Making (or buying) better maraschino cherries
Did you see that Buzzfeed blog post about maraschino cherries that made the rounds last week? It showed the chemically altered path from tree to bottle that most of those artificially dyed cherries make from tree to bottle, and even though they are ubiquitous in bars and restaurants across the country, they contribute nothing positive to cocktails.
Imagine a carefully considered Manhattan, for example. Deep oaky whiskey and lush sweet vermouth have been stirred together to achieve a velvety consistency. The liquids are so right for each other they practically sing in perfect harmony. Then add a tangy, plastic-like neon cherry. The entire experience goes from elegant to cheap in one swift little garnish.
There are alternatives.
You can make them at home, using ingredients including liqueurs and baking spices. On her blog, MisoHungry (misohungrynow.blogspot.com), local blogger Jennie Chen has a recipe from Alamo Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris that calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, maraschino liqueur and brandy, which sweeten and enrich the cherries. (Chen provided the cherries in this photo.)
Most cocktail bars around Austin use Luxardo Maraschino cherries, which are absolutely delectable and can be bought in some liquor stores around town and online as well.
Others go online to source quality options. When I put out a call for suggestions on Facebook, Madelyn Kay, former bartender at places such as Drink.Well, the Fox Tavern and Peche, says Amarena Fabbri cherries are her favorite. Chris Bostick, who’s opening a Rainey Street cocktail bar sometime later this year, suggests Les Parisiennes Cherries in Brandy, because they “retain a nice sour note without being too syrupy.” Dallas bartender Anthony Polo offered up Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherries.
When searching for quality cherries at the store, the rule of thumb to follow is avoid bottles of tacky-looking neon red ones. Real cocktail cherries should have a dark borderline-maroon hue.
If you source quality cherries instead of ones that are bleached and then re-dyed, the effort will be rewarded tenfold in your future cocktails.
— Emma Janzen
Celebrating tomato season with pie
Tomatoes are finally coming into season, which means Jack Gilmore’s Tomato and Basil Pie is back on the menu at both locations of Jack Allen’s Kitchen. The better the tomatoes, the better the pie, so don’t skimp on the quality here. Gilmore sources his tomatoes exclusively from Central Texas farmers, so you might see him at one of the farmers’ markets buying them for his restaurants. If you do, ask him to point you in the direction of his favorite varieties.
Speaking of Jack Gilmore and local farms, Gilmore is one of three local chefs cooking lunches with teens ages 14 to 17 who are participating in the Urban Roots program. Urban Roots, which has a fully functioning 3.5 acre farm in East Austin, hosts community lunches during the summer where participants get to work with local chefs, which this year include Gilmore (June 14), Rene Ortiz (June 21) and Jam Sanitchat (June 28). Anyone is welcome to attend the lunches, which start at 11:30 a.m. at the farm at 7651 Delwau Lane, for a suggested donation of $20. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomato and Basil Pie
3 tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 pie shell
6 sprigs of basil
1 cup shredded cheese, such as Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
About half an hour before baking the pie, season the tomatoes and let some of the water drain out of them.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Layer the sliced tomatoes on the bottom of an unbaked pie shell. Tear apart basil and place on top of tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and mayonnaise, then spread evenly. Bake for approx 45 minutes til bubbly and golden brown. Serves 4.
— Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Learn how to can tomatoes at Confituras class
Can’t get enough tomatoes right now? Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny is hosting a canning class on June 13 that will specifically show how to put up tomatoes either by themselves or seasoned with herbs or in other ingredients. The three-hour class ($75) takes place at 4 p.m. at Springdale Farm. Information and tickets at puttinguptomatoesonthefarm.eventbrite.com.
Dove Springs farm stand opens for summer
The Sustainable Food Center, Austin Parks and Recreation Department and Urban Roots are teaming up to host a summer farm stand at the Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive, from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday, starting today through July 17. Like some of the other area markets, this farm stand will double the value of SNAP benefits and, for WIC-eligible family, the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers.