Tag Archives: Cocktails

2011 Favorites from Cooking with Coley

Before we move forward into the new year–with resolutions, personal goals, plans for a bigger and better year–it seems only fitting to stop and reminisce over the best of 2011. For me, much of that has to do with food. The foods and restaurants that were memorable and impactful–those that will continue to be my favorites in 2012 and beyond. So please join me as I recollect…

Restaurant Highlight: I’ve been to plenty of new restaurants in 2011–some new for me and some new to market. Across North America, across food genres, across styles. From the finest in dining in NYC at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 to a hole in the wall burrito place in the Bay Area to Central Grocery’s muffaletta sandwich in New Orleans. Some places stood out and warranted reviews and praise. Some were forgettable where I can hardly even remember what I ate.

It’s tough to pick a favorite dining experience of 2011, so I won’t. What I will do, as a Boston native, is to highlight a new Boston restuarant that was delightful and delicious.  I’m going to have to give a shout out to Sweet Cheeks Q in Boston. This new hot spot in Fenway opened just over a month ago. With a smokey aroma luring in all of Boylston Street and Top Chef runner up, Tiffani Faison, essentially cooking in front of you in the open kitchen, it’s no surprise this place draws in the crowds.  The food doesn’t disappoint, nor does the drink menu, so check this place out next time you’re in the Fenway ‘hood. This place is sure to continue to make a name for itself in 2012.

Recipes: 2012 was certainly a year of cooking for me. Trying new ingredients, flavors and just having fun in the kitchen. While I first whipped up this dish almost a year ago, my Asian Noodle Salad recipe has been prepared time and time again. As a quick healthy dinner option or a family party hit, this salad has all the asian fixins to delight.

And in case you missed ‘em the first time around, there are a few other faves that I recommend checking out: Chili Garlic EdamameFiesta Pasta Salad and the deliciously rich Pesto Genovese with Orecchiette.


So Happy New Year all and thanks for your loyal readership in 2011! I’m off to celebrate in Hoboken with good friends, good food and perhaps a cocktail or two.  Cheers!

Eating Jamaica: A Culinary Tour

I was recently invited by the Jamaica Tourist Board, along with select other bloggers and press, to attend a culinary tour and experience the tastes of Jamaica. Awesome right? Unfortunately, due to a full-time job, I was unable to make it work.  

So instead, a close friend of mine went in my place.  As the editor of Cocktail Enthusiast and booze aficionado, Kevin was the perfect candidate for Jamaican rum tastings.  But in addition to his expertise of cocktails and spirits, Kevin has a refined pallet and appreciates good eats. A perfect fit for the tour!

Lucky for us, Kevin saved a special post exclusively for Cooking with Coley. I’ll let him take it from here…

Before my recent trip to Jamaica, I knew very little about the cuisine. My knowledge started and ended with jerk chicken and rum, so I was anxious to learn more about the country’s food. Naturally, my gluttony assisted me well, as I managed to cram about three weeks’ worth of eating into five days.

Some culinary highlights –

Jerk Chicken

There’s a reason it’s popular. This delicious style of cooking refers to the spice rub that’s applied to chicken, pork and seafood. The jerk seasonings are principally allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers (more on these guys below), but can also include thyme, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and more. The result is intensely flavored food with a hearty kick. I sampled jerk dishes at several restaurants throughout Jamaica, but found the local favorite, Scotchies, to be the best. In the below photo, A Scotchies’ employee reveals the jerk chicken slow cooking over a pit fire.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

This native pepper is a ubiquitous flavoring agent in Jamaica, finding its way into jerk seasoning rubs, soups and many sauces. To give

you an idea of the heat using the industry standard Scoville units, Scotch Bonnet peppers have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 units. The jalapeño, for comparison sake, has a heat rating of around 2,500 to 8,000 units. Remember the fiery heat that a jalapeno’s seeds can give off, then imagine that heat intensified about 50 times. Therein lies the appeal of the Scotch Bonnet pepper. It’s extremely hot, but when used in moderation, it’s a delicious topping to jerk chicken or rice and peas, and it’s a great flavor enhancer for soups.

Speaking of soups, locals noted that Scotch Bonnet peppers are dropped whole into soups during cooking. But they’re always fished out before the soup comes to a boil, as boiling soup can cause the pepper to burst. A single burst pepper can ruin an entire vat of soup, rendering it too hot to eat.

Ackee and Saltfish

This breakfast staple is the national dish of Jamaica, and it quickly became a favorite morning treat, equally valuable for curing hangovers and fueling long travel days. Ackee resembles scrambled eggs, but it’s actually a West African fruit brought over to Jamaica in the 1700s. To prepare the dish, ackee is boiled and then sautéed with salted cod, tomatoes, onions and spices. 

June Plums

This new-to-me fruit grows in tropical climates like the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Eaten raw, it’s sour and slightly crunchy, like a mixture between a plum and a green apple. Locals often sprinkle the raw fruit with salt, which creates a fun play between sour and salty. The fruit can also be cooked down into jams, relishes and sauces, or stewed with water and sugar to create an applesauce-like treat. The June plum was also featured in a popular, refreshing Jamaican drink of June plum juice sweetened with sugar and spiced up with a hint of ginger.

