Estrella de Oaxaca, for MxMo LXXX

23 Dec

I was almost about to miss this month Mixology Monday.. I love contributing to this little yet ever-growing community, but recently my time has been devoted entirely to organize the imminent opening of my very own bar, slated for January. I thought I would have spent sleepless nights on creating menus, mixing up all my favourite ingredients, shopping for exotic bottles, instead I found myself waiting in a different line everyday, almost losing my personal battle against Italian burocracy. Finally, late this afternoon, the Notary placed the last signature on the contract, so the cocktail brainstorming can now begin. It will take a while but bit by bit I will post all the recipes from the menu and the seasonal specials.
So, after all of this burocracy, three weeks later, it’s time for me to get reacquainted with the fine art of mixing drinks, and no occasion is better than a new MxMo project.
The theme for this month was chosen by Nick, of the Straight up blog,: anise, a spice fit for this season. Here we got his announcement post. Please take some time in reading Nick’s posts, as he writes one of the classiest booze blog around.
Here’s what I came up with this time:

“ESTRELLA DE OAXACA”
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“Knock on Wood” for MxMo LXXIX

17 Nov

mxmologoChristmas is rushing toward us, we are about to get hit by the usual amount of advertising pressure and  any bar you will walk into, for the next month or so, will offer any sort of drink, specifically modified and engineered to reflect this holiday spirit. Now, just before all this nonsense is about to begin, the guys from BoozeNerds give us the chance to focus on what really should be intertesting about this season: nature, and in this particular case, evergreens. Here’s the post for this Mixology Monday theme: resin. I must admit, this was a difficult subject to work with, but I am glad that Christa and Shaung took the time to come up with something so challenging.  At this time of the year resin is all around us with the balsamic fragrance of pine oils, fir essence, dried pine-cones and toasted pine-nuts. Here in Italy we start our weekend trips up on the mountains, were we seek refuge in wooden chalets, drinking hard stuff while the fireplace is crackling. But we also must admit that evergreens and their byproducts are with us all year long, we just concentrate their use during colder months, because they warm our spirit up, they give us a pampering sensation, and most of all, they are part of a tradition.
KNOCK ON WOOD
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“Stars and Stripes” for MxMo LXXVIII

21 Oct

mxmologoTravelling is arguably one of my biggest passions. I consider myself lucky, as I have had the chance to travel, work and live around the world, always with my beautiful lady. Now that we moved back into my hometown, here in Italy, one of the thing I missed the most is just living in a foreign country, learning different lifestyles, different cuisines, new ingredients. I started blogging and participating in Mixology Mondays also for this reason: I wanted to stay in touch with a reality that was different than mine, I wanted to see what other bartenders had to say about cocktails and spirits, because, if there is one thing I learned during my travels, is that mixing ingredients and techniques from different cultures, often produces great results. Now this was almost impossible 100, 150 years ago (even now in Italy it’s difficult to find Chambord, produced in the neighbouring France), as most ingredients were locally sourced, and very few brands were able to reach all the continents. Nowadays though, as Stewart Putney of Putney Farm says in this month MxMo announcement, bar shelves are stocked with bottles from all over the world, most bartenders are familiar with more exotic techniques and even in my small town I can find a decent Asian grocery store. “Intercontinental” is the theme that Stewart decided for us, and it couldn’t be a better one, celebrating the globalization of the cocktail scene, and at the same time bringing us back into an era when travelling was an important event, not something casual, but something to remember and share with your loved ones.

