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Funny how we automatically associate certain tastes, smells, foods and drinks with certain people or situations, isn’t it?
Take Grand Marnier. Instantly, my lovely friend Terina springs to mind. She introduced me to Grand Marnier when she used it as a “cold remedy” in university (* kaff * * kaff * I think I need a Grand Marnier). Her parents are the original “Snow Birds” and would pick up a bottle for her on the way home from Arizona. Terina would share some with me whenever I wandered through Calgary on my way home from Vancouver. I’ve had an enduring love for Grand Marnier (coupled with an enduring “cough”) ever since.
Funny how you get ideas in your head, isn’t it? For the longest time, I believed that Grand Marnier was made by suspending an orange over a vat of cognac (scent osmosis, I guess). Who the heck knows where I got that idea, but it wouldn’t really work, would it? The angels would get far more than their share. In fact, they’d be well and truly smashed!
Instead, Grand Marnier is made by blending cognac with the distilled essence of the peel of the “Citrus bigaradia” (a bitter orange from the Caribbean). Take a look at the Grand Marnier website (it’s actually a pretty fun website) for more info. There’s also a history lesson here.
For National Grand Marnier day, I decided to spice things up a bit with a cocktail. In the end, though, I decided to combine two of my very, very favourite things in a “Grand Mimosa”, which according to the website is made with 3/4 oz Grand Marnier, 1 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice, and 3 oz chilled champagne.
Terina and I have now been friends for 22 years. What better way to celebrate an enduring friendship than with a bit of bubbly and a university cold remedy?
Cheers to my Spun Gold friend from your Corny Silk friend!
I love you, man.
Okay, I admit it. It’s actually National Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day. But wouldn’t you rather talk about Cognac? I sure as heck would.
As we draw into the twilight of this year of the 365 Foods list, we find ourselves thinking outside the list more and more often. In this case, I’m still “in” the list; I’ve just chosen to re-create June 4 (whence we celebrated cheese).
Cognac is interesting. I’m sure Cognac drinkers the world over will shun me for saying this, but Cognac is sort of the “Scotch” of wine (ok, Scotch drinkers are now cursing me too). But here’s the deal. Cognac is produced by fermenting a weak, crappy wine out of one of, or a blend of only 5 grapes (see L’encopédie du Cognac) and then twice distilling it to take care of impurities before aging it for a minumum of two and a half to many dozen years (in wooden casks, btw) to create a warm, apricot-y, vanilla-y, smooth liqueur that makes lots of otherwise rational folks quite excited about minute differences in flavour. Kind of like Scotch drinkers (strike me down).
Cognac is technically brandy, but it can only be produced in a discrete area of France. That area is itself divided up into smaller areas, with the “Grande-Champagne” being the “heart” of the cognac region (i.e. the best), and the “Bons Bois” and “Bois Ordinaires” being the “Surrey” of cognac regions (i.e. the “not very best”).
In any event, if you really want to learn about Cognac you should check out these two sites: http://www.pediacognac.com/ and http://www.cognac-world.com/, or you should really travel to the Cognac region in France. Or just buy a really good Cognac and taste it, which is what I did.
I bought St-Rémy Authentic XO. The “XO” means “really good” or actually “eXtra Old” if you must be precise. Did I mention? Cognac is rated as follows (stolen completely from Wiki):
- VS Very Special, or ✯✯✯ (three stars) where the youngest brandy is stored at least two years in cask.
- VSOP Very Superior Old Pale, where the youngest brandy is stored at least four years in a cask, but the average wood age is much older.
- XO Extra Old, where the youngest brandy is stored at least six, but average upwards of 20 years.
- Napoleon Although the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) states this grade is equal to XO in terms of minimum age, it is generally marketed in-between VSOP and XO in the product range offered by the producers.
- Extra A minimum of 6 years of age, this grade is usually older than a Napoleon or an XO.
- Vieux Is another grade between the official grades of VSOP and XO.
