a very crabby christmas

Merry Christmas from all of us chez Culinaria Eugenius!

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local presents for the boozy

One of the things I hated most about being relatively attractive in my 20s was that it was impossible to sit and get lost in my thoughts in public. It always really, really bothered random men — became a veritable challenge — to see how fast they could interrupt my reverie.  Does this kind of thing still happen to young women?  I wouldn’t know.  But I’m guessing yes.

So that famous quote by Luis Bunuel about English gin and reverie in bars (I’ll refrain) was always well out of my reach, by virtue of accident of birth.  There was no way I’d be left unmolested to stimulate a reverie in a bar, English gin or no English gin. Feminism, young ladies, is being able to drink unmolested like a crotchety old surrealist filmmaker in a dark bar.

Nowadays, thankfully, I am only interrupted in my reveries in the aisles at Safeway (HELLO, MA’AM, ARE YOU FINDING EVERYTHING YOU NEED!?). Conclusion: less shopping at Safeway, more time alone in dark bars.  Make up for lost time.

And that’s my Christmas message to you, dear amateur mixologist.

If you’re looking to be lost in reverie or revel with young women, provocative men, Safeway clerks, or old surrealist filmmakers on a bender — or someone you love may appreciate the opportunity — two Oregon craft spirits should be at the top of your list.

Krogstad Aquavit is absolutely the perfect gift for a holiday party.  Drink it cold and neat. It’s distinguished from its fellow aquavits, always tinged with caraway, by the addition of star anise.  It’s a marvelous combination that evokes baking, Scandanavian snow, and tall young blond men in reindeer sweaters.  Delicious.  Made in Portland by House Spirits, so you know it’s good, and under 30 bucks a bottle.

But if you really want to impress, Calisaya, a relatively new girl on the scene, should be seized immediately.  Local distiller and bon vivant Andrea Loreto has perfected his formula, and now produces it in Eugene.  Like the bigger, gingerbreadier, jammier, and more complex Italian Antica Formula, Calisaya is a digestif in the tradition of Italian sipping bitters.  The difference is the base of cinchona bark, the same stuff that gives us quinine.  Calisaya has a cleaner, woodier profile, but is just as smooth and balanced as Antica.  It doesn’t hit you upside the head like Fernet Branca or remind you of 19th century health spas like Becherovka.  It’s worth every penny of the $45ish you’ll spend on it.

Both can be had at Big Y liquors on 6th.  They only have a couple bottles left of each.

Krogstad aquavit has found its way into some wonderful cocktails, my favorite of which is Jeffrey Morganthaler’s Norwegian Wood, which he served me long long ago while it was still in the development phase at our late lamented Bel Ami.  (Bel Ami, I might add, was the first bar I felt truly comfortable sitting in by myself.  Thanks, Jeff.)  There’s also the Viking Quest, also served by Jeff at Clyde Common, but a creation of Beaker and Flask’s Tim Davey.  It also adds a brilliant note to homemade gravlax.

Calisaya can be used as any Italian herbal bitter — with tonic, soda, on the rocks, etc.  If you’d like to try it, Marché’s Le Bar serves a Calisaya cocktail with (I think) just a few drops of bitters and maybe an orange peel (ugh, failure of memory clearly means I need to go again for research purposes.).  But it’s worth experimenting with cocktails.  Loreto provides a few on his website, the best of which is the Calisaya Negroni, which has both Antica and Calisaya, and the added bonus of being created by local bartender Justin Wafer, formerly of Eugene’s Belly and now of Tasty ‘n’ Sons in PDX (congratulations, Justin!).  Another Negroni interpretation, an all-local “Oregroni” most generously provided by the folks at Boozenik.com, will be perfect for locavore drinkers on your Christmas list.

You will be directed to the original sources for these recipes by clicking the titles, if you want to make sure I haven’t changed anything.

Viking Quest

Recipe by Tim Davey.

  • 1 oz. Krogstad Aquavit
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Barolo Chinato

In a pint mixing glass add all ingredients then ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange disc after expressing the orange oil over drink.

