Sunday, 25 December 2011

A “Not” So White Christmas

After our amazing trip to Rome, It was time to get back to London and get stuck into our jobs and save some money for our next adventure. As it approached Christmas, we were hoping to experience our first white christmas, but it wasn’t to be. The weather in London has been unseasonably warm. So our dream of a white christmas will have to wait for another year.

As the year comes to an end, this is a good time to reflect of some of the amazing things Cara and I have experienced in 2011. We have set foot in 7 different countries (including Australia) in the last 12 months. Throughout this time we have seen the sights,  tried some outstanding food of course we have drunk a lot of cocktails. It all began in Osaka, Japan, where the food and the friendly hospitality of the locals blew us away. We couldn’t think of a better way to start our adventure. We then moved on to Kuala Lumpur, and it was my birthday, where plenty of “cocktail research” was done. Next was Abu Dhabi, which has been the biggest culture shock so far. The breath-taking sights of the grand mosque and having dinner in the desert, were 2 of the highlights from our time in the UAE.

It was then time for us to set up our base for our european stint of the trip, So we made our way to London. Our London experience is still happening and so far it’s been amazing. Our short trips to France and Italy, were both jammed pack holidays. We certainly made the most of our time in both places.

Overall, 2011 has been one of the most exciting years of our life's, but we still have so much more to see and do before we make our way back to Australia. 2012 is going to be another exciting year.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Love of Antipasti

Michelangelo’s, “The Creation of Adam”, inside the Sistine Chapel.
Next on our list of famous sights to see in Rome, was the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We followed the masses of tourists who were also heading toward the Vatican and once we were there it was truly amazing. The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is probably the only thing we’ve seen that compares to the sight of the Vatican City. As we made our way inside the chapel, we decided to tackle the 551 steps to the top of the dome which over looks the square and Rome. When we reached the top, the sight was everything that we had hoped for. A 360 degree view over all of Rome. After taking many photos, we made our way back down and took a short walk around the Vatican City to the Sistine Chapel. We were excited about seeing the famous paintings by Michelangelo, and by far the most famous, “The Creation of Adam”. As we made our way through to the Sistine Chapel we were amazed at the size and volume of all the paintings, every inch of the chapel was painted to depict many famous moments in time. As we made our way through the crowd, we got to the centre of the chapel and looked straight up, and there, in the centre of the ceiling was the painting we’d all come to see. So after a busy afternoon, it was that time again, time to eat and have a cocktail. After having lots of pizza and pasta on our first day, we were keen to explore some other Italian food, particularly antipasti.

Aside from the amazing pizza and pasta that there is to eat in Italy, it’s important not to forget about the other classic Italian dish, Antipasti. Usually before any meal, it’s normal to order a selection of cold meats, olives and cheese. When Cara and I went out to eat, we were sometimes served these dishes without even ordering them, free of charge. Prosciutto is by far the most popular of the cold meats featured on a standard antipasti dish. Prosciutto is the ham of either a pig or wild boar. It usually comes from the thigh or the hind leg of the animal. The meat is finely cut, cleaned and well salted, then left to age for a time ranging from 9 months to 2 years. The result is a delicious, soft, salty and chewy meat which falls apart and melts in your mouth.  Along with the cold meats, often come a selection of olives, cheeses and lots of bread. Every meal we ate we nearly lost our appetites due to the amount of antipasti dishes served before the main meal.  After our busy day, I was keen for a nice refreshing beer to go with our antipasti. I decided to order one of the beer cocktails that were on offer. The “Peach Lager” was a beer cocktail which consisted of fresh peach puree, peach schnapps and cointreau and topped up with Peroni. Peroni lager is by far the most popular beer in Italy. This beer concoction was sweet and refreshing. The puree made the drink quite heavy in texture, but it was still a definite thirst quencher after another long day exploring Rome.

“Peach Lager Beer Cocktail”
In a pint glass:
30ml Peach Schnapps
15ml Cointreau
45ml Peach puree
Topped with Lager

Sunday, 20 November 2011

When in Rome

The time has come for Cara and I to take another European adventure and visit a place that we’ve been excited about visiting since we left Australia... Italy. So we jumped aboard a short flight from London and made our way to Rome. We flew over the amazing Swiss Alps and a couple of hours later we were in sunny, warm Italy. What excited us the most about travelling to Italy, was the food. We are both lovers of Italian food and we were keen to get stuck into plenty of pizza and pasta.

Our first day in Rome was jam packed. We hit the streets early and had a long list of sights to see for the day. The Colosseum was first on the list. A place famous for not only it’s amazing structure, but also it's gruelling gladiator battles which took place during the first century AD. After a couple of hours of exploring and learning about this ancient Italian icon, we hit a local pizzeria, for a good old fashion Italian pizza. After a pizza and prosecco, we continued on our way and made our way to Trevi fountain. A popular tourist destination, Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world. Standing 26 metres high and 20 metres wide, the fountain is a stunning structure. Built during the 15th century, It was seen as a source of pure water to the Romans. Today, It’s a place where people (mainly visitors) make a wish by tossing a coin into the pond. After a short walk from the fountain, we found ourselves standing at the Pantheon. Built as a temple to worship the gods, The Pantheon is another tourist hot-spot. Cara and I found ourselves just staring in amazement at these ancient buildings and places. So, after a busy day, we needed a cocktail.  Whilst looking at the Pantheon, we spotted and small cocktail bar which looked perfect for us to have a drink and reflect on an amazing first day in Rome.

Being in Italy, we had to order traditional Italian cocktails, and not many drinks are more Italian than the Bellini and the Rossini. I’ve mentioned the Rossini before when we visited Tower 42 in London. These two drinks consist of peach puree and prosecco for the Bellini and strawberry puree’ and prosecco for the Rossini.  The Bellini came first and was invented sometime between 1934 and 1948. The Rossini was a variation of the original Bellini. When our drinks arrived, they did not disappoint. Fresh fruit puree, topped up with authentic Italian prosecco. We sat back and enjoyed the sight of the Pantheon and set out our plan for the next day. We made our way back to our hotel amazed at all the things we had managed to do in our first day, and we were excited about what the rest of the week had in store.

- Fresh Peach Puree
- Topped up with Prosecco

- Fresh Strawberry Puree
- Topped up with Prosecco

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Mysteries of Stonehenge

Our adventures around the world involve much more than just good eating and drinking. For a long time now, even before we left Australia, I’ve always wanted to see Stonehenge. It amazes me that in an age where we can find scientific answers for everything, there still remains no clear answers for why this amazing structure of rocks exists and what it means. Of course there are many different theories, but none of which can be proved. It’s most likly that Stonehenge is going to be the oldest structure that Cara and I will ever see. It is said to be over 5000 years old.

Stonehenge is located in the english county of Wiltshire, about 2 hours drive from London. It is a mystery as to how the tall carved bluestone was able to be built and lifted into position. People say that stonehenge is an Ancient burial ground, others say it is a place of worship, maybe it was both, no one knows for sure. I’ve read many myths about stonehenge, and there are too many for me to go through them all, but one which I heard of, is the stones were carefully selected by King Arthur, who employed the help of the wizard Merlin to use his magic and place the stones into a circle arrangement. It was said that King Arthur wanted a place of worship and to morn the death of other knights who died in battle. Many theories like this is what makes Stonehenge a mystical place to visit.

