Apple Cider and Brandy

Apple cider hot toddy

Decided to whip up a hot toddy for some guests on one of those crisp evenings where the almond wood in my fireplace burns just right. Great ingredients make a great drink; the quantities vary with the relative level of inebriation (this drink usually ends the night).

I started by heating some organic apple cider and some mulling spices at a low simmer. Filtered out the spices and let it cool slightly – meanwhile adding some heavy cream, vanilla simple syrup and a touch of walnut liqueur to my kitchen aid mixer on. I have used my soda charger in the past, but I wanted that THICK cream to just sit on the top of the glass and melt into the drink.

I built the cocktail in the glass, adding some pear brandy and filling almost to the top with the warm cider, finishing with a pastry scrape of thick cream, and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s almost time for turkey!

Calvados Pays d’Auge Brandy

Organic Apple Cider

Nux Alpina Nocino (infused into the whip cream)

Shaved Nutmeg and Cinnamon

Sergio Perera

Amalur Project

‘Amalur’ is Basque for ‘Mother Earth’ and the theme is painstakingly made evident through innovative techniques. The Amalur Project is the work of Chef’s Sergio Perera and Chef’ Steve Monnier that I was honored to be included in.

Each dish is a presentation of it’s ingredients in their natural form and the meal was completely curated. Even the methods of eating were designed to evoke the feelings of nature – from dishes like the ‘edible garden’ where the carrots still clung to their rye bread crumbs (dirt) to be hand ‘dug’ by diners. Each diner was provided with stainless steel tweezers imported from Spain, an homage to Sergio’s time at at Tickets, a famed tapas bar in Barcelona.

As a complement I included a Sparkling Pear Soda; aiming for something dry and reminiscent of a hard cider I used roasted bosc pears in nutmeg and cinnamon with a vanilla simple syrup to fill the palate with a light sweetness.

The highlights of the meal for me where the smoked Grissini. The goat butter was whipped and silky, a perfect balance of richness to the intensely smoked and grissini. Great notes of grass and cream from the butter, woodsmoke and char in the grissini. Excellent presentation over some pink peppercorn blossoms on a lovely wood plank.

The pork belly (sourced from Sous Chuck Kallal’s place, Jimenez Family Farm) was an explosion of both flavor and color; I think it was the most popular dish of the night. The interplay of the huckleberries releasing their juice into the granny smith apple was visually striking. This dish also contributed to one of the top staff meals in my recent memory, as we downed big hunks of leftover fatty pork with a gifted Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I quickly decanted for our staff toast. I alarmed some of the sous chefs by biting directly into the pure fat section of the belly with the resolve of a recovering vegan – a simply marvelous dish [ I had a leftover premier cru ’05 Bordeaux ( Pessac-Léognan appellation) that I gave to one of the Sous Chef on the first evening; one of my favorite vintages].

I’m normally not a fan of sweets, but the dessert had so many exciting things going on. The vivid green, and almost weightless almond sponge cake that hid the passionfruit ice cream, on top a slightly chewy and nutty praline sable – flavorful. I heard Sergio tell his Sous chef’s to “place the mint leaf under the cake, almost as if it is growing out of some moss.” The chocolate dust settled like fresh snow inside the Sergio choose one of my hand glazed bowls from Japan and I think the colors were a beautiful complement.

The connection to nature and earth here goes beyond typical farm to table, it is farm in bowl, and diner as farmer.


Compressed Asian Pear, Herbs, Burnt Orange, Cinnamon

Smoked Grissini with Goat Butter

Oysters, Warm Potato Espuma, Truffle Caviar / Beet Vinegar, Passion Fruit, Yuzu Koshu

Edible Garden, Rye Bread, Horseradish Cream, Vinegar Powder

Lobster Mushroom, Celery Root Puree, Caramelized Onion, Onion Broth, Tapioca Pearl

Sea Bass, Artichoke Heart and Crispy Artichoke, Citrus Emulsion, Nasturtium Leaf

Pork Belly, Pomme Souffle, Pork Jus, Compressed Granny Smith, Huckle Berry

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, Passion Fruit Cream, Almond Sponge Cake, Chocolate Powder, Praline Sable

Sweet Snacks

Non alcoholic cocktails

Saad Patail Wedding

Both the bride, groom, and most of the guest weren’t drinkers, so I got an opportunity to make some non-alcoholic cocktails for this wedding at the Newport Beach Hyatt.


Cucumber Mint Agua Fresca

english hothouse cucumbers, lime juice, fresh mint



Strawberry Tarragon Lemonade

central coast strawberries, lemon juice, tarragon simple syrup



Ginger Pear Soda

bosc pears, cardamom ginger syrup, soda water


Tuscan Melon Agua Fresca

tuscan melon, pineapple, lemon juice 

Calderone/Festante Wedding

“Everyone was raving about the cocktails, the wine, pretty much everything. Thank you for working so hard to make this so special. The bar looked so rad with the pumpkin and the dry ice. At one point someone said, “the bartender put burnt rosemary in my drink!!!!! i love it.” Thanks for paying attention to detail. We’re headed out on our honeymoon tomorrow but keep us abreast on your future endeavors.” – Best, Emily

Calderone/Festante Wedding Libations

The idea was presented to start with a champagne toast: 

NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs is actually made in New Mexico of all places by a famous Champagne house and is surprisingly good. (W&S gives it a 90) The usual suspects in a Champagne style blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. Apple, butter, toast, vanilla, cream, and maybe a pepper.

wine and beer

2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha     

Easy drinking, on the sweeter side, not terribly complex but lush with a great nose.

2010 Vino Sfuso Montepulcino

Coming from the DOC of Abruzzo, high quality grapes and juice at a great price.

2011Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier

Honeysuckle from the Viognier, and green apple from the Chenin Blanc. Melon, crisp, floral.

20111 Julie Benau Picpoul de Pinet      

Picpoul means ‘lip stinger’. Wine from the Languedoc usually used for blending. Green and gold hue, with a fuller body.

Weihenstephaner Vitus (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan)

This is a killer deal on another world class beer. The Vitus has a lush, vibrant color, and really excellent carbonation. Most of the tasting notes report a banana flavor/nose.

Brides Cocktail

working title “the Quincy Jones”

Recently in Poland I was really impressed by the flavors of early fall quince, and I wanted to do something with vodka for all the vodka drinkers out there and a bit spicy to match spicy tuna, pork burgers, and rosemary in the apps. I’m using a bit of cinnamon and allspice for a fall feel.

Groom’s Cocktail

Manhattan Bar featuring Rittenhouse Rye, Bulliet Bourbon, and George Dickel Whiskey – Carpano Antica Vermouth, 3 month bespoke bourbon maraschino cherries


SoCal Soda (non-alcoholic cocktail)

Orange, ginger, maggies mint, soda – simple, light, crisp and refreshing. I went lighter on the ginger and added a little clove.