Monday, December 24, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 10!!

We've arrived at the 10th and final day of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas!  I hope you all have enjoyed my recommendations for your bourbon drinking friends and family members.  This last post is going to be short and sweet, with a peppery blast of rye spice and subtle hints of fruit.  Yes, this is one you can drink up and enjoy.

Four Roses Single Barrel - a fantastic bourbon
Just this year, for the 3rd straight year and 4th time out of the last six years, Four Roses was named Distillery of the Year by Whisky Magazine's judging panel.  That should tell you enough right there!  The story of Four Roses rise, fall, and rebirth is one of my favorite stories in bourbon history.  Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, is a man who has my utmost respect.  This bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel, is one of my favorite pours. 

Four Roses uses 2 mashbill recipes along with 5 proprietary yeast strains to produce 10 different whiskeys.  Four Roses Single Barrel uses just one of those recipes, OBSV, which is aged and then bottled from a single barrel (go figure).  What does OBSV mean to you?  Well, "O" designates that this bourbon was produced at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.  "B" tells us that this bourbon uses a mashbill consisting of 60% corn, 5% malted barley, and 35% rye.  "S" means that it's straight bourbon that's been aged for a minimum of 2 years.  "V" means that the "V" strain of yeast was used, a strain that imparts a creamy flavor with hints of fruit and a blast of spice.  The bottle typically sells for $39.99 but I once found a ridiculous sale for $29.99 at a local shop and bought nearly all of their stock.  It's just that good and I loves me a great deal on bourbon!

Bottoms up, my bourbon brethren!  Bourbon Christmas is here! 

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 9

Getting this one in just under the wire!  Had a crazy day today, my first day wearing prescription glasses.  I'm seeing in HD, baby!  I can't believe I waited this long to correct my distance vision.  Played golf this morning and could actually see my ball past 150 yards!  I also shot +2 on the front 9 and +6 on the back 9, good for an 80 which made me really love my new glasses even more.  Ok, enough chit chat, let's get down to business with my recommendation for a gift for your bourbon buddy on Day 9 of Bourbon Christmas.

The Cooper Double Old Fashioned Glass from
Today we're revisiting glassware again.  Why?  Because you can't just have an elegant glass to sip bourbon out of, you also need an everyday utility glass good for sipping neat, rocky, or cocktails.  That's where the Cooper Double Old Fashioned Glass comes into play.  This glass is awesome.  First off, it's a little wider than your average old fashioned glass and it begins to taper towards the top.  The walls of the glass are a nice thickness too so they don't feel like they'll break easy but they are thin enough that the glass feels comfortable as you sip.  My favorite feature on this glass is the base.  This glass has a great hand to it and that comes 100% from the base of the glass.  It's thick glass that has a heavier weight to it.  This is a man's glass, dammit.  It's perfect for a  spirit like bourbon whiskey. 

The official glass of The BTS
I know I've featured the picture above before but I wanted to show how perfect this glass is for a cocktail like a BTS Old Fashioned.  Look at the way the glass allows for the large format ice ball while leaving a little bit of room for easy drinking.  I currently stock 20 of these glasses at The BTS and have 12 more on order.  Last night I held a bourbon tasting that I donated as an auction prize for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner that Cobaya helped put together and the guests loved them.  At $3.50 each, you'd be a fool not to at least pick up four for yourself.  Only downfall is you'll have to wait until they get back into stock mid-January. 

So, there you have it.  Another affordable gift for your favorite bourbon buddy during the Bourbon Christmas season.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 8

Well, it took 8 days but it finally happened...  I missed a day of updating this here site with my recommendation for Bourbon Christmas.  Took the day off yesterday and once I left the house at noon I never made it back.  Prepping The BTS for a bourbon tasting today.  Well, good thing we've got plenty of time to shop for last minute gifts for our bourbon buddies. 

The Bourbon Review is a great source of knowledge for all things bourbon
If you want to learn more about this American spirit, it's best to go right to the source - Kentucky.  That's where the good folks at The Bourbon Review come into play.  The Bourbon Review is published quarterly and covers all things bourbon including new releases, cocktail recipes, bourbon-laced food recipes, and distillery info.  It's a great source of information.  I'm always happy when I open up the mailbox and find an issue inside. 

Another great reason to subscribe to The Bourbon Review - these guys put together some great events.  This fall I flew out with Dad and a couple of buddies for Bourbon Under the Stars.  We met the guys from the Bourbon Review for a cocktail hour the night before then hit the event on a Saturday night on the grounds of the Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred Auction Company.  It was an honor having the chance to meet a man I highly respect as a professional and Master Distiller and that man was Jim Rutledge of Four Roses.  What a great guy.  Both he and Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker's Mark can talk bourbon all day and never get tired of it.  It was awesome chatting up both of them while sipping cocktails, tasting bourbons, and chomping on some great grub from local restaurants.  This year the guys at The Bourbon Review are putting together the 1st ever Bourbon Classic right in Louisville.  Remember the Bourbon Christmas recommendation on Day 6 to plan a trip to Bourbon Country?  Well, this would be the time to do it.  This is gonna be an awesome event!

So, this Bourbon Christmas season, give the gift that keeps on giving quarterly and sign your bourbon buddy up for The Bourbon Review.  Heck, it's an easy $20 for 2 years so get yourself a subscription while you're at it!  I promise you won't regret it.

Until next time...Merry Bourbon Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 7

I hope you've been enjoying all of my recommendations for gifts you can give your bourbon drinkin' buddy for Bourbon Christmas.  We're gonna go with a slight bit of a repeat today but, trust me, it's worth it.

The Spherical Ice Mold by Tovolo
Yes, we're going back to spherical ice today, this time in a much more affordable and accessible fashion than Day 4's recommendation.  Judging by the feedback I received after posting about the Cirrus Ice Ball Press (as my buddy Chadzilla pointed out, that's an awful name), you guys are interested in ice spheres.  And why shouldn't you be?  They're pretty frickin sweet!  So, on Day 7 of Bourbon Christmas I give to you...the Spherical Ice Mold from Tovolo.

In the freezer I keep at The BTS, I've currently got 9 varieties of ice ready to go - 4 types of cubes, 4 types of spheres, and some of the regular chipped ice you get at the market in a big 10-pound bag.  I've already discussed the benefits of the ice sphere so no need to rehash.  What I can tell you is this - the Tovolo Ice Sphere Mold is the biggest and best ice sphere mold on the market.  I like that they are individual molds. Others that I have in my freezer are trays, and while they work just fine, they tend to leave a "saturn ring" around the middle of the ball because of the way the tray is constructed. With the Tovolo mold, you don't get that ring. These are also the largest ice sphere molds I've found. They fill a double old fashioned glass perfectly. I haven't timed how fast they melt but I'd say it's easily an hour. It's real easy to make ice balls using these molds.

