NettleTini

I LOVE Spring in the Northwest. We anxiously await for the rain to subside…a little less falls each day. We crave the light. The sun sets later each day…even if it’s just one more minute of light…we embrace it. It’s as if our Souls come alive with the hope of a new, fresh season. Our bulbs pop up like “colored lights” in the yard. The scent of flowering trees permeates the air like a fragrance we have missed but not forgotten.

With this rejuvenation, we get busy!! Foraging is just getting under way. Morels, Fiddlehead Ferns….and “Nettles”. Now, I have to say…I was never a fan of Nettles. Probably because my only experience with them was from getting “stung”…thus the “Stinging” part in their title. They grow in the wild by creeks in the woods, in beautiful magical places.  We pinch them off and fill our baskets, careful to wear gloves and avoid their sting….a sting that that almost says…I’m alive, after a long cold winter. But what to do with these lively greens so coveted by Modern Chefs, but discovered by Native Americans who were here long before we knew of this delight? We Create…

NettleTini

  1. Handful of blanched Nettles (see instructions below)
  2. 1-2 Shots Vodka – I used Ebb+Flow – a Seattle Favorite
  3. Mist of Dry Vermouth
  4. Green Olive – for garnish
  5. Soft Cream Cheese – to stuff our olives
  6. Finely Chopped Blanched Nettles – for olive stuffing
  7. 1/2 Clove Garlic – for olive stuffing mixture

Blanching the Nettles – Carefully remove the leaves from the stems. Use garden gloves or or surgical gloves for this. Rinse them off prior to blanching them to remove the “forest floor”…particles and such. Then QUICKLY drop them in boiling salted water for a few seconds….it’s a quick process. Use a spider or other hand held strainer to pull them from the boiling water and immediately plunge into ice water to “set” the color and stop the cooking. Just like you might do for spinach. The blanching removes “the sting”…no shortcuts here.

Remove the blanched Nettles from the ice bath and dry them gently on a kitchen towel. Chop them up a little and put them in your food processor ( I have a mini-processor that works well for this) Then, add the Vodka and process until the mixture is a thick green  consistency.

Over your cocktail shaker – place a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Pour the Nettle-Vodka Mixture over the top and let it filter. Help it along by gently stirring. (careful not to rip the filter) The result will be a freshly infused Nettle Vodka. Ridiculously green and fresh!!! This “Is” the drink. Let it chill in the freezer to get icy cold. “Mist” your glasses with dry vermouth and place them in the freezer as well.

Pour this beautiful, fresh concoction into your Martini Glass.

Garnish: Chop up some of the blanched Nettles really fine and add to softened cream cheese. Add 1/2 clove of pressed garlic. Stuff this mixture into olives (remove the pimentos).

To Make It Virgin: Juice your blanched Nettles to make a delicious, fresh, healthy drink.

To Make It Special: The Nettle Cream Cheese Olives – really pair well.

This drink, just tastes SO fresh. The Nettles…don’t take away from the Vodka…They just add an element of “Fresh” that just says…Spring is here!!!

The health benefits of Nettles.…are wonderful. They are full of Antioxidants and are shown to be an anti-inflamatory….truly remarkable. Now, mixing with Vodka??? One drink a day…I think a nice balance here. So grab your baskets, grab someone you love to adventure with, explore and forage!!

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17th Annual Oyster Wine Competition – Final Call to Wineries!

I had the pleasure of dining at lunch this week with Jon Rowley, of Jon Rowley & Associates. He is he the Mastermind behind this wonderful Northwest Event created 17 years ago. Jon’s career has shaped the seafood industry as we know it. The goal for this competition – Find the 10 Best Wines that pair with West Coast Oysters.

