Distilling My Thoughts

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Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

Black Button Distilling in Rochester, NY

I recently visited a brand new local distillery in Rochester for a tasting.  Black Button Distilling is located on Railroad Street on the way to the Public Market and adjacent to the Rohrbach’s Brewery and tasting room. The owner and chief distiller, Jason Barrett, provided a tour and was refreshingly down-to-earth and knowledgable. As he shared his story, we learned how he made the bold move of basically giving up his corporate job and house to pursue his dream of starting his own distillery. He also talked about the history behind the brand name (his family owned a button factory), the distilling process, and various tasting notes of the current product offerings. I recommend stopping in – it was a very educational and fun evening!

I sampled a wheat vodka (there were two and I had the one with the non-sake notes), the moonshine, and the Citrus Forward Gin. The bourbon is presently being aged in barrels with an anticipated release in 2015. Not surprisingly, the gin won me over with its distinctive flavor notes. The typical juniper bite is smoothed out with citrus and spices resulting in a profile reminiscent of orange spice tea. I knew I could have some fun experimenting with this. Thus, retail therapy occurred and I left with a bottle in hand. In addition to the booze, the Black Button shop also offers glassware, delicious maple syrup (really good stuff!), a variety of bitters, and simple syrups. I am 99% sure the simple syrup brand they offer is this one. However, I determined that I could make the lavender lemon syrup at home myself because as we’ve already established, I am that weirdo who has lavender on hand. If you are not as ambitious, feel free to procure a bottle of syrup in addition to the gin.

Let’s cocktail, shall we?

Lavender Lemons

Lady Sensory’s DIY Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

Zest and juice of two lemons + enough water to total 1.5 cup of liquid

1 tbsp dried lavender (make sure it’s for culinary use – you can get it at Williams-Sonoma)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

I added a small amount of vanilla sugar to slightly round out the flavor because I have a fussy palate. No worries if you don’t have it on hand – you can omit or add a tiny drop of vanilla extract. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced in half (approximately 3/4 – 1 cup). Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer or tea strainer to remove the lavender and zest. The color will resemble pink lemonade. Syrup will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container (I used a mason jar). Use in cocktails, sodas (“cold pop”), or even over ice cream. Cocktail recipes from my mixology experiments are below.  You’ll note that I’ve incorporated some French names thanks to the lavender.

The Jacques Collins

Jacques Collins

Lady Sensory’s Jacques Collins

2 oz Black Button Citrus Forward Gin*

2 tbsp lavender lemon simple syrup (above)

Orange slice and 1-2 Maraschino cherries for garnish

Top with sparkling water/ club soda.

Chill a Collins glass or large rocks glass a few minutes in advance. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, gin and lavender lemon syrup. Shake until well combined and pour into the chilled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange slice and 1-2 cherries. This drink is simple, refreshing, and will make you long for summer (especially in this extreme cold!)

 

Soleil Levant Martini

Soleil Levant Martini

Lady Sensory’s Soleil Levant (Rising Sun) Martini

2 oz gin (again, Black Button Citrus Forward)

1/2  oz St. Germain

1/2 oz Lillet (blanc)

1 oz lavender lemon simple syrup

Several dashes of Angostura bitters (will provide additional flavor and color)

Orange or lemon slice for garnish

Chill a large martini glass in advance and fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Combine gin, St. Germain, Lillet, lavender lemon syrup, bitters, and shake well. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or lemon – your choice). You can add another drop or two of bitters if needed (the drink should be apricot in color). You could also rim the glass with lavender sugar if you are feeling extra fancy. And no, I haven’t made lavender sugar yet, but I probably will soon.

Black Button products are currently available at the distillery, restaurants, and some liquor stores. The average cost is around $40 for the gin, and it is well worth it. Pick some up and support people’s dreams and local businesses. Gin season is almost upon us and you will definitely want the Citrus Forward on your home bar!

* If you aren’t local to Rochester, an orange or citrus-infused gin would probably work for either of these recipes until Black Button becomes more widely distributed.

Ballooney Tunes

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While I was hanging out with Krampus back in December, I bumped into a friend who told me about a project he was going to be promoting involving a balloon installation of Jack and the Beanstalk at the old Sibley Tower here in Rochester. It sounded a little crazy but he was so excited that I made a mental note to check it out when the time rolled around.

