The Return of Classic Cocktails

The earliest known mention of the word “cocktail” dates from a 1798 issue of London’s The Morning Post and Gazetteer, however it wasn’t until 1862, with the publication of How to Mix Drinks: or The Bon Vivant’s Companion, by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, that recipes for cocktails were first published. The four basic ingredients of any cocktail – spirits, sugar, water and bitters – formed 10 cocktail recipes in Thomas’ book.

The “whiskey cocktail” in the Companion contains 3-4 dashes of gum syrup, an old-fashioned type of simple syrup that adds gum arabic for a smoother texture, 2 do. Bogart’s bitters, 1 wine-glass of whiskey and a piece of lemon peel. Compare this simplest of cocktails with the classic Old Fashioned and you can see the similarity:  whiskey, sugar or syrup, bitters and citrus. Add in a cherry and you have a delicious way to enjoy your favorite whiskey, whether bourbon or rye. My favorite version combines Bulleit Rye, Tippleman’s burnt sugar syrup and Jack Rudy bourbon cherries.

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From classic to modern, the Moscow Mule is a 20th-century creation seeing a resurgence in popularity. Created in the 1940’s when bartenders had an overabundance of vodka and ginger beer, this drink is refreshing enough to drink in summer, and warm and spicy enough to drink in winter, making it the perfect all-year cocktail. Smirnoff Vodka, the original brand used in the drink, and Q Ginger Beer combine with fresh lemon juice to create my perfect Moscow Mule.

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Another favorite cocktail I love to mix up is a fresh, delicious agave margarita. While the classic Mexican margarita contains orange liqueur, this agave variation nixes the orange liqueur in favor of fresh, crisp lime juice and sweet agave nectar. Use a good quality silver tequila, like El Jimador, and an organic agave nectar like Tres Agaves for a quick and easy, go-to drink.

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Whatever your favorite flavor, the world of classic cocktails offers plenty of interesting, delicious and sometimes little-known drinks for your to explore. Whether you check out a bar specializing in classic cocktails and variations, like The Dead Rabbit, or mix up your own drinks at home, these drinks are usually quick and easy to make and taste best if you start with high-quality spirits and other ingredients. Drink up!

Favorite food bloggers, vloggers and podcasters

Besides writing a food blog, I’m also an avid follower of various other food blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts. If you’re into food history as much as I am, I’m sure you’ll adore these links:

The Grandmas Project – Many foodies credit their love of cooking to their families, especially their grandmothers. I still remember some of the simple recipes my Granny made, especially at Thanksgiving and other family gatherings, like her Pocketbook Rolls and quick fudge from this post. The Grandmas Project aims to preserve family food history by collecting videos recorded by grandchildren learning about food and recipes from their grandmothers. The recipes collected by the Project come from all over the world, and offer insight into the food and familial traditions of a number of different cultures.

A Taste of the Past podcast – Culinary historian Linda Pelaccio presents this weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network, a Brooklyn, New York based radio and online station offering numerous podcasts dealing with food and drink. From “Paletas and the History of Mexican Sweets” to the foods of Alsace and “Foodways and Cooking of Appalachia,” this well-researched show interviews the best food history writers and brings food history’s past into the culinary present.

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MAD YouTube channel – Sometimes referred to as “the TED of food,” MAD, Danish for “food,” offers culinary talks from some of the best and brightest chefs and culinarians around the world. Discussions range from reducing food waste in the restaurant industry and foraging for wild food to kitchen techniques and addressing poverty and hunger. Luminaries like Roy Choi, David Chang, Albert Adria, Michael Twitty and Dr. Vandana Shiva present engrossing and inspiring talks for foodies of all stripes.

Researching Food History – This culinary history blog offers bite-size tidbits of food history, covering topics like “A Colonial Kitchen in 1864,” “Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby,” “Jellies whipped or with whipped cream or ice cream” and “Robert Burns’ birthday and birthplace kitchen.” Culinary historian Pat Reber focuses on foodways and cooking apparatus, such as ovens and cooking vessels of various time periods. Besides her blog posts, she has a number of PowerPoint presentations on her website from talks she’s given, and a Historic Culinary Resources online database cataloging over 1,000 historic cookbooks and receipt books.

BBC Food Programme – BBC Radio 4’s food radio show and podcast offers an in-depth perspective on current food trends and issues in culinary history. The “Brexit and Food” special sends host Dan Saladino on the road throughout Britain to discover how Brexit will affect the UK’s food supply and trade relations with nations in the EU and worldwide. In a multi-part series called “The Ark of Taste,” the programme chronicles some of the most unique indigenous foods and food growing and preparation methods from around the planet.

 

Spring Food History Events in Virginia

The weather’s getting warmer, and that means historic sites across the Commonwealth are hosting spring events, many of which focus on culinary history. Virginia is also gearing up for a busy year of food festivals, and nearly all parts of the state have a special dish or food they’re known for. Explore Virginia’s many food history offerings this spring:

*Saturday, April 2 – Beers in the ‘Burg (Colonial Williamsburg) – Enjoy an 18th-century alehouse experience and discover brews from Williamsburg Alewerks, including a few created specially for Colonial Williamsburg. You’ll also have the chance to meet the brewer and hear live music.

*Saturday, April 9 – Hearth Cooking Workshop (Louisa County Historical Society) – Learn how to prepare historic recipes with traditional hearth cooking methods in the ca. 1790 Michie House.

*Saturday, April 9 – Rum Punch Challenge (Gadsby’s Tavern, Alexandria) – Local restaurants and distilleries vie for the crown as creator of the best rum punch at this historic Alexandria museum and restaurant. Period and modern food will be served, and at the end of the evening the Alexandria town crier will announce the winner.

*Friday, April 22 – A Dinner With Benedict Arnold (Walkerton Tavern, Henrico County) – Enjoy period music and historically authentic food from the late 1700’s while meeting notorious British spy Benedict Arnold and hearing about his time in Richmond.

*Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23 – Franklin County Moonshine Festival (Franklin County) – This family-friendly event kicks off Friday evening with a bluegrass concert and features the Chug for the Jug 5k, a Prohibition-era car show, children’s activities and Shine n’Dine, a local foods and moonshine tasting under the stars.

*Saturday, April 23 – Open Hearth Cooking Class (Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, Bristow) – Learn how to build a fire, then prepare, cook and enjoy three historic dishes in the ca. 1850 Haislip farmhouse.

*Saturday, April 23 – North vs. South Dinner Duel (Pharsalia, Nelson County) – Two chefs – one representing the North, and one representing the South – will cook their way through a seated dinner, course by course. At the end of the meal, diners will decide on the winning chef, and the winning side!

*Saturday, May 7 – Chincoteague Seafood Festival (Chincoteague) – For more than forty years, Chincoteague Island has hosted a spring seafood festival to showcase the bounty of the sea, from littleneck steamed clams and oysters to fried fish, shrimp, hushpuppies and more. Enjoy all your steamed and fried favorites at this all-you-can-eat seafood bonanza.

*Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 – Spring Wine Festival and Sunset Tour (Mt. Vernon) – In its 20th year this year, Mt. Vernon’s Spring Wine Festival offers the opportunity to sample wines from 20 different Virginia wineries while enjoying stunning sunset views of George and Martha Washington’s home and grounds. Guests can tour the property, greet costumed interpreters and purchase wine and cheese boxes for an evening picnic.

*Saturday, May 21 – Gordonsville Fried Chicken Festival (Gordonsville) – Famous for its fried chicken that was served to passengers on departing trains, the town of Gordonsville welcomes visitors with the best fried chicken in the country. Take in fried chicken and pie contests, a wine garden and a craft fair at this charming food festival.

*Saturday, June 4 – Dinner With the Lee’s (Stratford Hall, Stratford) – This all-day event encompasses a lecture on hearthside cooking, tours of Stratford Hall’s Great House and kitchen and an 18th-century mid-day meal featuring historic recipes such as Maryland crab soup and “carrots dressed the Dutch way.”

 

 

Project “Family Food History” Thanksgiving

So of course by now, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it my Family Food History project.  Since my aunt always makes a full, traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy, I didn’t want to make a ton more food since I knew everybody would already be stuffed.  I settled on bringing:

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Gluhwein – German spiced mulled red wine

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Spekulatius – German spice cookies (the Dutch call them speculoos and they are amazingly delicious!)

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Bratwurst and Knackwurst with sauerkraut

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Yorkshire puddings

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Cheese plate with Scottish smoked salmon and cheeses from Holland, England, Scotland and Germany, served with French champagne dill mustard

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My aunt and the rest of my family made a delicious Thanksgiving feast.

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I made a pumpkin pie from scratch with hot water crust and used a pumpkin from my garden.  My cousin bought an apple pie with caramel sauce from the school marching band.

When we got home, me, my husband and our two boys listened to “Alice’s Restaurant” like we do every Thanksgiving.  Then I cooked second Thanksgiving just for us.

From my family to yours, I hope everyone reading had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Project “Family Food History Thanksgiving”

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a ~wee~ bit obsessed with genealogy and researching my family history.  With some of the discoveries I’ve made over the past few years, I’ve become more and more interested in learning about the food cultures of the places my ancestors came from.  To that end, I’ve decided to focus my research and cooking efforts on my family’s Thanksgiving gathering to highlight some of these foods.  