Care for an ice ball with your bourbon, Sir?
So if you don't want to shell out boku bucks for the Cirrus press, this ice sphere mold is the way to go.  You can find them at a decent price here.  I've bought a ton to give as gifts to my bourbon drinking buddies.  I strongly recommend you do the same!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 6

Comin' right back atcha with Day 6 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas!  Rather than take the time to recap all of the great bourbon suggestions I've made on days 1-5, I'm just gonna launch into this one.

Bourbon Visitor Guide
Bourbon Country!
Sometimes the best gift is not a physical entity.  A great gift can be as simple as an idea or a plan.  Day 6's recommendation is just that - a great idea.  Plan a trip for you and your bourbon buddy to visit Bourbon Country in Kentucky!!   There's a ton to do in the Louisville and Lexington areas.  You can check out the regions many distilleries, nearly all of which offer guided tours rich with the history of bourbon whiskey.  I recommend checking out Buffalo Trace and Four Roses though I've enjoyed every tour I've been on in Bourbon Country.  Maybe you try to complete the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?  There's also the Urban Bourbon Trail which consists of many bars with fantastic bourbon selections.  You could plan to be in Louisville for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival or maybe for the Kentucky Derby!  There's even a guide to Bourbon Country to help you plan.  The options are endless.

I've been to Kentucky about a dozen times for work and pleasure and I've always had a good time, especially when touring distilleries.  It's pretty hard not to have a good time when you're sipping bourbon whiskey all day!  Look into it as a vacation right here in the good ol' US of A.  Maybe your gift for Bourbon Christmas is picking up the flights or the hotel rooms?  Regardless of how you put it together, you're guaranteed a great time.  Ya heard me!?!?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 5

Ok, we're back with Day 5 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas and today we're goin' back to the juice.  That's right, another bourbon whiskey for you to enjoy.  This one is gonna be a hard find though...

John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
One question people often ask me is if all bourbon is made in Kentucky.  Today's recommendation is clear evidence that, no, bourbon is not only made in Kentucky.  The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is located in Fredericksburg, VA.  I had the pleasure of popping into the distillery on a business trip through Virginia.  I had sampled a few of the Bowman products prior to my visit and the John J. Bowman bourbon had quickly become a favorite.  Trouble was in finding it.  They don't distribute in South Florida so I had to enlist a friend to get me a bottle.  Driving through Virginia with spare time meant I had to check out the distillery and pick up a bottle or two.

I really enjoyed meeting with Master Distiller, Truman Cox, on my visit along with a few other employees at the friendly distillery.  Truman had a ton of passion for distilling and aging some great whiskey and that really shows in the Bowman Brothers, John J Bowman, and Abraham Bowman products.  The John J. is my current favorite and my frontrunner for new bourbon of the year at The BTS.  John J. Bowman is triple distilled.  The first 2 distillations take place at Buffalo Trace while the last distillation takes place at the A. Smith Bowman facility.  This bourbon is then aged 12-14 years (based on my experiences w/ the regular product and some private bottlings) standing straight up at the Bowman facility and bottled at 100 proof.  This is a phenomenal bourbon whiskey.  Fragrant nose, tasting hints of toffee, chocolate, fig, and hints of vanilla.  Delicious!

The A. Smith Bowman Distillery aging warehouse
This is a rare find here in South Florida but do some digging and you may be able to source some for yourself of your best bourbon buddy.  That or take a quick flight to DC and make the drive about an hour or so South to the A. Smith Bowman Distillery and pick up a bottle for yourself!!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 4

So now for Bourbon Christmas you've got a little piece of bourbon history to read, some great juice, and a nice glass to sip it in.  But what if you want to sip your bourbon on the rocks?  On Day 4 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas, we'll address the topic of ice in a premium way.  Yup, we're blowing the bourbon budget with Day 4's recommendation.  This is the one you get for the bourbon lover who really appreciates his spirit and who takes care of you with bourbon recommendations, tastings, knowledge tidbits, bottle finds, bottle deals, etc.  (I hope you're picking up the hints I'm dropping...)

Picture of 2.00" Cirrus Press
MackDaddy of Ice - The Cirrus Ice Ball Press
When it comes to drinking bourbon, I always recommend trying it neat first, with no water or ice added in.  This allows you to get the full flavor of the whiskey as intended by the Master Distiller who gave it life.  But sometimes you'll want to add a little ice.  Adding ice will cool and dilute your bourbon, bringing it down in proof.  For many, this makes drinking bourbon a bit more palatable.  Be wary though - traditional ice cubes tend to melt rather quickly and too much can lead to drinking a glass of water with bourbon essence.  That's a buzzkill.  This is where having the Cirrus Ice Ball Press is a major advantage.

You see, ice as a sphere melts slower than ice as a cube.  Why?  Simple science.  A sphere made of ice has less surface area in contact with the liquid in the glass than a traditional cube while allowing for the most possible volume.  This allows for a slow, somewhat controlled dilution of your bourbon without watering it down.  A little bit of dilution will open up the bourbon you're drinking and expose more flavors that may have been hidden behind the higher concentration of alcohol.

Goodness, gracious, great balls

Not only does the Cirrus Ice Ball Press help you to cool your drink, it does so in a badass way.  Makes a great impression on guests of your bar wherever that may be.  Check it out in action!

Ok, so it's not the most budget-friendly gift but it sure as hell is pretty cool.  Don't worry if this is not in your price range for Bourbon Christmas.  I'll have a few more ice-related gift ideas for Bourbon Christmas that will produce great results and fit any budget.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 3

It's day 3 of the Ten Days of Bourbon Christmas and so far you've got some history to read up on and a nice and affordable bourbon to give to your best bourbon buddies.  But you know that presentation is everything.  When it comes to sipping a nice bourbon whiskey, you've gotta have the right hardware.

The Glencairn Glass
Today's gift idea is The Glencairn Glass.  This is a glass that's perfect for sipping a high quality spirit.  The Glencairn won the Queen's Award for Innovation in 2006 and has been recognized as the "official whisk(e)y glass" by the experts.  It's got a custom shape, starting as a bowl at the bottom of the glass and then tapering towards the top of the glass which enhances the color, body, nose, taste, and finish of the bourbon.  I really like the weighted base of the Glencairn.  It's got a good hand to it for a narrow glass. 

Check out a good deal on these glasses here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 2

When I originally set out to do this series of posts my plan was to list bourbon drinking accessories first and then a few bourbons towards the end.  Since there was reasonable outcry that Day 1's gift was not consumable, I thought I'd throw ya a bone on Day 2.

