The recipe that I saw was very old (around 1900). It called for cognac. I tried this with a very good Pierre Ferrand cognac and also with the Christian Brothers VSOP brandy that I use for holiday baking due to its strong vanilla overtones.
The brandy version was better; the other was a waste of good cognac. I think this is because the old recipe was created during a time when brandy might be any fruit-derived spirit, some truly bad, while cognac was a guarantee of the grape spirit. Today even the cheapest brandy is derived from grape wine unless noted otherwise, so I think the cheap modern brandy is an adequate substitute for the cautious cognac in the original recipe.
When we went to Italy in 2015, I made a pilgrimage to the home of Giuseppe Verdi, near Parma. There we found a foodie paradise.
So we had a feast of the bounty of Parma. It was exquisite, and educational too.
First you need some introduction:
Parma, Italy, is a sort of genius cuisine center even in that land of foodie heaven. The city of Parma (a little bigger than Worcester and Providence) is midway between Milan and Bologna (both much bigger than Boston), about an hour and a half from each. Within an hour's drive of the city of Parma, you can drive through the ancient and fertile provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, and Modena.
Parma and Reggio-Emila are known for Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, of course. It is also known for excellent salumi (cured meats), including salami, mortadella, capocollo, and the celebrated prosciutto di Parma. Also made there but seldom seen here is culatello, a special high-grade prosciutto that you can sometimes get at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge.
I learned this simple late-summer delight from my father. It responds well to different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
This variation on the classic, pungent, and beautiful Negroni is made with whiskey instead of gin. This one was beautiful with a rich, smooth Split Rock white whiskey. The clear whiskey lets the outrageous reds shine through, and the "hearts only" Split Rock has none of the harshness that you find in other white whiskeys.
I also made this with Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth that had been aged for four weeks in a charred oak cask. I think Carpano Antica is the closest substitute. It's pricey, and it's not right for every cocktail, but every serious cocktailian should keep a bottle of Carpano Antica in the fridge.
This classic chilled summer soup is simple to make and full of delicate summer flavors. The recipe is simple, but it allows for infinite artistic expression.
This is one of those recipes that can be made vegetarian or not (you can use chicken stock, or top it with crumbled bacon), but the vegetarian version is in no way inferior.
This is a Perfect Martini (that is, equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth instead of all dry vermouth) with orange juice for sweetness and complexity.
I enjoy the Bronx Cocktail in the summer, or anytime during a Yankees game!
Because of the sweet vermouth and the orange juice, this works well with a wide variety of gins, including some of the more daring new American gins.
This is a very old drink that has gained new celebrity. The inspired combination of white rum (or aguardiente), lime, mint, and sugar has been traced to a 16th century drink borrowed from indigenous Cubans. At that time it was intended to cure scurvy and dysentery. Today it is made with finer versions of the same refreshing combination of ingredients, and its uses are more recreational than medicinal!
Type of Post:
Beyond New England
Lorna and I spent 15 days in Ireland, dining out every night. We learned a few things that you might want to know if you are planning a vacation to Ireland.
To dispense with old stereotypes, there is plenty of good food in Ireland, including many excellent preparations of traditional old dishes. We never did see corned beef and cabbage on the menu, or any corned beef at all, for that matter. There is mediocre food to be found, of course, but if you plan ahead, you can do very well indeed.
Guinness is everywhere, of course, and they have a new hoppy lager offering called Hop House 13. It is not clearly marked on the tap handles as a Guinness product, so you may think that you are giving support to the local craft beer scene when you're actually supporting their common rival!
Beyond that, though, there is a thriving craft beer culture. In every part of Ireland we found local offerings. The Irish craft beer scene is not as established as the US craft beer scene, and it has to work extra hard against that constant Guinness headwind, but with some research you can find some exciting new Irish brews. Perhaps if American tourists get into the habit of asking for something other than Guinness, some restaurants and pubs will open new taps for the local products.
Type of Post:
Beyond New England
Regular readers know that we drive quite a lot. Our favorite Saturdays are spent in the car, exploring scenic locales and discovering foodie goodness.
In June of 2016, we took a long-anticipated vacation in Ireland. Naturally we spent most of it driving through some of the most sublime scenery we had ever explored. Of course we also found lots of foodie goodness, which is documented elsewhere in this blog. This post is for those who are considering a vacation that involves driving in Ireland.
The first thing to know is that it's expensive to drive in Ireland. Gas is expensive, of course, as it is in most of Europe. But the car rental is pricey, too. We rented from Avis at Dublin airport, and were disappointed to learn that they do not honor the CDW (collision damage waiver) insurance that many credit cards provide automatically when you use them to rent a car. The CDW cost nearly as much as the car rental, and it has a thousand-Euro deductible! They also had a super-CDW with no deductible.
Irish pancakes are not like American pancakes. They are thinner, closer to a crepe than to a big fluffy American pancake, with no baking powder. They are typically served with honey or jam, or brushed with lemon juice and dusted with sugar.
Pancakes figure prominently in the Irish celebration of Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which they also call Pancake Tuesday. This is the day to use up all the eggs and fat in the house to prepare for the Lenten fast. My mother's side of our family still makes pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!
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