Thursday, October 30, 2008

Road Trip! Brooklyn

We took a wild road trip to Brooklyn last weekend with our band, the Black Eyed Susies. Did we have fun? Let's just say that watching the sunrise in the city is a beautiful thing. Leah and I stayed in Park Slope and after dragging our citygirl a**es out of bed, we got to visit some restaurants in the neighborhood for the most important meal of the day: brunch.

Ithaca is painfully short on brunch spots, so it was a thrill to have so many places from which to choose. Our good friend and fellow musician Jan Bell guided us to Little D's on 7th Ave on Saturday. As a potato pig, I felt a bit unsatisfied with my generic hash browns and soggy toast, but Leah's biscuits with sage-mushroom-sausage gravy were brilliant. On Sunday, we hit up Steinhof's cafe at 7th and 14th Streets for a hearty serving of German sausage and some well-endowed potatoes that really put out, perfect for a potato whore such as myself.

Our band played at two DUMBO establishments: 68 Jay Street Bar and Superfine. We ate dinner twice at Superfine and enjoyed super entrees including Mexican chicken-lime soup, penne with garlic and squash, and my favorite, bucatini with bolognese sauce. We can't report on any cocktails (booze+banjo+bass=bad) but the beer of the weekend was definitely Sugar Hill Ale from the Harlem Brewing Company. It was malty, well-hopped and all around tasty. Highly recommended by each one of the Black Eyed Susies, and those girls know beer.
The Black Eyed Susies

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Strange Dreams: You Can't Complain If You Don't Vote

I dreamed last night that I was Obama’s running mate for VP. It was Election Day, and John McCain and I had a go-cart race through the streets of Philadelphia to see who would take Pennsylvania. I kicked his butt. We ended up back at headquarters where there was a final debate. I broke out into a sweat and prayed silently, 'Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me' since I pretty much know diddly about politics. I lucked out; all we talked about was John Travolta. I retired to bed at about midnight with Obama winning 55% of the votes. Sarah Palin woke me up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and told me, ‘It’s 50-50 now. The difference is crow’s feet.’ They were going to have to manually re-count all the votes, a task that would take days. I sat up in bed and said, ‘Sarah, we are two powerhouse women. Shouldn’t we be on the same team? What we need is a bipartisan effort to do what is right for this country.’ I think she tried to get one of my own secret service men to assassinate me after that. I woke up before the story ended. Author’s note: I’m not making this up. Now get out and vote on November 4. And remember Felicia’s motto: You can’t complain if you don’t vote.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot (Spiked) Mulled Cider

Is there anything better in the fall than fresh pressed apple cider? There sure is: hot apple cider mulled with spices and doctored with a shot of liquor. Now that you have pulled your wool sweaters out of the closet, cleaned out the birdhouses and removed your air conditioner from the window, you can turn your attention to your favorite fruit of the fall season. Felicia buys both her apples and her cider directly from Kingtown Orchard, off of Route 89, a few miles past Taughannock Park. Their cider is tart and full of flavor (and for pie baking, Felicia recommends the Twenty Ouncer or Northern Spy apples). The cider recipe below hints at subtle spices and a touch of sweetness. It is guaranteed to warm you up after a cold day of raking leaves, especially with a nip of rum or whiskey added. Oh- and just a note to all you local folks - this is slightly different from the mulled cider at the lounge. That recipe will remain top secret until Felicia's cocktail book comes out.

Hot Spiked Cider

1 gallon apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole allspice
the peel off ¼ of a lemon

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Bring almost to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. Serve in a mug with one ounce of rum or whiskey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mixology Monday: Guilty Pleasures

What do you get when forty or so expert mixologists get together online to blog about cocktails? Usually some truly amazing, over-the-top drink recipes. Today, not so. October's Mixology Monday, hosted by Stevi at Two at the Most, has brought out the shameful secrets of what some of the world's top mixologists drink in the closet. The theme? Guilty Pleasures. In other words, what do you love to drink that you don't admit that you love to drink? What is your "comfort drink?" Your Kraft macaroni and cheese of cocktails? Your tuna noodle casserole of martinis? Your tater tots of spiked beverages? Your grilled American cheese with Campbells tomato soup of drinks? You get the picture.

Some familiar themes have been popping up today on blogs all over the web: the fuzzy navels of our younger years, pina coladas, anything mixed with Coca Cola, anything blended with ice cream. Personally, I left all of my drinking guilt behind when I turned 21. My guilty feelings are currently reserved for making my girlfriend cry, or running over a squirrel. I do, however, enjoy some beverages that would fall into the "I don't get no respect" category.

Like vodka, for example. I love vodka. Dirty vodka martinis or orange vodka and tonic, love 'em both. You might think drinking vodka is nothing to be embarrassed about, but you would be surprised to see just how many fancy-schmancy mixologists turn up their noses in vodka's presence.

My most cozy flannel shirt of the alcohol world, however is Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jack Daniels. Let's face it. It is not always safe to order a martini or even a mixed drink at an unknown bar. How often do you pick up a cocktail menu and see ingredients like Smirnoff Cherry or Sour Apple Pucker? When in doubt, I order some Mr. Daniels and a PBR (I prefer it in a bottle but it is more hip to be seen with a can). I actually really like them both a lot, and they are easy on the wallet. And if I want to keep my cocktail artist facade, PBR looks great in a martini glass.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Road Trip! Adirondacks

Imagine the scene: A lakefront rustic cottage accessible only by boat. Loons, beavers, bald eagles, and the occasional bear sighting. Pure wilderness. One would think that a paddle into the nearby middle-of-nowhere town would find a snack shack or maybe a diner. But instead, the only restaurant for miles is the upscale Lodge on Lake Clear.

The Lodge on Lake Clear in the eastern Adirondacks is owned by husband-wife team Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer. Cathy's ancestors built the lodge in 1886; Ernest's European family bought it in 1965. Together they fuse fresh Adirondack produce and local game with old world dishes.

Dining at the lodge is more than a meal; it is a whole body experience. Guests start their evening in the "rathskeller", which is German for "I have a selection of 150 rare imported beers in my dark basement where there is a big, stone fireplace and overstuffed chairs." Unable to choose, Leah and I decided to split the smoked beer sampler.
First up was the Saranac Rauchbier. It proved to be a pleasant lager, with only the slightest hint of smoke. Next was the Schlenkerla Rauchbier Maerzen. It was by far the most phenomenal of the beers, and definitely my favorite flavor of the night. This hearty beer had the aroma of smoked bacon with a light fruit flavor in the background (I could have had a few more of these. Would go well with breakfast, too). The last beer was Aventinus Weizen Eisbock. This complex, slightly sweet ice bock tasted of toasted malt and barley and was a great beer with which to wrap up our beer hour.
It was almost disappointing when it was time to leave the rathskeller and venture upstairs for dinner, but the aromas coming from the kitchen quickly made me forget my hesitation. Let me warn you: If you do not eat meat or game, the Lodge is probably not the restaurant for you. You will be happier buying a box of pasta and a jar of Ragu from the nearby general store to take back to your camp. As a recovered vegetarian myself, I overwhelmed myself by ordering the sauerbraten, local beef that was marinated for three days in a crock before being cooked in a wine sauce. It came with killer dumplings. Next time I would try their vegetable strudel.
Leah got the game sampler which came on a loooong platter with cornish hen, quail, and what she referred to as "the most beautiful sausage balls I have ever laid eyes on," which the waitress later told us were made with cute furry woodland critters such as rabbits. The sausage hopped quickly into her mouth. Though the quail was headless, Leah was convinced it was staring at her and for some reason could not bring herself to eat it. This is the problem with eating game: frequently it is served still resembling its natural state in the forest, making you honestly face up to exactly what you are eating. Kind of like frog legs.

Our prix fixe meals also came with hearty beef dumpling soup, salad and a side of fermented red cabbage; appetizers and dessert cost extra. We were too full for dessert, but if we had room for anything else, it would have definitely been more beer. My only complaint of the evening is that the coffee (which we took back down to the rathskeller to drink by the fire) was lukewarm at best, and i prefer mine hot enough to burn the flesh off of my tongue and require asbestos gloves to pick it up. Total cost of the meal: $120 before tip.
While I personally would not consider the Lodge on Lake Clear a destination all by itself (though they do have some fantastic lodging), if you are in the Adirondacks, it is worth at least an hour drive (or paddle) to get there, even if all you did was drink beer in the rathskeller. Remember, it is so dark at night in the Adirondacks that you can't see your beer in front of your face when you are paddling home. Be prepared for some good arguments (-Where the hell are we? -What do you mean where are we? I thought you knew where we were!) and make sure you leave your cottage light on.

Best Of Ithaca

Gosh-golly, thanks to all of you who voted for Felicia in this year’s Best of Ithaca put out by the Ithaca Times. Felicia’s won – surprise – Best Cocktail Selection. What with Leah the Mad Scientist constantly making strange elixirs in the kitchen, this accolade is not fully unexpected. Ask Leah about her recent experiments with pumpkin and cayenne, or about the exploding cantaloupe incident. If you are lucky, you have been around to witness (and taste test) the development of all kinds of wacky and amazing drinks. Felicia also won Best Underrated Hangout. Not sure exactly what that one means, but ya’ll are always welcome to hang out here to your tipsy hearts’content. Previous years' awards include Best Friendliest Business Owners and Best Bartenders. A special thanks to Felicia’s most excellent bartenders who channel the ever-flowing spirit of Felicia. Without them, you would be, well, really thirsty.

Big Melon Cocktail

The Big Melon Cocktail is based on using an entire melon, but that does not mean that you are required to get drunk. You can certainly cut the recipe in half or quarter it, or share with some friends. Another alternative is to enjoy this beverage without alcohol. Chock full of vitamin A and vitamin C, you can drink it for breakfast or as an afternoon smoothie snack.

Big Melon Cocktail

3 ounces cantaloupe mixture (see below)
1 ½ ounce vodka
lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add vodka and top with cantaloupe mixture. Garnish with a lime.

Cantaloupe Mixture:

1 large cantaloupe (about 5 lbs)
4 ½ ounces lime juice
2 ounces simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
3 teaspoons ground coriander

Whirl up cantaloupe in food processor until smooth. Add lime juice, simple syrup and coriander. Mixture will keep refrigerated for about three days.