Over the past several weeks, he has been promoting the heck out of it as #BalloonManor. I decided to stop in today and I’m glad I did. The artists, Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle of Airigami, created an amazing balloon depiction of this old English fairy tale. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it and I’m hoping they take it (or another balloon installation) on the road so that other cities can enjoy it. It was also nice to see so many people downtown at the historic Sibley building again. The balloon sculpture is five stories tall, is free and open to the public, and the last day to enjoy it is tomorrow, February 10, from 10 AM – 7 PM.

Here are a few shots, but they really don’t do it justice. If you are in the vicinity, take a day off and go see it in person before it’s gone!

Quick addendum: There is a Balloon Popping Party from 5-7 PM tomorrow. The cost is $10 and the link to get tickets to the event is here.

In Case I Ever Get Famous And Suddenly Die…

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Okay, after seeing this BuzzFeed article on drunken authors and their favorite drinks I took it upon myself to do some research and found some inconsistencies and promptly became sad. I mean, they created some of the great works of our time and no one ever noticed what they drank? Not even the bartender? What a cruel and thoughtless world. I then realized that if I were ever to write a novel and suddenly keel over, this could happen to me. No one would be able to correctly name my poison.

Something needs to be done about this. I cannot bear to have any discrepancies. Truth be told, I’m a fickle Libra so brace yourself because we are going to cover all of the things! In true BuzzFeed fashion, I decided to make a list-format doo-dad for you, complete with nonsensical images. I’d give you a smattering of boozy famous quotes for good measure, but it appears some nice person already took care of that here. Yay! Less work for me!

Lady Sensory’s Last Booze and Testament:

Vodka:

Katy Perry John Mayer

My memories of vodka were not this pretty. Photo: Columbia/Sony Music

Once upon a time, the Grey Goose gimlet and I were best friends. Then one night, I rode a mechanical bull three times with a regional sales director. It got to the point where they had to tip the bull and shake us off.  I was conveniently wearing low-rise jeans at the time, so half of my rear end was hanging out. I like to think of it as visual karaoke…the worst karaoke you could ever imagine.  As a result, I just say no to vodka.

Scotch:

Scotchy, scotch, scotch! Photo: www.drinkinginamerica.com

Scotchy, scotch, scotch!
Photo: http://www.drinkinginamerica.com

Yes, I had a run on scotch shortly out of graduate school. I like to think that my nights of sipping single malt eventually led me to laser hair removal but sadly, that’s probably just genetics. I don’t drink it anymore and for no reason other than simply growing out of that phase. In fact, I avoid most brown liquor with the exception of an occasional hot beverage (Jameson in Irish Coffee or bourbon in hot apple cider).

Tequila:

I meant to do that. Photo: www.thenewsburner.com

I meant to do that.
Photo: http://www.thenewsburner.com

Remember how tequila made PeeWee Herman dance on a bar and knock over about 30 motorcycles? Let’s not even go there.

Champagne:

Don't act like naps haven't happened to you.

Don’t act like naps haven’t happened to you. Photo: http://www.funnyzela.com

Being a wine lover, I actually like champagne. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like me and I wind up taking naps in obscure places…or falling out of a chair in painting class.

So now that we’ve covered the avoidance list, here are a few of my favorite things:

Rum:

Dark 'n Stormy made with Gosling's and Barritt's...and a flamingo!

Dark ‘n Stormy made with Gosling’s and Barritt’s…and a flamingo!

In my college days, it was good old Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. I’ve since traveled to Bermuda a couple of times and my favorite is presently Gosling’s Black Seal. This is best served in a Dark & Stormy or Rum Swizzle, but it’s just fine for sipping on its own. Other rum friends include Appleton, Cruzan, and some Cuban stuff I tried in Aruba. I wish I could recall the name because it was delicious, but it would never make it past customs.

Gin:

Hendrick's Gin - photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin so it will be easy for you to find it!

Hendrick’s Gin – photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin

Gin has proven to be a strong favorite in recent years, with Hendrick’s topping the list. It’s good in a tonic, but I prefer it in a dry martini with olives instead of cucumbers. But if you give me both, hey, I’m not going to complain.

Liqueur:

St. Germain Cocktail

St. Germain Cocktail

There are quite a few that I enjoy but none compare to my beloved St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers. It pairs very well with the aforementioned Hendrick’s gin and my favorite white wine, mentioned below.

Wine:

Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. This one is tricky because I’m an equal opportunity wino and like quite a few. To sum it up as concisely as possible by grape, Sauvignon Blanc is my white of choice (anything from New Zealand to Sancerre) and Pinot Noir is my red of choice (Washington/Oregon and those from the Burgundy region). Honorable mentions should include Riesling (hey, I live near the Finger Lakes, but it absolutely must be dry). And I will drink most any dry red, including dry rosé, but I do not like Merlot or Beaujolais. Also, I’m not a fan of Pinot Grigio and unfortunately, Chardonnay gives me a headache. And we all know friends don’t let friends drink white Zinfandel.

I purposely left craft beer off of this list because I’ve only recently become enamored with it and don’t drink it that often. Like wine, it would be challenging to keep it concise.

So in eighty years, when someone tries to tell you I loved Sex on the Beach, you’ll know they aren’t talking about the drink.  By the way, I also like coffee and drink more of that than anything else. It’s not always about the booze, you know!

I Am What I Ham

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Meet "Spootch."

Meet “Spootch.”

Holiday Greetings from Florida. Over here to the left is my new friend, “Spootch,” that I found at the Coconut Point Art Festival (along with those nifty chopsticks made by the same artist). This was my favorite booth and purchase from the show and I’m super excited to put my Spootch to use in the home kitchen upon my return.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to head down to the beach so this will be a quick post.  I am not a big ham person but we had it for Christmas dinner. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought ham from the deli since it gets so slimy. However, I do enjoy a nice cooked ham, and particularly because I know what to do with the leftovers. In addition to making lovely breakfast sammies, you can totally make the best split pea soup ever. So I took over the kitchen to make this:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Pea on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining Soup

See what I did there? I love me some quality Judge Judy quotes. You will need:

1 16 oz bag of dried split peas

7 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (This is a lot of garlic, but it tastes delicious. So if you aren’t cool with that, reduce to your desired level.)

1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped

About 6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

3/4 bag of baby carrots, chopped

1 ham bone (used the leftover Christmas ham, but you can get one from a butcher)

1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cut into bite size chunks (again, Christmas leftovers)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper, to taste*

6-8 cups of water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

*You can add salt if you like but there was more than enough in the ham and the bone so I did not add any.

Split Pea Soup

As I mentioned, this was a kitchen takeover. I think the pot I used was roughly 4-5 quarts (it’s similar in size to my 4.5 pot). So, warm the olive oil in a heavy stock pot or fancy pot over low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and continue to cook until slightly golden (another 5 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and com for about 5 more minutes and then add all of your dried herbs: the bay leaves, crushed red pepper, black pepper and Herbes de Provence and cook for about a minute or two. Now add the ham bone and dried split peas (you don’t have to soak them) and cook for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and begin to add the water, 1 cup at a time, until bone is submerged and water is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot (so it doesn’t overflow). Add the chopped ham and cook until boiling. Skim foam and fat off the top (this is a personal preference and it won’t compromise the flavor). Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hr – 1.5 hrs (until peas have softened and soup has thickened). Serve and enjoy with a nice crusty baguette or roll and some dry white wine. We enjoyed trying three different kinds while waiting for the soup to cook – an Italian dry white blend, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. Oops!

May your New Year’s Eve be fun, safe, and filled with similar wine indiscretions!

It’s A Wrap

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Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Well, December has flown by so I thought I’d provide a quick summary of this month’s funny and crafty holiday highlights.  For starters, I ended up making a Crazy Rhubarb Lady  Christmas ornament with corresponding packaging for my friend’s annual ornament exchange. Previous ornaments can be enjoyed here and here.  Needless to say, Barb (I think we should call her ‘Barb’ since we don’t know her real name) was well received and her attendance at the party resulted in playing her video on the big screen so that everyone would get the joke. Truth be told, I was going to make a Sweet Brown ornament but changed my mind at the last minute. Perhaps next year Sweet Brown will roast chestnuts over an open “fahhhhhre.”

The Breakfast with Krampus festivities were a big success.  I partook in season’s beatings and crafts with Krampus. I also picked up a fun sticker book filled with a variety of vintage Krampus images.  It appears there will be another event next year and I am super excited to attend all over again. I even made the naughty list! I’m so proud!

Season's Beatings

Season’s Beatings!

