February 23, 2012

proof whisky, it’s Oscar time, Vol. 74

Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

Nominated for 9 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, we’re betting on a clean sweep for this Oscar contender on Sunday night. This week’s 20s Thursty Thursday recipe is inspired by The Artist. Visit our website www.proofbrands.com,  Facebook and Twitter to get last minute updates on tastings, parties & events.

proof Boulevardier
 1 ½ oz proof whisky  • 1 oz Campari • 1 oz sweet vermouth

Place all ingredients in a shaker of ice and stir. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with a cherry. We went crazy for the simple elegance of these Alessi wine glasses. They are perfect for cocktails! We picked them up at Chapters. (www.alessi.com)


The 20s marked another important event in history – the Temperance Movement or Prohibition. During Prohibition, some of the country’s finest mixologists found themselves fleeing the hotels and cafes of New York and landing behind bars in Europe, and specifically Paris. This was the case of Harry MacElhone who had been tending bar at The Plaza in New York. MacElhone found himself tending bar at Tod Sloan’s New York Bar in Paris. In 1923 he acquired the bar and added his name – “Harry’s New York Bar.” Perhaps the world’s most famous bar, it is also the birthplace of such classic cocktails as the Bloody Mary, French 75, Side Car, Monkey Gland, and The Boulevardier.

Our proof Boulevardier is adapted from Harry’s original. While the classic Negroni is mixed equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, The Boulevardier is changed slightly to 11/2 oz bourbon (in our case proof whisky) to 1 oz Campari and 1 oz vermouth. The bitterness of the Campari pairs well with the sweetness of our proof whisky.


If you are also placing bets on The Artist, you may want to flavour your Oscar Night Event with a little bit of 20s nostalgia. Some of the more popular snacks found in the 1920s included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, devilled eggs, anchovy canapés, pineapple upside-down cake, Italian pastas (many of the speakeasy clubs were run by Italian mobsters), Chinese foods, and bowls of nuts and olives. Here are a few classic and not-so-classic devilled-egg recipes to get your party started. You'll be the cat's meow!

Deviled Eggs with smoked salmon 1 8- to 9-ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces • 6 large eggs • 1 tablespoon olive oil (preferably extra-virgin) • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice • 2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard • 4 tablespoons minced smoked salmon (about 1 ounce) • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
Cook potato in pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Cool potato. Meanwhile, place eggs in medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to boil. Cover; remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain. Rinse eggs with cold water until cool. Peel off shells. Halve eggs lengthwise. Reserve 3 egg yolks for another use. Combine remaining 3 yolks, potato, oil, lemon juice and mustard in medium bowl. Mash with fork until well blended. Stir in 2 tablespoons salmon and 1 1/2 tablespoons green onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide potato-and-yolk mixture among hard-boiled egg white halves, mounding slightly. Garnish eggs with 2 tablespoons salmon and 1 1/2 tablespoons green onions.

Classic Devilled Eggs 12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled • 1/3 cup (75 mL) regular or light mayonnaise or salad dressing • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard, or to taste • Pinch salt and pepper • Paprika (optional)
Cut eggs in half lengthwise or widthwise. Remove yolks and place in a bowl. Set whites aside. Mash yolks with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Refill whites with yolk mixture. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover to store in the refrigerator.

TIP: Replace mustard with grainy mustard or add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, chives, basil) or chili powder, Tex Mex seasoning or hot sauce, to taste. We Grainy Whiskey Mustard in one and added the heat of sriracha sauce in the other for a little bite. (www.getcracking.ca)


What better way to watch the Oscars, then to be hugging a giant bowl of gourmet popcorn. Okay, hugging two giant bowls of gourmet popcorn would be better.

Parmesan Pepper Popcorn 2 tablespoons melted butter • 8 cups hot popcorn • 2 tbsp canola oil • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pour 2 tbsps oil in pot. Pour in 8 cups popcorn and pop. Drizzle melted butter over hot popcorn in a large bowl and toss to coat, then toss with cheese, pepper, and salt.

Caramel Corn and Fleur de Sel Popcorn vegetable-oil spray • 1 cup popcorn kernels • 1 tablespoon canola oil • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 3/4 cups sugar • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces • 2 cups smoked almonds, coarsely chopped • 1 1/2 tablespoons fleur de sel

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease generously with nonstick vegetable-oil spray. Generously spray a large bowl and all but the handle part of a large spoon or rubber spatula. In a large deep pot with a lid, combine the popcorn kernels, oil, and salt and stir to coat the kernels in oil. Place the pot over moderately high heat, cover with a lid, and cook, shaking the pot frequently to redistribute the kernels, until all the kernels have popped, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn to the large prepared bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels. The popcorn can be popped in advance and stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days. In a large deep pot over moderately high heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and 1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Cook, undisturbed, until the mixture develops a light amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, add the baking soda and butter, and stir continuously to melt the butter and combine the ingredients, about 20 seconds. (The mixture will be very hot and will foam up at this point—continuous stirring will help the foaming subside.) Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn and add the almonds, then use the prepared spoon or rubber spatula to stir everything together, trying to evenly coat the popcorn and nuts in caramel. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spreading out the caramel corn as much as possible. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and let cool and harden for about 20 minutes. Break the caramel corn into smaller, bite-size pieces and serve. Caramel corn can be prepared in advance and stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.

