Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wine 16.02

So, haven't been very diligent about posting wine reviews, I know.  I thought I'd do a more educational entry this time.  At a recent cave tasting in Napa, I learned (it was probably obvious to many others) that wine labels actually MEAN something.  It's not just branding plus artwork.  Here is a PDF that more specifically explains it in pictures.

Essentially, if a wine is said to be from "California" or "Central Coast" or "Northern Coast," that means the grapes could have come from a bunch of places all over California, then just machine blended together and fermented in some factory location.  If it was from specifically Napa Valley (a vintner-designated appellation), or Calistoga (a sub-appellation within Napa Valley), then 85% of the grapes had to be from that region.  If it says "Estate Grown" or "Estate Vinted" that means that all the wine was made on the premises of the winery, which must be in the same area as the wine is grown.  

At the moment, my goal is to memorize the 16 different sub-appellations of Napa Valley, so that when I go there I have more of an understanding of what to expect from wineries in different regions.  Artesa, for example, is in Los Carneros, which is better known for its Chardonnay than, say, Calistoga, which is primarily known for it's red wine varietals.  In some areas because of the soil the grapes are smaller and the flavor is more concentrated, higher skin to fruit ratio, etc.  

The real test: We avoided all "vague" locations on the wines we bought from Safeway, and will be sampling them over the next month.  We will see if they are up to snuff.  They were also, for the record, all under $20.  No need to spend exorbitantly for wine.

On another note, I made a modified-ginger martini last night with the new Platinum Russian Standard vodka we bought (as opposed to just normal Russian Standard, our usual vodka) and I gotta say - it is definitely smoother.  I was able to swish the martini in my mouth and the tingling sensation was only due to the ginger syrup.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Random Recipes 15.04

Well time for another recipe - this is based on the post on the blackberry pie.  This time, it's a cranberry and pear pie.  I made a few variations on the original recipe, so we shall see how it turns out.

1 pkg fresh cranberries
5 overripe pears, skinned, cored, and sliced
1.5 cups brown sugar
1 egg
White sugar (as needed for crust)
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt

Check a previous "Random Recipes" entry for the recipe for the criss-cross crust.

For the filling:
Mix the sugar and cranberries in a sauce pot and simmer on medium heat until the cranberries have burst and become more sauce-like.  Add the corn starch and salt, and the pears to the pot, stir gently until well blended, then take off heat.

For the crust: 
Prepare as before, mix the egg with as much white sugar as you want to glaze the crust on top, and then bake at 400 degrees 30 minutes uncovered and then 20-30 minutes covered (to protect the crust).

Verdict now that it has mostly cooled:  Might filter out some of the liquid next time, the filling isn't super solid, but it's quite tasty.  ^_^

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cocktails 12.04

Well, I am about to install a new OS/MOD on my phone... so I think just to be super duper safe, then I shall put all my "custom" made or found drinks up here - the non-IBA ones basically.

Absinthe Garden: 1 1/2 oz Vodka, 1/2 oz Absinthe, 1/2 oz Lemon Juice, 1/2 oz Agave Nectar, Club Soda, 3 pieces cucumber, 2 pieces basil

Acai Martini: 1.5 oz (Acai) Vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice, 1 oz acai juice or puree, 3 blueberries

April in Paris: 1 oz Rye Whiskey, 1 splash orange juice, 1 splash rose water, 1 splash lemon juice, 1 maraschino cherry

Blue Hawaii: 2 oz bacardi light rum, 2 oz blue curacao, 2 oz sour mix, 6 oz pineapple juice

Boomer Bile: 1 oz midori, 3/4 oz green chartreuse, 1/2 oz rye whiskey, 3/4 oz sour mix, 4 oz 7-up

Chocolate Top: 2 oz chocolate liqueur, 1 oz amaretto, 1 1/3 oz whipped cream, shaved dark chocolate

DOM Tonic: 2 1/2 oz benedictine, 2 oz grapefruit juice, tonic water

El Presidente: 2 oz dark rum, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz orange chartreuse, 1/4 oz grenadine, 2 dashes angostura bitters

Fog Cutter: 1 1/2 oz dark rum, 1/2 oz Cognac VSOP, 1/2 oz gin, 1 oz lemon juice, 3/4 oz orange juice,1/2 oz orgeat syrup

Freeman Fizz: 1 1/2 oz gin, 1 oz sour mix, 1/4 oz lime juice, club soda or tonic water, a dash of grenadine to color.

French Gimlet: 2 oz gin, 1 oz st-germain, 1/2 oz lime juice

French Rose: 3/4 oz st germain, 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1 oz grapefruit juice, 2oz club soda, 2 dashes rose water

French Ginger Martini: 2 oz pear vodka, 3/4 oz st germain, 3/4 oz benedictine, 1/4 oz lime juice, 1/3 oz ginger syrup

Kit's Polar Bear: 1 oz blue curacao, 2 oz bacardi light rum, 6 oz sprite

Lambda Core-tini: 1 1/2 oz gin, 2/3 oz midori 2/3 oz triple sec, 3 dashes orange bitters, club soda

Monk's Sour: 2 oz benedictine, 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1 dash orange bitters, 1/3 oz egg white, nutmeg

Parisian Mule: 2 oz brandy, 1/2 oz lime juice, 5 oz ginger beer

Pear Tree Martini: 1 1/2 oz pear vodka, 1 1/2 oz st germain, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 dash angostura bitters

Pom Sunrise: 2/3 oz benedictine, 1 oz vodka, 1 oz pomegranate juice, 2 oz fresh squeezed tangerine juice, 2 dashes angostura bitters

Rum Sidecar: 2 oz dark rum, 3/4 oz cointreau or triple sec, 3/4 oz lemon juice

St. Germain Cocktail: 2 oz dry sparkling wine, 1 1/2 oz st germain, 2 oz club soda, 1 lemon peel

St. Germain Kir Blanc: 1/2 oz St Germain, white wine

Sunset Sarsaparilla: 1 dash absinthe, 2 oz rum (dark or spiced), 3 oz + root beer, 1 dash grenadine

The Courier: 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey, 4 dashes angostura bitters, 1 dash grenadine, 1/2 oz agave nectar, 1 dash allspice

The Donaghy: 2 oz bourbon whiskey, 1 oz brandy, 1/4 oz green chartreuse, 6 dashes angostura bitters, 1/2 oz lemon juice

The Gypsy: 1 1/2 oz gin, 3/4 oz st germain, 1/2 oz green chartreuse, 1/2 oz lime juice

The Head Crab: 2 oz kraken black spiced rum, 5 oz ginger beer, 1/2 oz grenadine

The Knock Out: 1 1/2 oz cognac VSOP, 1 oz cointreau, 1/2 oz pineapple juice, 1/2 oz cranberry juice

The Lemon: 2 oz bacardi light rum, 8 oz sprite, 1 oz lemon juice

The Winchester: 3 oz gin, 3/4 oz st germain, 3/4 oz grapefruit juice, 3/4 oz lime juice, 1/2 oz grenadine, 1/4 oz ginger syrup, 1 dash angostura bitters

Twisted Nutty Rum: 1 1/4 oz dark rum, 1 1/4 oz frangelico, 1 1/4 oz sweet vermouth, 1 piece orange

Ward 8: 2 oz rye whiskey, 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz orange juice, 1/4 oz simple syrup, 1 tsp molasses

For my records anyhow...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing 17.01

A new topic - writing.  I've done a lot of writing in the past, mostly for myself, mostly fantasy stuff.  I can safely say I'm a decent writer.  My personal statements have always been very successful, and English was an enjoyable class.  Since I'm going to have a lot of down time between interviews this month, and it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I think I will finally take on the challenge of writing a good, long, well-structured novel.  The problem I have always found with novels and stories in general is ending them.  I could go on and on, think of new things, never really have a good story arc that feels complete.  I plan to PLAN this novel more than past attempts, and try to have a very well-developed world in which it is set.  Too often do I focus on the characters themselves, rather than the context in which they are living.  And ultimately, the context is what makes many novels memorable and enjoyable.  Harry Potter vs Twilight - the most context we get from Twilight is "It's rainy and dark and there are forests nearby and I hate this place!  It's all about glittering Edward" vs Harry Potter has huge banquet halls decked with floating candles, the grounds and the forest, multiple classrooms that are visited over and over, changing stair cases, and summers spent in a hellish Muggle relative's house.  The setting brings characters to life.  Not to mention more details about the world they live in and how it functions.  The Ministry of Magic is far more detailed than the Vampire-ati who live in Italy and are randomly tacked on to the second novel and play random roles here and there.

I won't belabor my point - I'm sure most serious authors can look at Harry Potter and Twilight and point out numerous reasons why one is superior to the other.  Anyhow, I think I've decided that my setting will be 1760's North America, East Coast, will occur within the greater context of the conflicts between the Natives and the French, the colonists and Great Britain (but in the same way that Hamlet took place in the greater context of a war), and will touch on subjects such as witch trials, apothecaries and alchemy, werewolves (but not in a particularly romanticized fashion), racism and sexism, religiosity and a growing subset of deists and agnostics, the natural world, and perhaps other things as come to mind.  Needless to say there is much research to be done, and fleshing out of primary and supporting characters, but I think this will be fun.  I made a minor attempt at a story similar to this but it was solely for personal gratification and had no real structure lain out.  Hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of writing done, and not just planning and research, but dammit I want to do this right!  It will give me a lot of good stuff to do while on the interview trail, as I'll be spending many nights away from home and it's good to have something else to focus on besides the pressure of appearing to be the ultimate applicant for a family residency program.

Halloween 13.10

The long awaited completion of my project has come and gone!  Here are the pictures.  I got most everything online, trimmed my hair a little, put it all on, added makeup and some cool poses, and we have Chell!  For the record - I do have the dark gray shorts on underneath, but they just aren't that visible and I didn't want to cut my Aperture tank top since I like it, so that didn't seen as much as I would have liked.

 Some pics of the real Chell for comparison - definitely worked out well.  The boots came loose right at the end of the night but that was after we were walking back to the car.  Overall - one of the more involved costumes I've done.  Don't know what will be in store next year!  For now, the ASHPD (Aperture Science Hand-held Portal Device) will have to sit on my bookshelf, as a relic of Halloween '12 and homage to one of my favorite games ^_^