So the chicken liver mousse I made was my contribution to an educational session on gin. It was a long evening and my learning spiked and faded as the night wore on and the cocktails made me swoon and eventually settled into a metronomic head pounding. I started off with a perfect Negroni (gin, vermouth, campari) courtesy of Gobie, lecturer and mixologist extraordinaire. The Negroni should be the national drink of Italy: bittersweet, beautiful, but refreshingly so.
Gobie took us through the history of gin starting with the despised insipid vodka (gin with no clothes) to the mechanics of distilling and re-distilling alcohol with botanicals to give us a variety of London gins (Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth). London gin is obtained from the ethanol of a grain with a certain maximum methanol content (gaps in knowledge attributed to level of drunkenness). The spices and botanicals often used include firstly and predominantly juniper, then coriander, licorice root, cassia bark, orange and/or lemon peel, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg angelica root. These flavors became more pronounced as the heat of the alcohol subsided through the progression of gins. Plymouth isn’t something I see that often back in the States but is by far my new favorite London gin.
Then we moved on to more beautifully complex gins (Kangaroo Island Spirit (KIS) Wild Gin, Hendrick’s, Monkey 47) that had a softer mouthfeel. I hate that word, by the way. We were asked to chart out on pentagonal matrices the levels of juniper, floral, citrus, spice/earthiness, and heat (I promptly abandoned this exercise after the Plymouth and reached for the food instead). The Kangaroo Island is an Australian gin that our host Tamara brought back from her last trip there. And Monkey 47 is a gin from the German Black Forest distilled with cranberries! Very complex interweaving of all the varying pentagonal points ending with a woody finish, almost like a whiskey. Then there was a dropdead gorgeous gin that Gobie had aged himself in an American cask he somehow procured that was almost like a scotch. A cube of ice was all it needed, but at this point in the evening, I was pretty down for the count. What saved me was the best food I’ve eaten in Timor-Leste.
Oh my! Alva has a playful palate, inspired mind, and passion for local ingredients. Also an amazing photographer! These were local yam blinis with sheep’s milk feta mousse, and crispy amaranth on top. Think of it as a latke dancing between just barely sweet and perfectly salty slathered in an airy cloud and a touch of crisp that tasted reminiscent of crackling chestnuts on a pinewood campfire. It was LOCO. But then she killed it dead with these:
Tea smoked local mackerel sliders on breadfruit mini-buns with ginger pickled carrot and radish. If this isn’t genius, I don’t know what is. I’m hoping she’ll let me in on the recipe, and then maybe I can let you in on the recipe. These umami buns (sounds so pornographic) were like King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls but had a touch of yeastiness to them and they’re made with breadfruit! The tea smoked mackerel was reminiscent of a smoked trout but better, especially since it was slathered in a martini aioli that was cut through by the gingery tang of the pickles. I’m helplessly salivating as I write this.
I was grateful to be included in this session of the Alcomaniac/Almaniac series. Here’s to new friends in farflung places, especially those so generous and talented, who like to imbibe and feast as much as I do, and teach me a few things on the way.