and grenadine. And, the Rose Bud made with Shakers Rose Vodka, a specialty vodka made from Minnesota wheat and infused with rose flavor and currently available only at OYA in the Washington , D.C. area.

Stick around for dessert (it goes so well with booze, after all) and dip into the White Chocolate Cherry Napoleon. A tower of thin white chocolate wafers layered with a cherry crème chantilly and set over a confit of pomegranate-cherries.

Now, that is that's what I call a festival! (Just don’t tell the tourists…)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Devin Alexander’s Healthy Decadence

New Healthy Eating TV Show!

“I don’t have any cravings I can’t satisfy,” declares chef, author and, now, TV Host, Devin Alexander. “I haven’t had a French fry since 1987. That’s when I turned the corner and didn’t want to be fat anymore.” A heavy teenager, resentful of the skinny girls, Devin says that instead of going to prom, she stayed home and made cookies. “I was out of control. I would have a day of gluttony and just binge. Now, I simply don’t have to do that.”

Devin experimented in the kitchen, and learned to create lean recipes, based on her favorite
fattening foods. Attributing her natural culinary talent to two Italian grandmothers, Devin’s healthy recipes helped her shed 55 pounds, which she has kept off for over 15 years.

While studying writing in college, Devin was awarded an internship through the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (who bring us the Emmy Awards). During that program, she brought in healthy treats for her colleagues. Soon, people were hiring her to cook for them. She remembers, “I didn’t want to wait tables while waiting for my brea
k as a screenwriter, so I went to cooking school.” Within a short time, Devin had launched a healthful catering business.

With that endeavor flourishing, Devin jokes that she had a mid 20’s early mid life crisis. I thought, “Wait! I was supposed to be a writer.” So, she landed a gig at Muscle & Fitness Magazine, writing a column on healthy eating. Her popular column led Devin to write her first book, Fast Food Fix, which offers good-for-you alternatives to junk food (which still taste like they could be deliciously bad-for-you…). Today, she is a the Contributing Food Editor and Cooking Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, where her articles are featured, monthly.

As destiny would have it, Devin’s publisher was in the midst of negotiating The Biggest Loser Cookbook around the time Fast Food Fix came out. The TV show producers were looking to hire someone to write the book. Devin, who had both writing and TV experience fit the bill.

Devin calls the New York Times best-seller “A diet book that isn’t a diet book” because it boasts chocolate-raspberry smoothies, 3-cheese macaroni, and breakfast banana splits. She explains, “The Biggest Loser Cookbook got a great following. People started realizing that they could make healthy food to feed their families, without them even realizing that it was healthy.” She says that people wrote letters to her, excited that they had lowered their cholesterol, lost weight, and raised nutrition value at family meals.

Her own TV show, Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander, launches Thursday, March 29 (at 10:30 in LA) on the Discovery Health Channel. “I never sought to be a celebrity but you need a certain level of celebrity to reach people.” She is happy when people recognize her as “that healthy cooking girl” because her message is getting out. “I don’t have any girlfriends who can’t cook now. By watching me in the kitchen, they think, ‘I can do that!’”

Devin says, “I started out wanting to help teenage girls but now I receive letters from mothers, grandmothers, pregnant women with cravings, and single dads who never cared about what they ate, but became concerned with nutrition once they had children.” Devin is happy that healthy cooking has wide appeal, and is so confident about her cuisine that she declares, “I don’t have one dish that I wouldn’t serve to a potential mother-in-law!”

To people who say they don’t have time to cook, she retorts that going to the doctor, due to ill health, takes a lot of time. She also muses, “20 minutes in the kitchen is way better than 3 hours on the stair master!” Amen to that!

Learn more about Devin’s new show on the Discovery Health Website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ask The Liquid Muse

Sipster In A Pickle

Anyone in the DC-area knows that Todd Thrasher, who designs the cocktails at Restaurant Eve and Eamonn’s/PX, is a Mixologist Extraordinaire. His libations are creative and unique, and hard to come by, elsewhere. Here is an inquiry from Sipster, Mary Jane:

Dear Natalie, Having relocated to LA to go to school, can you please recommend an upscale bar that might serve a pickled martini...or something as wonderful? I just returned from DC (specifically Alexandria VA, where I frequented Restaurant Eve). I would love to find such a place in LA. Thanks so much! ~Mary Jane

I sent out some feelers to LA restaurants, to see if a pickled martini was on their drink menu. Surprisingly, no one I spoke to seems to have such a thing.

So, I did the next best thing to help Mary Jane. I got the low-down from the man, himself. Try it at home, and let me know how it comes out! And, if you decide to order this drink in any of the many upscale bars in LA, just ask the bartender to use pickle juice instead of olive juice in a vodka martini. It will be as close as you’re gonna get to one of Todd’s...

Pickled Martini (Courtesy of Todd Thrasher at Restaurant Eve)
2 oz Grey Goose
1 oz pickle juice

Shake vigorously, with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with pickled Japanese cucumber slice and top with pickled “air.”

*Pickled Air:
One quart of Pickle juice
2 Tablespoons of Soy Lecithan

Combine juice and the soy in a square, shallow container. Use a hand blender for 3 minutes. Let foam form and cover with plastic wrap. Blend as needed.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Closet Space recently featured a great way to store your wine collection in an apartment, condo or house. Who needs a cellar when you have a wine closet (or two)?

Now if only there were an easy way to do viticulture on the balcony...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Eat It Raw

Hadaka Sushi Hits the Sweet Spot

It’s Date Number Three, and you’ve barely hit second base. If you’re really hot for this guy, its time to kick it into high gear, sister! Don your slinkiest, body-hugging dress (with second-skin black leather boots) and high tail it to Hollywood's Sunset Strip for Date Number Four.

Hadaka means “naked” in Japanese. (which should tip him off, right away.) Hadaka Sushi opens its doors to the public on Sunday, March 25, and is already referred to as a “hot-spot” for more reasons than one

Enter past knee-high red letters spelling S-E-X and immediately feel the sensual vibe tingling your skin. The intimate dining area bustles with lovely burlesque-clad lasses, the walls are adorned with voyeur style pin-up black-and-white drawings (I especially loved those) and the private velvet curtained-off tables are ideal to set your stage for seduction.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And, though that may not be the
most intriguing part of his anatomy, it never hurts to bring it along for the ride. Hadaka has everything you would expect from a high-end sushi joint. And, while the actual fish is a turn-on in itself, the names of the dishes (Hard-Core Porn, Pocket Rocket and Make Out Slut) are sure to get him standing at attention. I mean, get his attention. Take a peek at Hadaka’s whole X-rated menu courtesy of our friends at

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, or hosting a party for group fun, book the “Adults Only” room. There within, sushi takes second-seat to presentation. Where else can you get a little Nyo Tai Mori? (translation: eat raw tuna off a naked woman) That’s all I’ll say, you just have to try it…

Finally, like every den of temptation should, Hadaka takes cocktails seriously. In addition to infusing soju and sake themselves, every ingredient in the drinks - from sorbets to syrups to flavored milks and juices – are created in-house.

Begin by teasing your date with a naughty little Raspberry Lolita (Hadaka’s Asian-inspired mojito) blending Soju, lime, house-made raspberry sorbet, fresh muddled lime and sugar cane syrup.

Take it to the next level with The Stripper (aka: The Han Job) featuring vanilla-infused Han Soju, lychee puree, Raspberry sorbet and a splash of sour.

Wrap up the evening with Sticky Fingers (Hadaka Sushi's version of a White Russian) is a tempting blend of house-made chocolate milk, vanilla-infused soju, Ohkagura Sake, a shot of espresso and chocolate syrup.

And, a word of advice, girlfriend: If this place doesn’t score you a home run, send the boy home to mommy, and find a real man with whom to get “Hadaka”…

*Pix by Claire Barrett Photography

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Live, Love, Eat (Well) ™
… and Humanely

A group of close pals and I have a decadent little holiday tradition. We go to Spago Beverly Hills for our annual Christmas party. “Dr. Vahan,” a wine collector, bon vivant and good friend of nearly all LA chefs, brings fancy wines from his cellar, and we whoop it up, indulge in mouth-watering cuisine, exchange little gifts, wear Santa hats, and cause a general raucous. Luckily, Vahan is buddies with Wolfgang Puck, so we don’t get kicked out. In fact, Wolfgang usually comes over and pulls up a seat toward the end of the night.

About three years ago, on one such occasion, I pulled up to the front of the restaurant and noticed a group of people
standing outside, protesting. They were holding up signs of abused geese in crates and yelling “Don’t Eat Fois Gras!” Disturbed by the sad images of suffering birds, I agreed I wouldn’t and went in to meet my friends. Wouldn’t you know, the special of the evening was the fois gras menu. Yes, I ate it. I enjoyed it. I reveled in it. I would have bathed in it, actually. I hate to admit how tasty it was.

As I waited for my car to be brought up by the valet, I avoided the protesters, knowing inside was rotten hypocrite I was, and guiltily drove home.

Luckily for me, and all the other diners who love animals, yet love to eat them, Wolfgang Puck is to the rescue! Alr
eady known for creating innovative natural, fresh and organic dishes, he announced, today, that his restaurants are implementing a ‘humane farm animal treatment program,’ created in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and with advice from Farm Sanctuary.

Puck points out, “Our guests… want to eat healthy food, in good conscience.” He went on
to say, "Our guests are interested in the same environmental issues that have long concerned us -- sustainable farming and fishing, humane treatment of farm animals and reducing the amount of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and pesticides in the food we eat. Using fresh, seasonal, organic produce and naturally raised animals enhances and sustains the quality of life, and that is what Wolfgang's Eating, Loving, and Living is all about."

Wolfgang Puck Catering has already demonstrated its capabilities to serve its most celebrated clients by taking Oscar(R) organic, with a highly successful organic menu for the 2007 Governor's Ball.

