Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve at Felicia's Atomic Lounge

Like every other bar in town, we are open tonight until about 2am. Earlier if it turns into an amateur drunk fest; then we'll just toss everybody out and drink by ourselves, dammit. Cleaning vomit out of the back of the television (last year's entertainment), is, well, not on the list of things we'd like to do tonight. We do plan, however, to enjoy show tunes and jazz standards with pianist Lisa Bloom and soprano Sharon Costianes, who was also voted "best bartender in Ithaca" during her stint at Felicia's. Show time is 6:30pm-8:30pm. The rest of the evening will be filled with champagne cocktails, oodles of people and general merriment.

Now let's talk about the New Year's Eve poster above. Leah found this photo of the orange kitten a few months ago and decided to incorporate it into a poster for the lounge. She tried to slip the kitten into the Halloween poster, but I protested that it didn't fit the "haunted cocktail party" theme (we settled on a creepy clown drinking a cocktail), so she based the New Year's Eve poster on it instead. Not that a screaming kitten has anything to do with New Year's Eve. Somehow, I don't think the angry kitty is going to be a recurring theme.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eating Ithaca Podcast

Eating Ithaca celebrated their 25th podcast by recording live at Felicia's Atomic Lounge on December 16, 2008. Dave and Andrea Cameron interviewed Felicia's master cocktail mixologist, Leah Houghtaling, as well as Seth Gregory, the chef from Fine Line Bistro. The interview with Leah is fun, with lots of cocktail taste-testing spiked with Leah's spicy sense of humor. Since Felicia's focuses on using fresh, local ingredients, the Felicia cocktails reviewed included the Spiced Beet Bubbly, Loco Hot Cocoa, fennel-infused vodka, and Hot Spiked Cider. Live music was provided by the Dave Yantorno Band, whose next show at Felicia's is February 22. CLICK HERE to hear the podcast, or you can go to where you can also catch up on Dave and Andrea's regular podcasts as they eat their way around Ithaca. Thanks, Eating Ithaca! Here's to another year of great food and drink in our little city. Photos by Mark H. Anbinder.
Eating Ithaca PodcastInterviewing LeahLeah jazz handsDave Yantorno and his band

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Year's Eve Champagne Cocktail

What are your resolutions for 2009? Forget the typical eat less junk food, exercise more, keep a journal. What if everyone made meaningful New Year’s resolutions this year? What if the people in power watched the ball drop on the telly on December 31 and turned to their loved ones/advisors/body guards and said, “Let’s resolve to make a difference in 2009. Let’s stop global warming. Repair the financial markets. End poverty. Achieve world peace.” We can make powerful resolutions as individuals, too. We can vow to walk instead of drive. Buy locally. Hug the people we love. Act compassionately toward strangers. Laugh more. Yell less. Recycle our batteries. Bring our own mugs to the coffee shop. Plant trees. 2009 brings with it a lot of anxiety about the state of the world. But it also brings hope that things can get better. Let’s raise our glasses of bubbly and toast together to make a difference in 2009. Cheers!

State Street 75
½ ounce Citrus vodka
juice of ¼ lemon
¾ teaspoon of sugar
champagne or sparkling wine
orange twist

Shake citrus vodka, lemon juice and sugar with ice. Strain into chilled champagne glass. Sloooowly top with champagne. Garnish with an orange twist. *For a slightly different flavor, try adding a dash of angostura bitters. Yum.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Recurring "I Missed the School Bus" Nightmare

You know what I am talking about. You suddenly realize you aren’t wearing any pants, in the mall. Your teacher throws a pop quiz on a subject you know nothing about. You are onstage and you forget your lines; in fact, you don’t even know what play you are in. Your mouth is full of pounds of stretchy gum that you can’t pull out. You try to run from a dangerous person and you can only move in slow motion. You have to pee real bad and all the toilets are clogged and overflowing so you have to go in the sink (this one runs in my family). You try to dial 911 when someone attacks you and you keep hitting the numbers wrong or no one answers.

Twenty years after graduating high school, I still have dreams where I am running to catch the school bus as it pulls away, or I get on the wrong bus and it drops me off in a strange place. A few weeks ago, I experienced one of these unfortunate nightmares while I was awake.

