Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eat My Words

Last week I said that I wasn't even going to consider a pumpkin cocktail because everyone would just imagine drinking pumpkin pie filling. The moment I wrote that I started thinking of a way to disprove myself but left the sentence in there anyway. Now here I am, eating my own words, about to describe my contradictory drink special.

It's nothing new for me. I like to say that I suffer from "Foot-In-Mouth Disease"; I always seem to say something to the contrary of what I ultimately mean. First of all, I realized that not everyone thinks like me and maybe there are people out there that would actually appreciate a pumpkin cocktail - after all, there's a certain nostalgia associated with autumn and pumpkins.
Secondly, I realised after an outing at Sambar that I could actually juice a sugar pie pumpkin, the one variety that is actually meant to be eaten and not just decorated, yielding a fresh and light liquid that's not too sweet and all pumpkin in flavor. This realization gave me a use for the "Autumn Spiced Vodka" that I started about five weeks ago, just to see what would become of it, by steeping Smirnoff vodka with cinnamon sticks, crushed nutmeg, orange peel, allspice berries and star anise. I added a simple syrup made with brown sugar (instead of the typical white, granualted variety) to the pumpkin juice with equal parts of the spiced vodka into a shaker full of ice, shaking and and straining it before I garnished it with freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon to create a cocktail that is rife with the flavors of fall.

Since I've been creating my own cocktail specials the single most comment that I hear is "why don't you create a cocktail that pairs with your special the way that wine does?". The truth is that even the world's greatest mixologist have difficulty doing so for two reasons: 1 - wine has been around for about 6,500 years while the earliest cocktail was documented around 1806; a lot more time to experiment with the combinations, and 2 - the harshness from spirits in even a diluted concoction tends to dull the palate.

Just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it can't be done, you just have to start with the basics. The simplest way to match wine with food is to "bridge" them by using the same wine in the main preparation of the dish, thus automatically pairing them together, so if I'm using pumpkin in the drink then I should use it in the dish.

Another way to pair a drink with food is by intensity; like a big, bold Syrah and a fatty steak, so I came up with an intense dish by cooking an Italian-style risotto with the flavors of a red Thai coconut curry by simmering the rice in a mixture of onions, garlic, coconut milk and red curry paste until it is "al dente" and then adding chopped tomatoes, chicken smoked with jasmine tea and freshly chopped Thai basil, all served in a ring of roasted sugar pie pumpkin that you scoop in while you eat the risotto to complete the flavor profile, and all the better if you have a Spiced Pumpkin Martini to balance the heat and compliment the spice!!

If my words are this tasty, just imagine how good the food is!!

With Love,