Forager Cocktail #1 – Rosedale Flower

By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group

Rosedale FarmsLast night we had the pleasure of kicking off our new season for the Max Chef to Farm Series, now in its 7th season.  This dinner series is a popular series where we take the Max experience out to local farms and present meals based on the ingredients available at that point in the season and what we can source locally.

This series has become so popular that we routinely sell out each event, and often have a wait list.  Chef Scott Miller along with a number of the other Max Chefs creates thoughtful, delicious meals with locally sourced farm produce as well as locally sourced meats, cheeses and seafood.  For my part, I get to start the evening off with a welcome cocktail when guests arrive, and in line with the locally sourced ingredients I try to find not only local produce or other ingredients to make this cocktail.  I also like to find local, or at least hand-crafted / artisanly produced, spirits for the base of these drinks.

For the summer of 2014, I have decided to theme my drinks under the umbrella name/concept of Forager Cocktails, and will be producing a series of these drinks for each C2F dinners through the season, each making best use of local ingredients available at that point in the season.

I had so many requests last night for my recipe that I am posting here for any to see and use.  Please feel free to contact me if you need assistance or have questions on how to recreate this cocktail or any others in the series.

Rosedale StrawberriesFor the Forager Cocktail #1, I made a drink based on a slightly obscure, but well thought out drink called the Artemis Flower.  This drink combines fresh ingredients that fit perfectly with what is available in early summer –  berries.  For my part, I called this drink the Rosedale Flower, as we were serving the dinner at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury, Ct, and the main ingredient here were the strawberries picked fresh that morning.

I used the berries with some Bourbon, fresh lime juice, house made “sambuca”, and a thyme syrup that I made in the morning.  The “sambuca” actually makes use of a few other locally sourced items for a great flavor twist that is hard to replicate.  I use Rime Vodka, which is made by Westford Hill Distillers in Ashford, Ct as the base, to which I infused about a dozen (per 750ml of vodka) fennel blossom heads into slowly for about 3-4 hours.  This process allows me to pull the flavor out of the fennel, but not the harsh green components that would detract from the lovely licorice flavors.  I added some sugar to balance and the result is very similar to a Sambuca.

My Bourbon of choice for the night is a small production bourbon called Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon, from Kentucky.  This is an 88 proof whiskey that is actually aged about 8 years for mellowing.  I like the power this bottling has, along with the deep bourbon flavor, and the extra touch of proof did not hurt at all.  In fact, the tempering of alcohol by the sweetness from the fresh thyme syrup was perfect.  Very simple to make, I used a big fist of thyme sprigs and added them while the water was still cool and then let it steep as it came up in temperature.  Once I could smell the thyme strongly, I pulled it off the heat just before boiling.  I let it sit for a few minutes and then strained out the leaves and stems.  While still hot, I mixed in equal parts (by volume) of granulated sugar to make my syrup.  Very flavorful and delicious – adding a great extra flavor element to this drink.

anyone can make this drink at home, and if you are willing to go a little extra for the local and the home-made ingredients, then you will have an even more special experience – something we try to achieve out on the farm.

Forager #1 Rosedale FlowerForager Cocktail # 1 – The Rosedale Flower
In a mason jar –
Add 3-4 fresh picked strawberries – lightly crushed, but not pulverized
Then combine in jar
2oz Corner Creek Bourbon
½ oz House-made fennel-buca (you can use regular Sambuca like Meletti)
¾ oz Thyme Syrup
½ fresh lime juice
Let sit for a few minutes to absorb the strawberry juice
Fill with ice, add splash of Club Soda and serve with Thyme sprig for garnish

 

 

 

Follow-Up to 2 x Italian Winemaker Dinner at Max Amore

Last night at Max Amore Ristorante in Glastonbury, over 30 guests were treated to a fabulous dinner and the wines of two of Italy’s favorite winemakers.  Chef Ted Burnett was on his game with a menu that touched on both traditional Italian cuisine as well as influences with a modern twist (see the menu below).

Primo Franco, Mark Conley, Diego Cusumano @MaxAmore

Guests were also treated to wine coming from both the north of Italy as well as the far south.  Starting and finishing with the Prosecco from Primo Franco, a third generation winemaker from the heart of the Prosecco region and his family estate called Nino Franco Winery.  Delicious wines that, as Primo pointed out, “are a way of life and can be great anytime of the day or night as they are light and refreshing”.

In between guests were treated to the deliciously fruit driven wines of Diego Cusumano from Sicily.  From the youthful and value priced Nero d’Avola (a wine featured on the Max Amore wine list) to the fabulous blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah called Benuara, to the final wine, a 100% Nero d’Avola called Segana, which is sourced from the best vineyards at Cusumano Winery, these wines were as good as it gets.

Next up at Max Amore, Chef Burnett teams up with Max Restaurant Group Beverage Director Brian Mitchell to present a Max Wine & Food School Seminar, theme: Regional Italian Wines and Cheeses.  Feb 11th.  See the Max Restaurant Group website Calendar for full details.

Primo Franco
head of the famed Prosecco house in Venuto, Italy
NINO FRANCO &

Diego Cusumano
of the respected Sicilian winery
CUSUMANO WINERY

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 – 6:30pm
menu created by Executive Chef Ted Burnett

RECEPTION
Prosecco ~ Rustico Nino Franco

COURSE I
Scallop Crudo
Frescobaldi extra virgin olive oil | sea salt
Cusumano ~ Insolio Sicilia, 2010

COURSE II
Berkshire Black Sopressata
grana padano | rustic crostini
Cusumano ~ Nero D’Avola, 2011

COURSE III
Calamari alla Sicily
kalamata olives | capers | melted anchovies | basil |
San Marzano | toasted polenta cake
Cusumano Benuara ~ Nero D’Avola, Syrah, 2010

COURSE IV
Five Hour Roasted Duck
sweet fennel Italian sausage | duck fat with house made linguine | ricotta salata
Cusumano Sagana ~ Nero D’Avola, 2008

DOLCE
Cannoli
sicilian impastata ricotta | candied oranges
Prosecco ~ Nino Franco Valdobbiadene, 2009

Special Valentine’s Day Cocktails at Max’s

All of our MAXologists have been working hard to create new and innovative cocktails to feature over the next few days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Each cocktail has a unique style created by the local bartenders at each of our locations, and most of them will be featuring Mionetto Prosecco, a lovely sparkling wine from Italy, as the main ingredient. Loads of fresh ingredients from raspberries to edible orchids are being used. Make your reservations today or just stop by one of our taverns for a great, original cocktail, such as Mike Mills’ “Downtown Love” from Max Downtown in Hartford.