Thursday, May 31, 2007

LA-Based Modern Spirits

A Labor of Love

It’s a typical Hollywood story: Boy meets Girl. Girl doesn’t like vodka.
Boy infuses vodka with all sorts of creative ingredients. They get married, live happily ever after and run a successful business together. The end.

Russian / Armenian Melkon Kohsrovian explains that in his family, every occasion is toasted with vodka. Litty, his then future bride, would put her glass down after toasting and not touch
it. Taking it upon himself to make his national drink more alluring to his lady love, he infused it with enticing flavors.

Not only did the thoughtful libations win her over but his family and friends started requesting bottles of it. Today, Modern Spirits is sold in specialized markets around the country, with Melkon and Litty (a freelance journalist by trade) at the helm. From choosing top-quality ingredients to distillation and flavor control, the pair are hands-on throughout every step of the process.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Modern Spirits’ infusions is their natural ability to pair with food. So intriguing, in fact, that the husband and wife team have been invited to present a vodka dinner at the James Beard House (in New York), in September.

Melkon explains that as hi
gh-end American cuisine evolves, chefs are looking to ingredients from the ethnic subcultures in their cities. He points out that in a balanced dish, fat ‘amps up’ exotic flavors but leaves residue in the mouth. In his words, “It’s like putting 5 coats of paint on a house.” Kohsrovian sees vodka as a natural accompaniment to today’s culinary explorations due to both the flavor-enhancing and palate-cleansing effects.

For non-believers, Melkon suggests trying an experiment at home: Place four creamy cheeses on a plate and pair them with wine. By the fourth one, Melkon surmises, the tastebuds will be so coated with fat that the ability to taste the cheese is diminished. Now, do the same with a distilled spirit. Because it can cut through the fat, the flavor of the last cheese will come through as clearly as the first.

(Note to self: cheese, wine, vodka… yes, this is a taste test I will try. Purely for scientific research, of course.)

Another interesting aspect of Modern Spirits products is that with flavors like truffle, ginger and chocolate orange, when chilled, they make wonderful sipping vodkas – without even being part of a cocktail.

Last night, Jason and I experienced a Modern Spirits tasting dinner at Brass Cap in Santa Monica. Here’s the line up:

First Course:

Four Cheese Ravioli with Summer Truffles
Fresh White Asparagus with Morels and Truffles
Paired With: Modern Spirits Black Truffle Vodka

Second Course:
Bluefine Tuna Tartare with Caviar
Sea Scallops Carpaccio with Sea Urchin
Paired With: Modern Spirits Celery Peppercorn Vodka

Third Course:
Muscovy Duck Breast with Polenta and Green Tomato Marmalade
Japanese Wagyu
Paired With: Modern Spirits Three Tea Vodka

Pain Chocolat (Chocolate Bread Pudding)
Paired With: Modern Spirits Chocolate Orange Vodka
Hot Apple Tart with Caramel Ice Cream
Paired With: Modern Spirits Grapefruit Honey Vodka

I am very happy to have had Jason as a dinner partner. Not only because he is my husband but because we could order one of each from every course and try all the pairings!

My review?

  • The delicate flavor of the truffle vodka lingers lightly in the mouth, which made it a heavenly complement to the white asparagus.
  • The celery peppercorn vodka holds up to the strong flavor tuna tartare and saltiness of fish eggs. It was nice with the creamy scallops and sea urchin, too - although, a softly aromatic sake would work equally well with that dish.
  • The aroma of the three tea vodka is slightly floral, which plays stupendously well with the duck.
  • The hot apple tart was incredible with the grapefruit honey vodka. The chocolate bread pudding paired with the chocolate orange vodka would be a chocolate lovers dream. Personally, I prefer a chocolate dessert with big, bold, spicy red wine.
We also indulged in a ginger vodka after dessert. Oh. My. God. That went directly on this week’s shopping list. I'm also adding the pear lavender, which I did not try last night (LA freeways, and all...). Brass Cap carries the full range of Modern Spirits should you like a sampling.

I strongly encourage you to check the Modern Spirits website for upcoming pairings in your area. I’ve been aware of Modern Spirits for a year or two, now. My only regret is not trying their products sooner.


Shawn said...

Alas, no events in DC, and not stocked by the Virginia ABC. I see another quest about to begin... said...

You'll just have to come out to LA to try it, then!