My favorite all-around bourbon - Old Weller Antique

Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Yes, this is a one I talk about frequently as it's my favorite all-around bourbon.  Why?  Let's start with a wheated mashbill that imparts a slight sweetness to blend with the spices and woodiness of the barrel.  Let me remind you that this mashbill is the same exact mashbill used in Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, which makes perfect sense since they are both distilled and aged by Buffalo Trace.  I like these wheat recipe bourbons a lot because wheat doesn't have the flavor fireworks that rye has and the result is that you taste more of the part that the charred white oak barrel has played in the aging process.  Speaking of fireworks, this bourbon is 107 proof, or 53.5% alcohol!  Another reminder: Pappy Van Winkle 15yr is bottled at 107 proof...  My favorite whiskeys are of a higher proof.  I enjoy the fiery flavor when sipped neat and also the flavors that open up when the bourbon is taken down in proof through the addition of ice or branch water.  I'm also of the opinion that higher proof whiskeys tend to mix better classic cocktails, like The BTS Old Fashioned shown above, as they keep the alcohol on center stage.

Ok, so here you have a bourbon that has the same mashbill, proof, and producer as Pappy Van Winkle 15yr.  It's gotta be expensive, right?  HELL NO!  You can find OWA locally here in Miami for about $25! BOOM!

Instead of killing yourself trying to locate a bottle of Pappy this holiday season and then emptying your wallet when you finally do, take the smart approach and give Old Weller Antique a try.  It's a fantastic bourbon at a reasonable price.  Plus, you'll save some money to buy even more Bourbon Christmas items!

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas

Christmas is a-comin' and I thought I'd give you some great ideas on what gifts to get the bourbon drinker in your life.  I'll be posting a new idea each day right up until Christmas Eve so stay tuned! 


Today's gift idea is a book that gives a great insight to the history of one of the most sought after bourbons on the market today - Pappy Van Winkle.  But Always Fine Bourbon is the story of the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery which for a large part of the 20th century was known for making the finest bourbon in the world.  It's also the story of the Van Winkle family and Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle himself.  I really enjoyed learning this piece of bourbon history as told by Sally Van Winkle Campbell, granddaughter of Pappy Van Winkle.  For the bourbon drinker who enjoys his spirit and enjoys a piece of American History, this is a fine gift.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Experiment #28: Cobaya Hinckley @ The Hoxton

Sometimes Cobaya happens just by being at the right place at the right time.  Such was the case when I ran into Chef Matt Hinckley at the launch party for Miami's Queen of Desserts, Hedy Goldsmith's, Baking Out Loud cookbook.  I knew Matt from his days working as sous chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.  He told me about a couple of new spots he would be in charge of culinary for.  The first to be opening was The Hoxton, a restaurant in the burgeoning Brickell area with a New England style menu.  That would be followed by BoxPark, a restaurant that would echo Chef Matt's approach to local, sustainable, cuisine with various Florida proteins like alligator, boar, and turtle showcased.  Now we're talkin' Cobaya!

We gathered last Monday in the elevated dining room area at The Hoxton for Cobaya #28.  Here's how it all went down...

The menu tasted as good as it reads

A welcome cocktail, the Bacon Old Fashioned, was a nice start.  The smoke from the bacon was there without being overly hammy and I was glad the maple syrup was tame and allowed the Bulliet rye to shine.  From there, passed apps made their way around the room.  The duck egg quiche was fantastic, fried alligator was crisp and tender, and the rabbit liver toast was a phenomenal bite.  It was go time!

If there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's fresh baked bread and silky smooth butter.  It's a catch-22 at a coursed dinner because bread is filling but I threw caution to the wind and went at it.  I was glad I did.  The butter was absolutely insane!!  Here we had butter mixed with duck fat, brined green peppercorns, aleppo chili, and chives and I was applying a thick layer to every piece of bread I could get my hands on.  The cornbread was my favorite.  I need to have Chef Matt make me some of that butter for the homestead.  Jerk boiled peanuts hit the table next.  A great snack, spicy and delicious.  Gotta eat the shells people!

Housemade charcuterie was equally delicious.  Duck ham, tasso, and the lardo were my favorites but I really loved them all.  I could go for this plate any day all day.  The duck ham had a nice cured fattiness to it, the tasso was smokey and the lardo just melted on the tongue.  A deliciously spicy homebrew mustard complimented these meats well, as did the equally awesome spread of pickled veggies that included a new favorite of mine discovered on a previous visit to The Hoxton with Frodnesor to discuss Cobaya details - wing beans.  Hinckley pickles these with a fiery spice that I loved. 

A local bitter green salad was next and one of my favorite dishes of the night.  I love a nice, crisp, fresh salad and this one really did it for me.  The bitterness of the endive and dandelion greens played really well with the subtle spice of the pickled chilis.  Perfectly crisp and savory chunks of pork belly added a little sin to this dish but didn't overpower with gluttony.  It was a well-rounded composition.  After the salad, some cider-braised turnips hit the table.  I have to be honest, I don't remember much about this dish besides the crispy bits of pork jowl and that the cider braise gave the turnips a nice texture.  Could be that I was getting full which was troublesome because...

Three Little (?!?!) Pigs
The irony in this dish was that it was dubbed Three "Little" Pigs on the menu.  This was far from a little dish!  Jeezus!  The pork chop was a monster!  Knowing that was going to fill me past the point of full, I went for the crispy pig head first, a delicious pate of pork with unctuous fatty bits, breaded and fried to crispy perfection.  The andouille was another winner.  The pork chop was, as I had suspected, too much for me to take down.  It became the first thing to hit my plate and escape.

Dessert came in the form of ice cream and cookies.  In this case, ice cream made from Oskar Blues' Ten Fidy Imperial Stout and crumbled bits of cookies...made with pig fat.  Yes, pig fat cookies.  Throughout the dish were bitter tangerine segments, budda hand candy, and some citrus zest.  This is where my usual disclaimer of not being a big dessert person would come in but not today as the one exception is ice cream. I didn't get much of the stout flavor of the beer in the ice cream but that could be because I was enjoying the bitterness of the tangerine and all the citrus flavors going on.  It was a refreshing end to the meal.

Being in the right place at the right time to plan Cobaya magic like this had certainly paid positive dividends.  I thought this was a fantastic meal and really got the sense that Chef Hinckley showcased his passion with all of the various homemade meats and accompaniments served in the meal.  Be on the lookout for BoxPark coming soon where a lot of this type of food will definitely be served along with plenty of other surprises I'm sure.  Here's a Cobaya insider's tip for ya too - The Hoxton serves a badass portion of Chef Hinckley's delicious fried chicken along with a couple sides for a mere $10 during happy hour.  Strong buy!

