Sunday, June 29, 2008

Una Copa Para Espana!
Our Swan Song in Spain

We're wrapping up our summer vacation in Mallorca. And, we couldn't have planned it better. In addition to visiting dear friends and attending a milestone birthday party, we're staying atop a mountain in the incredible Castillo Son Vida Hotel (a 13th Century castle-turned-luxury resort).

How else would we spend our last night here than holed up in our room, ordering room service and watching the European Cup on TV?!

I am happy to report that only moments ago Spain became the European Cup Champions. It has been more than 44 years since Spain held this honor, and the whole country is alive with cheers and hollers. We can hear street parties in the town, below, and fireworks are exploding over the Mediterranean. After living in Spain for 2 1/2 years - and falling madly in love with it - I couldn't be more thrilled for Spanish soccer than if I were born on this soil.

Bravo, Espana! Tomo una copa (de vino Espanol) para ti.

Alcohol Free Cocktails

No, It's Not an Oxymoron...

Want to bring a little non-boozy fun into your summer party repertoire? Watch my latest "how to" video demonstrating how you can be a Thoughtful Entertainer and include everyone in the fun - even guests who are pregnant, on medication or have a long drive home...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gone Fishing...

Ok, not really. I'm going on vacation to Europe. Seeing my sister in Paris, my dad in Nice, cousins in Beaulieu and Marseilles, dear friends in La Costa Brava (Spain) and another friend's birthday celebration Mallorca.

I may post along the way - but no promises. However, be sure to check in when I get back in July as I will have some cool surprises!! I actually have something very exciting up my sleeve to share with you when I return - but I don't want to spill the beans just yet. Just be assured that you will want to know all about it!

Think: French, think: vintage, think: imbibable... think: a souvenir waaaay better than a T-shirt.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Small Batch Bourbon: A Tale with a Moral for Impressionable Young Ladies

For this month's MxMo, hosted by Scofflaw's Den, I've decided to share a word of warning drawn from personal experience rather than post a recipe. Let it be known that I like bourbon, and have developed a healthy respect for it!

My first extended exposure to bourbon was at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2007. It was quite exciting to tour the distillery with Fred Noe, the 7th generation Master Distiller in the Jim Beam family and quintessential Good Ole Boy.

I also had the honor of touring the Maker’s Mark Master Distiller with David Pickerell (whom I believe has since left MM). I felt like a kid in a candy store cuz I even got to dip my very own signature bottle in red wax! I have to admit that meandering around the barrels with these guys was kind of like landing backstage passes at a rock concert - and having the lead singers show you their dressing room. Yeah, I was a groupie. And here are a few basics I learned:

In order for bourbon to be authentic, it must:
  • Be made from at least 51% corn
  • Be aged a minimum of 2 years
  • Be aged only in new, charred, American white oak barrels
So, all cocky from my newfound knowledge, dipping skills and "buddies" in the bourbon biz, later that night I found myself in the “media room” at the hotel. There were tables set up, junk food in bowls and bottles of bourbon lined up for our enjoyment. One group was sitting around a table playing poker, and others were in little clusters talking shop. I’m more of a craps girl, myself, and limit my gambling to Vegas.

I poured myself a Bookers on the rocks (named for the late Frederick Booker Noe, another relative of Jim Beam)
and sat down at a table where 3 guys were chatting amongst themselves. They said they were in radio and lived in Los Angeles. No wonder I was drawn to them - we are probably some of the only people in LA who actually still drink – diet be damned and rehab-free!

I asked what kind of radio show they did and one guy replied, “The kind that pisses of a lot of people.” Without missing a beat I joked, “Oh, lik
e that Tom Leykis guy?” to which they busted up laughing and looked at me sideways.

“I am Tom Leykis,” said the larger of the three. “Yeah, right,” I laughed. “No, really, I am,” he said. And then I
recognized his voice. Luckily they found my ignorance a mark of “I’m think I’m so important that I don’t know who you are” rather than pure cluelessness. (In LA, the former invokes more respect.)

Now, many a woman would like to harpoon ole Tom because on one of his talk shows, he encourages men to figure out ways to get laid without spending money on an expensive date first. Personally, I believe
that a sister has to set her standards so guys like that can’t take advantage! Personal responsibility and all... His other show - and the reason he was at the Bourbon Festival - is called The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis and focuses on wine and spirits. We continued to share a few laughs, and I continued sipping on Booker’s.

