Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Established Eateries: Old Ebbitt Grill

Old Ebbitt Grill, one of America’s oldest restaurants.

Old Ebbitt Grill has been in continuous operation since 1856 and is one of the oldest restaurants in the the United States.  On a recent trip to Our Nation’s Capitol, I decided to stop in for dinner.  It’s moved several times in it’s 150 year history, most recently in 1983, so I didn’t expect much from the interior.  But upon my arrival in the dining room, I was charmed: the interior had the luxury of a late-19th century restaurant and featured taxidermied animals (always a plus in my opinion) and real gas lighting.  The flickering gas light chandeliers gave the dining room a wonderful ambiance and a  real feel for what dining in the 19th century would have been like.

In an establishment like Old Ebbitt, I should have gorged myself on oysters and beefsteaks, then  finished out the event with a glass of port and cigar.  That would have been the period appropriate thing to do.  But my budget was lacking and my stomach protested, so instead I had an arugula salad with toasted hazelnuts, blackberries and sherry dressing.  Not very 19th century, but it was very, very good.

Real gas lamps and a taxidermied walrus head: my idea of a good time.

The Gallery: Horse Sausages

I found this in a box of 1940s ephemera from the Cleveland area.

The “Starting from Scratch” Challenge

Alright friends: peer to your right —>

See that RSS feed?  It’s coming from Starting from Scratch, an amazing project that’s happening this week.  You’re going to be blown away by what these folks are doing.

For the next seven days, three families in Cleveland are going to be surviving only off what they hunt, fish, farm, and forage.  They’ve been preparing since January, learning how to live off the land and putting away stores of garden vegetables, foraged fruits, and wild game.

I’ve supported this blog because I’m completely fascinated by their plan to kick it pioneer style; over the past six months, I’ve watched my friends turn completely agrarian and transform their urban backyards into farm yards, complete with chickens.  A patch of weeds is no longer a patch of weeds in their eyes: all wild plants are divided into two groups, food and not food.  They even inspired me to attempt a garden in my fourth floor Queens walk up.  I didn’t grow enough food to survive for a week, but I did get a nice salad out of it.

First, meet the key players: Mark, Kathy, and Sharon.  Then, follow along this week as they challenge themselves to go off the grocery store grid.  I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.

Summer Cocktails: The Tom Collins

Today’s post is contributed by Kristina Sutter, a Scotch Whisky Expert and cocktail enthusiast.


When creating a delightful cocktail, I take the same approach as choosing friends, clothes and décor.  I want character, flavor and integrity.  I love spirits that spend time resting and relaxing in a delicious oak barrel.  However, in the summer time, when in need of a refresher, I will easily forgive those that lean towards clear spirits.  But rather than reach for vodka,  go for the original flavored vodka: Gin.

Gin was originally created to mask the harsh flavor of 17th century spirits. Gin and Tonic was recognized as a medicinal drink to settle the tummy.

There are a handful of recognized types of gin, but the common theme is the final distillation (usually in a pot still): distilled with juniper berries, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, other herbs and roots.  Gin was the base spirit in the classic cocktails, NOT vodka.  The true cocktail connoisseur will always reach for Gin.

My favorite gin-based, summer-time cocktail is quite simple.  It has many things in common with the original recipes for many other patio style drinks: A base spirit, sour (FRESH lemon/lime juice) and sweet (sugar, simple syrup).  Margaritas, Mojotos, Caipirinhas, Caipiroskas, and even the original daiquiri all have this flavor profile in common.

My friends, Meet Mr. Tom Collins!  This drink goes back to the 19th century and has variations made with Vodka and whisky as well.

Tom Collins
First appeared in How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1876 ed.

1.5 oz your favorite Gin
1 oz simple syrup
¾ oz FRESH squeezed lemon juice (it’s not that hard)
Club soda to top

Shake first three ingredients with ice, and strain into an ice filled Collins glass (tall, skinny), then fill with soda and garnish with a cherry and orange slice, or frankly whatever you want.