Taylor Shellfish Farms of Shelton, the fifth generation family owned company, sponsors the event. As Jon calls it – The popular annual dating service for Oysters and West Coast Wines!! At lunch, he told me that the judges love this event, and after tasting Oysters and Wine all day…they just want to go enjoy more Oysters and Wine!! A tough job, but someone has to answer the call!! There are some rules for the judges, like smelling and really “tasting” the oyster by “chewing” it well to fully experience it in all parts of the palate. One of the most important factors of judging – to not smell the wine prior to tasting the oyster, as this could form an impression of the wine before experiencing the oyster. And no talking!!! Focus is required for such an important assignment. Sounds very intense…but how could this be unpleasant?? Focus on tasting the most fabulous, fresh oysters and beautiful wine parings? I believe, even I could stay quiet for that job!

Preliminary Judging takes place at Anthony’s Homeport at Shilshole Bay in Seattle, March 29th- April 4th.  I’m so excited to have the opportunity to stand on the sidelines and witness some of the Judging. Really an honor to be invited. There will be Five Veteran Judges, who will select 20 wines, and the Final Judgings to to be held April 26th at Water Grill in Los Angeles, April 27th at Sutros at the Cliff House in San Francisco and wrapping up back at Anthony’s Homeport, on Shilshole April 28th,  with a panel of 12 judges in each venue. The winners are determined by combining the scores from all three cities to select the top 10!

The coveted “Oyster Award” winners will be announced on May 1st. Winners enjoy immediate sales results. The restaurant response is rewarding and Wineries can quickly sell out of their winning vintage.

The deadline for entries is this Monday, March 28th at 6 PM!!! Call to wineries – you can download entry rules and forms at www.oysterwine.com

A quote Jon shared with me“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and make plans” – A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

How lucky we are in the Northwest to have such an abundance of fresh shellfish, some of the best in the world, grown by people who have a vision for the environment and sustainability – Thank You Taylor Shellfish! Thank You, for delicious wines, blended by so many talented Vintners – too many to name,  and for individuals like Jon who have passion to keep bringing awareness and new ideas to the culinary world, like this competition on it’s 17th year.

It has been a pleasure learning about it, I’m excited to cover it,  and I look forward to following up to let you all know who the winners are for Oyster Wine 2011!!

Cheers!

*photo by Jon Rowley

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Meyer Lemon-Herb Cooler

March 2011….Seattle. I don’t know about you, but I have been feeling a bit, burned out and a bit dreary as of late. Looking at the calendar, I realize it has been winter for 4 1/2 months…The long stretch to spring is slowly coming to fruition. As a Mortgage Originator by day, I have had some extra stress…just sayin’!..but let’s not go there. Let me share with you something FUN!

I’m SO lucky to have wonderful friends and family who support me and always seem to know the right things to say and do to help me “re-charge”. There is one person in particular, who reminds me of this – Kelly Cline, of Nommy Nom.

We make a point on a pretty regular basis, to take a day to escape and explore the wonders of Puget Sound. To eat, drink, laugh and get lost in the moment. Kelly has a way of seeking out those in our community who truly have passion about what they do. She is one of those people, so makes sense that she would attract them.

I had the pleasure of meeting the kind people at Taylor Shellfish yesterday. What an incredible place. The sweet fresh scent of oysters, mussels and clams in the air, smelled of the sea. I knew that I was in for a treat.

Kelly had a plan…like she always does, and I was game!!! Buy some incredible shellfish, find a beautiful park and together, cook up a feast!! That is exactly what we did. Now, some may think we are CRAZY for trying to plan an OUTDOOR cooking excursion in March. When we left Seattle, it was pouring, and I mean pouring!! But when we arrived at our destination, the sun made a showing, just for us. All part of the magic.

We ended up at Frye Cove Park. What a little Gem tucked away on the shores of Olympia. Not many people around so it felt like our private grounds. We got to work right away pulling the treasures of seafood from our bags and all of the other ingredients and we had brought along to cook them.

Like always, I had a special drink in mind. Something bright, and sunny and full of vibrant flavor to usher in Spring. Meyer Lemons and Fresh Herbs were just what I had in mind.