Now, here’s the thing about drinking 125+ proof bourbon when you don't realize it… the stuff is so strong, you just kinda stop tasting it after the first one. I think it makes your tastebuds drunk before the rest of you.

Suddenly and all-at-once, I realized I was shooting my mouth off a little too much and – although I had them laughing (at my own expense, of course) – I’d probably live to regret it. So, I excused myself and made my way down the hall and into my room. That’s about all I remember of that.

The next thing I know is that my phone was ringing. My fellow travelers were on the bus and waiting for me. I had slept through the wake up call!! Feeling like death warmed over, I ran the toothbrush across my teeth, stuck my hair in a ponytail, threw on some jeans and ran out to the bus.

I managed to sit by a window so I could inhale extra oxygen and prayed that we wouldn’t have to taste, smell or be near any bourbon for at least 2 1/2 hours. Which was a futile wish, of course. We were at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival!

Luckily, my liver bounced back relatively quickly and by lunch I was ready to try my hand at a myriad of BBQ and bourbon pairings. And, at the Bourbon Ball the next night, I sampled sips from a myriad of bourbons in the sampling room. I even indulged in Bookers once again, only this time it was mixed with juice and I proceeded with caution.

The moral of the story: When trying a new bourbon which one is not familiar, tread lightly. Drink a little water. And, read the bottle. Or you may just end up feeling like a Boozy Floosie rather the mildly elegant and occasionally sophisticated Muse you’d like to portray yourself to be…

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Planning to Get Pregnant?

Well, then be prepared to keep on enjoying your cocktails with Preggatinis!

You can already
pre-order "Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be" on Amazon.

My baby (the book) is due in December!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

South of the Border in SoHo

Papatzul Serves Up Regional Mexican Specialties With A Side of Hospitality

Back in 1990, when I was a student at the American Aca
demy of Dramatic Arts, Manhattan had a different vibe. For one, I carried a “stun gun” a Puerto Rican acquaintance secured for me. (No questions asked, if you catch my drift...) I lugged that thing around in my pocket – cuz – truth be told, the city felt a bit menacing back then to a relatively wholesome kid from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Needless to say, I was also on a budget. During that summer, I ate hot dogs from the street vendors, tried my first knish from a Jewish deli, and discovered that Queens was not the regal neighborhood I had envisioned. I also made friends with a local who took me to eat the worst “Mexican” food I’d had in my life. Soggy, saucy and insipidly NOT Mexican, I cringed to think that this was what the Big Apple had to offer when I longed for what I considered “comfort food.”

Fast forward 18 years… and not only is Manhattan transformed into a wonderland of safe streets packed with shiny, happy people and (mostly) friendly taxi drivers but there are actually some decent Mexican digs.

When I first saw Papatzul around the corner from the swanky SoHo Grand, where I recently spent a couple of weeks, I had my doubts. Mexican… in New York? Did I really want to take a risk when there are so many places I’d be guaranteed a good meal?

Well, it was HOT outside. And, nothing sounded quite as refreshing as a margarita. So, up the steps and into the bar I bellied.

The first thing I noted was the vast array of tequilas. I mean, this wasn’t one of those “we have 300 tequilas!” type of places. Nor do I need a place to offer that many. (I can only make it through about 3 drinks in a sitting, myself.) Still, it had a decent array of the tequilas I enjoy: Partida, Herradura, Milagro and the like. I also happened to have a bottle of certified organic 4 Copas in my bag (I was teaching The Liquid Muse Sustainable Sips earlier that night) and I gave the bartenders a taste. (I’m always happy to introduce people to a “greener” way of drinking, after all…).

The atmosphere at Papatzul is great because the staff is so friendly. Ashley, the bartendress, was a doll – and makes mean tamarind as well as hibiscus margaritas (pictured here). She also recommended that I try a specialty of the house …. Which are scrambled quail egg enchiladas in a nutty sort of sauce. It is a dish typical of a region near Mexico City, where the owner Thierry grew up.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – Thierry? Is this some froggy transplant passing himself off as “Latino?” No, Thierry Amezcua is from Mexico, though his mother is from France. My dad is from France, so we chattered away in French for a while, too. (Another surprise in this tiny corner of Manhattan.)

