Friday Musings: All In Good Time

Friday Musings: All In Good Time

A week or so ago, I was driving up to work at Recklesstown Farm Distillery in Columbus when I happened to see one of those large swaying banner flags at the edge of a gas station that read, “Today’s Coffee Flavor: Espresso!” Well now. Am I the only one who finds the idea of a gas station espresso to be a bit of an oxymoron? I doubt that I am, but I can’t say that with absolute certainty. What I can say, however, is that Andrea and Ernesto Illy, father and son chairmen respectively of Illycaffé, would most definitely agree with me. Illycaffé, or just Illy, was founded in Italy in 1933 and remains a family controlled business that specializes in espresso and markets to 140 countries worldwide. Their annual revenue is over 600 million euros, and in 1999, they established the University of Coffee, Unicaffe, in Naples, an institution dedicated to coffee education and research. According to Ernesto Illy, “the quintessential expression of coffee is espresso.” Andrea takes that concept one step further by stating that “espresso is a miracle of chemistry in a cup” and “coffee is the official beverage of culture.” If we consider our favorite morning drink in these terms, I think that most of us would see the possibility of finding either a miracle or culture at a mini mart along Route 206 to be a highly unlikely one. But what if we happen to have an overwhelming desire for an espresso just as we read the words on that banner flag? Will any cup that we can get our hands on suffice at that point? I wonder.

All of these thoughts of the perfect espresso and its fast food equivalent made me remember Alice Waters and the pioneering work she did in California as one of the founders of the slow food movement here in the United States. In the introduction to her book The Art of Simple Food, which lives right on my kitchen counter, Waters calls the transformation she helped bring about her “delicious revolution,” reminding us that “food tastes naturally delicious when it has been grown with care, harvested at the right moment, and brought to us immediately, direct from the producer. But food like this is not just the privilege of a restaurant like Chez Panisse… anyone can buy it.” Waters encourages us to seek out farms and markets where we can carefully select and purchase this exact kind of food and prepare it lovingly for ourselves and our families in our own kitchens, without being rushed or worried about what we have to do next. In this way, preparing slow food becomes synonymous with living the ever elusive slower life, the one in which we take the time to cultivate an appreciation for the things that awaken our senses and ultimately stir our souls. She would adamantly tell us that if we intensely desire an espresso, the only one that will truly suffice in that moment is the one that we prepare in this same slow and loving way, with meticulous attention to detail and a deep regard for our local coffee roaster.

Isn’t it true though that every time we attempt to slow down the pace of our lives, we end up finding it nearly impossible to sustain our efforts? That’s what makes it so elusive. I think that many of us agree that one of the silver linings of the pandemic was the fact that we were forced to pare our activities down to only the bare essentials, while being given the time and opportunity to relish in the moments and people that really mattered. But the fast lane appeared in front of us again, and we’re back to running from one thing to the next, and while we now have a greater appreciation for the concept behind any kind of slow movement, we still have difficulty finding a place for slowness in our lives. Yet this difficulty is the very thing that makes taking the time to prepare the perfect cup of espresso or the most soul satisfying pot of soup so very important. If we accept that slowing down certain areas of our lives is essential to forging human connections and finding deeper meaning, we must also acknowledge that the steps we take towards the pursuit of slowness have to be reasonable. If they aren’t, then we are doomed to fail each and every time. We have responsibilities and busy agendas that juggle and balance, topple and re-stack, but there are moments, albeit in some cases infinitesimal ones, where we can allow slowness to bring the treadmill to a halt, even if only for a short period of time. We can wake up every morning and count out exactly 50 coffee beans, grind them to a medium fineness, place the moka on the stove, fill it appropriately with filtered water, arrange the coffee in a pyramid shaped pile with three holes poked in it, heat the water gently until right before it finishes coming into the top chamber, wait, pour, stir, and finally drink. All in good time and without a single gas station in sight.

For today’s cocktail, I had no other choice than to create a drink that included espresso as an ingredient, and this provided me with the perfect opportunity to talk about one of this month’s offerings on our RFD menu: the Livewire Martini. When I approached the idea of making this cocktail, I knew that I wanted to develop something that hinted at the seasonal spices that are ubiquitously present during this time of the year. I also wanted to use an espresso demerara syrup in the drink made from one part espresso and one part Sugar in the Raw, rather than a coffee flavored spirit, because I wanted a smoother, richer, and deeper flavor. I brought the spice component into the cocktail by using our Lonely Tractor spiced rum as the base, along with two dashes of our aromatic bitters that we make in house, and our Dust Settler vodka to keep the drink from being overwhelmed by spice. Our coffee beans are sourced locally at Evermore Coffee Roasters in Burlington City, owned by Lauren and Ryan Vaxmonsky, and the name Livewire refers to their espresso blend. The end result of bringing these different components together is a coffee cocktail that is the perfect accompaniment to this holiday season. The process of making cocktails will always capture and express the idea of the slow food movement for me. It requires precise measures, deep regard for ingredients, and deliberate steps that cannot be rushed or skipped over. When the shaker is finally emptied into the glass, there is a pause when, as bartenders, we think “I made this for you,” and we momentarily find connection and meaning in the fact that we did. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Come out to RFD this weekend and join us for a Livewire Martini!

