Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year’s Eve - Champagne Cocktails

New Year’s Eve celebrations are only a few hours away, and if you’re scrambling for last minute cocktail ideas, let Little Scarlet help you out!

Champagne is the go-to beverage for toasting the New Year, although Italy’s Prosecco and Spain’s Cava are suitable (and less expensive) alternatives. If a plain glass of Champagne doesn’t sound quite exciting enough for you, here are Little Scarlet’s five favorite ways to spice up your New Year’s toast.

  1. Sugar-Cube Champagne
    Adding sugar cubes to Champagne is a classic addition, but Martha Stewart’s fruit-infused sugar cubes complement Champagne’s sweet tanginess and add a jewel-like splash of color.

    To make these, soak the sugar cubes in a bowl of fruit concentrate or puree until completely saturated (cranberry, pomegranate, and apricot are good fruits to begin with, although you can experiment with anything). Remove these cubes with a fork, and place on a wire rack to dry overnight – make sure they don’t touch each other! Add to the champagne right before serving and enjoy.

  2. Ginger Champagne Cocktail
    Antioxidants have become incredibly popular over the last year, and foods rich in these molecules are popping up in foods and drinks everywhere. Ginger is one of my favorite of these foods, and this refreshing cocktail includes both fresh and crystallized ginger.

    Make a simple syrup by boiling ½ cup chopped fresh ginger, 2/3 cup sugar, and ½ cup water until sugar is dissolved. Once the liquid cools, strain the syrup and discard the ginger. Garnish the rims of 8 Champagne flutes with a mixture of ¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder and 2 tbsp sugar. Add about 1 tbsp syrup and fill with Champagne. For extra elegance, add 1 tsp crystallized ginger and 1 whole star anise to each glass before adding syrup and Champagne.
  3. “Get Loose” Juice
    The juniper berries in gin are reminiscent of evergreens, giving this Champagne punch a distinctive wintry flavor - perfect for New Year’s Eve. In a large bowl, mix together 1 750-ml bottle chilled gin, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, and juice from 12 lemons. Add large hunks of ice and 4 bottles Champagne just before serving.
  4. Cinnamon Cocktail
    This Champagne cocktail is incredibly simple and the cinnamon gives it a subtle warmth that’s perfect for a chilly December evening. Bring 2 cups water to boil with 4 cinnamon sticks; after 10 minutes, remove cinnamon sticks and add 1 ½ cups sugar, boiling until sugar is dissolved. Depending on personal taste, add ½ - 1 tbsp syrup and top with Champagne.
  5. Alternative garnishes
    Strawberries may pair well with Champagne, but Little Scarlet has some more exciting ideas! For a French elegance straight from Provence, add a sprig of lavender to Champagne enhanced with lavender simple syrup (½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, 1 tbsp dried lavender; strain lavender and cool; add about 1 tsp syrup to Champagne). Or to stand out from other cocktails’ lemons and limes, try adding 1 tbsp mandarin liqueur to Champagne and garnish with a twist of Clementine peel.

Of course, Champagne is a lovely indulgence all by itself and needs no further embellishment than good company. Happy New Year, and see you all in 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Poll of the Week - 12.28.2009

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2010 is just a few days away, and with the new year comes a host of new resolutions. For many of us, these resolutions are the same every year - we all pledge to eat better and exercise more. Some of us will experiment with vegetarianism, others will swear off candy forever - eventually we all renege on our lofty ambitions. Little Scarlet doesn’t really set New Year’s Resolutions per se, it’s more of a To-Do List full of foods to try, restaurants to visit, and trends to experiment with. For 2010, Little Scarlet just wants to dine better, more often, and remember to write about it!

Since so many New Year’s Resolutions involve eliminating various foods, 2009’s final “Poll of the Week” wants to know, what do you want to eat more of in 2010?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Antigua - St. John’s, Long Bay, and Shirley Heights

And we’re back!

Our five days in Antigua were wonderful - sailing, snorkeling, playing about, and just enjoying time with nothing to do. We didn’t stay through the Christmas holiday, but it was so interesting to be in the Caribbean at Christmastime - no snow, temperatures in the 80s, palm trees covered in Christmas lights, and The Jackson Five singing Christmas songs on every stereo.

One of the best parts of the trip was that Antigua allowed Little Scarlet to do some serious eating and drinking! Rum is everywhere in the Caribbean, and Antigua itself has more than one rum distillery. English Harbour’s rum is distilled in copper stills and aged in charred oak barrels, which gives it an incredibly smooth flavor. If you enjoy dark rum and happen across a bottle of English Harbour’s 5 year rum (one of Forbes Magazine’s ten most remarkable rums), buy it!

It was a bit of a struggle to find authentic Antiguan food where we were, but through visits to St. John’s and Shirley Heights, we were able to try local favorites like jerk chicken and jerk pork, and stewed pork and spinach rice. The island has a large wild goat population, so goat meat turns up a lot in lentil stews and a popular dish called “goat water”. Goat water is a spicy, thick soup similar to curry, made with goat meat, hot peppers, a combination of spices like cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, and coriander, and potatoes and carrots. Goat water broth is dense with rich goat fat, offering a very full and interesting mouthfeel, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. If anyone has a recipe, Little Scarlet would love to try to make it!

