A Night in Boston, 23 NOV 2013

I was needing an escape from New Hampshire during my visit up there to visit family for the holidays, so I booked a hotel and some restaurant reservations in Boston.

The view from my window of the Boston Waterfront area.

The southeasterly view from my window at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

The first stop for me was Drink.  I had hit this fantastic, top-rated cocktail bar back in 2011 after a previous overseas tour (see here and here), and wanted to experience them again.

I started by asking for something with Green Chartreuse (a favorite of mine).  I was started off with a classic – The Last Word – with gin, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, and Green Chartreuse.  Along with that, I had the very tasty (albeit tricky-to-eat) Sirloin Carpaccio.

Sirloin Carpaccio.  You have to pick it up to eat it, and it's too big for one bite.  I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

Sirloin Carpaccio. You have to pick it up to eat it, and it’s too big for one bite. I had some issues and was probably embarassing myself as I ate it, but it was delicious.

The Last Word.

The Last Word.

I followed The Last Word up with a Bijou (gin, Green Chartreuse, a sweet vermouth, and orange bitters) which provided more of the complex flavors of the Chartreuse.

Bijou.

Bijou.

To change things up, I asked for something with kümmel (previously mentioned here), an old, but hard-to-find liqueur which tastes of carraway, cumin, and fennel.  What I got was The Maiden’s Choice, which consisted of Plymouth Gin, dry vermouth, and kümmel.  This cocktail is great for showcasing the interesting flavors of the kümmel, although it’s a flavor that is probably an acquired taste.  Fortunately, I like it.

The Maiden's Choice.

The Maiden’s Choice.

The mixologists over at Drink have a thing for showmanship as well.  As I was enjoying my beverages, I watched them playing with fire.

Yep, that's fire he's pouring right there.

Yep, that’s fire he’s pouring right there.

I met up with some D.C. expatriates at the bar who endorsed Mockingbird Hill [Twitter/Facebook], the new Derek Brown sherry bar in Washington that I’m going to have to hit when I’m back in town.  A mixologist at Drink also recommended it.

After taking a short break after Drink (their drinks don’t want for alcohol content), I headed over to Empire Restaurant and Lounge for dinner.  Sporting a nightclub atmosphere (see – “Lounge”), I wasn’t sure what to expect the food to be like, although I’d seen high reviews for the joint.  I was happy to discover that their food program (namely the sushi, which was what I stuck to) was excellent.  Besides running Empire, Big Night Entertainment Group runs GEM, which has also received plaudits for their food.

I started off with the Hot Night in Bangkok (Avion Silver Tequila, plum infused sake, passion fruit, and Sriracha sauce), which provided a combination of sweet and spicy flavors.  It went well with the Sushi Cupcakes (broiled Maine lobster, spicy garlic butter, crispy pressed sushi rice, and marinated uni) of which I considered getting a second order.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

My view of the Empire kitchen.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

The Sriracha goodness that is the Hot Night in Bangkok.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Sushi Cupcakes.

Next up – the Hamachi Tartare Roll (with avocado, gobo [burdock root], cucumber, topped with spicy yellowtail tartare, and served in a ginger sauce) the fresh taste of the tartare went great with the ginger.

Also in this round – and one reason why I picked this location for dinner – was the ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll (with tempura cod, malt vinegar tartar sauce, and yukon potato chips).  I’m a big fan of the Fish and Chips Roll over at SEI in D.C., hence my interest in this menu item.  The Empire version adds in more of a vinegar flavor, which reminded me even more of the flavors you’d experience in a traditional fish and chips basket.

Empire's 'Fish & Chips' Roll

Empire’s ‘Fish & Chips’ Roll

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Hamachi Tartare Roll.

Hamachi Tartare Roll.

The final four dishes I went with were Nigiri-style – the Tuna ‘Hot Night’ gunkanmaki (spicy tuna, sliced chilies, sesame chili oil), Wagyu Beef Nigiri (with crispy shallots and a dark rum glaze – the beef replaced the nori as the wrap around the roll), Eel Nigiri Kabayaki (barbequed eel, sesame purée [reminiscent of peaut butter], and Granny Smith apple), and the Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’ (more Wagyu beef, along with Sockeye salmon, scallion, ginger, and sweet miso vinegar).  Great rolls.