Photo credit Clara DeAngelo

Livewire Martini

1.5 oz RFD Lonely Tractor Spiced Rum
1 oz RFD Dust Settler vodka
1.5 oz espresso DEM syrup
2 dashes house made aromatic bitters

20 sec hard shake over ice.
Double straining a cocktail glass.
Garnish with three coffee beans.

Enjoy!

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Friday Musings: Embodied Spirit

Friday Musings: Embodied Spirit

Earlier this week, as I was contemplating the idea of thankfulness for the upcoming holiday, I found myself struggling to put my thoughts on paper, so to speak, and it upset me a great deal. I am immensely grateful for my life and should therefore have little to no difficulty articulating my appreciation. And yet the words would not come. I know that I’m not alone in this place; we always seem to want to find the most eloquent words to express thanks. Because I believe that life’s gifts come from a higher source, I decided to seek some divine intervention and had a definite aha moment when I read the following quote by a French priest named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Hmmmm, right? Now if I said that I spent a lot of time perusing things this man has written, I would be telling you one big fat lie, so I’ll admit that I’m new to his work. What I loved about this particular concept was that I found it to be a bit mind bending, and since we are constantly barraged with recommendations to follow a spiritual path, his words also felt somewhat new and refreshing. But then again, are they really?

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Friday Musings: Object Oriented

Friday Musings: Object Oriented

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a small armchair in the sun-filled lobby of Penn Princeton hospital waiting for good news and for inspiration to come to me about this blog post. There was another similar chair directly across from me that was unoccupied until a young girl in scrubs sat down and became absorbed in some very focused work on her laptop. She seemed to suddenly finish whatever it was that she was so intently doing and before I knew it, she was gone. A while passed before I realized that she’d left a small book on the arm of the chair that looked like a journal of some kind. It had flowers and leaves on it and a dark green ribbon that marked a place in its pages, maybe for the last entry she’d been working on earlier that day. I’m not certain if it was the reflective mood that I was in, or the lingering energy of the spooky eclipse that I’d watched at 6:00 am that morning, or the way in which the light was hitting the arm of that chair in such a particular way, but that little book began to take on a strange significance for me. It had to be important to the girl. Did she realize it was lost? Would she know where to find it? What was it meant to represent for me as it sat there looking so forlorn and left behind in that sunshiny place?

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Friday Musings Reprise: Finding Nuance

Friday Musings Reprise: Finding Nuance

As a brief introduction, I’m reprising this post because the circumstances of this past week made these words that I wrote over four years ago even more meaningful for me. On Tuesday, I accompanied my partner in crime / partner in life, Cathy, to what should have been routine hip surgery. It turned out to be anything but that. To say that I am grateful she is home and recovering (albeit without a new hip) and still filling my life with so much nuance is the greatest understatement I have every made. I hope you enjoy rereading this post, or reading it for the first time. I’ll be back next week with something new.  

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Friday Musings: A Matter of Trust

Friday Musings: A Matter of Trust

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for cocktails, especially those that I create for my job at Recklesstown. I tell them honestly that I really don’t know the answer, and that I’ve allowed it to become a matter of intuition. Because I make that statement quite frequently, I’ve come to wonder exactly what it is that I’m talking about. Let me give you an example. The other night, my son Zachary texted me to ask if there was a way to make an elevated version of a Jack and Coke. I suggested that he use a better whiskey and then learned that I’d misunderstood the question. He wanted to know if we could make a fancier riff on a Jack and Coke that we could serve for his son Jack’s birthday dinner, which happens to be tonight. Ahhhh. Well sure. Let me think on it. And so I considered the idea of taking the cocktail apart and reassembling it in a new way by adding a few ingredients to a syrup I’d recently created for work, along with a citrus cordial and the Jack Daniels. The cocktail materialized in my mind in a relatively short period of time, yet I’m inclined to say that the steps I’ve just described were not a product of intuition. I think, to the contrary, that they are more related to the accelerated logical thinking that comes from doing something over and over again until it becomes a refined process. Still, it seems as though intuition has to be involved in some way, right? Otherwise, without tediously tasting the addition of every new ingredient, I’d never have been able to say with certainty that I thought the drink would work. And yet I knew, without a doubt, that it would. Is this because I’ve developed a certain level of confidence in what I do? Of course. It has become a matter of trust. The question is whether or not that’s the same as it being a matter of intuition.

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