From what I’ve been able to uncover, my mom’s family (the side we see in a big gathering on Thanksgiving Day every year), is mostly English (both Saxon and Norman – yes, I’ve been able to go back that far), German and Scottish, with some Welsh, Dutch and French.  So my focus will be on English, German and Scottish food history for Thanksgiving.

Our German ancestors come from Berlin, Rheinland and Hessen, Germany, so I’ve delved into some of the dishes from those regions:

From Berlin – Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), Hoppelpoppel (a mix of leftover meat, scrambled eggs, onions and potatoes), Eisbein (pork knuckle), Kasseler Rippchen (smoked, brined pork chops), Konigsberger Klopse (dumplings of beef and capers), Schnitzel Hostein (schnitzel topped with fried egg, onions and capers – meat can be veal, pork, turkey or chicken), Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Berliner Pfannkuchen (jam or cream donut), Armer Ritter (German version of French toast), Rote Grutze (fresh red fruits with grits and fruit juice), Leberwurst (liverwurst), Bulette (flat pork meatball) and Berliner Weisse (beer). 

From Rheinland – Rheinischer Sauerbraten (sausage), Reibekuchen (potato pancakes), Himmel und Erde (potatoes, applesauce and bacon, accompanies blutwurst/blood sausage), Sauerkraut, Grunkohl (kale), Spekulatius (spice cookie), Zweibelkuchen (savory sheet cake topped with onions, cream or sour cream, eggs and bacon), Kreppel (donuts similar to the Berliner above), Schwarzbrot (dark bread), Ahr, Mittelrhein and Mosel wines and Rheinland beer.

From Hessen – Kassler Rippchen, Zweibelkuchen, Grune Sose (cold herb sauce served with boiled or baked potatoes and hard-boiled eggs), Reibelkuchen with applesauce, Potatoes, Asparagus, Sauerkraut, Frankfurter Kranz (cake filled with buttercream and marmalade, frosted with buttercream and decorated with pralines or almonds and candied cherries), Zwetschgenkuchen (crumb cake with plums and apples), Kreppel, Bethmannchen (small round cookies made of marzipan and egg whites and decorated with almond halves), Wasserweck (bread roll made of wheat flour), Blutwurst (blood sausage), Frankfurter Wurstchen (long, thin, lightly-smoked pork sausage), Handkase (sour curd cheese), Handkase mit Musik (marinated Handkase), Kochkase (sour curd cheese), Apple wine, Riesling wine

For my purposes of serving a crowd at a Thanksgiving day feast, I’m going to focus on recipes that won’t be too challenging to make and items that won’t gross out my family (I’m looking at you, Blutwurst!).  From my German ancestors’ foods, I’ll be making Berliner Pfannkuchen, Grunkohl with German sausage, Grune Sose with boiled potatoes, Spekulatius cookies and Wasserweck rolls, and I’ll be bringing along some Berliner Weisse (if I can find it) and Riesling wine.

Stay tuned for more on the foods I’ll be researching for my family’s English, Scottish, Welsh, Dutch and French lines.

 

Looking Forward to Fire, Flour and Fork

When I first heard about Fire, Flour and Fork, I thought it sounded like a great way to celebrate Richmond’s diverse food scene from a food history perspective.  Planned by Real Richmond Food Tours, the weekend-long event spans tastings, dinners and educational sessions.  Now that the schedule of events has been released, I can’t wait to get my tickets!

For the Saturday sessions, my dream schedule would be:

10 AM – At the Counters | Nicole A. Taylor, Dr. Raymond Hylton and Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt | 10 a.m.
History books tell the story of segregation. Better still, “If We So Choose” is a documentary short film, produced by Athens, Georgia native Nicole Taylor, which introduces audiences to the people in Athens who not only lived through Jim Crow separatism but fought against it and won. Through the lens of a little-known protest demonstration at the lingo laden fast-food restaurant, The Varsity, new light is shed on unsung, young African American heroes. Turning the lens on Richmond, Dr. Raymond Hylton, chair of the department of  History at Virginia Union University and author Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt will share the story of the Richmond 34 and their sit-in at the Thalhimer’s lunch counter on Feb. 22, 1960. We’ll see the new trailer of The Richmond 34 by Bundy Films as well.

In light of the events in Ferguson, MO, it’s more important than ever for Americans to come together to discuss our shared history and the importance of the civil disobedience of the 1960’s to the Civil Rights movement.  When I visited Memphis last summer to study the history of barbecue, I learned much about how race has played into food history.  My mother, a lifelong Richmonder, has told me of the Thalhimer’s sit-in and other actions in the 60’s, and I’d love to check out the film and get a new perspective on Richmond’s role in the larger movement.

11:15 AM – “Queen Molly” and the Enslaved Women with whom she Worked | Leni Sorensen | Culinary Historian
Known as “Queen Molly” the woman who set the finest table in early 19th-century Richmond, Mary Randolph and the unnamed enslaved cooks in her kitchens produced food that set the standard for excellence in Southern cookery. Historian Leni Sorensen is cooking her way through the recipes in Randolph’s book, The Virginia House-Wife, first published in 1824. The book is considered to be the nation’s first truly regional American cookbook and the most influential of its time. “If I’m talking about food, I’m also talking about history,” Sorensen says.

I’ll admit, I’ve kinda got a thing for Mary Randolph.  I was born and raised in Virginia and have traced my Virginia ancestors back to the 1600’s, so I’m partial to learning about colonial cooking methods and recipes.  In my study of “The Virginia House-Wife,” I’ve come across Leni Sorensen’s work, and I’m excited to learn more about Mary and the enslaved women of her kitchen.  I’ve tried a few of her recipes (including her Tavern Biscuits, which are pretty much my favorite cookie ever), and want to try more!

2 PM – Apple Stack Cake | Travis Milton | Comfort
Travis Milton, chef de cuisine at Comfort, left his beloved Appalachia to cook and write, emerging as an authority on Appalachian food ways. Heirloom apples are just one of the treasures of Appalachia and Travis knows which varieties work best for making his trademark vinegars, applesauce, apple butter and of course, his version of his great-grandmother’s Apple Stack Cake. Only a few of the 1,600 known varieties of apples that once grew in the Appalachians and Southeastern U.S. have been conserved. Once you learn the secrets of Apple Stack Cake, you’ll want to plant your own heirloom apple tree. Demo

Come on, what Richmond foodie worth their salt (see what I did there?) wouldn’t want to attend a session with Comfort’s chef de cuisine?  Besides, Virginia has a long history of apple growing and processing, dating back to Jefferson’s Monticello, if not further.  That Apple Stack Cake sounds delicious!

3:30 PM – On a Roll | Drew Thomasson | The Rogue Gentlemen
There’s a reason Drew Thomasson, baker at The Rogue Gentlemen in Jackson Ward, and formerly pastry chef at D’lish, has a whisk, spatula and rolling pin tattoo on his arm–those tools are extensions of himself as he whips up the Parkerhouse Rolls, breads and croissants that have given him a following around town. This demo will whip you into baking shape just in time for the holidays. Demo

It’s not just the baking-themed tattoo that draws me to this session.  My first “real” job was at a local gourmet bakery, and baking is one of my passions.  I always love to pick up new tips and tricks, but have had trouble with breads and yeast-based baked goods (cookies, cakes and brownies are my specialty).  I’ve got a crowd to bake for at Thanksgiving, so hopefully I can pick up some good recipes and techniques.

You can purchase your tickets here – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fire-flour-and-fork-registration-12176238457?ref=ebtn

The event runs from Thursday, Oct. 30 with a reception at the “rarely-open” Eclectic Electric Appliance Museum to benefit Lewis Ginter Community Kitchen Garden, and concludes Sunday, Nov. 2 with “Queen” Molly Randolph’s Monumental Moveable Feast and tours of Monumental Church, and a tour of food-related art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Smithsonian’s “Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000” Exhibit

Earlier this week, my eight year-old son and I headed to Washington, DC so he could participate in an educational event at the National Archives (their Learning Lab’s “Constitution in Action” class, which I would highly recommend to parents looking for a free activity to keep your children engaged in learning over the summer).  My son was so excited to ride the subway into the city, and he loved looking at all the important and historical buildings there.  He loved the class, where he got to wear a protective jacket and gloves and handle actual historical documents.

After class, we walked to Chinatown and had lunch at Wok and Roll, an awesome but small Chinese and Japanese restaurant near the Verizon Center.  I had spicy salmon, spicy tuna and spicy crunchy shrimp rolls and my kid ate a whole order of gyoza and an entire California Roll (all that walking must have worked up his appetite!).

In the afternoon, we visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where an exhibition on food in America is currently on view.  The “Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000” exhibit covers the many ways in which our food system has changed over the past half-century.  My son liked the school lunch table in the center of the exhibit, where lazy susan-like rounds offered information on how kids ate in school from the 1950’s to today.  Along the outside walls of the exhibit space, different food movements were showcased, from fast food and multicultural cuisine to the growth of farmers markets and the local food movement.  A special section on American wine production highlighted Virginia wines, as well as the agricultural aspect of growing wine grapes.

At the front of the exhibit space, Julia Child’s kitchen has been re-created, and clips of her cooking shows are on view.  Through her career spanning the 1940’s to her death in 2004, Julia Child introduced millions of Americans to the joys of home cooking, and to methods and foodways that inspired her.  A replica of her kitchen, along with items she donated to the Smithsonian, depict her life in food.

The exhibit has a companion educational website that allows visitors to prepare for their visit and offers additional information for further study.

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