Meyer Lemon-Herb Cooler

In a Cocktail Shaker:

  • Crushed Ice
  • 3 or 4 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Spring of Fresh Lemon Thyme
  • 2 or 3 Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 2-3 Shots Vodka – Whatever Brand You Like
  • 2-3 Shots Lemoncello  (I used Gioia Luisa Brand)
  • 1/2 Cup Lemonade (I used Simply Lemonade Brand)
  • Juice of 2 Meyer Lemons – Use a Lemon Press (see below)

Add all ingredients into your shaker, and shake really well. You want to break up the herbs so they infuse their perfume into the drink. Strain through your shaker and pour over ice. This drink is bright and cleanses the palette. Our menu consisted of fresh crab and clams with a delicious broth that was rich. This drink cut through that richness and paired beautifully with all we ate.

To Make It Virgin: Eliminate the Vodka. Make a Lemon Simple Syrup instead of Lemoncello (equal parts Meyer Lemon Juice, Sugar and a Splash of Water. Simmer with the Zest of the Lemons for intense flavor) Chill before using.

To Make It Special: Garnish with Fresh Mint and a Meyer Lemon Wheel.

Spring is ALMOST here!!! We can make it! Make time to escape with your friends and family to laugh, and enjoy all the pleasures in life. They are everywhere!! That is what it’s all about…Thanks Kelly!! It was just what I needed.

Thank You Taylor Shellfish – for the tour, for your generosity and 20% discount on all we purchased. And most of all, for your vision of delicious, sustainable local seafood.


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Perfect Pair – Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays I love to mix beautiful, sensuous drinks to share with my Love. I’m splurging with this pair of decadent Raspberry Chocolate Truffles. Chocolate is a MUST on Valentine’s Day…and Raspberry is a perfect paring. I created these two drinks to sip and share after a romantic candlelight dinner at home. They really are a dessert all on there own.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

In a Cocktail Shaker:

White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

These two drinks are easy, delicious, decadent and beautiful. Make them ahead and let them get icy cold and creamy in the freezer. Serve them in Martini Glasses with a few of your favorite chocolates on the side….They will really shake things up!! Lovely drinks.

To Make Them Virgin: Use Chocolate Syrup and Raspberry Syrup instead of the vodka and liquor. Use Soft Melty Vanilla Ice Cream in place of the White Chocolate Liquor.

To Make Them Special: grate or shave dark chocolate over the “chocolate” truffle…Use Raspberry Liquor and create a heart design on top of the “white chocolate” truffle. Use an eye dropper to do this….SO pretty.

Spend Valentine’s Day with the people you love. Enjoy Everyone!!

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Vanishing Party Punch

I love entertaining a crowd, especially this time of year. When February rolls around, we are ready to have a party. I truly believe that the Superbowl was planned for this time of year, on purpose. We usually have a Superbowl party at our house…mostly for the food and drinks…the game??? I really think it’s a day to make an excuse to see your friends and have a great time. I developed this punch recipe years ago. It really isn’t a “recipe”, per se…but rather, a lot of yummy juices, fruits and club soda, OH..and vodka, all mixing together to create a vanishing punch.  I never make this quite the same each time. I love to mix it up. The basic components to the punch are listed below. Have fun with this people. Trust me when I tell you – as the night goes on….this punch will vanish. You’ll fill it up, turn your back to grab some bites out of the oven and it will be empty…

Here we go:

In a punchbowl:

Add Crushed Ice

Equal Parts:

  • Vodka – Eyeball this…it’s a punch
  • Lemonade – I use Simply Lemonade Brand
  • 7 Up or Sprite
  • Freeze different fruit juices and sodas with frozen fruit inside. I use small re-useable containers in different sizes and shapes. You can also use ice cube trays. Ideas: orange soda, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, grape juice, fruit punch….whatever you like. Garnish with freshly sliced lemon, orange and lime wheels. Also a few handfuls of frozen berries, or any frozen fruit you like. The frozen juice molds and berries will serve multiple purposes. They keep the punch really cold. They melt and and make a nice fruity flavor, and they look festive. It’s really important to add the frozen juice molds….they are an ingredient for the punch.
  • Lastly – Top off with a good amount of Club Soda or Seltzer, and give the bowl a gentle stir.