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna 'Hot Night' (left)

Wagyu Beef Nigiri (right), Tuna ‘Hot Night’ (left)

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Nigiri 'Surf & Turf'.

Nigiri ‘Surf & Turf’.

Closing out the evening, I made a stop over at Eastern Standard near Kenmore Square, and started off with a great Old Cuban (rum, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, sparkling wine float, mint).

Old Cuban.

Old Cuban.

Eastern Standard also likes their sherries, as evidenced by the five sherry cocktails on their drink menu.  Asking for my bartender’s favorite, I got The Veil of Sanlúcar (La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, chamomile mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters) – a great smokey cocktail.

The Veil of Sanlúcar.  Perfect way to finish the evening.

The Veil of Sanlúcar. Perfect way to finish the evening.

I’ll be back in the Boston-area every year around the holidays, and I’ll be making it a point to hit some new places every time.  If you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know!

Cocktails, week of 10 December 2012

Cachaça Sour

Cachaça Sour

3 oz. Pitú Cachaça
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1 egg white

Shook everything but the cachaça without ice.  Added the ice and cachaça and shook, then strained.  Nice and smooth.

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Strawberry's Revivial

Strawberry’s Revivial

1  1/2 oz. Bulleit Rye
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. strawberry simple syrup
1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe
2 dash Angostura bitters

Shook all but the bitters with ice.  Double strained into a glass.  I think I’d like this better with a little less absinthe, although it grew on me…anise taste at the front, finishes with the strawberry.

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Fresa Catrina

Fresa Catrina

2 oz. Grand Patron Platinum Tequila (this is overdoing it, but it was the only silver I had)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz strawberry simple syrup
10 black peppercorns

Muddled the strawberry simple syrup and the peppercorns, then added the rest of the ingredients and shook over ice.  The Fresa Catrina was tasty…the pepper and the sweetness went really well together.

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King Vittorio's Cobbler

King Vittorio’s Cobbler

2 oz. Averna Amaro
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. strawberry simple syrup

Shook all over ice, double strained into a glass.  The strawberries mellowed out the bitterness of the Averna (which is already relatively mellow as far as Italian bitter liqueurs go).  I liked this one.  Simple and tasty.

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Lion's Tail

Lion’s Tail

2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
3/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 spoonful of simple syrup
2 dash Angostura bitters

Shook all ingredients over ice, double strained into a glass.

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These cocktails were based on the recipes found at Cocktail Virgin:

Pisco Sour

Strawberry’s Revival

Fresa Catrina

King Vittorio’s Cobbler

The Lion’s Tail recipe was posted by Derek Brown of The Passenger and Columbia Room over at The Atlantic.

Fuego, 3 November 2012

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria is a new Mexican restaurant located where Harry’s Tap Room used to reside in Clarendon.  I dropped by there the other night to meet some folks for a birthday party, but after checking out their menu, I thought I should get some dinner there first.

First off, they’ve got some flavorful guacamole.

Some good, flavorful guac.

I went for three orders of soft corn tortilla tacos each ($7 / order of two).  The tacos at Fuego come with three salsas – rojo, habanero, and salsa verde – which went well with all the tacos I tried.

I got orders of the Lengua (slow braised beef tongue), Al Pastor (spit roasted marinated pork and pineapple serrano salsa), Birria (Jalisco-style roasted goat), and Pollo (chicken tinga, shredded lettuce, queso fresco).  The vegetarian I was eating with got the Calabaza version (Yucatán-style roasted squash and spicy pickled red onions).

Beef Tongue Tacos…so good.

Goat Tacos…

Round three – pork and chicken tacos.

To not overdo the taco theme of the evening (although they were all quite tasty – especially the beef tongue), I next ordered the Ceviche de Pescado (Tilapia, habanero, red onion, fresh lime).

Closing it out with a good ceviche.