The historic nine-point program aims to stop the worst practices associated with factory farming. In the next few months, Wolfgang Puck Companies and dining venues will:

1. Only use and serve eggs from cage-free hens not confined to battery cages.
2. Only serve all-natural or organic crate-free pork. Crates prevent pigs from turning around.
3. Only serve all-natural or organic crate-free veal. Crates prevent calves from turning or walking.
4. Only serve certified sustainable seafood.
5. Eliminate foie gras from its menus. Force-feeding swells ducks' livers up to 10 times their normal size.
6. Only serve all-natural or organic chicken and turkey meat from farms that are compliant with progressive animal welfare standards.
7. Continue to feature and expand certified organic selections on all menus.
8. Continue to offer and expand vegetarian selections on all menus.
9. Send a letter to suppliers regarding methods of poultry slaughter that involve less suffering.

Chef Puck sums it up with, "We want a better standard for living creatures. It's as simple as that." By the way, the meat at his newly opened Beverly Hills eatery Cut is already serving corn-fed beef. (Sooooo delicious!!) Inviting guests to indulge without guilt is what I call that decadence at its finest.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Virginia is For (Vodka) Lovers!

Local Spirit is No Small Potato…

I recently sampled a new kid on the vodka block. Impeccably smooth, with a pleasant lingering creaminess, the triple distilled potato vodka brought images of Kremlins and oversized fur hats to mind. Here’s the shocker – forget booking a flight to Moscow. Just cross the bridge, and visit neighboring Richmond, Virginia to sample Cirrus Vodka, a new American classic.

Made 100% from potatoes, the spirit is triple distilled and bottled at 80 proof. The company says it is blended with “nice spring type water” … and though I am not sure what “spring-type water” means exactly, I don’t really care a whole lot. The vodka tastes good, and that is the bottom line. It has already won several awards, including:

2005 Silver medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2005 Silver medal, Beverage Testing Institute, Chicago
2006 Silver Medal, Beverage Testing Institute, Chicago (Highly Recommended)
2006 Gold medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Give it a whirl at some of these local eateries and watering holes. There are more, so check in with their website when its complete: Flemings Steak House, PF Chang's (Richmond), Tobacco Company Restaurant, Bookbinders Grill, Legend's Brewery, Juleps, The Jefferson Hotel, Sheraton Park South, Sine, Bottoms Up Downtown, Fridays, Bottega, Patina Grill, Havana 59, Easy St., Buddy's, Metro, Starlight, Banditos, Phil's, Pomegranate, Dogwood Grill, The Forest, Rosie Connolly's, Graffiti Grill, Bogart's, Country Club of VA, Cafe Diem, Can Can, Cielito Lindo, City Bar and Chop House, Europa, Hard Shell, Hill Cafe, Lucky Buddha, Davis and Main, Mulligan's, Positive Vibe Cafe, Ruth's Chris, Twenty Seven, La Grotta, Peking, Buffalo Wild Wings, Six Burner, Sensi, Bank, Home Team Grill, Berkley Hotel , Champs, Omni Hotel, Home Team Grill, American Cafe, Bone Fish Grill, Topekas, Melito's, and more...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Low Calorie Cocktails!

Lord knows, being a full-time writer has me sitting on my butt all darn day, resulting in a little too much junk in my already generously-endowed trunk.

With summer coming, we want to enjoy our cocktails, of course, we just want to look fabulous doing it, no? So, I am going to regularly present low-calorie cocktail options. Here are a few recipes courtesy of Midori and Zen Green Tea Liqueur.

MIDORI Lemonade
80 calories
1 oz. MIDORI
Top with Crystal Light Lemonade
*Mix and serve over ice in a tall glass with a lemon wedge garnish.

80 calories
1 oz. MIDORI
Top with Club Soda
*Mix and serve over ice in a tall glass.

ZEN Cooler
150 calories
1 oz. ZEN Green Tea Liqueur
Top with Fresca
*Mix and serve over ice in a tall glass.

ZEN Iced Tea
150 calories
1 oz. ZEN Green Tea Liqueur
Top with Crystal Light Iced Tea
*Mix and serve over ice in a tall glass with a lemon wedge garnish.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sipster On the Scene...

Carly Sachs Reviews the G'Vine Launch Party at Rocket Bar

Do you like to know the latest in liquor trends? Well, then you've come to the right place. The Liquid Muse Community is peppered with people of like mind. Last week, I sent out a special invitation to Monthly Museletter Subscribers to the G'Vine Launch Party last night, in Washington DC.

The lovely and talented Carly Sachs (bartender at Rouge, blogger at Five Feet Above Water and teacher of the literary arts) was kind enough to be the Sipster on the Scene, and let those of us who could not be in DC know what we missed. (btw - I whole-heartedly agree with her point that G'Vine is best drunk with few other ingredients.) Read on, here is what Carly has to say...

"A few weeks ago I was at a bar helping solve the debate of two drunken pals. One had ordered a gin martini and the other had ordered a vodka martini, but they could not agree on whose drink was whose. It seemed pretty easy to me---the gin one obviously smelled like pinecones---no need to even take a sip to decipher this one or pull my I’m a bartender card.