Finally, I’ve continued to knit like a grandma on a bender. I even brought some yarn to parties to keep my hands out of the hors d’oeuvres while waiting to play Cards Against Humanity. There are just too many tasty and tempting things hanging around this time of year. It also makes for good conversation at said parties and while traveling so I’m just going with it.  I’m looking forward to learning some new knitting tricks after the holidays.

Stitch & Sip

Stitch & Sip

I’ve additionally been creative in the kitchen so stay tuned for some new recipes in the very near future! In the meantime, I’ll be staying out of the cold weather for a little while longer.

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Random Black Friday Thoughts

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Today for Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) I’m supposed to tell you what I want for Christmas this year. That answer is fairly obvious and also hella-boring. Let’s just say that this week’s employment alerts for “public relations” have included being the general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Have I ever told you about the time my mother found a snail in their coleslaw? It was certainly not finger-lickin’ good. Let’s not go there. Instead, I’m going to provide you with random thoughts that have occurred to me between fits of sneezes today. Yes, somehow I am the proud recipient of a head cold that commenced this morning at 5 AM. I did not ask Santa for that.

First random thought: I’d like to alert you to someone’s 40th birthday. A very talented and creative buddy of mine, Joe Mayernik, created this post about his Black Friday Birthday on his blog. Basically he wants to you submit a photo on social media and tag it with #Mayernik40. The resulting photos will be made into a poster to commemorate his milestone day. It’s a really clever idea and it’s been fun seeing what other people have posted today.

Other random thoughts include another amazing live tweet session documenting an irate American traveler trying to get home for Thanksgiving, complete with note passing and slapping. It’s hilarious. Then we had some shoppers wreaking havoc in Walmart  and apparently there was also shooting at a Kohl’s department store in Chicago last night. Is it really worth it, people? Has anyone been out to experience this? I’ve honestly never done it and after seeing some of the footage, I’m still not interested. I prefer my retail therapy to take place in a calm, relaxed environment.

The last random thought for today is that I need to clean up my eating habits for the next few weeks. The timing is not ideal with all of the holiday parties but November was chock full o’ bad choices and I’m feeling like crap on a stick. So you can expect some healthier recipes in the coming weeks and I’ll be choosing water more often than wine. Hopefully this will keep me from filling out a Santa costume!

Santa

A Bigger, Blacker Friday

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CAH PackagingToday is Thanksgiving and the recommended Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic is the great outdoors. Since we’ve had our first official snowfall here (yuck!), it’s highly likely that my time spent outside will be limited to driving to and from my friends’ new home to celebrate Friendsgiving. So, I’ve picked another topic to discuss.

What’s this post title all about, you ask? Well, our group has a habit of playing the game, Cards Against Humanity. So, this is merely a play on words combining the traditional post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping day here in the U.S. with a couple of the cards that say, “A big, black dick” and “A bigger, blacker dick.”  One of our hosts just got the latest edition of cards, appropriately named, “Bigger, Blacker Box.” If you haven’t played, I caution you to only play with people who aren’t easily offended and those who share the same depraved sense of humor. It’s basically like playing Apples to Apples infused with all things inappropriate and politically incorrect. Actually, if you’re interested you can print your own set by visiting here.

Speaking of Black Friday, what is the deal with all these petitions people are posting online to save Thanksgiving? Apparently some of the larger retailers are open on Thanksgiving day for their sales. I am sympathetic here, and that’s because I worked in retail and I know how crazy people can get during a sale. However, I also worked in healthcare for many years and had to cover holidays despite that I wasn’t in a vital life-saving role. Seriously – I even had to be there when I was a sales and marketing director. I did find it kind of ridiculous, but Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July were actually the holidays I would bid on because you could easily be taken in somewhere after your shift was over. So if you are off today, be grateful. It’s not always a given!

As far as today’s Friendsgiving goes, we have folks with an assortment of diets and tastes coming to this gathering so I will be bringing this oldie but goodie. Nope, it’s not vegan, fat-free, nor gluten-free, but it’s pretty damn delicious. As for hitting the sales today or getting up early and shopping tomorrow? No, thank you. I will be passing on that insanity. If anything at all, I’ll partake from the comfort of home via “the internets.”

I hope your turkey day is filled with magnificent F-words like family, friends, food, and fun. What? You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?  Be thankful! We haven’t busted out the cards just yet!