Whiskey Tasting for The New Year

Guest Blog Post by Matan Gutwaks

I’m going to start my post about a whisky tasting by talking about food.
The event I attended was catered by Gemstone Caterers- an exquisite  posse  lead by NYC’s very own Kosher Culinary Cowboy, Chef Ari White.
Chef White never disappoints.  Evoking his inner Texan, his first station provided a choice of either  a slow cooked pulled brisket or pulled chicken sandwich in an intensely flavorful and smoky BBQ sauce.  Remember that, because it’s going to come into play later.
He followed the sandwiches with an array of sushi and herrings (which is a way straight to my heart) as well as salmon done three ways- classic smoked lox, gravlaks (which is an herb cured lox), and (my personal favorite) pastrami cured lox.

White never disappoints, and the food alone would have made a lovely night out.  The real purpose, though, was an educational and, if I may, an intoxicating tasting.
A note:
I consider myself a man of expensive tastes.  I enjoy a few of the more expensive hobbies: luxurious food, great wine, and quality cigars are notable here.  Generally speaking, though, my familiarity with alcohol stopped at wine.  I knew that I preferred bourbon (and who doesn’t like tequila), but in the broader world of whisky (or whisky, depending on the location) I’m still an amateur.
So when I embarked on the First Annual Scotch and Whisky Tasting put on by Single Cask Nation, I was shown a whole new sphere of pretentiousness with which I could wet my palate.
There were more whiskies than you probably care to hear about (all of which were great), so I’ll just mention the ones I thought most noteworthy.
Glenrothes Select Reserve, is a blend that represents the flavors The Glenrothes are known for.  It’s full and slightly spicy with hints of vanilla; it made me think it was a liquid cloud.  If that helps at all.  The rep that Glenrothes had there explained that this is their “house style”- they intend, through blending different casks of different years, to yield a flavor that encompasses what their distillery is known for.
Koval, a company based out of Chicago, impressed me with its Lion’s Pride- organic whisky in five varieties that are all distilled from different grains (wheat, spelt, oat, millet, and rye, respectively).  Each tastier than the last, all delicious.

I took a liking to Angel’s Envy – a Kentucky Straight Bourbon – which, though unique, reminded me of Woodford Reserve.  It turns out Angel’s Envy was started by Woodford’s former master distiller after he retired.

 Finally, the guys that organized the event – Joshua, Jason, and Seth from Single Cask Nation, the Jewish Whisky company – rolled out their products.
We started with the Arran 12, which was quite nice – pungent with a nice spiciness.  We moved on to the Benriach 17- a single malt scotch whisky, matured in a single cask that previously head bourbon, whose pronounced smokiness reminded me of a BLT from my rebellious days.  Smoky, sweet, crisp, and refreshing.  I thought this was a really fantastic way to introduce peatiness to a beginner.  It does not overwhelm you with it, but it definitely gives you enough to know you want more.

Just so you know, they have more.
For those that can handle a ton of smoke there’s the Kilchoman 4.  They’d love this intensely peaty dram.  It’s floral and strong; it tasted like the liquefied smoke of a barbequed flower.  An amazing way to cap off the palate for the evening.
This, by the way, is a great callback to the menu from earlier in the evening, and one of the reasons why White did such an amazing job pairing dishes to the tasting.  His smoked and cured meats were just strong enough to prepare you for the intensity of what was coming.
I walked out, a bit more tipsy than I would like to admit, genuinely excited to experiment and enjoy all the bourbons, scotches, ryes and whiskies we tried (and of course, many more that we hadn’t) , but more than anything thankful to the guys that set this event up.  Because after all, what good is a combination cigar/flask if I don’t have something great to put in it?

Special thanks to John Flemming for editing this post.

Bonfire and Corn Bread

A fire pit is one of the great memories that brings me back to my summer camp days.   In camp, the days were hot, but nights were freezing.  The temperature outside, on this particular November night this year, brought back those nostalgic memories.  The smell of the cold air lent itself to the aroma and feel of the warm and crackling fire pit. As we were all sitting around the fire chatting and feeling the cool breeze and the contrasting warmth from the fire, an epiphany came to us that no fire pit is complete without utilizing the heat source for cooking!  We had marshmallows and definitely went through a bag of those, but we wanted to be more adventurousness   My friends had just purchased cast iron skillets for the fire pit.  We whipped up a batch of corn bread (passed down to me from a dear friend, John Flemming) and tried it out in the fire.  We added a bit of cheese to give it a nice gooey texture.  The first few came up either raw or burnt, but once we got a hang of the timing and the proximity we needed to put the cast irons in the fire, the corn bread turned out delicious!

For those who don’t have the privilege of using a fire pit, I created an easier and home friendly version! I added pumpkin seeds to the loaf of corn bread, but feel free to add in whatever you like. Corn bread is very versatile in flavor and can interchangeably switch from sweet to savory.

Shifra and Aron Srolovitz (owners of the fire pit) and me and my fiance, Matan 

Corn Bread
1-1/4 C. Milk

2 Eggs
1/2 C. Flour
1-1/2 C. Corn Meal
1/2 C. Sugar
1-1/2 t. Baking Power
1 t. Salt
4 T. Butter

Melt butter on bottom of loaf pan.  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into pan with melted butter.  Bake for 45 min till toothpick comes out clean. 

Kosher By Design Cooking Coach Review

Guest Blogger: Talia Rona

Some people get excited about meeting politicians. There are those whose hearts flutter when they spot a celebrity. There are even guys who stalk highly esteemed rabbis (my friend’s brother. I’m not lying.) And then there is me—I get excited to meet someone who cooks Kosher food. Can I be any more of a typical Jewish girl?! 

So, when my good friend Alison Barnett, a.k.a. Chef Ali of AliBabka.com, invited me to attend a press-only event for the release of Susie Fishbein’s new cookbook, Kosher by Design: Cooking Coach, I was ecstatic! My first cookbook ever was actually Susie’s second, Kosher by Design Entertains, and I read it word for word and cover to cover probably around 37 times. Since then, I have bought 5 other Kosher by Design cookbooks and basically memorized them. I even modeled an application for a fellowship I applied to after my first cookbook and called it “Fellow by Design Impresses.”

The press event was held in Pomegranate, which is an experience in and of itself. (For those of you who are unaware, it’s kind of like an all Kosher Whole Foods located in Brooklyn on the corner of Avenue L and Coney Island Avenue.) It felt pretty cool to be part of this exclusive event where there were chairs set up for only around 40-50 people.  There were reporters from all the big Jewish newspapers and magazines and it was fun to network with and put faces to the names I always read on these publications.
Susie did a demonstration where she made one recipe and then used the leftovers to make 2 very different dishes, which I thought was genius. And of course, we each got to taste all 3 of the dishes in our own servings. Susie did not disappoint—it was delicious! After the demo, anyone who wished to could line up and take a picture with Susie and get her autograph.

As awesome as it was to meet her, my favorite part of the evening was receiving a gift bag with Susie’s latest cookbook, Kosher by Design: Cooking Coach so I could put the skills I just learned into practice. This cookbook is super helpful because not only is it chock full of recipes, but it also includes tips and techniques on how to improve your cooking skills. I already tried out a bunch of them, but my favorite is the Mushroom Arabiatta Over Spaghetti Squash. Spaghetti squash is so easy to make (you literally just put it in the oven and that’s IT); it’s really healthy and low calorie, and it’s also huge so you are guaranteed leftovers that last for a while.

Thank you, Chef Ali, for letting me be your +1 for the evening!
Mushroom Arabiatta Over Spaghetti Squash
1 whole medium spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ small green pepper, seeded, cut in half horizontally and then into very thin strips
½ medium Spanish onion, peeled, thinly sliced
12 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place the whole spaghetti squash onto a cookie sheet or directly on the grate of the oven.  Bake for about 1 hour, until slightly darker in color and a little soft when you squeeze the sides. The time may vary based on the size and weight of the squash; it may need an extra few minutes, but don’t overcook the squash or it will come out mushy.  Remove from oven and allow to cool until it is easy enough to handle.  Once the squash is cool, cut it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard the seeds.  Use a fork to scrape the flesh into spaghetti-like strands and place them into a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a large (12- 14-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Add the green pepper and onion.  Sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms, sauté for 4-5 minutes until liquid is released from the mushrooms and starts to cook off.  The mushrooms should start to caramelize.  Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and ¾ teaspoon salt.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the tomato sauce.  Stir well.  Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

4. Transfer the squash strands to a serving dish; top with the mushrooms.  Serve hot.