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American Falernum and the continuing rise of artisanal spirits · 29 May 2020 by colin newell

California Falernum

A long, long time ago (before COVID19) Andrea and I sat at Don the Beachcomber, the legendary Kona, Hawaii bar at The Royal Kona Resort off of Alii Drive.

Between sips of Mai Tai and savoury nibbles out of a bucket of shrimp, we were regaled by a passionate and knowledgeable bartender on the subject of Tiki drinks.

I quickly learned about the finer points of what makes a great Orgeat syrup (the simple roasted almond syrup that gives the Mai Tai its nutty and warming bite) and a Falernum – the sweet, spicy and mysterious building block for the classic cocktail called the “Corn n’ Oil.”

This discovery of warming spice, citrus and roast nut infusions of simple syrups started me on a journey that has led me to a home bar that has dozens of bottles of aromatic bitters and exotic syrups.

Martin Geijer (pronounced “yay-er”) of San Francisco, California’s Geijer Spirits, walked me through a master-class of 21st Century artisanal spirits. “I have a family history of Swedish spirit making that goes back four generations,” and continues, “My grandmother had a still in her backyard for making moonshine!”

Martin’s Swedish Gran also created a beloved seasonal liqueur known as Glögg that was popular around Christmas for its “warming properties.” Glögg has found its way into numerous cocktails in the west. But first, some backstory!

​Glögg liqueur is based on a 19th Century Swedish family recipe. Spice notes include cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, while hints of almond and bitter orange harmonize to create a flavour profile recognizable from the beach bars of Trinidad, Tobago and Jamaica. These profiles form the foundation of many “Tiki” drinks.
Martin Geijer reminds us of the importance of family history, the integrity and purity of recipes handed lovingly through time and the importance of being mindful of their origins while being playful or, dare I say, whimsical about re-interpretation.

Martin could have rested on the initial success of his Glögg, but he listened to his friends and industry insiders and challenged the boundaries that exist between simple bar syrups and classic aperitif and digestif liqueurs.

California Falernum is a superb example of this re-thinking process. Take a classic warm-spice infused syrup and supercharge it with a finely crafted California-interpretation of a proprietary Jamaican rum. So finessed are the warming notes of allspice with hints of lime, so delicate a bouquet, that the California Falernum stands alone and proudly in a brandy glass or snifter. Don’t be afraid to mix it into your favorite Tiki recipes or cook up your own signature drinks.

Lesson learned: Liqueur, aromatic bitters and syrup selections have a long and colourful history that warrant study.

Our recipe: The classic Southern cocktail, the “Corn n’ oil”.

2 ounces Blackstrap rum (preferably Cruzan)
1/2 ounce California Falernum
1/2 ounce lime juice
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Shaken or stirred, it’s best served in your best vintage rocks glass on a single large ice cube.

Garnish with a lime wedge.

We declared after the first sip: “Well hello Stranger!”

Don’t take my word for it – you can track down some of this good stuff at Vision Wine and Spirits

Have a listen to our interview –

Download – California-FALERNUM-final-cut-2020.mp3


Colin Newell is a resident of Victoria B.C. Canada and has been writing about food, coffee and cocktail culture for over 25 years.

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Fresh Fig and Blueberry Bars in the Springtime · 18 April 2020 by colin newell

Fresh Fig Dessert Squares - with Blueberries!

We had some fresh figs gifted to us a Christmas time – they were fresh frozen and in the freezer. It was time.
These are, arguably, amongst the tastiest fruit squares that we have ever made. By themselves, with just the fresh figs, they are mighty tasty – by adding the antioxidant rich blueberries, they get a bit of balance and unlike date squares, they are less “instantly filling…” and you can eat more than one at a time!

Ingredients

For the crust
1/2 cup butter softened
1/4 sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cup fresh figs chopped
1 cup dried blueberries

For the topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer until well blended.
On low speed, beat in 1 cup flour until soft dough forms.
Press dough in bottom of pan and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until center is set.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, cook filling ingredients over medium-high heat 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until figs are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Blueberries will get rehydrated.

Spread over crust.

In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour, the brown sugar and 3 tablespoons butter, using pastry blender or fork, until crumbly.
Stir in oats and pecans.

Sprinkle over filling.

Bake 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and topping is light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and talker on the subject of coffee, cocktail and food culture. He created the CoffeeCrew.com website some 25 years ago and still loves that hot frisky beverage.