- Vieille Réserve Is like the Hors d´Âge a grade beyond XO.
- Hors d’âge The BNIC states that also this grade is equal to XO, but in practice the term is used by producers to market a high quality product beyond the official age scale. Hence the name “Hors d’âge” (beyond age).
Tonight was the very first night of summer patio season (thank g-d).We had a simple dinner: grilled sausages; corn on the cob; grilled peppers and green onions. It was fabulous. The Cognac warmed our bellies, but in the end, I think it was an après-dinner drink. It would have been good with a cigar, if I smoked them. I got the apricot, vanilla and fruitiness. Jim got the sugar and couldn’t wait to move on. In the end, though, he decided he liked it. Jim felt it was more like port than like scotch. In the end, it was probably just like cognac. Go figure.
Just as an aside, St-Rémy has been producing Cognac for upwards of 300 years. Just ask them.
P.S. My very favourite cognac in the entire world is Grand Marnier. Itself a bastardization. In case you were wondering.
Lobster Newburg is a dish full of history. The recipe was developed in the late 19th century at the one of the most famous eateries on the planet. Delmonico’s opened its doors in the heart of the New York financial district in 1837. The iconic establishment on Beaver Street, long known for its succulent steaks, is still a fashionable dining destination today. But Delmonico’s is much more than an old-fashioned steak house. It is also the home of several gastronomic firsts – it was the first formal dining restaurant in the United States, the first to serve hamburger, the creator of Baked Alaska, the creator of Eggs Benedict, and of course the creator of Lobster Newburg.
Lobster Newburg is itself a fantastic bit of culinary lore. As the story goes, a wealthy sea captain and regular patron of Delmonico’s came in one night in 1876 announcing that he had discovered a new preparation for lobster. Ben Wenburg called for a chafing dish and demonstrated his new recipe on the spot. Chef, Charles Ranhofer, and owner, Charles Delmonico, were suitably impressed with Wenburg’s creation. Ranhofer tweaked the recipe and added “Lobster a la Wenerg” to the menu soon after that fabled night. The creamy lobster concoction was an instant hit with diners. Then the story takes a dark turn. Delmonico barred Wenburg from the restaurant after the two quarreled. Over what, no one knows. Wenburg was thus deemed persona non grata and the dish he helped create was renamed Newburg. Despite its sordid past, it remains one of the most popular dishes on the Delmonico’s menu.
Now that we’re done with the history lesson, you may be asking what exactly is Lobster Newburg? Put simply, it is pure decadence. It is lobster with a sherry and cognac infused, egg-thickened cream sauce. Trust me, you don’t want to count the calories on this one. Suffice it to say you’ll have a log a few hours on the treadmill to work off a Newburg. That said, every day is a good day for lobster.
I have to admit, I’ve never made Lobster Newburg before. I haven’t even tried it in a restaurant, so the first thing I had to do was to go in search of a recipe. I settled on the Lobster Newburg recipe from Epicurious.com. I followed the recipe to the letter with the exception of adding a squeeze of lemon at the end and serving it over parpadelle instead of toast points. I served my Newburg with a heaping helping of asparagus to help ease my unhealthy conscience. Coincidently, asparagus also goes really well with a rich creamy sauce.
And the verdict… I loved it! The rich, luscious sauce paired with the sweet tender lobster was a brilliant combination. That said, if I were to make it again, I’d serve it as an appetizer. A little bit of rich is fantastic, too much is just too much. The other thing I might do is to replace half of the cream with lobster stock to turn it into an almost-any-day pasta sauce. It also occurred to me that crab, prawns and perhaps even scallops would pair nicely with the Newburg cream sauce.
So there you have it… 134 years after its first appearance Lobster Newburg is still winning fans. You know, I’ve always wanted to go to Delmonico’s. I think the next time I’m in New York I’ll have to make a pilgrimage to the home of the original Newburg. Maybe I’ll try the Baked Alaska while I’m at it.