THE QUAFF: Jalapeño Green Tea Mojitos Edition

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Earlier this week, I brought you tales of classic mojitos. Now I come to you with a variation on the theme. Introducing the jalapeño green tea mojito, a cocktail invented by my friend Sly and me and patterned after the wonderful green tea mojito, which was also featured on this here blog (with me in a Vanilla Ice costume, no less).

After the jump, check out this very special Quaff — special because my parents were present for the entire experience…

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THE QUAFF: Classic Mojito Edition

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A week ago, I attended a lovely Memorial Day BBQ at my friend’s house, and when I asked if I could bring anything, the hostess suggested that I bring some hard alcohol for summer cocktails. This immediately got my brain working: I knew I had mint in my fridge… and mint makes me think of mojitos… and mojitos makes me think of rum… and rum makes me think of pirates… and pirates makes me think of the Caribbean… and the Caribbean–

Wait. I’ve taken this word association too far. Let’s go back to mojitos. Clearly, this would be a perfect barbecue option, and besides, I didn’t really have much experience making classic mojitos. Sure, I’ve made the green tea variation dozens of times (including a variation on that variation to be published on this blog in the next few days), but I’ve rarely made claaaasssic mojitos.

WELL, after a quick trip to Ralphs supermarket (where a handle of Bacardi was marked down from $27 to $13!!), I trotted over to my friend’s house to assemble some pitchers of the much loved Cuban cocktail. My usual trusty photographer Sly was off in the Rocky Mountains somewhere, pedaling a pennyfarthing from one cowboy town to another, and so I had to rely on the photographic skills of our friend Havarti. I’m proud to say she did a fine job, especially given the backlighting and the limitations of my iPhone camera.

Pictures after the jump…

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Berry Breakthroughs on Drago Centro’s Summer Cocktail Menu

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A few months ago, I raved about the totally awesome spring cocktails at Drago Centro, the esteemed Italian eatery in Downtown Los Angeles. Well, the seasons have changed, and so have the libations. Gone are mixologist Jaymee Mandeville’s fanciful uses of dill and honeycomb and kumquat. In their place are a new slate of drinks, many of which feature my most mortal enemy: BERRIES.

Avid readers of this blog know that I have some strange, woeful distaste for berries that makes me generally gag upon first taste, not to mention whiff. But given that being a food blogger is very serious business, I felt it was my God-given duty to bravely put aside my own apprehensions and dive headfirst into the fruity minefield that is the Drago Centro summer cocktail menu. Never has a media-comped meal been so fraught with anxiety.

Did I survive? Well, obviously yes. I’m here writing, aren’t I? But the trauma, the agony — was I able to rise above? Pictures of this most important journey after the jump…

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Drago Centro Serves Up Amazing Cocktail Menu (and Bar Food Too)

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The revival of Downtown Los Angeles continues, particularly as it pertains to great bars and mixology. Making a mark of its own is Drago Centro, which unveiled its Spring cocktail menu a few weeks ago with a media-comped tasting session at its bar. When I received the invite for this event, my eyes nearly fell out of my head. Don’t worry though — all ocular function has been retained. Still, the cocktail menu that came with the email was a sight to behold. I wanted to try each and every one of the twelve or so libations on the menu — a first for me.

Crafted by perhaps my new favorite bartender of all time Jaymee Mandeville, I can assure you these beverages rock. Let’s take a looksie, shall we?

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Make Your Own Shamrock Shake!

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Crazy as it might sound, I’d never tasted one of McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes prior to last year. I can’t say that I was totally won over by it, but I know many people have been, and now comes this glorious and probably obvious news: you can make a Shamrock Shake at home!

According to Kelsey Banfield of Babble.com (by way of Yahoo), there is a recipe out there that comes thisclose to replicating the McDonald’s original.

Recipe after the jump. Also, please note that you will probably kick yourself for not being able to figure it out on your own.

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THE QUAFF: Ginger Cilantro Mule Edition

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Last week, my dearest friend Meeshie visited me here in Los Angeles, and she absolutely insisted that we make a cocktail (I was not very hard to persuade). I handed her my favorite cocktail book, Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie and told her to pick out a recipe. After some casual browsing, Meeshie decided on our beverage of the evening: the Ginger Cilantro Mule.