A huge thank you to Chef Matt Hinckley, all the kitchen staff, management, and servers at The Hoxton, my dining tablemates who generously shared some tasty wines, and all of the guinea pigs who keep this Cobaya fire roaring here in Miami. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

R.I.P. - My Pappy is Dead

The Van Winkle family collection (missing Van Winkle Reserve Rye)
Anyone who is mildly into bourbon has heard the name "Pappy Van Winkle".  If not, you must be living under a rock.  Bourbon is all the rage these days and the Van Winkle brand is the golden goose of the bunch.  A little history lesson for ya...  Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle made his mark as a whiskey salesman for W.L. Weller & Sons in the late 1800s, later purchasing the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery in 1910 and forming Stitzel-Weller that distilled his own bourbon whiskey - Old Rip Van Winkle amongst other brands like Old Fitzgerald and W.L. Weller.  Prohibition hit and the Old Rip brand did not resurface until after 1972 when the distillery and its brands were sold off.  The Van Winkle family retained the rights to the Old Rip brand.  Julian Van Winkle Jr resurrected the Old Rip Van Winkle brand shortly after Stitzel-Weller sold, buying up stocks of his family's whiskey, a wheated recipe that imparts a smooth, sweet flavor.  In 1981, Julian Van Winkle III took the reigns of the family business.  In the early 90's, with whiskey an afterthought in a burgeoning rum and vodka market and many whiskey distilleries struggling, he saw opportunity.  He bought up barrels of his family's whiskey that had sat for years aging in charred oak barrels and introduced a premium aged bourbon under the Pappy Van Winkle name with the bottle bearing an image of his grandfather.  Boom!  Last year, Julian Van Winkle III won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional and it was well deserved.  Today, the Van Winkle family keeps the Pappy Van Winkle brand alive through a partnership with Buffalo Trace. 

Each year, a limited quantity of 7000 or so cases is released and states and their distribution channels are allocated a limited amount to sell to consumers.  Last year the chances of getting a bottle were somewhat slim.  Today it's damn near impossible without paying, in many cases, double what you would've paid last year or more.  It's the bourbon industry's hottest commodity, coming in bottles of 10, 12, 15, 20, and 23 years of age and fetching suggested prices of anywhere from $50 to $300 per bottle.  You've got to get lucky and/or have some cash to burn to get your hands on your bottle of Pappy.  But it wasn't always this way...

I remember a mere 2 years ago walking into Total Wine & Spirits, seeing a bunch of bottles of Pappy gracing the shelves, and purchasing one for my buddy, Chadzilla, for his birthday.  No frenzy, no fuss, no muss.  This year, I was at Total Wine & Spirits the day they got a few bottles in stock.  The Pappy Van Winkle 15yr bottle, a favorite of mine, last year sold at Total Wine & Spirits for a well-deserved and respectable $69.99.  This year?  Try $149.99.  The 20yr, a great bourbon at $89.99-$119.99, is now $199.99.  The 23yr somehow held the selling price of $299.99 on Total's shelves.

So why the price hike?  Well, like I said, bourbon is all the rage these days.  Pop culture has embraced bourbon whiskey and distilleries are producing like no tomorrow.  This is great for the industry.  After all, bourbon is the only spirit classified by Congress as a distinct product of the United States of America.  That means you can't get Chinese, Italian, Latvian, French, or Russian bourbon.  This juice must come from the good ol' US of A in order to bear the "bourbon" name.  More business is great for this American industry.  It creates more jobs.  But now what used to be a prize savored by enthusiasts has now become mainstream society's object of affection.  The Pappy that I once knew and loved is dead.  He's buried far underneath a pile of pop culture television shows and celebrities that have taken this prize usually reserved for appreciative enthusiasts and placed it in the limelight, many just to say they're the big man for drinking the best stuff.  Well, they broke rule #1 of Pappy Club and that don't talk about Pappy Club!

We make fine bourbon.
At a profit if we can,
at a loss if we must,
but always fine bourbon.
- Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle   

It's pretty simple math, really.  Take something that is limited and blab about it in the media where millions are exposed to it and...BOOM...demand far exceeds supply even more than it ever had with a cult following.  And what happens when demand exceeds supply?  Yes, that's right - prices increase.  You can't fault the producers.  They pay taxes on this whiskey as it ages in charred, white oak barrels for 10-23 years.  Why shouldn't they make the boku bucks?  Thing is, they really don't.  The ones who benefit are usually those on the distributor level or on the consumer level where people flip bottles on eBay and elsewhere for ridiculous amounts because there are those people out there ready to spend, spend, spend, who just HAVE to have the most expensive product out there.  After all, it must be the best if it costs the most, right?

Thing is - when it comes to Pappy Van Winkle bourbon - it is the best.  As frustrated as I've become with the chore of sourcing a bottle, I simply can't say it's not the best bourbon on the market.  I love the stuff.  I'm more than happy to have stocked up on bottles of the 15yr last year at a fair price.  I enjoy the hell out of them every time I pour a dram of Pappy, usually reserved for special occasions.  A bottle of the precious 23yr lasted me nearly 2 years, kept hidden away on my home bar to be poured in celebration only.  The 20yr expression is my favorite bourbon whiskey of all time.  I love that juice.

When I say "the best" I'm purely stating my personal opinion on the flavor of the bourbon whiskey that's in the bottle.  Is it the best value?  At the prices bottles of PVW are fetching today the answer is no.  I had a hearty laugh when the clerk at Total Wine told me the 15yr would be $150 this year, more than double it's cost on the very same shelf the previous year.  That was pure comedy to me.  But sadly, it was also confirmation that my Pappy is dead.  Part of what made PVW the best was that it was priced at a premium but that premium was still a somewhat accessible price.  The sensationalists who want to shell out $150 for a bottle of Pappy 15yr can have at it.  I'll happily take 6-7 bottles of Old Weller Antique, a bourbon made from the exact same wheated recipe as Pappy that is aged differently (age, rickhouse location) but bottled at the same exact proof, for the same $150 price.

Yup, you won't find me chasing after any Van Winkle bottles this year.  I've got a few stashed away in my bourbon bunker and I'm finding so many bourbons under $30 that I love that I really don't care to spend the extra dough.  I'm enjoying more and more great rye whiskeys for short money too.  I'm also loving other limited releases of single barrel and small batch bourbons like those the good folks at Four Roses are producing.  These days, there's a lot of fantastic stuff out there to be sipped and savored, too much to be chasing the ghost of a whiskey that was once

My Pappy is dead.  He was great and I loved him.  Still do.  But he's buried in the back of my bourbon bunker now.  I've moved on. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dutch: Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner

Living in South Florida, we are no strangers to hurricanes.  So, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast leaving millions in New York and New Jersey without power, it hit home.  Outside of residents, many businesses were affected and some totally destroyed.  As the storm exited and slow steps to recovery began, many chefs from the tri-state area and beyond took to Twitter to encourage diners to eat at their local establishments to help by supporting the businesses and the employees who count on those paychecks.

When my Cobaya co-conspirator, Frodnesor of Food For Thought, saw that Cobaya alumni Chef Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch NYC, The Dutch Miami, Locanda Verde, The Sausage Boss) had to cancel a dinner event, he offered our assistance in any way to put together a dinner to help raise funds for recovery efforts.  Chef Carmellini loved the idea and suggested we get local chefs onboard too.  About 72 hours and 384 emails later, we had all but dotted the I's and crossed the T's on a great plan to raise money for NYC Food Flood, an effort to aid Sandy victims started by Carmellini and fellow chefs Marco Canora, Seamus Mullen, and George Mendes.  An insane lineup of badass local chefs and generous auction prizes assembled quickly.  It was a hurricane of awesomeness in and of itself.

The all-star lineup of chefs who graciously donated their time, money, and talent in the kitchen were none other than Chef Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar), Chef Michelle Bernstein (Michy's), Chef Brad Kilgore (Route 9, Exit 1), Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog (gastroPod, Freehand), Chef Andrew Carmellini, Chef Conor Hanlon, & Chef Josh Gripper (The Dutch), Chef Richard Gras & Chef Antonio Bachour (J&G Grill), and also Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods had his gang from his food truck, AZ Canteen, park on the property to welcome guests wtih a couple bites.  What do all these chefs have in common besides rallying to support our fellow Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy?  Yup, you guessed it.  They are all Cobaya alumni!

In addition to these chefs donating their time they also donated gifts for the silent auction to raise additional dollars for the charity.  Other area chefs and businesses like Chef Michael Schwartz (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria, Cypress Room *coming soon*), Bliss Spa, The W Hotel South Beach, South Beach Food & Wine Festival, The Bazaar, neMesis Urban Bistro, Miami Wine & Food Festival, Wolfe's Wine Shoppe, and Bourbon Steak also donated items to be auctioned off in support.  Oh, and we can't forget the fantastic welcoming cocktails provided by Bar Lab and The Dutch's own Rob Ferrara.

Perhaps the coolest part of the event for me though was my parents' spur-of-the-moment decision to fly down from Boston to take part in it.  It was awesome to get to share this great experience with them.

Unfortunately, I didn't get more than a couple of not-so-great pictures of the event and the dishes served.  I went for pure enjoyment.  To see more pictures of the dishes served, check out this link, courtesy of Food for Thought.  Anyways, here's how it all went down...

Guests arrived and were treated to an Andouille & Seafood Gumbo as well as a mini Cabrito Burger from AZ Canteen.  The gumbo was served up hot and hearty with nice flavor and a bit of heat.  My folks and I initially decided to pass on the burger for fear of filling up too quickly.  After all, there were passed canapes and then another 7 courses on the way.  However, there was only so many times that burger could float by without us giving into temptation.  It was well worth it.  The goat burger was juicy and flavorful which made me want another but I held tough.

The night started with cocktails in the grove
From the truck we were escorted to the back of The W property and into the grove area where the silent auction was set up along with the Bar Lab & Rob Ferraro cocktail bar where I had a fantastic Smokey Old Fashioned.  It was made with bacon-infused Knob Creek Rye mixed with a touch of maple syrup and BBQ as well as Angostura bitters.  I'm real picky about my Old Fashioneds but this one nailed it.  Perfect balance of the spicy liquor and sweetness of the syrup.  Chef Aaron Brooks' canapes were passed around and were my favorite bites of the night.  Each one was a huge home run!  Trout caviar sat on top of potatoes with a little squeeze tube of horseradish stuck in their sides to squirt as you popped the bite in your mouth.  Mini foie gras hot dogs with plum chutney exploded with flavor.  Lamb ribs slathered with a Thai BBQ sauce were tender as hell and came loose from the bone without much effort.  A bite of hamachi with pickled aloe vera and a bit of heat from some serrano chile was refreshing and fiery at the same time.  We were off to an awesome start!

After making a few initial bids we were seated outside on the terrace, 55+ diners enjoying the best of Miami weather.  Chef Michelle Bernstein was up first with a tuna crudo on top of burrata and a crostini.  Fresh and clean.  Then came Chef Brad Kilgore's lamb tartare profiteroles, the lamb being chopped nicely to be mixed with a creamy almond anglaise and some dill that added a fresh flavor that I loved.  Dad and I also loved Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog's smoked mussels that were served with a trio of baby carrots with different textures and a carrot emulsion.  I loved the way the smoky and briny mussels played with the earthiness of the carrots.

Agnolotti with truffle
Chef Andrew Carmellini and Chef Conor Hanlon were up next with a masterful agnolotti dish.  The pasta was pillowy soft and packed with bolognese bianco and black truffle and then topped with more shaved truffle.  The beauty was that the truffle was subtle in flavor and added to the richness of the bolognese.  Delicious!  Chef Richard Gras originally planned for roast squab but adapted on the fly to a lamb belly dish served with parsnip puree that ended up being a great dish.

A cheese course consisting of a blue cheese macaroon got us ready for dessert.  I'll put my usual disclaimer here: I am not a dessert guy.  I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  However, the dueling dessert pairing by Chef Antonio Bachour and Chef Josh Gripper was a beaut!  Chef Bachour's side of the plate held a log of flexible caramel-chocolate along with some compressed apple, toasted caramel brioche, a nutty almost peanut buttery powder, some lavender petals, and caramel ice cream.  Chef Gripper's side of the plate showcased a lemon-lime coconut cake amongst compressed pineapple, lemon curd, and caramel-lime crema.  I really enjoyed the way the richness of Chef Bachour's dish was balanced by the acidity of Chef Gripper's dish.  It made for a delicious pair.

Wow, what a night!  It is incredibly humbling to be a part of Cobaya and be able to assist with an event like this that raises funds for those who are in need after a storm like Sandy.  The way the chefs here rallied together was just awesome.  Even more humbling was the support of our Guinea Pigs who pledged their support through buying tickets to the event and bidding on the many items up for auction.  At the end of the day, we were able to raise about $17,500 for NYC Food Flood!  Here's a HUGE thank you to Chef Carmellini and all of the chefs and donors who took part of the dinner and all of the people who supported this initiative thru ticket purchases and the silent auction.  Another GIGANTIC thank you to Elli Jafari, Katya Segovia, Jacque Burke, Patricia Jones, and all of the other staff at The Dutch who made an awesome event look easy to pull off AND who we learned donated their time for the night.

Learn more about NYC Food Flood here.

Here is a list of charities involved if you would like to assist with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cobaya for a Cause: November 18th @ The Dutch, Miami Beach, FL

Local Miami Chefs to Join Andrew Carmellini for Dinner & Silent Auction November 18, 2012


Miami is no stranger to hurricanes, and when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast last week, thousands of businesses and residents were left struggling for survival.  In an effort to provide relief for the victims of ‘Sandy’, chef Andrew Carmellini and his team at The Dutch at W South Beach Hotel & Residences have teamed up with Cobaya – Gourmet Guinea Pigs, the organizers of Miami’s premier underground dining events, to gather renowned Miami chefs and businesses to join them in a five-course dinner and silent auction taking place Sunday, November 18, 2012.

“We got rocked up in New York, some much worse than others. Many people like myself have roots in both the tri-state and South Florida, so I knew I could count on the culinary talent of Miami for help. Cobaya has been instrumental in this rally,” says Carmellini.

Priced at $250 per person all-inclusive, the special evening will bring together some of our region’s most notable chefs including Antonio Bachour (J&G Grill), Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s), Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak), Jeremiah Bullfrog (gastroPod and the upcoming Freehand), Richard Gras (J&G Grill), Brad Kilgore (Exit 1) and Andrew Zimmern’s AZ Canteen joined by The Dutch’s stellar culinary team, chef de cuisine Conor Hanlon, pastry chef Josh Gripper and head bartender Rob Ferrara. Guests can expect signature dishes and chef favorites for each course, expertly paired with wine and cocktails and Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink will be on hand to pour his Michael's Genuine Home Brew and help out in the kitchen. . The evening starts at 7:00 p.m. with cocktails by BarLab and canap├ęs in the lush Grove at W South Beach followed by dinner on The Terrace at The Dutch.

All of the participating chefs are Cobaya alumni in one way or another, and we are thrilled by the incredibly generous and unhesitating response by local chefs to the call for help. We hope that our group of guinea pigs responds in the same fashion. We have a block of tickets that we are taking requests for and will conduct a lottery this Friday November 9, 2012 to fill available spots. Though this is pricier than our usual Cobaya events, it is a stellar lineup and a worthwhile cause, and we hope you feel the same.

We also encourage you to come ready to bid on some fantastic items for the silent auction, which will feature an array of items from hotel stays (W corner suite!!)  and spa days to autographed cookbooks (Schwartz's "Michael's Genuine Food", Hedy Goldsmith's "Baking Out Loud") and dinner certificates (The Dutch, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria, Edge Steak & Bar, Bourbon Steak, The Bazaar, and more!). Cobaya also will be contributing four guaranteed seats for a future Cobaya dinner to the auction.

ALL PROCEEDS from the dinner and silent auction will go directly to NYC Food Flood, a fund started in concert by Carmellini and fellow New York chefs, Marco Canora, Seamus Mullen and George Mendes, joining efforts to generate funds directed to relief efforts in their own backyard. You can follow NYC Food Flood on twitter @NYCFoodFlood.

To request seats, please email your request to and specify how many spots you would like. We will be conducting a lottery to fill our available spots on Friday November 9, 2012. You will then need to book your seats via PayPal by Monday November 12 (a link will be made availably on the Cobaya website). So please respond quickly if you're interested.

Please help Cobaya support this worthy cause.

The Dutch is located inside W South Beach Hotel & Residences, 2201 Collins Avenue, in Miami Beach, Florida, 33139.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012-13 Dinner in Paradise Schedule Announced

photo: Paradise Farms
The "Dinner in Paradise" series put on by Paradise Farms down in Homestead is something I think everyone living in the Greater Miami area should experience at some point.  Aside from assembling the area's top chefs to create a healthy and sustainable meal, it's an opportunity to get away from the bright lights of the big city and dine alfresco under a starlit sky.  It's also a chance for you to support local community charities Urban Greenworks and Slow Food Miami.  Each Dinner in Paradise begins with some wine and passed hors d'oeuvres which is then followed by a tour of the farm by owner/operator Gabrielle Marewski.  I've been fortunate to attend a few of these dinners and have thoroughly enjoyed each one, especially this one that I attended with my Mum.  This year's lineup was just announced so I thought I'd share it with you and encourage you to "get out into the country" down South for a great meal and unique experience.

Here's this season's lineup:

December 9th "Singles Welcome"
* Ocean Reef Club: Phillipe Reynaud & Jason Stocks
* Loew’s Hotel Miami Beach: Frederic Delaire & Jason Prevatt

January 8th
*Live Vegan Gourmet with Tom Frazier and friends

February 9th "Slow Love"
*Chef Kira Volz, with Broadwings Catering and friends

March 10th
* Essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa: Julie Frans
* Azul at Mandarin Oriental: Jacob Anaya
* Georgia's Union: Nathan Martin

March 24th "Palm Sunday"
* The Forge: Dewey LoSasso
* Area 31 at Epic: Michael Reidt
* Tuyo at Miami Culinary Institute: Norman Van Aken & Travis Starwalt

April 14th
* Meat Market: Sean Brasel
* 1500 Degrees: Paula DeSilva
* Lido Restaurant at The Standard: Mark Zeitouni

April 28th
* Intercontinental: Alex Feher
* Oak Tavern: David Bracha
* Cecconi’s: Sergio Sigala


Monday, August 27, 2012

The History of Cobaya

This month marks the 3rd anniversary of Cobaya.  What started as a conversation on a valet doorstep has ended up as three years of truly awesome "experiments".  I decided to take a look back at all of our past dinners, the recaps, the photos, and the attendee lists.  It was a mental meal remembering all my favorite dishes and the good conversation at the tables.  There were some spectacular highs, some tests (eating half a goat's head was one), and tons of really fun times.

