Boise Bday Booze Tour

What could be better than spending quality time with my lovely daughter Hannah exploring Boise’s best bars and sipping tasty cocktails?  Maybe adding in some tasty nibbles along the way so that we can sample more spirits?  Having Thom as our designated driver? What a perfect afternoon!

WP_20170901_17_37_18_Pro

Hannah knows her momma well and surprised me with a thoughtful birthday present that we could enjoy together.  After your kids grow up and leave the nest, you quickly find out that any time you are able to be together is precious and to be savored like a fine wine or aged whiskey.  Luckily, she gets me and gave me not only time with her but tasty hooch.  LOVE. THIS. GIRL

Her birthday card made me cry and I am not a crier like Thom-just saying.  “You are the absolute best mom and Nai Nai!”  Nothing beats that.  Ever.  I’m going to laminate this card and pull it out every time I’m having a challenging day.  “Let’s go scout some bars & restaurants so you can have some new fave places when you live here full time.”  She wants to spend time with her momma?  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make that dream of living in Boise full time real but I’m working on it.

So, off we went this past week on the Boise Booze + Bites Happy Hour Tour hosted by Indulge Boise Food Tours.  I like their tag line, “Eat Well.  Indulge Often.”  Okay, I can embrace that wisdom.  Our friendly tour guide, Lauren, told us about their company which started in 2016 when the owner decided to get off the corporate track working for the WNBA and settled back in her hometown of Boise.  Thom and I have taken advantage of walking tours and cooking classes all over the world in our travels.  Not only do you meet cool people but you learn stuff too.  We like them.

On this tour, I learned all about my daughter’s first drinking escapade (at a much younger age than previously disclosed), her favorite booze (beer-New Belgium Rogue) and her favorite food (Thai or sushi).  Lauren prompted discussion at every venue we visited with probing conversation-starting questions.  Even with family members, this can be fun and eye opening.  Hannah’s choice of the one place she would live if she could?  DC.  She spent a summer interning for Congressman Minnick while she was in college and it was political heaven for her even with multiple roommates (including cockroaches).  Me-NYC.  No place like it in the world.  Fav meal and drink for me? I would choose a Caprese Salad  with a nice Cab.

We explored new places like Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza tucked away on the second floor in an office building overlooking the downtown core.  I would probably never have gone to this place but the flatbread, washed down with a tart Raspberry Lemon Drop, was delicious so we’ll be back.  Hannah’s drinks during our tour had a summer garden theme either by accident or design:  Sage Cucumber at Flatbread and Lemongrass Sage with a Lemongrass straw at Press & Pony.

Mai Tai’s house cocktail, Mai Thai Old Way with dark rum, rhum agricole, dry curacao, orgeat, fresh line and mint, was a refreshing way to wash down some veggie spring rolls.  The atmosphere here is beautiful with overhead glass sculptures and water features.  Lauren said their Happy Hour is legendary and embraced by Boise locals.  I’ve had lunch there before but was impressed with their Happy Hour cocktail list, which I hope to sample in the future.

Now, I have started my own “Best of Boise Old Fashioned” contest to justify my tasting of the classic cocktail wherever we go.  So, I sampled The Mode and Press & Pony on this tour.  No contest.   Press & Pony, an intimate speakeasy with serious bartenders, won by a large margin.  The Mode’s Old Fashioned was okay but lacked the nuances of the one at Press & Pony.  There, Eric took my challenge seriously and laid down a cocktail I could enjoy with my Boise Fry Co. veggie burger (black bean and quinoa) and red potato fries.

Indulge Boise offer several types of tours:  Historic Downtown Boise Food & Cultural Tour, Capital City Sunday Brunch and private tours.  Check them out here if you are visiting Boise or are a local who just wants to have fun.  Cheers!

 

Winter Whiskey Tasting

Nothing says “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” like a flight of whiskey to savor and compare.  Forget bargain shopping.  Nobody really needs all that crap anyway.  Belly up to the bar with the family and toast having the good sense to avoid the crazy crowds at the mall.  Cheers!

