It’s been quite a week! I need a stiff drink.
Sunday, I threw a birthday party for my blog, which is turning four this week. The party was such fun, but it was was a lot of work. I made a ton of Creamy Sesame Noodles, six batches of Berry, Plum and Rose Sangria, and several dozen Mint Chip ice cream sandwiches. My friend Amelia made Pasta Alla Carbonara and this Almond Plum Tart, and another friend, Kelly, brought Melon with Lime, Feta and Mint. There were also vegan chocolate chip cookies, fried yuba (tofu skin) with scallions, sticky rice with shrimp and mushrooms, and a formidable cheese plate.
On Monday, I went to a dinner hosted by Feastly and my friend Lauren and took pictures for them to (hopefully) use on their site. The event was at night, and since I don’t own any lighting equipment, the experience was somewhat nerve-wracking, made more so by the presence of professional food photographer Nikki Rosario (who actually turned out to be extremely sweet and willing to answer my one hundred questions). The food was delicious, though; fried baby artichokes with lemon aïoli, grilled lamb with butternut squash white beans, sweet corn rice, and salsa verde, and a polenta olive oil cake with rum-grilled peaches. And I managed to get some decent shots, thanks to my amazing new 50mm f/1.4 lens which opens wide enough to get sharp shots even in near darkness.
On Tuesday, San Francisco Chronicle’s food photographer Craig Lee wanted to come watch me do a photo shoot. Me! Trying to photograph Balsamic Blackberry Crisps with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream while a professional photographer of 30 years looks on – talk about intimidating! Luckily, Craig is the kindest person in the whole world and was even willing to man the camera a few times. (Crisp post coming up next.)
Now I’m in the process of preparing to give my first ever cooking demonstration next Saturday. I’ll be making a few favorite vegan and gluten-free recipes from this site after a yoga class taught by Kimberly Hu here in San Francisco. We’re calling it Yoga+Yum. (We still have spots available; you can sign up here. More info at the bottom of this post.) Hopefully I’ll be able to talk and cook at the same time. I wish I were making these cocktails for that event – I’m certainly going to want one…
This is the drink that I mixed up while Molly and I played with Rosemary Nectarine Upside-Down Cakes last week. I’d been wanting to try a maple leaf cocktail ever since ogling Heidi’s yuzu-based version a while back. For this version, I muddled rosemary and peach, then added whiskey, lemon juice and ice. I couldn’t get enough rosemary flavor this way, so I eventually broke down and made an infused simple syrup with rosemary and some super-dark, bottom of the barrel grade B maple from our co-op, which sells maple syrup in bulk, out of a huge, steel barrel.
Heidi adds a pinch of salt to her maple leaf to sharpen the flavors, so I use the smoked sea salt that I’ve been obsessed with, figuring that a little smokiness would be nice with the earthy maple.
Since I was running low on whiskey, I decided to procure a few different kinds in order to find the one most compatible for this drink. I headed to K&L, an amazing wine and liquor store in the SOMA area of San Francisco, and asked a man there if he could recommend a good whiskey for cocktails. He said, “I think the better the liquor, the better the cocktail. Especially when it comes to whiskey, since the cocktails are usually just whiskey and a little vermouth or something. What are you making?”
I described the rosemary maple simple syrup and peaches. I expected him to expound on the maple notes of one whiskey, or the rosemary undertones of another. Instead he said, “Well, with the maple syrup, you won’t be able to taste the whiskey anyway,” and recommended one of the cheapest bottles.
“Do you like that one?” I asked.
“No! I don’t like it at all. That’s why you should use it in your drink.” And away he went.
Left to my own indecision, I chose Redemption Rye, which is aged in charred oak barrels and has a mellow, smoky flavor. For the record, bourbon and rye are both types of whiskey, though bourbon is made from corn, and rye from (obviously) rye. (More technical explanations on Chowhound.) I’m no expert, but I find rye to be drier, with a clean, mellow flavor, whereas bourbon is more tart, spicy and bright. If bourbon is the life of the party, rye is its more refined cousin who stands in the corner sipping wine and discussing world politics.
I mixed up one cocktail with Woodford Reserve bourbon (which I like very much on its own) and one with the Redemption Rye. I found the two to be as different as taking pictures during night and day. The one made with bourbon was light and sweet. It lacked complexity and felt like it needed another grounding component. The cocktail made with Redemption Rye tasted complete.
The smoky flavor of the rye comes through, playing against a backdrop of maple and peach, with a savory finish from the rosemary. In spite of the maple syrup, the drink is just sweet enough. It does what a good cocktail ought and piques your appetite for a salty snack – olives, or cheese and crackers, or the maple bourbon pistachios I just enjoyed at Marlowe with my friend Melissa.
In fact, I even think the guy from K&L would like it. Not that I’m gonna make him one.
Made with Redemption Rye, this drink is fruity enough to be unintimidating, but with a smoky dryness and a boozy kick that even those who take their whiskey seriously will enjoy.
After a 75 minute yoga class taught by Kim, I’ll demonstrate how to
make a few of my favorite vegan and gluten-free recipes: Mint and Celery Sodas, a variation of these Creamy Sesame Noodles with Crispy Tofu, and Chocolate Chile Coconut Milk Truffles,
all of which we get to eat and drink, of course! The event will be held at Kim’s studio
in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco from 10:30-1:30pm. Space is
limited, and advanced booking (here) is required. $40 for the whole shebang.}
Maple Bourbon Brown-Butter Peach Crisp
Maple Bourbon Brown-Butter Granola
Maple Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream
Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie