Wine for your Halloween Party

Reportedly Halloween  is the third biggest party day after New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. Its not surprising with many adults wanting to drink their sweets instead of begging for them door to door. This year if you are hosting a party full of people dressed as Miley Cyrus, Walter White and Minions, you’ll need to buy a bunch of wine and nibbles to keep the party going.

There is no reason to break the bank buying expensive wine. Here are a couple of uncomplicated, inexpensive wines that will be crowd pleasers for your naughty nurse and Duck Dynasty dude and everyone in between.

First up, the folks at Gnarly Head are promoting their unpretentious, fruity Old Vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay as Gnarl-O-Ween wines. With the pumpkin packaging and easy on the wallet pricing, these wines will do the trick at Halloween.

The 2012 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel is made with grapes grown in Lodi on vines that are up to 80 years old. Its a blood red mouthful of bombastic blackberry and black cherry. It will go well with a fist full of fun sized snickers. It will set you back about $12 a bottle.

The 2012 Gnarly Head Chardonnay is also sourced from ancient vines creaking about the flat fields of Lodi. This is no restrained white Burgundy. Hell no, this wine dresses in leather and chains even after Halloween. The honeysuckle, tropical fruit and oaky flavors will go well with that apple you just bobbed for. Its a bargain at $10.

Concannon Vineyard is also promoting its wines as a Halloween treat. They have cooked up a ghoulish recipe to pair with the  2009 Conservancy Petite Sirah. Bay Area chef Joyce Goldstein, has a “Turkish Meatballs with Smoky Eggplant Puree” recipe that reminds me of the grapes for eyeballs and spaghetti for brains trick of my childhood haunted house (OK, it will taste better). She encourages us to dress up the meatballs to look like mummies by arranging shredded mozzarella cheese over the top and placing two slices of black olives for eyes. Here is the reasonably simple recipe to prepare for your Halloween party.

Turkish Meatballs with Smoky Eggplant Puree

Time: 1.5 hours
Serves: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, not too lean
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne, or ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus a bit more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cups plain tomato sauce, (canned is just fine) or Parmalat strained tomatoes.
  • 1 cup beef broth

Directions
In a mixing bowl combine the meatball ingredients with your hands. Fry a sample meatball and taste it to make sure the seasoning is balanced. Then form all of the meat mixture into balls that are the size of a walnut. You will have about 34 to 36 meatballs.

Dip meatballs in flour. Film a large sauté pan with olive oil over high heat. Brown the meat balls, in batches, turning to brown evenly, and set them aside on a plate in or a bowl. (Leave them a bit rare as they are going to simmer in the tomato sauce. You want them to be moist, not dry. )

In another large sauté pan, warm the tomato sauce and thin with beef broth. When ready to serve, add meatballs to tomato sauce and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes to warm the meatballs through.

For best balance with the wine, the folks at Concannon encourage you to “be sure to take a good mouthful of eggplant along with each bite of meatball. The eggplant is the key ingredient in this food and wine pairing.”

Now you just need to hire the fire dancers, fill up the smoke machine and carve a few pumpkins.

What are you drinking?

10 Austin Cocktails to Warm Your Autumn Nights

Recently the mercury has been plummeting to a chilly 60 degrees, and frostbitten Austinites are scrambling to find their woolen sweaters and scarves. It’s that time of year. Now that the sun is going down earlier in the evening and that nip is in the air, it’s time to switch out of the light and breezy and slip into something more substantial.

Bars and restaurants around Austin are rolling out their autumn cocktail menus, featuring bolder, boozier and spicier drinks. Stop suffering through the merciless chill and fortify yourself against the shivers with these hearty drinks.

Bar Congress

Bar manager Jason Stevens welcomes the chance to pour bourbon, rye and applejack into seasonal drinks despite the limited cold spells that we get in Austin. He likes playing around with eaux-de-vie and stone fruits to create a little fall magic, and he just updated the Bar Congress menu with three autumn drinks on the menu.

