Archives for the month of: March, 2010

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

Ah, sugaring season — perhaps one of my favorite times of year. Not only is it a reconnection to nature after a season indoors, but it also signals the end of cold and snow. (I’m not a big fan of winter, if you couldn’t tell).

Sugar season also holds some very fond memories for me. While currently in between operations, I have been an avid sugarer since I was a kid working with my dad. We started out with a little 2-by-2, propane-feuled Leader evaporator. We’d start out with some taps in trees, cutting triangles out of milk jugs to use as buckets. I’m not sure what was more frustrating: cutting all the jugs or chasing them around the 20-plus acres of land after a decent wind blew.

After upgrading to buckets, we built a sugarhouse and invested in a 2-by-6 evaporator. Our sugarhouse is on the grounds where four generations of Benjamins have worked. (I count my daughter in this, though, she barely remembers it.) In this sugarhouse, alongside my dad and later my best friend, we had some of the best times of my childhood.

We had a TV (because you have to watch March Madness), cooked hot dogs in the back pan (you’ve never tasted a dog so good, but it’s pretty impossible to do that now with all the reverse-osmosis machines and steam-aways), and we created one of the greatest flavor combinations that I’ve ever tasted: whiskey and syrup.

Nothing — and I mean nothing — is better than hot maple syrup out of the evaporator and a little Jack Daniels. The sweet of the syrup takes out the bitterness and burn of the whiskey.

Don’t believe me? Look at some of the products that are available on the market. Sortilege is a maple whiskey native to Canada. Sapling is a liqueur made from Vermont Grade A maple syrup. Vermont Gold is a vodka made from the sap itself. These products are all of the highest quality, and are great mixed in drinks or all by themselves.

Alcohol and maple are a match made in heaven, but not just for drinks. It also makes a dynamite glaze and marinade for meats. This Easter, we’re serving a Jack Daniels maple demi-glace on our Vermont fresh hams. One of my buddies also swears that the only way he ever enjoyed goose is with a good maple syrup and Jack marinade for 24 hours. Coincidence? I think not.

The recipe I’ve included is a combination of all the things you need in a sugarhouse (minus the TV and sugar dogs): Jack, syrup, and coffee for those long boils.


Maple Coffee
1 ½ oz. Sapling Vermont Maple Liqueur
½ oz. Navan (vanilla-flavored Cognac)
½ oz. Jack Daniels
6 oz. coffee
Whipped cream
Maple drizzle

Combine Sapling and Navan in a coffee mug. Add coffee, top with whip cream and finish by drizzling pure Vermont maple syrup over the top.

Grab your friends and visit The Essex Resort & Spa for this girls-only weekend of fun and relaxation!
April 17 – 18, 2010

• One night’s stay in a Traditional Room
• Sparkling Wine upon arrival
• Three 30-min. Spa treatments of choice
• Afternoon master wine seminar
• Spa Cuisine Dinner Saturday night
• ‘Fresh Start’ breakfast Sunday morning
• Yoga class Sunday morning
• In-Room movie of choice
• Extended indoor pool/hot tub access
• Live entertainment in Tavern
• Discounts at Essex Outlet Shoppes
• Saturday night bonfire with s’mores

All this for just:
$229 double occupancy. ($189 for each additional adult in the same room.)

Want more? Add-ons available, including Friday night Italian Wine Dinner, Saturday afternoon Pilates class, Chef-in-Training cooking class, Sunday Brunch, and Sunday grand wine tasting

Call 800-727-4295 or email to book your Girlfriends’ Getaway today!

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

Isn’t it funny how, if you wait long enough, the past will repeat itself, and what once was out of style becomes cool again?

I was recently looking at a picture of my nephew and his buddy on Facebook, and they both have haircuts straight out of the ’70s. My pal and fellow writer Jason “Cork Dork” Zuliani has insisted on having a retro-Beatles look for the past five years; I call him Ringo in jest.

How about fondue? Back in the ’70s fondue was all the rage (my director of catering remembers fondly eating cheese fondue while watching The Muppet Show). More restaurants (including The Skinny Pancake in Burlington) are offering fondue, and we’re seeing it come back in a big way here at The Essex. (We’re offering it as a reception for our wine dinners coming up in April).

My point: Vintage is in. What’s old is new. I think part of this has to do with the war and the recession. When times are tough, people tend to gravitate toward things that make them comfortable or safe. And subconsciously, in some cases, eating fondue and wearing charm bracelets are ways to get there. It also explains the rise of TV shows such as AMC’s Mad Men, and it certainly helps explain the return of the classic cocktails.

