guest blog: the ole Wisconsin favorite

The Taster here again.

If it hasn’t been evident in my past posts, you should know that I’m VERY proud of my Wisconsin roots and heritage.  I won’t get into sports rivalries and border battles because there is a time and place for that.  It’s Friday and Happy Hour is right around the corner so what I wanted to write about today (on the advice of my sister) was something that holds a place in my – nay, most every Wisconsinite’s – heart…the Brandy Old Fashioned.

There are countless rumors and stories of how much brandy Wisconsinite’s consume compared to other states and regions, so I’m not going to get into it too much.  Let me just point out a couple of quick stats to give you an idea why I titled this post as I did.  Korbel has said that it ships out 385,000 cases of brandy per year and that 139,000 go straight to Wisconsin – I did the math, that’s 36%.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council, Wisconsin drank 49% of the brandy sold in the US in 1965.  Now, that being said…I’ve lived ‘outside of my wheelhouse’ for a couple of years in Minnesota, all the while taking abuse from so-called friends and outsiders alike as they hurl drunk/drinking jokes and insults my way because I’m from Wisconsin and Wisconsinites are known across the country – and perhaps the world – for cheese, Packers, and drinking (it doesn’t help that I’m a red-head of Irish descent).  FYI: there IS more to Wisco than that.  Keep in mind Minnesotan friends that some stats out there say that Minnesota outdrinks Wisconsin per capita – you messy drunks…first, you steal our quarterback, then – I said I wasn’t going to go there…  In the booze industry they refer to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Northern Michigan as the Brandy Belt so the Wisco nation isn’t alone.

But…on to the main point here – how to make a WISCONSIN OLD FASHIONED.  There’s a difference.  It isn’t easy to find a good old fashioned (as I know it) outside of Wisconsin when you go for a good cocktail.  This was classically demonstrated when my parents came to visit one weekend and we were out for dinner.  Jimmy, my dad, asked our waitress if the bartender knew how to make an old fashioned…our waitress took my father’s order while telling him, “oh yes, the boys behind the bar are from Wisconsin – I’m sure they know what they’re doing.”  They didn’t.  Apparently, they’ve spent too much time in The Cities and it has warped their cocktail skills (tongue-in-cheek people).  Needless to say, Jimmy turned his nose up at the drink and then went on his normal diatribe of how no one knows how to make a good drink anymore…”TOO MUCH BOOZE!”  “…THIS ISN’T AN OLD FASHIONED!”

The Old Fashioned cocktail can be made with whiskey, and I’ve even seen it attempted with gin and tequila as well –  I wouldn’t suggest it, but Sconnies like to make it with brandy.  Our brandy of choice?  KORBEL.  You will also see this quintessential Wisconsin drink made with club soda or water, but in Wisconsin it is mixed with 7up, Squirt, or a sour mix.

Needed ingredients:

  • Orange slices
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Aromatic bitters
  • Sugar
  • 7up/Sprite – or Squirt for a more sour taste…this has been my go-to lately
  • Brandy (Korbel, of course)

First, you start with a tub or lowball glass – usually 10-12 fl. ounces.  Drop an orange slice, cherry, and 3-5 squirts of bitters into the glass.  Blogger’s note: I like to put a little cherry juice/grenadine and just a splash of soda in as well.

Next, you muddle all ingredients in the glass.  This is when you should begin to see some froth develop.

Once thoroughly muddled, fill the glass with ice, then a couple of ounces of Korbel brandy.

Finally, top it off with your soda preference, stir, and garnish with another cherry and orange.

For more visual stimuli, check out the video of a bartender at one of my favorite restaurants, The Old Fashioned, make one.  The Old Fashioned is a bar/restaurant in Madison, WI that serves classic Wisconsin fare, and…yes, they specialize in old fashioneds.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Db62yvupWI]

tyler’s couscous salad

Last week I was ellipticaling away (is that a word?) to Tyler Florence making whole fish stuffed with this amazing couscous mixture. Which for the record makes any ellipticaling easier if you know what I mean ;)

(source)

But while dreaming of Tyler in his kitchen may seem like the perfect way to spend an afternoon to some, I couldn’t stop thinking about the couscous salad. Since I’m not about to go get some whole fish to stuff – believe it or not, but I do try to shop on a budget sometimes – I thought it would be a perfect with some shrimp or scallops. The flavors and textures of this salad were great: the crunchy beans and fennel, sweet and tart grapefruit. It was perfectly light and refreshing along side the scallops.

Couscous Salad adapted from Tyler Florence

  • Whole-Wheat Couscous – 3/4 cup dry
  • 1 grapefruit, segmented
  • 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb green beans, blanched
  • 2 green olives, sliced (taster doesn’t like olives so it was just for me)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • seared scallops

Prepare couscous as directed. Set aside. Blanch green beans in boiling water for 2 minute and remove and place in ice bath.  Toss all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Serve under scallops or alone.


a healthy dose of fats

I ♥ fat. I really do. I’m not a fan of the hydrogenated trans-fat kind but healthy fats? Yes please. The occasional bacon fat? Definitely yes. Fat can add so much to a meal – in terms of satiety, texture (crispy, smooth, etc), and because, well, it just tastes good.

Our body also needs fats (in moderation). Why do we need fats?

  • required for some vitamins to be absorbed (Vit D, E, K & A)
  • help to maintain cell membranes
  • needed for growth and development – throughout life
  • source of energy
  • omega-3 fatty acids can help control inflammation – which helps in disease prevention and over-all health

Ready to eat some good fats?

Crispy Salmon with Avocado & Grapefruit Salad adapted from Bon Appétit. Serves two.

  • 1 Tbsp grapefruit juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1 head bibb lettuce
  • 1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, segmented
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced

Mix together citrus juices, greek yogurt, garlic and salt & pepper. Set aside. Heat oil in pan until hot. Season salmon with salt & pepper. Sear salmon, skin side down for about 6 minutes, flip over and heat until cooked through, about 4 more minutes. Assemble lettuce, cucumber, grapefruit and avocado. Drizzle with dressing.


pineapple infused vodka

You may recall my wonderful meal at Restaurant Nola in New Orleans. One of the many highlights was their Cosmo – made with their own Pineapple infused vodka. Since that fateful night in September, I have been wanting to make my own infused vodka. I decided it would be a perfect gift for family and friends this year – I wasn’t able to find any cool bottles so had to stick with the classic, but it’s what inside that counts, right?

The recipe is simple, quick and I promise that whoever is on the receiving end of this gift will be in cocktail heaven!

Put pineapple chunks (or strawberry, grapefruit, jalapeño, etc) into a jar and fill with vodka of choice. Refrigerate for at least 5 days and then drink on the rocks, in a cocktail or neat.

Happy New Year!