Thanks Kevin, for doing the heavy lifting and taking one for the team by going to Jamaica.  ;) Luckily, I’m off to explore the region myself in two days to celebrate a close friend’s wedding on 11.11.11. Looking forward to trying those scotch bonnet peppers, and finding out for myself if cod for breakfast is really a good idea.   

Kevin Gray is a Dallas-based journalist and cocktail enthusiast who’s work has also appeared in AOL, The Huffington Post, Gear Patrol, USAToday.com and Where Magazine. Check out Cocktail Enthusiast and follow Kevin’s journey through new spirit tastings and classic cocktail reviews.

Summer Sangria Recipe

Warning – this isn’t healthy.  Unfortunately, I don’t think any alcoholic beverage can be classified as healthy.  But what the heck?  It is summer isn’t it?  And what’s summer without tasty cocktails in the sun?  If you’re looking for something that’s delicious and refreshing to serve at a party or just drink on a Sunday Funday like we did, then this for you!

This is hands down the best homemade sangria I’ve had to date.  Ryan’s Aunt Lori made it for us, and we just had to have the recipe.  We’ve modified it slightly, but I’ll share her version noting my changes.

What you’ll need:

  • Cheap spanish red wine – 1 1/2 cups
  • Orange juice – 1/2 cup
  • Brandy – 1/2 cup
  • Gran Marnier – 1/2 cup
  • Sugar – 1/2 cup (we used several packets of Splenda to taste)
  • Oranges and peaches sliced (we used strawberries instead of peaches because I’m allergic to peaches and also added lemons)
  • Soda Water


  • Combine  all ingredients except soda water.  Ideally let sit for a day (we actually drank it right away and it was still great!).
  • Top each glass off with soda water – important to add this last
  • Serve and enjoy!  Then serve some more and repeat. :)

OK the best news is that the longer it sits, the better it is.  If you’re saving for several days out, you’ll need to strain the fruit.  We made six times the recipe, so we had some left over.  After straining the fruit out, we put some into a wine bottle and put a wine stopper in. Seven days later it was amazing!  We also froze some in a Food Saver bag, and just like the wine bottle portion, it couldn’t have been better!

Even if you think you have a favorite sangria recipe at home, I insist you give this one a try too.

Note this isn’t Aunt Lori’s recipe; she actually found through a Boston magazine or paper a few years ago.  If I find out where it originated, I’ll be sure to give credit where credit is due!

A Night at The Boston Shaker

So I know I talk a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like to enjoy a glass of wine and a cocktail or two.   However, despite a Beer and Wine Appreciation class I took my senior year at Syracuse University, I can’t claim to know much about the subject matter – nothing like my pal Kevin from Cocktail Enthusiast.

Thanks to my awesome gig writing for The Food Passport Website, I got to attend a cocktail making class at The Boston Shaker in Somerville and beef up my knowledge just a bit.

First, let me tell you that The Boston Shaker is a little gem tucked away into the outskirts of Boston.   I actually wish Kevin still lived in the area, so I could take him there to relish in its array of offerings.   The Boston Shaker is owned and run by Adam – a true connoisseur of the art of making cocktails.    As the current cocktail movement continues to build momentum, Adam is helping to lead the way in Boston by offering an array of excellent specialty cocktail products like unique bitters, sophisticated barware and imported garnishes while also teaching Bostonians how to make specialty cocktails at home.  Although still undiscovered by many of the average cocktail people like myself, the best bartenders in Boston (from Drink and Eastern Standard among others), head to The Boston Shaker to get their supplies.

So anyways, back to my night… I joined Adam and Flea Foster, wine buyer of Dave’s Fresh Pasta Bar, along with another 10 local residents to learn some tricks of the trade.  For only $45 each, the attendees (and myself) enjoyed an hour and a half of fun, drinks and cocktail education.

The focus of the night was “wine based cocktails” incorporating port, sherry and vermouth.  Before the recipe and real “learning” began, guests started with a flute of Prosecco with a hibiscus flower (yes – it’s edible!).  The drink was both delicious and dapper.  In fact it looked so chic, I had to invest in two jars of the wild hibiscus in syrup before leaving that night.  We’ll be enjoying some of these delectable treats today for Easter!

So if you’re like me and wondering where the heck the idea of a flower in sparkling wine came from, I am happy to tell you.  According to Adam, this ingenious idea came from an Australian couple who decided to add the flowers to “add a little flash.”   Apparently Australians love it, so much that some residing in Boston have actually gone into The Boston Shaker looking to buy a jar.

More details on The Boston Shaker will be posted soon on The Food Passport.  In the meantime, line up some friends or find a date and sign up for an evening of fun, learning and cocktail tasting at The Boston Shaker.

Happy Easter everyone!  Time for some mimosas!