A variation on the classic Moscow Mule, the GCM (as I like to call it) is all about the refreshing play of ginger and lime, but unlike any other “mule,” I’ve tried, this one features not vodka, not gin, but rather TEQUILA. Color me intrigued…

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THE QUAFF: Ginger Cocktail Showdown

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Recently, I purchased the book Left Coast Libations, which proudly culls cocktail recipes from a wide swath of mixologists in Los Angeles (way too under-represented), San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. I absolutely loved the concept of the book — finally, I could emulate cocktails from The Roger Room here in LA or Bourbon and Branch up in SF. Too bad that nearly every recipe employs amazingly esoteric ingredients; so much so that for the past several months, the book has collected dust on my shelf, occasionally migrating to my coffee table where I would toy with the idea of making one of the recipes. Finally, this past weekend, I declared to my cohort Sly that we had to finally delve into Left Coast Libations. I ordered her to select a recipe, and after many minutes of leafing and perusing, she finally chose not one but two options, both ginger-centric. And so the ginger showdown was born.

Sly and I immediately tromped off to the supermarket to fetch supplies (including a flashy new bottle of Canton) and then an hour an a half later (we got sidetracked by an impromptu stop at a foot massage place), we were ready to go ginger crazy. Results after the jump…

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10 Places to Drink Outdoors in LA

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The Huffington Post just ranked five excellent choices to enjoy a summer cocktail outdoors in Los Angeles, and now I feel compelled to add to the list.

Suggestions after the jump.

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Trip to Bridlewood Estate Winery Predictably Leads to Beautiful Scenery, Mild Drunkenness

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This past weekend, the good people from Bridlewood Estate Winery shuttled a variety of bloggers and media types up to Santa Ynez, CA to enjoy wine, art, and tranquility. I was one of the lucky ones who nabbed a seat on the mini-coach (thanks to Esi at Dishing Up Delights), which meant that I spent my entire Sunday in the throes of wine tasting MADNESS. Actually, it wasn’t quite madness. It was all a rather refined affair full of mature sips and tasty hors d’oeuvres. And yes, it was awesome.

For those who haven’t been, Bridlewood is a bucolic and downright gorgeous winery just north of Santa Barbara, and I can speak from experience that they crank out some delicious wines. In fact, when I went wine tasting with my parents last summer in the region, Bridlewood was our favorite vineyard (we even emerged with several bottles, much to my delight).

Anyway, this time around, the focus wasn’t just on the wine. It was also on the local artists from the Central Valley of California whose art draws deeply from both Bridlewood and the surrounding environs. We got to meet many of the artists as well as the people behind the wine, and I can assure you it all made for one of those unapologetic “I’m living the yuppie dream” afternoons. If Ina Garten were ever to branch out to California, this would surely be where she’d wind up (and yes, I must always bring everything back to Ina Garten).

Pictures from the excursion after the jump…

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THE QUAFF: Fun with Veev Açaí Spirit!

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Recently I received a complimentary bottle of VeeV Açaí Spirit, which meant I had to face one of my biggest fears: berries. For the uninitiated, I have something neurologically wrong wherein I detest the thing that millions — perhaps BILLIONS — of people worldwide love. I speak, of course, of the berry. I hate almost all berries. I’ve come around to cranberries, and I suppose a caper is technically a berry, and I’m okay with those, but all the rest: big problems for me. Huge. It’s not even that I dislike them but can tolerate them in food. I usually want to gag when I smell, or worse, taste berries.

However, I’m determined to have some breakthroughs this year because after all, I do aspire to call myself an unqualified foodie (I mean that in every sense of the term), and I’m not sure I can live up to that title if an entire realm of foods is verboten to me.

And so when the VeeV arrived, I was determined to take on the challenge head on. With the help of Paul Abercrombie’s Organic, Shaken, and Stirred, my friend Sly and I delved into the wide world of AÇAÍ!

Results after the jump… Continue reading

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