Cheers to Change!

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MixologyYes, I realize we’ve had a brief interlude, but I’ve been a bit tied up working on this.  You’ll also notice that in addition to launching the new biz, the blog was also rebranded to have a similar look and feel. Please don’t be alarmed by that – the content here will still reflect my own personal musings. I’ve additionally been pulling artwork and creating some items for an upcoming Etsy shop, so stay tuned because it will eventually be linked under “Retail Therapy.” As far as food and drink interests go, I’ve once again signed up for my Good Food Collective summer share which will start in June. I’m sure my bags o’ farm market goodness will contain some obscure vegetables for further kitchen experimentation.  I’ve also submitted a few of my vegan recipes for a local event called Veg Out taking place at the end of May. Amidst all things “cray,” I’ve conjured up some new soups, cookies, and cocktails. I figure I’ll start with the booze since we should probably toast to new endeavors and I’ve declared it officially gin season. So if you’re thirsty for a new tipple, give these a whirl since they’ve certainly had a few quality control runs.

Let’s start with a drink based on Hendrick’s Gin with a few interesting additives.  I came up with this one a couple of months ago after a liqueur called Parfait d’ Amour piqued my interest.  Parfait d’Amour is a deep violet color and typically has a flavor profile of orange, vanilla, and floral notes. There are other brands available but I picked the Marie Brizard (link above) brand because it also boasts notes of orange blossom, almond, and rose (I’m also detecting a hint of violet) which I thought would complement the Hendrick’s well. It’s fun going to the liquor store and asking for it. No one knows what the hell it is, so you can certainly amuse yourself with expressions of general confusion from the staff. I decided to name this beauty after a classic perfume from the house of Guerlain due to the similar citrus, vanilla, and powdery floral notes and of course, its distinctive color.

Lady Sensory’s L’Heure Bleue Cocktail L'Heure Bleue

1.5 oz Hendrick’s gin

.5 oz of each:  Blue Curaçao (I use this, procured on my trip to Curaçao),

Parfait d’Amour, and freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dry Champagne (or any dry white sparkling wine)

Sparkling water, seltzer, or club soda

Lemon twist (garnish)

Chill a tall flute or large wine glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, Hendrick’s, Blue Curaçao, Parfait d’Amour, and lemon juice. Shake and strain into chilled glass. Top with equal parts dry Champagne and sparkling water and garnish with a twist. This is simple, pretty, and very refreshing.

The next beverage evolved after researching several different gins I had yet to try. I decided to pick up some Plymouth Gin this past week, which is dry, aromatic, and very well-rounded. It makes for an excellent gin and tonic. In fact, I’m drinking one as I type this, and I’ll be experimenting with a Plymouth martini once I pick up some dry vermouth. Much like Champagne, Plymouth is both a style of gin and protected geographical location for gins produced in Plymouth, England. The only distillery producing it is Black Friars (owned by Pernod Ricard) and there is an image of a small friar on the back of the bottle. I really like this gin and find it to be very versatile. I whipped this one up with some ingredients I had handy and it’s both simple and amazing. This recipe will make two cocktails in rocks glasses.

Lady Sensory’s Oran Juice Jones Cocktail Oran Juice Jones

1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.5 oz Grand Marnier

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp honey

2 slices and juice from one medium orange (I used a Valencia orange)

Sparkling water, seltzer or club soda

Angostura bitters

Fill two rocks glasses with ice, cut an orange in half and cut two wheels. Over a cocktail shaker, juice the remaining orange, the lemon, and mix in 1 tsp of honey. Add ice to the shaker, the Plymouth Gin and Grand Marnier. Shake and strain into the rocks glasses. Top with bitters and sparkling water. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Yep. I totally named it after this guy. What can I say? We’ve had a lot of rain lately and this tasted just like orange juice. This makes for an excellent brunch or day drink. Cheers to change and happy sipping!

 

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Distilling My Thoughts

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Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

I recently visited a brand new local distillery in Rochester for a tasting.  Black Button Distilling is located on Railroad Street on the way to the Public Market and adjacent to the Rohrbach’s Brewery and tasting room. The owner and chief distiller, Jason Barrett, provided a tour and was refreshingly down-to-earth and knowledgable. As he shared his story, we learned how he made the bold move of basically giving up his corporate job and house to pursue his dream of starting his own distillery. He also talked about the history behind the brand name (his family owned a button factory), the distilling process, and various tasting notes of the current product offerings. I recommend stopping in – it was a very educational and fun evening!

I sampled a wheat vodka (there were two and I had the one with the non-sake notes), the moonshine, and the Citrus Forward Gin. The bourbon is presently being aged in barrels with an anticipated release in 2015. Not surprisingly, the gin won me over with its distinctive flavor notes. The typical juniper bite is smoothed out with citrus and spices resulting in a profile reminiscent of orange spice tea. I knew I could have some fun experimenting with this. Thus, retail therapy occurred and I left with a bottle in hand. In addition to the booze, the Black Button shop also offers glassware, delicious maple syrup (really good stuff!), a variety of bitters, and simple syrups. I am 99% sure the simple syrup brand they offer is this one. However, I determined that I could make the lavender lemon syrup at home myself because as we’ve already established, I am that weirdo who has lavender on hand. If you are not as ambitious, feel free to procure a bottle of syrup in addition to the gin.

Let’s cocktail, shall we?

Lavender Lemons

Lady Sensory’s DIY Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

Zest and juice of two lemons + enough water to total 1.5 cup of liquid

1 tbsp dried lavender (make sure it’s for culinary use – you can get it at Williams-Sonoma)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

I added a small amount of vanilla sugar to slightly round out the flavor because I have a fussy palate. No worries if you don’t have it on hand – you can omit or add a tiny drop of vanilla extract. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced in half (approximately 3/4 – 1 cup). Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer to remove the lavender and zest. The color will resemble pink lemonade. Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container (I used a mason jar). Use in cocktails, sodas (“cold pop”), or even over ice cream. Cocktail recipes from my mixology experiments are below.  You’ll note that I’ve incorporated some French names thanks to the lavender.

The Jacques Collins

Jacques Collins

Lady Sensory’s Jacques Collins

2 oz Black Button Citrus Forward Gin*

2 tbsp lavender lemon simple syrup (above)

Orange slice and 1-2 Maraschino cherries for garnish

Top with sparkling water/ club soda.

Chill a Collins glass or large rocks glass a few minutes in advance. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, gin and lavender lemon syrup. Shake until well combined and pour into the chilled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange slice and 1-2 cherries. This drink is simple, refreshing, and will make you long for summer (especially in this extreme cold!)

 

Soleil Levant Martini

Soleil Levant Martini

Lady Sensory’s Soleil Levant (Rising Sun) Martini

2 oz gin (again, Black Button Citrus Forward)

1/2  oz St. Germain

1/2 oz Lillet (blanc)

1 oz lavender lemon simple syrup

Several dashes of Angostura bitters (will provide additional flavor and color)

Orange or lemon slice for garnish

Chill a large martini glass in advance and fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Combine gin, St. Germain, Lillet, lavender lemon syrup, bitters, and shake well. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or lemon – your choice). You can add another drop or two of bitters if needed (the drink should be apricot in color). You could also rim the glass with lavender sugar if you are feeling extra fancy. And no, I haven’t made lavender sugar yet, but I probably will soon.

Black Button products are currently available at the distillery, restaurants, and some liquor stores. The average cost is around $40 for the gin, and it is well worth it. Pick some up and support people’s dreams and local businesses. Gin season is almost upon us and you will definitely want the Citrus Forward on your home bar!

* If you aren’t local to Rochester, an orange or citrus-infused gin would probably work for either of these recipes until Black Button becomes more widely distributed.

In Case I Ever Get Famous And Suddenly Die…

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Okay, after seeing this BuzzFeed article on drunken authors and their favorite drinks I took it upon myself to do some research and found some inconsistencies and promptly became sad. I mean, they created some of the great works of our time and no one ever noticed what they drank? Not even the bartender? What a cruel and thoughtless world. I then realized that if I were ever to write a novel and suddenly keel over, this could happen to me. No one would be able to correctly name my poison.

Something needs to be done about this. I cannot bear to have any discrepancies. Truth be told, I’m a fickle Libra so brace yourself because we are going to cover all of the things! In true BuzzFeed fashion, I decided to make a list-format doo-dad for you, complete with nonsensical images. I’d give you a smattering of boozy famous quotes for good measure, but it appears some nice person already took care of that here. Yay! Less work for me!

Lady Sensory’s Last Booze and Testament:

Vodka:

Katy Perry John Mayer

My memories of vodka were not this pretty. Photo: Columbia/Sony Music

Once upon a time, the Grey Goose gimlet and I were best friends. Then one night, I rode a mechanical bull three times with a regional sales director. It got to the point where they had to tip the bull and shake us off.  I was conveniently wearing low-rise jeans at the time, so half of my rear end was hanging out. I like to think of it as visual karaoke…the worst karaoke you could ever imagine.  As a result, I just say no to vodka.

Scotch:

Scotchy, scotch, scotch! Photo: www.drinkinginamerica.com

Scotchy, scotch, scotch!
Photo: http://www.drinkinginamerica.com

Yes, I had a run on scotch shortly out of graduate school. I like to think that my nights of sipping single malt eventually led me to laser hair removal but sadly, that’s probably just genetics. I don’t drink it anymore and for no reason other than simply growing out of that phase. In fact, I avoid most brown liquor with the exception of an occasional hot beverage (Jameson in Irish Coffee or bourbon in hot apple cider).

Tequila:

I meant to do that. Photo: www.thenewsburner.com

I meant to do that.
Photo: http://www.thenewsburner.com

Remember how tequila made PeeWee Herman dance on a bar and knock over about 30 motorcycles? Let’s not even go there.

Champagne:

Don't act like naps haven't happened to you.

Don’t act like naps haven’t happened to you. Photo: http://www.funnyzela.com

Being a wine lover, I actually like champagne. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like me and I wind up taking naps in obscure places…or falling out of a chair in painting class.

So now that we’ve covered the avoidance list, here are a few of my favorite things:

Rum:

Dark 'n Stormy made with Gosling's and Barritt's...and a flamingo!

Dark ‘n Stormy made with Gosling’s and Barritt’s…and a flamingo!

In my college days, it was good old Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. I’ve since traveled to Bermuda a couple of times and my favorite is presently Gosling’s Black Seal. This is best served in a Dark & Stormy or Rum Swizzle, but it’s just fine for sipping on its own. Other rum friends include Appleton, Cruzan, and some Cuban stuff I tried in Aruba. I wish I could recall the name because it was delicious, but it would never make it past customs.

Gin:

Hendrick's Gin - photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin so it will be easy for you to find it!

Hendrick’s Gin – photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin

Gin has proven to be a strong favorite in recent years, with Hendrick’s topping the list. It’s good in a tonic, but I prefer it in a dry martini with olives instead of cucumbers. But if you give me both, hey, I’m not going to complain.

Liqueur:

St. Germain Cocktail

St. Germain Cocktail

There are quite a few that I enjoy but none compare to my beloved St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers. It pairs very well with the aforementioned Hendrick’s gin and my favorite white wine, mentioned below.

Wine:

Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. This one is tricky because I’m an equal opportunity wino and like quite a few. To sum it up as concisely as possible by grape, Sauvignon Blanc is my white of choice (anything from New Zealand to Sancerre) and Pinot Noir is my red of choice (Washington/Oregon and those from the Burgundy region). Honorable mentions should include Riesling (hey, I live near the Finger Lakes, but it absolutely must be dry). And I will drink most any dry red, including dry rosé, but I do not like Merlot or Beaujolais. Also, I’m not a fan of Pinot Grigio and unfortunately, Chardonnay gives me a headache. And we all know friends don’t let friends drink white Zinfandel.

I purposely left craft beer off of this list because I’ve only recently become enamored with it and don’t drink it that often. Like wine, it would be challenging to keep it concise.

So in eighty years, when someone tries to tell you I loved Sex on the Beach, you’ll know they aren’t talking about the drink.  By the way, I also like coffee and drink more of that than anything else. It’s not always about the booze, you know!

A Different Kind of Sixty Minutes

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Hoda and Kathie Lee screen shot from www.huffingtonpost.com

Hoda and Kathie Lee screen shot from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

The Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic of the day is “Newsflash.” Basically we’re supposed to talk about something happening in the news. I already covered the dramatic #roofbreakup yesterday and the upcoming local Breakfast with Krampus event was covered last week. I don’t feel like writing about the Affordable Care Act or local shootings and robberies because those stories are kind of depressing. Today, I decided to do something I’d never done before. After catching Kelly Ripa sipping on Sauvignon Blanc while making her Brussels sprouts this AM, I determined I would watch that Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford hour of the Today Show in its entirety because I would like my news provided to me in the most inebriated manner possible. And yes, I realize the show, 60 Minutes, is on CBS, not NBC. Just bear with me as I power through this hour.

The show started out with a little chat about Kmart commercials with each hostess having a giant glass of red wine at her fingertips. We covered: Ship My Pants, Big Gas Savings, and the latest one inciting controversy, Show Your Joe, (referencing the Joe Boxer underwear line). Honestly, these ads were the best part of the show. Well played, Kmart!

They then moved on to laughing about Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, and discussed how people probably can relate to his “authenticity.”  In referencing his recent media interviews Hoda commented, “I don’t think he realizes he’s funny.” Have you seen this guy in action? Total loose cannon. I’d hate to be his publicist. Watch this. And this. Yep, I could use a little of Hoda and Kathie Lee’s wine after viewing those hot media messes.

After a couple more guests whose names I can’t recall, Bethenny Frankel was on deck.  Hoda and Kathie Lee kicked the wine and moved on to one of Bethenny’s Skinny Girl cocktails. They started talking about that Omarosa character from The Apprentice and some spat that went down on Bethenny’s talk show. Seriously, I can’t believe that Omarosa broad is still around and that people are wasting air time talking about her.

Admittedly, I tuned out for the rest of the show. I have to say I was little disappointed in Hoda and Kathie Lee’s lack of alcohol consumption. I know I could have plowed through at least 3 glasses of wine covering these wacky stories and frankly, I was hoping for more of a Rob Ford level of disruption, like possibly pummeling a guest. At the very least, a hysterical fit of giggles was in order. Additionally, they get paid to do this job. How does one get in on that arrangement?

Lady Sensory is signing off now. “And that’s the way it is….”

Frankie Goes to Rubino’s

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SoupToday’s Blog Every Day in November topic is about relaxation. This is probably not too different than the post I wrote about National Stress Awareness Day. So we have a choice, dear readers. I’m either going to post the lyrics to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s song, Relax, or I’m going to crack a Southern Tier 2XMAS beer and cook something for you. Cookin’ and sippin’ is how Lady Sensory likes maxin’ and relaxin’.

Well, you’re in luck. I’ve chosen the latter and that’s thanks to today’s little jaunt to a local Italian grocer, Rubino’s. I rolled up to grab some amaretti cookies because Wegmans isn’t stocking them anymore (tsk-tsk, Danny!) and I plan on making this in a few weeks for Friendsgiving. Upon my arrival, I saw a big sign that said, “Fresh Sausage Made Daily.” Being from the Syracuse area, I’m kind of a Gianelli sausage snob but since they make it fresh daily I said to myself, “What the heck? Try something new.” I went with the standard mild fennel (they have a plethora of sausage flavors) and contemplated making sauce. I then decided that I didn’t need to get involved with meatballs, a food processor, and clothing stain nonsense, so I made a sausage soup. I’m happy to report that the sausage is just as tasty as my standard sweet Gianelli. Additionally, I managed to spend only $10 at the store and walked away with a pound of sausage, 2 packages of amaretti and a loaf of bread. It pays to support local small businesses.

I’m not a huge meat-eater, but every now and then I crave some. I could probably use some protein because I’m sure my ‘unenjoyment diet’ of PBJ, coffee, random veggies, and wine is probably not doing me any favors in the nutrition department. With a gentle nod to the beans and greens which incapacitated me this past summer, I came up with this one.

Lady Sensory’s Is That A Sausage In Your Pants Or Are You Just Happy To See Me Hearty Winter Soup:

1 lb of Italian sausage, casing removed and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used mild fennel, also dubbed sweet, but use whatever sausage variety your little heart desires.)

6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (As a side note, check out this tip that helps you peel your garlic super fast. I tried it and it totally worked!)

