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Columbus Alive: Cocktail Contest

22 Oct

I am a terrible blogger. I’ve had this draft in its own web browser tab for weeks now. There’s nothing like a direct link from the Columbus Alive to motivate me. HA.

When Shelley Mann (EOC of the Alive) first asked me to do a signature cocktail for the Alive, I was literally panic stricken. Thoughts like “But I make vaguely Southeast Asian themed adult beverages!” and “But I just moved to Ohio a whole thirty six months ago so I’m totally not qualified to make an Ohio themed cocktail!” flew through my head. After some thought (and a little encouragement from the peanut gallery), this was a challenge I couldn’t wait to take on.

First, I brainstormed some classically Ohio and seasonal ingredients: pawpaws, nah, too hard to find; apples, nah, didn’t want to bring out my crutch, the juicer; OYO vodka, nah, too obvious choice. I wanted something that would give taste buds a spin and I knew I wasn’t going to use vodka. Since I have been really loving light and dark rums, and brandy recently, I was halfway there by narrowing down my choice of spirits.

Jim Ellison over at CMH Gourmand has long maintained that Columbus is the “Ice Cream Capital of the World” and that title has always stuck with me. We have a fine selection of local ice creams between Graeter’s, Denise’s, Mardi Gras, and of course, Jeni’s. I ruled out Graeter’s and Denise’s because I knew their ice creams would be too rich (too much milk fat) and none of their sorbets or yogurts appealed to me for this project. My brother and I used this project as an excuse to take a trip to Mardi Gras to sample some of their more unusual offerings. Unfortunately, the flavors at Mardi Gras were a little too delicate and were completely overwhelmed by the alcohol (although, their fig ice cream is PHENOMENAL).

I had heard about a collection of syrups from Bear over at Slow Food Columbus and tracked down this Cleveland company, The Lounging Gourmet, for some samples. I haven’t tried the Lavender or Rose Elixirs just yet, but I knew the Fire Orchid and the Hibiscus was the direction I was heading for this cocktail.

Finally, I stopped by Jeni’s on the way home to peruse their seasonal selections. I’ve always loved the Mango Lassi (and thought it would pair well with the Fire Orchid) and was awe-struck by the floral and tart flavors of the Plum Cassis Lambis Sorbet. Both of those flavors came home with me.

Now, play time! Let me tell you, this experiment was not without fallen soldiers. I learned the hard way: mango yogurt and dark rum are not good friends; you try to get them to play nice but they just make a pukey looking mess and it’s best to enjoy each one separately. I’ll refrain from posting pics of the finished product because Jodi’s pic, hotlinked above (my apologies!!) are FAR better than mine. If you click on the picture, it will link to the Alive article and recipe.

A final note: photoshoot glass was purchased at thrift store on Cleveland Ave., ribbon was purchased from On Paper at High & Buttles, John Glenn button was purchased at Eclectiques Antique Mall in Clintonville on High St.

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Shanghai 2010: New Obsession, Crispy Pan Fried Buns (生煎饱)

14 Oct

 

Ceramic Wall Decoration in the Forbidden City

 

A couple days ago, while strolling through Hocking Hills, Kyle asked me what my favorite meal was in China. It’s hard to say… there are so many styles and so many types of food to eat. Two years ago, without hesitation, I would have said that my number one was soup dumplings (小笼包). But I think I had so many during that one trip that the flavor is burned upon my palate and I no longer crave it as much as I used to. More recently, I’ve become obsessed with a close cousin of the soup dumpling, pan fried buns (生煎饱, literally, raw fried buns).

Much like a soup dumpling, pork, pork tallow, and pork fat are wrapped in a thin dough and sealed shut with a twist. Unlike a soup dumpling, these babies are lined up in a huge cast iron pan, covered, and fried with the seal side down. You can see the upside down dumpling twist on the left in the pic above. I didn’t get a good pic of the big cast iron pan, but you can find one here, from the exact same purveyor I visited (Lil’ Yang’s Crispy Pan Fried Buns): Flickr pic of 小扬生煎饱.

My goals for successfully eating these crispy pan fried buns are the same for soup dumplings: don’t spill the meat juice, add finely julienne ginger and red vinegar to each bite, and don’t burn my tongue or palate! My technique is the same: nibble a hole at the top of the bun, stuff ginger in said hole and spoon in some vinegar, allow to cool for 15 seconds (if I can wait that long), and then it’s a one bite deal from there. There’s no better feeling than having a mouth full of juicy pork, crispy dough from underside, and ginger&vinegar to cut the richness of the pork fat. This is the new number one eats on my list for my next Shanghai trip.