Just up the road from South Bend, Indiana, you can experience the lovely small town vibe of Three Oaks, Michigan AND visit Journeyman Distillery.  Over 100 years ago, E. K. Warren offered corsets and buggy whips in this factory in lower Michigan.  Journeyman Distillery opened in 2010 in the beautifully renovated factory space as a family-run business that not only turns out craft spirits but tasty food as well. The lunch crowd packed in to eat pizza, burgers and more on the day after Thanksgiving but the star of the show was no doubt the homemade hooch.  A whiskey flight with their five shots was only $4.  That’s right-handcrafted spirits that went down like silk for a couple of bucks.  Got to love the Midwest!

The cocktail ingredients ranged from shrubs to reductions combined with their own small-batch spirits.  No beer, no wine-just a wide variety of homemade gin, vodka, limoncello, and whiskey.  My kind of place!  Cocktails were inventive like the Beetlejuice cocktail with red arrow vodka/simple syrup/house beet-basil reduction or the Fall Classic with whiskey/navy strength road’s end rum/simple syrup/ lime juice/McClary Bros. lemon ginger shrub/house amaretto.  WOW.  I could go there every night for weeks and sip unique drinks.  Probably good for my liver that I go home Monday to Seattle.

After trying all five whiskeys, my tongue and lips were numb but happy.  I loved the W. R. White Whiskey that had notes of banana, mango and ripened fruit as well as white pepper and spices.  The only thing stopping me from buying LOTS of bottles of different spirits was the damn TSA liquid restrictions.  A return trip on our next visit will no doubt be a priority.  Tired from shopping or dealing with crazy relatives?  Try a whiskey flight (or two) and have a happy holiday!wp_20161125_12_46_01_rich

Finding a Real Irish Pub in Dublin

“Where can I find a REAL Irish pub?” I asked the vinyl shopkeeper in Dublin.  “You mean one without tourists who believe in fauking leprechaun and want to see River Dancers?” he replied with disdain for tourists.  I get it and appreciated his predicament.  He probably relied on the stinking tourists to make a living but hated their ignorance of true Irish history and culture.  After some discussion with he and a customer who was trying to be helpful, we had some recommendations and were ready to experience real Irish food and music.

First, we walked to O’Donoghue’s where Glen Hansard, our Irish singer we love, frequents when in town but it was early and not too much was happening so on we walked.  As usual, we then wandered into a beautiful local park, which we wouldn’t have normally sought out.  A big event was going on with entertainment and music but unfortunately it was sold out and we couldn’t talk our way in but we still had a lovely time seeing how the locals used their parks with jugglers juggling and groups of people doing yoga together on this lovely late summer evening.  We had stumbled into Merrion Square, which had been a private park for the rich surrounded by townhomes and is now a public area to be enjoyed by all. 

Needing substance, we sought out a pub that I had researched in advance, The Old Storehouse, which did not disappoint with hearty shepherd’s pie for Thom to pack away.  After asking the waitress for an Old Fashioned, she asked how I wanted it made.  I wanted to give a smart reply like, “If I need to make it or tell you how to make it then why do you have a bartender?” but didn’t want her to spit in my drink so I just replied nicely that whatever way they normally made it would be fine by me.  Ha!  I received a shot of whiskey (and not a generous one) with orange peel.  You would have thought I might learn from that experience but, no, not really.   After Thom astounded me with his knowledge of Irish pub songs (which he learned from hanging out in NYC Irish bars since he was a wee lad), we sang along to Molly Malone and other Irish pub standards as well as American classics.

day-2-21
The Real Deal-The Brazen Head pub

Looking for more real Irish music since the singer at The Old Storehouse ended his set with John Denver, we decided to go with Thom’s brother Pat’s suggestion of the self-proclaimed oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, estd. 1198.  Now, it is WAY off the beaten path and quite the walk from Temple Bar area but off we continued until finally finding it.  Sharing tables with two gals from Germany, the place was packed and authentic.  I felt sorry for the Asian tourists in the corner who were huddled up with strangers and looking very uncomfortable sharing space.  I gave up my seat so an elder couple could sit together and I stood at the bar.  Got to give it to the seventy-something with a cane venturing out to the pub still to enjoy the music.  He deserved a stool.

I sidled up to the busy bar to order a coke for Thom and an Old Fashioned for me to compare with the previous one.  “We don’t do cocktails.” The bartender sneered at me and then ignored me.  Okay.  Should have known better.  My bad.  “Shot of whiskey and side of water” was better and I was rewarded with a tiny amount of whiskey and a water I would share with Thom.  We were there for the Irish music not the spirits, so all good.

Smoking outside the bars and in outside patio areas is common.  One guy lit up a cigar and you could smell it all the way inside.  I sneered at him on the way out.  Didn’t faze him at all and he puffed away, sharing his stench with everyone in and around the pub.  Classy.  Cheers.

Seattle Speakeasies-Cheers!

“Go to the far side of the room.  Pick up the phone and identify yourself.  We will come and get you at the metal door.” Thus, our speakeasy adventure in Seattle began on a hot Friday night.

Interesting that speakeasies are, by nature, supposed to be secret and exclusive but they are trending all over social media these days.  Our first stop, Needle and Thread, was recommended by several people at work, so off we went for a taste test.  Reading up on the speakeasy protocol, I learned that you can call in advance to secure a RSVP in this very small (probably 20 people max) prohibition-style experience.  Just calling to get the RSVP was fun-you leave a message (no more than 7 days in advance) after hearing the strict rules–if you are lucky enough to get a call back, you better actually PICK UP THE CALL to talk to the host or you won’t get in.  Done.

Promptly at 5 p.m. when the parent bar, Tavern Hall, opened, we were at the phone calling upstairs to gain entrance to the speakeasy, Needle and Thread.  Dress code:  “Keep it classy”.  Not sure what their definition of “classy” is but Thom was rocking his porkpie hat and looking very hipster.  When our friends arrived after fighting the horrible Friday Seattle gridlock, our drink master interviewed us on our cocktail/alcohol preferences as there is no menu and they warn you in advance not to expect an appletini to be made in their establishment.  There ARE speakeasy standards after all and only custom cocktails served, thank you very much.  Prepping for our trip to Ireland in the fall, I’m leaning into whiskey to be better equipped to take on the true Irish experience.  Our host got it right, creating for me an iced cocktail created with Irish Bushmills whiskey, orange liqueur, cherry herring and lime juice.  Tart and sweet and very refreshing on a hot day in a bar where ceiling fans provided the only air conditioning.  We drank up, chatted politics and then headed down Pike St. to our next speakeasy experience.

After wandering the block looking for Foreign National, I spied an unique door tucked away between other restaurants-found it!  Through the layers of beads and velvet curtains, we quickly hopped into a communal booth with strangers as the space is limited and in high demand.  While we sat and enjoyed our cocktail creations, other bar patrons streamed in looking in vain for seats in this trendy bar.  I went for the Foreign National house cocktail made up of pisco, Amaro Montenegro, honey, sour orange served with an egg white frost on top.  Petite and delicious.  Our friends had the complex cocktail named Osaka #1 consisting of Suntory Toki whiskey, vermouth blanc, lemon, yuxu, orgeat, ardbert spritz and anise smoke.  WOW-I have not a clue what most of that stuff is but I got a taste of it and it was interesting to say the least.

I loved the speakeasy ambience with the small interesting spaces filled with people who value quality booze concoctions over quantity.  I can’t wait to check out other speakeasies in Seattle (list below) and in NYC when we visit our favorite city in the fall.  Cheers!

Foreign National, 300 E. Pike St., Story in Seattle Times:  http://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/foreign-national-is-this-the-best-new-bar-in-seattle/http://www.foreignnationalbar.com/http://www.yelp.com/biz/foreign-national-seattle-2

 Needle and Thread at Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave., RSVP 206-325-0133, http://www.mccrackentough.com/tavernlaw/http://www.yelp.com/biz/needle-and-thread-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Bath Tub and Gin, 2205 2nd Ave.  http://bathtubginseattle.com/;  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bathtub-gin-and-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Knee High Stocking, 1356 E. Olive Way,  http://www.kneehighstocking.com/;http://www.yelp.com/biz/knee-high-stocking-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

Many thanks to Karmann K. for sharing her photos of the evening’s adventure!

 

 

The wait is over..cherry liqueur is ready!

Was it worth the two week wait?  You betcha!  After the initial pitting of 6 cups of cherries and addition of vodka and brandy, the first week we took turns shaking the homemade hooch every day so the fruit and booze could comingle.  Done.  Next, I added to the concoction a simple syrup I cooked up and it was time to let the liqueur sit and just be for another week.  Done.A__130D (2) (2)

Now, it’s drinking time!  I filtered the whole shebang through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeezing out the booze-infused cherries into a smooth fruity stress-reducing taste of heaven.  Sweet and strong by itself or in the “I’m with Her” cocktail I created to carry me through the election, it is DELICIOUS.  Just shake with ice 1 part cherry liqueur, 1 part vodka and 4 parts OJ.  Top with a cherry and let the sipping begin!  Here’s to summer in Seattle and a Hillary win in the fall.  Cheers!

WP_20160626_17_11_39_Rich

Homemade Hooch. What?

Watch out world, I’m making my own liqueur now! Over the past few months,  I’ve created a cocktail cart, done my due diligence to research key cocktails (hard work but somebody had to do it) and now I’m moving on to creating delicious, nutritious and fruity hooch.  There’s no way for me to avoid my passion for politics in this crazy presidential year, so I’m going to need LOTS of alcohol so, very wisely, I thought why not make it myself?WP_20160612_15_46_26_Rich (2)

With a sale on cherries that are happily now in season and a recipe from my friend Dawn’s blog, I was ready to muddle and mix up some cherry liqueur.  Of course, pitting 6 cups of cherries is no small feat so on went the latex gloves as I ripped apart the gorgeous cherries while enjoying the beautiful Seattle day on our patio overlooking Elliott Bay.  Needing only one cinnamon stick, I choose not to buy the $10 jar of sticks at the grocery because, really, when will I need another?  I am nothing but cheap so we decided to check out Metropolitan Market’s bulk spice section and, sure enough, for only .14 cents, I got the one cinnamon stick I needed.  SCORE!  I already had the brandy and vodka on the cocktail cart, not being used regularly and, quite frankly, covered in dust.  What can I say?  My focus has been on  whiskey and trying to create the perfect Old Fashioned and I’m oh so close, so my other booze has been feeling a little bit left out.  Not any more!

After the pitting session, which my sidekick Thom chose not to participate in and rather just picked out the best cherries to taste, I was off to muddle.  Even after quite the aggressive muddling session, I was only able to produce a tiny amount of juice that went into a separate jar for a week while the smashed cherries got the cheerful duty of absorbing the brandy and vodka.  After storing in a non-sunny place with a shake here and there over the next week, the boozed-up cherry pieces will finally be reunited with the juice that will be boiled with water and sugar to create syrup.  The final leg of the journey requires the mixture to rest for another week before straining out the final product, my very own cherry liqueur.

Then, watch out, it’s drinking time!  Since I’m not much of a “shot” girl, I did a little research in my handy cocktail guide and created the “I’m with Her” cocktail to drink throughout the political season.  I will be saving the straight shots for the debates and take a shot every time Trump says, “Win bigly” or “Big, beautiful wall”.  Trust me, it will help.  Can’t hurt.

So, here’s my proposed “I’m With Her” cocktail to celebrate our first female president-to-be.  It will be a fruit-infused celebration in your mouth with enough kick to get you through the sure-to-be crazy upcoming political season.  Now that I think about it, this cherry liqueur will come in handy to house in a flask (still need to get one of these!) when I stand out in the freezing cold at the inauguration of our first female president.  Can’t wait! No, I’m not taking her victory for granted and I will do everything in my power to support her but I can’t imagine the alternative without going crazy so I’ll just be hopeful.  And drink.  A lot.

I’m With Her Cocktail

1parts homemade Cherry Liqueur

1parts vodka

4 parts orange juice (I would say “fresh squeezed” like the cocktail books like to say but let’s face it, who has that sitting around in their fridge when the need for a cocktail strikes??

