Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fun Behind Bars: Be the Boss of Summer-Fun Cocktails

Fun Behind Bars With Dy Mixes

You can do it easier than you think!  Imagine your moment, entertaining in the back yard.  The deck is warm underfoot, the air is sweet.  You're surrounded by your friends and family.  The kids are splashing in the pool, and everything is going according to plan.  The condensation from your cocktail rolls over the back of your fingers as you raise it to your lips; everything is perfect... except your cocktail a watery mess.  You glance around surreptitiously, spying your guests' drinks and you see your own wet mess in hands all around you.  This shame is not inevitable.  A little advance planning can make you the star of the summer barbecue.

There are many variables that go into a successful get-together, and preparation will make your success look effortless. Cocktails are as important as any other element at a summer party.  If anything else goes off the rails, the drinks become even more important. That's a natural law as real as gravity.  You can protect yourself from watery drinks and make a big impact easier than you think, and the secret is simple: flavored ice cubes.  They are visually surprising, and add complexity to the drink as they melt instead of weakening it.

The first thing you'll want to do is plan what cocktails to serve on a hot, sunny day. Consider the formality of the event, the food menu, and your guests.  Summer fare tends to be light, inspired by the tropics (except in small-town Wisconsin, where there is an inexplicable allegiance to sausages and ground meat, no matter what the weather.  If you live by these traditions, read no further: serve beer.) If your palate is more seasonal and you've got "hands on" friends, you could set up a do-it-yourself mojito bar with rum, white soda, seltzer, limes and mint.  Keep some ginger ale on hand for purists.  Provide a muddler and a vessel for muddling and be on hand to offer advice, should a guest look intimidated.  To dial up your impact, puree some fruit and freeze it in ice trays.  I've had success with Mangoes and Raspberries (strain before freezing to remove seeds), and the effect is beautiful and delicious.

To me, nothing says "summer" like a gin and tonic.  After a long dormant period, gin is back in a big way. There are excellent new entries appearing in the gin category all the time, and most of the newer varieties are less juniper-forward than their ancestors.  My personal go-to favorite is Hendrick's because it is light and floral.  Keep the gin in the freezer, use small bottles of chilled tonic and warm limes (they provide more juice than chilled ones).  To create extra excitement, puree English Cucumbers and mix them with lime juice.  Freeze this fruit-and-vegetable mix in ice trays and add them to your summer G&T. If you can't get English, peel and seed cucumbers from your Farmer's Market before you puree them.

For many of us, summer means bikinis and bikinis mean Skinny Cocktails.  The skinny cocktail does not have to be boring or bland. The easiest way to skinny up your favorite cocktail is to press fresh citrus and use low-calorie modifiers like seltzer, or diet carbonated sodas.  Another clever way to make a delicious summer refresher without risking your waistline is to use the diet water-flavoring powder packets to make ice cubes for your drinks.  I used Crystal Light's Raspberry Ice flavor in mine.

Skinny Raspberry Ice Cooler
c. dy godsey
1 oz. Grey Goose
15 Flavored Ice Cubes (see below)
Combine, top with spanked Basil leaf

To make flavored ice cubes, use double the amount of flavoring recommended by the manufacturer.  If you're using Crystal Light single serving foil tubes, use two per quart of water.  Freeze into trays.  Use care in handling, as the cubes can stain. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interview with Chef Mitch Ciohon: Sabor, and Beta by Sabor

This week we sat down with one of Milwaukee's best Chef's; Executive Chef Mitch Ciohon of Sabor and Beta by Sabor. Enjoy the interview.

How did you get your start in the kitchen?

I started in the kitchen when I was 14 years old. I made sundaes and burgers at The Kiltie in Oconomowoc. My love for cooking and spending time in the kitchen with my grandma grew in my time there. 

After going to college for hockey, I moved back to Milwaukee and started working at Gil’s Café on the eastside when I was 20 years old. Right away, I fell back in love with the kitchen.   

Where else have you worked?

The Kiltie
Gil’s Café as sous chef
River Walk Bistro as sous chef
Sabor Brazilian Churrascaria as sous chef
Iron Horse Hotel as sous chef
Sabor & Beta by Sabor as executive chef

When did working in restaurants change from “just a job” to a career?

