Archive | February, 2012

The Green Fairy

16 Feb

Absinthe has always had its allure to Americans, the forbidden alcohol!  Banned in the U.S. and France for its hallucinogenic and demonizing reputation, the Green Fairy only gained a greater longing desire as a result.  This green potent liquor has been made more popular through “pop” movies and those traveling abroad to countries where it’s legal and comeback to tell their tale.  I think most young people including myself until recently would associate this alcohol with Eastern Europe giving it a greater feeling of mysterious and forbiddances as we make a connection in our minds with “The Iron Curtain.”  Well after a little curiosity, research and some absinthe experiences it has been revealed to me that this green absinthe is not real absinthe in fact but grain alcohol with green coloring.  It is a marketing technique by eastern European countries to draw in tourists.  True absinthe is a lot like Pasties and is made with wormwood; it has a murky color, anise taste and clouds when mixed with water (which is the proper way to drink it).

Absinthe has a very rich history.   I will say I am the first to compare Absinthe with SPAM.  What a comparison!   Well if you enjoy history maybe you have already made the link.  Absinthe first became popular in France’s North African wars, being mixed with water for a cheap and easy way to purify the water.  After the war, the returning soldiers had a palate for this new drink.  Thus, just as whenever there is a demand there is someone to quickly supply it.   And it quickly became the drink of drinks in 1920’s France, Hemmingway, Wilde, Picasso, Lautrec, Stein, and every other artist or common folk par took in this beverage.  It was said that it expanded imagination causing the imbiber to reach a higher level of revelation/thought process.  Today we also say goldschlagers tiny gold filaments cuts your throat so your body takes in the alcohol more quickly.  Marketing?  But how did this drink all of the sudden become so evil that it was made illegal for more than half a century?   The answer, lobbying, by wine producers and social activists.  Two major reasons, wine consumption was down and the country needed an escape goat for rising alcoholism rates.  Apparently more people drink when out of work, think the great depression, the U.S. had Prohibition.  It would only take a second World War to boost up the economies again.  Well I’m off topic.

Man with the Absinthe

Getting off work late one night I headed to an absinthe bar.  What an interesting place this was, not New York City at all, like I could have been in some small bar in the Scotland county side, antique furnishings, dust, a little bare, somewhat old fashioned cliental…very appropriate for what I had read about absinthe.   With the streets quiet and me absorbed in the environment I questioned if my subway train had a flex capacitor and traveled at 88 mph.   Two old UK expats owned the place.   Slow moving and talking but very smooth with their movements, they had all the knowledge of Absinthe I needed.  $15.00 a glass and a story like tale as they prepared and sipped the green fairy with us, the night turned out very well.

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Mushrooms in the closet

6 Feb

I love meat. Duck, pork ribs, carpaccio, hot and burning wings, I am a meat eater.  I can not resist to thin slices of saucisson for the apéritif or a fried bacon pizza. Roasting chicken at the market makes my mouth watering and even if I love pet rabbits, I also like them with apple cider, prunes and raisins. And yet, I had a homemade veggie burger this week. A veggie burger that tasted like meat. Except that it was not beef but the cap of a Portabello mushroom grown in the closet of my apartment.

In NYC, it is trendy to grow your own vegetables, brew your own beer or make your own cheese and yogurts. It is part of the new « homemade». So when A. said that he wanted to grow mushrooms, I was not so much surprised. After all, he had been growing mint and basil on my tiny balcony in Toulouse, why not mushrooms in NYC?

Growing mushrooms in an apartment is a funny thing. First he had to set up the closet, a sort of walk in closet where we put our coats or shirts. Call it dorm room life. He also had to control the humidity. Once the nest was ready, he prepared the growing materiel. It led to some funny morning discoveries : the mushroom kit in the bathroom (again, temperature control), hay boiling and cooling in a big pot on the stove, newspapers all over the kitchen to make papier mâché, pounds of wet coffee grounds in the kitchen sink… But the most interesting is to answer the questions of family and friends : no, we are not growing THAT kind of mushrooms, and yes, they grow in the closet.

Finally, last week he got his first three babies : more than one pound of meaty tasting Portabello. Very good in a morning omelet, delicious in a veggie burger with balsamic vinegar, cheddar, onion and spinach.