Monthly Archives: November 2009

What good are the holidays if you don’t light something on fire?

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is full of fire – both real: the tree, Uncle Frank’s toupee, the electrocuted cat, the sewage-filled street drain – and imagined:

Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark: No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.

At the FCI, we like to light our alcohol on fire.  Have you seen this baby in action?

the wand of the red hot poker. we don't call it red hot for nothing.

yes, that's a temperature reading across the front.

If you’re not familiar with our red hot poker, you can read more about it here, here or here

The real point of this post, however, is to get you to attend our class, Holiday Cocktails with Nils and Dave on Wednesday, December 2 from 6:30-8:30 pm.   Sure, we’ll cover some things you can’t/wouldn’t necessarily want to do at home, but there will also be some low-tech stuff that will make your drinks and thus your holiday parties, much, much better.


Filed under Cocktails, Events, Lessons

Velvet Devil

In order to determine which cocktail would kick off tonight’s 1st annual whisky dinner with the Brandy Library, we had a contest.  John Isom is the winner with the Velvet Devil.

devil ingredients: Peychauds, Velvet Falernum, Brandy Library's Speyside Scotch, Angostura and Benedictine.

Combine 2 oz. scotch, 3/4 oz. Velvet Falernum (more on this in a moment), 1 dash Angostura and 2 dashes Peychauds and stir over ice.

large ice cubes+long bar spoon=good results.

Strain the above into an up glass and slowly pour 1.5 oz. Benedictine down the side.

The Benedictine creates a dazzling visual effect as it's poured into the glass. It collects at the bottom, so the cocktail changes flavor as you consume it, getting a touch sweeter at the end.

In addition to being tasty and easy to make, this cocktail looks like fall in a glass – the ambers, yellows and auburns of the changing (or mostly changed/gone at this point) leaves.

So purty that no garnish is necessary.

We’ve had several bottles of John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum kicking around and I’m thrilled that John came up with this drink (look for it on the L’Ecole list soon). 

This Falernum (fah-LEARN-um) hails from Barbados and clocks in at only 11% alcohol.  It’s a a sugar cane base with a little Barbados rum, some lime juice and some spices/flavorings, most likely including allspice, clove, vanilla, almond and/or ginger.  Taylor is said to have invented it in 1890.  It’s thick yet transluscent and sweet yet tart and spicy.  Normally, it pops up in tropical or tiki drinks, like the Mai Tai, but I think we’ve stumbled upon a good cool weather alternative.


Filed under Spirits

Visiting La Grange

I’m not in Saint-Julien this weekend, but Prince William County, Virginia.  Nestled among the highways and strip malls is a manor house dating back to 1790 that now houses La Grange Winery.  If you visit the website, seek out the story explaining why there are two fireplaces in what was the bedroom. 


the winery opened to the public in 2006.

 I came across an interesting sign in the front yard.

agritourism warning

this sign should have included a warning about bachelorette parties as well.

Virginia boasts over 140 wineries and La Grange is the closest to Washington, D.C. 

Their line-up includes Chardonnay, Viognier, Rosé of Merlot, Cuvée Blanc (a proprietary blend of Riesling, Traminette and Vidal Blanc), Norton (more on this in a moment), Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Meritage (rhymes with heritage; a blend of Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec), Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and a port-style wine dubbed “Snort” and made from Tannat, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão. 

The only other wines I’ve had from Virginia have been from Kluge Estate.  Overall, I was impressed with what La Grange is doing.  I’ll touch on a few of my favorites.  You’ll notice a variety of vineyards and regions listed because La Grange is not an estate winery, meaning they buy their grapes from throughout Virginia to make their wines.

2008 Viognier from Hollins Farm vineyard in Paris, VA.  13.5% alc and 6 months in Hungarian oak.  Viognier is one of my favorite varietals.  It hails from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône and when done well, has a distinctive, heady, perfumed aroma.  The tells for me are apricots, peaches and honeysuckle.  It’s also planted in Australia and South America.  The majority of experimentation in North America has been in California, Canada and Virginia.  In a blind tasting, I would have put this wine in the old world and at $21 per bottle, it’s a great value Viognier.

2007 Norton from Honah Lee vineyard in Orange, VA.  13.5% alc and a touch of American oak.  The varietal takes its name from Dr. D. Norton of Richmond, VA, a pioneer grape-grower.  Its origins are debated.  Our pourer at the tasting room said it’s a hybrid originally from France; the Oxford Companion quotes Leon D. Adams as saying Norton is “the best of all native American red-wine grapes”.  It seems to be from the species vitis aestivalis, though there are signs of vitis labrusca parentage.  The wine was light and easy-drinking with red-fruits, currants and sweet spice.  La Grange added 15% Cabernet Sauvignon to give the Norton a little more structure.

2007 Tannat from Honah Lee vineyard in Orange, VA.  13.5% alc with a combination of American and French oak.  The vine’s origins are Basque and it is well-known in Uruguay and Madiran (south west France).  Known for being intense and tannic, I was impressed by the approachable, but still concentrated style this wine exhibited.  Black fruits led to a spicy finish.

purchaed bottles

the purchased goods.


Filed under Wine

A dram with your lamb

Last week we put together a tasting panel to help us determine the menu for our big whisky dinner on November 18.

the judges

The panel, starting with the gentleman with his back to the camera and moving clockwise: Flavien Desoblin, owner of Brandy Library, Ethan Kelley, spirit sommelier of Brandy Library, Craig Koketsu, chef of Quality Meats and Park Avenue, Joe Campanale, GM/beverage guru of Dell'anima and L'Artusi, Alain Sailhac, our Dean Emeritus and André Soltner, another Dean of ours.

We had them sample 2 fish dishes, 2 meat dishes and 2 desserts.  Many of the recipes were developed by our culinary students.  I can’t divulge the winners, but I’ll share some photos with you.


Seared trout with barley risotto, Calvados raisins and apple cider reduction

table shot with glasses

A full table. The whiskies were Glenfiddich 15 Year, Glenlivet The Nàdurra and Dalmore Gran Reserva.

Chefs Alain and André had the exact same scores for each dish and both swore they didn’t look at each other’s notes.  The concept of pairing whisky with savory dishes seemed a little foreign to them.  André said, “With the fish and the meat, I’m not there, but with the sweetness it’s very good.” 

One of the many exciting things about this dinner is that I think we’ll be able to show how successful whisky and savory food pairings can be.

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Filed under Events, Spirits

Readying the Rye

Finger Lakes Distilling is about to release their newest product – rye – and this past weekend we got to help in the fun.

tasting notes

writing tasting notes. hammer is optional.

working the bottling machine

working the bottling machine.

filling bottles

reminiscent of a dairy farm, don't you think?

biv and ak assemby line

the labels are the trickiest part.

applying the necker

applying the necker.

drying the capsule

sealing the capsule. not your average blow-drier.

finished product

finished in sherry barrels, this rye is smooth for such a young whiskey with notes of orange peel, cardamom and butterscotch.


Filed under Spirits

Malt on my mind

On Monday night I went to a dinner at the James Beard House titled “The Pig and The Malt”.  It was a GQ Cooks series featuring The Glenlivet and April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig (and the newly opened Breslin).

It was some of the tastiest pig I’ve had.  After my first bite of braised pork belly cotechino with fennel and mostarda di cremona, my husband asked, “Are you ok?” and my new acquaintance on my left said, “Wow, you must really like this dish.”  I laugh now thinking what face I must have made, but on with the beverage.

My favorite whisky of the evening was a single malt, cask strength called The Nàdurra, Gaelic for natural.  Intense, rich and fruity with a smoky spice.  When it came to pairing with the Pig Trio of pork terrine, head cheese and rillettes, the Riesling that was served was no match.  I was tickled that this was my favorite because I happen to have a bottle of it on my desk.


I have it for research purposes. Honest.

We’re throwing a dinner together with The Brandy Library in a few weeks and The Nàdurra will be poured for one of the courses.  I hope you’ll join us.  Here’s the invite:

whiskey dinner invite

Yes, I know we screwed up on the spelling – the “e” is generally used for new world and Irish whiskies, not for Scotch.  It will be delicious just the same.

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Filed under Events, Spirits