Look around bars today or at any trade magazine, and I guarantee that you’ll see classics making a comeback, albeit with a little twist here and there. Take, for instance, the Old-Fashioned. This drink is credited with being the first “cocktail.” With roots dating back to the early 1800s, it was created as a bourbon drink (though more often than not it uses rye whiskey) for gentlemen, and it incorporates a process known as muddling. Muddling means using a mortar to macerate fruit with sugar or to break apart herbs and release oils (you can get one real cheap at any kitchen store, or use a bowl and the back of a screwdriver).

At first, the recipe for the Old-Fashioned required a lemon peel and sugar, but as more ladies started to enjoy the drink, bartenders began to use maraschino cherries and oranges to macerate the sugar. The old-fashioned (excuse the pun) thought was ladies needed a fruitier drink to enjoy alcohol.

These cocktails are coming back with a vengeance. So are drinks such as the Side Car (essentially a brandy margarita), Singapore Sling (gin, cherry brandy, and lemon juice), Martini (though they’ve been in for a while), Sazerac (of New Orleans fame) and a host of others.

I’m including a recipe for the Old-Fashioned and Side Car because they are really tasty, (though very potent, so be careful). We all have times of stress to deal with… and different comforts that help us deal with them. As for me, I’ll be enjoying some cheese fondue in the den while watching The Muppet Show reruns with an old-fashioned. To each their own. Enjoy!

The Side Car
1 ½ oz. brandy
½ oz. Cointreau
3 oz. sours mix
½ oz. lime juice

Put your sugar on a small plate, run a sliced lime around the edge of a martini glass, and dip glass in sugar. In a large pint glass, combine brandy, Cointreau, sours mix, and lime juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime.

The Old-Fashioned
1 ¾ oz. whiskey (some folks use brandy)
2-3 oz. soda water
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
½ slice orange
1 maraschino cherry
1 tsp. sugar (raw is the best)

Place orange and cherry at bottom of rocks glass. Add sugar. Add bitters. Muddle the ingredients together with a pestle. Once combined and macerated, add whiskey and top with soda water. Garnish with orange slice. The alternative to this recipe is to omit the cherry and orange, and use lemon rind.

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

As director of Food & Beverage at the Essex Resort & Spa, it is my duty to ensure the quality of our beverage program and our food offerings. As such, I am forced (yes, under much duress) to sample our culinary creations and our many offerings of, well, extracurricular beverages. Yes, it is a tough job, but somehow I make it through the day.

Over the years I have developed a taste for all three of the beverage categories (beer, wine, liquor), and I appreciate each of them for their unique contributions, flavor profiles, and personalities that affect the way food is perceived. Some of the beverages pair well together. Wine and liquor, for example: Mimosas are a perfect example of how combining wine, juice and a touch of liquor can create a beautiful thing (as you’ll recall from my New Year’s Day article, Chambord, Grand Marnier and Canton are all lovely additions to mimosas).

When Savorvore editor Becky Holt asked me what ideas I had for this beer issue, liquor was not foremost on my mind. The problem with most drinks combining liquor and beer is that they were created by college-age kids who just wanted to accelerate the intoxication process. They are, by and large, not the titillating palate-pleasers that I try to create for you, my refined and ever elegant audience.

There are a few drinks that combine these two alcohols, though. So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are my recommendations:

Boilermaker – a pint of beer with a shot glass of vodka, tequila, bourbon, or gin dropped in. The drink has varied over the years; the boilermaker was first made with rye whiskey.

Dr Pepper – a shot glass of Amaretto dropped in a beer. (In my professional opinion, it doesn’t taste much like an actual Dr Pepper.)

Lunchbox – half OJ and half beer with a shot of Amaretto dropped in

Ersh – a very popular drink in Russia. It’s equal parts vodka and beer.

Shandy – a popular British drink. No liquor, though—it’s a mix of beer and lemon-lime soda. We get quite a few requests for this cocktail every summer, and it really is quite refreshing.

Red Eye – by far, the most famous beer/liquor concoction. With its supposed magical healing abilities, the Red Eye is essentially a Bloody Mary made with beer. Traditionally, it also has a raw egg mixed into it, but I’m not going to recommend that due to certain health risks associated with consuming raw eggs.

So, here’s the recipe; you may just need one after a fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day. If you want my two cents, just stick with green beer… but to each their own. Enjoy!

The Red Eye
6 oz. beer (keep it light and inexpensive)
6 oz. V8 (you can use tomato juice, but V8 is so much better)
2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 pinches of celery salt
2-3 grinds fresh black pepper
1 tsp. prepared horseradish (the stronger the better)

Combine all the ingredients (minus the beer) together. Mix vigorously. Add it to the beer.

At this point, crack in the raw egg… if you care to tempt fate.

Bottoms up!

Thanks to our new alliance with WORLDHOTELS, we are now able to offer our guests a special reward: Free airline miles with each qualified stay!

