Saturday, September 27, 2014

An International Cocktail Fail

Behold the classic cocktail, The Negroni.  It is a stunning looking drink with an amber-red hue and bright slice of orange rising out of it like a gorgeous sunrise over the Tiber River. A model of Italian simplicity and respect for ingredients, it's simply one third gin, one third sweet vermouth and one third Campari, a liquor prized by Italians for its bitter, herbal bite.  And it tastes. . . like ass.

There's an old saying that says "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".   I don't believe that's true.  In my reality, the road to hell is paved with Negronis.

I have tried to love this drink, tried very hard actually and when that failed like a Liz Taylor marriage, I tried to at least like it, a little.  But no matter what I tried, I never met a Negroni that didn't leave me with that "I just ate an elementary school hot dog and publicly vomited in the cafeteria" taste in my mouth.

You may wonder what lengths I've gone to in my efforts to tame the wild Negroni.  Well, aside from trying it in many wonderful bars here in New York and purchasing all the ingredients and making it myself at home, I tried it in  Rome.  My thought was that if I tried the Negroni in Italy, with Italian ingredients mixed by an Italian bartender and poured over Italian ice, it would, like everything else you eat or drink in Italy, simply taste better.  Sadly, it still tasted like punishment.

Perhaps my reasons for wanting to like the Negroni so badly are not as pure as they should be.  They all stem from this fantasy that I have in my head;  I picture myself sitting at a curbside cafe in Rome, near a bustling piazza, wearing impossibly stylish sunglasses in defense against the late afternoon light.  As I sit there watching the sun fade behind the the buildings I am sipping a perfectly made Negroni.  Nearby, children laugh and kick a soccer ball as elegant Romans walk by in a parade of designer clothing.  It's like a scene out of an Italian movie.

But this is not to be. And while it is perfectly acceptable to sip a glass of wine in the same setting, wearing the same sunglasses, it is somehow not as chic, not a as uniquely Italian, and certainly not as cool.

So on my next trip to Italy, it will be a Negroni-free zone, leaving me to have to find another way to look cool.  Maybe I can score an invite to the George Clooney wedding and be cool by proximity.  Or maybe I should just accept that I will never be cool enough to drink a Negroni and find some other shimmering cocktail that looks like a glassful of sunset to love.  Or maybe, I should stop trying to look cool.  Perhaps that is the ultimate lost cause.

Heavy sigh. I tried Negroni.  I really tried...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Labor of Love

I grew San Marzano Tomatoes.

I grew them from seed.

I lost a lot to blossom end rot.

I still managed to harvest a healthy colander full.

I washed them lovingly.

I sliced them in half and put them on a sheet tray.

I sprinkled them with salt, pepper and a generous slurp of extra virgin olive oil.

I gave them just the tiniest kiss of sugar, some herbs and a crushed garlic clove.

I roasted them in a low oven until their juices ran and their skins loosened.

I ran them through a fine strainer to get the most blazingly red and deliciously sweet puree.

I put the puree in a pot and cooked it with vinegar, sugar, celery salt, clove, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

I cooked it for an hour, all the time tasting, seasoning and re-seasoning.

When it tasted perfect, I put it in a bowl to cool.

The result?  A scant quarter cup of homemade ketchup.

Not exactly bountiful.

Was it worth it? Yup.

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat.