JUNK FOOD: Food containing low nutritional value, high levels of calories, sugar, fat, salt and chemical food additives.
Although Michael Jacobson, co-founder of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest which was founded in the early 1970's, is most often the person credited with the term "junk food", an article in the Ogden, Utah, Standard-Examiner headlined, "Dr. Brady’s Health Column: More Junk Than Food" appeared in 1948. Either way, this puts the proliferation of junk food smack dab in the middle of the 20th century when "convenience" and "fast" food made it's debut.
I'm not one to judge, but let's face it, if it's wrapped in a greasy bag with a cartoon or logo on it or you drove up to a window to get it, it's probably junk food. I was not immune to the siren call of addictive, quick foods that came in greasy bags. I confess, during the eighties, when I was working 18 hour days, my dog actually thought she was going to get a french fry when I drove up to the bank window to make a deposit.
I have so many junk food inspired cocktails I'm a little embarrassed. My only excuse is I grew up in the era that introduced America to fast/junk food. Before my life time there was no such thing as TV dinners, McDonald's, Taco Bell, pizza chains, nachos, instant noodles or sour gummy candies. For some reason, after World War II, America became obsessed with instant gratification, and that included instant aka "fast" aka "junk" food. Baby boomers wanted it all and wanted it now. All those food holidays are children of the baby boom as well.
Mea culpa for my era. But if it's any consolation, my entire generation is also obsessed with dieting, blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. These days both myself and my little furry wingmen are on healthier diets, with only occasional forays into the Dark World of Drive-up Fries & Donuts.
I make my concessions, and confessions, at happy hour. I believe on moderation in all things, including junk food.
Champagne Wishes & Caviar Dreams in One Bite of Booze
This CHAMPAGNE AND CAVIAR EDIBLE COCKTAIL GEL was inspired by the 1980's Robin Leach program "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" where he always signed off with the catchphrase "Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams". It was program filled with the uber-wealthy and the excesses of the filthy rich. Yes, the eighties were a decade of decadence and flash and "greed is good".
Greed is not so good and decadence is reserved for a very lucky few these days, but that's no reason not to visit luxury every once in a while. These little savory bites of Champagne infused caviar can transport you to a lifestyle of the rich and famous, if only for a short period of time.
Both Champagne and caviar can be bought in a wide range of prices but in this case I used American Sturgeon Caviar which retails at about $60 an ounce and a nice bottle of Iron Horse Brut which ran me about $40. Keep in mind that the Iron Horse is not technically a Champagne as it is not from the Champagne region of France, but it is a lovely sparkling wine that pairs very well with caviar.
It's nice to go with higher end caviar if you have the funds, but stay away from the bargain basement varieties. If you can't afford at least a medium quality Champagne and caviar then you aren't going to be enjoying anything close to "Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams" in your edible cocktail gel.
I like to serve these with a flute of the Champagne and a side plate of blinis topped with some creme fraiche and more caviar.
I also have a drinkable Caviar Martini just in case you'd rather lift a martini glass.
These directions work for both the caviar layer and the Champagne layer, which you will do separately. Do one layer at a time so the Champagne doesn't go flat while you're waiting for the other layer to set!
Spray all your molds with cooking spray and set aside.
Put the caviar/Champagne or the cup of Champagne in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
In a small microwaveable bowl, add the gelatin powder to 2 tablespoons of water.
Give this a quick stir and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
Warm this mixture in the microwave for about 25 seconds or so, long enough for the gelatin to completely dissolve, then stir well.
Pour the gelatin water into the caviar/champagne (or the champagne) and stir well until the gelatin is completely incorporated in.
You can now pour this into your (sprayed) mold or a small pan and place in the fridge to set up. It takes a good hour minimum but 2 hours or longer is better.
Once both layers are set you can then pop the gels out of your candy molds or cut out your shapes with the mini cookie cutter and layer them onto your cocktail pick for serving.
GENERAL SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS & TIPS
If you find the cocktail gel a little too gummy candy in texture, you can decrease the gelatin packets to only 1 package instead of 1 and 1/2.
Most cocktail gels can be frozen, depending on the ingredients however due to the delicate caviar I do not recommend freezing this cocktail gel.