During our visit, I managed to pick up a local souvenir, a beer made by a nearby brewery called, of course, The Stonehenge Ale. The ale’s are brewed by The Old Mill Brewery at Netheravon, Wiltshire. The mill was built on the River Avon in 1914 to generate electricity for a near by air field. Once the mill had closed, it remained vacant until 1984, when a master brewer from Denmark, Stig Anker Anderson, who came to England with the dream of creating an old fashioned English beer. The Stonehenge Ale was the result. A deep amber colour, It has strong refreshing fruity taste, but with a bitter after taste. Because the beer is an ale, the beer contains a strong malt and hop flavour to compliment the fruitiness.

Our experience at Stonehenge was unforgetable. It’s another thing which we can tick off our long list of things to see in England.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Love for a Good Cup of Tea

There is no doubt that people in the UK love a good cup of tea. So when Cara and I were out and about on one of our many adventures around London and we came across a bar which sold a cocktail called the “Earl-Grey-tini”. After seeing this,  I couldn’t resist and had to try it.

The cocktail used a london dry gin infused with earl grey tea.  The method of infusion has been around for hundreds of years. Starting as a way of making medicine, the technique of mixing herds with hot water quickly became a popular drink. Tea grew in popularity throughout Asia. It has been said that the Chinese have been drinking herbal tea since the 10th century BC.  But is wasn’t until the 1700’s that tea expanded out side of Asia and was brought to europe. At first it was considered a luxury hot beverage, only drunk be the rich, but it soon became a drink that everyone could enjoy.

As mentioned, the “Earl-grey-tini” uses earl grey infused gin. To get the best flavour from an infused spirit, the rule of thumb is that the spirit should be infused for a minimum of 3 days, but with tea being made to dissolve, I doubt it takes that long to get a good tea flavoured gin. The cocktail starts with 45ml of earl grey infused london dry gin, 30ml of sugar syrup, a squeeze of lemon juice and dash of egg white, to give the cocktail a nice texture. Its then shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.

When I tried this drink, i was quite impressed. It was just like a refreshing ice tea. The lemon juice and sugar syrup balanced each other nicely. The tea infused gin, brought another flavour which made this cocktail very enjoyable. Lastly, the egg white brought all the ingredients together making this smooth in texture to drink.

"The Earl-grey-tini”
In a cocktail shaker:
45ml Earl grey infused gin
30ml Sugar Syrup
A squeeze of lemon juice
Dash of Egg White
Shake with ice and serve in
a Martini Glass

Saturday, 29 October 2011

On top of the world at Tower 42

After our experience at the Trafalgar Hotel, we now had a taste for roof top bars. One bar in London that we were keen to visit was Vertigo 42. The Vertigo 42 bar is a champagne bar located on the top floor of what was known as the “Natwest Tower”, now called Tower 42.

Tower 42 is the second tallest skyscraper in central London. It was built during the late 1970’s and finally was opened in 1981. The 42nd floor was originally just a viewing gallery, until it later was transformed into a trendy style bar,  consisting of lounges an a comfy setting allowing you to have a drink and take in the stunning view.

Tower 42 mainly consists of office space, but you forget all that as you make your way into the building and around to the exclusive express elevator which takes your straight to the top in style. As Cara and I reached the top, we started to understand why this bar has so much appeal. The view over London was spectacular. As the host walked us around to our table, you can’t help but notice the total 360 degree view of the city which you get from the top floor. We read and hear how apparently the London Eye has the best views of the city, but we doubt that it is as good as Tower 42.

With Vertigo 42 being a champagne bar, their menu consisted of many top bubbly’s and of course champagne cocktails. Cara decided to order a classic Italian cocktail, the Rossini. This is a simple classic which consists of strawberry puree topped with prosecco. The Rossini is a variation on the “Bellini” which was invented in Venice, Italy. The Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani sometime in during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s (no one knows for sure). It is a cocktail which consists of peach puree topped up with traditionally prosecco. With Vertigo 42 being a champagne bar, the prosecco was substituted with champagne. When the drink arrived, we were a little disappointed, as Cara’s Rossini had strawberry liqueur instead of fresh fruit puree, but lucky, Cara didn’t mind. She loved the flavours and the liqueur made it just a little sweeter which was more to Cara’s liking.

I chose the Yuzu & Cranberry Bellini. Since our visit to Japan, I’ve become fond of Yuzu juice. It’s citrus flavours often complement other fruits well, so I was looking forward to trying this creation. When the drink came, it was exactly what I had imagined. The refreshing citrus flavours of the yuzu, went well with the much sweeter cranberry. This sweetness was balanced out by the dry flavours of the champagne.  Overall, It was a great all round drink, perfect for sipping on, sitting back, and checking out the view.

Yuzu & Cranberry (left), Rossini (Right)

Vertigo 42’s "Rossini":
30ml Strawberry Liqueur
Topped up with Champagne

(A Classic Rossini:
2 - 3 teaspoons of strawberry puree
Topped up with Prosecco)

Yuzu & Cranberry Bellini:
20ml Yuzo Juice
20ml Cranberry Juice
Topped up with Champagne

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Seeing London through Nelson’s Eye

The people who we have met in the UK so far, have told us that this years summer was below average. When it started to get towards the end of september, it was save to say that summer was over. Then low on behold, a heat wave which smashes all records hits the UK and we get a little taste of what we’d missed out on the last few months. With this recent unseasonable weather, Cara and I hit the town and caught up on some sight seeing.

We’d read in a book about a rooftop bar which over looks the famous Trafalgar square. So we decided this would be a perfect place to go and enjoy the sunshine. As many people would know, Trafalgar square is one of the more popular tourist attractions in London. It’s a very picturesque part of the city. The centre piece at Trafalgar Square is the 145ft tall pillar with Horatio Lord Nelson standing on the top. Lord Nelson served as an Admiral in the British Navy. He lead them into battle many times, where he suffered losing his right arm, and sight in one eye. One of the most famous victories for the British navy was the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Which Lord Nelson lead his troops, but was sadly killed in the process. Now, Lord Nelson faces south west directly towards Portsmouth. The bar on the rooftop at the Trafalgar Hotel, faces this same direction. From the roof top you get a great view, of the square, the lion statues, the fountains, but what we found most interesting as you get the same view of the city as Lord Nelson, standing 145ft in the air.

So after a little bit of time, taking in the view and learning about Lord Nelson, we decided to order a few cocktails, sit back and take it all in. Cara started by ordering the “Fruitti del Sole”. This was a mixture of mandarin and lychee, with 2 shots of vodka. It was built over crushed ice and was very summery and refreshing. I expected the lychee to take over (as it so often does), but this was well balanced. The taste of the mandarin still came through quite clearly and both fruits complemented each other nicely. In my mind the only thing which ruined it a little was the use of vodka. You got such a nice refreshing fruity taste on the front of your palette, but then that was quickly changed by a ‘metalic’ after taste that you find when drinking vodka. By no means was this a bad cocktail. Like I said, It was very summery and refreshing, but in my opinion, it could have been so much better. Cara agreed. Maybe a nice gin, or rum instead of just vodka may have made this drink a winner.