Here's some stats compiled over three years so far:

Number of Cobaya experiments: 251
Number of diners served: 881
Average dinner size: 35
Number of "off campus" experiments: 9 (36%)
Number of outdoor Cobaya experiments: 4
Number of offal dishes: 25
Most courses: 22 (Cobaya Carmellini)
Number of wipeouts: 2 (Chef Galiano & Chowfather @ Cobaya Gras)
Number of injuries from wipeouts: 0 (thankfully)
Number of disclaimers added to Cobaya to protect from wipeouts: 1
Ratio of male/female Cobaya hosts: 22:4
Chefs hosting 2+ Cobayas: 4 (Bullfrog, Hales, Galiano, Jantz)

I really enjoyed looking back, re-reading just at Cobaya Central, reading the comments, thinking about the many, many, many highs and the very few not-so-highs. Just looking back on the response from each announcement was cool.  I loved sifting through all the attendee lists, watching Frod's meticulous attendee methodology adapt from meal to meal - the time stamps, the X-outs, the yellow highlighting, the transition from first-come-first-serve to the introduction of the current lottery system.  As time went on it got way easier to read and cut & paste into the main spreadsheet I created to gather history stats. It was cool seeing a few times when we really tried to max out attendance, if only to figure out that it didn't really work, at least in a formal environment. At more casual events, it totally worked and provided a chance to meet lots of new faces for great food and a lot of fun.  It's interesting to see how happy people are when enjoying great food, especially if it's in an unconventional way. 

It's awesome that this gig has formed friendships too.  Hell, we hardly knew each other when we first got this thing going.  The three of us send a TON of emails back and forth each month talking about Cobaya.  It's probably not healthy.  It was cool to think back on those emails back and forth.  All the ideas shared and either accepted or rejected always with the greater good of Cobaya in front of mind. We have stayed true to our core mission, tried different stuff, and always challenge each other with thoughts on how to make it better.  Any criticism received from others is valued whether positive or negative.  We've rejected media requests simply because we didn't want the publicity.  We wanted to keep this thing as "underground" (a term we use very loosely) as possible and let it grow organically.  I like to think we've succeeded at that.  We didn't mind when blurbs appeared on websites like UrbanDaddy or Eater as they were merely reports that echoed our announcements.  Looking through the archives I was also reminded of Frodnesor's spectacular beatdown of a post when another local food blog decided it would be fun to write a negative article about Cobaya dinners...only they had never dined at one before.  Of course, when an opportunity rose up to have Cobaya featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, we went with it.  You know what?  It was an over-the-top spectacular meal and one helluva night.
I think the concept makes it easy for chefs to enjoy being involved too. We have stayed away from the "we have a big group, give us a ton of food for next to no money" mentality.  Instead we work with the chef and give him full creative control to cook anything and everything.  At the end of the day, all the chefs that have participated in Cobaya are experts in their craft.  They aren't going to serve anything "bad". That, I am 100% confident of.  It's been fun watching how the chef participants have also evolved. Each has pushed the envelope in a different manner whether it be flavors, textures, cuts, science, simpleness, history.  They size up whats been done and how they can raise the bar.  And boy has that bar been raised!  I see chefs getting more people involved with Cobaya dinners now whether that be a somellier pairing wine, a bartender/mixologist creating cocktails, or a pastry chef plating multiple desserts.  There's always something new to be digested, mentally as well as physically.  I have always thought that the best takeaway, the one that separates Cobaya dinners from a regular coursed meal.  It is that knowledge, the ability to have a chef talk about why they've done what they've done and how they've done it. You can't put a price on that.

The Cobaya Bus has some serious tread on its tires
Lastly, there's the diners or "guinea pigs" themselves.  People come to a Cobaya dinner to have an interesting dining experience.  Discussion at the table ensues and covers what's liked and disliked, what a dish reminds them of, or what their favorite of the night is.  On top of the meal, most leave with additional info to use later, like a place to find great Korean BBQ or what spot has the best chicarrones.  They bring nice bottles of wine and share with others at the table, most of whom are total strangers.  Their common bond is the meal and things develop from there.  We've had people of all types at Cobaya dinners - lawyers, deckhands, medical professionals, bartenders, college students, even chefs and other industry folks in the Miami area.  We even had one person design the infamous Cobaya Bus pictured above!  The attendees all contribute to the fun at each event and their spirit is what keeps this whole thing going.  We are always humbled by the response when the next "experiment" is announced.

As this post is being typed up, the lottery for our next experiment is being conducted.  We'd love to see you at a future event.  To get involved, hit up our website aka Cobaya Central to learn more about becoming a guinea pig and then sign up to our Google Group to receive emails when each new experiment is announced.  From there you're an email for seat requests and a lucky ping pong ball away from joining us "underground".


1 Upon further review, we have decided that Paradigm Redux was not a true Cobaya and thus was eliminated from the ranks, leaving the count at 25.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New England Summah - Steamahs

Last week, we went over how to make a propah lobstah roll.  A good New England summah pahty always needs some appetizahs though, so this week we're gonna talk about anotha of my favorites - steamahs!!

Steamahs, or steamed clams, are usually what we eat down the beach before the lobstahs come around.  A "steamah" is a soft shell clam that lies buried in the mud of tidal mudflats.  Like other bivalves, they have a long neck that makes its way above the mud to suck in seawater which is filtered for food and then spit back out.  Some people actually call these "piss clams" because sometimes when they are hahvested from the mud they spit out the water they are holding, resembling someone takin' a piss.  They are also known as longneck clams.

This year, Dad decided we were gonna old school and fatten our clams up with cornmeal.  I was excited because the last time I can remembah doing this was when I was about 7 years old.  The process is pretty simple - fill a bucket with seawater, dump in your clams, and add cornmeal.  Why do this?  Well, it helps to get ya a less mucky more flavaful clam, that's why.  What happens is the clams will do their regular eatin' routine, suckin' in the cornmeal seawater and spittin' out the refuse water.  This fills their bellies nicely and adds some sweetness from the cornmeal to the flava of the clam.

A bucket of ocean
Add in ya clams
Now add in ya cornmeal
It really doesn't mattah how much cornmeal ya add as long as you don't add too little.  Clams live in the mud so if ya put too much in you're not gonna bury them to death.  You're basically giving them a huge buffet!  So, my advice is to err on the heavy side.  Use a half can to a whole can.  Dad and I went with about 3/4 on this batch which was more than enough and left a few clams buried at the bottom.  Fill a bag with some ice and toss it in to keep the water cold.  You can use a towel to insulate and get more life outta ya ice too.

Clams like some privacy when they're gettin' their gorge on
You will wanna give the clams some time to get their grub on so hit the beach for a few beers and some bocce.  Just keep in mind that the loser in bocce has to pick up the balls when you're done!

Dad playin' pickup!  A rare sight!!
Murky water is a good thing, it means bellies are gettin' fat!
As ya can see, the water is a lot more murky than it was when we stahted.  That's the clams doing their thing.  From what I've seen, they love the cornmeal.  Just look at how happy they look!