A stay at The Essex between March 1 – April 30, 2010, will cure your spring fever plus reward you with airline miles for every dollar you spend on:
• Accommodations
• Dining (including In-Room and take-out)
• Spa and salon treatments, plus product purchases
• Cooking classes in Cook Academy
• Gift shop purchases in Pantry at The Essex
• Taxes and gratuities on above

Stay one night, earn 500 miles plus 1 mile for every qualifying dollar you spend.
Stay two nights, earn 500 miles plus 2 miles for every qualifying dollar you spend.
Stay three nights, earn 500 miles plus 3 miles for every qualifying dollar you spend.

Click here to book your reservations now!

At check-in, simply desk our Front Desk staff to post your airline miles to your frequent flyer account with: American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines or U.S. Airways.

Reservations made March 1 through April 30, 2010 are eligible for this promotion. Guest rooms will be booked at Best Available Rate. This promotion is not combinable with any other offer.

Free miles and a great stay. We look forward to seeing you!

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

Coffee. One of the elixir’s of life. Ask anyone who gets up before 6 a.m. on a regular basis, and it’s pretty much a sure necessity, and it’s been around a long time. Way back in 500 B.C., Homer mentioned “a mysterious black beverage made of beans said to awaken the weariest of travelers.”

Because people love the flavor of coffee, it didn’t take long for someone to figure out that it would be perfect as a liqueur. And when thinking of coffee liqueurs (there are a lot of them — around 40 at last count), the one that probably comes to mind first is Kahlúa.

Kahlúa was created back in 1936 by Señor Blanco. He was approached by the Alvarez brothers who convinced him to use their premium Arabica coffee beans in his recipe. About 26 years later, a chemist by the name of Montalvo Lara refined the recipe, continuing to use the Alvarez brothers’ premium beans. According to Kahlúa’s website, some of the Mexican villagers began to refer to the year 1936 as 0 A.K. (“after Kahlúa”). In 1964, Kahlúa was first exported to the United States and shortly became the best-selling coffee liqueur. Twenty years later, Kahlúa became the number one liqueur brand in the world.

There are some brands out there that are cheaper, but in my mind, they don’t have the same flavor profile, richness, or density on the palate that Kahlúa has.

Made popular in the United States by drinks like the Sombrero (Kahlúa and milk) and the White Russian (vodka, Kahlúa, and milk), this liqueur is a great addition to your coffee or aperitif martini.

Now there are a lot of martinis out there that Kahlúa can work with. As usual, my creative bar team has created a pretty good one. I was recently making quite a few mocha lattes for a group contact and friend here at the resort, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice at steaming milk (not too hot) and getting the perfect cream on a cup of espresso. But with this recipe, the Mocha Latte Martini, you don’t have to struggle with getting the right amount of air in your mix. You just need to have the ingredients to make it great.

We use a lot of different coffee liqueurs with this recipe, including one of Kahlúa’s newest products, Kahlúa Mocha. It has a touch more chocolate, but I think you’ll appreciate it in this drink. Don’t forget to add three coffee beans as a garnish. Traditionally, they represent health, wealth and happiness and are said to bring good luck to the consumer.

The Mocha Latte Martini
1¼ oz. Three Olives Triple Espresso vodka
¾ oz. Kahlúa Mocha liqueur
¾ oz. Baileys Coffee liqueur
Hershey’s syrup
3 coffee beans

Combine vodka and liqueurs in large shaker glass with ice. Shake vigorously. Drizzle chocolate sauce around the rim of the glass. Pour martini in glass. Garnish with beans.

Looking for a summer camp for your aspiring chef?

Look no further than Camp Cook at The Essex— a fun, hands-on week in our new culinary kitchen!

Available weeks:

Monday, June 28th – Friday, July 2nd SOLD OUT!
Monday, July 12th – Friday, July 16th SOLD OUT!
Monday, July 19th – Friday, July 23rd*
Monday, July 26th – Friday, July 30th SOLD OUT!
Monday, August 9th – Friday, August 13th SOLD OUT!
Monday, August 16th – Friday, August 20th SOLD OUT!
Monday, August 23rd – Friday, August 27th SOLD OUT!

*minimum of 6 sign-ups required for each class

9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ages 10-14 welcome!

Your child will have a great time learning the tricks of the trade during this week-long cooking camp. From food preparation to nutrition, Chef Kerri Bouffard will make your camper a star in the kitchen. Plus… swimming in our pools each day, a trip to a local farm, and a ride down the zip line at our neighbors, Northern Lights Rock and Ice. Lunch & snacks are provided, and every child goes home with a book of recipes, an apron, and the skills to cook you dinner for a change!

Register before May 1st for the discounted rate of just $325, plus tax. ($350 after May 1st). Space is limited to 12 aspiring chefs, so call 800-727-4295 to reserve a spot today!