Norwegian Wood

Recipe by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

  • 1 oz. (Krogstad) Aquavit
  • 1 oz. (Laird & Co.) Applejack
  • 3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano Rosso)
  • 1/4 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a large twist of lemon peel and serve.

Calisaya Negroni

Recipe by Justin Wafer.

  • 1 oz. Calisaya Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Antica Formula sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. gin

Stir, strain into cocktail glass and flame orange zest over the drink.

The Oregroni

Recipe by the Boozeniks.

  • 1 oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin
  • 1 oz. Calisaya Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir for 30 seconds; pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with an orange or lemon peel that has been rubbed around glass rim and squeezed over the cocktail. Do not neglect this, or the cocktail will seem a bit too one-note without the oil from the citrus.

While component-wise the Oregroni is similar to a Negroni, it is far drier and lighter. Plan any accompanying snacks to be lighter and saltier and with a bias toward seafood, rather than what you might serve with a Negroni.

restaurants open in eugene on christmas, 2011 edition

This post is from 2011.  For 2013, click here!

What’s open in Eugene on Christmas 2011?

Thanks to commenter MJM, who reminded me that I need to post my annual search for Christmas restaurants.  MJM notes:  “According to  http://kezi.com/page/200147, last year [in 2010,]  Shari’s, IHOP, Sixth Street Grill, Marie Callendar and Empire Buffet were all open for Christmas.”  Are they open this year?  Let me know if you have a lead on these places or others.

Industrious elves have already noticed that Izakaya Meiji is open on Christmas.  This is a note of serious cheer, folks.  Retrogrouch and I had dinner there for the first time in many months, and I was thrilled by how strong the menu and service are now.  Really fine meal.  And a nice smoky whiskey cocktail.

King Estate will put forth another delicious goose dinner on Christmas Eve (note: not Christmas) this year. Edited to add: Rabbit Bistro and PartyCart also open on Christmas Eve, as are a number of other places.  See Melissa Haskin’s blog entry for a list (and be sure to look at the link in the comments for Springfield eateries, too).

And…for those of you who are already ready to usher out the old year — and who isn’t, for Chrissake? — several local eateries are planning special menus for New Year’s Eve, including Osteria Sfizio, Nib, and Red Agave.

For those of you seeking service opportunities on Christmas, the Lane County Human Services Commission is hosting its annual Senior Holiday Dinner at the Hilton:

The 33rd annual Senior Holiday Dinner needs your support.

This local tradition, which gives senior community members an opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their peers, is seeking community financial support. The dinner is held on Christmas Day at the Eugene Hilton and Conference Center. The cost of the dinner to seniors is nominal, $7 per person. Any support significantly helps to defray the entire cost of the event.

Local senior community members age 62 or older may attend the dinner, which is coordinated by Lane County’s Human Services Commission on behalf of the Lane County Board of Commissioners. Approximately 650 seniors are expected to attend the full turkey dinner that includes entertainment, dancing, and door prizes.

Contributions from individuals and businesses are needed to make this event possible.

Monetary donations may be mailed directly to Lane County Human Services Commission at 125 E. Eighth, Eugene, OR  97401. (Please note Senior Holiday Dinner with donation.) Other door prize gift ideas could include gift certificates or merchandise. All donations will go toward making the Senior Dinner a special event for local seniors!

In addition to contributions, volunteers provide critical support for the event. Volunteers are needed to provide seniors with transportation to and from the event (most seniors attending the event live within the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area) and the event needs other volunteers to serve as host-hostesses and servers.

For more information, call Sydney Shook 541-337-6174 or e-mail: sydney_shook@msn.com

Any other volunteer opps?  Please comment below.

PS. The photo is my Christmas salsa, made from the last of my tomatoes and Christmas miracle cilantro still sprouting in my herb bed on December 7.  Can you see why I’m having a hard time coping with winter?

on dasher! off to the lane county holiday farmers market, tout suite

The news team at Culinaria Eugenius (consisting of one hardworking, underpaid indentured servant/culinary assassin) brings you this special update in the midst of our 24/7 Taiwanese food blogging marathon:

Go. Right. Now. to the Holiday Farmers Market at the fairgrounds.  Yes, it’s inside.  Because next Saturday is Christmas Eve, this is the last weekend.  Highlights include every single root vegetable, the first Oregon truffles, a bumper crop of candycap mushrooms and some fine hedgehogs, and apples and Asian pears by the box at the River Bend Farm booth (and they still have cider, too!).

As for superlative holiday presents: my favorite popcorn in the world, ‘Dakota Black’ heirloom corn from Lonesome Whistle Farm, and the new bean soup mix from Camas Country Mill.  The soup mix includes all the legumes and pulses grown by the Huntons, plus some of their grains, like barley.

Another gift option: smoked pepper jelly from Pure Peppers.  The pepper jelly is from the same folks who brought us Hell Dust smoked pepper flakes, and is without question the finest, strongest pepper jelly I’ve ever had.  Like Lonesome Whistle and Camas Country, the Peppers grow and dry their own product in Junction City. The smokiness in the pepper jelly transforms ye olde pepper-jelly-over-a-hunk-of-cream cheese appetizer that everyone loves into something quite special.

Another very worthy pepper product to consider — the single-varietal smoked pepper powders from Crossroads Farm (first image).  I’ve been using their full-strength smoked paprika for months, and it’s even better than the stuff a friend brought back from Spain.  This year, Crossroads has expanded their line from paprika to cayenne, padron, guajillo, Hungarian, chipotle, and others.

And speaking of smokiness, Brie-berry with Smoked Almond ice cream from Red Wagon Creamery.  Every single one of you should consider the cheese and ice cream combination that’s sweeping the nation (or should be). This stuff is no joke, folks.  Red Wagon excels at the salt-sweet connection, and their cheese and fruit flavors hit it out of the ballpark.  I never buy pints of ice cream, but I ended up taking home this irresistible cranberry-studded, smoky, crunchy, rich, decadent, tangy, slightly savory Christmas miracle.

Other flavors for the less adventurous are also terrific.  (I stole this photo off their Facebook page so I can show you today’s offerings.)  They’ve just started using organic Guittard chocolate sourced from local company Chocolate Decadence, so that’s a good bet.  Sweet Potato and Cumin is better than a similar flavor I had in San Francisco last month.  The Lucy’s Cracked Candy Cane uses all-natural candy and doesn’t have the weird fake mint flavor in every other peppermint ice cream you can buy…and it also doesn’t pull a fast one and make you eat stevia with dried peppermint leaves, either.  Know what I mean?  Sure you do.

And if they still have ’em, grab up any remaining quinces and San Carlos Bocadillo membrillo quince paste at the Berg’s Organic Farm booth.  Quinces are a lovely addition to applesauce for, say, Hanukkah.  The membrillo, a Spanish delicacy and a downright smooth version of it, is made of quinces cooked down past applesauce texture, so it form a thick paste.  It should be cut into small slices and served alongside a cheese plate.  The classic combination is membrillo and manchego cheese, but any hard, decently tangy cheese works.  I’ve never seen this product offered locally with our own quinces, so it’s worth consideration for your holiday parties.

What did I miss?  Let others know what you recommend.

victorian holiday punches

Though most of my research last summer in London involved dirty books, I couldn’t help but notice a charming little column in the threepenny weekly newspaper Society.  Amid almost incomprehensible snippets joking about long lost references to British social butterflies, spicy lawsuits, perfidious massage parlours, correspondence about the discipline of schoolgirls, and ads for liver pills, I found some delightful holiday punch recipes from December 31, 1898.

The “newest things” of the late Victorian “convivial bowl” will amuse and delight your chums, encouraging one and all to think of the good olde days.  Make these at your own risk, American puritans — they aren’t foolin’ with the alcohol or raw eggs.  But what’s a Victorian party without a whiff of danger?