Some guy, sitting with two models at the bar, kept asking when Thierry was getting a DJ for Sunday afternoons. It seemed as if Thierry has put a lot of thought into this, and although it could be a good idea (Felix, kitty-corner from Papatzul serves French bistro fare while blasting Brazilian samba on the weekends as patrons spill onto the street, Caipirinhas in hand), I couldn’t help but think about Anthony Bourdain’s description of NYC restaurant owners desperately grabbing at any gimmick to lure the customers to their corner of the sidewalk. I hoped that wasn’t the case with Thierry – but, as we all know, the restaurant business is “perro eat perro.”

I went to many fancy and wonderful places during my two weeks in New York but I can assure you that Papatzul is the ONLY place where the owner of the joint sat down at the bar next to me, pulled up a chair and talked shop in between cooking customers’ orders. (Thierry is also the Executive Chef.) If I had the means to live at the SoHo Grand, or in SoHo for that matter, Papatzul would be my neighborhood hangout. The people are nice. The food is good. The margaritas are delicious. And, yeah, the neighborhood ain’t too shabby. Which is important because that stun-gun would never get through security at the airport these days…

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Diet Be Damned!

In addition to teaching The Liquid Muse Sustainable Sips® cocktail classes in NYC, I also did a few media appearances related to Fre (alcohol-removed wine) for whom I’m the spokesperson and mixologist. One of the drinks I created for our summer media tour is called Tokyo Dreams, and inspired by Asian ingredients.

The recipe for Tokyo Dreams calls for fresh ginger, mandarin juice and canned lychees. Lychees are an Asian fruit easily found in Los Angeles but, I learned on our cross-country promotional tour (Seattle, 3 cities in Wisconsin, Rochester and NYC) they are rather challenging to secure in other parts of the country. (So much for creativity!)

Just before taping a cocktail segment on a radio show with Mike Calameco on WOR710 AM (which will be broadcast on June 15 in 60+ cities!), I was on a mad dash to find lychee so I could make Tokyo Dreams on the air. After poking my head into 4 markets surrounding my hotel in SoHo, I decided to just hop a cab down to Chinatown, where I’d surely find what I was looking for.

And, I did. At the very first store I entered. “Well, that was easy,” I thought. And, now I had time to kill. Hmm… the dumpling shop was just across the street…

“How often am I in New York’s famous Chinatown?,” I rationalized inside my own brain. Never mind that we have a Chinatown in L.A., replete with delectable Chinese fare. Who wants to ruin one’s own fun when a plateful of steaming pork dumplings is only moments away? I doused them with chili oil and gobbled them down. Ah. Delight.

xt, I figured I’d wander the streets – burning calories and taking in sights. Next thing you know, the Chinese lettering on the historic buildings turned to words like Lombardi’s and Italian sausages hung in the windows. Damn! “I just ate the dumplings,” I thought. I wasn’t really hungry anymore.

Then, a word entered my head and I knew I had to do indulge. Cannoli. I was in Little Italy. Diet be damned. Who cares if I had the dumplings only minutes earlier. I had to find a Cannoli. When in Rome… as they say.

It wasn’t difficult to fulfill my desire. Around the next corner, in an old brick building with a wooden bar inside, I found a case full of cannolis. I ordered one laden with chocolate chips tucked into the marscapone filling. It was sprinkled with powdered sugar and the lady handed it to me wrapped in a piece of wax paper. It felt authentic. It tasted authentic. Although, by the time I finished it and tossed the wax paper in the trash, I realized I don’t really like cannolis all that much, really. Still, I didn’t regret a thing.

Ultimately, I’m what I refer to as a “tongue traveler.” My voyages are not complete without tasting the local fare – both edible and drinkable. This is why I can refer to myself as a ‘gourmande of all things deliciously decadent.’ It isn’t an exaggeration. When I’m in an exotic locale (and nearly anywhere can be exotic to me), knowing each and every city becomes a finger-licking good experience.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Astor Center: The Imbiber’s Paradise

The Met. Broadway. Buggy rides in Central Park. New York has some cool must-do’s for the average tourist. However, for those of us impassioned by wine, spirits, food and what to do with them – the Astor Center is our Mecca.

Arrive at 399 Lafayette Street, and take the stairs down to enter a wonderland of wine and spirits. Bottles and brands abound – I even saw some labels I’d never heard of in the vodka aisle. (And, I thought I was pretty on top of things!) Sample wines at the sample station, peruse the shelves of organic wine and spirits and journey the world one sip at a time by filling your cart with a plethora of imported vintages. It makes me wish drinking didn’t make me intoxicated, only so I could sample more at one sitting!