Stevens gets a little misty and nostalgic while preparing his fall menu. “When I look to make a new autumn cocktail, I try to capture elements of my autumns growing up in Oregon and combine them with flavors I’ve grown to love in Texas. Maple, date and winter spice combine with port and molé, rounded out by bourbon’s heat and age.” He sees the Roundabout as a straightforward fall cocktail.

The Roundabout

  • 1.25 oz. Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. Dows 10 year Port
  • .5 oz. house made date syrup
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 heavy dashes Bittermans Molé Bitters
  • Egg white

Shake it vigorously with little to no ice.  Final touch is five drops of Angostura on the egg-white froth and garnish with a cherry.

This is a complex drink that isn’t fussy. It’s sweet and spicy in a smooth, cuddly way. It makes me want to light a fire and snuggle on a bearskin rug.

BungalowDeviled Apple

This drink is great for fall in Austin; it’s warm but with a nice kick.

  • 1 1/2 oz. Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Sour Apple Schnapps
  • 4 oz. cider

Drink.Well.

Drink.well. owner Jessica Sanders and bartender Dennis Gobis are retiring the tiki section of their menu and replacing it with cocktails more suited for the ski lodge than the beach. The autumn menu has six new boozy cocktails with spices that include cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. They are shooting for cocktails that stick with you with you, creating lush, velvety textures by swapping out simple syrup for gomme syrup in drinks like the Sazerac.

 A Shephard’s Holiday

Gobis created a simple, delicious negroni-style drink suited for chillier weather. It has a lovely layering of orange, cinnamon and clove to warm your heart.

  • 1 ounces Blanco Tequila (Siembra Azul)
  • 1 ounces Amaro CioCiaro
  • 1 ounces Punt e Mes
  • 2 dashes Old Fashioned Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and pour over a large-format ice cube in a rocks glass or serve up in a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with an expressed orange peel.

Jack Allen’s KitchenRound Rock Bee Keeper

In shaker tin, add the following:

  • 1 small scoop of ice
  • 1.5 oz. Rebecca Creek Texas Spirit Whiskey
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1 oz. house made Round Rock Honey-Fig syrup
  • 2 dashes of apple bitters

Shake and strain over ice in a 9-ounce rocks glass, add straw and garnish with sliced dried fig.

Lucy’s Fried ChickenGone a’Rye

Courtesy of William Schulte

  • 1.5 oz. Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
  • .5 oz. Campari
  • .25 oz. Luxardo Cherry Liqueur
  • .25 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake well. Stir until well chilled and strain into a cocktail (or highball) glass.

No Va Kitchen & Bar

Lead bartender Tacy Rowland is introducing six new autumn cocktails to the NoVa menu. The new upscale restaurant and bar is fitting in with its Rainey Street location by introducing a cocktail menu that uses beer, wine and cider. While the wine-based sangria is a top seller, Rowland is excited to create drinks with beer, too. She finds it an approachable way to introduce new ingredients.

One of the signature cocktails, Thunderstruck, mixes Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which recently won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival and coffee. Rowland says, “I’m a huge coffee lover. I’ve been playing around with coffee infusions at home and came up with this delicious Cynar coffee infusion.”

Thunderstruck

  • 1.5 oz. coffee Cynar
  • 1 oz. coconut milk
  • .5 oz. Chameleon cold brew
  • .5 oz. five spice syrup
  • 2-3 oz. Austin Beerworks Black Thunder

Shake all ingredients except beer, fine strain into glass and top with beer. Garnish with three coffee beans and serve it in a coupe.

This drink is dangerously delicious. It’s both sweet and bitter, with a sneaky punch. It is perfect for after dinner, brunch or end of the night.

Searsucker, Jack Manhattan

The bar crew at Searsucker has created a Jack-o-Lantern play on the classic Manhattan cocktail, using housemade pumpkin, all-spice, Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla-bean-infused whiskey.

