Saturday, October 29, 2011
All right, I'll bite.
First up is Real Brew Root Beer.
Common in local groceries but as yet untried. We picked it up with some Ginger Ale in the same brand. Below its appealing label is a little block of text declaring it to be:
"A complex flavour of sweet birch, licorice root, sarsaparilla, anise and other natural flavours."
Other descriptions on the bottle include Traditional Quality, Supreme, Subtle, Creamy, et cetera. Unfortunately, I don't think this soda has quite earned its own hype. It's good, don't take me wrong, but its sheer sweetness overwhelms any notion of subtlety or nuance. It's like drinking candy (my mother described it as "bubblegum" repeatedly), and I wouldn't imbibe it in great quantities.
Next is Henry Weinhard's Root Beer, which, interestingly, seems to be trying very hard to look like regular beer.
It's a good look, though. I approve of Mr. Weinhard's bemoustached visage glaring out at you as your drink. It adds ambience. And on the obligitory boasting front we have: "Draught style head", "Gourmet" "Hand finished with only the highest quality ingredients, including sassafras, honey and vanilla" aaaand I can't say I'm entirely derisive. This soda may not be as strong as the Real Brew, but there's more to taste. A slight tingle on the tongue, a strong undertone and aftertaste of honey, a thick, herbal construction... I heartily recommend it. Unfortunately, it seems a little harder to find. (My mother and sister picked up a couple of bottles from a place called The Carrot, which, in the slurry of artsy and fartsy "grassroot" cafés may in fact be the artsiest and most fartsy). If your come across it, pick up a bottle!
Friday, October 21, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
I'd been meaning to exhibit this recipe of mine for while. It's simple but versatile and I like to think it hearkens back to chocolate's ubiquity as a savoury ingredient taken with meats and spices. Fiddle with it and come up with your own variations!
Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce pieces).
Coarsely ground black pepper.
Homogenised milk. (Get your giggling out of the way.)
Whipped cream. (For topping.)
I chopped up the chocolate (about three chunks) and melted it, then slowly and carefully stirred in some milk. How you do this part is really up to you. I handle the melting of chocolate so poorly that it would make the sturdiest of chocolatiers weep.
Once the milk mixture is smooth, I add in the spices (about a teaspoon of Cayenne and just a dash of black pepper) and then add brown sugar to taste, whisking frequently.
Warm it up, pour it, cap it with whipped cream (and a dash of brown sugar for photographic purposes) and you're done!
Now for the interesting part.
I handed the beverage first to my sister, who sniffed it, declared it delicious, and tasted it.
She choked. Then coughed. Then said, with a look of baleful unhappiness: "It's spicy."
It's not! I declared. I used hardly any pepper at all!
As if to prove my point, I passed it on to my mother who... well, let me allow her notes to speak for themselves.
oh, dear. Hit hard by the cayenne. burns. barely taste the chocolate. Cannot drink it.
Ah, well. More for me.
In conclusion, let me say that this drink will be no challenge at all for a lover of spice. If you're not, though.... Consider replacing the cayenne with something more to your taste.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Hey, do you remember the first time you picked up a bottle of Jones Soda? I do. I was in my early adolescent years and, being from the boonies, I wasn't familiar with a huge variety of sodas in general. I remember thinking that the photos on the labels were a really cute idea, and I was taken by the laid-back-dude element in the product descriptions.
Since then, I have become far more cynical. The point is that it was my introduction to beverages that like to talk to you, the viewer. They want to win you over with a friendly, chatty image, like the vitamin water that goes off on a tangent about work-outs and sick-days and breakfast with orange juice. MASH seems at first to be running with the same gimmick but oh, oh no. This drink is feisty.
"MASH was conceived with everyone in mind, taking all that's good from a number of well-liked beverages."
It says, and I raise an eyebrow. A number of well-liked beverages, huh?
"It's not 100% juice, it's not soda-pop. nor will you get vitamins or energy from it (we still believe in getting a good night's sleep and eating your vegetables)."
Really. You can almost hear the "Unlike those OTHER guys" muttered sidelong.
