20120902

Another Lake George restaurant week nears

LAKE GEORGE, NY -- The second Lake George Region Restaurant Week of the year is set to begin Sunday, September 9, and run through September 15.

Each of the 15 participating restaurants will be offering special three-course meal menus for $20.12 per person (tax, tip and beverages separate.) Reservations are recommended.

The participating venues:

LAKE GEORGE VILLAGE

Adirondack Pub & Brewery
33 Canada Street
668-0002

The Boathouse Restaurant
3210 Lake Shore Drive
668-2389

East Cove Restaurant 3
873 Route 9L
668-5265

Giovanna's On The Lake
384 Canada Street
668-5401

Lobster Pot Restaurant
81 Canada Street
668-2429

Log Jam Restaurant
1484 State Route 9
798-1155

Mama Riso's Restaurant
2119 State Route 9
668-2550

Mario's Restaurant
429 Canada Street
668-2665

Moose Tooth Grill
327 Canada Street
668-0007

TR's Restaurant at the Holiday Inn Resort
2223 State Route 9
668-5781

Village Blacksmith Steakhouse
48 Canada Street
668-3165  

BOLTON LANDING

Algonquin Restaurant
4770 Lake Shore Drive
644-9442

La Bella Vita at The Sagamore
110 Sagamore Road
743-6101

Mr. Brown's Pub at The Sagamore
110 Sagamore Road
743-6101  

QUEENSBURY

Adirondack Bar & Grill
982 State Route 149
743-8593

City distillery to join Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Photo: Kentucky Distillers' Association
LEXINGTON, KY -- The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is about to get a new member from an unusual venue.

Alltech’s Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., maker of Town Branch bourbon, will join the Trail in October when it opens its new $6 million distillery. The bourbon name is a nod to the stream that runs under downtown Lexington.

The 13-year-old Bourbon Trail currently is dominated by high-volume brourbon producers such as Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve, unlike the downtown Alltech complex all located in rural spots.

Alltech also produces beer and malt whiskey, and for several years has been making its small-batch bourbon at a location opposite the new facility. Its other spirits brands are Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey and Bluegrass Sundown, a bourbon-infused coffee drink. And, its brews include Bourbon Barrel Ale, Kentucky Light and Kentucky Ale.

Distilleries along the trail have recorded more than 2 million visits in the past five years, including 450,000 last year, according to Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply.

ON THE WEB
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Urban Bourbon Trail
Kentucky Distillers' Association

20120527

Wherever we are, we have BBQ in common

Photo: April L. Dowd
On the first day of spring back in March, I had gazed at the snow piled deep on my backyard deck and thought, “Better get ready for barbecue season.”

It wasn’t a matter of denial. It was the sight of the charcoal grill peeping out from the snowdrift, that shiny, dome-topped apparatus I never did get around to dismantling and putting away for the winter. Again.

Unlike some of my neighbors who swear by the use of gas grills and use them year-round, I favor the old-fashioned charcoal version to be used "in season." The kind that provides leaping flames that help whet the appetite and add flavor to the meats, fish and vegetables grilled on it that I can never fully discern from foods cooked over propane jets.

True, this preference can occasionally lead to experiences that evolve into legend among people in my circle. Such as at the wine tasting/barbecue gathering I hosted and forgot I already had put starter fluid on the charcoal. A second dose and a flick of the butane lighter resulted in a roar of flames so high we feared planes overhead might mistake them for a landing beacon.

But, I assure you that was an aberration. What normally happens is a smooth-running event, be it for the immediate family or an extended circle of friends and acquaintances. The key is planning.

So here we are at the Memorial Day Weekend, the traditional time for prepping the swimming pool, checking the tire pressure on the bikes, cleaning up the garden and handling a hundred and one other chores, pleasurable and otherwise. And, most of all, time to begin barbecuing.

It’s a task, or a pastime, that has intrigued me since childhood. My first Boy Scout merit badge was earned by cooking a four-course meal unassisted over an open campfire, no mean feat at age 11.

In many American backyards grilling remains stereotypically a man’s domain. You know the old saying: “Give a man barbecue and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to barbecue and you’ve kept him out of your hair all summer.” However, the inexorable blending of gender roles in our society is changing that job. Bobby Flay, high-tech grills and accessories that mimic indoor stoves and ovens, and a return to group dining that had faded for a generation or so are encouraging that change.

Which seems only right. Cooking over an open flame and eating together have been a human communal event ever since Ooog the Hairy accidentally dropped a hyena steak on the fire and everyone in the cave crowded around to discuss what happened.

Barbecue -– or barbeque, BBQ, bar-b-q, barbie or however one cares to spell it -- has become a word that refers to both an event and a style of cooking, although there are purists who insist one should always say grilling  when cooking and barbecue for the style. The more you travel, the more variations you find on the zen of barbecue or the local equivalent of the term. And, the more you know about them the more fuel you have for barbecue party conversation.

For example, during a trip through rural parts of Kentucky and Tennessee I availed myself of one heaping platter after another of “barbecue,” but there the term referred to pulled pork with a barbecue sauce ladled over it rather than being restricted to meats grilled after being soaked in the tantalizingly stereotypical vinegar-based Southern marinades.