You may have also heard of a gin fizz, which is the same recipe, but in a shorter glass.  A gimlet simply leaves out the simple syrup.


Get your shakers chilled and get going!


Summer Cocktails: Cherry Smash

A cherry smash. Doesn’t that look frosty?

The Cherry Smash is a modern take on an anitquated classic: the smash.  Jerry Thomas says of them “This beverage is simply a julep on a small plan.”  Ouch.  It is julep-like, but has the addition of fresh fruits, and can be made with gin, brandy, or whiskey.

Although the Cherry Smash appears in cocktail historian David Wondrich’s book Imbibe!, the version comes from Food & Wine magazine.  It’s simple, delicious, and worth purchasing a few special ingredients.

Cherry Smash
From Food  & Wine magazine online
Recipe by Nick Fauchald

8 sour cherries, pitted
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce Cherry Heering
Club soda

In a rocks glass, gently muddle the cherries to release some of their juices. Fill the glass with ice, add the bourbon and Cherry Heering and stir well. Top with club soda, stir again and serve.


I had to make some major substitutions when creating this drink.  I had Maraschino liqour, not Cherry Heering. I couldn’t find sour cherries at my local grocery store, despite having seen them all over Manhattan.  And the bodega was out of club soda, so I used seltzer water.  All things considered, the drink still came out pretty good, but I would give it another go with the proper ingredients.  My roommate pointed out that the cherries look kinda gross by the time you get to the bottom of the drink — all bloated like a corpse — but they taste magnificent.

UPDATE: I have it on good authority that this drink is best with Cherry Heering.

Summer Cocktails: The Jersey Cocktail

This hard cider cocktail is another from Jerry Thomas’ bartending guide.  It’s easy and icey and perfect for hot days.  Made with a dash of bitters, it tastes like a summer version of mulled cider.
The Jersey Cocktail
From How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1862.
1 teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
Hard cider
Lemon peel
Fill a tumbler with crushed ice.  Add simple syrup and bitters, then fill glass with hard cider.  Stir until the glass becomes very cold and condensation appears.  Serve, garnished with a twist of lemon peel.

Summer Cocktails: Roman Punch

This week:  summer cocktails to help you beat the heat of the particularly sultry summer.  Today, a refreshing glass of Roman Punch.

You can pick up a hard copy of this recipe in Edible Queens this month, but I also wanted to make it available on this blog because I really cannot endorse this drink enough.

This recipe is adapted from the first cocktail guide, Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks published in 1862.   My friends, who were my guinea pigs the first time I mixed this cocktail, demanded round after round with enthusiastic chants of “Roman Punch, Roman Punch!”

This recipe calls for a dash of Curacao; but don’t use the bright-blue version, which will turn the cocktail an unappealing shade of army green.  If you can’t find clear Curacao, Cointreau is an appropriate substitute.  You can buy commercially available raspberry syrup, or you can make it from scratch according to the recipe below.


Roman Punch

1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 tablespoon raspberry syrup (commercially available, or made from scratch using the recipe below.)
1 teaspoon Cointreau
2 ounces dark rum
2 ounces brandy
Juice of half a lemon
Dash of port wine
Fresh raspberries or strawberries

Fill a rocks glass with crushed or shaved ice; add the first six ingredients.  Stir until the ingredients are combined.  Finish drink with a dash of port wine, and garnish with fresh raspberries or strawberry slices.