I had to do a special for Wish Upon a Star Day, held every July 17th, because my favorite song in the world is "When You Wish Upon A Star" from Walt Disney's Pinnochio. I would make free cocktails forever for Jiminy Cricket!
Why is July 17th Wish Upon a Star Day? Because it's the birthday of the original Disneyland, in Aneheim, which opened July 17th, 1955. I would also make free cocktails forever for Walt Disney, who happens to be one of the top inspirations for my art career.
WISH UPON A STAR FRUIT MARTINI
Your Dreams Come True in a Cocktail Glass
1 Fresh Star Fruit
1-1/2 Oz. White Rum
1/2 Oz. Cointreau
2 Oz. Orange Juice
Garnish: Starfruit slice, Orange Twist
Glass: Cocktail or Coupe
Slice off one section of the star fruit to get a star shaped slice for your garnish.
Peel, deseed then puree the remainder and add it to your cocktail shaker with the rest of the ingredients.
Blend until smooth, pour into the chilled glass garnish and serve.
A Little About Star Fruits:
Star fruits, also known as Carambola, are native to Asia but are now being cultivated in many tropical locations. The whole fruit can be eaten, including the skin though the ribs are usually tough and better cut away.
They are tart, sweet and very juicy and taste a little like apples and pears with an overtone of citrus. They are high in anti-oxidants, vitamin C and even have some antimicrobial benefits.
BE AWARE: If you cannot have grapefruit because of certain medications, star fruit may also be counter-indicated for you as it has some of the same enzymes. Also star fruit contains oxalic acid which can be harmful for anyone with kidney disorders!
When I was out shopping the other day I spied an interesting ale from the Best Damn Brewing Company called "The Best Damn Cherry Cola You Ever Had". If you read this blog a lot you know that I am not a huge beer drinker which means I don't troll the beer aisle all that often. I like an occasional ice cold beer on a hot summer day in a frosty bottle, no canned suds, thanks; and my beer of choice is Bohemia. However, I am learning to appreciate fine ales and stouts, and I love cherries so that piqued my interest. It was also 108° here, perfect brewski testing weather.
At almost $11 for a 6-pack, my interest waivered back and forth a bit until I remembered I get to deduct my booze purchases. Into the cart those Best Damn bottles went. WTH, live a little. If I hated it, maybe I could throw it into some funky chili or weird-ass beer can chicken. Plus I suspect it is a seasonal product and I didn't want to miss my opportunity to try it out.
Once home I froze a little extra chill on the Tucson summer warmed six pack by popping it in the freezer for ten minutes. Then I popped the cap on a bottle, took a sniff and definitely got those cherries right up front. A hint of some warm spice also tickled my nostrils, but an odd, metallic aroma teased at me, one I couldn't quite place. I actually sniffed a couple more times because that metallic smell was thumbing it's nose at my olfactory memories. I let it go because, often as not, the nose is not always a perfect indicator of flavor, and took a sip out of the bottle.
The cherries immediately confirmed their dominence and I was extremely pleased to find a nice bitter bite instead of the cloying sweetness I expected (like the syrup overdose I got from Not Your Father's Root Beer.) However that metallic tinge crept into the flavor as well, just bugging the devil out of me, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste that pushed the ale's more natural and appreciated bitterness out of the way.
It nagged my palate much like artificial sweeteners do, hitting me only on the sides of my tongue, not over the whole tongue like real sugar does. There is no nutrition labeling on alcoholic beverages*, so I had no way to tell if artificial sweeteners had been used, but it's the only explanation I can think of for that chemical bitterness.
I didn't get the cola flavor until the second beer, which I poured into a chilled glass. At this point the sweetness level kicked up a notch as well and I finally got the taste of cherry cola. The metallic aftertaste faded as well. Maybe this ale just needs to breath a little?
The appearance is a dark, brick colored brown and what head there was when poured quickly dissapated. With a 5 5% ABV its light enough to be able to tip back a couple of bottles and sit out and watch the hot sun set which is exactly what I did.
All things being equal, I found I actually enjoyed "The Best Damn Cherry Cola You Ever Had". It's strong on real cherry flavor, is surprisingly not that sweet and has a credible depth of flavor. I could also see this being a great mixer with whiskeys and some beautiful barrel aged tequila or mezcal.
