Spring 2008 Tea from China & Japan

  

After much anticipation, we are thrilled to say that our air shipments of freshly plucked, early spring 2008 green teas have arrived from China and Japan.

In Asia, the spring green tea harvet kicks off the beginning of a new season of tea production. These teas possess sweet, mouth-filling flavors that are influenced by the specific terroir ( the essence of the soil, rocks, rains, late spring snow, clouds & mist, etc. ) of the place where they grow.

In China, spring green teas from high mountain elevations such as these teas are only plucked for a short season of about 6 weeks. During this time the developing leaf on the tea bushes is small and tender. But soon it will grow larger and by June will be classified as summer tea.

In Japan, the first tea of the new season is called Shincha. The tiny leaves and buds of Shincha are only plucked for a short 10-or so day period before they grow too large to be so classified. Shincha is intensely aromatic and vegetal, and in a class by itself. Each spring, Japanese tea lovers eagerly await the arrival of Shincha in the tea shops throughout Japan. It is a time for celebrating the new tea season and for enjoying the flavor of the first tea of the new year.

Those of us living in the West do not often have the chance to experience new tea this fresh. So this is a wonderful opportunity for you to become familiar with such splendid teas. We have a limited quantity of these teas – you won’t want to miss out.

  • Sichuan, China

Mending Mt. Clouds & Mist

Mengding Mt. Sweet Dew

Mt. Emei Bamboo Tip

  • Zhejiang, Chjina

Bamboo Sea Tea

  • Shizuoka, Japan

Hashiri Shincha

Please vist our website – http://www.cooksshophere.com/products/tea/green/2008_swsp_grn_tea.htm – to read more about each of these extraordindary teas and to place your order.

Note: we have been told by our sources in China that these teas from Sichuan province were in transit before the devastating earthquake occured in that region of China. Since then, the problems caused by broken, impassible roads will mean that transportation of goods out of Sichuan will be cut to a trickle. Further supplies of tea will be delayed for perhaps as long as several months. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of this region of Sichuan whose lives have been so devastated.

Eau-de-vie Cocktails

As I flipped through my June 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine, I noticed an article on a new trend in bartending mixology – crafting cocktails using eau-de-vie.  I chuckled to myself and remembered the day last fall year when Bob and I mixed and sipped and mixed and sipped some more as we tried to develop the prefect combination of spirits for an eau-de-vie recipe to feature in our book HOT DRINKS: Cider, Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Spiced Punch, Spirits. http://www.cooksshophere.com/products/hot_drinks.htm

We wanted to include a drink using eau-de-vie, a  family of liqueurs we have come to love and which we associate with our many wonderful food-discovery trips to France. In fact, years ago, we spent a delightful afternoon visiting the Clovis Reymond distillery in Villamblard, Perigord and dragged home six or so various bottles which we enjoy using in desserts, as after-dinner liqueurs, etc.

Eau-de-vie is clear brandy distilled from fruit. Please do not confuse these glorious brandies with simple fruit flavored brandy – that is like confusing artisan cheese with ‘you-know-what’ in a box. The best eau-de-vies possess rich, ripe concentrated fruit flavors and ethereal, intense aromas – a liquid expression of the fruit ( albeit with a burn and a kick). They are clear in color but fiery in taste, and have a high alcohol content.

Classified as brandy, these liqueurs are distilled 100% from ripe fruit such as pears ( Pear William ), cherries ( Cerise ), raspberries ( Framboise), yellow plums ( Mirabelle ), black currants ( Cassis), apricots ( Abricots). Eau-de-vie as the name implies, is often synonomous with France, in particular the orchard-heavy regions of Alsace and the Dordogne. But other European countries and several producers in the USA also distill this potent elixir.

It took a bit of crafting and fiddling for us to get the balance of flavors we wanted in the drink just right. When we finally said ‘This is it ‘ we named our drink Pan-Asian Pear William. We added a touch of Japanese sake to smooth the alcohol ‘bite’ from the two brandies and add a faint sweetness. The drink was created to be enjoyed hot, but served chilled ( stirred with ice but served without ice ) in a stylish liqueur glass would be nice too in on a warm summer evening.

Pan-Asian Pear William

Serves 2

2 tablespoons ( 1 ounce ) junmai ginjo sake

2 tablespoons ( 1 ounce ) Pear Williams eau-de-vie

2 teaspoons Calvados

1/4 cup freshly-drawn water

Combine sake, Pear William, Calvados and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Ladle into sherry glasses or small, clear glass cups and serve steaming hot.

Daffodils and Asparagus

 

I love it when unexpected natural occurances happen.

Spring is one on my favorite seasons – I yearn for the approach of ‘daffodil days’ as soon as winter begins its frosty retreat. In my neighborhood, daffodils push-out early in the spring, displaying their cheerful demeanor while they stand resolute against the frost-nipped nights and the blustery, changeling days. Large yellow trumpet, baby-moon miniature, flat-cup and white-on-white, they group together in friendly clusters, giggling in the wind like schoolgirls with a wicked secret. And they always bring a smile to my face.

So, imagine my surprise last week when Bob returned from our local market with several bunches of  asparagus during daffodil days. This of course could not be local asparagus – that was at least 3 weeks away at best.

‘What ? This never happens’  I cried ! ‘I have no memory of ever eating asparagus while admiring my pastel troops waving to me from my kitchen window. Shame on you”‘  I blustered, ‘You bought ASPARAGUS IMPORTED FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE….how could you ? ‘  I admonished.

‘Now just hold on a minute’, he said. “This is our local Pioneer Valley asparagus- it’s just out very early this year. Remember what they said last winter ? Because the snow fell so early ( and fell and fell and fell all winter long ) the ground never froze as solidly as it does in most years. You know, it’s the same reason why the moles are making swiss-cheese out of our lawn. Things are just growing earlier and faster because it stayed warmer underground.’

‘Oh, of course,’  I said apologetically, feeling a tad remorseful that I had jumped to such a conclusion. Looking for something to say I offered: ‘But the moles don’t really bother me and why should our lawn look any different from that of our neighbors’ ?

As Bob stood there giving me ‘the look’ I suddenly realized the greatness of this news. For the first time I that I can recall, we have a glorious spring that is bringing us daffodil days and asparagus days at the same time.

Now, I wonder if next year we could manage to produce just a few local strawberries at the same time……….

 

New Orleans: Food Heaven – The Sazerac Cocktail

There is so much social history and culture entwined with the food and drink of New Orleans that one can easily become entranced by the past and slip into a bygone era, forgetting about the present. In New Orleans, the past nourishes the present and the locals like it this way. Less may have changed here over time than in any other great American city, and traditions ( which exist despite the image of New Orleans as a raucus, vulgar, drink-yourself-into-a-stupor kind of place) and the old-ways are held aloft by locals with great pride.

The history of New Orleans steps side by side with the present, and I everyday I spent there I came to realize how much I did not know about the culture and real identity of this magnetic place. And how much I would like to learn. Ignorance is indeed bliss, but enlightenment does have it own rewards.

Imagine my surprise and delight to find out that one entire layer of New Orleans food history is actually a beverage history, one filled with stories and legends of a past and present time that celebrates the vigorous drinks and cocktails created in New Orleans. In fact, there is an event held every year in New Orleans called Tales of the Cocktail, which is a culinary and cocktail festival that features award-winning mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs and designers in the New Orleans French Quarter for five days of cocktail events such as dinner-pairings, cocktail demos and tastings, seminars, mixing competitions, design expos, book-signings and much more.

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