Thursday, July 21, 2011

...and so it begins anew: Day One.

OK.

Before I cover the news of Day 1, some general background details.

1- LOTS of tattooed women. A lot of these are also rocking the 1950s pinup look. Not really sure why, on either count. Still, there it is.

2- I got to sneak a glimpse of all the prep work being done. Crate after crate of citrus being juiced in these industrial juicers. Syrups made in enormous stock pots.

3- A lot of the various participants are taking advantage of Twitter, so the more technoastute can hop on over to where the excellent freebies are.

Freebies are good.

For example, the good folks at Small Screen Network (a cocktail video website you should visit daily) hosted a “happy hour reception” featuring Rum Punch (made with the ridiculously excellent Dos Maderas Rum) and a New Orleans classic, muffuletta sandwiches. Which were delicious and substantial enough that this turned into (let’s not kid ourselves) a free dinner.

Now, dear Internet, you may think this is nothing more than 5 days* of nonstop, ethanol fueled bacchanals. But no. This is science and knowledge being disseminated. Which I, intrepid correspondent that I am, gather and bring to you.

You’re welcome.

Now, something you need to know is that Day One is really geared more to the People In The Trade. That doesn't stop the geeks from attending, but the information presented is really not so bloody applicable to a guy making excellent cocktails in his home bar.

The first thing I learned, and it was an official seminar (not merely a “breakout session”) was on the matter of ice. YES. There was such a seminar: "How to Build a Cutting Edge Ice Program, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM." 90 minutes on the matter of ice.

(There was another on making your own sodas, but I have to find time to type up my notes.)

Anyway.

You’ve seen the glossy advertisements for some ardent spirit, in a crystal vessel, accessorized by equally crystalline ice. While THAT ice is likely acrylic (to withstand the lighting requirements of a product’s day long photo shoot) your ice at home can be likewise clear.

If you’ve ever wondered why some fancy places turn out perfectly clear ice, while yours at home (even with the fanciest refrigerator icemakers) is cloudy-white, I’m here to tell you how to do it right.

First, you need to filter your water. A standard, cheap, pitcher or faucet filter will suffice. If your refrigerator dispenses filtered water that will be just fine also. Place this highly excellent water in a scrupulously clean teapot. Boil. Shut off heat and allow to cool. Then boil again.

Why? There is a LOT of dissolved air in water, and the more dissolved air, the cloudier the ice. Boiling allows all that to escape.

Anyway, while it is still hot, pour carefully (!) into the ice tray. THEN – pay attention, this is the crucial bit – place the ice tray in one of those insulated cheap lunch “totes” that have sadly replaced the more artistic steel lunchboxes of yore. Then place the whole thing inside the freezer.

Basically you need two things to get super-clear ice: Very pure water, and a S-L-O-W freezing process. In a normal icemaking process, the surface of the cube freezes up much faster than the interior. Which “cramps” the interior, clouding it. By using very hot (and pure) water inside an insulated environment, you are assuring yourself a very slow freezing that allows the interior to cool down at a rate far closer to that of the exterior, and that lack of “cramping” is what produces such clear ice.

The next thing on the list was an excellent seminar on "Setting up your in-house soda program" so that you have an array of interesting fizzies to offer guests either straight up for those driving, or mixed for those not.

It is an abysmally kept secret that I am a big fan of "real" (i.e. made with real sugar) Coca-Cola. I basically enjoy carbonation a whole lot. So this is the sort of seminar that tickles my fancy.

Once again, we were drummed with the mantra of "filter and boil your water!" and, for sodaification purposes, to chill that water to about one nanodegree above freezing. (Boyle's Law hadn't been given this much play in my life since my Physics final.)

Insider's Tip: Two CO2 cartridges will create the optimal level of carbonation in 1qt/1L of water at 33F/1C.

The first recipe for anything is mineral water. No need to worry about the price (if you're a right wing maniac) or carbon-footprint (if you're a left wing maniac) of poncy mineral waters from a spring deep in the Alps. Check this out:



Recipe for Apollonaris Sparkling Mineral Water
23g sodium bicarbonate
11.5g sodium sulfate
8.8g sodium chloride
7.6g magnesium carbonate
1g calcium carbonate
5 gallons (18.75L) of water

Store in a
glass "carboy" like the ones you see in water coolers at offices. Carbonate each
liter/quart with 2 charges. Voila.
Which brings us to...homemade tonic water. Which is very handy if your household experiences dengue or malaria, or if you fly through gins-and-tonics by the trough.



First you make the "concentrate"
4 c. water
1 c. chopped lemongrass
(about 2 stalks for me)
¼ c. powdered cinchona bark
zest (use a
Microplane or other FINE grater) and juice of 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime
¼
t. cardamom seeds
½ t. allspice berries
¼ c. citric acid powder (NOT
liquid!)
¼ t. Coarse sea salt

Put everything in a large saucepan,
bring to a boil and immediately lower the heat to the barest simmer, and cover.
Let it go for 20 min. Strain through a coffee filter. Add an equal amount by
volume of simple syrup (1:1), and that's your concentrate. To make tonic water,
add 3 parts of concentrate to 8 parts water, and then carbonate.
Just wait until you see what's on tap for tomorrow.

-J.

P.S. God bless Berocca.

Posted by Joke at 6:59 AM

5 Comments

  • Blogger kim at allconsuming posted at 4:51 AM, July 22, 2011  
    GOD I love it when you post. And yes, I am going to blaspheme on your blog because DUDE you have to return to blogging with regular FREQUENCY because it totally does my head in having you silent. The price vs carbon footprint? GOLD.
  • Blogger kim at allconsuming posted at 5:16 AM, July 22, 2011  
    That sandwich - I recall Anthony Bourdain singing the praises of that sandwich. It looks, um, FREAKING AWESOME.
  • Anonymous Joke Googlia posted at 8:52 AM, July 22, 2011  
    It takes a bit of doing these days, but TotC is one of those unmissable events. AND! For reasons I cannot quite fathom, there is always a strong contingent of Australians. (I am grateful, for now I know of Berocca.)

    I am further amazed by how, if you plan things ju-s-s-s-st right, this trip can be practically free (at least from ovah heah) and how many freebies I can score.
  • Blogger Paola posted at 9:11 AM, July 22, 2011  
    Oh this is hard-core.
    And like Kim I am happy you're back.
  • Anonymous Joke Googlia posted at 9:50 AM, July 22, 2011  
    Great! Stay tuned for Day 2!
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