              STARS AND STRIPES

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“Ceci n’est pas une jasmine” for MxMo LXXVIII

22 Sep

mxmologoIt’s Mixology Monday time once again guys and boy, have I ever been this late in submitting my post… well, it doesn’t matter, although late, I am still in time to take part in this amazing monthly online meeting. The theme of the month has been chosen by Elana of Stir and Strain, one of the best crafted cocktail blog out there, especially when we talk about pictures. Elana is a pro, no questions about it. The theme she chose for this month is SMOKE, and you can read all about it on her announcement post.
Smoke infusions are a trendy technique nowadays, (maybe they are not even trendy anymore, bar trends are really fast lately) and definitely one of my favorite, so much that I will be hosting a night here in my hometown next month, and the 4 drinks menu will be focused on the different ways to smoke a cocktail, be it with a cold smoke infusion (such in the recipe below), or by adding a smoky flavor to one of the ingredients (Charcoal infused Campari for example).
In a few weeks I will post all the recipes, but until then, let’s check out something that kept me busy the whole weekend.
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“Ceci n’est pas une Jasmine”
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Drinking the Eastern Block away… Part 1 Ljubljana

10 Sep

Hi there fellas, this post will be a little different from all the others, in fact this time I will not bore you with some obscure recipes of mine, nor I will yap about some strange and complicated syrups or shrubs. No, this time I will keep your eyes glued to the screen with a fantastic slideshow of my most recent trip around Eastern Europe.. yes just like in the eighties, it will take just a couple of hours to go through the hundreds of pictures I took..

I am only kidding of course: these posts will cover my six days spent between Ljubljana and Bratislava, focusing on bars and restaurants, to give  advice to fellow travelers, since the net is lacking on food blogs for these two beautiful cities.

First up, Ljubljana wpid-20130801_121804.jpg

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, a country that was spared the atrocities of the Balkan war, but that had to endure 40 plus years of Socialism and Totalitarian regime. Nowadays Ljubljana is a wonderful city,described by many as the Venice of the Balkans, one of the greenest capitals in Europe, with a very young and very welcoming population.
We stayed in an apartment just outside the old town, booked on Airbnb . Ljubljana is so small and so well serviced that you don’t need to stay right in downtown,so we chose a small two bedroom apartment in a socialist-era residential area, very quiet and suggestive, and I would recommend to anyone such an arrangement.
The old town is of course the main attraction, with its canals and the castle overlooking this miniature Prague (the architect that designed the majority of the buildings is the same that created Prague’s beautiful streets). You can find bars and restaurants on either side of the canals, there’s literally dozens of them, and also a wonderful open-air market, just in front of the Gondola that brings visitors up to Ljubljana Castle.
Prices are generally cheap, one pint of beer goes from 90 cents to 2,50 euros, depending on the establishment, and cocktails are around 5 Euros, so not that bad. Food prices are also quite low, but the quality is definitely high.
There’s a great choice of quality restaurants, ranging from traditional and local to more modern Italian and French inspired cuisine. Local delicacies and specialties are game, patès ,fresh seafood and of course wine.
The first place we visited, once we parked the car and unloaded the luggage, is Hot Horse,a burger joint that specializes in horsemeat burgers.. simply awesomewpid-20130731_170641.jpg
You order your item from a touch screen device, then wait for the massive guy at the grill to be done cooking your order. You can choose different dishes and you can also opt for a regular beef burger , but you would be insane to do so.. their horse burger is massive and delicious.. 10 euros buys 2 burgers and beers.
The place can be found on the western tip of Tivoli Park, a huge green area completed with trails, fountains and benches, and I must admit, this is one of the best metropolitan park I have ever seen.
Another gourmet fast-food place is Klobasarna, located at the foot of the Castle Hill, by the Town Hall. This place is rather small, they have two tables outside and no chairs; their menu is quite spartan as well: you can have either a full portion of traditional sausage, served sliced up on a plate, with bread and horseradish, or a half portion of said sausage, served the same way. Needless to say, these sausages are to die for, and a good snack to give your liver a “rest” while bar-hopping.
Ljubljana doesn’t offer a great cocktail scene, don’t expect mixologists with suspenders and newsboy hats, nor dark, speakeasy style watering holes. A good place to have a drink is the bar at Vander Hotel, located in an alley that leads to the main canal. It’s a rather small place, very well stocked and elegant. we had a couple of Dark n’ Stormys, paid 6 euros each for them and left happy.
There are plenty of places to have a drink in Ljubljana, most of them are very similar, fairly touristic, all of them quite cheap; in our stay, we came across a couple that are really worth mentioning: Druga Violina is an excellent place for a glass of wine or a late night snack (they call it light snack, but in reality we got a bowl of goulash and polenta that was more than enough for two people). the night we went there, they were playing live jazz music on a stage just next to their outside patio… I strongly recommend this place. Other nice spots are Movia, and the bar at Hostel Celica. Actually all the area around the hostel has been reclaimed and it’s now a beautiful open air center for street artists
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Now for the restaurant bit: if you visit Ljubljana you must stop by Gujzina. They have one of the best menus in town, many daily specials, a wonderful location and great wine. We had a game goulash and pork medallions, after tasting a smoked goose carpaccio and some liver patè. Simply amazing. They are also open in the morning for breakfast
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Another great place to stop by for lunch or dinner is Valentin Restavracija. They specialize in fresh seafood, you can walk to the counter and choose any item from the window, decide wether you want it grilled or fried or you can order from one of their two menus: we had grilled trout and “fritto misto”. The quality of the seafood was outstanding, the price incredibly cheap. this place is located just next to the Gondola for the castle, in the same square that hosts the open air market.
A third really good option for food is the restaurant Gostilna Na Gradu, right in the castle overlooking the whole city. This place is run by three of the best chefs in town, and they offer their modern twist on traditional Slovenian cuisine.
As you can see, there are plenty of places in this beautiful European capital. We unfortunately didn’t have time to review many other great spots, but we had a lovely stay, tasted great food and sipped delicious wines. Given that it’s only three hours away from my house, I am pretty sure I will be writing another post about it in the near future…

