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Alcuin

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Everything posted by Alcuin

  1. I made this the other night and it was extraordinary. I was a bit apprehensive about the Lillet and whiskey combo, but they were both supported by the cointreau and bitters which brought out the best qualities of both. A really great drink. I also made a James Joyce and a Gloom Lifter (with bitters added) and both were also both very good.
  2. Yeah, and on every one of those shows, I always get a kick out of watching the chefs roll their eyes when Bittman does it "his way." ← While I'm not defending Bittman's cocktail foray, this is not an accurate statement about his tv show "How to Cook Everything" or "The Best Food in the World". It's clear that he has a good rapport with the chefs and they generally respect his dishes and goal. Not all of his dishes hit. But I've never seen a chef "roll his eyes," act disrespectfully, or express dislike of a dish in anything other than a friendly and constructive manner. ← Watch Jean Georges snatch the quail or chicken away from Bittman again - sure, it's friendly, but it's also hey, dude, you have no clue what you're doing, give me that knife before you hurt yourself. No disrespect, we're all friends. Same thing we're doing here. ← I remember watching one of these episodes in which a chef (can't remember who) makes steak tartare and Bittman "modifies" it by chopping some tenderloin, seasoning it, pressing it into a patty and making a burger. I saw that years ago, but even now I recall some eye-rolling going on. Was his tenderloin burger good? Almost definitely. Was it steak tartare? No. Sometimes I like what he presents (I'm going to try my hand at paletas because of his previous article) but sometimes he really misses the mark. Edited to remove an "s"
  3. But they aren't! The Margarita and the Manhattan are not variations on the same theme. I think we're going in circles on a pretty trivial semantic issue here. The drinks are variations on his theme - a theme that you view as misleading, uniformed, or both. We get it. Classifying vermouth as sweet and bitters as sour is wrong, wrong, just plain wrong. These two drinks are from different branches of the cocktail tree and shouldn't be discussed together. Again, we get it. So why do I keep replying? I guess it's because I think tying the phrase "I don't see a lot of differences here" to a fundamental misunderstanding of mixology seems like a cheap shot and pushing intellectual content where none really exists. ← What really gets me about this video is that he presents himself as some kind of authority: "I had a theory, looked through the books, confirmed it, and now I offer my proven (by Brad's manhattan no less) theory to you, the viewer of my video." This isn't really the subtext of the piece, b/c he pretty much says that before he proudly (non-generous reading: smugly) walks off screen to enjoy his well-deserved drink. Its the blind leading the blind. Again, it doesn't take a genius to figure out who he should talk to or what books he should read to learn how to mix a drink. He could have read the Beverages and Libations forum here for a couple of hours and had a firm foundation to start learning for himself or at the very least who in New York he should talk to.
  4. Is it 30%, 90%? Who knows and who cares? How would you ever determine such a thing (80% of drinks ordered this year? Ordered ever? 80% of the drinks listed in some book?) He's clearly making the point that many drinks have sweet and sour components. It is unfortunate that Brad refereed to a "classic" Margarita and then made a drink with tequila, simple syrup, and lime juice. Although there certainly isn't anything wrong with making or enjoying this drink, "classic" is not the correct description. They weren't saying that the Patron by itself wasn't palatable. Earlier in the episode, Lomonaco says that a cocktail takes raw alcohol, and then adds ingredients to make it more palatable. When they make the Margarita, he comes back to this idea and says that the simple sugar makes the drink more palatable. He also says that the alcohol (i.e. the Patron) has a nice taste on its own. He clearly isn't implying anything different. So what's wrong with saying that other ingredients make the alcohol more palatable? If I may quote from page 71 of The Joy of Mixology, "Mixed drinks of all kinds should glide down the throat easily, and since most cocktails have a spirit base, the addition of ingredients containing less or no alcohol is needed to cut the strength of the drink and make it more palatable." Lomonaco was saying the exact same thing. It should be clear that he is saying there isn't much different in the method of alcohol, sweet, and sour. He clearly isn't saying that there isn't much difference between a Margarita and a Manhattan. ← You can maybe argue point for point that what Bittman says is only slightly off the mark or unfortunately phrased through most of the piece, but overall the principles he's laying out for people (who are assumed no little about how to mix drinks) are absolutely not sound. Only in a bizzaro universe is a margarita and a manhattan mixed on the same principles. Bitters are not sour and sweet vermouth does not resemble simple syrup. A daiquiri is not the same thing as a tom collins. The article on the whole amounts to a disaster from the perspective of educating people about cocktails. My strong reaction against it is that stuff like this will more likely hurt than help teach people about cocktails. I don't like this because I want people to be educated about cocktails so that the quality of bars increases due to greater demand for quality and craft since I don't live in New York and don't have any access where I live to even one good bar. Bittman's sad display of ignorance cumulatively does far more harm than good. ETA: slkinsey beat me to the punch on a lot of these points.
  5. ← I would do the same, but at least in the article he KNOWS he is being incorrect/inauthentic or whatever. He chooses to make drinks to his own taste and that is what he is trying to convey to readers. Problem is, with his ingredients, it is not a mojito anymore, so he shouldn't call it that. ← My problem with his characteristically cavalier approach to formulas in favor of rugged individualism in this instance is that he seems to be promoting an anti-cocktailian mindset, not just an anti-establishment one. Because he likes boozy drinks, he derides a properly balanced margarita as "limeade." Because he thinks muddling is somehow effete or histrionic, he relegates it to a mere showpiece completely ignorant of the effect of releasing its essential oils so they can have some impact on the drink. I could go on. His approach here ends up mystifying more than educating. If people try to mix drinks like he demonstrates, they might end up with something acceptable or that they like, but I suspect only after fumbling around in the dark for a while. This could then in turn lead to people thinking that cocktails are harder than they are and not worth the trouble. If he had showed how to make a real daiquiri, that's giving people something to go on and a place to start that's simple and that they can begin to modify.
  6. It's unfortunate that this video and article will only contribute to that mysterious program of misinformation about cocktails that dominates the majority of people's thinking about them. As someone who's fairly recently begun a self (re)education about cocktails, I just don't understand how something as simple as mixing drinks can be so misunderstood and abused by otherwise intelligent people. All it takes is some sound judgment.
  7. There's actually wild yeast all over the place. Starting with things like juniper berries or grapes takes advantage of the yeast that is on them. Yeast is also just floating around in the air too though, so as Slkinsey says, you don't really need to use anything but flour and water. The yeast will be attracted to it as a food source and will set up shop there. All you have to do take care of them at that point. Set up equal parts flour and water and let it sit for a day. Come back to it and if you start to see some activity and it starts to smell yeasty, discard half of the flour/water/yeast mixture and at least double it with fresh flour/water. Do this for a couple more days and you should have a starter that you can maintain indefinitely. You can use berries that naturally have yeast on them but you don't have to. Some people think that helps to kick start the process and they might be right, but it's just as easy to do it without them. Using honey would only provide some sugar for the yeast to eat, but they're probably just as happy unlocking the sugars from the flour. Using brewer's yeast puts you in the position of having the yeast in your control rather than waiting for them to be attracted to the flour/water. You don't really have to do this, though, but it would certainly be easier than waiting.
  8. The way I usually understand modernism is similar to this but a bit different. The progressive spirit of modernism seems to me to have been accompanied by a deep anxiety about the utility of past cultural forms. Atonal music, cubism, the writing of Joyce, Eliot, Pound, et al., seems deeply conservative to me because the innovations of high modernist art seem reactionary. Take cubism for example: it's fractured and twisted style is a commentary on the lack of cultural currency of the medium of traditional painting in the face of the global disaster of WWI and the problem of incipient global capitalism (that problem being the Depression). Cubism is reactionary in that it points back to the failure of pre-cubist art. I don't think modernism is progressive, though I do think that contemporary gastronomy as practiced by Adria is. I'm not sure of the value of quibbling over terms or introducing a new one, but I think post-modern might be a bit better. If we interpret the post-modern to relinquish the reactionary anxieties I think are inherent in modernism, then post-modernism isn't as concerned with the lack of currency or utility of past forms. Post-modernism is more capable of progressivism. In any case, I think we agree on all points except for the terminology, which is probably not that important anyway.
  9. While most high end dining is essentially apolitical in nature, there is plenty of dining that is not, such as certain elements of veganism, locavore oriented dining and potentially others. I will grant that that is the exception and not the rule, but it can not be dismissed out of hand. Indeed, it can provide its own brand of challenging dining which may or may not be pleasurable. ← I totally agree. I live in Madison, WI and the best restaurant in town puts the name of every single producer of produce, butter, cheese, meat, etc., right on the menu. This is a political statement and it can come off as a bit overbearing (my aesthetic leans more toward the minimalism of an Alinea menu) but I like the political project and I like supporting the farms. Food is inherently political. I'm sure there is some progressive cuisine out there that is totally political, I just don't know about it, but I guess I was just thinking about what seems to me to be some a-political elements of a lot of progressive cuisine. I don't think there's anything wrong with that either because not all art has to have an immediate or obvious political function.
  10. Analogy between arts is useful for pinpointing the salient features of each through comparison. Saying that gastronomy=literature is as ridiculous as saying painting=film, though they all share certain common artistic features. It's definitely true that gastronomy is its own thing, but it seems that its difficult to determine what exactly it is right now. I'm not sure about this kind of contemporary dining being "modernist" though. I guess it depends on what you mean by that term. I think of "modernism" mostly as rooted in the social/political conditions of the early 20th century (pre-WWII). I think of this new movement in dining as rooted in its own time too. Terms like modernism, post-modernism, seem to cause more trouble than their worth sometimes. I don't think they're totally useless though they do introduce assumptions and generalizations that cause problems.
  11. I don't think that painting or the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century are really the best parallels, though. Dining is more interactive than looking at a painting and as chrisamirault said its not political and consciously annoying like a lot of avant-garde early 20th century art. I think its more like literature because there is no art there without some cooperation between the artist and the reader. In some of the best literature, there's tension between what the writer wants to convey or how they want to convey it and how the reader will understand it and ultimately whether they will get annoyed or put off when something misses the mark or s/he didn't understand what was going on. Dining can be interactive in the same way. There is a lot of play going on between cook and diner that these kinds of places seem to push to the forefront. If you don't want to play though, I don't think you're going to have a good time. It might be like required reading then--not fun.
  12. The analogy between arts is a useful one. Everybody interprets human communication and it can be challenging to a greater or lesser degree in the course of a day. When something that we do everyday like communicating becomes art, I think that there is an element of challenge built in (the goal switches from conveying information in a straightforward manner to provoking thought). Also, most of the great artists that I can think of broke from tradition in many respects. They didn't leave tradition behind, they just went off in a new direction that followed from that tradition, interpreting it according to a new cultural context. I think the same can be said of Alinea, for instance. Take Joyce's Ulysses for example. Most people cannot read this and enjoy it much without some kind of guidance (such as a professor, a guidebook, or a deep knowledge of the tradition from which it evolved). Ulysses takes the element of challenge and uses it for effect--I think the same can be said of challenging cuisine. Cuisine and dining are of course different than literature. Their histories as art are totally different. But if literature can be both very challenging and very pleasurable, why can't food?
  13. This might be a good idea: the Gin-Gin Mule.
  14. I would second the suggestion of learning a few cocktails. There is no quicker way to know the ins and outs of a drink than by concocting it yourself. I notice that you mention that you like sweetness in a cocktail but you seemed to want to get away from sweetness because of its association with drinks that end with that most monstrous of suffixes (-tini). Sweetness though plays a big part in many well-balanced cocktails such as the Southside, the Sidecar, the Daiquiri, etc. Mixing up one of these simple but very pleasing cocktails that use a sweetener to achieve balance might be good for you. If you want to get into gin, I recommend the Southside (gin, simple syrup, lime, mint) to get your feet wet. [Edited to change "it" to "with."]
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