It was hard to leave, but a lot of fun to come back to an American “white Christmas”. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Antigua is a very religious island, with church on Sunday mornings - and rum drinking and steel drum bands on Sunday nights! The barbecue chicken (above, top) from the Sunday parties at Shirley Heights is dunked in a spicy sauce, while the pork (above, bottom) is rubbed with plenty of jerk seasoning. Both are wonderfully tender, and go perfectly with a cold Red Stripe!

Indian food seems to be very popular in St. John’s, such as here at O’Grady’s Irish Pub - where they serve Guinness and goat roti!

Spinach rice can be found almost anywhere in Antigua, often alongside two local favorites: “macaroni pie” and stewed pork or goat. We made friends with a local in St. John’s (Antigua’s capital) who walked us over to this tiny road-side shack - delicious!

 Of course, nothing is more popular in the Caribbean than drinking alcohol. This was a typical afternoon for us: Red Stripe, Planter’s Punch (yes, that is dark rum floating on top of orange and pineapple juice, and light rum!), and a piña colada.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poll of the Week - 12.14.2009

With Christmas only a few days away, this is a popular week for Christmas parties. This means you can expect lots of singing, some festive holiday drinks, and (of course!) tons of Christmas cookies! In a previous “Poll of the Week”, Little Scarlet asked about your favorite Yuletide drink - the results were close, but hot cocoa beat out both hot cider and mulled wine, so make sure you have plenty of it at your own holiday gathering.

In this week’s “Poll of the Week”, Little Scarlet wants to know about your favorite Christmas cookie. Do you like ones with jam? Traditional cookies from the motherland? Be sure to tell Little Scarlet all about it!

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?

In case you are unfamiliar with any of these varieties, please visit the following links for more information:
Gingerbread Men
Santa’s Thumbprint
Sugar Cookies

Monday, December 7, 2009

Poll of the Week - 12.07.2009

Hello everyone! I’m so sorry to all of Little Scarlet’s reader’s who dutifully checked for a new “Poll of the Week” on Monday - and weren’t able to vote, because one hadn't been posted yet! It was a very busy weekend, but no excuses - this was a one-time scheduling mishap, and I’m so glad you’ve all come back to check again today.

In fact, because you’ve come to visit, I’ll share a bit of news with you - Little Scarlet is going on vacation! My favorite eating companion and I are going on an unexpected trip - but where are we going?

Today’s “Poll of the Week” holds a clue to help solve the mystery. Based on the following poll, can you guess what location will serve as Little Scarlet’s first official foray outside of New York? Leave your guesses in the Comments section, and click “Read More” to see if you’re right!

Which of the following is your favorite exotic fruit?

Wish us bon voyage and share your guesses below!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Amsterdam Market

New Amsterdam Market
South Street, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip (adjacent to the South Street Seaport)

Farmers’ markets have long been a favored hunting ground for home cooks, but with the organic and local food movements’ recent surges in popularity, farmers’ markets are becoming the latest trend. I’m generally not a fan of “foodie fads”, but I can only be grateful for a trend that celebrates regional, seasonal produce, and promotes local farmers and their businesses. Not to mention it’s the perfect way to spend a beautiful day outdoors!

The New Amsterdam Market is a relative newcomer to New York’s heavy lineup of farmers’ markets, which includes the infamous Union Square Greenmarket. It used to appear once a year, but in honor of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial (the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson & Samuel de Champlain’s explorations, and the 200th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s historic steamship journey up the Hudson River), there are four markets scheduled this year, one each month beginning with September 2009. Little Scarlet has it on good authority that if the markets are popular and profitable enough, they may continue on a monthly basis into 2010 - so if you haven’t been yet, you must visit December’s market!

Designed in the spirit of London’s Borough Market and the old markets of Paris’s Les Halles (often called “the stomach of Paris”), the New Amsterdam Market revives the old-world European charm of open-air markets in the former location of another well-loved market - the Fulton Fish Market.

Cheesemongers, fishmongers, and gossipmongers all flock to the New Amsterdam Market. There are butchers, bakers ... no candlestick makers, but there are dozens of farmers hawking their seasonal produce, pickled vegetables, and handmade honeys, while vintners sell their wines and hard ciders, offering pairing suggestions for upcoming holiday meals.

Some vendors (Luke’s Lobster & Porchetta, for example) sell sandwiches or soups, but almost everything shown at the New Amsterdam Market can be sampled free of charge. These vendors believe in their products and want to share their smoked, pickled okra and apple cider-washed rind cheeses with the world! Of course, if you want the market to continue into 2010, it helps to buy something, so get out there and support your local farmers!

Look through the pictures below for a small portion of some of the fantastic goods to be expected at the next market, on December 20.

Oysters from W&T Seafood and Stella

Wine and ciders from New York State. Slyboro’s Hidden Star cider and Bellwether’s Liberty Spy ciders were fantastic! Bellwether also makes a Black Magic cider with a touch of black currant - it adds a “mystical” taste and turns the cider a brilliant purple jewel tone.

Porchetta sandwiches from (where else?!) Porchetta

Smoked, pickled okra from Rick’s Picks. Handy corn, too!

Kale from McEnroe Organic Farm & beautiful flower arrangements from Zone 7.

Fresh, raw pasta from The Ravioli Store

Breads from Pain D’Avignon (featured above), Sullivan Street Bakery, Balthazar, Hot Bread Kitchen, Nordic Breads, and many more!