Dec 212009

Many friends have expressed concern that my homemade aged eggnog may not be the safest brew. Yet my feeling has always been at approximately 60 proof, there is no way that it would prove a hospitable environment for bacteria.

And now there is some backing from science! The good folks at Science Friday spoke with some microbiologists.

 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Sep 282008

I had a fantastic weekend and took advantage of quite a bit of what the city had to offer.

The weekend started out with Dance. Friday evening, I met my friend Mary and her father and we went to see my friend Kristen perform in Sawdust Palace at Dance Theater Workshop. The piece, by Susan Marshall & Company, was a fun and entertaining 80-minute set of 20 dances. Kristen and her fellow dancers are extremely talented. The pieces were sensual and athletic. Some pieces were whimsical, while others were heart-rending. It was a great set of shows, and I wish they had more performances. That being said, they had a grueling schedule of six shows in four days; Friday and Saturday had back-to-back shows at 7:30 and 10.

After the dance, Mary, her father, and I went to Brooklyn and had some light dinner and drinks at Clover Club on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens. I had a “Gin-Gin Mule,” a tall gin drink with ginger, and an Anejo Mole Old-Fashioned. The Old Fashioned was made with tequila and flavored with mole seasonings; even though it sounds nothing like a traditional Old Fashioned, it managed to incorporate non-traditional ingredients while still remaining true to the spirit of the original drink. (I apologize in advance if I mangled the names of the drinks.)

Mary headed home, and I wandered towards my house down Smith Street. A few doors down from Clover Club is Char No. 4. I decided to stop in for a quick nightcap. Char No. 4 features over 150 whiskeys, including scotches, bourbons, and ryes. I decided to have a 2-ounce pour of Wild Turkey Single Barrel. It’s a very strong bourbon at approximately 100 proof, so I had it with a bit of water and a couple of cubes of ice. To further cut the heat of the alcohol, I ate a small order of deep-fried cheese curds with pimento sauce. Deep fried cheese and hard liquor? Not the worst end to a fun evening. I have two suggestion for Char No. 4, one silly and one serious. It would be nice if the strength of the alcohols were listed on the menu. And it would be nice if they had poutine. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which idea is serious and which idea is silly.

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early to prepare brunch with my friends Harri and Kristiina. I always have fun making brunch, and this was no exception. In addition to fresh pastries from Almondine and berries from the farmer’s market, I also prepared Eggs Florentine and fresh homemade biscuits. It’s gotten easier to prepare brunch the more times that I do it. I’ve realized that the key to poached eggs is that they can be prepared ahead of time and kept in water before serving. (Thanks Mastering the Art of French Cooking!) This allows everything to come together very quickly. Also, fresh spinach, while a pain to clean thoroughly, is easy to prepare and tasty. This was my first time making biscuits for guests. I used cake flour. While it made for a very nice tender crumb, the biscuits did not rise as much as I would have liked. I think I will try all-purpose flour next.

Saturday evening, I met up with Betsy. We started the evening by going to Los Dos Molinos for dinner. They are a good New Mexican restaurant. It’s a bit pricey, but the food is very good with a fair amount of heat. It was also the perfect location for the next stop on our itinerary….

After dinner, we headed down Irving Place to the clumsily named The Fillmore at Irving Plaza. After waiting around for thirty minutes or so, we saw an opening act by Shawn Mullins. If you don’t recognize the name, you would certainly recognize his music; for example, check out this video of Lullaby.

The main event of the evening was a performance by Dar Williams. Dar is on tour in conjunction with her latest album release, Promised Land. She performed at one of the first concerts I attended when I first moved to New York City. I remember going to shows of hers at the Bottom Line and Town Hall. I really admire her, and once stood in line after a show to get her autograph on an album. She now lives in New York State very close to my friends Phil and Karen. Below are two shaky, poorly recorded clips from the show; in one she is performing Spring Street and in the other she other she is performing As Cool As I Am. You can really hear the crowd singing along during As Cool As I Am.

Dar has such a great energy, and it was clear that she loved performing in New York City. I’m really happy that I was able to catch her performing again.

Betsy and I stopped by The House for a quick drink after the show. In the future, I would not order a cocktail here; I ordered an Old Fashioned and received a very odd watered-down drink that tasted like it was made with muddled lemons and cherries and no added sugar. Betsy had a perfectly decent glass of Moscato D’asti. We were both going to switch drinks, but our waiter misunderstood us and brought another round. The twist on the evening was that I was charged extra for Maker’s Mark without requesting a premium liquor. Despite the odd drinking experience, the wine list and menu look very nice. It’s also a very elegant space, and I would love to check it out on another occasion.