I decided to have a “Midnight @ Vista”. This consisted of vodka, Grand Marnier, blackberries, honey and lime. Before I took a sip of this cocktail I knew straight away that it was going to be sweet, and I wasn’t wrong. The mixture of the Grand Marnier, honey and blackberries made for a sweet concoction, but that didn’t bother me. The flavours were exactly what I was expecting, a sweet, refreshing, fruity cocktail. My only criticism with this drink, is it may have helped if it was double strained**. A common complaint that customers have, is they don’t like sucking bits of fruit through a straw, and thats what was happening with my "Midnight @ Vista". A simple straining out of the fruit, would have made for a smoother drink. Other than that is was quite nice.

So after picking our cocktails to pieces, we sat back, enjoyed the sun and admired the view over Trafalgar square and London.

** 'Single strained' is straining out the ice from your cocktail shaker, 'double strained’ means pouring the cocktail through 2 strainers, one to remove the ice, the other to remove the pulp and other bits of fruit.

"Frutti del Sole”
(Build in a tall glass)
Muddle Mandarian & Lychee
Add a dash of sugar syrup
50ml Vodka
Topped with Crushed ice

“Midnight @ Vista”
(In a mixing glass)
Muddled Blackberries and Limes
Dash of Honey
30ml Vodka
30ml Grand Marnier
Shaken & single strained over crushed ice
 into a rocks glass.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

London Bar Show 2011

There is nothing that bartenders like more than a 'good old' trade show. Hundreds of beverage distributors and sales people pushing their new and exciting products on you, giving you a small sample and all for free. Cara and I had attended the Sydney bar show back in Australia, so when we heard about the London Bar Show, we had to attend.

We started our afternoon trying an argentinian beer, “Quilmes”. This beer has been brewing in Buenos Aires since 1890. Quilmes is a premium lager which is very light in taste and would be perfect for a hot summers day. Cara is not a big beer drinker and even she didn’t mind this. I guess that's it’s appeal, It’s a ‘non-beer-drinkers’ beer.  We moved on a tried a few other similar beers from places like Spain, Belgium, France and Italy.

As we made our way through the expo, we came to a stall promoting 'worm-wood' vodka. I won’t name the brand, because I prefer not to publicly “bag” a product online, but it’s safe to say if you ever come across a worm-wood vodka, steer well clear. It was horrible! I can only assume that this idea came about when the creators were trying to think of a spirit which had not been invented yet, and someone mentioned the word, ‘Worm-wood”. It was like drinking pure ethanol, with a smoky and earthy after taste.

So after tasting the wormwood vodka, we needed something to get that horrible taste out of our mouth. The answer, Ron Zacapa. Ron Zacapa is by far my favourite rum. It’s one of those rums which you never mix with anything. On the rocks will do nicely. It comes from East Guatemala, in a small town called Zacapa. The rum itself has not been around very long. It was first produced in 1976 to celebrate 100 years since the town had been founded. What makes this rum so special is the fact they only produce limited amounts each year and it is distilled and aged 2,300 metres above see level. Its has a great mixture of smokey and peppery flavours, balanced out with a very sweet after taste. There is a joke amongst bartenders, that the word “smooth” to describe spirits is thrown around far to often, but Ron Zacapa is definitely one of those spirits I would sum up    as being smooth.

We then moved on to trying an range of gins, whiskey’s, grappa and even some absinthe. I could go on about all the other things we tried at the bar show but it would take me to long.  So it’s safe to say by the end of the afternoon, we were a “little” tipsy. But we learnt a lot and had a great day. It’s a tough job doing all this product research, but someone has to do it. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Champagne & Shopping

Myself and Cara were doing some shopping in Shepherds bush (West London) the other day and we came across something that we thought was quite bizzare. It was a champagne bar, in the middle of a shopping centre. I guess we found it so strange, because we don’t have these sort of things in Australia. It is one thing to have a food court, or a small cafe in the middle of a shopping centre, but to have a (very classy) champagne bar was new to us. I wouldn’t have thought there would be much of a market for shoppers who fancy a quick glass of ‘bubbles’ whilst doing there shopping, but after speaking to the head bartender of “Searcy’s Champagne Bar”, he told us that even he is amazed at the amount of shoppers who have a sneaky glass of champagne whilst shopping. He said that some shoppers fancy a glass as early as 10am.

As we walked past Searcy’s in amazement at the amount of people sipping on their champagne, we had to see what all the fuss was about. As we sat down and looked around, we soon realised, what looked out of place at first, doesn’t look out of place anymore. Searcy’s is located with shops like Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany&Co (just to name a few) surrounding 360 degrees around the bar. This classy establishment fit right in with all the expensive designer brands.

As we sipped on our glass of real french champagne, we decided to order a little cheese board to go with it. The head bartender was again happy to help. He recommended which cheeses go with the champagne that we were drinking and even went as far as to explain how drink the champagne and eat the cheese to get the most flavour out of both.

We thoroughly enjoyed our champagne and our cheese board, and also we really appreciated the time that the bartender spent with us going though the menu. So after a quick glass of ‘bubbles’ and a light snack we continued on with our shopping.

Football, Work, Cocktails & The OXO Tower

Well.... What a busy last month It’s been for Cara and myself. It’s been a long time since my last blog post, which is mainly due to us starting our new jobs. However just before we started, we were fortunate to make a trip to Wigan and visit some of my family, and we also got the opportunity to see the opening game of the premier league season for the Mighty Wigan Athletic. It was our first time to the north of England, and despite the unpredictable weather, it was an amazing trip. We’ll defiantly be back.

So then it was time to begin our working lives in the UK, and begin to earn some coin to fund our upcoming adventures. During our intense 4 weeks of work, Cara and I did manage to make it out to a bar that I’ve been dieing to check out, The OXO Tower Cocktail Bar. The OXO Tower has an interesting history, which was part of the reason we wanted to go and have a look. The tower is located on the banks of the River Thames. It originally started off as a power station, before it was taken over by a large UK meat company (The same company who produces the OXO stock cubes). The company, "Liebig Extract”, converted the power station into a storage warehouse. The company wanted to display the three letters “O.X.O” in neon lights at the top of the tower. But when the request was refused, they decided to rebuild the top of the tower to include this advertising into the frame work of the windows.  Because the framework of the windows were conveniently shaped like a circle, a cross and another circle, nothing could be done to stop it.

In the early 1990’s, the tower was refurbished to include offices, housing, art galleries and on the top floor was the cocktail bar and restaurant. When Cara and I arrived on the top floor of the OXO Tower Bar, we instantly felt under-dressed. The bar was packed with businessmen or people who looked like they were off to the theatre later that night. We didn’t let this stop us from taking a seat and looking over their extensive cocktail menu. With a menu which consisted of house specialities, classic variations and genuine classics, it was hard for us to make a decision. Cara went for a sparkling cocktail called “Undercover Lover”. This consisted of citrus flavoured vodka, Licor 43 (a Spanish vanilla flavoured liqueur), Frais de Bois (a type of strawberry liqueur), shaken with crushed strawberries, strained into a champagne glass and topped up with prosecco. Instantly, Cara told me that it was too sweet. After I had a try, I 100% agreed with her. It was like drinking pure strawberry sugar. On paper, the drink sounded very nice, but when i thought about it after, I soon realised that there was nothing to balance the sweetness of the 2 liqueurs used. So the “Undercover Lover” I’m sure will be a great drink for the sweet-tooth, but It didn’t go down to well with us. My choice on the other hand, was a winner. I choose a cocktail called “The Port of London”. Judging by the title, I guessed it had port in the drink, and having never had a port cocktail before, I had to give it a go. The Port of London, consisted of Port, Beefeater Gin, lemon juice, lime juice and topped up with a bitter lemon mixer. This drink had all the qualities we were looking for. It was well balanced, refreshing, there was no dominate flavour, with every sip you got something different out of the drink.

