Archives for the month of: December, 2009

Tropical Christmas
½ oz. Malibu Rum
¾ oz. Pomegranate liqueur
¾ oz. Chambord
6 oz. blood orange juice
Flavored Soda Water
Splash of Grenadine

Combine ingredients over ice. Shake vigorously. Garnish with a lime.

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage

I have to admit it: I’m a total sucker for the holidays. There’s something about the spirit of human kindness, generosity, and goodwill that makes this time of year truly heartwarming.

I truly love the gathering of family and friends to celebrate the year, and the tidings of joy that dominate this holiday season.

For me, the holidays represent tradition. Each family has its own unique ones — whether a food, a game, a prayer, or a drink. One of my Christmas traditions is the spirit I wake up to: (after coffee, of course) the Bloody Mary.

As with many classic drinks, the origin of the Bloody Mary is heavily disputed. Some say it was invented by Fernand Petiot in 1921 at Harry’s bar in Paris. Others say George Jessel concocted it around 1939. Still others say the two collaborated, with Petiot being the one to add the spices and Jessel coming up with the vodka and tomato juice.

Regardless of who invented it, good Bloodies are great; poor ones are barely worth trying. My recipe is pretty darn good (if I say so myself), so I would like to share it as my holiday gift to you.

One of the secrets is to use Absolut Peppar (Of course, this is all assuming that you like spice. Otherwise, you’re probably not even reading this.) The pepper-infused vodka adds another layer and dimension to the drink.

I also have to give some credit to my sister-in-law Dennie, who keeps my cupboard well-stocked with Lyle Locke’s famous farm-grown horseradish. Also, she gave me the idea of having a traditional Christmas drink.

I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday. Have a merry Christmas, and I hope Santa brings you everything you hope for.

To your good health!

The Perfect Bloody Mary
2 oz. Absolut Peppar
8 oz. V8 (tomato juice is fine, but V8 has better flavor)
1½ tsp. horseradish (fresh is best, never used creamed)
3-4 dashes Tabasco
2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
¼ lemon, freshly squeezed
3-4 grinds of fresh pepper
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. celery salt
1 celery stick
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
Smoked sea salt

In a large pint glass filled with ice, combine vodka, V8, horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lemon, pepper, and both salts. Shake vigorously.

Cover a small saucer in sea salt. Rim your glass with lime, and dip pint glass in salt. Fill with ice and strain the Bloody Mary in. Garnish with celery stick, lemon wedge and lime wedge (you also can garnish with shrimp cocktail, jalapeno pepper and olive, if you desire).

Drink, and have a very merry Christmas.

Serves 6-8

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 orange, zested
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B or dark amber)
2 cups water
1-2 apples, sliced
Whipped cream

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and nutmeg in a bowl. Blend in butter with pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough is evenly moistened. Do not over mix.

Bring syrup and water to a boil in a 4-quart pot at least 10 inches wide and lower to a simmer. Add sliced apples.

Using an ice cream scoop drop dough into syrup mixture, leaving space for dumplings to expand. Gently simmer over moderately low heat, covered, until tops of dumplings are dry to touch (15-20 minutes). Serve warm.

Garnish with whipped cream.

Written by Chris Benjamin. Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

One of the beautiful things about spirits is the versatility of products that are available on the market. You would think that there are only a finite amount of flavors that could be created with the materials on hand on this planet, but due to ingenuity and creativity, new products are released and invented every day.

We recently had the privilege of hosting the Department of Liquor Control’s annual meeting here at The Essex Resort & Spa. It was an interesting time for us as we got to meet many of the creative minds behind these great products as they came to pitch their new products to the board.

At this annual event, I sampled a few of the more interesting liquors and have a new one to share with you: Domaine de Canton. I’ve tasted many of the available ginger liqueurs, and most aren’t good. This one, however, is probably the best I’ve ever had, most likely due to the fact that Cognac is used as the base instead of vodka or grain alcohol.

The first ginger-infused liqueur came from a ginger estate in Thailand. John Cooper, the son of famed Chambord importer NJ “Sky” Cooper, put a great spin on the recipe. He takes baby ginger that is culled, washed, peeled and cubed by hand, and then cooks it with spices and herbs in a cast iron pot. He blends this essence with VSOP and Grand Champagne Cognac, distills it twice, and ages it in French oak barrels. Finally, Cooper blends in ginseng, vanilla beans, and honey and then filters it. It’s a spectacular spirit.

For those of you who love Jack & Ginger, add a splash of this to really spice things up. Or simply replace your ginger ale with Canton to create a dynamite martini. You can also use it in cooking—add some to your stir fry to deglaze the pan and infuse a ginger flavor into the dish.

We recently combined it with Grey Goose La Poire (pear flavored), and I have to say it was a stellar combination. So, here is the recipe for our Pear Gingertini. It’s great as an aperitif or something to warm you up on these cold, snowy days. And Canton also makes a great gift.


Pear Gingertini
2 oz. Grey Goose La Poire Vodka
1 ½ oz. Domaine de Canton
1 pear chip

Fill a tumbler of ice with liquor and shake vigorously. Strain in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with pear chip.

Pear Chips
Using a very sharp knife, slice pears into thin sheets (using a mandolin makes this a lot easier and faster). On the stove top, create a simple syrup by simmering 2 parts water to 1 part sugar until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer, and add pears.

Cook pears until translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Heat oven to 180 degrees. Remove pears from syrup and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (silk pads are even better).

Dry in oven for 1-2 hours until crispy.

Tarragon Corn Chowder
Yields: 1 quart

1 potato, par-boiled
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup Spanish onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Place the diced potato in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a separate pot, fry the bacon on medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add the onion and celery, cooking until transparent.
Add the fresh tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.
Add the white wine and reduce about 3 minutes.
Add the butter.
When butter is melted, add the flour to make the roux.
Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and mix thoroughly.
NOTE: Stir constantly and keep at medium heat to prevent soup from burning.
Add the other 2 cups of the stock, the corn, and the par-boiled potato.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Courtesy of Butler’s Restauarant & Tavern at The Essex Resort & Spa, a proud Partner in Education with New England Culinary Restaurant.

What with us now knee-deep in the holiday season, thoughts are no doubt turning to the always-frustrating task of buying stuff for people.

Well, whoever invented the gift card deserves a gold star. It’s small, doesn’t need a box or any extravagant wrapping, and it lets people get whatever they really want.

And we’re hopping on the bandwagon ourselves… with a bonus!

For the next couple weeks, we’ll give you a FREE $20 resort-wide gift card with the purchase of a $100 gift card.

Yep– buy something for someone, and we’ll mail you a little present yourself. Piece of cake.

And the best past is they’re valid anywhere at The Essex Resort & Spa:

  • Butler’s Restaurant & Tavern
  • Spa at The Essex
  • Cook Academy cooking classes
  • Overnight accommodations
  • Fitness classes
  • Salon treatments
  • The Pantry gift shop

When we say it’s the perfect holiday gift, we mean it!

Stop by the front desk the next time you’re here, or you can just call 800-727-4295.

We’ll hook you up, and then you can go back to enjoying what’s really important this time of year… perfecting that fruitcake recipe.