I was looking for a fairly calm day on Sunday. I spent most of the day poking around on the computer and reading Elements of ML Programming, and then I met up with my friend Anne for Chinese food and soup dumplings. The default, and arguably best, choice for soup dumplings in New York City is Joe’s Shanghai. We enjoyed a terrific meal of soup dumplings, shrimp, and eggplant. Joe’s always has speedy and attentive service, and the food is terrific. (When my friend Andrew was visiting town, it was one of only three restaurants we went to in a city full of excellent restaurants.) After a nice late lunch, we walked through Chinatown and picked up some ice cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had lemon sorbet.

We walked around a bit; the day was surprisingly hot and muggy. (I wish I had worn shorts.) At the South Street Seaport, I was able to scope out my apartment from the Manhattan side of the East River before taking the subway back to Brooklyn Heights.

Overall, I had an amazing weekend. It was the kind of weekend that reminds me why I love New York City.

 Posted by at 10:02 pm
Aug 152008

It’s been a while since there have been photos posted on the blog. I’m still taking photos, but unfortunately I haven’t had the time to edit, crop, and post the photos. Until now!

Before I left for New Orleans, I decided to make aged eggnog. I used the recipe for Best Eggnog from What’s the difference between aged eggnog and regular eggnog? Like a traditional eggnog recipe, it’s made with fresh eggs. Unlike a traditional recipe, aged eggnog is aged for at least three weeks and up to a year.

Intuitively, we may think that uncooked eggs, cream, and milk will go bad after a significant amount of time even if refrigerated. In eggnog, the eggs, cream, and milk are mixed with quite a large amount of alcohol–the final alcohol content is well over 20%. This prevents the eggs, cream, and milk from going bad. The liquids continue to blend as they age, and the alcohol denatures the other elements. However, the exact chemical reactions are unclear to me.

(As an extra safety element, I took the precaution of thoroughly sanitizing the storage jar I used to store the eggnog. Given that the final mixture is highly alcoholic, I think this was probably an unnecessary caution. But it couldn’t hurt.)

I decided to start with some of the best possible ingredients available.
eggnog ingredients
I wasn’t sure exactly what liquors to use, so I reached out the Lenell Smothers of Lenell’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Lenell is an expert when it comes to all things alcohol. Her store is famous for its enormous selection of American Whiskey (especially Bourbon) and exotic liquors. It’s worth a trip to Red Hook; in fact, it’s worth a trip to New York City if you don’t live here.

Lenell and I discussed the eggnog before making selections. I didn’t want to go with any liquors that were extremely expensive or with an overly strong flavor that would overwhelm the eggnog. We decided on Wild Turkey Bourbon, Old New Orleans Rum, and Prunier VS Cognac. All three have rich, complementary flavors. In the photo, you’ll also notice a photo of Jack Daniels. The eggnog requires a bit more whiskey than a single bottle of Wild Turkey, so I added a bit of Jack Daniels to complete the liter. I don’t think it will be a problem.

I picked up milk and cream from Ronnybrook at the farmers market in Union Square. Ronnybrook is a farm in Hudson Valley; they produce some of the best milk, cream, and butter I have ever tasted or used. One of the reasons why their products taste so good is that they do not use ultra-high pasteurization. Their milk is still pasteurized, but their pasteurization takes longer to process and bottle and does not have as long as a shelf life. The eggnog was made the same day I purchased the cream and milk.

The eggs are from Knoll Krest Farms in Clinton Corners, NY. Like Ronnybrook, they also set up a stand in Union Square Farmers Market. I picked up a dozen eggs from them the same day I made the eggnog.
A dozen egg yolks
The eggs from Knoll Krest Farms were fresh. Really fresh. Separating eggs when they are fresh is a breeze, and I went through a dozen eggs in no time. (I ended up breaking one egg yolk, which is why there are only 11 yolks in the photo.)
A dozen eggs separated
I had a bunch of egg whites left over, so I had a couple of egg white sandwiches for breakfast in the next few mornings.

Egg yolks and sugar
The first step of the eggnog after separating the eggs was blending it with two cups of Domino’s granulated sugar. As you can see from the photo, the sugar significantly lightens the color of the egg yolks.

Egg yolks, milk, and cream
Then I added the milk, cream, and a pinch of salt to the eggnog. I had to switch to a larger bowl. You can also see the setup for what came next: the bottling funnel helped me get the eggnog mixture into the jar.

The finished eggnog perfectly filled my jar. A bunch of liquor was left over; it won’t go to waste. I wrapped the jar in foil and put it in the back of the refrigerator. (I’m not sure the foil is necessary, but again, I’m trying to follow the recipe.)

I’m keeping the eggnog in the back of my refrigerator; I check it every week or so. I’m not sure if the eggnog needs to be refrigerated at all due to the high alcohol content, but I want to stick to the recipe at least once before playing around with it.

One week after preparation there’s nothing strange growing in the eggnog and it looks pretty darn good. The mixture smells wonderful and it is staying homogenized.

I plan on serving the eggnog near the end of the year. I’m not sure if I will serve it over ice or straight up, but on request I will top it with whipped egg whites and nutmeg. Only four months to go!

 Posted by at 12:06 am
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