In re: How the Sling was Slung

Singapore sling

I hadn’t ever given much thought to the Singapore Sling until a friend of mine who was getting into cocktails ordered us up a pair out in San Francisco a couple years ago.  It wasn’t a signature of the bar we were at (I think they had to look it up in fact) and I don’t think they made it as good as it could be, but nonetheless I had it, thought it was okay and kinda slipped my mind.  Fast forward a year or two and when thinking of a gift for that friends birthday it suddenly dawned on me that the supplies for the Singapore Sling (a drink that uses some non-standard ingredients) would be a great gift, but I needed to learn about the Sling first.  The search led me to an article in Imbibe magazine: How the Sling was Slung: getting to the bottoms of Singapore’s most famous cocktail by David Wondrich (by the way if you don’t know that magazine and are interested in drinks it is really good).

In the article I learned that the drink today (at least as served in Singapore at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, the place of the Slings creation) is not what the drink was originally having been reformulated in the 1970s to be more like a tiki drink or punch that includes pineapple juice as the primary ingredient.  Wondrich in the article goes to great length to find a recipe for the original and a new searchable archive of the national paper in Singapore gave him the answer.  So unfortunately and sadly today if you visit the apparently beautiful and expensive Raffles Hotel and the long bar you will find plenty of people drinking the famous sling, but they will be drinking a pre-made drink from a dispenser that goes into a blender.

To make the drink you indeed need some ingredients you might not have on hand, depending on how well you stock your bar (making drinks like these sure causes the number of bottles you have on hand to increase!)  To make the original version the two things that are out of the ordinary you need are Bénédictine, a sweet herbal liqueur from France and Cherry Heering a Danish liqueur made soaking crushed Danish cherries and spices in a neutral spirit, aging that in casks and adding sugar.  Cherry Heering was a complete surprise to me and I had not known it before.  Whereas a lot of cherry things taste artificial and cloying, Heering somehow avoids that taste and I hope to figure out some other uses for the stuff (see Imbibe’s article on Cherry Heering with some suggestions of what to do with it and more information the stuff itself).

Singapore Sling

With those ingredients in hand (purchased here in Columbus at Weiland’s grocery store) I was all set to go making a sling already having gin, bitters, some limes and soda water.  The drink is on the sweet side so depending on your taste and mood I think upping the gin a tad can make for a less sweet version which is quite nice as well.  Either way while sipping its nice to sit back relax and maybe try and picture that your sitting in Singapore, back in 1915 watching  a cricket match.

Slings

I think Wondrich’s recipe for the original is the superior drink, but the pineapple version served in a Poco Grande glass has its time and place and is fun in its own right.

The recipe for the original sling from Imbibe:

1 oz. London dry gin

1 oz. Bols Cherry brandy or Cherry Heering

1 oz. Bénédictine

1 oz. fresh lime juice

2 oz. soda water

1 dash Angostura bitters

Tools: barspoon

Glass: Collins

Combine all ingredients except soda water and bitters in an ice-filled glass. Top with soda water, stir briefly and dash with Angostura bitters. Note: The original Singapore Sling appears to have been ungarnished.

 

Current version of the Singapore Sling as served at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore 

1 oz gin

1/2 oz Heering Cherry Liqueur

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/4 oz Cointreau

1/4 oz Dom Benedictine

1/3 oz Grenadine

A Dash of Angostura Bitters

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Strain into Poco Grande glass.  Garnish with a slice of pineapple and cherry.  (Note: the Raffles Hotel Long Bar currently services a blended drink, which adds additional froth and is dispensed from an automatic machine, but upon request they will mix it from scratch).

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In re: All American: Cinco de Mayo

You can’t get much more American than the Fifth of May, better known as Cinco de Mayo.  Cinco de Mayo’s origins are not surprisingly Mexican and come from the State of Puebla, where they celebrate on May 5: El Día de la Batalla de Puebla, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla.  As many of you know by now, Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s independence day, let alone  national holiday – yet here in America it has grown into a holiday not just for Mexicans in quite an American way.  The origins of the American celebration go back to the year after the battle, with Mexicans and Latinos living in California being the first to celebrate in the US.  What has followed is what happens to most things that get tossed into the cultural blender that is the United States – mutations and mixing ensue and what emerges is wholly American.  So instead of some tame holiday remembering a battle, what we now have is a day for Mexican restaurants to make out like Irish bars (and every other bar) on St. Patricks day.  Cafeterias get to serve tacos, bars stock up on tequila and in general a lot of people get to have a good time.

This isn’t that different that what has happened with what we think of as Mexican food has gone through.  This past week the NY Times had an article (How the Taco Gained in Translation) discussing a new book Taco USA by Gustavo Arellano about how Mexican food became part of the mainstream American cuisine.  I haven’t read the book yet, some of the authors ideas I think I am going to disagree with (he has a problem with Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless –  without having read all of what he says about it yet I think I am going to disagree there – as I think educating Americans on non-fusion, regional Mexican cooking is a good thing).  The book still does sound interesting for its accounts of how Americans (primarily white Americans) have been able to take Mexican ideas and turn them into successful American staples (fritos, tortilla chips, salsa and of course Taco Bell).

As we continue to fuse more and more cultures and cuisines into our repertoire (think Korean tacos, Califonia rolls and all our sushi with cream cheese, Chinese American food and heck spaghetti and meatballs) and continue the melding of older ones.  The new Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos – which despite what I may thought about the thing based on their advertising- is apparently doing amazingly well and may be a bit more complicated in its origins than I would have guessed.  Soft tacos from Mexico turned into crispy fried tacos and tortilla chips here in America, where years later down in Tijuana street food vendors turned Tostitos corn chips into a dish called Tostilocos: a base of Tostitos chips covered with things like jicama, pickled pig skins, tamarind candies, peanuts, cucumbers, fruit, chilies or anything else one could think of  (See Tostilocos, Tijuana Street Food, Hits the Mainstream – NY Times).  That kind of miss mash then turns around and comes back to us as Locos Tacos as Taco Bell.

So this brings me back to Cinco de Mayo and what made me think of all this in the first place – the following ad I saw from Donatos.  What could be more American?

Donatos Cinco De Mayo

In re: Fried Chicken

Chicken and buttermilk biscuits

I don’t have it too often (fortunately or unfortunately), but fried chicken is one of those foods that while seemingly incredibly simple and common, can and often is, so much more.  Thomas Keller makes it and so do plenty of gas stations, which makes it kind of democratizing meal of sorts – but rather than get too philosophical about the food (others have and its a topic worthy of it) I just wanted to write up a few recent fried chicken dinners I made here at home.

The first was a few months back and featured chicken that followed somewhat the recipes and techniques of Thomas Keller (from the Ad Hoc cookbook) and from Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty (Also see Ruhlman’s post on fried chicken here).  Ruhlman worked on the Ad Hoc cookbook and claims his is better – a bold statement (unfortunately we didn’t try making both head to head – I have made the TK version before and knew it was amazing).  Instead the recipe I used started with a brine mostly like Ruhlmans, one that has a lot of rosemary, the predominant flavor he likes in fried chicken.  In addition I had lemon and some other herbs (thyme and parsley), but not quite as much as TK uses.  The brine was left overnight before taking out the chicken to air dry on a rack in the fridge.  (The brine is really the biggest difference between amazing fried chicken and fried chicken and cannot be skipped).

After drying the chicken gets dredged in seasoned flour – I used a mixture of cayenne, paprika, black pepper (a bunch), salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and a bit of baking powder (TK doesn’t use BP, Ruhlman does)

Next is a dip in buttermilk and back into the flour mixture, before frying it up, and finally topping w/ some fried rosemary and some lemon zest.  (Actually some of it sat for a while in a 250 oven on a rack – dark meat especially actually benefits from this and lets you do the chicken in advance, something I should have done rather than frying huge batches of chicken with my friends standing around – oh well next time.)

Even though this chicken was of the American variety, I served it with some sauces that are somewhat asian if people felt like it (this chicken doesn’t need anything and really your just gilding the lilly, but I do like sauces…) One of them was Momofuku’s Octo Vin (a reverse vinagrette with a lot of garlic and ginger.  The sauce/dressing’s full name is shortened from Octopus Vinaigrette, and was intended to stand up to octopus and has the reverse ratio of a vinaigrette with the oil and vinegar amounts flipped, the stuff is amazing and goes with fried chicken amazingly well, among other things).  I also served a korean style sauce (discussed again below) and siracha honey which is amazing on fried chicken and is as easy as combining the two.

Fried Chicken

zesting a lemon onto the chicken

Three sauces for chicken

octo vin, siracha honey, korean sauce

chicken, quick pickles, biscuits

Quick pickles (fennel, carrots, cukes), fried chicken and biscuits

[Thanks to Ham Sandwich Indicted for the above photos as well as for the amazing biscuits that featured homemade cultured buttermilk – those could have been dinner alone.]

Fast forward to yesterday and I tried out David Chang’s recipe for fried chicken in the Momofuku cookbook (which is not the fried chicken they serve at Momofuku I might point out as they serve a breaded version there – amazing I should also add – but the one in the cookbook has no breading and is sauced with the octo vin).  Anyway the gist of DC’s version is that the chicken is brined (simple sugar and salt brine for several hours) and then steamed for 40 minutes – thats right its fully cooked by steaming.  The idea is clearly inspired by Asian preparations such as crispy duck where hot oil is used at the end to get a crispy skin, but the steam is used to cook the meat and cook and render the skin so that it is ready to quickly crisp. After steaming the chicken, take the chicken out and put it onto a rack in the fridge to dry / chill.  After a few hours its ready to be fried and as you can guess it doesn’t need long. Word of warning have a splatter shield or at least be careful frying this chicken (I learned the hard way and was hit with quite a few large oil pops).  Not being a scientist I assume this has something to do with the way moisture was trapped in the cooked chicken versus raw chicken, but just consider yourself warned.

The chicken crisps up quickly probably takes only about 5 minutes or so at 375.  After draining it I tossed in the octo vin (and served more on the side of course).  I also tried dipping some of the chicken in a  thin (Korean style?) batter, basically cornstarch, AP flour, some salt/pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, and very cold seltzer water (I guess that part is maybe Japanese).  This battered batch I tossed with a sauce made from gochujang (the amazing fermented Korean chili paste), garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and siracha.

The results were amazing and compared to the breaded versions a whole lot less work, way less mess and means you can essentially precook the chicken and fry it up at the last moment.  It isn’t quite the same thing however and is really its own dish as the intense chicken flavor that comes from frying chicken isn’t quite there due to the steam cooking.  Don’t’ get me wrong though this is a dish worthy in its own right, just not quite the same thing.  In case you were wondering I served this with some cabbage/fennel slaw and some beans from rancho gordo (Yellow Indian Woman – one of their heirloom varieties) that were cooked slowly all day with onions, celery and bay leaf, salt and pepper, which leads one not in the know to think there is meat in the dish as they are so rich tasting and flavorful.

Just out of of the fryer

Fried Chicken a la David Chang

Dinner

In re: Bánh mì

Okay, so been a Vietnamese kick recently as the post on Pho may have hinted at, today I’ll turn our attention to bánh mì:

Bánh mì in Vietnamese refers to bread – specifically the baguette that we can thank French colonialism for introducing to Vietnam, but the name bánh mì at least here in the States also speaks to the amazing sandwich that is served on the crisp airy baguette. The basics of the bánh mì tend to include pâté spread on to the bread on one side, mayonnaise on the other, some kind of meat or protein, and a variety of veggies- often cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and diakon radish and here in the US jalapeños as well as a splash of Maggi seasoning.  The sandwich may sound a bit odd if you haven’t encountered it before, but trust me this is one of the most amazing combinations of flavors and textures that is not quite like anything else.  If your in downtown Columbus you can get a pretty decent one in the North Market or if you head up to Mi Li you can get a really great one.