p.s. Make sure you visit the countryside as well, especially Bohinj Park and Savica Fall.. if you are into nature, it doesn’t get much better than that. Stay tuned for my review of Bratislava, in the next few days!!

Charred Memories for MxMo LXXVI

17 Aug

mxmologoIt’s a searing, steaming, scorching hot August here in Italy, and no climate could be more fitting for this month’s MxMo theme: FIRE!!
This time we have the honor of being led by Muse of Doom, one of the most talented bloggers in the booze-blogging universe, and here you can read all about the chosen theme. Make sure you pay her a visit every once in a while, because not only does she come up with great recipes and even better names, but she’s probably the most active person on the net in spreading other people’s word around.. a true Muse of this movement!!
I was worried about not having enough time to contribute, given that I spent my past two weeks on holidays, but luckily I managed to find some spare time as soon as I got back home, so fire away!!

CHARRED MEMORIES
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Huevo de Paloma for MxMo LXXV

29 Jul

mxmologoSummer is arguably the best time of the year for drinking, partying and having fun in general. There’s no doubt about that, plus with temperatures constantly over 30°C, even just the idea of sitting down in front of my warm laptop makes me start sweating. This might be the reason for a lack of volunteer hosts for this month MxMo. But have no fear, my fellow bloggers, Mr. Yarm of Cocktailvirginslut is here to save us, hosting yet again another edition of this monthly happening. The theme chosen for July is a rather clever one, named Flip Flop, and you can read all about it here on Frederic’s announcement post.
Now, the idea of flipping a classic, or twisting it as some other people may say, is one of the concept in mixology that I prefer. First of all you have to start from knowledge, meaning that you must know few classics to be able to make a twist on anything: this inevitably leads to research. There is nothing better for me than spending hours on the web and over books, reading about cocktails from any era, getting to know many new and old styles of mixing. All this research leads of course to a lot of drinking, as one must put in practice what he has just learned in theory, and that’s when you start learning new techniques as well. Once you start realizing that many modern classics are spins from old classics, and that any kind of drink can be categorized in flavor, combos and techniques, well then you are becoming a true enthusiast of this trade, and that’s when you should start researching some more and never stop doing that.
As the theme of the month is flips, I decided to go for what has to be the millionth attempt to twist a Paloma, the Mexican national drink. Most of my documentation for this post comes from that great well of knowledge that is Camper English, and here’s a list of the most famous interpretation of Paloma

HUEVO DE PALOMA
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