So we spent an our afternoon, sipping our cocktails, looking over the Thames towards St Pauls Cathedral, and after an intense last few weeks of work, we finally had a chance to reflect and remember why we are over here and how lucky we both are.

The OXO Tower’s
“Undercover Lover”
(In a mixing glass)
15ml Ketel One Citrus Vodka
15ml Licor 43
15ml Frais De Bois
Muddled Strawberries
Shaken and strained into a champagne glass
Topped with Prosecco

“Port of London”
(Built in a tall glass)
30ml House Port
30ml Beefeater Gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml fresh lime juice
Topped up with Bitter Lemon

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Prescription for Cocktails

After a busy few days in Paris, we had one more place to visit. We had to check out the ‘Prescription Cocktail Club’ After all it has the reputation of being one of best bars in Paris. This particular bar specialises in serving up slight but very unique variations on the classics.  After a nice meal nearby, we made our way toward ‘Prescription’. If we weren’t looking for the place, we might have missed it. There was absolutely no signage or indication that a bar was inside. We were a little early, so not many people had arrived yet, but after we sat down, it soon filled up. This is a testament to the bars reputation, that it can have no advertising out the front and still fill up quite easily. It’s the type of reputation you build with good service and producing quality drinks. This was evident when we were pleasantly greeted and the bar staff made us feel at home. They even took the time to help us chose a cocktail from their menu which was written in french.

When we go out to places like this, I tend to always have a pen and paper on hand to write down some of the cocktails on the menu. For the first time ever I had one of the waitresses come over to me to tell me to keep one of the menus. Some bars can be very protective over their cocktail recipes, so it was great that the crew at ‘Prescription’ were happy for me to keep one.

Cara and I spent quite sometime here chatting to the friendly staff and drinking cocktails from the menu (and also a couple off the menu). I’d love to talk about every single one of them because every drink we had was delicious, but the one I’ve chosen to feature was a variation on the Daiquiri. It’s called “Daiquiri du Maquis”. It consists of Appleton Estate VX dark rum, yellow Chartreause, rosemary infused sugar syrup and a dash of lemon and lime juice. It’s made by shaking all ingredients together and straining over ice into a rocks (short) glass. I love the use of rosemary in this drink, it doesn’t dominate too much, but it gives a nice after taste. I also love the smokey flavours of the Appleton rum. It compliments the rosemary and counteracts the sweetness of the yellow Chartrease and the sugar syrup.

After our amazing cocktails, we made our way back to the hotel. The Prescription Cocktail Club is up there with one of the best bars we’ve been too so far. The service was great, the atmosphere was cosy and warming and the cocktails were outstanding.

Prescription Cocktail Club’s
"Daiquiri du Maquis”
In the Shaker:
45ml Appleton Estate VX Rum
15ml Yellow Chartreuse
15ml Rosemary Infused Sugar Syrup
Dash of Lemon Juice
Dash of Lime Juice
Shake ingredients together
Strain over ice in a short rocks glass
Garnish with Rosemary

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tasting the Local Drop

In Australia and especially South Australia, we are very fortunate to have top quality wines right at our door step. In France, the reputation for producing top wine is much the same as Australia. So during our time in Paris, we found a wine bar which specialised in French wine. The Chateau wine bar in Paris, allowed customers to taste a small sample of some of the most exclusive wine France has to offer and at a resemble price. We could not resist trying the local drop while we were in France, so we were excited about what they had to offer. When we arrived at the Chateau Bar, we were instantly impressed with the range of wines. Hundreds of French wines all temperature controlled and measured in specially designed refrigeration systems. These guys took their wine very seriously. I was a little hard to understand the menu, as it was written in French, but the bartender was helpful in explaining to us the qualities of the wine on the menu.

We decided to try 4 wines, 2 whites, a rose` and a red. We started with a Chenin Blanc from the wine region of ‘Vouvray’ (south west France). Chenin Blanc grapes have been growing around Vouvray since the 9th century, but it wasn’t until the 16th and 17th century that chenin blanc grape vines were planted and production of wine began. The chenin blancs of Vouvray are said to have a higher acidity than usual. Characteristics are honey, figs, apples, nuts and ginger. We found this wine to be quite refreshing. It would be perfect on a warm summers day.

Next was a Pinot Gris from Alsace (north east France). The wines from Alsace have a strong German influence because of the town being located so close to the border.  German grape varietals are said to be more aromatic and floral and their wine generally is produced with a higher percentage of alcohol. So when we tried this wine, we could definitely taste the German influence. It had a stronger punch of flavour. The higher alcohol of the wine meant, you could only take very small sips to really appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a top drop, but one glass would probably be enough.

We then moved on to Cara’s favourite type of wine, the rose`. This rose` was made at Chateau de Romillac in the small town of Corbieres (South France, not far from Marseille).  The region of Corbieres specialise in only producing red wine and rose`s. Due to the colder climates from the north and the warm Mediterranean whether of the south, this region is able to grow many different varieties of red grapes. The rose’s of Corbieres always use a minimum of 2 grape varieties. When we tried this wine, we could straight away taste the Mediterranean influences. Very light and refreshing. It would be very easy to drink on a hot day. It had both dry and sweet qualities. Sweet when it first hit the palette, but then with a dry finish and after taste.

Last, we tried a red wine. It was a Mourvedre from the town of Bandol (south France, half way between Marseille and Nice). Wine has been made in the region for around 2,600 years, since the ancient Greeks. The area is known for producing some of the best spicy, full-bodied red wines in the world, and the wine we tasted was no exception. When smelling, it had very subtle flavours, but then when you tasted, it gave you a spicy and peppery kick. It was definitely a wine worth savouring, so i was taking as smaller sips as possible out of my sample. It was delicious. It would be the perfect wine to drink on a cold winters night.

We thoroughly enjoyed our wine tasting. We could have tried everything on the menu, but we might have to save that for another trip, another time.  

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bienvenue à Paris (Welcome to Paris)

 We have now been in the UK for 2 months. We have seen some amazing things and have settled into life here nicely. It’s time to take advantage of the close proximity of other European countries. We decided to do a bus trip to Paris. We were so excited about exploring a new city, the 7 hour bus ride seemed to take no time at all. Once we arrived at our hotel, we quickly checked in and hit the streets. First on the list was of course the Eiffel Tower. As we made our way toward the tower, we were amazed that we were here. We Looked up at all the beautiful buildings, listening to french accent and constantly checking the map as we made our way through the maze of cobblestone streets. We certainly felt like a fish out of water. But once we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, we quickly realised that we were not alone. Literally thousands of tourists, just like us, taking in the sights of Paris. After spending a few hours around the tower, we made our way back to our hotel, excited about the days to come.

The next day we had a long list of sights that we had to go and see. Cara really wanted to go and see the ‘Moulin Rouge’. As we made our way there by train, we were entertained by a busker playing his violin and you truly felt like you were in Paris. After taking some pictures at the Moulin Rouge, We decided to have a bite to eat at a close by cafe. France is the home of the cafes, so we had plenty to choose from. As we sat down and ordered our food, I decided that this would be a great time to have the traditional french liqueur, ‘Ricard’ (also known as ‘Pernod’ in other countries). Ricard (or Pernod) are produced by a french beverage company funnily enough called ‘Pernod Ricard’. These liqueurs are both anise flavoured very similar to liquorice. The story of Pernod Ricard began with Henri-Louis Pernod in 1797. He opened an absinthe distillery in Switzerland. The absinthe he produced had instant success and by 1805 he opened another distillery in eastern France. When Henri-Louis Pernod died in 1850, his legacy of absinthe still lived on. Another distillery was opened in Paris in 1871 and absinthe was fast becoming the highest selling drink in Europe. It’s popularity was due to it’s addictive hallucinogenic qualities. This was considered dangerous and by 1915 it was banned in most of Europe and the United States. There was now a void in the drinks market that had to be filled, and it was ‘Ricard’ which took it’s place. In 1932, Paul Ricard founded his new drink which was made from similar products as absinthe, but without it’s harmful hallucinogen effects. Because Paul Ricard’s new drink was so similar to the Pernod product, the two companies we’re fierce rivals, until they finally merged in 1975. Still today, Ricard is the top selling drink in France.

Ricard is typically served in a long glass with ice. It is also served with a small jug of water, allowing you to dilute the liqueur as you wish. I can’t say that it would be a drink that I’d order regularly, but I can definitely appreciate why people love it so much. It does cleanse the palette. So after some crepes, french toast and a glass of Ricard, we set off again and continued our tour of Paris.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sipping Bramble’s at the “Gherkin"

When you walk the streets of London, you see and learn the history of famous buildings, places and other landmarks. Places like the famous clock tower (“Big Ben”), was opened in 1858. Even older is Buckingham Palace, which was built in 1705. Then there is Westminster Abbey, which has been around since 1245. I could go on and on, but basically, the architecture in London is steeped in history. It seems like every building you look at always involves detailed stone carvings and fine decoration. So when you find yourself staring at a building that is not even 10 years old, and it’s shaped like a gherkin, You can’t miss it.  It stands out like a sore thumb. A smooth curved building which consists of almost entirely glass and standing 40 floors high, 180 metres tall. It is quite impressive. We decided on one of our day trips to London to visit the famous “Gherkin” and to check out a bar that was inside.

The bar was located at the base of the building and we found a nice spot outside to sit. After we spent a few moments looking up at the giant structure we decided to consult the cocktail menu. The menu consisted of all the classics. One of the classics on the menu was the ‘Bramble’. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a classic Bramble and being a cocktail that was invented in London, this was the perfect opportunity to order one. The Bramble was invented in 1984 by Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club located in the Soho district of London. It a simple mixture of Gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and blackberry liqueur.

To make this drink you shake together with ice 45ml gin, 15ml lemon juice and a dash of sugar syrup. Traditionally this cocktail is served in a short spirit glass, but it can be served in a tall glass. Finish the drink with a drizzle of blackberry liqueur (Chambord or Creme de Mure work great). Garnish with either a slice of lemon or a blackberry.

The Bramble is a simple but very refreshing drink.  Cara and I had a great afternoon, sipping on a classic London cocktail and admiring a modern London icon.

"The Bramble"
In a Shaker add,
45ml Gin
15ml Lemon Juice
A Dash of Sugar Syrup
Shake and pour into your glass
Drizzle a dash of Chambord or Creme De Mure over the top, Garnish with either a Lemon Slice or a Blackberry

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A little taste of Venice

So far our summer has not been the kind that we're used to. However it has been a typical English summer. Mostly in the low 20's, rain and the very occasional spurt of sunlight. When we woke up one sunday morning and felt some warmth and could not see a cloud in the sky, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and visit a place in London that we had been saving for a day like this. We had heard of a place called "Little Venice", right in the heart of london. As the name says, Little Venice consists of a mini maze of canals just like the real venice. So we decided to walk the banks of the canals and explore the region.

As it was a rare warm day in London, the people were out in numbers. The pubs, bars and restaurants were packed. Everyone fighting to get a prime seat outside on the canal bank. We came across a popular bar called the "Waterside Bar".  Everywhere we looked all we could see were jugs of Pimms & lemonade. We found a nice spot in the garden near the canal bank to sit and selected a cocktail from the menu.  We decided to try some champagne cocktails. Cara doesn't mind a bit of lychee in her cocktails so she went for a drink called a "She-She". This consisted on muddled lychee and cucumber with lychee syrup shaken and double strained into a glass and topped up with champagne. For me this drink was a little too sweet, but Cara liked it. However she did say that the cucumber over powered the lychee. Lychee is such a strong flavour, and not many things over power it, so it was interesting to hear that the cucumber was the predominate flavour.

I ordered a drink called "Aszu like it". What interested me about this cocktail is that it consisted of a Hungarian wine known as Tokaji Aszu. Tokaji Aszu is a sweet white wine which is added to muddled grapes and sugar syrup and topped up with champagne. A simple cocktail,  but like the 'She-She', it was so sweet. The sweetness of the wine plus sugar syrup certainly made it perfect for the sweet tooth.

I did like both of these cocktails and I like the concept of muddling fresh fruit and topping it up with champagne. It follows the idea of the classic Bellini cocktail. However I do believe that they need to ease off the use of sugar, but thats just my personal opinion.

After another walk along the banks of 'Little Venice' we made our way home. We had a great day and couldn't think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon in London.

In a shaker:
Muddled lychee & cucumber
Add a dash of lychee syrup
Shaken and double strained into a champagne glass
Topped up with champagne

"Aszu like it"
In a shaker:
Muddle grapes
Add a dash of Tokaji Aszu (Hungarian white wine)
15ml of sugar syrup
Shake and double strain into a champagne flute
Topped up with champagne

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Taste of London Festival

After our trip to Brighton, we returned to London to begin the task of getting ourselves a place to live and a job. After a busy week of getting all of this organised, we decided to reward ourselves by attending the "Taste of London" food and wine festival in Regents Park. The 'Taste's" festival consisted of some of London's top restaurants and chef's coming together to serve up just a little sample of what their particular restaurant has to offer. The great thing for us as the customer as we got to walk around the park trying lots and lots of top quality food.

As we made our way around the festival, we tried such things as honey roasted pork, smoked Strasbourg sausage gourmet  hot-dogs, penne-pasta plus much more. After trying many dishes, we could eat no more, so we turned to the vast range of drinks available. Aside from the food at the 'Taste's' festival, wine and spirits were also available for us to try. We forget how lucky we are in Australia to have such great wines at our doorstep. We choose to sit a tasting session on Italian wines. The wines on offer were delicious. They'd be great to have with many different foods. But when the host of the session heard that we were from Australia, she was very jealous and confirmed to us that we are so lucky to be surrounded be great wine makers. Along with wine, we were able to try many different cocktails, spirits and beers. Rum seemed to be one of the more popular spirits featured. Along with the rum, was of course the most popular of rum cocktails, the Mojito, which we could also try.