In most of Spanish-speaking South America, the term churrasco refers to a cut of grilled beef; in Portuguese-speaking Brazil it refers to the actual process as well. In Hong Kong, outdoor barbecue grills fired by coal are popular. Even in old civilizations such as the United Kingdom where outdoor cooking was anything but commonplace, the influences of American, Australian and Caribbean barbecue cultures have resulted in a boom in backyard barbecuing since the late 1980s.

Most commercial barbecue operations try to differentiate themselves from the others by emphasizing one style of cuisine over another -- St. Louis, Memphis, Southwest, Texas, Cuban, Cajun, whatever. However, in most parts of the country barbecue remains primarily a backyard event and those who take it seriously go far beyond the standard burgers, hot dogs, chicken and steaks no matter how much we love them.

The rise in fish consumption, for example, has impacted grilling. Tender fishes cooked in foil packets with onions, peppers, herbs and a dot or two of unsalted butter is an easy dish. Swordfish, ideal for grilling because it takes to marinades well and is dense enough to keep from falling apart when cooked directly on the grill, is popular. It also is ideal for cutting into chunks and being threaded on skewers with vegetables and fruits.

Speaking of skewers, the increasing ethnic diversity of the American population also is affecting what we eat.

An influx of people from cultures that have clung for centuries to cooking over open flames rather than “rediscovering” it as a seasonal backyard thing has broadened our menus. Ethnic food stores are allowing local residents to obtain the ingredients to mimic what they’re experiencing in ethnic restaurants. We’re seeing such toothsome items as doner kebabs from Turkey, usually lamb or tightly-packed ground chicken loaf slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit then sliced very thinly as it cooks and served on pita bread with a salad and fries. Or seekh kebabs from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, marinated in spiced olive oil, grilled on skewers and served with sweet-and-sour fruit salsas or chutneys.

Beyond what you’re cooking, drawing up several checklists, mental or otherwise, can save a lot of trouble in how you’re cooking it.

The most important of these actually is good practice for any type of cooking, indoors or out. It is mise en place (MEEZ awn plahs), a French term referring to having all your ingredients selected, measured, cleaned, sliced, chopped or whatever you need to do to them up to the point of combining them into your dishes. Just as your favorite TV cooks have many of their ingredients laid out for them by their crew before taping a show, this is one way to have family or guests have fun helping do the prep work, making it a true communal experience without losing control of the process to well-meaning hands that can otherwise get in the way.

• Having a written menu plan, including specific amounts of food to properly feed the size of the group you’ve invited, is a must. It helps you in shopping and in preparation. The latter is particularly important if you’re the lone chef because in some instances you may be simultaneously cooking indoors and out -– grilling your kebabs on the deck but cooking the rice to go with them in the kitchen, for example. Your menu should take such things into account.

Mise en place also can cover making as many things in advance as possible –- the marinades, the cooked-ingredient salads, the cleaned and cut-to-size fruits and vegetables you’ll be cooking on skewers or in a metal grilling basket.

• Have all your seasonings on a tray at your fingertips –- the salt, pepper, paprika, lemon or lime wedges, etc.

• Have all your cooking implements –- long-handled fork and knife, tongs with insulated handles, spatula, etc., handy. Better still, if your grill did not come equipped with an implement holder, pick one up at a home supply store. It keeps utensils from “walking away” at crucial times.

• Particularly if you use a kettle-shaped barbecue, be sure to get cooking baskets with angled handles that allow you to place the entire basket evenly over the flame. Straight-handled baskets tend to keep food tilted over the fire at varying distances, making for uneven cooking.

As with so many things, your menu comes down to a matter of taste. Even budget doesn’t have to factor into it because marinating, slow cooking over low or indirect heat, and plenty of patience can make even less-costly cuts of meat tender and appealing.

Pairing up the main dish with traditional make-ahead items such as baked beans, potato or macaroni salad, crusty artisan breads with herbed butters and some sliced tomatoes and onions drizzled with olive oil and fresh-cracked black pepper can result in a “wow” factor meal that looks complicated but isn’t. Which will leave you time to enjoy your guests and the results of your own labors.

One final observation. While I enjoy a bowl of greens as much as anyone else, when it comes to a backyard barbecue it’s all about the meat and sides. As some movie macho guy once said, you don’t win friends with salad.

DO's & DON'Ts

DO be sure to clean up your grill if you procrastinated on that chore at the end of last grilling season. Soap and water, steel wool, scrapers -- a lot of things can be used to clean the non-cooking surfaces. To cleanse the parts that come in contact with food, try one of several things. (1.) Use an indoor oven cleaner spray, letting the sprayed grill sit in the sun for a half-hour, then thoroughly wash off the cleanser with soap and water. (2.) Cover the grills with aluminum foil, turn the propane up, and let it work until any leftover particles turn to white residue, which can be brushed away.