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Sourdough Focaccia bread - anytime is a good time · 29 February 2020 by colin newell

Bread making – I grew up with it and it is an activity that has been in my DNA forever. Not only that, bread was something that sustained me through some lean times. My mom made 4 to 6 loaves a week of yeast based breads — and very little natural yeast (sourdough) to the best of my knowledge.

I like introducing people to bread making for a variety of reasons. One of which, it is not rocket science. With a natural yeast starter, bread is little to no more than flour, water and salt. That’s it. It has been done this way for thousands of years. Beer, in fact, is an off shoot of bread making. But let’s keep it simple for a bit.

As noted above, I think focaccia is a perfect sourdough-bread-baking starting point. It will teach you the fundamentals of working with sourdough without the potentially troublesome steps of shaping, scoring, and baking with Dutch ovens, bread pans and other vessels. The recipe below also can be baked in a loaf pan or a cookie sheet, another great option if you do not want to deal with the skillset and artistry that you will, no doubt, acquire over time.

Picture below – what your dough looks like after proofing overnight!

Let’s go! We assume from this point that you have an activated, fed and feisty sourdough starter. I know I should cover off this, most important, factor — but for now, let’s just go with the theory that you have a starter – and we are good to go.

Here is a tip – Your sourdough starter is good to go if you take a tablespoon of it and drop it in water and it floats!

1.) Grab a bowl that will holder at least 1/2 kg of dough – that is 500G – so something medium sized.

2.) Add 100g of your starter to the bowl.

3.) Add 10g of kosher salt – great salt can effect the flavour so don’t cheap out on this critical ingredient.
  • tech note * – Salt is a fermentation inhibitor – it slows the process down — and that is a good thing.

4.) Add 360g of warm water (not hot water!) 35 to 45 degrees © or 110 degrees (F) is probably OK but not more than that.

5.) Mix the water, salt and starter well.

6.) Add 512g of bread flour. Mix to form a sticky ball.

7.) You can let this all rise overnight (6 to 12 hours) or slow it down by putting it in the fridge. Fermentation keeps moving along even when your dough is tucked away in a cool area – it changes the flavour some but does not harm. For keeping the focaccia “feisty” I tend to keep it out in the kitchen and work around its schedule.

8.) Assuming you are doing this overnight, in the morning pull out the dough and give it a few pulls and folds – consult the YouTube video below for some technique-tips (way easier than me trying to explain it!)

Picture above After raising overnight – should look like the above picture.

9.) Get the slightly deflated dough into a bowl with some olive oil (on top and on the bottom…) – it inhibits sticking.

10.) Let rise for 4 – 6 hours. Get out a cookie sheet or deep dish pizza pan (the square of rectangular type…)
11.) Oil the pan “generously” – you need a good continuous coating on the bottom of the pan.
12. ) Transfer the dough into the pan. Cover and “2nd rise” for 4 to 6 hours.

Picture Below – What your 2nd-Raised dough should like before tossing into the oven.

Tip You know the dough has been proofed enough when you press it with your finger and it kind of bounces back by about 75%.

13.) Prior to putting the proofed bread into the oven, garnish with fresh rosemary and a good drizzle of olive oil and artisanal salt – even coarse kosher salt is fine.

14.) Bake for 24 minutes at 450 degrees (F) or until delightfully brown on top. Turn onto drying rack for, at least, 30 minutes or more before cutting — I know, it is tempting to try cutting it when it is right out of the oven. Don’t!

*Reveal! – This bread is perfect with any meal – it does not need butter as it is infused with olive oil.

It is crunchy, chewy, nutritious and tasty.

Let it cool before cutting!*

SourDoughBreadmaking-Audio-MP3.mp3


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and long time coffee expert – writing on the subject of coffee for over 20 years! His dissertation on this subject can be found over on www.coffeecrew.com

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Garden end-of-summer Pasta with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes · 19 October 2019 by colin newell

Summer's End Pasta

This time of the year, as Summer fades to Fall and Fall to Winter, a whole window of seasonal cuisine opens up – It’s time to get out to the garden and see what is fresh. And what’s fresh in our garden in October are the last of the tomatoes and lots of basil!

Grab some fresh pasta, broth, white wine, mushrooms and some amazing Parmagiano Reggiano cheese and get ready for great tastes!

