The Caucasian

I feel like I didn’t do the White Russian from The Big Lebowski justice with my earlier post. So here, for your vicarious pleasure, are all the times The Dude, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, is making or drinking a White Russian. He occasionally calls them Caucasians, hence the post title.

In all, The Dude drinks nine White Russians, four of which he makes himself. He uses light cream (half-and-half) when at home and non-dairy creamer at Maude’s. There may be a meaning behind this, as the film is loaded with cryptic metaphors and hidden jokes. Never does he use a cocktail shaker.

  1. With half-and-half

2. At Maude’s #1, with what appears to be creamer

3. In a limousine

Screenshot (80)

4. At the bowling alley

5. At Maude’s #2, with what is definitely non-dairy creamer.

6. With Jackie Treehorn

7. After coitus

The White Russian

Fact: This drink is 80% of The Dude's diet
Fact: This drink is 80% of The Dude’s diet

The Big Lebowski (1998)

This is one of my favourite cocktails, and, as far as I can remember, the first one I ever had since I had just turned 18 when The Dude changed the world. The Big Lebowski was recommended to me by a primary school friend (elementary school for the NAs) who ended up running a bar near Town Hall in Sydney.

This drink is usually made in the glass so there is no need for a cocktail shaker. The puritans will insist on using cream instead of milk, with the concoction shaken and then strained into a glass, but I’ll do as The Dude. Besides, what’s more chill than the sound of ice cubes against the glass as you drink?

Recipe

Ice

60 mL vodka

30 mL Kahlua or any coffee liquor (no one else need know)

Milk (or soy milk)

Method

Fill an Old Fashioned glass to about half way with ice. Add the vodka (The Dude uses more than 60 mL) and Kahlua. Top up with milk. Stir. Channel The Dude.

This shouldn't be "on the rocks".  Yeah? Well, you know, that's just like your opinion, man.
This shouldn’t be “on the rocks”.
Yeah? Well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

As a nightcap, I usually don’t add the vodka. Nightcap, not cocktail; cocktails must have at least three ingredients.

Old Fashioned Story 1

At my favourite table right by the door, enjoying the last sunlight of the day.

lbbq of

There’s a Korean-American family of four at the table in front of me. The eldest boy is lost in a Roald Dahl book. The youngest insists he isn’t a baby when his mother tries to feed him a brisket slider. It is not so uncommon even for adults to feed each other, less so after a few drinks. One is essentially creating a morsel of love for the other. This son is the one whose eyes widen when he sees whiskey on the menu; his father asked him to choose a drink. He eventually settled on blue lemonade.

The husband jokingly says “one shot” when the beers arrive. The wife rolls her eyes; not for the the first or last time. The father explains to his eldest how to eat a pulled pork sandwich; he continues reading his book. Food for thought beats a thought for food, this time.

The Old Fashioned

Would you say no?

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Inspired by a friend, I thought I’d look at cocktails in movies. Specifically, cocktails I like in movies. This first one is the Old Fashioned. So named because it’s the oldest cocktail out there. Here is Ryan Gosling making one in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

My local speeds up the process of dissolving the sugar in the bourbon by using a milk frother. Without the frother, it takes forever for all the sugar granules to disappear. If not dissolved properly you’ll end up with a grainy sludge at the bottom of your glass; no thanks. I usually use simple syrup instead: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water; heat until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes; store in fridge forever; as that takes care of the sugar and water components of the cocktail.

Ryan doesn’t add a cherry to his Old Fashioned, though that is a pretty standard garnish. Some bars decide they want to crush the fresh cherry, then put sugar on it, then light it up as if it were crème brûlée, then add the rest of the cocktail. It’s gimmicky, and it takes forever for the drink to be made. I can see the appeal if you’re sitting at the bar and you have the barkeep’s undivided attention: drink and a show, and a little bit of banter. Photos below of my “signature Old Fashioned” being made taken by a girl enjoying the show.

Ryan also skips the dash (or more) of water as watering down the alcohol probably wouldn’t help his end goal. Turns out it isn’t Emma’s favourite drink but she drinks both anyway. He finishes the cocktail by squeezing orange peel over the top of the glass for that distinctive orange smell. One of the bartender’s at my local puts a flame to the citric acid as he squeezes it over the glass.

The worst Old Fashioned I’ve had was in Seoul in a usually reputable bar: great Moscow mules; though how hard is that; and the HBC intelligentsia/celebrity bloggers love this place. Holding to the adage ‘to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail’, they drown their cocktails in orange oil. You know you’ve messed your cocktail up when one ingredient overpowers the others.