Woud I buy it again? Possibly, especially if I come up with a great cocktail that makes use of its particular qualities. If I do, I'll update this post with a link to that recipe.
Would I keep it on hand as my beer of choice? No, but it is a nice change if you're looking to experiment.
Best Damn ever? I have no idea since I have not seen another cherry cola beer available. It's pretty easy to be "best damn" when you're the only damn one on the market, but it makes for clever marketing.
* Alcoholic beverages do not fall under the FDA purview and thus, at this point in time, do not require nutritional labeling.
BEER [beer] /bɪər/ noun. An alcoholic beverage made by brewing and fermentation from cereals, usually malted barley, and flavored with hops.
“Most people hate the taste of beer, to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice.” ~ Winston Churchill
Thanks to the huge craft beer movement I have finally learned to enjoy beer. Not the garden variety, watery, canned suds I grew up with, but the beautifully crafted, small batch ales, lagers and stouts that are popping up for sale on a daily basis these days. Thank you, hipsters, I can now enjoy some brewski with the rest of America, albeit a brewski that's been dressed up.
I've discovered raspberry ales, peach lagers, chocolate stouts, apple beer and cherry cola ale, among a few. I now know what IPA (India Pale Ale) and IBU (International Bitterness Units) stands for and my brain doesn't shut down when I hear "hops" or "barley". I've learned the difference between types of beers* and now hunt the beer aisles for the latest hip sixer or growler to hit the market. Who'd a thunk it?!
I can toss back a tallboy with the best of them but I have also discovered beer as a cocktail ingredient. It's a great day when that barley pop you only bought for frat parties and keggers suddenly becomes a delightfully flavorful inspiration for a new drink.
Got a sweet tooth? Love pecans? If you do then you'll love my Pecan Pie Martini recipe. It has all the same ingredients as a pecan pie except the crust. You get that rich, deep caramel flavor of the pecan pie filling and the pecan nut rim brings it home.
Homemade Candied Pecan Vodka Recipe:
I used Pinnacle's Pecan Pie Vodka but, if you can't find it, you can make your own pecan pie vodka by infusing a cup of chopped, candied pecans into a 750 ml. bottle of decent vodka for a minimum of a week then straining out the nuts and bottling.
Here's my recipe for Candied Nuts:
(P.S. make an extra batch of these delicious nuts to serve alongside the cocktail. Dipping them in a nice dark chocolate is also very good.)
Dip glass rim in some of the butterscotch schnapps and then into the crushed pecans.
Chill glass in freezer.
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake until well chilled.
Strain into the chilled glass and serve.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF PECAN PIE
Pecan Pie is a classic southern dessert said to have originated when the French migrated to New Orleans and were introduced to nuts by the native population, though the Karo Syrup company claims it created pecan pie as a way to use it's syrup. The first record of a pecan pie recipe was in 1925 though it didn't show up in recipe books until the 1940s.
I hope it doesn't need to be said that if you have nut allergies you don't try this martini? If you don't have a nut allergy than go nuts and enjoy.
A Mojito is a classic Cuban beverage made with white rum, sugar, traditionally sugar cane juice, lime juice, sparkling water and mint. It's a tall, lightly alcoholic drink perfect for warm climates and hot summer nights.
Its origins start around the time of Sir Francis Drake's visitations to the Caribbean and the original drink, then called a Draquecito, is supposedly named after him. Also called a Drake or a Draque, it was a concoction of an aged rum called Garapo (aguardiente de caña) mixed with sugar, lime and mint. Enjoyed by the Cuban sugar cane workers, it is the earliest known rum drink from the Caribbean, first mentioned sometime around the latter part of the 1800's. When the Bacardi Rum Company started up in 1862, they replaced the Garapo with their signature white rum, some soda and ice and took the frink mainstream.
Where the name Mojito comes from is a matter up for debate, but several sources claim that it stems from a Cuban seasoning made from line called mojo. It might also be a derivative of the Spanish "mojadito" which translates to "a little wet" or the African word "mojo", which means to cast a little spell.
Whatever the case, I live in a desert so I'm all for some refreshing, wet coolers with a little rum Mojo in them and I definitely enjoy them in a variety of flavors.