Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Simplicity of Preparing Warmed Olives, Paired with Vesper Cocktails

Warmed olives, seasoned with herbs and spices, pair well with dry gin and vodka cocktails.

Steve was inspired to reinvestigate Alice Waters’s renowned “warm olives with thyme” recipe in The Art of Simple Food when he sipped his first Vesper cocktail. So after taste-testing her recipe side-by-side with this classic drink, he decided to toss in a few more ingredients to her mix, and lower the Vesper’s alcohol content by using less gin.

His additions worked magic. Warmed ever so gently in a bath of herbs and spices, these olives deliver a punch of flavor thanks to the interplay of thyme, cumin, and red pepper flakes. They’re addictive on their own. But paired with a cocktail like the Vesper [SEE RECIPE BELOW], or a Martini if you feel so inclined, the hint of citrus infused in the warmed olive oil brings all the flavors together and makes for a piquant pairing with strong drinks.

And the most beautiful thing about this recipe is its ease. In the minutes it takes to meld all the flavors, you can stir up some trouble at the bar and mix some ice-cold cocktails. The olives will be ready as your guests raise a toast.

Warmed Olives
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 cups mixed olives
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, quartered
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
citrus peel (lemon or orange, or both)

Rinse olives thoroughly, drain, and let dry. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium–low heat. Add all the ingredients and mix until coated with oil. Warm for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pairing Warmed Olives with cocktails seems easy at the outset, but olives have a way of making sweet cocktails taste, well, not so good. Our advice: Stick with savory cocktails, and those employing gin or vodka as their base. Our favorite is the Vesper, made famous by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale, his first James Bond 007 book. Gin is the main ingredient, followed by vodka, then Lillet blanc, a winy, lightly herbal quinquina (an aperitif that has quinine as an ingredient). If you use a variety of olives, you’ll notice that each one brings out a different flavor note in the cocktail. Your taste buds will thank you.

Meet the Vesper, James Bond’s preferred cocktail in Casino Royale.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces gin (Plymouth is a good gin to start with)
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce Lillet blanc
orange peel, for garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into well chilled cocktail glass. Add orange peel.

A Note on the Twist
For the Vesper, we like to take a firm orange and use a standard vegetable peeler to get a nice wide garnish for the cocktail. Make sure to peel the orange over the Vesper to impart the oils from its rind. Lemon works just as well if you don’t have any oranges handy.

To read more and watch our video pairing Warmed Olives with the Vesper cocktail, click here.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cocktail Buzz Takes You to Rhode Island: Drinking and Dining in Providence and Newport

A morel mushroom bruschetta at La Laiterie, in Providence.

Several years back, we planned a New England Trip that would culminate in Rhode Island. For some reason we were hellbent on spending a night or two in Providence, and perhaps touring some mansions in Newport, but those plans came to a crashing halt when we were dining in Boston and ran into a friend Paul hadn’t seen in almost twenty years. And this was after Paul just finished saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we ran into my friend Jim? I haven’t seen him in twenty years.” Well, there Jim was, dining right behind us in the restaurant. We never made it to Providence; Jim invited us to his and his partner’s house on the North Shore of Boston, and we’ve been visiting every summer since.

Old School Diners, like the Seaplane, are good bets in Providence and its neighboring towns.

So, it was time to reconsider Rhode Island: we decided on two nights in Providence and one night in Newport, and then we’d visit Jim on the North Shore.

What a trip it proved to be. Providence and Newport welcomed us with wide-open arms, loaded with superb cocktails, delicious and creative food, and spectacularly curated museums and mansions. While in Providence, we bar-hopped with new friends Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida, partners who edit the spectacularly curated gay art periodical Headmaster [NSFW], and toured the RISD and Culinary Museums. And in Newport, after gazing at rich people’s furniture in insanely decorated mansions, we were thirsty and hungry. So we searched for a restaurant that offered fresh seafood prepared à la New American with a New York City–style cocktail menu, in a tranquil setting, and found exactly that.

Paul and Steve at Doris Duke’s Rough Point, in Newport.

Click here to experience our trip, with photos and write-ups of our favorite bars, restaurants, and museums.