And speaking of pinecones, up until tonight I was not a fan of the gin martini. That was what my grandfather drank, or my boyfriend for that matter with his gin and tonics. Every now and again I’d order the Pickle martini at Palena in Cleveland Park, but it was for the pickled cucumbers and onions floating at the bottom. Really, I was a bourbon girl, preferring to keep my liquor pure. No need for anything in my cocktail besides a few rocks!

That was me, before I tried G’Vine. The spin (and delicate taste) of G’Vine comes from the rare green grape flower---which differentiates this gin from all others. This is a gin that I think both non-gin and gin drinkers will like. There are some interesting recipes on the G’Vine site but I prefer to keep it simple. Or you can try the variations at Rocket Bar across from the Verizon Center---my favorite of their concoctions is the Blueberry Soda which has G’Vine Gin, blueberry juice and soda. The pink cosmo looking thing pictured here looks pretty, but the more juice and syrup you throw in, the easier it is to lose the integrity of the spirit. Shame on me for telling the bartender to surprise me, I should know better!

I have to say, I’m very impressed with the French and their spirits---you may already be familiar with Ciroc which was also created from the distillers at EuroWine Gate. Look for innovation and class and perhaps we’ll see some new spins on Tequila in the years to come. But keep that hush hush---I’m not sure if Jean-Baptiste Prot, the Commercial Director was supposed to spill the beans to a flattering bartender/writer.

So, if you want to get your hands on this hot new gin, you can find it at Ace Beverage, Georgetown Liquors, and Cairo Liquor Stores. It’s just starting to be distributed in DC, so look for it to crop up in your favorite bars and my guess is that you’ll find it on bar menus this spring. I know I’ll be pushing for it at Rouge."
"LA Freed From Captivity"

According to Fishbowl LA, the crusade is short lived. (If only all battles were this quickly remedied...)
TLM Call For Action:

Boycott "Captivity"

In one frame: A terrified young woman is tethered to a table, some sort of electrical tubes up her nose. In the next frame: Her head hangs from it, listless, dead.

LA is bombarded with horrifically graphic Billboards depicting four gruesome images of a young woman titled: Capture, Torture, Imprison and Terminate plastered along streets and freeways for all to see...

Who the f*** wants to be accosted with that image as they drive to work or take their kids to school?

Shame, shame on Lions Gate and After Dark Films.
The film industry has its high points and its low points when it comes to the portrayal of women. One could argue that by promoting Roland Joffé's misogynistic new film "Captivity" in this way, Lions Gate just hit rock bottom.

Some film reps have claimed that the billboards will be taken down but as one comes down, another is around the corner.

Read about our outrage here and here and here. And, feel free to call Lions Gate to complain. Many of us, in Los Angeles, are already underway...
Wearable Wine?

"Wine Connoisseur" takes on a whole new meaning Down Under! This article on dresses made using cellulose from wine explains how... What think you, fashionistas?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hang Over Cures?

There is only one sure-fire remedy, friends.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate...

xo The Liquid Muse

Saturday, March 17, 2007

32 Ways to Use Beer

In honor of this beer-centric holiday, Sipster Amy Bovis sent me a link to a very informative beer article. Beer-lovers will enjoy it! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2007

TLM Interviews Guinness Brew Master, Fergal Murray

”Considering it took 248 years to get it so wonderful, we do a few secret things,” confides Guinness Brew Master, Fergal Murray who fell in love with brewing beer nearly 24 years ago. He explains that to become a Master Brewer incorporates both science and art, and can take 10 years of experience to successfully pass the standardized exams at the Institute of Brewery in the UK.

Accomplished in his field, the company sent Murray to Nigeria, to oversee the first Guinness brewery outside the Emerald Isle. He says that the people there came to regard the stout as their own and even asked Fergal why the main brewery is in Ireland, instead of Africa. That sort of brand loyalty has helped Guinness grow to have breweries in 49 countries, and distribute its products to 147 nations. Top markets include the UK, Ireland, Nigeria, US and Ghana.

Fergal still enjoys “dabbling” in the brewing itself, though most of his time these days is spent traveling around the world, talking about products and teaching bar professionals to achieve the “Perfect Pint.” He says that the Guinness experience is as much visual as it is flavorful, claiming, “People drink with their eyes, first.”

According to Fergal, the perfect beer begins with its environment. Guinness should be stored at 38 – 42 degrees Fahrenheit. The bar equipment should be set up with the right amount of gas to push the rich nectar through the draft spout and, of course, clean lines and glasses are integral.

The bartender can then craft "the perfect pint” via 6 steps:
  • start with a 20 ounce tulip glass. (Fergal says this design is optimum for the aerodynamic flow of the bubbles.)
  • hold it at a 45 degree angle, under the beer faucet
  • allow a smooth flow until glass is 3/4 filled
  • allow the extra bubbles to settle and the creamy head to form
  • top up, creating a domed effect, a “proud head”
  • present to the customer
With Spring approaching, and St. Patty’s Day this weekend, I was particularly interested getting to the bottom of rumors that Guinness is less fattening than many paler ales and lagers. Fergal confirmed that Guinness has roughly the calorie equivalent of orange juice. It is also lighter in alcohol than Smithwicks, brewed by the same company but geared toward the taste for higher alcohol content in the American market.