"But you will love its natural fruit essence and its very light sweetness (and low calories!). So whatever you do or study, MASH is for you... when you're looking for something to drink other than water (water water, that is)."
I'll love no matter what I study? Sweet! I'm always looking for a drink that isn't at odds with my perusal of Chaucer.
But seriously, MASH, there's a point where you can just get too colloquial... "Water water"? Really? It makes me imagine a room full of marketing experts trying to figure out how they can snark their competitors whilst retaining that Casual, Down To Earth tone that the kids are into these days.
But you're probably tired of my nitpicking.... How is the drink itself?
Boring. Sorry. It's sugary and carbonated to a degree that had all three of us comparing it to lemon candy. Maybe focus more on the blood-orange than the prose next time, MASH?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
George's Good Drink Hibiscus & Vanilla Mango Tea is part of that fascinating branch of beverage culture. You know, the one that splashes 'ALL NATURAL' around its label as though it were an Olympic medal, uses nice understated colours and a self-consciously vintage, quirky design... their little cartoon man (an arrow helpfully naming him as the titular 'George') assuring you that this is, indeed, a good drink. It knows it's audience is what I'm saying.
Is it a Good Drink, though?
Yup.It has a light, fruity scent and a crisp flavour. The mango is evident, the floral and vanilla flavours slightly less so, and it has an unusually clean finish that led me to conclude part way through tasting that this is what flavoured waters are trying to be. As someone who waters down her fruit-juices on a regular basis, I have some issues with most flavoured waters. They're going for 'light and clean' and somehow fall flat in the territory of 'indistinguishable and sugary'. This, however, pulls it off. It's nice and refreshing with hardly an aftertaste of which to speak. Give a try if you're looking for a thirst quencher.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I vaguely remembered having something of Sanpellegrino brand before and being... none too impressed. It's a very popular drink in the cafés and groceries around my city, but I've been avoiding it.
Until now, dear readers. Oh, the things I sacrifice in the name of journalism...
I kid. Either my memory is faulty or there's a horrible flavour into which I'll run someday and tell you all about and this isn't it. All talk of "Citrus" and "Herbal" aside, this drink tastes rather like bubblegum. It has a pleasant dark red-brown colour and a hint of dessert spices, definitely a unique beverage. Not to mention that the label and can design is just lovely. It's a tad sweet for me, but I'd recommend giving it try.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Ah, another non-alcoholic malt beverage! This time in an adorable wee bottle! How does it compare to our last brush with the type? ...Not extremely well. A lot of the elements of the Tiger Malt are there, making this a shorter review, but in place of the Tiger's thick, creamy molasses taste we have a sharp, hollow, carbonated sweetness. Losing the richness but maintaining the ever-so-slightly burnt aftertaste. Not a good trade, if you ask me. Skip it unless you're collecting bottle caps!
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Cost: About five dollars.
This is something I'd been meaning to try for a while. I'd never had a Japanese beer, and the label is just beautiful. When I finally got around to it, I was presented with this light, golden brew in a bottle of unusually thin glass. Upon tasting it...
all right, I admit that I'm not very keen on light beers in general. I gravitate toward dark, smooth and flavourful. So my first impression was of acidic tastelessness that hit the back of my tongue with a certain hostility and lingered there with obstinacy. It got better once I was a few bites into my meal (Chirashi, delicious.) and I detected the tiniest notes of other, mellow flavours hanging around, but I found them to be drowned out by that overbearing non-flavour that seems ubiquitous in light beers. And Guinness.
And "One of the world's most unique premium beers" as it says on the label? No, sorry. Also, there are no degrees of uniqueness. But I digress.
I'd recommend it if you like the general type, but drink it with food and drink it cold.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Lazia doesn't carry many of my usual selections, so I did what I always do in such situations.
Pepper the staff with annoying questions.
What's a Strawberry Früli?
"Well, it's a white beer that's flavoured with strawberries."
Fascinating! Now what's a Kronenbourg 1664?
Well it looks like the Kronenbourg will wait for another day. My Früli came with a cheerful label and a big glass tankard into which I dutifully poured it, revealing in the process a beautiful pink colour that is, sadly, not done any justice in the photograph.