It was great fun walking around trying many different products, but we noticed that there was many different masterclasses being held for us to attend and learn more about food, wine, mixology, etc. With us being bartenders, we decided to attend an interesting mixology masterclass, hosted by the worlds international rum ambassador, Ian Burrell. This was a cocktail class with a twist. It was all about making top-quaility "Mock-tails" or cocktails with no alcohol. We had the opportunity to learn and try some of Ian's unique mocktails which featured a wide range of fruit juices and herbs. These drinks were amazing, and still very simple to make and serve.

We left the Taste of London festival very satisfied. We had tasted some amazing food, tried a range and wines and finished off with some delicious mocktails. It was a great way to end our week.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Jamie’s Italian

Before our trip began, we had been recommended to visit one of Jamie Oliver's famous restaurants. So as we walked the streets of Brighton, we were excited to find our self's standing outside, 'Jamie's Italian'. Jamie's Italian is this celebrity chef's biggest chain of restaurants. As we looked inside, we could see that the place was jam packed. We weren't too surprised. Because it is Jamie Oliver's restaurant, we expected we would be waiting a while before we got a table. We instead decided to sit in the bar area and try some of the delicious tapas food that Jamie's Italian had to offer us.

The menu was very "Naked Chef". Simple but delicious seemed to be the theme. We decided to order the Italian nacho's which was fried 4-cheese ravioli with a spicy arrabbiata sauce. I later found out that 'arrabbiata' is the Italian word for angry. So when it came to the sauce, I expected it to pack some punch. The arrabbiata sauce consisted of tomatos, garlic, chilli, olive oil and basil. After we ordered the Italian nacho's, it was time to study the cocktail menu. We decided to try the 'Vanilla & Lemon Martini'. This drink was a simple concoction of vanilla infused vodka, lemon juice and sugar syrup. It was presented beautifully with a long zest of lemon tied into a knot and dropped into the centre of the martini.  The cocktail was a little strong on the vodka, but I did expect that, it is a martini after all. The lemon juice didn't come across to sour because it was complemented well by the vanilla and sugar syrup. An all around well balanced drink. Perfect to take your time and sit on for a while. As the nacho's were served our table, they also were presented with perfection and tasted just as good. Simple bite size snacks that would be so easy to serve at a party with friends.

Although we didn't try any, we were very impressed with the wine list. It consisted of all premium Italian wines and all at a good price.  The thing we loved about Jamie's Italian was it's simplicity. Every drink, every piece of food was simple to make, but served with great presentation and detail. Another thing we loved is that this chain of restaurants knows what it's trying to be. By that i mean, it's not trying to be fine dining like many other celebrity chef restaurants are. It's funky and simple and laid back and most importantly affordable. You feel very welcomed and comfortable here. I think it's for this reason that Jamie's Italian is so successful and continues to grow in

Jamie's Italian. "Vanilla & Lemon Martini"

In a shaker:
45ml Vanilla infused Vodka
15ml Lemon Juice
15ml Sugar Syrup
Add ice and shake
Strain into a Martini glass
Garnish with lemon zest tied into a knot.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sun, Surf & Pebble Beaches: Welcome to Brighton Beach

We have had an amazing first two weeks in London, but it was time for us to take our first trip outside the nations capital. We had heard rave reviews about Brighton (South England, about an hour on the train from London), so we thought that this would be great place to go and visit.  As soon as we arrived at the beach side town, the heavens closed in and the rain began to pelt down. Not the best start to our trip. As we walked down the main street, we reached the "beach". Well... Us Aussie's had never seen a beach like it. Not a grain of sand in sight, just a couple of billion pebbles instead. Despite standing in the rain and looking at a deserted pebble beach, we were still determine to explore the town and get the most out of what Brighton has to offer.

Brighton is a major tourist destination in the UK, famous for the Brighton Pier amusement park which stands out at the end of the jetty. Along with Brighton Pier, are the many bars, cafe's and restaurants which are jammed into this small town. As we explored, we visited many places, but one in particular took our fancy. We went to visit the Havana Bar, a fine dining restaurant, which has a reputation for making great cocktails. After consulting the menu for quiet some time I decided to order a drink called a "Somerset Sunset". This drink consisted of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, Calvodos, Creme de Mure, Creme de Framboise and soda water. For those who don't know what some of those ingredients are, i'll explain. Calvados is an apple flavoured brandy made in France. Creme de Mure is a blackberry liqueur and Creme de Framboise is a raspberry flavoured liqueur. This drink is built in a tall glass and is measured with 15ml of ingredient and topped up with soda. This drink has great flavour combinations. The blackberry and the raspberry liqueurs are obviously going to work well together. The addition of the apple brandy gives the drink another dimension and then the after taste of the elderflower liqueur pulls all the flavours together and finishes it off nicely. Very nice and very refreshing.

The Havana bar certainly lived up to it's reputation. The Somerset Sunset was a great well constructed and still very simple built cocktail. When you go to a beach side town, you hope that it gives you great sunny weather. So the fact that it was raining did get us down a little, but a couple of cocktails at the Havana Bar certainly fixed that.

The Havana Bar's: "Somerset Sunset"

15ml St Germein Elderflower Liqueur
15ml Calvados (Apple Brandy)
15ml Creme de Mure (Blackberry Liqueur)
15ml Creme de Framboise (Raspberry Liqueur)
15ml Lemon Juice
Topped up with Soda water

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Pimms Phenomenon

Aside from beer being a massive part of bar culture in the UK, another popular drink which seems to be featured in almost every bar is Pimms. Every place we went into offers the traditional Pimms & Lemonade or the other option, the Pimms Jug, which is perfect to share with friends.

Pimms started in 1823 by James Pimm. His father owned a bar in the centre of London, called the Oyster Bar. Originally Pimms was drink to help aid digestion. It was a gin based spirit with a secret recipe of herbs. It soon began to become quite popular as a drink as well as a means to help digestion. In 1851, Pimms began mass production to keep up with the demand from bars in London. In 1865, James Pimm sold the rights to his drink and it was franchised throughout the UK. Other flavours of Pimms were created using different herbs and spirits but none of them managed to take off. From the 1960's the other Pimms recipes were phased out and the James Pimm original recipe remained still the most popular.

Something that I noticed when ordering this drink and witnessing other people order a Pimms and lemonade, is that it is served in a particular way. It's not as simple as a nip of Pimms and topped up with lemonade. This drink requires specific fruits and ingredients to bring out the flavour in the Pimms. Lime, lemons, cucumber, raspberries, strawberries and sometimes even mint are thrown into the drink turning it from a simple mix drink, into a 'fruit-punch' type cocktail.