This weekend, no doubt, the Irish brews will flood US streets, from coast to coast. Irish people in the US have celebrated their heritage since early immigrants first held parties in Boston. Fergal is celebrating the feast day of Ireland’s Patron Saint in the Big Apple, enjoying its famous parade.

Fergal says that enjoying a pint of Guinness with friends is well-suited to the social atmosphere of Ireland. “Over the years, I look at the people enjoying our beer, and I feel like their expectation becomes my responsibility to make it perfect.” This weekend, he’ll no doubt get validation that he succeeds in meeting those expectations.
Drink Cool, Look Cool

St. Patty's Day Fashion

If you're reading The Liquid Muse, I hope cheap green beer is behind you... There is so much more to explore in the realm of Irish Spirits! (more on that coming soon...) But - let's back up a second. Before you even step out for your night out, take a glance in the mirror. Give yourself the "once-over." If you feel there is room for improvement, I have a few suggestions for you...

Don't worry about accessorizing when you wear a shirt designed by Erica Flaum. Her tanks have jeweled necklaces and charms already sewn on. Throw on a short jacket and jeans, and you're good to go.

See the bar through green-colored glasses with these very stylish, hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind green specs by Delusions Eyeware.

If you're seeing "little green men" on St. Patty's Day, it may not be the booze. Martiandise features an adorable other-worldy critter on their T-shirts. (guy hint: Chicks love him.)

As for the uptown girls, this elegant-yet-fun (also one-of-a-kind) dress from Annatarian has enough green to keep you from being pinched, but it doesn't mean some Irish lad won't try to steal your heart...

Fortune Tees predicts your future with their tribute to St. Patrick's Day. Slip on "This is my lucky shirt" and see what happens...

And, for those of you who do get lucky, Secrets of the Ladies Room presents green-colored love gel. Small enough to slip in your purse for pocket, big enough to make a statement.
Party On Monday, in DC!

In some cultures, Sunday is known as the Day of Rest. This weekend, that holds particularly true. With March Madness tonight, St. Patty's Day tomorrow and Monday's party... it may be very wise to chill on Sunday.

Speaking of which, are you on The Liquid Muse Guest List for Monday's party? If not, click the link on the top left corner of this blog, subscribe to the Monthly Museletter and you will be sent details and have a chance to RSVP.

By Monday, a little "hair of the dog" might just do you well...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Slumming It, With Taste

TLM Dines in the Ghetto

“I love soul food,” says my friend *Pam* when I tell her that on Tuesday I experienced a Ghetto Gourmet dinner. “Where is it?” she asks, assuming a trendy and ecclectic dining spot has just opened its doors. I smile smugly (inside) that my very hip pal had no idea what I was talking about.

“It’s not a restaurant, per se, its a kind of traveling, full-sensory experience,” I tantalizingly explain. She appears miffed not to be in-the-know on this one, and I realize I’d better divulge pronto, quickly adding, “They’re in LA this month. You have to go!”

Like many revolutionary movements (hippies, internet, etc) the Ghets launched up in No-Cal. Jeremy, the artistic entrepreneur (or is it entrepreneurial artistic-type) and his brother Joe, the skater-dude-turned-culinary-artiste, invited over some friends to try out Joe’s new dishes, in their make-shift dining room (ie: basement). Their peeps liked it so much, they demanded another dinner, and showed up the following week with more people.

The brothers originally charged $20 per head to cover costs. A few creatives who couldn’t afford 20 clams were invited to sing / dance / perform poetry for their supper, providing live entertainment for the evening. Today, GG goes coast to coast and is worth the new price of $45-50 pp. Each of the soirees is unique: a different venue (home, gallery, artist studio), menu, performances, and a whole new set of guests.

I went on Tuesday, March 13 to the photography studio / apartment of Glenn Campbell who lives in an Art Deco building in Koreatown. Violinist Richard Kim played three jarringly emotional pieces, Ve the Poet Valkyrie shared prose and Nordic songs. Jeremy’s wife, who is a dancer, screened a 4-minute dance piece against the wall. And, chef Cynthia Washburn whipped up a four-course feast for 30 people in an average sized apartment kitchen. (a feat unto itself!) Get a load of this menu:

Soup – Ajo blanco with Jamon Grape Brochettes
Salad – Shaved fennel & Frisee with Pecans & Currants in Coriander Vinaigrette
Entrée – Roast rabbit wthi Sauce Verte over Asparagus and Morel Risotto & Dandelion Greens
Dessert – White Chocolate Cheesecake with Red Grapefruit Campari Compote (yes, Campari, my favorite!)

Guests bring their own wine (we brought a fabulous Italian red from Santi wines, write up coming soon…) and their own pillows. Everyone sits on the floor and eats from communal tables. I enjoyed learning about the beer pairings, Vera, one of my tablemates, brought along.