The scent is sweet and has a definite note of berry. The taste is... oddly divisive.
I, enjoying beer as a whole, found it a bit baffling. My mother, not being particularly fond of beer, quite liked it.
The undisputed point: the Früli does not taste like beer at all.
Not to say it tastes bad, oh no. It's smooth and flavourful (with 30% pure strawberry juice. I think that's more than most actual packaged fruit-juice.) and makes me think of a rather pleasant cocktail. I would recommend it highly.
Just, you know, not if you're looking to drink beer.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Non-alcoholic malt beverage
We've had a method to our little tasting parties thus far. I take photos of the drink and it's then passed around. I taste first, my sister second, and my mother third, taking notes all the while. The problem we encountered with this is that after I delivered my conclusions, my sister would shrug and agree with me, adding little of her own input. What can I say? She's a very mellow lady. So this time she went first, to voice her opinions uninfluenced.
She sniffed it. Paused. Her brow knitted as she searched for the right words.
"Tomato soup." Pause. "Or ketchup."
She sniffed again.
"With a bit of cheese. And maple syrup."
We stared at her, mouths agape.
"What?" I asked.
She stood by her conclusion. The only thing the scent reminded me of was a rather egregious batch of "Haytime Switchel" we once made. I'll tell you about it some time.All absurdity aside, this drink smells and tastes heavily of molasses with notes of caramel. It's a bit sweeter than expected and has a sort of burnt aftertaste which is odd, but not entirely unpleasant. It looks lovely, dark and smooth and foamy, with an attractive design. I'd actually recommend it as a beer-substitute for the teetotaller. It's creamy and heavy and might not be to everyone's taste, so I'd give it a try just to see.
Monday, September 19, 2011
"Did you make a drink?"
I pause, wary, hand hovering over my cup. Whhhyyy?
"Should I be writing about it?"
Um, sure. I guess. It's nothing amazing.
"Let me get a document going. You want to take pictures?"
And lo, we get to the real reason I started this blog. A love of beverages that, more often than not, has me rifling through the cupboards and throwing miscellaneous items into a saucepan. In this case, my motivation was little more than a desire for caffeine. A desire as yet unfulfilled since I have been waylaid into writing. I have a love-hate relationship with coffee that, for reasons I won't get into, has left me with my only resource of the moment being, yes...
That bane of all that bears only the most coincidental resemblance to anything that could be described as coffee, sitting on the shelf in waiting for various desserts. Ruefully, I grab the bottle and proceed to contemplate what could make it more palatable.
Into the unwholesome brew (using about two cups of lactose free milk as a base) goes a few spoons full of cocoa (Dutch processed), a healthy dash of cayenne pepper, an egg yolk, a sprinkling of smoked salt, something like a tablespoon-and-a-bit of sugar, a pinch of ground ginger, a splash of vanilla, and a bit of cinnamon to top it off. All capped with a fluffy lid of whipped cream that has dwindled to a pathetic foam during the course of this post.
The resulting drink is heavy and a bit bitter with a pleasant bite of spice that was... a bit too much for my poor sister. Most importantly, the taste of instant coffee is almost entirely disguised. Mission accomplished. Excuse me while I replace my ignominiously slain whipped cream.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Madame Benoit Cooks at Home remained my favourite. Unfortunately, after many moves, my hardcover copy disappeared. So I was thrilled to find the paperback copy at a recent library book sale. If you get the opportunity, I recommend picking up a copy.
The following recipe is from this book. She writes:
Summer Garden Bowl
So called because it was made as needed, with basil or marjoram or mint freshly cut in the garden, and it was served in a punch bowl set on a tray in a bed of herbs or wild flowers.
We decided to go with basil and picked up some fresh organic basil at the grocery store, my not having been able to do any herbs on our balcony this year. Unfortunately, the next day, they had gone black and slimy. So back to the grocery store we went. The other basil didn't look to good, so we went with mint.
Here is the original recipe.
8-10 sprigs of basil, marjoram or mint
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
1 bottle dry white wine
2 bottles rose wine of your choice
1 large bottle of soda water
3 limes or 2 lemons, thinly sliced
We decided to do a half recipe.