  • 2.5 oz. infused whiskey
  • .5 oz. Cocci
  • 5 dashes Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters

Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Sullivan’sSalted Caramel Apple Martini

  • 1.5 oz. Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • 1.5 oz. DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker
  • 2 oz.  Caramel Lemon Sour (dash of lemon sour in caramel sauce)

Place all ingredients into a Boston Shaker and shake approximately 10-15 times to combine. Strain into a chilled martini glass with a lightly salted rim.

Qui

Celebrity chef Paul Qui has a talented bar crew that has created six signature cocktails for autumn.

Compadre

  • 1 ounce Rittenhouse Rye
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce Amontillado sherry
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s

Stir the ingredients and serve it straight up in a coupe glass garnished with a lemon peel.

W Austin

Libationist Joyce Garrison believes whiskey drinks are great in the fall and has created one with a shadow of summer with the honey bourbon syrup, made with the just-released Red Handed Bourbon from the Treaty Oak Distillery.

Nefariously Red Handed

  • 1.5 oz. Red Handed Bourbon
  • 4 basil leaves
  • .5 oz.  blackberry honey syrup
  • .5 oz. blood orange bitters

Shaken and strained into a coupe glass and garnished with a flamed orange peel.

No matter what part of town you are in, you can take the edge off of those cold autumn nights with a bracing cocktail.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrick’s Gin’s exclusive new cordial is available in only three cities — and Austin is one of them

Lesley Gracie, Hendrick’s Gin‘s master distiller, and a couple brand ambassadors are barnstorming a few U.S. cities, including New York, Austin and San Francisco to introduce a new quinine-based cordial called Quinetum (sorry Portland and Seattle — apparently your bar culture simply isn’t cool enough).

Here’s the kicker: Gracie distilled only 4,000 small bottles of the stuff and is bringing only 2,400 bottles to the States. With that limited supply, Hendricks isn’t even selling it — they’re just giving it away to two dozen of the coolest bars in these select cities.

In her first ever visit to Austin, Gracie recounted how she spent five years testing various recipes of herbal distillates. “I built this to find the right flavor to make delicious cocktails based on Hendrick’s Gin. We tested out tiny batches with local bartenders in Scotland to get it right.”

Now Hendrick’s is looking to top bartenders to create dazzling cocktails with Quinetum to pair with its cucumber- and rose-kissed gin. It’s a genius marketing ploy to gin up prestige for Hendrick’s by adding in an ultraexclusive lover to tease us.

Since you can’t buy it, your job is to track down where Quinetum is served and give it a taste before it all runs out. Here is your insider tip — NoVa Kitchen & Bar on Rainey Street has secured a coveted bottle and plans to start making cocktails with it very soon.

Tacy Rowland, lead bartender at NoVa, is thrilled to land a bottle, saying, “Hendricks Quinetum was expertly created with the bartender in mind. It’s complex without being overpowering: floral, slightly sweet and balanced with a lovely little bite from the cinchona bark. It’s very friendly in playing with a variety of spirits. I plan on using it in a gin, green tea and cinnamon toddy throughout the fall.”

Quinine made from cinchona succirubra bark has been used for centuries as a cure for malaria and a way to calm a nasty fever. In the 1630s, the Spanish brought it from South America to Europe, where it evolved over the years from being used just for medicinal purposes to become a nice bittering agent to pair with alcohol in cocktails. It’s a bit of an ironic twist that Hendrick’s chose to package Quinetum in a container fashioned after an antique poison bottle that they found in an old London shop.

Gracie’s tinkering with the Quinetum recipe eventually landed on a blend of quinine, lavender and orange distillates with extracts of orange blossom, wormwood and holy thistle, blended with glycerol to for a silky texture and a nip of sucrose to give it a sweetness (and to satisfy Alcohol Tobacco and Trade Bureau laws). The base distillate has four percent alcohol, which puts it in the cordial category, rather than syrup.

