Friday, April 06, 2018

Indian Spiced Rum Punch Recipe



Rum puts me in a happy mood and I know I’m not the only one. It conjures up tropical destinations and pairs beautifully with a variety of fruits, spices and even herbs, which brings me to this rum punch. The idea was to have a welcome cocktail that would be celebratory and special but also complement Indian food being served at an intimate anniversary get together. 

Rum punch is often a Caribbean affair, which makes sense since rum is produced there. But this punch had a few Southeast Asian ingredients to boot. It was created by award-winning bartender Christopher Chamberlain who has worked with an incredible number of brands. The base of the drink was built around RumHaven, a particularly delicious coconut rum, made with coconut water. It’s sweet but not cloying and has a lovely freshness. 
The recipe is rather involved. Seriously. I’ve made full dinners that took less preparation! But in the end I have to say, it was worth all the work that went into it. I only made a couple of changes to the original recipe. I used fresh turmeric rather than the dry powder. I really love the depth of flavor in fresh turmeric and it’s pretty easy for me to find. I also substituted Thai basil for regular basil. I thought since this drink had an Indian vibe that Thai basil would be a better fit. If you don’t make this rum punch I would like to suggest that you consider the technique of grilling pineapple and macerating it with rum. The result was absolutely divine! Both the rum as well as the incredibly boozy pineapple. 


Indian Spice Rum Punch
Makes about 10-12 servings

1 pineapple, peeled and sliced and heavily grilled, plus a few fresh slices for garnish
1 bottle RumHaven coconut rum
1/2 teaspoon corriander seeds
1 thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric, thinly sliced
6 ounces agave syrup
9 ounces cold freshly pressed lime juice
10-12 Thai basil leaves, plus additional leaves for a garnish
12-16 ounces cold ginger beer (Fever Few brand recommended)

Begin by combining the rum with the grilled pineapple and macerating overnight. I used a large plastic tub. Crush the corriander seeds and combine with the sliced turmeric and agave syrup in a small saucepan. Heath generly and cook over low heat until fragrant. Let cool then strain. 

Place the basil leaves n a large bowl (not the punch bowl)and lightly press with a muddler to release the flavor and oils. Strain the rum into the bowl, reserving the pineapple to enjoy later. Stir together to incorporate flavors. Strain the mixture and measure 24 ounces into into the punch bowl. Add the lime juice, spiced agave and ginger beer and stir to combine. Add a large block of ice and garnish with fresh Thai basil and fresh pineapple. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to RumHaven for supplying both the rum and cocktail expertise. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Top Trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018

I’ve already shared some of my favorite finds from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018, but another reason I attend the show is to try and identify what’s trending. Here are my topic picks.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms seem to be everywhere and showing up in ways that are a bit unexpected. I first discovered crispy oyster mushroom “chips” in Taiwan, but at the show this year I saw Yuguo shiitake chips from China.They are light and crunchy and supposedly healthy. I like them a lot. There were also two kinds of mushroom jerky, one made from mushroom caps and another made from mushroom stems in "Zesty Thai" flavor, available from Pan's Mushroom Jerky. Last but not least there were somewhat medicinal elixirs, cocoa and “coffee” made from lion's mane, chaga and reishi mushrooms by Four Sigmatic. I wasn’t crazy about how they tasted but they are being sold more as a health product than a gourmet one. 

Coconut snacks
Coconut is nothing new, but it’s being used as a component in lots of different and frankly delicious snacks.  If you like coconut, you will like these. Some top picks for me were the wafer-like Sejoyia coconut thins, the clusters from Creative Snacks Co with cranberries cashews and almonds, and Cocomos toasted coconut chips with orange and sunflower seeds, which were somewhat in between a cluster and a wafer. 

Vegetable Chips 
Vegetable chips have been in vogue for quite some time, but I’m seeing more and more unusual options like red rice and quinoa crisps from Grounded from Lundberg Family Farms, pea puffs from Peeled cassava crunch and beet snacks from Plant Snacks, carrot and beet chips from HardBite, kumara and parsnip crisps from Proper Crisps.

Legume Snacks
Pea protein is big, and it’s especially evident in snacks. I also saw crispy broad beans and puffs from peanuts. Other products I noticed included colorful "chickbean crisps" from Saffron Road, chickpea snacks from Kay's Pass the Peas, quinoa and lentil snacks from The Daily Crave but I'm sure there were even more. New guidelines now recommend introducing infants to peanuts to help ward off allergies, so snacks like puffs may prove popular with kids. 

Non-dairy yogurts
Just as non-dairy milks and “cheeses” have become more popular, more non-dairy yogurts are popping up. I particularly liked the coconut yogurt from Anita’s but also the Greek style almond yogurt from Kite Hill

Aloe 
Aloe has been on trend in Japan since the 1990’s but it seems to be gaining in the US as well. I saw it in Alove yogurt from Japanese manufacturer Morinaga as well as in a myriad of drinks. Aloe is hydrating and can help with digestion. 

Cold Vegetable Soups
This is an interesting one I didn’t see coming. Anyone who has been to a supermarket in Spain has been amused by the refrigerated cartons of gazpacho. I saw several lines of cold, ready to drink soups, with unique flavors like cauliflower cashew, pumpkin cinnamon sage and beet orange basil from Zupa and carrot yellow tomato and spicy avocado from gazpacho maker Tio. Most were vegetarian but at least one, Bonafide uses a bone broth base and calls their products "drinkable veggies." 

Cold Brew
If cold brew coffee is big in coffee shops, it’s perhaps even bigger in retail stores where you can buy it in cans or bottles. I saw so many brands this year it was hard to keep track but they included Jittery John's, Coffee Blenders, Fog Dog, Peerless and Grady's. While I mostly saw cold brew coffee, I also saw "ice steeped" cold brew tea from Japanese maker Ito-En

Drinking Vinegars
Drinking vinegars have been gaining momentum and this year I saw more than ever. Some are traditional apple cider vinegar based while others use balsamic or add other ingredients like ginger or fruit juices. There were two I particularly liked, Fire Cider’s apple cider vinegar-based tonics made with horseradish, onions, black pepper, and garlic, organic habaƱero peppers, turmeric, lemons and oranges. It tasted like it could banish a cold. The other was the deliciously fruit forward one from Olitalia in blueberry, cherry and pomegranate. 

Drip tea and coffee packs
Last year I was excited about a Vietnamese drip coffee as part of the DIY kit trend, from Copper Cow, this year they are introducing Thai ice tea packs. Meanwhile I saw other companies like Vietnamese grocer Lee’s are also selling Vietnaemese drip coffee packets, albeit without the condensed milk. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

10 Highlights from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018

This year I'm sharing several posts recapping the Winter Fancy Food Show. Kicking things off are a few of my favorite things (cue The Sound of Music). Stay tuned for posts on trends and the newest products. 


In my round up of all things bananas last year I mentioned a unique banana jam. This year I tried the latest jam from the same producer, made from jackfruit. You may know jackfruit as a fiberous vegan replacement for pulled pork. In this jam it has an incredible tropical flavor that tastes like a combination of mango, pineapple and banana--think Juicy Fruit gum but so much better. It’s like a little tropical vacation in a spoon. 

I’m lumping these three things together because they fit in the category of couverture, that’s chocolate speak for a product that has a very high percentage of cocoa butter. Coffee thins are made with a unique coffee product and cocoa butter, no cocoa solids at all. It’s has the texture of chocolate, but it’s coffee. It’s available in three different varieites, latte, espresso and cruz special blend and makes use of a proprietary technology that transforms coffee into something smooth and creamy. Valrhona is introducing two new couvertures, one with passion fruit and one with almond, neither of them contain cocoa solids either. They won’t be available in a retail product but expect your favorite chocolatiers to start using this divine stuff in their confections.  

Flavored maple syrups
I talked to a retailer who told me that this past holiday season his company saw an incredible increase in sales of maple syrup. Having tasted some of the more recent flavored maple syrups I can’t say I’m surprised. My favorites come from a company called Runamok. They infuse maple syrups with flavors such as makrut lime leaf, cardamom, ginger as well as bourbon and rum barrel aged maple syrup and my favorite, pecan wood smoked maple syrup. 

You may have had black sesame ice cream before but the black sesame ice cream from Humphry Slocombe is a game changer. It’s made from their base with ground black sesame seeds but the secret is an addition of toasted sesame oil which is fragrant and lusicous. 

Wadaman organic white sesame oil
While we're on the topic of sesame oil, I have to say, this one is the best I’ve ever tried. It’s has a lusicous buttery flavor and an almost floral aroma. It’s so good, and much more delicate than the typical toasted sesame oil which can be overly intense and almost bitter.  It's available in Asian speciality stores and online from Japanese Pantry.

