Edible Austin Cooks Wins an Eddy

Marla Camp is on of my favorite foodie people and the amazing editor of Edible Austin.  Here is the news of her latest accolades:

We’re proud to announce that Edible Austin won two Eddy Awards, and were finalists in two other categories this year, bestowed at the Edible Communities Publishers meeting in January. Judged by a panel of outside experts from the food and publishing worlds, the awards recognize outstanding writing, photography and marketing campaigns.

Best Website: edibleaustin.com (2nd year in a row)
Best Editorial—Special Issue for Edible Austin COOKS! (digital edition click here)
and finalists for….
Best Editorial Spread or Layout for Setting the Season, Edible Austin COOKS!
Best Electronic Feature for our e-newsletter

Congratulations to Marla and her talented team!  Check out the special Cooks edition for party throwing tips, essential kitchen tools, family recipes from local chefs and farmers, a Texas wine guide, and more!

Austin Bacon Takedown March 13, 2011

Last year I made Bacon Pecan Toffee.  This year, the TECHmunch conference has been extended for 3 full days, so I am not sure if I will have the time/energy to participate but I am experimenting with a new porky dessert.  I made bacon sticky buns last weekend but they were not up to the high standards of last years competition.  I will update with more information as I get it.

Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival March 31- April 3, 2011

Spring is coming!  How do I know?  The schedule is up for the THCW&FF!  (I love a long acronym.)  Lots of great events, my favorite is always the grand Stars Across at the Long Center.  The Sunday Fair wasat the beautiful grounds at the Salt Lick in Spicewood but has also been plagued with mud the last couple of years.  This year should be interesting at the stunning new Mexican American Cultural Center in downtown Austin.

IACP Conference in Austin June 1-4, 2011

The schedule is up! What a coup for Austin snagging the 2011 IACP conference. Culinary luminaries include Diana Kennedy, Jacques Pepin, Amanda Hesser, Dorie Greenspan, John Besh, Stephen Pyles, Tom Perini, as well as plenty of our own stars from central Texas like Tyson Cole.  I cannot wait!

HS Cupcake Battle

Now this sounds like fun.  How I wish there had been a culinary program at my high school.  There actually is a great program at my old alma mater, Travis High (Go Rebels :-))There is also a new program at Connally High which is headed up by an old high school buddy of mine Chef Mike Erickson.  He has put together this amazing contest complete with celebrity judges and terrific prizes for the students.  The first round is this Saturday January 29, 2011 at Connally High 13212 N Lamar Bl. from 12-2.  Chef Mike will also be at Taste of Austin pimping cupcakes.  Save me some chocolate/chocolate!

 

 

Update:  Wow!  Those were some amazing cupcakes.  Here is an update with pics of my favorites.

 

Homemade Chocolate Vodka- in the Crock-pot!

Two great tastes that taste great together!  I was intrigued by several different posts on the web like this one claiming that you could make chocolate vodka with 3 simple ingredients, chocolate, vodka, and a dishwasher.  Basically the concept is you put the chocolate or candy bars into a bottle that is 3/4 full of vodka, cap it, and place it in the dishwasher and run a full cycle, including drying.  Shake it.  Let it cool.  You have a bottle of chocolate vodka!  This method definitely works but I ran into a few problems and came up with a solution of my own.

I started off with grated dark chocolate intended for hot cocoa, not the powdered kind but actual grated chocolate.  You could grate a candy bar or smash up some chocolate chips but the point is to get the chocolate into little bits so it melts easier.  Giant chunks of chocolate in the bottle will melt eventually, so don’t stress over it too much.  Just get the chocolate as fine as you feel like fooling with and put it in a clean, dry bottle.  Now add enough vodka to fill the bottle 3/4 full and cap it.

The reason you leave some room in the bottle is that alcohol boils at 79º and starts to evaporate into a gas.  Chocolate melts between 100-113º.  So when you get the bottle hot enough to melt the chocolate, the alcohol needs room to evaporate.  This led to my first problem with the dishwasher method.  I heard a loud “pop” from my dishwasher and realized the alcohol fumes had pushed the cork out of the bottle.  Definitely use a screw top if you are using this method.  I was lucky to get to it quickly enough to avoid spillage, or worse, soap in the bottle.  But now how to melt the rest of the chocolate???

I ended up placing the corked bottle into my crock-pot and filling it up with warm water from the tap.  Within half an hour, the water was hot enough to melt the chocolate without risk of explosion or soap.  You definitely have to watch the pot with this method.  If the water gets too hot, it could build up too much pressure in the bottle from the alcohol vapors and shatter the bottle.  But it gently heats the water, so the risk is less than trying it on the stove.  Once the chocolate is melted, give it a good shake and let it cool to below 79º before you open the bottle.  Ideally, store it in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks, giving it a good shake every couple of days but really, is chocolate vodka going to last that long?