The first step is to put the herbs and sugar in a punch bowl (we don't have one, so we used a salad bowl) and mash them together with your hands to release the oils.
Then a cup (or for our half recipes, 1/2 cup) of white wine is added and it's set aside for 1 hour.
After sitting for 1 hour, the rest of the wine is added. We had tasted the white wine on its own (it's all right) and, with the half cup already out, there was little more than half a bottle left, so we used the whole thing.
This made up for the amount of rose we used up to give it a taste (better than the white).
At this point, it was getting late, so we were going to let it sit in the fridge overnight. When we found ourselves staying up late anyhow, we did end up trying it after 4 hours.
At which point, the soda water is added, the herbs removed (we used a small sieve to scoop them out) and the limes added.
To serve, ice the glasses (not the bowl) and fill with punch.
And there we are!
It is definitely a pretty little drink. We could both smell the mint strongest, but I could also smell the lime a bit. The smell of wine was pretty faint, competing with the soda water smell.
For flavour, it went over well with my daughter. She found it refreshing, not overly sweet, and it went down easy (as she shakes her glass with nothing but ice left to demonstrate). None of the flavours overpowered the others, which she liked.
Me, I'm not so sure. I don't like soda water, so that didn't help much. Still, it didn't overpower the other flavours. The mint and lime went well with the wines, and the two types of wine mixed together worked out just fine.
We both liked it, but not necessarily enough to make it again. It's nice, but not really a drink that seems to warrant the length of time needed to make it. It's just not interesting enough. We'd order it in a restaurant, though.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Before Peardrax (and what a fabulous name) I had never tried any kind of pear drink, and this was definitely not what I was expecting. It's smooth and refreshing with a slightly malty scent and taste. I likened it to a non-alcoholic dessert wine, a sentiment echoed by my sister but not my mother, who only tasted strong pear. The carbonation is so light as to be undetectable. The design (especially the bottle cap) is jaunty and attractive, easy to pick out on the shelf, so make sure you try it when you see it.
Friday, September 9, 2011
I was particularly eager to try this one. Coffee soda? Despite the oddity of this concept I was cautiously optimistic and, for a change, it paid off. This is a natty little drink, distinctly coffee from scent to aftertaste but, I hasten to add, not necessarily good coffee... enthusiasts of the bean (such as myself) won't get much purist satisfaction from it. The whole experience is more like coffee-flavoured candy or syrup. Even the faint carbonation is strange to the taste buds in light of its flavour, but you'll probably get used to it fast. It's an interesting soda and the adorable little bottle is just bonus, so give it a go if you come across it!
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
"It's frog-spawn" whispered my mother in horror as I tilted the bottled to and fro before her. "Frog-spawn. You can even see the tadpoles. I'm not drinking that."
But my mother is nothing if not brave in the face of adversity.
As you could likely tell, the oddity of this drink revolves around its appearance. Little black seeds floating lazily in a slightly viscous green liquid.
The smell is unmistakably plant-like. What plant was up for debate. I labelled it sappy and vine-ish, my mother and sister were convinced of varying degrees of cucumber.
It tastes quite a bit sweeter than it smells, and by then I could definitely attest to the cucumber similarity. Did I like it? No, but it's inoffensive and the texture doesn't distract from the taste.
According to me, anyway. The rest of my little tasting party promptly fell to the least analytical of techniques, that is making weird faces and choking noises. "I think I'm going to hurl" my dear mother muttered as I defiantly drained the glass.
I... probably shouldn't have done that last part. My stomach hasn't taken well to it.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Congratulations, Sweet Tamarind Juice Drink, you have earned the dubious honour of being the first (undoubtedly not the last) beverage to truly stump us. We passed the faintly amber-coloured drink around, sniffing it warily and entering timid conclusions of... Sweet? Pulpy?
The mystery was no less after we tasted it. It's definitely sweet, a little bit tangy, slightly reminiscent of citrus, and has a severely strange after-taste. None among us could finish it. Unless you already like Tamarind, I'd pass over this squat little tin can in the shelf.