The result is a concentrated elixir with a rich, honeyed flavor. It’s potent enough to go a long way in a cocktail. As Gracie lovingly described it, “What most bartenders will immediately pick up on is the orange nose, giving way to subtle lavender notes. The taste has a deep green, bitter flavor from the wormwood, holy thistle and, of course, quinine. Bartenders should find this combination amiable for crafting into cocktails with Hendrick’s characteristic floral notes and spicy bitterness, which comes from the caraway seed and cubeb berries.”

While the intent is to find some of the best bartenders to create new cocktails with Quinetum, the Hendrick’s crew mixed up a couple concoctions to get the creative juices flowing.

Whiffen’s Wonderful Wibble

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • ½ part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ part tamarind syrup

Serve chilled or on the rocks in a coupe or martini glass.

Warburg’s Buck

  • 2 parts Hendrick’s
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • ½ part Quinetum
  • ½ Rooibos Syrup
  • Topped with ginger ale

Serve over ice in a Collins glass.  Garnish with cucumber slice.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a small sample of Quinetum and plan to test a cocktail with it, gin, Fino Sherry and sparkling water. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If you want to try it, head to NoVa or conduct a foraging expedition at likely bars around town, including Bar Congress,ContigoDrink.well.Eastside Showroom and Whistler’s. One of them is bound to have a batch.

This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking?

Mon Ideal: Arro has composed a classic French soundtrack that leaves you humming ooh la la

This story was originally published in the October issue of Austin Woman Magazine. Pick it up at your local newsstand. 

A good soundtrack can really make a road trip more memorable. There is nothing like drumming on the steering wheel to a string of excellent songs to make the miles tick by that much faster. The same thing can be true a t a restaurant where the service, the atmosphere, the food and the drinks come together in an alchemy that leaves an indelible impression. That’s what the new French restaurant, Arro, is striving for.

“When people come to Arro, we want them to feel like they are at a dinner party in our backyard,” Andrew Curren says. “When people come to our house, they know the food is going to be delicious without being pretentious. The way we do that at Arro is with a great team that pays attention to detail and brings a high level of hospitality.”

The Arro family is made up of handpicked talent. Staff comes not only from the other two ELM restaurants, 24 Diner and Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden, but also from the pool of top food and wine pros in Austin. The general manager and director of operations have been with the Currens since the early days of 24 Diner. The sous chef attended culinary school with the Currens. Acclaimed Cheesemonger John Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop runs the cheese program. Master Sommelier Craig Collins oversees the beverage program, and recently crowned Texas’ Best Sommelier, Scott Ota manages the floor. College roommates Curren and Collins have been dreaming about working together since they both fell in love with food and wine while studying in Italy in 2001. The bonds of friendship color the approach to building the staff.

“Our biggest asset is our people,” Curren says. “They pour their hearts in to making the experience at Arro feel like a dinner party. People want to be waited on and that’s what we love to do. Are we a wine restaurant because we have a Master Sommelier? No. Are we a foodie restaurant because we have a pastry chef? No. We are a hospitality restaurant.”

The next song that makes the playlist come together is the smart and thoughtful interior design, which gives Arro a relaxed yet refined atmosphere. Designer Veronica Koltuniak of VeroKoltis, who also designed 24 Diner and Easy Tiger, created a rustic, approachable and highly functional space using reclaimed objects liked cloth mailbags on the ceiling and a woven metallic wall.

CLASSICALLY FRENCH CUISINE

The standout track in the mix is the food. The seed of the idea for Arro was sown 10 years ago when Andrew and Mary Catherine Curren met while studying classical French cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. Since then, the French approach with farm-to- table ingredients has been the basis for how they have created menus. They felt that relaxed, flavorful, approachable, bistro-style food is a natural fit for Austin, where people want good food without much fuss.

“We want to demystify French food as just heavy cream and butter and show that it can be fresh and approachable,” Andrew Curren says. “We use fresh, local ingredients that are delivered four to five times a day because people care about the freshness and where food comes from.”

“We touch every plate and make sure everything is right,” Mary Catherine Curren adds. “I’m proud to put out food that I think is gorgeous and I’m excited for customers to eat it. It’s fun to do this with my husband.”