Dash of lime juice or bitters-whichever you have just for variety

Prep-chill the glass.  Mix-shake the ingredients with ice vigorously enough to skip the gym.  Strain into a glass, the prettier, the better.  Garnish.  ALOT.  Fresh fruit or maraschino cherries or a sugar rim or umbrella decoration.  Just pick whatever is fun for you.  This is a celebration damn it!   Enjoy.  Cheers!

Many thanks to Dawn who shared this great recipe for cherry liqueur on her blog,  First Look, Then Cook.  Check out her great food recipes too.  She may even inspire me to cook!

Cherry Liqueur

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Bing cherries, pitted
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken

Preparation

Put the pitted cherries at the bottom of a sealable glass jar and muddle them with a wooden spoon or muddler to release some juice. Drain the juice into a separate container and set aside. Then add the brandy, vodka, and cinnamon stick to the muddled cherries. Seal and shake the jar. Let steep for one week at room temperature away from direct sun, shaking every few days.

Combine the reserved cherry juice, sugar, and water in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Once the syrup is cooled, add it to the steeping jar, seal, and shake. Then let it steep for an additional 2 to 5 days. Strain through fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into glass jar or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

 

Booze and smoky butter!

Canon, a self-described whiskey and bitters emporium, is definitely deserving of all the buzz and accolades it has earned, including being named one of the best bars in the world by Drinks International in 2014.   Even at 5 p.m. on a Monday night, within minutes after opening, the intimate charming bar was packed with booze lovers.  Count me in!  Perched at the corner of the bar to closely watch the bartenders in action, they did not disappoint and treated us to a show indeed.  Boasting the largest spirit collection in the western hemisphere at 3,500 labels and counting, I just had to ask Hailey, our bartender, how on earth they kept track of where each bottle went.  Out came the iPad with a library of all their spirits by shelf.  Spirit search time!

Canon's wall of booze
Canon’s wall of booze

I was overwhelmed with the huge “lavish libations” menu and had to take some time to choose what to try.  My friends had been to Canon before so went right after some favorites-the “Campfire in Georgia” and the Truffle Old Fashioned.  After lighting up some cinnamon French oak on the plate with a mini-blow torch, Hailey dropped the glass cover over the drink concoction of mescal, peach-habanero shrub and fresh oj to infuse the cocktail with smokiness galore.  Quite the production:

The smokiness theme continued with the Khaleesi Cocktail that features “dragon’s blood smoke” (not kidding!) which is blown into a glass skull and then transferred into a mix of canon high west rye, bourbon, punt e mes, strawberry, and tonka bean.  WTF!  Exotic ingredients that added up to a tasty cocktail for my friend that I got to taste.  Thanks K!

Me and a bottle of aged booze!
Me and a bottle of aged booze!

Now, for my cocktail selection, I decided on a slut theme, starting first with the aged cocktail list offering of the “Hanky Panky” made up of gin, sweet vermouth, fernet branca, orange zest and aged in the cutest little bottle for three years.  Yes, you swig the Hanky straight from the bottle!  That went down just fine and I followed it with The Tramp consisting of Plymouth sloe gin, giffard apricot, fresh lime juice and dry sparking wine.  Less serious but highly entertaining sipping out of a glass this time.  Classy.

With all that alcohol, either load up on some carbs before you go or, better yet, order a basket of bread with smoked butter.  DAMN.  The booze was awesome but the smoked butter was heaven on a baguette.  They have other nibbles including smoked salmon, squash, beef, etc.  Needing something other than bread, I ordered the bourbon nuts.  With one bite of warm caramel corn/pretzel/bourbon smoky nuts, my taste buds swooned again.   I loved their warning on the food menu:

“Alcohol, eggs, sex, undercooked foods and most enjoyable things in life can and will kill you if you give them enough time.  Live life to the fullest until then.”  Amen, Canon.  I’ll be back.

Open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily, visit Canon, 928 12th Avenue on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  Be prepared to pay $25 in advance to get a reservation.  Don’t worry-it’s pricey so that $25 will go towards the many cocktails and nibbles you will enjoy.  Life is short.  Cheers!

Canon
Hailey mixes up a Khaleesi Cocktail, smoking skull and all!