1 large onion, finely diced

1 cup of celery, finely chopped

1 cup of chopped carrots

2 15.5 oz. cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice (not drained)

1 small bunch (2-3 cups) of Tuscan kale, rinsed well and chopped into bite size pieces (you can also use any variety of kale, spinach, or escarole)

2 tsp. dried basil

3 qts of chicken stock or broth (I did one qt chicken stock and 2 qts chicken broth)

1.5 cup dried pasta (I used ditalini, which are short tubes that are perfect for soup)

2 bay leaves

Salt & pepper, to taste

2 tbsp olive oil (I used a basil-infused version from F.Oliver’s)

Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Brown the sausage in a cast iron skillet on the stove or in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (your choice). Remove sausage and set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.  Conserve the sausage grease if you wish to cook your soup veggies in that, but I opted to cook my soup veggies in olive oil because I’d rather cook some turkey cutlets in the sausage pan for some added flavor. In a large fancy pot, warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, then the garlic, and sauté until golden. Follow with celery, then carrots, and cook for about five more minutes. Add the dried basil, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Then add the beans, sausage, and tomatoes. Simmer for a bit (3-4 minutes) and then add your chicken stock or broth. At this point I’d like to make a comment about the Wegmans brand cannellini beans. I found 3 black-eyed peas in one of my cans. Seriously, Wegmans? That’s like bringing Fergie to a party with the cast of The Godfather. No. Just no. Sort that shit out, dude.

Pic of Fergie Ferg on Wikipedia Commons

Pic of Fergie Ferg on Wikipedia Commons

Bring mixture to a boil and skim the foamy stuff off the top. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil (feel free to add a bit of salt, if you wish) and cook the 1.5 cup of pasta to al dente texture (cooked with a bit of bite to it). Drain pasta and add to the soup and then add the kale and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Kale should wilt and pasta will expand a little.  Serve immediately with some nice bread or a crusty roll and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  This makes about 8 decent sized servings.

Don’t think about the fat content here. Just enjoy. When it comes to sausage, go big or go home. You’ll be so glad you did.

National Stress Awareness Day

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Today’s Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic is National Stress Awareness Day.

I’m very aware of my stress right now and this is how I’m prepared to handle it.

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Healthy?

Nope.

But if anyone tells me to take deep breaths and drink tea I’m probably going to slap them senseless.

Okay – in reality I’m going to bake this pear cake from Joy the Baker today.  Just saying her name brings me joy. That could be attributed to her name actually being Joy. However, she has a truly amazing blog.  I may throw some nuts in the crumble topping to match the current state of my life. When I’m stressed or annoyed, cooking brings me joy.

Side note: does anyone else find it highly amusing that National Stress Awareness Day falls after Election Day?

Very well then. Carry on.

Great Balls of Yarn

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Susan, the yarn pro, and her Knitwits.

Susan, the yarn pro, and her Knitwits.

So I mentioned yesterday that I would be blogging every day in November (tagged #BEDN on Twitter).  Today’s topic is dedicated to “something you made.”  Since I’m regularly posting about things I make in the kitchen I thought I would post something a little bit different today.  Since I was an art major, you can probably gather that I’m an artsy fartsy gal.  A few things I never mastered in school or in my free time are sewing and knitting.

My grandmother on my mother’s side was an amazing knitter – she could do any sort of pattern and made beautiful sweaters, scarves, baby and doll clothes, placemats, and pretty much anything else you could possibly imagine.  Unfortunately, she passed away before she could teach me how to knit. I then had a pathetic crochet attempt in my twenties at the nursing home where I worked.  Fiber arts and I just never made friends.

We decided to have a good old-fashioned slumber party last night complete with nail polish, movies, candy and a few adult beverages…and a couple of well-behaved children who went to bed early.  My fabulous friend, Susan, is a super knitter (and her kids are pretty crafty as well) and made it her goal to teach me how to knit. So while enjoying some Mean Girls, The Princess Bride, champagne, treats, and a tasty Pinot Noir from Thirsty Owl, here’s how I did:

My future handmade scarf...

My future handmade scarf…

“Inconceivable,” right?!?!  I know I still have a bit of work to do since it’s going to be a scarf but I’m pretty proud of myself.   She also picked out just the right shade of green to match my fun new coat from Treasure Trove Vintage. Susan’s adorable kids also taught me how to make one of those trendy new bracelets composed of those brightly colored orthodontist rubber bands a couple of weeks ago.  It’s so “fetch!”

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