Give it a taste!!! Add more of whatever it may need…more soda, more juice…more vodka :) This punch is light, crisp, not too sweet, fruity and absolutely the perfect drink to serve your guests. It is versatile in the fact that you can change it up year round with whatever seasonal fruits are around and what juices you have. Be creative and have fun!!!

To Make It Virgin: Simply Eliminate the Vodka

To Make It Special: Is it not special the way it is???I think it hits the mark.

Enjoy a fun time with your friends and family with this one. No matter which team you’re routing for….this is a winner!!!

Cheers!!  and Go Green Bay!!!

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Cucumber Bombay Fizz

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Well…here we are…end of January 2011, and I realize how long it has been since I really created a special drink to share on ThirstQuest. Post holidays…January is just a “challenging” month. You can disagree with me…fresh new start, new resolutions…blah blah.. Bottom line: We dig deep in January to get us through to spring. I have been in a work mode. Seems like January came and went, and I survived!!! YAY!! So, today as I was enjoying a leisurely stroll through my favorite local market in Renton, Top of the Hill Market. I was inspired by some beautiful citrus fruits. Meyer Lemons to be specific. In Winter we are so lucky to enjoy the abundance of citrus from California. The Meyer Lemon is my absolute favorite. It is sweet like an orange, yet tangy like a lemon. Their season is short…so grab some while you can. I also am a huge fan of Dry Soda, our local Seattle Soda Company. They produce some yummy flavors that are perfect for crisp winter cocktails. They are 45 Calories per bottle and have a lower sugar content than most sodas. This is January people…I’m still working off the holiday treats… My favorite flavors are Cucumber, Vanilla and Lavender. I chose Cucumber to pair with the clean, crisp dry flavor of Bombay Sapphire Gin. Now, I normally don’t consider myself a gin drinker…but I have to say….this little number is so good, I may convert!! This is an easy, quick cocktail that will make your guests feel special. It is different, light, and feels like spring. Here’s how I made it…

In a Tub Glass -

  • Fill with Crushed Ice
  • 1 1/2 Shots Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • Big Squeeze of Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
  • Grated Cucumber – On a rasp – or box grater – to enhance the Dry Soda flavor
  • Top off with Cucumber Dry Soda

That’s it people…nothing super fancy…but man is it tasty!!! The Meyer Lemon juice so sweet and tangy. The cucumber, so fresh and crisp. The gin….it’s a winner.

To Make it Special: Garnish with a Meyer Lemon Wedge, a Cucumber Wheel and a blueberry. The blueberry…really is a nice little pop of flavor with this drink.

To Make It Virgin: Eliminate the Gin and Serve the Soda and Garnish

I’m happy to be back in the mixology mode!!! I have lot’s of new ideas to share and places to tell you about. 2011…is looking good so far…let’s keep that rollin’!

Cheers Everyone!!!

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The Candy Cane

Only 8 days left until Christmas!!! All of my presents are wrapped and shipped. My house is warm and festive with lights and a beautiful tree. The candy canes hanging on the limbs, inspired me to create this creamy frozen dessert cocktail. The cool flavors of mint and cinnamon with vanilla running through, make this delicious drink a perfect ending to a holiday meal. Alternating layers of creamy vanilla mint shake and fluffy light cinnamon whipped cream…really makes this a special holiday cocktail.