But… what really blows the mind is upstairs.

The Study is built for tastings. It has flush sinks at each station and large plasma TV’s above the instructors station for a bird’s eye view of close-ups.

The Kitchen is a marvel of stainless steel built for hands-on training. (The CIA uses this 1100 square foot space, as well, I might add...)

The Gallery is an event space used for everything from wine education to private events. The brick-and-beam space lined with large widows looking onto the street below rivals that of any swanky SoHo hotspot.

This Saturday, New Yorkers have the opportunity to take Mixology classes at Astor Center with Jonathan Pogash – someone I both like and respect in the world of cocktails. A few days ago, I tried one of Jonathan’s newest inventions (not yet named!) when I swung by World Bar to say hello. It was a delicious concoction of Square One cucumber, St. Germain, Sage and… something else… but I had two so I don’t entirely recall… Only let me tell you that is was both tasty and inspired.

Register for his Crafting Summer Cocktails which takes place Saturday, June 7. Or, try Elements of Mixology on June 21. Pogash has grown up in the liquor industry, and knows a thing or two about a great drink. He is also a cocktail consultant, Gary Reagan’s right-hand man at Ardent Spirits and a hellova nice guy to boot!

Oh – and be sure to welcome Jonathan to the worldwide web. His site is Cocktail Guru, and he has recently caught the “blogging bug” as well.

The Astor Center is also the new home for the B.A.R. training, which I hope to undertake this Fall! In addition to putting another feather into my mixology cap, it is a great excuse to get to hang out at the Astor Center and use their state-of-the-art facilities. That’s a pilgrimage I can get behind!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"She's Not A Bartender ... But She Plays One on TV"

So... those of us women who have worked in the entertainment industry in Hollywood have regularly complained about the way women are perceived and treated... particularly those women who are knowledgeable rather than merely beautiful. It is difficult for a gal to get the respect she deserves.

Well, call me naive, but I was quite shocked to get an invitation to a bar guide launch / cocktail-related event which hired model-slash-actress Molly Simms to host, alongside Dale DeGroff.

Now, we all know that Dale is the King of Cocktails. If anyone deserves to headline an event such as this, it is he. But, wtf does an actress/model have to do with it?

When I posed this question to the organizers of this event, the response was basically that although Ms. Simms is in no way actually working in the liquor / bar industry, she plays a bartender on the mediocre nighttime soap opera show, Las Vegas. That seems to be all the requirements for the female host.

Why would anyone who actually knows a thing or two about the cocktail industry look to Molly Simms for advice on where to drink, what to order or what a quality cocktail actually is?

You can read the exchange for yourselves… but good grief! This is a slap in the face to all of the respected female mixologists / bartenders / brand ambassadors out there.

My question: “Just curious, though --- why is Molly Simms involved with this event? There are many mixologists (such as Dale DeGroff) male and female who are actually involved with the liquor industry. I don't get what an "actress / model" has to do with our industry?? Love clarification on that so I can present it fairly on The Liquid Muse Blog... I certainly have my own opinions about hiring a model when a female mixologist would be much more appropriate for this kind of event...”

The response: “Molly Sims, an A-List celebrity and bartender on the former NBC series Las Vegas, is very familiar with how the entertainment industry affects Americans’ perceptions of entertaining and cocktail culture (i.e. Sex and the City and the revival of the cosmopolitan). She has gained a deep understanding of how one’s decisions when placing an order or recommending a restaurant can greatly affect someone’s perception of you. Molly is also a seasoned traveler and will be sharing her experiences on the difficulties of finding establishments that best fit your mood, wallet and tastebuds.”

Huh? I respectfully disagree. Whether we’re talking Audrey Saunders, Charlotte Voissey (the list goes on and on) or any other woman who is actually involved in our industry and has the chops for this kind of thing (and yes, likely travels, too, I might add), it is particularly sad that even the big liquor conglomerates (yes, there is one involved with this event) is so incredibly misguided in this kind of decision.

Is the liquor industry in line to become the next big sell out? If actress-slash-models are guiding what we should drink and where, NOBODY will “drink well.”

Photo borrowed from this article.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

San Francisco Cocktail Week Saves the Sazerac!

Did you miss SF Cocktail Week? Do you love a good, old fashioned Sazerac cocktail? Are you a fan of New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail? Then, this video is for you...