Sauerfrau squeezable sauerkraut
I was already a fan of sauerkraut, but not only is this sauerkraut delicious and comes in 3 varieties, classic, sweet Bavarian and craft beer mustard. It’s ridiculously convenient because it comes in a squeeze bottle. It’s tangy, but not too juicy, still raw and filled with probiotics, but it will keep in the fridge for ages. Good stuff and coming soon to stores.

I wrote about Bakwa a few years ago. Of course pork jerky is delicious but now Little Red Dot Kitchen has applied their magic touch to eggplant to make something they call jerky. I just call it good. I’d love to layer it on a baguette and make sandwich with it. 


Axel Provisions pickled onions
Axel Provisions launched with three versions of their chimichurri sauce. It’s very good. But what I really liked was their pickled onions. The founder ate these onions in Argentina and decided to make them himself. You could make them too, but his are really, really good. They come in two versions, one is red and spicy with habanero and the other sweet with jalapeno. Both are irresistable. 


Heirloom grain pasta
This year I saw more pastas made with different grains, including heirloom varieties of wheat. I sample pasta from two different companies, Monograno Felicetti from Italy and Sfoglini from Brooklyn, Monograno uses several different types of wheat, I tried the pasta made from a variety of durum wheat called matt. Sfoglini uses a variety of different grains but in blends that keep the pasta al dente, something that can be tricky when experimenting beyond wheat. 

Which is the best prosciutto? Generally speaking, he one in front of you. But in tasting San Daniele, Parma and Modena, I have to admit, Modena won me over. The texture and flavor of prosciutto is dependent upon not just origin, but also which part of the prosciutto it comes from. It’s formed in a pear shape, then often trimmed and formed into a block for easier slicing. One end is saltier than the other. The prosciutto I had from Modena was from the center and it was rosy, meltingly tender and delicate. It was the perfectly mild balance of sweet and salty. Prosciutto from Modena may be new to us, but it has been made in Modena since the 16th century. The meat is massaged with salt twice, and allowed to rest for 70 days. Once dried it’s massaged with a mxiture of lard, salt, spices and flour. The entire process takes 14 months. It’s recently gained entry to the US and like San Daniele and Parma prociutto it is a DOP (protected denomination of origin) product, look for it at a deli or gourmet shop. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ramen Heads - Movie Review

Ramen Heads is a documentary about ramen in Japan. As the name implies, it’s about the obsession of both ramen makers and ramen eaters and dives deep into more bowls in more styles than you can possibly imagine. The film focuses on Japan's number-one ramen master Osamu Tomita, who has won the highest ramen honors 4 years in a row. Unlike other ramen masters, Tomita is happy to expose every part of his process. He reveals the highest-quality ingredients and his constantly evolving approach to cooking the perfect bowl with equal attention to both noodles and broth. Surrounded by apprentices there is still much he insists on doing himself. His shop is so popular he sells tickets ahead of time to decrease the long wait for seats. 

Tomita proclaims, “if you’re not a ramen head yourself, you can’t possibly satisfy other ramen heads.”  and so perhaps not surprisingly, he spends his one day off a week eating ramen on his own and with his familly; next to his bed are ramen magazines and recipes. He’s singularly focused on ramen, not just for his customers but for himself and for his appreciation of ramen in Japanese culture. It is and has been his calling since he had a bowl of ramen that changed his life. After that he became an apprentice to a top ramen master before opening his own shop. Ramen it seems, is so much more than just noodles and broth, it’s truly a way of life. 

As you probably already know, ramen is a big deal in Japan. There are magazines, guidebooks and websites devoted to it. As the films narrator explains, ramen is “cheap, immediate and deeply satisfying”, and in Japan, unlike many other iconic dishes, it allows for great creativity.The film introduces viewers to some of the other top ramen masters in Japan and their individual styles of ramen, briefly explores a ramen festival and offers a quick timeline of the rise of ramen in Japan. All along the way the cinematography will make your mouth water. The soaring and majestic music can seem cheesy at times, but it is the cinematography that cements this film as the ultimate ramen food porn and I warn you, if you decide to see this movie you better make plans to eat ramen afterwards because you will seriously crave it. Check out the trailer below and you'll see for yourself. 

Ramen Heads plays at the Roxie as part of the SF Indie Film Festival on February 10th and 13th, 2018 in San Francisco. Learn more or buy tickets.