In a blender:

For the drink:

  • 1-3 Scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 Cup Crushed Ice
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 2 Shots Vanilla Vodka (your favorite brand)
  • 1 1/2 Shots Peppermint Schnapps

For the Whipped Cream:

  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Red Decorative Sugar
  • 1 Splash of Cinnamon Schnapps – I used Goldschlager (use any brand you like)

Add all drink ingredients to your blender and mix until creamy with the consistancy of a thick shake. There are no real exact measurements required here. The key – is to have the whipped cream and the drink mixture about the same thickness…so you can layer in your glass.

Mix the decorative sugar and heavy cream with a whisk or hand blender until thick and creamy. Again, try to keep the consistency about the same as the shake. The red sugar will turn the whipped cream a dreamy blush pink color. If you don’t have decorative sugar, food coloring will work here, but make sure you add sugar too.  Add a SPLASH of Cinnamon Schnapps to just flavor the whipped cream. Taste test – until you get a strong “hint” of cinnamon..not too much.

In a tall thin glass, alternate layers of the shake and whipped cream. Do this with a small spoon. The color layers will look like a candy cane when you’re done.

To Make It Virgin: Use Peppermint Extract in Your Shake instead of schnapps and omit the Vodka. Substitute Cinnamon Extract for the Cinnamon Schnapps for the whipped cream.

To Make It Special: Crush up part of a Candy Cane or Mint Candy and Sprinkle on Top

Sending all of you Warm Wishes for a Great Holiday, and Happy New Year!!! Cheers and Enjoy!!!

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Ginger Lime Sake-Tini

Well, The holidays are upon us…and if you’re like me, you want to have fun and enjoy delicious food and cocktails. Seems there are so many parties to attend, so many fattening snacks. Over-indulgence can really creep up!!! During the week, you can still enjoy beautiful food and cocktails of a lighter fare, without feeling deprived. Today, I stopped by my favorite Seafood Market on the way home – Mutual Fish. They have such a selection of seafood…some I have never cooked. What caught my eye today, as I was thinking of my waistline…was the gorgeous fresh Sushi Grade Yellow Fin Tuna. I bought a large steak and as they wrapped it up…I was creating in my mind a light, clean cocktail that would proudly accompany this beautiful catch. I prepared the tuna in the most simple way…thinly sliced, layered on a plate with paper thin green onions, toasted sesame seeds, wasabi, and soy sauce mixed with a splash of seasoned rice wine vinegar. A heavy drink…would not do…So, I remembered my Pal, Kelly, gave me a lovely bottle of Sake this summer. At the time, I was so appreciative…and I tucked it away in my fridge for the perfect occasion. Tonight, it was the star to accompany a light dinner….Thanks Kelly..it was perfect.

Here’s how I made it…

In a cocktail shaker:

  • 12 Oz. of Sake – Choose a brand you enjoy – The Sake I had was crisp and dry
  • Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice – I used 3 small key limes (thanks for sending them from Arizona, Mom!)
  • Ginger Simple Syrup – 4 Tablespoons – recipe below

Add ice to your shaker and all ingredients. Shake vigorously. This drink is a clean, light refreshing little beauty. Your palette will feel cleansed from the lime and ginger. It paired perfectly with the fresh Yellow Fin. Although it is a Wednesday night around the holidays, I feel like I had a treat….without killing the calorie counter!!!

Explore this holiday season!!! Create a festive atmosphere every day of the week. It doesn’t have to be decadent…just delicious.

Cheers!!!

Recipe for Ginger Simple Syrup – 3-4 chunks of peeled fresh ginger, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water – Simmer – Cool.

To Make It Special: Enjoy without guilt!! A light, refreshing drink.

To Make It Virgin: Try Tart, Crisp Apple or Pear Juice in place of the Sake. Delicious!

