Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Diamond Juice (p.9) and How You Gotta Enjoy Wine (p.43)

I started my journey through this cookbook with a couple of drink recipes, so it makes sense that I would end things the same way. Yes, friends, we have arrived at the last meal of Selzer & Smuckles. This post is part 1 of 2, as it was quite a meal. Today, we focus on the liquid. We'll start with the wine, since it's a little less interesting. Ray's How You Gotta Enjoy Wine is not and does not pretend to be a recipe. It's just a little article teaching the very basics of wine consumption. This is the kind of thing I already know. I mean, I've seen and read Sideways, so I'm practically a professional sommelier (interesting note- one of the few instances where the movie is better than the book). But, I once again must remember this book's target audience - the clueless oaf in his backwards baseball cap. This is probably very informative for him.

All of the basics are here. White wine goes in the skinnier glass and is held by the stem (so as not to warm it with body temperature), and reds go in the more globular glass and are held by the bowl. This is related to the fact that whites should be chilled, and reds room temperature. This is something of which I still can't convince Melissa. She likes her wine chilled regardless of color, tradition and general knowledge be damned! I love her too much to force the issue, but I did make her drink a room temperature red for this project (She didn't mind, she just prefers chilled). In this case, it was a Syrah. A 2007 local (Santa Barbara) that was quite drinkable. A little watery, maybe, but there was enough flavor there. We bought it as part of the 5 cent wine sale at BevMo (by one bottle of wine, get another bottle of the same wine for a nickel), and it was certainly the best 5 cent wine I've ever had. Honestly, the $15 bottle was good, too. It all comes down to one of Ray's other wine rules - A wine should not taste terrible. This is a big one. I hear a lot of people my age talk about how they don't like wine, and this is generally a good sign that I'm dealing with someone who needs to do some growing up. Put down the Miller High Life and take a sip of a decent wine. Congratulations, you're an adult (unless you didn't like it, in which case, keep trying).

The one thing I didn't do with this wine that Ray recommended was decant it. I don't own a decanter. I considered buying one recently at Disneyland. For part of the Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary, the artist SHAG created a bunch of art and merchandise. I bought quite a few pieces, including the water bottle from which I currently drink, and seriously thought about buying a decanter with Shag's rendition of the changing Medusa painting and some ghosts on it. I imagined myself hosting a dinner party and finishing the night by bringing out some port in the ghostly decanter and offering some "spirits" to guests. They'd laugh and whisper amongst themselves about how witty I was. However, I had already bought some old fashioned glasses (like the bourbon drink, not in the style of antiquity) with similar logos and just couldn't bring myself to splurge. Plus, I have so much Haunted Mansion memorabilia that I was already risking crossing the line from "Disney Fan" to "Disney Collector." That line scares me. I've seen Disney Collectors, and they are not something I aspire to be. I make no promises about not buying it if its still available on my next trip. Anyway, Ray recommends if you don't have a decanter to pour the wine in a bowl and serve it with a turkey baster. I decided not to. The wine tasted fine after letting it breathe in the bottle, and I didn't feel it needed decanting. I may try it at a party in the future, just so people can see how classy I am.

Speaking of classy, Diamond Juice. Ray's favorite drink has been on my list for the final meal since I first flipped through the cookbook. See, Ray used to have an advice column, in which he would often give advice on libations. He made it clear that his choice of vodka was Ketel One. I've been wanting to buy a bottle ever since, but always made excuses not to (mostly, that's crap's expensive). Well, to celebrate the end of the project, I caved and bought a bottle. It didn't hurt that in the recipe for the final meal (you'll find out what it is soon enough), Ray recommends having some while you prepare it. So, some diamond juice to celebrate!
You may be thinking- that just seems like a glass of vodka. You would be correct. Ray admits up front that there's no such thing as a recipe for a Ketel One martini (which is essentially what Diamond Juice is). Chilled vodka in a chilled martini glass. You wouldn't want to try this with Popov or even Absolut or Smirnoff, but Ketel One is damn smooth and drinkable. Even Melissa finished hers, and she's not as used to straight liquor as I am (she doesn't drink single malt Scotch and Whiskey like I do).

There is one more element to the drink, and you can see it in the picture - lemon zest. I do not own a lemon zester. Somehow, in all of the barware kits I've had over the years, I still don't have one in my collection. Ray says he got his for his birthday from Pat, and if you don't have one you should either use a vegetable peeler (which I did) or tell Pat when your birthday is (August 17, Pat, but Christmas is coming...). The vegetable peeler made a serviceable, if ugly, zest of lemon. I squeezed the zest over the drink to release essential oils, as instructed. I don't know whether this made any difference or not, but I didn't notice much lemon essence in my drink. I used the zests as a garnish, just so it didn't feel like I was wasting them. Melissa's fell into her drink, and she left it there. She probably got more lemon than I did. Still, it didn't really need it. I really enjoyed drinking my vodka straight (just the way Viktor learned to in Billy Joel's Leningrad), and I felt damn classy just sitting on the couch. Plus, now I have a bottle of Ketel One for future cocktail nights, so it's a big win for me.

That's about all there is to say about the drinks. It should surprise no one that this cookbook included 4 drink recipes, and they were all brought to you by Ray. The man/cat likes his liquor. I'll be back tomorrow or Friday with the big post with the final recipes! That's right, there's two of them. Want to know what they are? Then keep checking back, sucker!


1 comment:

  1. Now that I can post...

    I have discovered the perfect ingredient for Diamond Juice: Karlsson's Gold Vodka. I was given a bottle for Christmas, and it has ruined my life.