Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cleaning out the closet pt.1: Vanilla liqueur and amaro

I think it was Gore Vidal who said, "I'm sorry mama, I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you cry, but tonight I'm cleanin' out my closet."

...Wait, that was Eminem. And that's not exactly the sentiment I was going for.

Anyhow, I know there was sort of a chasm there for a couple of weeks to make it almost reminescent of the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. Year end things and hectic schedule in general made me very terrible about updating and I realize that there is now a small backlog of odds and ends. So, rather than let these experiences go to waste, and in the spirit of releasing all the old things of this year, I'm cranking out as many entries as I can using these odds and ends as the new year rings in. Working backwards in chronological order.

Vanilla liqueur and Amaro, or Two out of three ain't bad
Dec. 15

My first stop of the evening was at Pranna, where Navan was hosting a cocktail pairing dinner. The thing I find kind of interesting about Navan's events are they're rarely just a "Hey, here's our product, try some of it," type of thing. The events always try to bring in different elements that seem to make it more like an overall atmospheric lifestyle marketing in a way. With heavy emphasis on vanilla or the whole exotic angle of where vanilla comes from.

For example, at a previous Navan event I went to, besides cocktails, but there was also food, a little vanilla educational area, as well as a sort of booth/set up from a New York flower shop that specializes in rare and exotic flowers and arrangements.

The dinner at Pranna, one of several that Navan holds, wasn't an exception. Scarves and Panama hats were set out as party favors.

Aisha Sharpe of Contemporary Cocktails, the outfit that created Pranna's beverage program, and Pranna bar managers Elba Giron and Justin Noel created the drinks served for the evening.

Before the dinner itself, two seperate cocktails were served with hors d'oeuvre. The Jayakarta was made with kaffir lime leaves, yuzu juice, guava puree, freshly extracted giner juice, Navan, and Aperol. The drink was then topped with brut sparkling wine and grated kaffir lime leaves. The Winter Punch was made with Sialor Jerry spiced rum, Navan, fresh pressed apple juice, fresh lemon juice freshly extracted ginger juice and angostura bitters. The drink was then garnished with pomegranate seeds and freshly grated nutmeg.

The dinner's first course of Penang Chicken Spring Rolls, Spinach Potato Curry Puffs and Crispy Paneer Lollipops was paired with a first course flight of cocktails were served amuse-bouche style in small shot glasses. The three different drinks reflected sweet, spicy and sour flavors. The Berry Twist for Thailand reflected sweet and was made with strawberries, Thai basil, fresh lemons and Navan, garnished with a strawberry heart and Thai basil sprig.

El Diablo, the Spicy Spice of the trio, got its heat from Thai Bird chile-infused Navan. Additional ingredients were Navan, El Tesoro blanco, fresh pressed pineapple juice, fresh lemon juice and Calamansi honey. Then a sprinkl of dried chile powder and sea salt for garnish.

The third drink, the Luzon Sour, was made with Granny Smith apples, fresh yuzu juice, fresh lemon juice, Tio Pepe Fino Sherry and Navan.

For the second course, we were served with several dishes family-style. There was Pandan Warpped Halibut with Navan Red Curry Sauce, Ancho Airline Chicken with a Navan Lemongrass sauce as well as Cumin-crusted Hanger Steak with a red wine peppercorn sauce.

The cocktail paired with this course was the Pandan Smash. Pandan Leaves, lemongrass syrup, fresh lemons and Navan was topped with sparkling water and garnished with a lemon wheel and Pandan strips.

I couldn't stick around for the third course that featured the rich-sounding dessert trio of Chocolate Fudge Cake with a Navan Chile Zabaglione, Navan Caramel Ice Cream and Banana Ginger Cake with a Chocolate Navan Cream and Vanilla Caramel. The drink for this course was called Winter Island. And the menu told me that this particular cocktail was to be made with Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, Navan, ripe bananas, green cardamom, Moscovado syrup, and angostura bitters.

Though I was curious, sadly, I had to leave that final drink untasted because I was scheduled to make an appearance at the Averna Appreciation Party and the dinner was running a little later than expected. The party was at Louis 649 all the way down on 9th street between avenues B and C.

I managed to pop in just as Bret Thorn was making his escape.

"Do you guys work in shifts or something?" Tad Carducci asked me as he saw me pop up at the bar with Bret heading out the door.

Tad and Damon Dyer were working the bar that evening. Don Lee was supposed to make an appearance since the party was supposed to congratulate him on his winning cocktail, La Cola Nostra, from the Averna competition a while back. Unfortunately, continued medical care for the arm he broke right before the aforementioned competition kept him from the event.

Damon was making toddies the good old-fashioned way that grandma used to make them when you had a cold, or maybe you couldn't fall asleep (or extra strong for those nights when she really needed you to sleep now), Blue Blazer style. Come on, everybody loves fire. I know I do.

I tried Don's La Cola Nostra Punch (Amaro Averna, Fantinel Prosecco, Zapaca Centenario rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime juice, simple syrup and lime wedges as garnishes), as well as two different toddies. I chatted a bit with Thanh-Nam Vo Duy (Hennessy) and J.C. Iglesias (Grand Marnier), talking about various fun topics, like having the three-tier system broken down for me.

There was another cocktail/bartender industry event planned at Pranna later in the evening, but I called it a night after the Averna Appreciation Party. It was drizzly and my shoes were killing me.

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