I used 4 ounces of dark chocolate for 2 cups of vodka.  As a pastry chef, let me tell you the secret to all great chocolate desserts.  USE THE BEST CHOCOLATE YOU CAN FIND.  I have lots of opinions on brands.  Some of my favorites are Valrhona, El Rey, and Ghiradelli.  I cannot always afford Valrhona but when you are only using a few ounces in a recipe, it makes a huge difference on the taste as well as the results.  I found a premium brand of chocolate that was packaged grated to be used to make hot chocolate which worked quite well.  The vodka, on the other hand, you can skimp on.  I would not use a premium bottle of vodka like Grey Goose to make this.  The best bargain vodka that still tastes pretty smooth in my opinion is Monopolwa.  It is a potato vodka originally made in Poland but now made in Austria.  I had a very good Russian friend who drank this exclusively.  That’s good enough recommendation for me.

Do svidaniya!

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Well before the Dude Abided, I was a White Russian fan.  My first legal drink in a bar was a White Russian.  I remember thinking, “Vodka and milk?  This is going to be gross.”  But what I didn’t know about then was the Kahlua, which is a coffee flavored liquer that when added to vodka and milk transforms the cocktail to a drink I like to refer to as Quik with a Kick as it is similar to a glass of the Nestle’s drink with a decidedly adult  finish. 

Kahlua is delicious and can be used in other drinks besides White Russians as well as in baking but at around $20 a bottle, it can be expensive.  I used the knock off store version for years before I figured out how to make my own.  I have  some that will most likely be poured into a mug of hot chocolate tonight to put a dent on the chill in the air.

Homemade Kahlua

  • 4 cups water*
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee*
  • 4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 liter vodka  **update**  I recently made a batch with a full liter of vodka on accident and actually liked it a bit a bit more, so I would say use a minimum of a 1/2 liter
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine water, instant coffee, and brown sugar in large pot and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  This is important because the boiling point for alcohol is 79°.  If you put the vodka in before it has cooled to at least this temperature, you risk loosing some of the alcohol to evaporation.  Combine the vodka with the cooled coffee mixture.  Cut the vanilla beans in half and place into a clean 1 liter glass bottle.  Fill bottle with the coffee liquer and give it a shake.  The black specks floating around are the seeds from the vanilla bean also called “vanilla caviar”.  Yum!  Store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.  The longer it sits, the tastier it gets but that is usually as long as I can wait.

* You can substitute 4 cups of your favorite strongly brewed coffee for the water and instant coffee.  I actually had some decent instant that a friend brought me back from Jamaica in my last batch that worked out great but use whatever you like.

Taste of Austin

One of my favorite foodie events in Austin is back at the Palmer Events Center on 1/27.  Use discount code “EBTOA”  for 20% off early bird tickets.  General admission tickets (regularly $25) are available for $20
and reserved seating tickets (regularly $35) are currently available for $28 
on their website at www.tasteofaustin.org.

Week of 1000 Cocktails Part 2

Next stop on the cocktail train was a mixology class sponsored by Hendricks gin. It was all very mysterious. I saw an add online for a Hendricks class at a secret location. I submitted my info and within 24 hours, I got the invite and the location was revealed to be Kenichi on 4th and Colorado. I had heard about the great happy hour at Kenichi, so I headed straight over from work to try some of the offerings before class began. There is a huge assortment of rolls, appetizers, and even main courses discounted from 5-7.  The crowd of trendy downtowners and better than average sushi are definitely a draw.  The place was packed by 7pm.  I tried the wild boar potstickers as well as a couple of the rolls. If you do not mind crowds or parking hassles, it really is a good deal on the happy hour.

After we sampled some drinks made with Hendricks gin at the bar, we convened in a backroom outfitted with a full bartenders set up at each of our seats.  The entertaining presentation included details of how Hendricks is made in small batches in two different kinds of stills for a gin that has a pleasant hint of cucumber and roses.  We also learned to make 3 kinds of gimmlets.  As you can imagine, we were a pretty rowdy bunch by the end.  I stuck around afterwards to try some of the passed appetizers including a lovely little lamb chop.

Final cocktail party was at the Wine and Food Foundation’s Big Reds and Bubbles at the Driskill.  I received an invitation to pour a couple of days prior.  I think my blood was probably about 60 proof after the week long festivities I had been indulging in but I knew I had to attend this and I was so glad I did.  I ended up pouring for the distributor that carries Penfolds and they brought out the big dogs.  The RWT shiraz received the following review from Wine Spectator-  93 points  “Rich, ripe and focused, with a lovely purity to the blackberry, dark plum and sweet spice flavors, playing against bittersweet chocolate notes on the long, expressive finish. Best from 2010 through 2020.” And the fabled Grange, also from Wine Spectator-   98 points Wine Spectator: “Smooth and seductive, this delivers a full-throated chorus of currant, plum, blackberry and spice flavors, hinting at coffee and cardamom as the finish floats and sails easily over a bed of polished, refined tannins. A touch of black olive balances nicely against it all. Beautifully structured, expressive and very long. Best from 2012 through 2025.”  The RWT retails around $100 a bottle and the Grange goes for $500.

This is officially the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever had.  It was at the same time complex and smooth.  Peppery, like you would expect from a shiraz but with a beautiful background of dark fruit and a finish that I am still tasting.  I ended the evening with a gorgeous plate of petit fours from Tony Sansalone, pastry chef at the Driskill, and a small glass of the Grange sitting on the balcony overlooking 6th street.  What a magical Austin moment.

So dive into cocktail season in Austin.  You will not regret it!

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