The Museum of the American Cocktail

We get a lot of press releases here at Root Simple. I cast most into Gmail’s purgatorial nether regions but when one came in from the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) I knew that I had to investigate further.

MOTAC operates out of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Luckily for us Angelinos, MOTAC sponsors weekly events in our fair city and is rumored to be opening a San Pedro venue next year.

I’ve attended two free events in downtown LA, one a tasting of the spirits made by a Central Coast distillery, Calwise Spirits, and another tasting of the many offerings of the venerable French distillery Combier which still uses a facility designed by Pierre Eiffel. Note to self: remember to spit out the spirits when you do a tasting of 20 bottles or the next day won’t be all that productive.

If you’re interested in MOTAC’s Los Angeles events you can sign up at the bottom of their page here. As a generalist (to a fault) I have really enjoyed meeting MOTAC’s expert cocktail enthusiasts.

How to Make Clear Ice

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Life is way too short to endure substandard cocktails. While reasonable people can bemoan the pretentiousness of the present hipster, bearded, chef-driven, artisinal, epoch we find ourselves in at the moment, let me just say I don’t miss what passed for cocktails in my youth. Here’s how mixology math used to work in the dark ages: Maguerita=tequila+sweet and sour mix.  Old fashion=whisky+sweet and sour mix. Mai Tai=rum+sweet and sour mix.

What the cocktail sages of Brooklyn and Silver Lake have taught us is that ingredients matter. Take, for instance, the ice.

What if you could make ice as glorious as a pristine iceberg spotted on a bright and sunny arctic summer day? Isn’t a cocktail as much an experience for the eyes as well as the tongue? Thankfully it’s easy to make clear ice free of cloudy impurities. Here’s how you do it:

1. Take a small cooler and fill it almost to the top with water and stick the cooler in the freezer. Leave the top of the cooler off. The insulation in the cooler will cause the water to freeze from the top down. The minerals and impurities in the water that cause cloudy ice will settle to the bottom of the cooler. Later, you will harvest the pristine, clear ice off the top. I filled my cooler with tap water that I filtered with a counter top water filter. A side note on water filters–our tap water tastes better when filtered–depending on where you live you may not need to filter it.

2. Around 24 hours later take the cooler out of the freezer, run some water over the ice (to help release the ice) and turn the cooler upside down. You should have around two inches of ice on the top of the cooler and a lot of unfrozen water on the bottom which will pour out all over your counter and floor (watch out for this!). The water is a good thing. You don’t want to freeze the whole block as you will have to separate the clear ice from the cloudy ice.

3. If all goes as planned you’ll be left with a block of clear ice. To cut the ice into cubes, score the ice with a bread knife and give the top of the knife a tap with a rubber mallet. I like to make large cubes for mixing old fashions but you can cut the ice into any size you like. Put the cut cubes in a bag in the freezer.

4. Invite your friends over for some high-end cocktails.

One tip: try not to jostle the cooler in the freezer. If you do you might end up with some irregularities that will make it more difficult to cut the ice block into neat cubes.

There’s a thin margin between the gutter and the stars when it comes to cocktails and an extra step such as simple as chilling the glass or flaming the orange twist can make a huge difference. Something as simple as clear ice can elevate a drink from mediocrity into cocktail glory.

For more details, watch the Cocktail Chemist explain how to make clear ice in both blocks, rectangles and spheres:

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099 The Amazing Sourdough Breads of Guy Frenkel

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Listen to “099 The Amazing Sourdough Breads of Guy Frenkel” on Spreaker.

Guy Frenkel is one of the most talented bakers I’ve met. If you’ve seen his whole grain, sourdough breads in Instagram (@Ceorbread) and Facebook you’ll know why I had to interview him. During the podcast we talk about his unique baking techniques such as yeast water, stencils and colored doughs. Even if you’re not a baker you’ll be inspired by Guy’s enthusiasm, persistence and creativity. Here are the links Guy mentions:

Guy’s social media: @Ceorbread in Instgram, Ceor Bread Facebook, Guy Frenkel in Facebook.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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Jas. Townsend’s 18th Century Cooking

The recovery journey for open heart surgery involves three things: pain killers, a recliner and a flat screen television. Thanks to our new TV’s ability to access the internet, we’ve fallen into a deep and unlikely YouTube hole: Jas. Townsend and Son’s 18th century cooking videos.

Jas. Townsend and Son is the most unlikely business I can imagine. They manufacture and sell 18th century clothing, cookware, camp equipment and housewares though a brick and mortar shop in Pierceton, Indiana. Founder James John Townsend is one of the most prolific and accomplished YouTubers I’ve encountered. His cooking videos feature professional lighting and sound (rare in the YouTube universe) and look like something PBS would (should?) make. And Townsend has produced over 500 videos giving Kelly and I a chance to spend many evenings catching up on the finer points of pemmican, hardtack and pickled smelt.

Neither of us are historical reenactors, though Kelly sometimes accuses me of trying to relive the 1990s. But you need not be into historical reenactment to appreciate Townsend’s well researched videos. You can tell he’s having a good time making them too.

Kelly wanted me to highlight the portable soup video I embedded above. And note that it’s just one of four videos on portable soup! There’s also a fascinating series on 18th century breads.  If Townsend’s video output isn’t enough for you he’s got a website containing the recipes and videos called Savoring the Past. Does Townsend sleep? I’m glad he doesn’t because we’ve both been enjoying his creative output.

And, lastly, a note on Kelly. She thanks you all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. Getting over a surgery like this is no picnic. It’s more akin to eating hardtack and suet by the side of a meager fire (thank you Townsend and Son for the metaphor). It will be awhile before Kelly can blog again but she wants me to tell you how much she appreciates your support.

084 How to Make Your Own Cheese with David Asher

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Want to learn how to make delicious cheeses in your own kitchen? It’s easier than you think. Our guest this week is radical natural cheesemaker David Asher, author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses.

During the podcast we discuss:

  • The difference between natural cheesmaking and the way most cheese is made in North America.
  • Using a kefir culture to make cheese.
  • The importance of quality milk.
  • What if I can’t get raw milk?
  • Easy cheeses.
  • The ins and out of rennet and how to make your own.
  • WalcoRen rennet.
  • Using cardoon flowers instead of rennet.
  • Tools you need for cheesemaking.
  • Hacking a fridge to make your own cheese cave.
  • Using leftover whey for fertilizer and cooking.
  • Making chèvre.
  • How to store cheese.
  • The cheese scene in Canada and the legality of raw milk.
  • Raw milk cheeses in Quebec.

To find out about David’s classes visit his website The Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.