Ghetto Gourmet is in LA for another week or so: 3/16 is Vegan in Silverlake; 3/17 GG goes Irish; 3/19 GG hits NoHo; 3/22: GG slums it in Brentwood. Then they go back to the Bay Area, then Chicago, NY and DC. Check it out on their website, Daily Candy, Thrillist, and Caroline on Crack, who went on the night after me, Wednesday 3/14 in LA. f you're the artsy-yet-arrogant type, it may not be for you, however, according to Gridskipper. It attracts a mixed crowd and if everyone can be open-minded, that is part of what makes it interesting...

As for me, if this is life in the Ghetto, I’m moving in!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tom Sietsma's Stamp of Approval

Washington Post Restaurant Critic Supports Upcoming TLM Book

Without even realizing it, Tom Sietsma has validated the concept of my upcoming book. I am working on a book featuring mostly non-alcoholic cocktail recipes (which btw are perfect for pregnant ladies, those laying off the sauce and health-nuts, in general).

About a year ago, I mentioned this idea to Citronelle and Central’s Celebrity Chef and owner, Michel Richard (who is featured in “Cooking With Michel," part of my monthly cocktail column “Savor the Good Life” in The Georgetowner / Downtowner). Last time we talked about it, Citronelle was thinking of adding some drinks sans alcohol to their bar menu.

What I am very excited about is the like-mindedness! Derek Brown, gifted sommelier and Mixologist, has left Citronelle and graces Komi, as noted in Tom Sietsma’s chat, below. And, Mr. Sietsma’s suggests that more restaurants offer “mocktails.” Frankly, I couldn’t agree more…

From Tom's Washington Post Chat, "Ask Tom," today:

"Washington, D.C.: (cut) ... A week ago, my husband and I dined (at Komi) with a friend. I am pregnant, and had notified Komi when I made my reservations. They did a wonderful job of making substitutions on the few things I couldn't eat (raw fish and unpasteurized cheese). And the sommalier (Derek?) was kind enough to offer me a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail. Additionally, the chef sent out an extra sweet bite to congratulate my husband and I on the baby... (cut)

Tom Sietsema: Your mini-tribute doesn't surprise me. Komi just keeps getting better and better with age, doesn't it? I like the mocktail idea; more restaurants need to beef up their selections of festive drinks that don't involve alcohol."
Make It Pop

Java, Coming To A Soda Near You...

You hit the 4:00 pm wall. With a thud. Irritable, with a desk full of not-quite-extinguished fires, you bark at the intern, rewrite your profile on for the third time today, and watch the clock count down the last hour of work. (Yawn.)

Never fret, dear one. JavaPop is to the rescue. The first organic, carbonated, non-dairy based, 100% natural coffee-flavored soda is launching nationwide, very soon. Not only is it good for that afternoon lull, but its good for you... at least in the sense that it is sweetened with organically certified, pure cane juice, rather than anything artificial.

And, it is good for the coffee growers. The coffee beans come from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, so JavaPop's Fair Trade Certification guarantees that the farmers who grow the coffee beans receive fair value for their crops. It is even good for the environment because the company uses recycled packaging materials.

On top of that, it comes in five flavors, to suit your ever-changing moods: Espresso, Vanilla, Mocha, Hazelnut, and Caramel.

So, next time the clock passes 3:45, your eye starts to twitch and you can't take another minute, reach for a refreshing JavaPop. If nothing else, it will be good for that poor intern.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Herbal Therapy

And Why The Postman Rings Twice (or Three Times...)

I get mailed bottles of liquor to review, on a regular basis. The mailman must think I belong in rehab. Knock, knock. "Please sign for the package, ma'am." Swish, swill, goes the bottle in the box. He looks at me with suspicion, as its the 3 rd one this week...

Hey, its my job. I drink cool, new products, then write to you about it. And, I love it. (In fact, if you ever see a lady standing at the traffic light, holding up a sign that reads, "Will Work For Booze!" that's probably me.)

Now, liquor companies and PR people are doing their job by sending me product. As a professional journalist, I write about this stuff for magazines, websites and, of course, The Liquid Muse. Those folks love reviews (most of the time, anyway), and I love having something fresh and exciting to write about. It's a symbiotic relationship.

However, I had an unusual case, recently. When Sipster, David Sandbank, wrote to tip me off about this great vodka he tried, he was persistent. Not only did he follow up with another email but he offered to buy some bottles of the stuff and ship it to me, himself. That was a first.

He insists that he doesn't work for the company, he is simply a fan of Herb's Aromatic Infused Vodka. If that is truly the case, I hope the company sends that guy some vodka. He deserves it.

And, more importantly, he is right about it.

For a long while, now, I've been a fan of herbs in cocktails. In fact, the very first installment of my monthly cocktail column "Cocktail Corner" in Northern Virginia Magazine, last summer, was themed From The Garden and featured three herb-based cocktails from DC restaurants.

Personally,I don't usually like my drinks too sweet (except for the occasional chocolate martini or cream-based liqueur...). I usually go for tart or aromatic. (Hence, my love of citrus juices, Campari, bitters and anis-flavored spirits.)

It is not surprising, then, that Herb's Aromatic Vodka is right up my cocktail alley. Wonderful idea, people. Bravo!