Recipe

1 splash simple syrup

couple of dashes bitters

60 mL bourbon/rye

orange peel, for garnish (add a slice of orange and cherries if you like fruit salad)

ice

Method

In an Old Fashioned glass (sometimes called whisky glasses, these have thick bottoms) add your simple syrup and a few dashes of bitters. Give it a stir, then add your bourbon. Taste and add more syrup or water as required. Add ice. Squeeze some of the orange peel over the glass before serving.

Breath in, enjoy.

My Old Fashioned: not a fruit salad
My Old Fashioned: not a fruit salad

The Capellini Arrabiata Recipe

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe. It’s been even longer since I’ve had pasta; last week of May; reasons. I like cooking pasta because it reminds me of my Italian teacher in high school; HBHS for life! That man taught us all kinds of secrets for making pasta sauces. Of course, I learnt some watching my mother cook, too.

And so, my dear three readers (Hi mum!), I present to you my capellini arrabiata recipe.

20150813_145351
mise en place

Ingredients

  • 300g capellini (angel hair pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (mine is from Greece)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced (this is for aesthetics)
  • 3 peperoncino, chopped
  • 100g prosciutto, chopped (optional, but I like some meat in my pasta)
  • 411g can tomatoes (canned is usually best in Korea as local tomatoes are expensive and these are picked at peak ripeness)
  • 170g can tomato paste (deeper red for the sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme/oregano/spaghetti herbs
  • a splash of vodka (trust me)
  • 1/2 cup water (change this for wine for a different flavour)
  • salt/pepper to taste

Method

Put a pot of salted water on your stove and bring it to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions. Generally, pasta shouldn’t cook for more than 11 minutes. Being so fine, capellini is usually done in 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Now, get a pan and add your olive oil. If you want a little extra kick to your sauce you can put a few peppers into the oil while it heats up. Just remember to remove them before adding anything else.

When the oil is nice and hot, fry your onions, crushed garlic, chopped peppers, and thyme for about 3 minutes. Don’t forget to enjoy that awesome smell of olive oil and onion.

Add your water and let that reduce to about half. Add your tomatoes and tomato paste, along with the sliced garlic. Add a splash of vodka. The alcohol in the vodka will draw out the flavours of the tomatoes without adding extra flavours that would come with wine. Cook on high heat until some of the tomato juice has evaporated, about 5 minutes; we don’t want this turning into a soup. Taste and add salt/pepper/sugar accordingly. ONLY add a pinch of sugar, and ONLY a pinch, if you find the sauce is too tart.

Get your drained pasta and add it to the sauce. Mix well and then serve. You can add Parmesan shavings as I’ve done below or some basil leaves as a garnish. For pairing, I like Chianti. It has a nice spiciness that goes well with this dish.

Chunky
Chunky

*******

The problem I have found with any arrabiata sauce in Korea is that restaurants tend to overdo the peppers; the saying “to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail” perfectly describes the approach some restaurants take when they see a dish with any kind of red sauce. Some even add the fermented pepper paste; not a good idea. If you prefer a smoother sauce, put the cooked sauce throw a blender and then add to the pasta. I didn’t do this this time because I like the look of the sliced garlic and prosciutto.

And now you know why I never order this at a restaurant.

The Beastro (or why I don’t write restaurant reviews)

beastro card

To skip and go straight to the meal, click here.

*******

I rarely write restaurant reviews as it seems that anyone can do it (how well or how ethically is something else, though); it’s far too reminiscent of the ‘cash for comment’ scandal from back home; and if it’s a terrible place then they don’t deserve mentions OR if it’s an awesome place I’d rather not have to fight the masses for a table. Though to be fair, this is more a review of one dish since only a glutton would “order” eight dishes (for some people, ‘order’ means “I’ll write only favourable reviews in exchange for free food”, see ‘cash for comment’ above or any of the food bloggers in Korea when they are called out for being shameless shills).

Years ago I’d have lunch with an old Guardian journalist where we’d chew the fat over a meal. His beat wasn’t restaurant reviews (he used to write about East/West Germany) but occasionally he’d be called upon to fill those shoes. I can see how being a shill can be appealing since the first thing I naively asked him was whether he would tell the restaurant he was reviewing that he was reviewing them. I’ll never forget the look of shock on his face. He said that the reviewer should not have been influenced by the restaurant to write positive reviews since the point of the review is that every customer, whether prince or pauper, food blogger (shudder…) or bon vivant, gets the exact same service. You could be the most saintly person on the planet (you aren’t) and claim that despite being invited to a restaurant your review is completely unbiased, but your readers will still think you were influenced to write only nice things about the restaurant. Besides, invite implies you will be given free food, so please don’t write that you “ordered” your several course meal, enough drinks to drown a whale, and desserts.