The French influence is evident in all aspects of the menu, starting with a completely French wine list and through to classic French desserts. There are six cheeses served à la carte, with five one-ounce wedges for $4, and always a cheese on the bottom of the list that is a full six-ounce, cave-aged wheel of cheese served with house-made bread and crackers. Arro is the only restaurant in town that serves a full wheel, and brings in unique and special cheeses from small producers. It’s possible to make a meal of just bread, cheese and wine and feel completely content. If you make it past the cheese course, you may linger for a long time on the starter selections.

From light and healthy morsels like an herb salad and vegetable tart to lobster bisque and frog legs, there are 11 mouth-watering dishes to choose from. Don’t miss the bone marrow. It’s not a gooey, gelatinous ectoplasmic residue in the middle of a donut-shaped dog bone. Nope. Arro serves it in a hollowed-out canoe bone mixed with herbs and roasted to give it a crispy crust. The nutty flavor pairs well with the Guigal Crozes- Hermitage syrah wine.

Grab a plate of grilled baby octopus while it’s still on the menu. The smokiness and brine of the bitty swimmers is balanced with creamy white beans and sweet roasted carrots. Nibble off each leg, one at a time. It’s fantastic with a glass of Cinsault de la Sanglière 2011 Cuvée Spéciale rosé.

On to the main courses. The seafood stew is Arro’s version of bouillabaisse, with hefty hunks of grouper canoodling with clams and mussels in a broth with tomatoes, saffron and cayenne. The stew begs for a slab of fresh bread to sop it up. Its complex flavors love the crisp acidity and tangerine bite of Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Cuvée de Silex Vouvray by the glass.

What would a French meal be without sweetbreads? Arro serves medallions of these delicious thymus glands and pancreas treats alternating with medallions of lamb cooked medium rare on a bed of lentils. It’s divine. The Deux Montille Bourgogne Rouge pinot noir tickles the right spots to bring out the best in the delicate, rich and fatty sweetbreads coupled with the meaty lamb.

FIFTY PERCENT OF GUESTS ORDER DESSERT

The Currens agree that no matter how good the main dinner items are, the hidden gems ar e the desserts. The cookie plate is easily overlooked, but it can be the best dessert to share. It has a little bit of everything, including fruit, chocolate and buttery goodness that goes perfect with French press coffee or a cordial.

Cordials? That’s right, It’s not just the sweets. Arro has a full cart of insanely tempting cordials—what, a choice of green or yellow Chartreuse?!?!— and a respectable list of dessert wines. There are some matches made in heaven, like the crème fraîche hazelnut panna cotta served with a petite glass of Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls. The port-like wine brings out the coffee notes in the chocolate that might be otherwise overlooked. The Baumard Quarts de Chaume dessert wine is delectable with the lemon goat-cheese tart. It’s so good, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t chocolate.

DRAWING A CROWD

The service, the atmosphere and the delightful food and wine menu are drawing a crowd that is a cross section of Austin, with T-shirt-clad hipsters elbowed up to the bar next to gorgeous socialites decked out for a charity e vent alongside retirees out on a date. Any given night, you’re likely to see a who’s who of local luminaries , like Austin City Limits Producer Terry Lickona, or celebrated chefs like Paul Qui and Shawn Cirkiel. Recently, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the New Zealand-based comedy duo known as Flight of the Conchords, spent the evening cracking jokes in the kitchen after performing in town with Dave Chappelle.

“We want to create fantastic restaurants that people can come to multiple times a w eek and not fuss about it,” Andrew Curren says. “We love to eat out. It’s by far our favorite thing to do after cooking. And we want to run restaurants that we would want to go to. We think we’ve done that.” The cohesive, family-like staff is orchestrating a fantastic playlist of hospitality, casual atmosphere, excellent food and a masterfully curated wine list to create a memorable dining experience.

Disclosure: Arro covered the cost of the meals for Beautiful Wife and me for this review. There was no expectation of a positive review based on the comp. 

What are you drinking?