Monday, January 31, 2011

Cocktails 101 at Stir Cooking School

A few weeks back, a friend suggested we check out the classes at Stir Cooking School. He'd enjoyed a sauces class there. In particular, he said, "the bar/classroom setup is brilliant. How civilized to be able to grab another glass of a Spanish white midway through the course."

While the food classes intrigued me, the Cocktails 101 class looked like something the Sergeant could enjoy, too. We have a lot of booze at home but not a strong grasp of what to do with it beyond, say, scotch on the rocks or gin and tonic.
The class was taught by Mike Henderson, currently bartender at Lou's Food Bar, a new Frank Bonanno place. Mike is formerly of Colt & Gray, TAG, Beatrice and Woodsley and more, and well-regarded (as well as closely watched by Westword).
He began with an overview of bar tools, then moved on to the subject of ice. You can shake a drink with ice or stir it, depending on the drink. We tried a little gin chilled both ways and found it's true: your martini will be smoother if it's stirred, not shaken.
When you're stirring a drink, you don't need to agitate the ice, just spin it around in the glass with a spoon. Then you strain the drink into a chilled glass.

We all practiced our stirring technique with glasses of water.
Mike went over the many varieties of liquor you can put in cocktails and suggested some of his favorites. We are already set with the basic spirits, but it was good to have some idea of what to look for in vermouth, liqueurs and bitters.

The four drinks we made – Martini, Sidecar, Old Fashioned and Mojito – encompassed the main categories and styles of drinks. The Old Fashioned, shown here, was made with rye, simple syrup and bitters. And it was darn tasty, with a little snap of orange peel.

The mojito was different from my usual; it was a cucumber ginger mojito.
The Sergeant and I started with that one when we moved to the work stations (don't you wish all work stations looked like this?). You muddle cucumber, mint, lime and ginger liqueur, then add rum and ice, shake, pour, top with soda and garnish. Voilà!

I would suggest, though, that you taste the cuke before you use it. Some of them have a very bitter skin, so you may need to peel it.

We also got to try out the most awesome ice "cube" maker ever.
You start out with a big cube of ice (freeze a pan of water and cut it up, or use a silicone mold). You end up with a perfect sphere, with zero effort and no power tools.

How? Through the magic of thermal conductivity. Copper is so conducive that it can suck the cold right out of ice. With gravity helping, a heavy copper mold turns a cube into a sphere in seconds flat.
A big sphere of ice is ideal for chilling your expensive scotch, because you get the maximum surface area with minimal dilution. This novelty item, a Japanese invention, isn't cheap. The Macallan scotch folks got a bunch to use for promotion (very effective, I'd say), but if you want to buy your own, it'll cost you about $1,000. Here's a video I took of it in action:

Only silver and gold have higher conductivity, so there's no real cheap way to make your own device. Still, I covet!
Stir has lots of interesting food classes: "All About Fish," "Not Your Everyday Chicken," "Pies and Tarts," "Moroccan Cooking," to list a few. And other drinks classes: "Martinis and More," "Perfect Valentine's Cocktails," "Cocktails from Your Fridge," etc.

The classes are not limited to weeknights (always a plus for us swing-shifters) and you'll get a lunch if you're studying drinks (really good pizza, in our case).

As our friend said, the layout is quite civilized, with the bar in front and a comfortable kitchen classroom behind a glass wall.
So even if you're not taking a class, you can stop in and enjoy a well-made drink and watch the fun.

Or you can swing by our place, where the Sergeant will be happy to serve you up an awesome Old Fashioned, a tasty Tequila Daisy or a sublime Sidecar.
Stir Cooking School
3215 Zuni Street
Denver, CO 80211

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I spent a week in Jamaica

But these may be the only pictures you'll see.
It's just daunting to contemplate summing up all we saw and did.

A group of us went and stayed with friends who live there, on their ancestral cattle property up in the hills. It was not the Jamaica you might have encountered on a cruise or at a resort. It was pretty special.

Of course, we did get some beach time in, too.
And drank a lot of rum.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's all a blur

Thanks to Groupon, we got $7 tickets to the Draft Horse and Mule Show Saturday night, which was a darn good deal, since it included grounds admission. We went in the afternoon and watched the sheepdog trials. I love, love, love the sheepdog trials and try to go every year.

I took a lot of blurry photos, none worth posting.

Then we went to the draft horse and mule show and I took more blurry photos. I'm pretending the one above, of Percherons in a six-horse hitch, is artsy.

I had more success shooting video. Here's a mule-rider "pole bending." She outrode all the others by a wide margin.

I got a few better shots after the show, when we wandered through the horse barn. This sweet mule was in his zebra jammies, ready to bed down for the night.
The National Western Stock Show is now over. Be sure to make plans to go next year if you can!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I keep trying to make this blog more consistently interesting but I'm not trying hard enough. And it's boring to talk about how boring one's blog is. So. Here's another post!

Leo (that's him on the left) is staying with us for a few days. His sister, Lannie, died of pneumonia last summer. We always thought Leo would be the first to go, because of his multiple health problems, but here he is, still chugging along. He used to be a lot more annoying – he likes to bark ... a lot – but now he sleeps much of the time and is more subdued.

I think he is enjoying his stay with Lucy and Jackson. It must be lonely for him without Lannie.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New pasta rack

It's exactly the right size for one batch of pappardelle.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mmmm. Tongue.

If you haven't been to the National Western Stock Show, there's still more than a week left! We wandered around today, looking at all the animals. We'll go back next week to watch the stock dog trials.