In Korea, some food bloggers used to (and possibly still do) threaten restaurants with negative reviews if they didn’t receive a freebie (called ‘service’ here). For more on food blogging and WHY????!!, here’s something from Huffington Post. My favourites are below. You’d be surprised how many food bloggers are guilty of No. 3 in the culinary and literary wasteland that is Seoul, even though all were at some point employed as English teachers.

3. You have poor/nonexistent grammar skills. Sorry, but you really need to hear this: if you don’t know how to construct a proper sentence, at least to an acceptable degree, it hurts to read your blog posts. Like, it causes me physical pain. I’m not asking you to become a semicolon ninja; rather — for the love of god — use whole words instead of abbreviations, read up on the proper use of punctuation, and memorize the difference between there/their/they’re.

4. You’re a shill… for just about everyone. As bloggers, a lot of us write the occasional sponsored post. That’s fine, but don’t let them take over your blog just so you can accept every invitation that comes your way. You may have killer recipes, but if I have to sift through a ton of “Here’s me on a farm with ten other bloggers!” “Here’s me in the Lara Bar test kitchen!” “Here’s the president of Jamba Juice handing me a box of branded aprons!” I’ll get bored and stop coming back. Why? Because no matter what PR people think, brand stories are incredibly boring and are easier to tolerate when posted only occasionally.

Now, dear reader, on to my meal. 20150718_141023

I ordered the Hanger Steak on my old roommate’s recommendation. She was the first and probably the only roommate I’ll ever have because I always wanted to have a roommate. She was also most likely the best possible roommate to have; she’d be away most weekends so the cats and I had free rein over the apartment.

The steak is called hanger steak because it is the diaphragm of the animal so it just hangs there. I always knew it by its other name, Butcher’s Steak, since it is usually kept by the butcher as it is the best part (so they say). You’d be amazed at what butchers keep for themselves. After all, a good butcher would know the best cuts of meat.

The 24-hour slow-cooked steak was probably as tender as you could get a steak to be before it spontaneously falls apart. It came with fries (almost as ubiquitous as kimchi these days; can we not have have chips instead?), topped with parmesan and chimichurri. Parmesan on fries seems to be a trend in Korea. Thankfully these were not sprinkled with sugar and doused with sweet cream. For me, the chimichurri should have had more garlic; I’m a garlic fiend; and less vinegar. The gravy had hints of pepper to it, which always goes well with steak. Priced at 20,000 won, it was as far as I recall the most expensive dish on their lunch menu but definitely worth it.

I ordered a Moscow Mule as a palate cleanser between bites of tender steak. For 8000 won, it was rather small, barely larger than those mugs you see middle-aged men attach to their backpacks when they go hiking. But it was lunch time on a Saturday and I wouldn’t want to be tipsy on a weekend. The bar also had a much wider selection of whiskies than I would have thought.

How to get there

Here’s a map. The name in Korean is 더비이스트로‬. Here’s their Facebook page.

Korean address is 서울시 마포구 서교동 358-32 2층 121-838

Ph: 02 334 2500

The Korail

Went to Korail’s webpage (www.korail.com) for the first time in years to buy a ticket for the weekend. Joke’s on me, since that website seems to have been created with the express purpose to prevent the purchase of tickets. There’s an orange button that will redirect you to the Let’s Korail site (because apparently nouns can be verbed now) because obviously that’s where one goes to purchase a ticket. The left sidebar also has a button to the Let’s Korail site, right at the bottom after you wade through all the gloriousness of Korail 3.0 (includes “Why we Korail” mission statement and management structure because it’s important to know the pecking order when buying a train ticket).

The English page still remains one of the best jokes played on non-Korean speakers (this includes tourists with their tourist money here to see this beautiful country). One reserves a ticket (choosing your seat is unavailable in English), then goes to the train station to pick up the ticket (passport needed).

“I say old chap, we don’t have queues back home. Marvelous!”
“Quite, old sport”

The Korail Talk 4.0 app is marginally better. Red means yes here, so you push the red button to confirm your purchase. Like the world decided to go one way, and South Korea decided to go another. You’ll also see this in stock market reports where a stock with a rising price is shown with a red arrow, falling with a green arrow. There’s a lot more information available on the new app (not necessarily a good thing) but it’s also a lot harder to cancel your tickets than before. Perhaps this is a new trend in the travel industry. Well played.