Hotpot seems like an excellent recipe for all you urban chicken keepers and home brewers.  Watch out for that nutmeg, though.  A Famous Christmas Punch makes my mouth water, but even *I* don’t have two spare bottles of soused raspberries and strawberries lying around.  I can’t imagine wasting the “best champagne” we recently tasted at Marché Provisions for Prince of Wales Punch, frankly. And as for the eggnogs, the White House eggnog is similar but less creamy than Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s famous egg nog , but the Kentucky eggnog, with its eggwhite float, will probably make its modern partakers dream less of paradise than salmonella.

But above all, just remember: “in the concoction of these ambrosial compounds strict attention must be paid to the prescribed proportions.” This seems particularly bad advice to me, especially when malnourished children are toasting with the Hotpot, but who am I to be a Scrooge?

Reprinted below are the recipes exactly as they appear in the clipping, for your cutting and pasting pleasure.

Navy Punch

Take one quart Jamaica rum, one quart American champagne, the juice of eight lemons, the rinds of four, one and one-half pounds sugar, one quart hot tea, made from eight teaspoonfuls of tea.  Upon the lemon rinds and sugar pour the tea and allow the mixture to stand half an hour, stirring it often.  Then add the lemon juice and rum.  Place in the punch bowl, and when iced and ready to serve add the champagne.

Hotpot

Take one quart of old ale (not lager beer), five well-beaten, new laid eggs; one small teaspoonful of ground ginger, one-fourth of a nutmeg, grated, one-fourth of a pound of sugar, half a pint of Old Tom gin.  First, put the ale in a saucepan and heat until hot, but do not let boil; second, beat together the eggs, sugar, and spices; third, pour the hot ale into the mixture, stirring all the time; fourth, add the gin; fifth, put the concoction on the fire again, in the saucepan, heat until hot (be sure not to let it boil), and serve hot, in tumblers.

A Famous Christmas Punch

Take one bottle of raspberries and one bottle of strawberries, each in liqueur, one bottle of cherries, brandied, six bottles of Saint Julien claret, three bottles of good rum, three dozen oranges, one dozen lemons, one pound of sugar, four quart syphons of seltzer.  Cut two oranges and one lemon into small slices or cubes and extract the juice of the remainder.  These slices are to float in the bowl with the cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.  The liqueur (Maraschino or Curaçao) and brandy of the berries and cherries give tone to and help sweeten the beverage.

Prince of Wales Punch

Take one bottle best champagne, one bottle Burgundy, one bottle San Cruz rum, ten lemons, two oranges, a pound and a half of sugar.  Squeeze the oranges and lemons into the bowl, add the sugar and let the mixture stand thirty-six hours, stirring often.  Then pour in the liquor and let the whole mixture stand twenty-four hours.  Ice and serve in the usual way.

White House Eggnog

Take eight eggs, two quarts of milk, eight tablespoonfuls of sugar, eight wine glasses of brandy, and three wine glasses of rum.  Mix as follows: Beat the yolks of the eggs and the sugar together, and then pour in slowly the liquor.  To this add one-third of the beaten whites of the eggs, next add the milk, and then the remainder of the beaten whites.

A “Half-Dozen” Punch

For a small party the number above mentioned here is a delicious punch: —

Take one pint of claret, one glass of rum, one whisky glass of whisky, one petit verre Benedictine, three lemons, one pint of seltzer (possibly a quart), half a cup of sugar, a few brandied cherries, or a brandied peach, coarsely chopped.  Serve ice cold.

With the rum and whisky omitted this is a very nice light punch.  Lettuce sandwiches are suitable to serve with it.

Kentucky Eggnog

Here is an eggnog that will make its partakers dream of paradise.  Ingredients: Two dozen eggs, two quarts of rich milk, one quart of brandy, half a pint of Jamaica rum, a pound and a half of sugar.  Mix as follows: Separate the yolks of the eggs from the whites, add one pound of sugar to the whites, and beat until stiff enough to float.  Add balance of sugar to the yolks and beat thoroughly.  Into a large bowl throw the Jamaica rum, the brandy and the milk, and stir in the beaten yolks, float the beaten whites on top, and serve with a little nutmeg grated over each glass, or not, as preferred.  Will serve twenty people.

edible buckeyes: the candyman can

I roast chestnuts every year, partially out of masochism and partially because they’re so beautiful when they’re fresh. We have some old, lovely chestnut trees in the Willamette Valley, and I always love it when I see a basket full of chestnuts that someone has collected for market.  No, not horse chestnuts, sometimes called buckeyes, which you can’t eat and are recognizable by their palmate leaves and distinctive nut cases, but regular chestnuts.   But most often, I buy Korean chestnuts at an Asian market, where they’re almost always fresh because of the high turnover, or the Italian chestnuts Market of Choice stocks in November.

Chestnuts in December, however, are a rather dicey proposition, because they’ve been sitting for a while, and probably have begun to dry out and mold inside their tender little shells.  You can still roast them over an open fire, but you may not get what you want.

Every year, I try to figure out ways to prolong chestnut season, or at least mitigate some of the pain of peeling the stubborn shells and the even more stubborn inner fuzzy skin.  The photo above was part of my campaign to compare nuts frozen in their shells and then roasted (top nut was frozen: the outer shell was fine but the inner skin stuck like glue).  The picture below shows a somewhat more successful experiment to sprinkle the shells with water before roasting (easy to remove part with water on it).  I haven’t yet tried soaking then roasting, but I can report that boiling didn’t work very well.

I can also report that I own a chestnut scorer, perhaps the only single-purpose gadget I own. It doesn’t even work that well — you can’t just press an X with the thing in one or two punches.  You have to make four little cuts.  A knife is faster.  Then again, you don’t slice your finger with the chestnut scorer.

Perhaps the only easy way to eat chestnuts is a non-chestnut product made famous around Christmastime by many a happy housewife.  We used to call peanutbutter balls half-dipped in chocolate ‘buckeyes’, because they look like buckeye nuts, which look like horse chestnuts, which look like real chestnuts.  Following my line of logic here?  No?  Well, that’s ok.  My point is that you should make these easy candies called buckeyes as part of your Christmas cookie repertoire.

I’ve been searching for a recipe like the one we used to make in the Midwest, but they’ve all been weirded by adding healthy things like real peanut butter and malt and god knows what.  Look, if I’m going to eat something crappy, I’m going to eat something crappy.  Especially if it’s named after a poisonous nut.

Finally, at the Food Preservation Associates holiday sweets class a couple of weeks ago, I tasted what I had been searching for.  Buckeyes!   Most people called them peanut butter balls and completely enrobed them in chocolate, but I turned mine into that half-dipped memory.  Sure, you can drizzle them with more chocolate, but then you’ll just be adding to the confusion. Whatever you do, though, don’t use the nasty shelf-stable dipping chocolate for the coating, unless you were one of those people who ate wax soda bottle candy for fun.  Who am I to ruin your childhood experiences?

Either way, enjoy.

Buckeyes!

Adapted from our FPA class recipe, source unknown. Makes about 35 candies.

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 oz. or more chocolate for melting (chips, chunks, or “chocolate-flavor candy coating” if you must)

Line a tray with parchment or waxed paper.  Mix together peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar, with a fork.  The original recipe suggests using your hands if the mixture resists.  Taste, and add a bit of salt, if necessary.  Chill until easy to handle, then roll mixture into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter and place on tray.

Once balls are rolled, in a large bowl, melt chocolate chips/chunks at 15 second intervals in the microwave (follow instructions on bag if you are using the waxy stuff).  Once melted, dip the peanut butter balls in the chocolate about halfway up the side of the ball, then let harden on the tray. Other options are to drizzle chocolate on the uncovered portions, or dip the entire ball in chocolate, as pictured.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer until gone.