An expected garnish to the cocktail renaissance is the great number of cocktail recipes being published in print, online, and on coasters! The up side is that more people are making cocktails at home as opposed to a decade ago. With exploration come the inevitable questions. At BevX our Cocktail of the Week feature is one of our top three weekly segments each week without fail. As you can imagine, we get a lot of questions regarding cocktail making. One persistent question — and a good one I might add — concerns the recipe itself. We are hardly the only publication to offer a recipe for a Mai Tai, Margarita, or Negroni. Occasionally a curious reader will ask why our recipe differs from another trusted source. “What is the right recipe for a Mai Tai?” is a common refrain. Unfortunately my answer is so vague, seemingly politic, and irresolute that it makes my teeth hurt. The best way that I can explain it is by making an analogy that many people can relate. “What’s the right recipe for jerk chicken, chili con carne, Bolognese, or coq au vin?” Surely great chefs across the globe don’t use the same exact recipe for these classic dishes. Does just one of thousands of award-winning chefs possess the right recipe? Of course not.
Read more: Cocktails: Getting the recipe right for the perfect drink
Dark meat chicken gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s a tiny bit higher in calories but chicken thighs and drumsticks boast more flavor and juicy, savory goodness. Plus, they’re not going to set me back as many shekels. In this jerk chicken recipe, the Caribbean seasoning rub includes the earthier scents of nutmeg and allspice, which melds well with this fattier meat. This super fast, super flavorful recipe takes about 5 minutes to prep and 1o minutes to cook, so feel free to whip it up for a weeknight meal.
Read more: Recipe: Quick, delicious thighs, Caribbean Jerk Chicken of course
I don’t hear much about Zinfandel these days, except during the annual Zinfandel Festival in nearby San Francisco. Last year, I produced a video which asked winemakers to describe their ideal Zinfandel food and wine pairings. The results were above and beyond the normal BBQ and grilled beef responses… Asian food? Mole? And why not? Low in tannins, high in juicy flavor with some having plenty of acid, Zinfandel can create quite the zesty love affair with food. Seghesio is a classic producer of Zinfandel, hanging their hat on the varietal and other Italian grapes such as Barbera (one of my favorites that they produce). Purchased in 2011 by Crimson Wine Group, I worried their quality would lag behind profit pressures but they seem to have weathered the transition pretty well so far.
Read more: Everyday drinking wine review: Seghesio 2010 Zinfandel Sonoma County
I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t like licorice. Black or Red. Groan. No… it goes beyond that. It makes me nauseous… unhappy and desirous of fleeing. So it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that my love affair with the fennel bulb began. Before I discovered this root vegetable, I assumed fennel arose from the same family as anise, which is the base flavoring of licorice (or, at least, it’s supposed to be but today’s chemical candy is anyone’s guess). It’s certainly related to anise but fennel bulb is the milder-flavored underground portion of an herb, which, coincidentally, is the basis for the controversial grog Absinthe. I’ve already posted a main dish using this root veggie, Spicy Shrimp with Sauteed Fennel, but this super-fast side can give you all the mild, delicious flavor without the hassle of cooking. I re-created this salad recipe after enjoying it at a Tampa restaurant and now it’s a staple in my salad arsenal.
Read more: Healthy side recipe: Fennel salad with mustard dressing
One the juiciest parts of blind-tasting wines is the shock and awe when you uncover a really, really tasty find. It’s like unearthing a lost twenty in your jacket pocket or getting something on sale that you needed anyway. A delicious surprise. I hadn’t tried Pepi wines for many years, finding them rather boring and uninspiring in days past. But this fruity little Chenin-Viognier number caught the eye of every taster at the group tasting table. From the wine pro to the casual consumer, virtually everyone gushed, anxiously awaiting the “reveal” to find out the price. So they could go buy a case. They got their wish… Pepi Chenin Blanc-Viognier is quite affordable at $10. I hadn’t tried Pepi wines for many years, finding them rather boring and uninspiring in days past. But this fruity little Chenin-Viognier number caught the eye of every taster at the group tasting table. From wine professionals to casual consumers, virtually everyone gushed, anxiously awaiting the “reveal” to find out the price. So they could go buy a case. They got their wish… Pepi Chenin Blanc-Viognier is quite affordable.
Read more: Wine review: Pepi 2011 Chenin Blanc Viognier California
This recipe can be thrown together as soon as your feet hit the welcome home mat. Takes about 10 minutes to make and 30 minutes to cook. Earthy, savory and filling, this stew cures what ails you, warms the cockles (whatever those are) and leftovers freeze well for the next rainy or cold day.
Read more: Simple weeknight recipe: Smoky garbanzo and spinach stew
Beer maestros brew for the seasons: Light and thirst-quenching suds for summer, malt forward amber brews for autumn, and for spring-refreshing beers with some hop presence and a decent malt backbone. Winter — with the cold, snow and lack of daylight — requires a whole different kind of beverage.In winter, beer drinkers across the land reach for rich and robust brews to warm the soul. Brew masters and breweries everywhere, of course, realize this and release their cold-weather winter offerings, usually called Winter Warmers, Christmas Ales, Holiday Ales, or Winter Ales/Lagers.These solstice-celebrating suds can be of any style but are usually of the heartier variety — Old Ales, Scotch Ales, Brown Ales, Porters, Stouts. The vast majority utilize roasted and crystal malts to achieve a darker, richer flavor profile. Some of these malt-forward, substantial beers are spiced and most are well above 6% ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Speaking from years of experience, many do indeed elicit a warming feeling.
Read more: The 3rd annual cold weather seasonal brew challenge: Eight winter ales reviewed
Since moving to California almost two years ago, I’ve craved quite a few tasty morsels hidden in the folds of Tampa’s food underbelly. On a recent trip back east, I undertook the momentous effort of packing all these culinary cravings into one very short gorg-cation. The result was not only weight gain and stomach bloating but often reminiscent bliss beyond compare. The details are too delicious and would be mean to share completely, but the highlights are the best restaurant meal destinations a person can have in Tampa in four days.
Read more: What I did on my Christmas vacation: The Tampa best food and wine edition
For many sparkling wine houses, this time of year produces 50% of their sales. Tis a shame that wine drinkers save up their bubbles and celebrate fizz strictly in December — a bottle of bubbly could be a celebration unto itself. But perhaps our American puritanical roots prevent us from indulging too often? Ever the eschewer, that doesn’t stop me. Come join me in my every day gustatory party with this list of consistently well-made, delicious bottles of sparkling bubbly and Champagne
Read more: Bubbles for all occasions: Great sparkling wine and Champagne for the fizzy holiday