Here's a brief rundown:
  • They come in a delightful box of four: Fennel, Dill, Cilantro and Rosemary
  • They are wonderful for mixing: Killer Bloody Mary, anyone?
  • They are delicious straight-up. Cilantro with a squeeze of lime, or Rosemary with a squeeze of lemon, lightly shaken with ice, in a chilled cocktail glass... Oh yeah, baby!
  • And, I strongly suspect that they will be absolutely stunning in sauces. I'm dreaming of a dill vodka-and-cream sauce over salmon and pasta, right this minute...
What can I say? I love it. Try it for yourself.

Excuse me, now. I'm going to check the mail...
Exclusive DC Event

Calling All Sipsters!

Sign up for the Monthly Museletter (top, left of this blog) and get OTL (on the list) for an exclusive launch party at a hot new bar, on Monday, March 19...
The Bartender Diaries

Tom Roe, Ford’s Filling Station, Culver City

“Every cocktail tells a story,” says Tom Roe, Bar Manager and Head Bartender at Ford’s Filling Station, "and my cocktail menu was created to pair with the food menu at Ford's." Chef Ben Ford (son of actor, Harrison) incorporates seasonal, and often organic, produce into his cuisine at the sleek-yet-comfy “American Regional gastro-pub.” Tom follows suit, using fresh ingredients in all his cocktails.

Tom first stepped behind a bar in his home state of Hawaii, and has continued slingin' sips throughout the dozen years he has lived in LA. Since FFS opened, last year, Tom says the bar has developed its own following. He refers to the bar crowd as “very savvy” when it comes to going out, and "more foodie-oriented then the barflies of yester-year.”

Like any good barman-cum-psychologist, Tom seems to genuinely enjoy the folks who belly up to his trendy watering hole. “As a bartender you see it all, and now after 15 years in the trade I can see a first/blind date, an affair, a break-up and a bad or good pick-up line from a mile away.” A master at guiding the masses, he makes food suggestions, teases the ladies and whips up creative concoctions explaining that “staying ahead of trends and creating a new experience for every patron” gives him job- satisfaction.

When not behind the bar, Tom enjoys checking out new restaurants, sampling what other bartenders and chefs are doing. In his ‘alone time,’ he also relishes a good book, running or brushing up on his wine knowledge. His favorite drink? Stoli Vanil Martini (no vermouth, no garnish).

Tom shares a few cocktails with you Sipsters. I’ve tried them – they are lovely. (In fact, maybe a little too lovely… let’s just say that the night I went in, it was hard to put them down! Hiccup!)

2oz. Corzo Silver/blanco Tequila
3/4oz. Cointreau
2 lime wedges squeeze
2 lemon wedges squeeze and drop
1/2oz. simple syrup

Pour tequila, Cointreau and simple syrup into martini shaker. Sqeeze and drop the lemon and lime wedges into the mixture. Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

Culver City Martini
1oz. Malibu Rum
1oz. Belevedre Vodka
1 1/2oz. pineapple juice
1/4oz Grenadine

Shake rum, vodka and juice, then pour into cocktail glass. Drizzle the grenadine
into the center of the drink, to settle in bottom of glass.

Desert Margarita
1 1/2oz Corzo Silver/blanco Tequila,
1/4oz. Chambord
1/4oz. Sweet/Sour
1oz. cranberry juice

Shake Tequila, Chambord, juice and sweet and sour. Serve, over ice, in a rocks glass.

Photos courtesy of Claire Barrett Photography

Monday, March 12, 2007

Your Very Own Signature Cocktail

The Must-Have Party Favor

You still don't have your own cocktail? The Liquid Muse is here for you...

Just ask fashionista, DC Celine. When throwing a bridal shower for lil sis,' TLM
came up with two versions of the Sparkling Sarah: one with champagne for the bride-to-be, and one non-alcoholic version for her pregnant sibling.

Some other happy "custom cocktail" clients nclude Planned Parenthood, Clothing of the American Mind, the Great American Condom Campaign Masquerade Ball in DC, Diva Bugs, the Very Vain Fashion Show in LA, Snow Queen Vodka, Avid Exposure's star-studded party at M.A.G.I.C in Las Vegas, and more!

My cocktail book, featuring alcoholic and non-alcoholic recipes, is in the works, and my cocktail seminar, Cocktails 101 starts up this Spring, in Los Angeles and Washington DC. Learn to make your own creative drink, or hire me to do it for you. Either way, your guests will know they experienced something unique.

(Email for more info!)

Sparkling Sarah
Rim a champagne flute with sugar, then add:
dash blood orange bitters
2 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Top with champagne
Garnish with a blood orange wheel (a slice of blood orange, with one small slit cut so it can sit on the rim of the glass)

Non-alcoholic version:

Prepare as above, but top with Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (you can use grapefruit flavor, or any citrus-flavored Italian soda you prefer) instead of champagne.

Friday, March 09, 2007

G’Vine Is Simply D’Vine

Gin's French Revolution..

The English and French have been at it for years; battling over land, religion, culture and now... gin. Yes, the good old “London Dry” is challenged by a cheeky French upstart. The United States, the world’s largest gin market, is under invasion by the Froggies… (and, might I say, invasion never tasted so sweet).