DO discourage chipmunks, squirrels and other rodents from gnawing on your gas hose to get at the barbecue drippings by at least occasionally wiping down the hose with ammonia water when the grill is cool.

DO look into the newer types of ready to-light charcoal even if you’ve been dissatisfied with the older versions that imparted an unpleasant taste to some foods. I’ve found the current versions, particularly Kingsford Match Light, quite satisfactory and a definite timesaver for after-work grilling when you don’t want to wait forever for the fire to be ready.

DO keep a spray bottle of water handy to quickly put out any flare-ups that might char the food or be a danger to anyone.

DO use apple juice or flat beer as a spritzer liquid on chicken, ribs or any slow-cooking meats to keep them moist. Both liquids are thicker than water so they last longer without turning instantly to steam, and they don’t negatively affect the taste.

DO soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before putting ingredients on them for cooking. That will prevent the skewers from burning through and breaking during the grilling process.

DON’T ignore your grill owner’s manual. You might be surprised the things you’ve forgotten, or neglected, when it comes to upkeep and operating maintenance. Like replacing a gas grill’s lava rock more than annually if it becomes saturated with drippings. That keeps the heat even and avoids flare-ups.

DON’T forget to use the proper ventilation setting on your charcoal grill to maintain proper airflow for even burning. Top and bottom vents should be fully open while cooking, and closed only when you are ready to extinguish the flames or want to lower the temperature for slower cooking.

DON’T slather your meats, fish and poultry with sauces too early. Unlike marinades that have permeated the food, most of the sauces tend to merely cook away or get excessively caramelized. It’s best to brush on the sauces late in the process.

DON’T be reluctant to use wood chips to add smoky flavoring both in charcoal or gas grills. Soak the mesquite, applewood or hickory chips in water for at least 20 minutes before using. For charcoal grills, shake excess water off the chips, then sprinkle them evenly atop the cook-ready coals. For gas grills, wrap the moist chips in aluminum foil, poke several holes in the foil, and place the packet directly on the lava rock or ceramic briquettes.

DON’T cook everything right over the heat source. Some foods need direct cooking, but others should be cooked indirectly, meaning food is placed to the side of the heat source. A good rule of thumb: If foods take less than 25 minutes to cook (steaks, burgers, boneless chicken, etc.) use the direct method. Others (roasts, whole fowl, etc.) should be cooked indirectly.

DON’T put cooked foods back on plates that have held raw foods or you may pick up dangerous bacteria.


ON THE WEB

The Barbecue Bible
National Barbecue Association
Barbecues & Grilling
• So You Wanna Learn to Barbecue
Dowd's Guides

20120109

Historic whiskey site in controversy

Museum workers sort through artifacts.
SCOTTSDALE, PA -- West Overton Village and Museums, established as an agrarian museum, will have a new new mission when it reopens in 2013 after a renovation project.

At that time, it will refocus on the western Pennsylvania village's rye whiskey distilling history.

Meanwhile, however, a controversy has arisen over the sale by Executive Director Kelly Linn of numerous artifacts that are the property of the 18-building museum complex.

West Overton Museums operates on $80,000 a year from the Henry Clay Frick foundation and from public donations. It receives no state funds. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the American Whiskey Trail that includes museums, distilleries and visitors centers in five states.

West Overton Village is the birthplace of industrialist Frick, who spent the first 30 years of his life here. The village was founded in 1800 by Abraham Overholt, Frick's grandfather. Overholt began making rye whiskey under the name Old Overholt, which now is distilled by Jim Beam.

TribLive.com has a thorough story on the controversial sales.

ON THE WEB
West Overton Village and Museums
American Whiskey Trail
• Dowd's Guides home page

20120104

23rd Boston Wine Festival a 45-day event

Chef Bruce
From CBS Boston

BOSTON -- Boston has no shortage of wine events: from free tastings at boutique stores to the appropriately-named Wine Riot to tours and classes, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for something on the less riotous end, the Boston Wine Festival might be for you. In its 23rd year, the festival spans all the way from January 6 to March 30, comprised of 45 wine-related dinners, tastings, and seminars. The price tag for many of the events is steep, but the payoff is high for wine connoisseurs.

The Boston Wine Festival was created by Daniel Bruce, executive chef of the Boston Harbor Hotel (which houses the festival). Over the lifetime of the festival, Bruce has created over 3,000 original dishes to pair with the wines.

The festivities kick off with an opening reception on January 6 which includes tastings of more than 50 wines from featured vineyards as well as tastings of some of Bruce’s creations. At $100, this is the least expensive event in January. On the higher end, the month ends with "Super Tuscans," a $295-per-person four-course dinner paired with Tuscan wines, such as Ornellaia, Brancaia, and Sassicaia. Another January pick is the Battle of the Cabernets (January 12 or 13, $225-per-person): Napa Valley cabernets, food pairings, a blind tasting led by a cabernet expert panel, and a vote for the favorite. Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape more your style? A seminar and dinner on the January 20 highlights this region; the event is hosted by Ambassador Alain Junguenet and his son, John ($185).

[Go here for the full story and schedule.]

Blog Archive