It was about 7:30pm when I sat down by the fire to read the newspaper, specifically the Ithaca Journal business section that had come in the mail that day. As I sipped my bourbon and flipped through the pages, I saw a blurb on the blogging workshop that I would be teaching next month in Trumansburg. “That’s advertised about four weeks early,” I thought. “Wow, those T-burg Chamber people really plan ahead.” I turned the page and started reading another article. Leah came in from the kitchen. “Look, honey,” I said. “My blog class is advertised in the paper already.” As I flipped back to the page to show her, my eye caught the date of the workshop: November 17. I stopped breathing. “What’s today’s date?” I asked Leah. “November 17,” she said. My heart turned to ice. I looked at the article again. The workshop starts at 7pm, it read. I looked at the clock. 7:36pm. Sh*t! I had missed my own workshop.

But not totally. Though I didn’t know it in my moment of panic, the blogging workshop technically was scheduled for December 17; it was just advertised wrong to, say, around ninety thousand people.

The “Blogging for Business” workshop will be held this Wednesdsay, December 17 at 7pm at the Trumansburg Public Library. It is free and open to the public. I swear I’ll be there this time.

To read the funny details on how this nightmarish evening resolved, you can check out the longer version of this story at my other blog,

Beets and Champagne in a Festive Cocktail

I can’t say that I am fond of beets. It’s not that I mind eating things that taste like dirt; I am a self-proclaimed potato whore. I just think beets taste odd. I can accept a handful of shredded beets in my salad, and I’ve always had an affinity for tangy Harvard Beets. But beets in a cocktail?

Unfortunately, if you want to use local produce to make cocktails in the winter, your options are limited. So beets it is. Suck it up.

Now for the good news: This sparkling cocktail tastes amazing. The essence of beet is there, but it blends seamlessly with the warm, comforting flavors of cinnamon and maple syrup. A hint of cayenne pops in your mouth with each bubble.

It’s a lot of work; the beets need to be roasted, shredded, simmered and strained. The end result is worth the effort. I recommend the Spiced Beet Bubbly in place of your standard brunch mimosa to add some color to your morning, or as a festive addition to your afternoon holiday party where it is sure to extract some oohs and ahhhs.

Oh, and the color: A deep fuscia. Which means it will stain your clothes/carpet/counter. My own personal motto is, “If it stains, I will spill it.” Don’t wear white when preparing or drinking this cocktail.

My hesitation about beets? Gone with the first sip. The Spicy Beet Bubbly is shamelessly loved by beet whores and non-beet whores alike.

This post is written as part of Mixology Monday, whose December theme is "spice." You can check out more spicy recipes at this month's host's site, Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments.

Spiced Beet Bubbly

750 ml bottle of champagne, sparkling wine or sparkling cider
20 ounces fresh beets (2 large)
20 ounces water
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/8 tsp cinnamon (1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp)
1/4 tsp cayenne
pinch mace

Roast beets:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce beets six or eight times with a fork or knife and wrap in aluminum foil. Place foil-covered beets on baking sheet in center of oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and allow beets to cool fully in the foil.

Spiced beet syrup:
Unwrap beets and shred with food processor. Place shredded beets in sauce pan, including all of the juice. Add enough water to cover beets (about 20 ounces of water). Cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes. Do not boil. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, cayenne and mace. Simmer uncovered over low heat for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool fully. Strain, and compost the beets (or taste them - maybe you can use them in another recipe! For this cocktail, we use the syrup.)

To make cocktail:
4 ounces champagne, sparkling wine or sparkling cider
2 1/2 tablespoons spiced beet syrup
twist of orange peel

Pour sparkling wine into a champagne flute. Slooooowly add spiced beet syrup. Garnish with orange twist.

Serves 8. Beet syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Recipe created by Leah Houghtaling , cocktail chef at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, Ithaca, NY with taste-testing input by her sidekick, Amelia Sauter, who also authors this totally awesome Felicia blog plus a humor blog of her own.

Photo by Leah Houghtaling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Organic Hot Dogs

REWARD: $50 Felicia gift certificate to the person who obtains a photo – yes, a photo - of the dog that is pooping daily in Felicia’s alley. It’s a little early for Christmas, but Felicia keeps finding these warm little gifts. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of your shoe sinking into a soft, fresh turd. Here’s the hitch: to get the reward, the photo needs to capture the dog in the act of lightening his load. No photo? Verbal information on the culprit will be received with a hug.