Ingredients:

12 medium sized cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup fresh Basil chopped
6 large mushrooms sliced thinly
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 servings Penne pasta
1/2 cup Parmagiano reggiano cheese
Salt, Pepper and Italian seasoning to taste

Directions -

Put pasta on to boil

Saute pan on to heat with a splash of olive oil and butter.
Saute mushrooms – season with salt and pepper
5 minutes before pasta is finished cooking, pop the halved tomatoes into the pan.
Add Italian seasoning – and extra pepper if necessary
Added 1/4 cup of white wine to steam tomatoes – add 3/4 of the Basil
Let cook down for 1 – 2 minutes and add the chicken broth.

When the pasta in finished, drain and place immediately into saute pan.
Add 3/4 of the P.R. cheese and stirred to combine over low heat.
Add rest of basil to garnish.
Plate and sprinkle larger slices of P.R. cheese on top.

Summer-Pasta-2020.mp3

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Instant Pot Living - Delicious Lasagna in 45 minutes · 22 April 2019 by colin newell

Instant Pot Lasagna 2019

I have been a fan of good pasta since I was eating solid food. My mom made me spaghetti and meat balls when I was still in the high chair and I have photos of yours truly eating this dish with my bare hands!

I have evolved a bit in the intervening years and, for me, the delight in eating tomato based pasta dishes has never waned.

We have been using the wonderful Instant Pot for almost a year now and finally got around to attempting a lasagna.
This recipe did not disappoint – and my thinking now is: Why make a huge batch that you invariably need to freeze when you can cook one up that is good for one big family meal or (in our case) enough for 2 with several servings left over.

Let’s dig in!

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
8 oz ricotta cheese
1.5 cup mozzarella cheese – divided in half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese – divided in half –
1 egg
Italian spices – Oregano and Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
No-boil lasagna noodles
1 jar pasta sauce
1/2 box thawed spinach

Prepare spring-form pan with tin wrapped around the outside and oil spray the inside.

Brown the ground beef (salt and pepper to taste)
Combine all of the ricotta, half of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese, egg, and the spinach. Mix it together.
Take dried lasagne noodles, breaking into suitable shapes to fit bottom of spring-form — this your first layer.
Open jar of pasta sauce.
Put enough sauce to cover first layer of noodles (1/3 of jar)
Take two ladle fulls of ground beef to spread over your layer of pasta sauce.
Take 1/2 of the egg cheese mixture and place on top of the meat layer.
Repeat sequence again: Noodles, sauce, ground beef, cheese mixture.
Add last layer of noodles and pasta sauce.

Take the rest of the cheese mix left over and place on top.
Create a “hood” of aluminum foil (oil sprayed on the inside – so cheese doesn’t stick…)
Add 1 cup of water to bottom of instant pot.
Place springform pan in silicone sling.
Lower sling onto Instant Pot trivet.

Set to high pressure for 20 minutes. Natural release for 11 minutes.
Remove from instant pot – put on baking sheet – remove tin foil hat – broil for 5 minutes to brown cheese.

Serve with garlic bread and/or Caesar salad. Serves 6.

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Culinary designs for living - Making caramel sauce - warning, it's dangerous! · 17 March 2019 by colin newell

Caramel Sauce - there are hazards

Caramel sauce is awesome on cheesecake. This entry is specifically written for the previous blog entry.

Note: Making caramel sauce at home uses few ingredients but you are in immediate danger of serious or life threatening injuries if you do not exercise caution when making this recipe. Pay attention!

Some warnings and best practices: Do not use a heavy iron pot for this task. You want a pot that absorbs and dissipates heat fast. Do not use an iron or heavy enamel or ceramic pot that holds onto energy and releases it slowly. The process of making caramel can get out of control really fast. You want a cooking pot or saucepan that releases its heat quickly.

Wear safety glasses and if you are using a candy thermometer, wear heat proof gloves or mitts. Candy burns are extremely dangerous and can result in permanent scarring.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cubed

In a small, thin, conductive saucepan over medium heat, add sugar and salt and cover with water.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring every so often until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and cook until you achieve a deeply buterscotch-copper colour in the mix, without stirring, 4 to 5 minutes more.

Using a candy thermometer (and I hope you do) you want it to reach 350° F.

Once caramel is a deep copper color, turn off heat, remove from heat source (Oven mitts on!) and immediately stir in cream and butter. Mixture will bubble up so be very, VERY, careful!

Let cool slightly in pan, then transfer to a container to cool completely. You can keep the caramel sauce in the fridge for around one week – as if it won’t be used up within a day!

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