Friday, February 12, 2010

Who Eats Dinner on Valentine's Day?

...well, everyone, it seems. You'd better already have that restaurant reservation. And there's the matter of champagne, also necessary. For the purpose know darn well what.

And it's all nuts. Not that I don't like all the red hearts and lace, and not that there's anything WRONG with champagne. Champagne is a delightful wine, and it plays well with others. We've talked about the French 75 and how to make a non-fake, worth-drinking Mimosa on Cocktails with Chris before. But here are the facts, and you don't need me to tell them to you:

1) If you eat a big dinner, no matter how romantic and rare the ingredients of it are, you are going to get into bed and fall asleep...and...

2) If you drink a lot of wine, the same thing is going to happen.

Well, maybe not if you are male and 24. In that case, nothing is going to slow you down. But folks like me, richly endowed with the benefits accrued by decades of life, will drift into dreamland. And even when I was young (and quite the fox if I do say so), butter-rich haute cuisine washed down with good wine tended to move me more towards slumber than towards l'amour.

My recommendation: a champagne cocktail or two with some dainty tastes of smoked salmon something, or a bit of ordered-in sushi. Think appetizer portions. THEN get the business of the day underway. Have the main course afterwards. You will thank me for this sage advice later.

Meanwhile, a Cocktails with Chris review:

Two Champagne Cocktails--The French 75 and The Mimosa

1. The French 75

This drink was probably invented by Americans in France around World War One time, and is in fact named after a piece of artillery. It has a rep for knocking folks over, but it's really not that strong, and the unlikely combination of gin and champagne makes it an "up" drink. We're not talking Red Bull and Vodka here (and we never will--yuk), but it's not snooze-y.

The Internet Cocktail Database, often a good source for drink recipes, doesn't do too well with this one. It builds the drink in a tall glass, starting with 1 0z fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp bar sugar, and a whooping two oz of gin, which you stir, add ice, and top off with champagne. Much better is Paul Harrington's take in Cocktail: he uses 4 oz of champagne, and 1/4 oz each of gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. One shakes everything except the champers in an iced shaker, pours it into a chilled flute, and tops off with the champagne. Tasty and a much better balance. You might want a bit more Cointreau, depending on the wine and lemon's acidity. A good cocktail book I own from Absinthe in San Francisco suggests brandied cherries as a garnish, and if you've got some, they are tasty here.

2. The Mimosa

My time-honored recipe is something one makes by the pitcher, and it might be a nice addition to a Sunday afternoon by the fireside. Take a good large water pitcher, add the juice of 3 or 4 good Florida oranges, a bottle of champagne (pour slowly), and a tablespoon or two of cassis, blackberry brandy or peach brandy. Stir very gently, ice, and serve (over more ice if you want) in chilled flutes. Fresh orange juice is a MUST here.

Happy Valentine's Day!! I can't promise an ultra romantic radio show today--no telling WHAT I'm going to play except I know some Miles Davis--but we'll be talking bubbly and chocolates! Do tune in at 4 on Friday on send up a prayer that the new CD players work!! Glenn Carella and I are installing them in about an hour.


Ed said...

Being of a certain age I have to agree with you.

Inspired by Ken, I recently acquired a good oyster knife and one Sunday made quick work out of a few PEIs, malpeques and Mystics. We're fortunate to have a good fishmonger right down in Old Saybrook. That, with a nice mignonette, was all we needed.

So, I think along with that we'll be having Livornos:

...assuming I can find Galliano, otherwise your Mimosa recipe looks superb! Cassis is one of those great things that improves anything; I often add a touch when braising short ribs.

chrispy said...

Sounds WONDERFUL, Ed! I'll bet that cocktail goes great with the little sweeter oysters, the malpeques, especially. Finding decent oysters in Rockland is hard; blue points are often all that's around. Fairway in Paramus can have the malpeques sometimes.

Funny, I got Ken a good oyster knife for Christmas. We had a really effective cheap one we bought when we were up on PEI one summer, but it was beginning to get a little grotty with use.

You guys will have to have an oyster slaughter contest sometime. I wouldn't mind judging...:-)


Ed said...

Tell Ken next time we get together, the oyster massacre is TOTALLY ON.

I expect to lose as I am habitually cautious, and I cheat by using a teflon glove for my left hand. I do find it easier once I have popped them to flip the knife to cut the upper abductor muscle.

As luck would have it , I found the Galliano easily (Moodus Package wins again!).

Oh, and the nice thing is we now have another official use for the fancy ice crusher apart from Caipirinhas.

chrispy said...

We used to shake all our cocktails with crushed ice. Paul Harrington, one of the cocktail revival pioneers recommended doing that. AND our old, less-fancy refrigerator had a button to push that caused crushed ice to emerge from a chute. I wouldn't trade the sub-Zero for it, but it was a nice feature. Now we use cubes mostly, but you do get a really intense chill using the crushed ice.

I like a Singapore Sling (a good drink if you make it right) poured over crushed ice. A Mai Tai is good that way, too.

I'll tell Ken the gauntlet has been thrown down.