Fuego offers three-glass flights from their extensive menu of over 110 tequilas.  This time around, I went with a flight of blanco, reposado, and añejo Chinaco.

Substantial amount of tequila options…according to a tweet I received from @FuegoCocina, they’ve got over 110 of them.

Also, great specialty tequila cocktails.  Try the Mala Suerte (habanero infused tequila, triple sec, grapefruit juice, lime juice) or the Gherkin Fresca (Sauza Blue Silver, Hendricks, jalapeño simple syrup, cucumber-lime agua fresca – has a great, fresh, cucumber-y taste).

Mala Suerte…

…and the Gherkin Fresca

I’ll be trying out some of the rest of the menu next time I drop by…I expect it’ll be good.

Dinner at Mintwood Place, 2 October 2012

I had a few people mention Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan as a place I needed to try, so on Tuesday I made that happen.

First off, I loved the menu.  Great nibbles (smaller appetizers), regular appetizers, entrees, and drinks.  My biggest problem was narrowing down what I could realistically consume in one sitting.

The shishito peppers and and escargot hush puppies.

I kept things at two nibbles (blistered shishito peppers and escargot hush puppies), and two appetizers (steak tartare with spuds and goat cheese and beet mountain pie) to start off.  All were good…the peppers were subtle (although I found the provided hush puppies sauce also went well with them), and the other dishes were quite  flavorful and creative.

The duck breast “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut, which I ordered for my entree, was excellent.  Well-prepared duck paired well with the pepper sauce and bed of sauerkraut.

Duck “au poivre” with minute sauerkraut.

Good desserts – a classic brownie sundae (with a super-moist brownie) topped with sprinkles, and a Baked Alaska flambé closed out the evening.

Oh look, my dessert is on fire.

The cocktail menu is also very creative.  The Smokin’ on the Bayou (Benevá Mezcal Añjeo, Grapefruit Juice, Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters) and  Woodrow Wilson (Boomsma Genever “Gin”, Hum Liquor, Elderflower, Cava) were two that I tried out.  The former had a subtle, smokey flavor that I’d credit to the mezcal, while the latter had a slight all-spiciness…I’m guessing that came from the Hum, which I’m not familiar with, and bills itself as a botanical spirit with a number of different ingredients.

The Smokin’ on the Bayou cocktail.

This particular dinner was pricy – besides the above, there was one additional entree and two additional cocktails – for a total of over $200 with tip.  However, you’re getting what you pay for…everything was of excellent quality, and the tastes involved were exceptional.

For some other reviews on Mintwood Place, check out Tom Sietsema’s at Washington Post (3 of 4 stars), and this one from Been There, Eaten That.

Mintwood Place
1813 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6732
mintwoodplace.com

Book on CityEats

Tonight’s Cocktail…

I liked the cocktail I made tonight so much that I figured I’d put it up here for all of you.

Legion

I wanted to make something tonight with Fernet, so searching throughout Cocktail Virgin, I found this gem.

I wouldn’t usually be a fan of a drink with this much Sweet Vermouth, but the other ingredients (I believe especially the Fernet) really brought out the grape…I have to say I was a fan.

As posted on Cocktail Virgin:

2/3 Sweet Vermouth (2 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
1/6 Brandy (1/2 oz Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva)
1/6 Curaçao (1/2 oz Senior Curaçao)
1 dash Fernet Branca (1/4 oz)

I replaced the brandy with Armagnac, and the Curaçao with triple sec (which provided a dryer taste, I’d expect), while utilizing the same measurements.  I’ll make this one again.

NH Cocktail Party, 30 June 2012

My friends hosted a cocktail party the other night in New Hampshire where I got to put some recipes (tried and true and a couple new ones) to the test.  Sources for the recipes included Andres Aleman (Dragon’s Kiss), Gina Chersevani (Black White and Tiki, Beety Bastard), and The Passenger (Hot as Girl on Girl, Monk’s Mule, Obamacare Sling, Milton’s Stapler).

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The menu isn’t fully correct – we made it up at the last minute – but it’s close.