This concoction was quite nice. It's fruity and refreshing, a perfect summer drink. But I don't think that's why it's so popular in the UK. Pimms is sold all over the world, but it's no where near as popular as it is in the UK. I had to get to the bottom of why the brit's love Pimms so much. I mentioned when I visited Fuller's Brewery, that the english are very proud of there traditional english beer, hence why it's so popular. I get the feeling that it's the same with Pimms. Because Pimms is made in England it seems like the people here are very proud of drinking a product which they can call there own. Or it might be the fact that's it's very cheap to buy and in a city like London which is expensive to live, a cheap drinking option certainly would have a huge influence in it's popularity.

I'm excited to have a play around with this spirit in some new cocktail ideas. I think it has definite potencial for it to work well together with other spirits and liqueurs. Like traditional english beer, it might be a little while before I start drinking Pimms on a regular occurrence, but as me and Cara begin to settle in to life in England, I can see that it could be something we could be drinking again over the english summer.

Friday, 3 June 2011

London Pride

It's been an amazing three weeks, making our way around the globe toward the UK. Now we are finally here, it's time to see what London has to offer.  With so much happening in London, we decided to spend our first week here going to all the typical tourist destinations. Places like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, St. Pauls Cathedral (just to name a few) were at the top of our list. All the places that you see so often on TV are now in front of our eyes. It took us a little while for it to sink in. So after a busy first week of sight seeing, it was time for us to do what we do best, exploring bars and pubs.

Throughout our sight seeing travels, Cara and I had came across many local watering holes. Some of which we popped in for a "cheeky pint", others we just peaked inside for a quick look. One thing was obvious right from the start, the English love their beer, and they love their pubs. It seems like every street in London has a typical English style looking pub. Stained dark wood, dim lighting, little antiques and old photos are the standard features for these pubs. Then comes the beer. Before we came to the UK, we were warned about the possibility of warm beer. Well not exactly 'warm' beer, but beer that is served at room temperature, and in England, that is still usually pretty cold. Every pub that we walked into, there always was a chilled beer option on tap. Beers like Heineken, Stella, Becks etc were the usual suspects, but out of the English beer selection, a range of beers brewed by the Fullers family seemed to be sold in every pub. Fullers beers were always the beers with the massive tap handles and positioned in the centre of the bar for all customers to see. It was almost like every pub was so proud to sell a traditional English beer that it had to have prime position in the bar on display.

So before we delve into the London cocktail scene, we had to get to the bottom of why Fullers beers are so important to English pubs. We decided to go straight to the source, The Fullers Brewery in Chiswick (About 30 minutes out of London). Fuller's is a family owned brewery and has been since 1845. The recipes of the beers are handed down from generation to generation. Members of the Fuller family still work at the brewery today to make sure that the highest standard of beer is still being produced. As we toured the site, our tour guide explained to us that he too had been working for the Fullers family for over 40 years. He shared stories of how, back in the day, it was the only job where his boss insisted that he had a pint before he started his shift for the day. He explained that for all the employees at the brewery, beer was their life. As we learnt more about the Fullers family and their beer, you really got the sense of history and tradition and the passion that they have for producing beer.  I was starting to understand now why the 'Brits' hold this beer in the highest regard. Our guide (as he showed us the countless awards that the brewery has won) was so proud of the company that he worked for. It's always great to see anyone who is passionate about their work, and it's clear that the people at Fullers are extremely passionate about producing good beer.  Fullers biggest seller is a beer they call "London Pride". With a name like that, it's no surprises why it has the reputation it does.

At the end of the tour, came a tasting session. I was looking forward to seeing what makes this beer so good.  As we tasted the Fullers range, one thing was clear, these beers didn't lack flavour. They packed a punch. The beers had very bold flavours. The hops dominated the flavour, followed by a smokey after taste due to it being stored in oak casks (as opposed to kegs). Australian beer generally, has a much lighter taste. It's the type of beer you can guzzle on a hot summers day. The Fullers beer is quite the opposite. It's the type of beer that you need to sip on and appreciate.

Visiting the Fullers Brewery was definitely a worth while experience. It gave us an idea on why this beer is so popular in England. It's history, tradition, it's icon status, not to mention if full, bold, 'hoppy' flavours are some of the reasons why the English love it so much. Since we've been here people have recommended that us Aussie's need to try a 'real' beer. I now understand a little more what they mean. It's an acquired taste though, one that might take me a little while to get used too.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

It's time to get Arabic in Abu Dhabi

After seeing some amazing things travelling through Asia, it was now time to make our way around the globe and head toward England. But first we had to make a little stop over at Abu Dhabi.

Coming to Abu Dhabi, Cara and I had no idea what to expect. The culture and customs were probably the most foreign that we have experienced so far. Cara was a little concerned about what she could and couldn’t wear. The women in Abu Dhabi need to be mostly covered up.  Even I couldn’t wear shorts in certain places, pants only, which was not easy in the intense heat. We are only here for 3 full days and there is lots to see and do so we planned out our time and set off excited about what we were about to discover.

Our first stop was the Grand Mosque. This is unbelievable! It is one of the most impressive structures that we have ever seen. The Grand Mosque in total can hold up to 20,000 worshipers at one time.  Cara and I were speechless. What an amazing way to start our time here.  Later that day, we decided to go and check out the Emirates Palace. This is the worlds only 7 star hotel. Unfortunately staying there is a little pricey so we were limited in what we could see. But what we did see was unreal. It truly was a palace. There was lots of carved marble and sand stone. Very ‘over the top’ which seems to be the trend in Abu Dhabi.

Before I get on to talking about our food and drinking experience for this week; I need to make mention of our desert safari that we had the pleasure of going on.  Imagine 4-wheel driving out in the desert and bashing through giant sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Carving up the sand, like a surfer carves a wave. Then dropped off in literally the middle of nowhere to feast on a traditional Arabic BBQ. We both had an amazing time. It’s something that we would recommend to anyone visiting Abu Dhabi.

Eating the Arabic food was… ‘interesting’. Some food we really liked, and then there was other things that I think you need to be a local to appreciate. On our last night, we went to the “Al Fanar” revolving restaurant to reflect on our time here over a nice view, a bottle of wine and some quality food.  I decided to do a bit of a food review this week. My mum would be keen to read this I’m sure.  For our Appetizers, Cara ordered pan-fried scallops, which were served on a bed of green mango and marinated with mirin soy sauce, finished off with sesame seeds as the garnish.  This was a simple very well presented dish. The scallops were nice, but did seem to be a little undercooked. Having said that the flavours balanced well with the green mango. Cara seemed to enjoy the dish, but I don’t think it blew her socks off.

I decided to order the Alaskan crab served with a wasabi lime emulsion. After eating wasabi with sushi in japan, I have formed a liking to it, so when I saw the idea of a wasabi lime emulsion, I had to try it.  As I tried the crab first, just on it’s own, it was already delicious. Soft and juicy and well seasoned.  When I mixed it with the wasabi lime emulsion, I expected that kick of spice that you usually get from wasabi. But this was not spicy at all. It was actually refreshing. It complimented the crab beautifully. 

As we waited for our mains, the waiter came over and gave us a complementary sample and a dish that the chef was experimenting with, sautéed shrimp with mayonnaise. Sometimes with food and cocktails people can over think the ingredients and over complicate what they are serving. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the most effective. The chef’s sautéed shrimp with mayo was a perfect example of how a very simple dish can still be amazing. It was a nice combination of flavours. Something that I hope finds its way on to the menu.

