Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gingered Up

I've always loved ginger-y food and drinks, and I think the world is catching on.  Ginger is refreshing and zesty - sometimes even spicy.  Ginger ale is an in-flight favorite, and gingersnap cookies (or, molasses crinkles, if you rather) have been putting smiles on the faces of grandmas and grandkids for ages.  I'm still developing a taste for the pickled slices that accompany sushi, but when I was in college, we occasionally concocted an elementary potion of gin and ginger ale.  We dubbed it "gin & gin" or "the double gin" or something like that.  Whatever we called it, it was delicious.  Like a lot of college-kid cocktails, the sweet ginger ale cloaked the booze flavor, increasing its drinkability.  Maybe we were before our time, because lately ginger is making a big statement in cocktails all over the place, it seems.

Take for example the Local's signature cocktail, "The Big Ginger".  I recently enjoyed this drink at happy hour and was very pleased - it had a just-right mix of warm whiskey flavor and ginger beer fizz.  I especially liked having wedges of both lime and lemon to squeeze into it.  They also offer a diet version dubbed "The Skinny Ginger". 

Then, I learned of the Pimm's Cup, thanks to Orangette.  After following Molly's blog and reading her book A Homemade Life, I have come to trust her recommendations.  When she said the Pimm's Cup was a gin-based drink, I was definitely intrigued.  When I went to the Craftsman and saw it on the menu, I took a chance.  It was delicious!  Sort of strange and different - darker than I thought it would be, and with floating bits of cucumber in the glass.  I really liked it.  I thought it seemed easy enough to make at home, and like a good summer cocktail.  Once I got a hold of a bottle of Pimms No. 1, though, I was a bit confused - the liquid was dark and smelled a bit like Jagermeister - not like gin at all.  And the label described it as a liqueur, which although surprising seemed fitting, considering its sweet-ish and syrupy quality.  But whatever it is or was expected to be, it was great mixed with quality ginger beer (also a new experience) and a bit of garden-fresh cucumber, over ice.       
The Longfellow Grill, one of my longtime favorite happy hour spots, recently featured a cocktail with a piece of candied ginger speared over the top of the glass.  I never did order the drink (it has since been removed from the menu), but my bartender friend once slipped me a piece to taste.  I loved it!  Perhaps candied ginger will pave the way to the next phase of ginger love.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Dark Side of the Craftsman

I was excited to go to the Craftsman.  Really, I was.  The boyfriend and I were celebrating our two-year anniversary and chose the Craftsman as our fancy restaurant of choice.  I'd never been to the Craftsman, and always wanted to go, considering all the great things I'd heard about their delicious, local fare.  
It was a beautiful night, so we gladly took a table out on the patio.  I heard their patio was great, but I still wasn't expecting the secluded deck with a pergola and vining greens everywhere.  

We started with drinks - a Pimm's Cup for me (more on that later) and a Surly Furious for him.  Then we ordered a cheese plate, which was delicious.  I had the pancetta-wrapped trout with cauliflower puree and broccoli, and he had the salmon special with a shock-purple beet vinaigrette and mixed summer veggies.  Both were fantastic (once I got over the fact my fish still had it's head and was staring at me).  

At one point during the dinner I heard a nearby table chat up the waitress.  I caught bits and pieces, including "so cute" and "Stuart Little".  I didn't recall who Stuart Little was at that moment, and thought perhaps they were complimenting the waitress on her chic wire-rimmed eyeglasses.  Not much later, I thought I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, and saw the boyfriend's eyes follow it, too.  When I asked him if he saw something, he said no.  

The evening grew dark and we left the Craftsman after filling our bellies with all the great food.  Then, I got the news.  The boyfriend told me there was a MOUSE in our company on the Craftsman's patio.  It apparently frolicked under the table behind us and was in fact the dark figure darting near ours.  And, the idiot diners nearby actually told the waitress they thought it was cute that a little, vile, disease-carrying mouse was sharing their dining space.  The waitress laughed awkwardly and said "Oh, I'm glad you think it's cute."  I was shocked/livid.  I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to mice.  I can handle snakes and bugs and other gross stuff, but not mice.  

I do understand that animals inhabit the outdoors, and that mice happen. Believe you me, I have lived in enough old houses and apartments to know that they are everywhere you don't want them to be.  And, I did consider the fact that a gas station with requisite dumpsters is very close to the Craftsman.  But a mouse in a restaurant?!  In a dining area?!   This is not Ratatouille, ladies and gentleman.  This is a good, quality, respected, expensive meal at a Minneapolis restaurant.  And I believe it goes without saying these days that mice can have a devastating effect on food and food production.  I don't think it's unreasonable to expect to dine out of doors at a restaurant with no more than humans and perhaps a couple of bugs.