Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Filmograph

I've developed quite a passion for a good cocktail these days, thanks largely to our friends Chuck and Wes, who not only are regulars on the LA cocktail scene, but also print their own menus for drinks at their house.

I'm always on the lookout for a new ambrosial nectar to sip, and I've found my favorite of the moment: The Filmograph.

I spied this in Ted Haigh's Vintage Cocktails over Christmastime, when we were back in Memphis with the family. Dad, in particular, was intrigued by the combination of ingredients, and as I'd offered* to play bartender for the duration of our visit, I was obligated** to mix him one.

*(by offered, I mean insisted on...)
** (by obligated, I mean insisted on...)

Here's Haigh's recipe for the Filmograph, a cocktail that as he says, evokes the "silent film stars":

The Filmograph
2oz. Brandy
3/4oz. lemon syrup* (i.e. sirop de citron)
1/2oz. kola tonic

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

*Ted suggests using fresh lemon juice, as the syrup can be cloyingly sweet

There was one small problem. Memphis is a veritable wasteland as far as exotic ingredients go. And Kola Tonic is seemingly as exotic as they get. Rose's is the only outfit left that makes it (as far as I can tell), and pretty much the only people who regularly drink it are the South Africans, apparently. Faced with flavorless mixes and daunting Blue laws, I was nonetheless determined to make that cocktail.

Here's my Christmas recipe for the Filmograph. Since Haigh invoked the silent film era, I think I'll call it:

Burnt Nitrate
2oz. Brandy (preferably a bottle opened 15 years ago)
3/4oz. lemon juice, freshly squeezed with plenty of pulp
1/2oz. reduced cane sugar cola.

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Scoop out floaties. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Wait. Don't put anymore lemon in it. Trust me. Put the lemon down...

Yeah, it was as bad as it sounds. Using pure lemon juice instead of the sirop de citron was a good start, but ultimately an assault on my tonsils (sorry, Ted. Sorry, Dad). The brandy was of questionable lineage and age, and my attempt to reduce the cola and make my own "tonic" just left the drink tasting like a flat co-cola with a whole lemon floating in it. Ugh. A disaster.

Well, on a recent trip to a grocery in "Little India" down in Artesia, I found a whole shelf of international syrups and cordials and much to my joy, they carried Rose's Kola Tonic. Finally!

I was tempted to buy every bottle they had, but that would have been overkill (you know, sometimes it's just the thrill of the hunt). I took two home, one for me, and one to give to my friends, just in case they had not acquired a bottle for themselves.

On its own, Kola Tonic does indeed taste a little like a flat cola, though with a nice herbal depth that the sody-pop giants definitely lack. I could see mixing this with a little soda water, lemon, and ice and having yourself a fine drink. But this is about the Filmograph cocktail, so on with the show.

The Filmograph (House Mix)
2oz. brandy (we used E&J)
1/4oz. lemon juice, fresh
1/2oz. simple syrup
1/2oz. kola tonic

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Somewhere between the gloopy sweetness of sirop de citron and pure lemon juice, Herself found that a little simple syrup added to a small quantity of fresh lemon juice worked perfectly (for our tastes, at least.) The resulting drink is light, crisp, and not too sweet. I've had one every night this last week -- it's a great transition drink from our winter Widow's Kisses to our summer Gin Gimlets. I guess that would make it a great drink for spring -- but we'll likely enjoy them all year long!

Herself served this one up in a short glass since we don't have any coupes and our martini glasses were all dirty. We didn't slosh nearly so much, but we did get a little sloshed after a couple of them...)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A TALE OF TWO SOUPS: Part One (Tortilla Soup)

When I'm feeling puny, soup is one of my go-to comfort foods, and as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get much more comforting than tortilla soup. It is the perfect lip-smacking blend of salt and spice, broth and crunch as you're likely to find this side of consciousness. Okay, maybe I overstate its restorative properties, but this is my blog, so I'm entitled.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling a bit off, with not much of an appetite in the bargain. As soon as the ick started to wear off, my stomach impatiently reminded me it needed filling, and I began to cast about for something to satisfy its reawakened cravings. It just so happened that the commissary at work offered up their version of tortilla soup at lunch that week. It's good stuff, if a little salty, and I immediately decided I needed to try and make some myself.

Fortunately that week, I also discovered the wonderful mattbites, and while trolling his archives, found his recipe for tortilla soup. That sealed the deal. There was going to be tortilla soup in my weekend plans!

(Roasting Veggies is fun!)

I informed Herself that I would be cooking dinner Saturday night, and was going to finally treat her for once! (Okay, in case you're thinking that sounds a little sexist, Herself makes dinner often because she's an accomplished cook and a trained chef. While I've gladly served as her sous-chef on many occasions, I've been, well, a little intimidated to cook for her! I didn't want to let her down. Silly Gorilla.)

(Frying the tortillas. They were the white corn kind.)

Well, I can honestly say it turned out... well, okay. No fault of the recipe, it was all me. I forgot to strain the puree, which gave it the wrong mouth feel, I think. I decided to add chicken breast as well, but I didn't really have enough, so it tasted like eating an afterthought. You know...kind of bland and empty and never as satisfying as the real thing. I think I could have used a little less salt, too. It's so difficult to get a good taste while it's still simmering, and very easy to over-salt.

Now that being said -- I had a blast making it! Herself cleared out and left me to my own devices, and despite a few mishaps, I timed everything right. I juggled all the steps perfectly and plated it all at once. It's just soup. Big whoop, I know.

But a big step for me!

(Soups on! I also made some guacamole & opened a bottle of Pinot Grigio. You can see we'd already started on the guac!)

We ate on it for a few days, and added some more leftovers each day. A little rice, a little more chicken. Some extra cayenne. All that post-cooking alchemy gave me a few ideas, and a week or so later, I decided to try again.

Coming Soon -- Part Two: More Soup! (or: Enter the Mhutney)