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Hot Apple Pom-Cran Cider

Well, I woke up this morning to a beautiful wintery scene…Snow, in Seattle on November 22nd!!. Since my last drink recipe was a Pumpkin Pie Shake…I thought…I have to come up with a hot, warm your bones kind of drink for this cozy, stay at home day. There are so many versions of Hot Cider. What’s nice about cider, you can mix in what you like and create your own blend. Here’s one idea…

Simmer in a saucepan:

  • 1-2 Cups Fresh Apple Cider
  • 1 Splash Pomegranite-Cranberry Juice (use what you like)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 1 Chunk of Fresh Ginger – peeled
  • Tablespoon Aspen Brand Cider Mulling Spices (has sugar in it…to sweeten)
  • 1 Splash Cinnamon Schnapps (I used Goldschlager)
  • 1 Splash Oregon Cranberry Liquor (You can find this in you liquor store in the limited edition seasonal section)

To Make It Virgin: Eliminate the Liquor

To Make It Special: Curl up in front of the fireplace with ones you love…

Simmer until Steamy Hot….and Enjoy!! This very simple recipe can be made by adding many different flavors….Some ideas: Add a vanilla bean, orange peel, cloves. Add Rum, or Spiced Rum instead of the Schnapps. Add what you like. There is nothing quite like a hot drink on a winter day to get you in the mood for the holidays. Whether or not you like the snow…now that’s another story…My Kitty Oreo has her opinion.

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Pumpkin Pie Shake

I’m so excited about Thanksgiving this year. I have SO much to be thankful for. Each Thanksgiving, I reflect back on the last year, and years past. I have many fond memories growing up in upstate NY, and enjoying special traditions with family and friends. I don’t see many of my East Coast friends anymore…but think of those people I shared the holidays with as a child and young adult. This past year, has been a challenging one for many…but I’m truly hopeful for a bright holiday season filled with old and new traditions. The best traditions, I feel, are centered around the simple things…family, great food, and of course…delicious cocktails. This Pumpkin Pie Shake is one recipe that I will add to my seasonal list. The pumpkin, the spices, the creamy decadence…..All say holiday to me. I hope you add this to your recipe book and enjoy it with your friends and family.

Here’s how I made it…

I used a hand held blender….but you can also mix this in your regular blender.

  • 2-3 Shots Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum – Private Stock (regular Captain Morgan’s would also work…the Private Stock is a bit more “hearty”)
  • 2-3 Shots Half and Half
  • 2-3 Tablespoons – Spiced Simple Syrup (recipe below)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons – Canned Pumpkin (plain)
  • 1-2 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Splash of Coffee Liquor – To Rim Glass
  • Crushed Ginger Snap Cookies – For Garnish

Add all the ingredients in your immersion blender vessel and blend until thick and creamy. It’s important to make sure all ingredients are cold prior to mixing…because no ice is used in this drink. After mixing, place the container in the freezer to get really cold and creamy while you prepare your glass.  Crush 3 or 4 store bought Ginger Snap cookies in a baggy. Pour the crumbs on a plate. Dip a Milkshake Glass or any tall glass you have with a pretty wide rim in the coffee liquor, then dip into the cookie crumbs. Place the glass back in the freezer to set up a bit. After about 5 – 10 minutes, pull the container out of the freezer and hit it again with your immersion blender. Pour into your cookie rimmed glasses….add a pile of cookie crumbs on top, a straw or two…and enjoy. I think this drink is a nice alternative to a dessert.

Recipe for Spiced Simple Syrup – In a saucepan:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Whole Vanilla Bean – Split and Seeds Scraped Out and Added to Pan
  • 3-5 Slices of Fresh Peeled Ginger
  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg (eyeball this…as much as you like)
  • Dash of Allspice
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • Splash of Fresh Apple Cider (can be omitted if you don’t have any..or use apple juice)

Simmer on your stove and then cool before adding to your drink.

To Make It Virgin: Just eliminate the Rum and add a bit more spiced simple syrup.

To Make It Special: Use a BIG glass..add two straws, and share with someone you love.

I wish all of you a Very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your time with family and friends. Create your own traditions to pass down. Give a little extra this year…even if things are tight. The smallest gesture can go a long way. Cherish this special time of year.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!!!

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