We whipped up several different types of simple syrups that we hadn’t tested out before, including strawberry syrup (great stuff – see Andres Aleman’s recipe for that one here), mint, cinnamon/nutmeg (really good – I think I used one large stick of cinnamon and a few dashes of nutmeg, then strained through cheese cloth), habanero, ginger (used my recipe from before, minus habaneros, and plus a little more ginger), and beet.  I need to work out a good recipe for the beet syrup…mine was not beety enough for what I was gunning for.

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Some simple syrups being prepped.

Most of these cocktails came out pretty well…I wouldn’t do the last item on the menu larger than a shooter though.  Way too sweet.  I’ll also need to tweak future menus a little bit..too little variation in the drinks (e.g. too many gin drinks, and too many with ginger beer – oops).

This was my first time being the bartender for a group this size (15-20).  It was definitely an experience that I’ll need to repeat…I need more opportunities where speed is important and stress exists (I don’t get that mixing drinks at home, obviously).  I’ve certainly got a ways to go to get out of novice status.

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My office that evening.

Cocktails, Early June 2012

Sorry for the hiatus…was tied up with some professional stuff.

Here’s a few cocktails that I’ve made in the last couple of weeks:

El Diablo:

Ingredients for the El Diablo…

  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 oz tequila (I used 1800 Reposado.)
  • 1/2 oz crème de cassis
  • Ginger Beer (I used Fever-Tree, which is excellent.)

Squeeze the lime and drop the shell in the glass, then add the tequila and crème de cassis.  Stir, then top off with ginger beer.

(Based on recipes from The Webtender Wiki)

I tried this a couple weeks ago at The Passenger…thought I’d try making it myself.  Came out pretty well…I’d throw it together again.

El Diablo…

My version of Alex’s Sour from The Passenger:

The ingredients for my version of Alex’s Sour…

The Passenger’s version calls for white whiskey, lemon, and Yellow Chartreuse…I went off this and used the following:

  • 2 oz Johnnie Walker Black
  • 1 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice (and being out of lemons, I used the type from concentrate…meh.)

Shook the ingredients together with ice, strained over fresh ice in a rocks glass.  Not bad.  I’d say it’s better than a whisk(e)y sour.

Alex’s Sour #2…

Bully Boy:

Ingredients for my take on the Bully Boy…

I was looking for some ideas for my brand new bottle of Fernet-Branca and came across this page.  Naturally I had to try out the award winner for best Fernet cocktail, so I threw together the Bully Boy.  From the site:

  • 1oz bourbon
  • 1/2oz Fernet Branca
  • 1/2oz Canton ginger liqueur
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 2t simple syrup
  • lemon peel, for garnish

Select dodecahedron shaped ice cubes out of your freezer (be very selective, the shape is important), and bash them with a baseball bat. Now shake it all up and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Of course, I am not yet fancy enough to have dodecahedron-shaped ice cubes (nor a bar baseball bat), so I did not follow some of the directions.  I used Woodford Reserve bourbon, and swapped out the plain simple syrup for my homemade ginger-habanero variety.  Because of the new flavors that my simple syrup lends to this drink (and because I didn’t have any real lemons…) I garnished this with an orange twist.  This came out great…very tasty.  You don’t get much of the medicinal taste associated with Fernet, but you can still tell it’s in there.  This one was definitely a winner.

The Bully Boy. Good cocktail…

Consolation Prize:

The ingredients for Consolation Prize…

I was looking for a good Chartreuse cocktail for this evening, and came across Last Frontier at both cocktail virgin slut and The Passenger.  Using this as a base, I made the following:

  • 2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake and bruise all ingredients with ice, then strain into a martini glass (keep small ice shards) and garnish with orange peel.

The Passenger’s version called for unknown proportions of Tanqueray, Green Chartreuse, and (unknown) bitters, while cocktail virgin slut called for 3 parts Beefeater, 1 part Green Chartreuse, and lemon oil.

I blew an interview earlier in the day, so I’m naming this one Consolation Prize.  Cheers.

My Consolation Prize…