The next proof tasting with Michael Riley will be on March 1st, from 4 - 8pm at Liberty Village!


Saturday: Scattered flurries and a high of 0 degrees
Sunday: Partly cloudy and a high of 1 degree.

February 16, 2012

proof rum, this is the Big Easy, Vol. 73

Folks have a certain way o' doin' things down here. Whether your evening involves holding up the bar at Jean Lafitte’s, dancing the night away at Tipitina’s, chilling to some cool jazz at Preservation Hall or sitting in your Canadian-cold living room this Mardi Gras, we have a couple of great Big Easy-inspired recipes for you. Visit our website www.proofbrands.comFacebook or Twitter to get updates on tastings, parties & events.

hurricane-proof 4 oz proof rum • 2 oz passion fruit juice • 1 oz orange juice • ½ oz fresh lime juice • 1 tbsp simple syrup • 1 tbsp grenadine • orange slice and maraschino cherries for garnish

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.

One of the biggest food traditions in New Orleans is the table-top Crawfish boil. Although difficult to find in Toronto, you can usually pick up bags of crawfish at Seafood Depot in Vaughan (www.seafooddepot.ca) If not, you can always substitute with whole shrimp. 

Stove-top crab boil by Emeril Lagasse 2 bags crab boil (Zatarain’s* or use about 8-12 tbsp of recipe below) • 3 lemons, halved • 1 lb small red bliss potatoes • 4 garlic bulbs, halved horizontally • 2 onions, quartered • 3 pounds live crawfish (or whole shrimp with heads) • 12 ounces link andouille sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces (optional) • 2 ears corn, cut into 2-inch pieces • Salt and cayenne

In a very large pot heat 3 gallons of water until nearly boiling. Add dry and liquid crab boil, squeeze in lemons, then throw in potatoes, garlic and onions. Boil 10 minutes. Add everything else. Cover and boil 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Uncover, sprinkle in 1/4 cup salt and 1 tablespoon cayenne, stir it up, cover again and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain off liquid. Line table with newspaper and dig in.

* Zatarain’s Crab Boil is available at Pasquale Bros (16 Goodrich, Etobicoke 416-364-7397)


Crawfish boil spices 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper • 2 tablespoons paprika • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper • 4 tablespoons chili powder • 1 tablespoon garlic powder


Finish your meal with this Big Easy classic. Bananas Foster is a rum-based dessert that originated at Brennan’s Restaurant in NOLA. It is very quick, but super decadent.

bananas foster 1/4 cup butter • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar • 3 1/2 tbsps proof rum • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon • 3 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise and crosswise • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts • 1 pint vanilla ice cream

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar, proof rum, vanilla and cinnamon. When mixture begins to bubble, place bananas and walnuts in pan. Cook until bananas are hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve at once over vanilla ice cream.


For a fairly authentic cajun experience, visit Southern Accent in the Annex. Or, you can try out one of their online recipes. (http://southernaccent.com)

Southern Accent corn bread 1 cup fresh or frozen corn • 3 cups corn meal • 3 cups flour • 1 ½ cups sugar • 1 1/2 tsp salt • 3 ¾ tbsp baking powder • 3 eggs • ¾ cups Tenderflake • 4 cups milk

Combine and mix dry ingredients. Beat eggs with whisk and add shortening  and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry and fold. Half fill a large baking tray. Bake at 375˚F for 40 minutes, and 300˚F for 20 minutes. Serve with butter or a bed of 1 tbsp. honey.

Have a drink with Michael Riley at the King & Bathurst LCBO, this Saturday between 4 - 8 pm
He'll be mixing-up some great proof rum & proof whisky cocktails.

For all your beads, masks and costumes, visit last year’s 'mardi gras' newsletter for tips et laissez les bons temps rouler.

Weekend Forecast:
Saturday: Scattered flurries and a high of 2 degrees.
Sunday: Sunny with cloudy periods and a high of -1 degree.

February 9, 2012

proof rum, loves me, loves me not, Vol. 72

Last year, our Valentine’s Day special featured chocolate as the main ingredient. You can still visit Chocolate Be Mine for the full newsletter. This year we are talking about the sweet, fragrant essence of flowers. Like us on Facebook and Twitter to get last minute updates on tastings, parties & events.

Love potion 1 oz proof rum • ½ oz St-Germain 
Elderflower liqueur • ½ oz fresh lime juice • 10 fresh mint leaves • sparkling water

Lightly muddle mint in a collins glass. Half fill glass with crushed ice and stir. Add 1 oz proof rum, ½ oz St-Germain
Elderflower liqueur, ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir and top with sparkling water. Garnish with edible flower. (www.stgermain.fr)

TIP: If you do not want to invest $49.95 for a bottle of St. Germain (even though it’s worth it just for the bottle alone), you can achieve a similar flavour with other Elderflower sparkling drinks. Bottle Green Sparkling Pressé Elderflower drink is a good choice. (www.bottlegreendrinks.com) Use this in place of the sparkling water. We also found this Belvoir brand at Pusateri's. (http://www.belvoirfruitfarms.co.uk) 

Experiment with Rosewater and Orange Blossom water as well. These are now readily available at most of the big chain grocery stores. Fee Brothers has its own version of both.

