I had a lot of grand plans to write a post tonight about how I develop and test cocktail recipes. I was going to talk about ratios of ingredients and categorizing types of drinks and where to get inspiration and all sorts of other helpful tips and guidelines. But it’s been a surprisingly long week, especially considering it’s only Tuesday evening, and I’m ready to head on into the relaxation part of the evening. Apologies.
I will say this, though – flavoring simple syrups is one of the easiest and most adaptable ways to play with cocktails, and it’s a method I rely on a lot when I’m thinking about new flavor combinations. The inspiration for this one came from a drink we made in Chicago last weekend, visiting a friend who is experimenting with making homemade bitters. (Hi, Todd!) After dinner on Friday we explored a bit with his bottles and jars of extracts and put together a drink resembling an Old Fashioned with rye, cardamom extract, bitters, and a bit of sugar. The combination of cardamom and rye was smooth, sweet, and warming, a completely natural extension of the flavors in both, and I knew I’d want to continue playing around with the idea when we came home. Read more
Two months in and we’re settling into our new life here in the Midwest. After a while of time with things sort of up in the air, I have my situation fairly figured out (more on that in a bit) and Brett’s pretty entrenched in his first semester of his PhD program. We’re slowly meeting people and finding folks to share our time with, and we’re trying to bite off snippets of time to go explore our new town and the surroundings.
And, it’s fall. Even in the first few days of it, it’s the sort of fall I’ve been waiting for since I left Minnesota over a decade ago. That first fall away was a big swirl of college freshman activity and I didn’t have a chance to think much about it, but by sophomore year I would catch myself lingering over photos – photos of anything, from anywhere – that somehow reminded me of the falls I was used to. This continued and intensified for years, and one time just a couple of years ago I caught myself fawning wistfully over a photo of what amounted to a fairly barren park, all leafless and windswept and well into its waning pre-winter days. I couldn’t stop looking at it and feeling nostalgic, and I knew it was time to go back. Fall is one of the things I missed most about being in California, and one of the main reasons I’m happy to be back.
It also means I can add more to the Fall Cocktails category of this website, woefully neglected amongst the palms.
We’ve camped a lot this year. A lot a lot. We realized, in fact, that we have probably spent more nights in our tent over this past year than in any other place. It’s been fantastic, in part because we’ve camped in some amazing, jaw-dropping places (like the Canadian Rockies, the Boundary Waters, and Yosemite), but also because we spent most of our years in Southern California wishing we had more time to head into the wilderness, pitch a tent, and spend days doing not much of anything but hiking.
So these days I have pretty good footing on matters of camp cooking. I get a lot of questions both on this site and from friends and family about how to plan for camp meals, and this page from last year has been by far my most popular this summer, so soon I’ll put together a new site feature all about planning camp meals and menus.
But first, I want to talk about trail cooking, an entirely different beast. Read more
Our first vagabond week took place in Eugene at Brett’s parents house, enjoying steamy hot Oregon summer days and cloudy, chilly, misty Oregon summer days (oh, Oregon). We rode our bikes along the river and ran on actual trails and had lunch with friends, and breakfast with friends, and (cheap, amazing) beers with friends. We drank Oregon pinot. We went to the Fair. We moved and unpacked and organized all of our earthly belongings, sorting them into “see you next year” and “mobile lifestyle” (aka living out of a car for three months) piles. Then we made that second pile smaller, and smaller, and smaller. We promptly reopened almost every box looking for the camera tripod, which eventually turned up in the backseat of the car. It’s going to be a long year of searching for and moving around our belongings.
And we ate cherries. Cherries, and cherries, and cherries.
You can learn a lot about yourself through spending time in the kitchen.
Are you a patient person? Are you a detail-oriented person? How do you like to learn? Do you like detailed directions, or a basic idea to work with? Are you willing to put hours of time into something that may not work in the end? How well can you deal with failure? When you bake a cake that immediately crumbles upon taking it out of the pan and a frosting that gloops like thin glue, are you a person who throws it away and instead finishes that two-week-old In-and-Out strawberry shake in your freezer, or do you stick with it and eat it anyway? Maybe with some sprinkles? And a White Russian?