Speaking of dogs, would you pay more for an organic hot dog? Cast YOUR vote to the left:
a. Yes, definitely.
b. No, a plain old dog suits me just fine.
c. No, I’m vegan.
d. Maybe, I’d want to taste one first.
e. Hot dogs are stupid and I won’t eat any of them, even with Felicia’s delicious homemade toppings.
(f. No, thanks to your previous paragraph, the word “dog” is making me a little nauseous)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Road Trip! Canandaigua

Restaurant: Rio Tomatlan
Location, Canandaigua, NY
Cuisine: authentic Mexican

Amelia's highlights: Excellent refried beans. The red sauce on the chile rellenos was sweet and smoky. The zingy fresh salsa had an abundance of cilantro. The bartender knew how to make a good margarita when we requested an upgrade.

Amelia's downsides:
There were peas in the Spanish-style rice. The tilapia ceviche looked and tasted like tuna salad. The house margaritas were made with bottled margarita mix. An hour's drive to get there.

Mom and Dad's opinion:
M & D loved both the house margaritas and the rice. Dad got the same creamy-style chopped chunk tilapia in his tacos that I got in my ceviche and thought it was great.

I would rate Rio Tomatlan 3.5 out of 5 jumping beans.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Road Trip! The Berkshires

I uploaded this photo of Thanksgiving dinner and realized that you don't need teeth to eat most of the items on the plate. Mashed pototoes, mashed turnips, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry jelly, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie. You probably need to chew the turkey, but I'll bet you could get away with barely chewing the cole slaw (who eats cole slaw at Thanksgiving? Now really). Just need a nice bottle of wine (or two) to wash it down. It was a senior citizen's dream meal.
campari and soda
Leah and I trekked to the Berkshires, Massachusetts for our mashed feast this year. We arrived the night before so we could have a little alone time and see what's happening in the culinary scene in the area. We ended up in Great Barrington, one of the hipper towns in this uptight community of NYC whitehead second homes. There we found Allium, a locavore's dream. They didn't have much of a cocktail list to speak of so we partook of Campari and Soda (Allium, call Felicia. We can help you get that fresh local produce into some creative farm-to-glass cocktails).
spaghetti bolognese
Leah ordered a lovely farm salad and cod fritters and she liked them both. I started with apple-celery root soup. The soup ended up having cream in it, which means I shouldn't have eaten it, but being a pig and since it tasted soooo good, I sucked in every last drop. This bloated me into a false sense of fullness, so the half order of excellent spaghetti bolognese that followed was plenty. The bolognese had local carrots, kale and fennel as well as neighborhood pork and lamb. Sigh. I hate eating lamb. They are just so cute and fuzzy and innocent looking. And delicious. Two thumbs up for Allium.

Every time we go to the Berkshires, we say at one of those big hotel chains. Every time, they upgrade us to a kick-ass suite for no apparent reason. Every time, we sneak the dog in. (Every time, I leave a big tip for the housekeeper. They must know the dog is with us. How could they not know?) Every time, we have brunch at Martin's in Great Barrington, where you will find the best brunch in the Berkshires. Flavored coffee (pumpkin spice this week), great eggs florentine, and my new favorite, eggs scrambled with grits, cheddar cheese and spinach. Yes, more cheese.

Add in the butter and cream in the Thanksgiving mash, and I am now a big walking itch. Might as well splurge and put some whipped cream on my irish coffee this morning.
allium restaurantcod fritters

Monday, December 1, 2008

Espresso Martini

Ok, this one probably falls into the category of why-would-you-drink-that-preflavored-stuff-when-you-can-make-it-fresh. But it tastes soooo good, and unless you happen to have an espresso machine in your home kitchen or you live next door to Gimme! Coffee, you most likely will not have access to a freshly pulled shot of piping hot espresso. For recipes using fresh espresso, check out Michael Turback’s latest book, Coffee Drinks. There is even a fancy-shmancy real deal recipe by Felicia in it.

Espresso Martini

1 ounce Van Gogh Espresso vodka
1 ounce Baileys Irish cream
1 ounce Starbucks liqueur (Gimme doesn't make liqueur yet)

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Stay up all night.