Necks out, bellies full
Consider it a nice final meal on death row for 'em because after ya strain out the water and leftovah cornmeal, into the pot they go!!

The steam pot
Take whatevah type of steam pot ya can get your hands on.  This one is one that we've used since I was a kid that goes right on the stove.  We've also used one of those outdoor steam pots that sits on a rack ovah a burnah.  The lowah pot is filled with water and the upper pot is basically a strainah that allows the steam from below to cook the clams.  Now, some knuckleheads will add potatoes, lemon, herbs, and other crap like that.  That's nonsense.  It takes too much time and, much like eatin' lobstah, you're gonna wanna get the flava of the clam!

Clams gettin' steamy!
You'll want to let the steamahs go for a bit until you take a peek in and see lots of open shells.  Stay away from closed shells as they likely ahn't cooked through.  Remembah to save the water from the steamah pot as you'll wanna dunk your steamah in there aftah you've removed it from the shell and peeled off the exteriah neck lining.  From there either pound it down or dunk it in a little drawn buttah and then send it down the hatch!

Salty, sweet, delicious
So, there ya have it.  Now you've got two major ingredients to a propah New England Summah seafood pahty.  Aftah that it's simple stuff like fresh shucked oystahs, corn on the cob, pahdaydah salad, and maybe a gahden salad if you like that healthy stuff.  Of course you'll also want some beers to wash it all down.  Or maybe some champagne?  Or maybe The Champagne of Beers?

Livin' the High Life!
There's not much time left so make sure to enjoy the rest of the summah!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New England Summah - The Lobstah Roll

Fair warning: you're getting the accent for this entire post 

If you ask me, it really doesn't get better than summatime in New England.  For the past 11 years that I've lived in Miami, I've looked forwahd to my annual trip home in July when my family would rent a beach house on my favorite beach in the entire world, Long Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts.  Last year, my folks lucked out and found a place up fah sale that they were able to make their own.  It's a cozy cottage with plenty of bedroom space for visitahs and a screened in porch that has a bed for catchin' some Z's while listenin' to the waves crash on the shore.  Needless to say, the frequency of my trips home has increased.

I've written about our summah beach blast before and all the family and friends that come to enjoy the treasures from the seas that grace our dining table - oystahs, clams, steamahs, and my favorite, lobstahs!  This year, the lobstahs were fantastic.  On my trip last weekend, I declared the 2-pound lobstah I ate on our porch the best I've evah had.  It had it all - briny, succulent, meat that needed no dip in butter whatsoevah.  It was loaded with flava!

The best thing about getting lobstah for a group is that there is almost always leftovahs.  And you know what leftovah lobstah means???  Lobstah rolls!!!  Much like how I am with makin' an Old Fashioned, I'm very particulah about my lobstah rolls.  Here's where I'll share with you how to get 'er done!!

1.) The Roll

New England split top hot dog rolls are where it's at when making a lobstah roll
When it comes to a lobstah roll, the bun is key.  After all, it's the vessel that will be carryin' this big bite of awesome intah your mouth.  As important as capacity is, flavorin' is equally important.  That's why the only way to go is with a New England style split top hot dog roll as shown above.  The sides are flat and perfect for gettin' 'em buttahd up and toasted on a flat top1 so all that buttery flava gets baked on in.

Buttahd & toasted is the play
2.) The Lobstah Mix

Ok, so you're gonna need some lobstah to make this magic happen.  Boil or steam2 up a lobstah or two, let cool, then shell those bad boys for everything they've got - claws, knuckles, tail, legs, fins have all got good meat in them although the legs and fins are probably bettah for consumption while you shell the rest of the meat.  Reward yourself for your hahd work!  Lobstah rolls are best when you use as much claw and knuckle meat as possible3.  This meat is much more tendah and flavaful than the tail. My favorite paht is tip of the claw which adds a dry, rich flava.  Since we don't want to advocate wasting perfectly awesome lobstah, toss in some tail meat too.  I advise breakin' it down into bite sized nuggets to make it easiah to bite into and chew.  You can do this easily by hand by pullin' apaht the tail down the middle (which will allow you to toss out the intestinal tract that's usually filled with poo), then pullin' off each little nugget of meat formed by the shell. 

Go easy with the mayo!
A key thing to remember when makin' a lobstah roll is this: you're makin' this because you want to eat LOBSTAH!!  Sounds pretty obvious but I can't tell you how many times people forget this and the proof is in their lobstah mix.  Most often, the main offense is a heavy hand with the mayo.  The mayo here is mainly a light flavaring agent and bindah for the mix.  The flava of lobstah is delecate and the mayo need only to coat the lobstah ever so slightly.  Don't go crazy, a little goes a long way!  As you'll see in the picksha below, I used a tiny bit on a knife when I made this mix for three lobstah rolls.  If you ahn't confident in your mayo distribution skills, there is an easy way out...  Instead of addin' mayo to the mix, you can put a thin coating on the inside of the roll.

A little goes a long way!!
While I prefer not to add it, many people like tossin' some diced celery into the mix.  If you're gonna go this route, make sure to dice as finely as possible so that the celery adds a little crunch but not an overpowerin' flava.  Half moons of celery are a huge foul!!  Some people also add lettuce leaves which I strongly disagree with.  Lettuce leaves in a lobstah roll are like tuckin' the tablecloth intah your pants.  When you bite intah the roll, the lettuce usually isn't bitten through all the way and as you pull away to chew the lettuce pulls the rest of the lobstah out of the roll and into your lap.  Dumb idea.

3.) The Assembly

The Main Event!
It's showtime!  Grab a toasted bun and load it up with your lobstah mix.  I like to load tail and knuckle meat in as a base and save the hunks of claw meat for the top of the roll.  Once loaded, I hit the spice rack and add a little bit of seasonin'.  First I make a pass over the roll and hit it with some dill then I follow that with a very light dustin' of paprikah.  I find the dill adds to the fresh flava of the lobstah and the paprikah gives it a tiny kick while letting the lobstah flava continue to shine.  Now set that bad boy on a plate, gahnish with some crispy potato chips and maybe a slice of pickle or two and getcha grub on!!

Nothin' says summa like a lobstah roll and greasy chips


1 You can also toast on a grill. You'll add a chah flava but you'll lose a little of the buttery-ness.  I also find it dries out the bun a little too much.

2 Or maybe you lull your lobstah to sleep first?

3 I'm going to staht this off with an apology to my Florida readers. I'm sorry to tell you that when it comes to a lobstah roll, Florida spiny lobstah simple does not produce anywhere near as good a product as New England lobstah!! Spiny lobstahs don't have claws, just tails.  So do yourself a favah and do this the right way with a New England lobstah, ok?