G’Vine is the first gin to be distilled from Ugni Blanc grape flowers, grown in France’s Cognac region. Distilled in small batches with nine botanicals: ginger root, licorice, green cardamom, cassia bark, coriander, juniper berries, cubeb berries, nutmeg and lime, it is blended with the flowers of the Ugni Blanc leaves, and distilled again. The resulting floral bouquet delights, first, the nose, and then, the palate. As I swoon, shall I mention it is French romance at its finest?

Delicate and floral, spicy and warm (and strong!) the subtle aromatic vine flower, together with the grape spirit, softens the traditional juniper taste inherent in most gins. For cocktail enthusiasts looking outside the vodka box, G’Vine is smooth, well balanced and lusciously versatile.

I wanted to try the cocktail called the G-Spot (what woman wouldn’t?) but I am out of Chambord! So, I went for the G-Man, which is quite refreshing, though rather strong. (And, we all like strong men, no?) I added a splash of grapefruit juice to it, and it is absolutely perfect, for my taste. Try it for yourself…

1 1/2 oz. G’Vine
1 oz. sour mix
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. chambord
Shake and serve in a martini glass, garnish with lime wedge

1 1/2 oz. G’Vine straight over crushed ice in a Collins glass
Fill with tonic
Squeeze a zest of lime

2 oz G’Vine
Squeeze of Lemon
Dash of simple syrup
Dash of angostura bitters
Serve on the rocks in a low tumbler glass, garnish with a twist of lemon

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Woman’s Day Riddle…

Q: What Do Women and Elephants Have In Common?

A: Both are friends of Amarula Cream Liqueur!

A relative of the mango, the South African marula fruit starts out pale green and by the end of summer, turns a sunny, ripe yellow, falls to the ground and is relished by savannah dwellers, such as the African elephant. People also gather the marula fruit, using its flesh to make jam, and fermenting it to make marula wine and spirits.

Rich, creamy and smooth, Amarula Fruit Cream Liqueur goes down very, very easily all on its own. What makes it extra palatable, however, is knowing that the company ‘gives back.’ The Amarula Elephant Research Programme, based in the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban supports conservation, protection and management of the African elephant and its environment.

As a woman in the spirits industry, I am always intrigued by other women in this male-heavy field. Amarula’s Master Distiller is Caroline Snyman, whose pioneering spirit has taken her from chemical engineering into the world of making fine wines, spirits and liqueurs. An acclaimed Cape Wine Master, Caroline started off studying Chemical Engineering in her native Johannesburg. Upon discovering her own passion for the art of winemaking, Caroline followed on with a Master’s degree in wine biotechnology, focusing on the development of brandy yeasts for the world-famous South African brandy industry.

In January 2000, she joined one of South Africa’s premier distillery companies, Distell, where her job included quality control, coordinating research, developing sustainable environmental management systems and developing new brandy products. In April 2004, Caroline received her PhD while studying the influence of base wine composition and wood maturation on the style and quality of brandy. Her research findings have to date been published locally and internationally in specialist journals.

In honor of International Women's Day (March 8th) Amarula Cream celebrates "Inspirational Women" whose courage, strength and perseverance make a difference in the lives of others. Do you know an Extraordinary Woman? Click here to nominate her by sharing her amazing story in 250 words or less. Nominations are accepted March 8 through April 30, 2007. (She could win $10,000!)

While Amarula is absolutely perfect, chilled, on its own, here are some cocktail recipes, courtesy of Amarula Fruit Cream Liqueur:

1 tot Amarula Cream

1 tot Frangelico Liqueur
1/2 tot Vodka

Shake, with ice, and strain into a martini glass.


1 tot Amarula Cream
1/2 tot rum
1/2 tot Grand Marnier
1 tot chilled espresso

Shake ingredients and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a flaked chocolate.

1 tot Vodka
1 tot Amarula Cream
2 tot Espresso coffee

2 tsp Caster sugar (or to taste)

Shake coffee, vodka and sugar together with cubed ice, strain into a glass tumbler, and layer Amarula Cream on top. Garnish with 3 coffee beans.

2 tots Amarula Cream
150 ml vanilla ice-cream
25 ml thick cream

Combine all the ingredients in a blender/shaker. Blend well. Pour into a glass and garnish with chocolate powder or spun chocolate.
TLM Public Service Announcement

Washigton DC - For the Critters

Washington Humane Society : $35 microchipping clinic this Saturday, March 10 - 12:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m at Dos Gringos, 3116 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. Cats & dogs must be at least 4-months of age. (and in a carrier or on a leash) For more info, contact Lara Mangan, Spay-Neuter Program Manager:

Featured Pet for Adoption:
Jack is a handsome 4 year old boy who was left in fron
t of the shelter wrapped in a big blanket. He is very affectionate, loves being rubbed and held. Jack is staying at the DC Animal Shelter, 1201 New York Ave. NE, 202.576.6664.

Mark Your Calendar! Fashion for Paws, the Washington Humane Society’s fashion fête, will feature Spring 2007 designer doggie couture and human apparel. April 14,2007, Embassy of France.