For whatever reason I haven’t ever really tried making my own, without really planning it out I suddenly found myself with the ingredients to make my own version.  It all started when I was cleaning out a chicken to roast for dinner and wanted to do something with the liver.  Having just made a fresh baguette that was still cooling on the stove (it was Presidents Day so I had the day off and had time to bake baguettes and roast chickens and make a bánh mì.  So back to the liver, I quickly whipped up a simple pâté using the liver in a mini food processor with some bread crumbs, milk, salt, pepper and a little duck fat.  I baked the tiny pâté in a ramekin in the toaster oven in a water bath for 30 minutes and then chilled it.

Meanwhile I made some pickled carrots by slicing match sticks of carrots and putting them in a vinegar, sugar and salt mixture to quickly pickle.  My bánh mì didn’t feature a main protein (and really it doesn’t need one I learned) and if the pâté was replaced with a mushroom pâté it would be a great vegetarian sandwich.

So once everything was ready, carrots having sat in the fridge for an hour I was ready to make the sandwich.  On one side of my freshly toasted baguette I spread the pâté, layered on cucumbers, a layer of pickled carrots, some pickled hot peppers from our garden, and a bunch of cilantro.  The other side got some Kewpie mayonnaise, I didn’t have Maggi seasoning so I put a few drops of soy sauce on top of the contents and combined the two haves together.  This improvised version of bánh mì  turned out pretty awesome and was pretty simple to pull off.

bánh mì

In re: Pho

Faux pho

A couple weeks back when my fiancé was feeling under the weather and was making up some ramen (including the little packet – something I never quite developed the taste for) I decided I’d go a bit more for the flavor of Pho, but without having many ingredients or the time to make it for real, I came up with a really quick pho that was pretty good in a pinch.  With the right ingredients this could easily have turned into a bit less faux pho without much more work.  Really all I was doing was infusing stock (in this case chicken, but for pho bo, my preference you’d use beef stock).  Into the chicken stock I put in some of the standard elements (the ones I had on hand) – cinnamon sticks, slices of fresh ginger, star anise, fish sauce and sugar and let that all simmer on the stove.  I didn’t really have any of the garnishes aside from some cilantro and dropping in the ramen noodles and splashing on some hoisin sauce and siracha but in a quick pinch it filled in for pho.

Pho

So also on the pho front here in Columbus I’ve had a couple recent trips to Pho Asian noodle House & Grill (1288 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, OH 43221 – info on yelp) which is a mixture of mostly Chinese food (despite the name) and Vietnamese.  The people who run it are super nice and despite the building being an old Taco Bell the place transcends its former self (I should mention that they still have the drive through and its operational – yes you can get Pho, good pho at that, through a drive up window).  Anyway, its quick, pretty cheap and good.  The roast duck noodle soup is awesome as is their standard pho and their pad thai (I guess they do have more than Chinese and Vietnamese) was good as well.

 

Buckeye Pho Asian Kitchen (761 Bethel Rd. Set E195, Columbus, OH 43235 in front of  the Micro Center )  – seems to be a recent addition (not sure how old it is the place appears to be brand new – the interior is spotless and super bright) to the thankfully growing Vietnamese dining scene in Columbus I think I heard it was somewhat related (relatives or the like) to the owners of Mi Li Cafe a great spot for awesome Bahn Mi and while Buckeye Pho comes through with really good Bahn Mi (like Mi Li they make their own mayo and pate and it all comes on the super crispy baguette to seal the deal).  The difference from Mi Li are pretty obvious starting just with the name, which is carried through on with a wall covered with buckeyes and an OSU color scheme.  The other thing that sets Buckeye Pho apart is the sports bar appearance of the place.  3 huge TVs overlook a long bar in the middle of the place – but don’t let these throw you as it is decidedly not a sports bar and the food is awesome and the owners/staff are super nice.  Their special pho was fantastic, including all the various types of beef they have (you can order specific versions with just what you want if your trying to avoid something, like say tripe which comes in the special version).  So far it seemed like they have a nice reception, the night we were there it was packed but with quick service they were turning the tables over quickly so we barely had to wait to get seated.

 

 

In re: Bric-a-brac / speaking American

Brick-A-Brac

Spent a few hours yesterday running some errands, including a few stops at thrift shops looking for a typewriter (long story for another time).  In the course of entering/exiting and walking through  a selection of Columbus’ thrift shops encountered a variety of individuals from cross sections of Columbus I don’t always see.  For the most part nothing too interesting to report on and in general the shops were pretty nice and clean and had pretty decent stuff for sell (not just bric-a-brac despite the sign above from the Salvation Army store on South High St.). Two things that kind ofstuck in my head was how much crap (and I don’t mean crap to mean its junk – plenty of good pots, pans, glasses, clothes, electronics or whatever) our country must go through that we can donate this stuff in such volumes.  Some of the stuff is clearly headed to new homes where it will have a good 2nd, 3rd or 4th life.  Some of the electronics though are destined for doom (no chance in being sold) – one example: old Ameritch DSL modems that originally come free when you sign up for service.  I don’t know maybe somebody breaks theirs and needs one but these things don’t seem like anyone will be coming to buy one.  But actually some of the stuff really sells – VHS tapes?  Actually yes – there sure seemed to be a lot of folks combing through the pretty expansive offerings that are out there – so if your looking to get into a nice collection it seems like just the time.

My over analytical view of the world after visiting all these shops:  Partly sad to see all the extra junk we have put out there and how the exciting new electronic which once was the latest and greatest and was the center of our universe is sitting on a  shelf with a grease pencil $1.99 on it, but partly happy seeing how affordable living in America is if you go pick up a electric hand mixer for $1.99 and another buck for the metal beaters and how we do reuse a lot of the stuff and second homes are found (there were even dumpster divers going through the rejected donations).

The other constant on the trip around thrift shops was seeing Columbus’ immigrant population out in force and then running into someone thinking I wanted to chat w/ them about the need for these people to ‘speak American’ (as a side note the person he was upset about was speaking English and the guy had just been nice about holding the door for the non-American speaking man, so not the worst person ever to be fair), but still the comment sickened me and I wish I had retorted with some witty comment about this ‘American’ language he was talking about or something about his ancestors – presumably non-English speaking bringing a copy of Rosetta Stone w/ them on the boat ride over to be so well prepared.  But I didn’t sadly, and I say sadly as I am not sure these people get the fact that our country has never been such a purely English speaking nation as they think and that to thrive Columbus needs to be reaching out to immigrants and growing these populations.

In re: Winter miracles

January 7th in Ohio doesn’t usually bring with it 50 degree weather – but this year it did and that meant the bike path was full of bikers and walkers, the tennis courts even had people in shorts.  We took advantage of it and headed off on a nice long walk with the dogs in the peak of the amazing weather.  On the way back the urge for a coffee came upon as we neared the Caribou, but alas no wallets were to be found.  Would there be two miracles today?  Yes – just like the miraculous weather we were able to scrounge up $1.67, just 2 cents short of a small cup of coffee and with the kind aid of the staff I was coached into the right answer to the trivia (Caribou Coffee in pig latin, which is Ariboucay offeecay) which brought it down to $1.59 – enough to leave a tip even!  So with a second cup to split up the cup and a dash of half and half we were out on their patio enjoying the amazing day with our coffees and dogs – a winter miracle I’d say.