Raspberry Syrup

1 pint raspberries
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup water

Line a small saucepan with a double layer of cheesecloth; place raspberries inside and mash with the bottom of a glass. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sugar and set aside for 30 minutes. Lift cheesecloth, wrapping the raspberry mash; squeeze the mash in the cloth, allowing the juice to drain into the saucepan. Add remaining sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. To store, keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

A Revolutionary Menu: Apple Pan-Dowdy

The origins of Apple Pan Dowdy are shrouded in mystery.  Undoubtedly related to crumbles, slumps, and crisps, the recipe I decided to  feature in my Edible Queens article comes from a cookbook published at the same time as the 1964 World’s Fair, The American Heritage Cookbook. However, the first time I’ve been able to find the dessert in print is in Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery, published in 1886.  Her version is a much juicier than the ’64 recipe, a juice the soaks into the pie crust top and begs to be licked off the plate.  After I devoured the dessert, I poured this juice from the bottom of the baking dish and cooked it down into a syrup which I served atop vanilla ice cream.  Oh god so good!

The temperature is going to be pushing 100 here in NYC on Independence Day, so I know that last thing you want to do is heat up your oven and bake.  In fact, I doubt the legitimacy of this dish as an 18th century July Fourth favorite–considering not only the summer heat, but why would you use last year’s old nasty apples to bake when so much fresh fruit abounds in July?  However, this recipe is a great way to use up extra pie crust. Pieces of crust are strewn across the top, then “dowdied” by pushing them into the baking apples; the crust absorbs the juices and becomes soft and biscuit-like.  And it is delicious; so if you have air conditioning, I say bake away.

Apple Pan-Dowdy
From Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery by Juliet Corson, 1886.

5 large baking apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 lb light brown sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 c. cider
1 nine-inch pie crust, store bought or homemade

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Peel and core apples and cut in to ¼ inch thick slices; mix with lemon juice to prevent browning. Toss with the sugar and spices and pile into the baking dish. Pour cider over apple mixture.

3. Cover apples with pie crust by weaving together wide strips, or by simply scattering torn pieces of crust over the top. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of whipped cream.

A Revolutionary Menu: Snapping Turtle Soup

A Revolutionary Menu (cont.)
Historic Gastronomist Sarah Lohman recreates a centuries-old Independence Day feast.
Written By Sarah Lohman – Photographed by Everett Bogue and Sarah Lohman
Excerpt first published in Edible Queens Magazine, Summer 2010.

Turtle was a traditional summertime treat and was served at early Fourth of July celebrations as soups, steaks, and ragouts.  Snapping turtles were caught locally and sea turtles were imported from the Caribbean.  Instructions for butchering a live sea turtle can be found in America’s earliest cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1796.  The cook was advised to begin early in the day by hanging the turtle upside-down and beheading it.  Further steps included slitting open the intestines to clear away the slime; a wise idea, considering turtles can carry salmonella in their intestinal tract.

I  love finding an historic dish that was commonplace in another era, but is seldom served today.  I decided to prepare this dish, turtle and all, for my July Fourth festivities.  However, I was not ready for the gruesome act of butchering a live turtle in my Queens kitchen.  More importantly, most species of sea turtles are on the endangered species list and freshwater turtling is not sustainable.  I found an appropriate substitute:  I ordered farmed, frozen snapping turtle meat online.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the complex flavor of this soup.  The light broth combined with fresh citrus is an appealing combination for the summer.

Turtle Soup

(Adapted from What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, by Abby Fisher, 1881.)

Turtles can carry salmonella in their intestinal tract.  Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water, much as you would a turkey.  Handle meat with the same care you would a chicken cutlet.

“Mock” turtle soup can be made by substituting veal, which has a similar flavor, or beef.

1 pound fresh or frozen turtle meat, thawed and cut into one-inch cubes
4 cups beef stock
4 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced thin
½ lemon, sliced thin
½ cup sherry

Rinse turtle meat and pat dry; cut into one-inch cubes.  Combine turtle meat and beef stock in a medium pot and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for two hours, until the meat is tender.  Prepare a tureen or large serving bowl as follows: arrange egg slices in a layer at the bottom of the tureen; then, cover with a layer of lemon slices.  Pour sherry over top.  When the soup is ready, ladle over eggs and lemon.  Serve hot from the tureen.