Slash and Burn Holidays
I don’t know about you folks, but fire has always been a part of our Christmas celebration—and not, as it is in nicer families, in a safe, Yule log way. No, the way that we roll is to darken our dining room, then burst through its doors bearing a whooshing, blue fireball of Christmas pudding detonated with brandy. We feel that the risk of injury adds verve to our celebration, though when the pudding sputters out, we tuck into a bûche de Noël (because Christmas pudding is just nasty).
But let’s just say that, unlike us, you’re not into burnt sacrifices (or the secret pleasures of rosy, hairless forearms). Here’s how you can add danger to your yuletide celebrations, though, NOTE: we take no responsibility for any burning, maiming, or dismemberment that may occur.
“Saber” a Champagne Bottle
This is a one of those fabulous showy party tricks, at least one step above hands-free lipstick application. Unfortunately, the best, most informative video demonstrating the technique features the creepy master sommelier David Glancy, from the Professional Culinary Institute. Something about this video feels dangerously off-kilter, especially when Glancy breaks out his tight leather gloves and shades. I keep thinking of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, except he’s fondling his punt.
Use Port Tongs
The reason for using red-hot tongs to open vintage Port is that older bottles may have condition problems. Specifically, if a bottle hasn’t been re-corked within 25 years, its stopper may have deteriorated so that it can’t be extracted without crumbling. Tongs work by focusing extreme heat near the top of the bottle’s neck, creating a difference in glass temperature that makes a clean, straight break. I’ve also heard that using Port tongs is less disruptive to the sediments that have likely accrued with age.
One thing I’d like to point out: the man in the video named his daughter Taylor after the Port producer. When I mentioned this to little Night Train, she nearly wet her Underoos.
Heat Your Wassail with a Red Hot Poker
Heating up a chilly bevvy with a red-hot fire poker is nothing new. According to this piece in the Times, tavern denizens were boiling up “flip-dogs” and “loggerheads” throughout the 18th century.
The habit of thrusting red-hot pokers into drinks faded when taverns replaced their hearths with stoves (and, later, furnaces), but the technique is being re-introduced by those trendy, history-bent mixologists. Sure, you could probably heat the ingredients in a pan, but poker advocates claim that the iron adds a smoky, burnt-sugar flavor. Plus, with a pan, it’s tough to mimic this drink’s garnishing slick of ash and Duraflame additives.
Here’s a great recipe for Red Hot Cider from Salon.com
You know what? We at E.D.P. don’t advise flaming drinks during the holidays, and not because they’re dangerous (or, as the Times relates in this article on Apotheke’s Albert Trummer, illegal). We don’t like flaming drinks during the holidays because the fire burns off critical alcohol. And there is no way that this reveler is going to greet her extended family unlubricated.
However, if you must flame something, we’ve included this video recipe for a flaming Sazerac cocktail. One caveat: it’s a given that the ice and club soda in this version of a Sazerac are a crime against God and nature, but I like that the bartender only flames the sugar and orange peel, leaving the alcohol’s wallop intact.
E. D. P. Alert: Money for Funny, from Zagat
Closet comedians take note. The voting period for the upcoming Zagat Westchester/Hudson Valley Survey ends on January 9. If you fancy yourself a laffmeister, take a moment to support your favorite restaurants. (‘Course, if you’re feeling blackhearted, you could also spend hours skewering your least favorite ripoffs.) This year, as in the past, Zagat will award a $100 prize to the wittiest surveyor. From the Zagat site, “How does the Witty Surveyor Contest work? Featured Survey participants are automatically entered in our Witty Surveyor Contest! Zagat Survey editors will select up to three people submitting the most insightful, descriptive, and clever comments for places on their ballot. The winners will receive a $100 Visa gift card that can be used for any of their favorite dining or leisure activities!” So, please, please, please, try to crack your local editors up.
Christmas Eve-ents: Feasts of the Seven Fishes
The origins of this Italian-American tradition are as murky as the North Atlantic: some say it started in Southern Italy, and others, on American shores. But extensive seafood feasts are a tradition in many local Christmas Eve celebrations. Sure, the festa dei sette pesci is rooted in Friday and holy day abstinence from meat, but we see the meal more as an occasion for cooks to throw their best seafood dishes down in glorious array. Check out these seven fish dinners—and book now; tables going fast.
Orfino’s in Briarcliff Manor will be serving its regular menu along with the option of the whole seven-fish spread. The dishes are individually priced and available for family-style service—or, you can arrange to have Orfino’s cater your festa dei sette pesci in the comfort of your home. Call Linda Orfino for details, (914) 941-7353.
Zuppa promises a wealth of seasonal seafood specials on Christmas Eve, so that families can arrive en masse and select a feast from the seafaring array.
Tarry Lodge is offering a twist on the usual seven-fish parade. Instead of a tableful of individual plates, Chef Andy Nusser is slinging seven fishes in a three course meal. Details are forthcoming about which, what, and how much, but we figure that, after dallying through TL’s wine list (PS, which won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence), you won’t care.
Mima is amping up its regular menu with a school of seafood specials for Christmas Eve. All are available à la carte, and can be shared family-style.
Surfs Up: Summery Fresh Sardines at Caravela
When bone-chilling winds start whipping between the Hudson and the Sound, my mind inescapably turns to more pleasant climes. Sicily, Spain, the South of France, and Portugal—the sort of places where sandy beachgoers tuck into simply grilled fish. Here, at Tarrytown’s Caravela (53 N Broadway, Tarrytown, 914-631-1863), you can find these sweet, briny creatures served with cress salad and seaside memories.