For our mains, Cara ordered the beef rib eye with spinach cannelloni. The beef was cooked to perfection. It was a little on the rare side for Cara’s liking, but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the dish. It was juicy, soft and it pulled apart easily on the plate. I was certainly a little jealous. The cannelloni was a good side for the beef.  The combination of spinach and cheese worked well. The only criticism with the cannelloni was there was too much of it. The serving size needed to be less.  Eating the entire beef and cannelloni was just too much for Cara, but she thoroughly enjoyed her meal though.

I went for the sautéed chicken, served with roasted potatoes and onions. Like the beef, the chicken was cooked perfectly. Falling away from the bone with ease. It had a nice crispy skin, which I love. I also love roasted potato’s unfortunately I only got 3 little marble sized mini potato’s. The delicious flavours of the chicken made up for the lack of potatoes.

Overall our experience was great. The views of the city at night were awesome. We both had fun and it was a perfect way to spend our last night in beautiful Abu Dhabi.

After dinner we went to a near by cocktail bar. The cocktail menus I had seen in places so far had been very traditional, very classic. So I was hoping for something a little different when we went to the “Piano cocktail lounge”. Unfortunately, their menu consisted of just the basic classics too, daiquiri’s, margarita’s, martini’s, etc. So I decided to ask the bartender for his signature cocktail. The barman’s English was not that strong, so it took him a while for him to understand my request. After a little confusion, he explained that he did not have a signature creation, however he could serve me a drink that is very popular in Arabia. He explained that when the locals go out, this is what they drink. It’s called a ‘Bull Frog”, which is basically a long island iced tea, but with red bull instead of coke and blue curacao instead of Cointreau. To make a ‘bull frog’, you build in a tall glass over ice, 15ml vodka, 15ml white rum, 15ml tequila, 15ml gin, 15ml blue curacao and top it up with red bull. This drink is perfect for the sweet tooth. For me, it was a little too sweet. But I could understand why some people would like it. It’s like a liquid lolly-pop. The barman was right when he said that ‘bull frogs’ are what everyone drinks in Abu Dhabi. During the short time that we were sitting at the bar, we saw about six or seven of these concoctions get made and sent out to other customers.  It’s not the most creative idea for a drink I’ve seen, but it was a good incite to what is popular in Abu Dhabi.

The Bull Frog:
Build in a tall glass over ice:
15ml Vodka
15ml Gin
15ml Tequila
15ml White Rum
15ml Blue Curacao
Topped up with Red Bull

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Cuervo 'Re-Match Beyatch' Cocktail Comp.

We were fortunate enough to have plenty of places to eat and drink right near our hotel. Just a short walk down the road and we came across a stretch of road filled with lots of Spanish tapas, Italian restaurants and Irish pubs. Something we didn’t expect from Kuala Lumpur. Dotted along this strip was the odd cocktail bar or two. As we had eaten Italian and Spanish the last few nights, we were looking for a change and this little cocktail bar and restaurant called “Twenty-One”  took our eye. We have had a busy day, doing all the typical touristy things that there is to do in KL, so we were looking for just a nice quiet meal over a glass of wine and give the cocktails a rest for one day.  The food at ‘Twenty-one’ was some of the best food we have had on our journey so far. Cara ordered the duck that seem to be so juicy and tender it fell apart on her plate and I went for the pasta (I know I said I was looking for a change after already eating Italian this week, but the creamy pasta dish sounded amazing).  We utterly enjoyed the night, and happened to get chatting to the restaurant manager. The manager invited us to watch a cocktail competition that was happening the following day. It was the first cocktail competition that “Twenty-One” had ever hosted. The contestants were local bartenders from around the area. Of course we could not decline this invitation.

The next day, we went back to “Twenty-one” to check out this local cocktail comp. The manager recognized us straight away and made sure we got a good seat. The competition was sponsored by Jose Cuervo tequila and was called the Kuala Lumpur “Re-match Beyatch”. It consisted of around 12 local bartenders, battling it out one-on-one in a knockout style competition to see who could make 7 drinks the fastest. The bartenders were asked to make 1 classic Daiquiri, 1 classic Margarita, 1 Singapore sling, 1 Pina Colada, 1 El Diablo, 1 long island iced tea and pour a pint of Tiger beer.  This would usually be not a difficult task for a bartender at his/her own pace, but when you competing for a prize of 1000 ringgit, you have the pressure of the crowd yelling at you, the mind can go blank and suddenly your forgetting how to pour a beer.  All of the bartenders did an amazing job.  They all handled the pressure extremely well, but most of all though, everyone had fun and a great night.

Cara and I had the pleasure of meeting some of the contestants and some of the other bartenders from ‘twenty-one’. It was a great chance to talk ‘shop’ with the locals and get a little incite into life living in KL. We both staggered home after having and amazing night, one that we’ll never forget.

The SkyBar & The 'Tom-Yum-tini'

Before we began our travels, we researched a couple of good cocktail bars to check out in the places that we were visiting. In Kuala Lumpur, one bar that we both had to check out was the SkyBar, located on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel.  Aside from the Skybar having a reputation for serving great cocktails, it was also known for having one of the best views of the city.

We reached the Traders hotel and took the elevator to the 33rd floor. As we reached the entrance to the Skybar, you could already see the view. It was absolutely amazing. As we took a seat near the window, my camera was out of my bag and already snapping as many pictures as I could of the city skyline. The Petronas Twin Towers dominated the view. As we sat for a while and took it all in, it was time to get to drinks menu. The SkyBar had an extensive drinks menu. The cocktails ranged from the classics, variations on the classics to their own house signatures.  It took us some time to decide what we should order. The view kept distracting us.  Cara ordered a wine, but I had to see if their cocktails were all that they were cracked up to be. I decided to order a “Tom-yum-tini”. This was basically a tom yum soup made into a cocktail.  This sounded pretty interesting.  The ‘tom-yum-tini’ consisted of 45ml Bacardi, spiced sugar syrup, lime juice, 2 kaffir lime leaves, a tiny bit of tom yum paste (probably only ¼ teaspoon) and Tabasco sauce. Shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass, then garnished with lemongrass. It was spicy, like a tom-yum soup should be, but the spice was instantly cooled down by the freshness of the lime juice.  Even though the ingredients were similar to a classic daiquiri, it didn’t taste any thing like a daiquiri. Flavours were balanced together extremely well. If I had one criticism, I’d have to say that it’s not the type of drink you could re-order. I found as I got to the bottom of the glass that one was enough. It’s not a cocktail that you could continually drink over the course of a night out, but great for a ‘one-off’. This cocktail is not for everyone. If you like bloody mary’s, you’ll probably like this one too.

Our time at the SkyBar was amazing. The cocktails didn’t disappoint and the view definetly didn’t either.  

The SkyBar’s “Tom-Yum-tini”
45ml Bacardi
15ml Spiced sugar syrup
30ml lime juice
Dash of Tabasco sauce
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
¼ teaspoon of Tom Yum Paste
Shaken & Strained into a martini glass
Garnished with lemongrass.

The picture I posted at the end of my last blog entry was one of the photos I took from the SkyBar. The view is so impressive, I just have to share some more photos with you all.