Edible flowers 101 Before rushing out to the florist, do a little research on edible flowers. Most florists will be very knowledgeable and helpful, but it helps to know what you are looking for.
Bachelor's Buttons Their flavor is very mild - almost like a non-crunchy cucumber. Look for Bachelor's Buttons in blue, pink, purple, or white. • Basil Flowers The flowers from basil plants make lovely additions to salads, great garnishes for dishes that have basil in them, and delightful additions to decorate a platter of grilled meats or vegetables. They are usually a soft green, but can have white or purple tones. Basil flowers taste like Basil. Taste basil flowers before using them, since they can be bitter. • Borage has brilliant blue flowers that look fabulous in salads or as a garnish. Like Bachelor's Buttons, they have a vaguely cucumber-like taste. • Calendulas have a bit of tang (although they are not at all peppery like nasturtiums). Their petals look like daisies and come in orange or yellow. 

Carnations Be extra sure to buy carnations that have been raised to be eaten and not sprayed with pesticides. Carnation petals are a bit sweet, a bit spicy and come in a range of soft colors - white and pink look particularly pretty in salads. Taste each flower before using carnations, since they can turn bitter. • Chive flowers are spiky little purple balls that add a decidedly onion-like flavor to dishes. • Daylilies are edible. They are used like squash blossoms - stuffed and fried or chopped and added to dishes - rather than added to salads or as a garnish, though. Nasturtiums are probably the best known and most widely available edible flower. Nasturtiums have a real peppery kick (as do the leaves from the plant, which make lovely salads all on their own). Most are yellow or orange, although red nasturtiums are often available as well. • Violas (Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups) The whole family of Violas can be eaten - from large Pansies to tiny Johnny-Jump-Ups. They have a velvety feel and extremely mild taste that can best be described as a bit like Iceberg lettuce without the crunch. Sometimes pansies have a slightly minty taste, so, as with all flowers, taste them before you use them.


For our edible flowers, we decided to go straight to the source so we visited Boncheff Greenhouses in Etobicoke. (382 Olivewood Road www.boncheffgreenhouses.com

Boncheff sells herbs, specialty produce and edible flowers to locations such as Pusateri’s, Bruno’s, Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens and to many high-end restaurants in the Toronto area. They import orchids from Thailand, pansies, marigolds carnations from Israel and roses from California.

Sweets for your sweetie Nothing says ‘je t’aime’ like a little French confectionery. If you cannot make it to Ladurée en Paris (or to NYC for that matter), sample one of Toronto’s best macarons. (they’re pretty darn tasty as well)

We visited Nadège in Rosedale to see if these macarons lived up to their reputation and we were not disappointed. The shop itself is an objet d’art. All of the påtisseries are made at the Queen West location (780 Queen West, across from Trinity Park). Here you can sit for lunch and view the masters at work in the kitchen. Although the Rosedale location sells sandwiches and a good selection of pastries, it serves as a take-out shop only. (1099 Yonge Street, 416-968-2011 www.nadege-patisserie.com)

You can purchase the macarons by the dozen or individually. For Valentine’s Day, Nadège offers a beautiful selection of soft multi-flavoured marshmallows, chocolates, desserts and gift boxes. One of our favourite of their desserts is the Marie Antoinette macaron creation (above).

A delicate crust exterior that encases a soft, chewy interior – just the way you want them. Our favourites were the salted-caramel, mojito and the rose-scented flavours.


If you want to carry the flower-theme throughout dinner, try this delicious arugula salad. It even looks romantic.
Arugula and Roasted Red Pear 4 firm, almost-ripe pears (Bartlett or Bosc), peeled, cored, and cut lengthwise • 2 tablespoons sugar • 1 tablespoon butter, melted • 2 tablespoons pine nuts • 3 tablespoons olive oil • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar • 1 clove garlic, minced • Salt and pepper, to taste • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup • 6 cups arugula or mixed salad greens • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries • 1/4 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese • 12 calendula blossoms

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, toss the pears, sugar, and butter. Arrange the pears in a single layer in a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until the pears are barely tender, 10—15 minutes. Dry roast the pine nuts in a skillet for 5 minutes, until toasty brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a large salad bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, and maple syrup. Add the arugula or salad greens and toss to coat. Divide the salad onto four chilled plates. Arrange the roasted pears in a fan around the center, and sprinkle with the cranberries, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Scatter with petals from the calendula blossoms. (we used a mixture of edible flowers from Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens)

Weekend Forecast:
Saturday: Sunny with cloudy periods and a high of -7 degrees.
Sunday: Scattered flurries and a high of -4 degrees.