The change happened for me when I was at Gil’s Café. I started as a line cook, but very quickly realized how passionate I was about the kitchen and cooking. A lot of the things I was learning just made sense and I caught on really quickly, which gave me that feeling of, “holy shit, I think this is what I am supposed to do with my life.”  So I rolled the dice and here we are.

What is your passion in the kitchen?

I have a serious love affair with food – the ingredients are the key. I get so excited about the things I get to cook, especially the ingredients I grow myself or forage in the beautiful woods of Wisconsin. For me, that is where my passion comes from. Nothing to me is more exciting and gratifying than finding a beautiful morel mushroom in the woods and knowing you can eat it; or pulling a sun warmed tomato and eating it in your garden. Those are the kinds of things that do it for me. Getting excited leads to the ideas that start bubbling in my head, trying new things and the great results (not all the time – trial and error).

I also find happiness in teaching and sharing my craft with those around me. I have been lucky to have a great team here at Sabor and Beta by Sabor to help with everything we do. And don’t let me forget the huge amount of passion and drive that comes from my family; I am always trying to make them proud and happy!

What do you think of local food sourcing? Passing fad, serious trend, or way of the future?

Local food sourcing is a serious trend and way of the future. I love supporting the farmers and learning about where ingredients come from. It’s also good to learn about the farmer, farm and its history. Then, when a guest asks me about something, I can give some background on it. I think it enriches the dinning experience, makes it more romantic.

Another way of the future is the urban farm/city gardening. I think it is going to get pretty big. Luckily, with Will Allen near us, we are on the forefront in that area. I feel like that is a neglected idea for downtown restaurants.

Who are your top go to vendors for locally sourced food and what do you use them for?

I currently source from almost 20 local farms/purveyors:

Bernard (a personal contact and farmer)
Bolzano Artisan Meats
Braise RSA
Clock Shadow Creamery
Hometown Sausage Kitchen
A personal contact for honey
Local farmers markets
One Guerrilla Farmer
Sassy Cow Creamery
Strauss Farms
Sweet Water Organics
Sysco, who has a great relationship with Growing Power
Underground Kitchen
V. Marchese
Yuppie Hill Poultry

How do you incorporate this into your menu?

As mentioned above, I get excited about local sourcing and that leads to the ideas that start bubbling in my head, trying new things and the great results.

The seasons have a significant impact on what is available here in Wisconsin, but when the time is right for certain ingredients I build menu items around it. At Beta we have the opportunity to change things often – pending product availability, new ideas and popular items on the menu. Lucky for us, the local products make frequent changes easy.

What are your favorite dishes on the menu at the moment?

The Cheeky (braised veal and seared halibut cheek) is my favorite.

Seared scallops on bacon and fried banana puree with green grape gastrique is another gem. I enjoy the different flavor combo on this one, all the flavors really work well together.

Fresh pork rinds – This is one of my most simple dishes, but I love it.  Crispy little pillows of pork goodness.

Everything on the menu is tested and modified to perfection, that’s part of the fun! I can honestly say I like each item. If I didn’t like every item on the menu, I’d be selling myself short.

People know you use liquid nitrogen for some of your desserts and cocktails what other uses have you found for it in the kitchen?

We use the NitroCream Machine for desserts. That’s where it fits best, but there are certainly other uses for it in the kitchen. The heirloom radish salad is topped with liquid nitrogen frozen peanuts and golden raisins. They are then blended with a coffee grinder into a super flavored dust.

I like dusts – We use bacon dust to flavor the scallop dish and the pork rinds. What better flavor to put with pork than pork? We cook the bacon, blot the fat off, freeze and grind to use as the most perfect bacon “bits” ever. We use the machine for all of our powders – onion, garlic, tomato, and jalapeno, just to name a few. We dehydrate the produce and then freeze and blend it. When it’s frozen, it breaks up really well.

I’m looking forward to bringing back the tomato salad this summer, which is sprinkled with fresh mozzarella powder, oils and balsamic. You can swirl together your own mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette on the plate.

Any big plans or dreams for the future?

To keep working with as many local farmers as logically possible and get together with some other chefs to start the Milwaukee Chef Alliance. The alliance will make it easier for everyone to work together and put a star on the map for Milwaukee in food culture. 
To continue doing our best here at Beta, bringing fun new cocktails and food to the growing Milwaukee food and drink scene.

Most of all, just to have a good time and smile …the food tastes better when you’re happy!

Sabor on Urbanspoon Beta By Sabor on Urbanspoon