Monthly Archives: November 2013

Drink of the Week: Blueberry Tea

Now here’s a drink I might make if I wanted tea with a little something special. Tea is trendy in the cocktail world right now; yes, it’s come a long way since its inaugural boozy abomination, the Long Island Iced Tea. You can now drink orange pekoe with Amarula and cinnamon for a “Naughty or Nice,” or chilled green tea with mint, gin and ginger beer for a “Teajito.” Or, pull out all the stops and mix cognac into your Earl Grey in a Blueberry Tea.

A strong and fruity take on a traditional Blueberry Tea cocktail at Yellow Door Bistro.

A strong and fruity take on a traditional Blueberry Tea at Yellow Door Bistro.

Traditionally a Blueberry Tea is a warm drink made with tea — usually Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe — and spiked with amaretto and Grand Marnier. Oddly, blueberries do not make an appearance into the mug; it’s so named because of the subtle fruity flavour of the drink. The mixologists at Calgary’s Yellow Door Bistro decided to up the ante by adding cognac into their version.

Now, I’m not one to turn down a serving of Courvoisier XO, but I do have a little quibble here. I think XO, aged as it is on average 20 years, is best sipped neat. Swapping in a VS or VSOP cognac is the way to go when using this spirit in a cocktail — one of these will deliver a fortified wallop to tea time, and you can still raise your pinky when sipping. Civilized, indeed.

Courvoisier Blueberry Tea

  • 1/2 oz Courvoisier XO
  • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 oz amaretto
  • Earl Grey tea

Into a glass mug of hot Earl Grey add Courvoisier, Grand Marnier and amaretto. Garnish with an orange twist.

— Recipe courtesy Yellow Door Bistro

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Drink of the Week: Ramos Gin Fizz

I’ve always loved the cocktails at Raw Bar at Hotel Arts in Calgary. They’re a nice mix between classic and craft; some are tall and creative, others are short and spirit-forward. So I jumped at the chance to visit the newly renovated space and sample both the Raw Bar’s new VietModern menu and cocktails by talented bartender Christina Mah, during a TMAC Alberta mix and mingle event last week.

As a bonus, I got to step up to the bar and shake my very own Ramos Gin Fizz, a New Orleans cocktail that adds orange blossom water and milk to a traditional gin fizz. The milk makes the drink somewhat frothier and smoother than a typical fizz, and the orange blossom water is a lovely — and fragrant — touch. To make the cocktail more in line with Raw Bar’s modern Vietnamese menu, Mah swapped regular simple syrup for honey syrup and passed over chicken eggs in favour of a duck egg white. The result is a very good cocktail that you’ll sip down almost as fast as you’ll gobble down all the VietModern goodies, from sablefish bites to grilled octopus to potato spring rolls. It’s all good. #Omyomyom!

Hotel Arts has switched up this classic New Orleans cocktail by using a duck egg white to be more in line with its new VietModern menu.

Hotel Arts has switched up this classic New Orleans cocktail by using a duck egg white and honey syrup to be more in line with its new VietModern menu.

Ramos Gin Fizz

  • 1 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz milk
  • 1/2 of a duck egg white (duck eggs are available at Crossroads Market)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1-1/2 oz honey simple syrup (dissolve honey into water using a 1:1 ratio)
  • Dash orange blossom water (available at speciality food stores or Kalamata Grocery on 11th Ave. S.W.)
  • Top soda water
  • Orange wheel garnish

Into a Boston shaker put all ingredients except the soda. Dry shake, add ice and then shake again. Strain mixture into an ice-filled Collins glass and top with soda water.

— Recipe courtesy Christina Mah, Raw Bar at Hotel Arts

What would you wish for?

Over the summer a women contacted me by email. She wanted to let me know she’d read my Swerve story about Bennett’s genetic condition. Her daughter also has a genetic condition, as well as autism (like Bennett), and so my story had struck a chord. She also told me she’d nominated our family to receive a wish from The Rainbow Society of Alberta, the same agency that had granted her daughter a wish years ago. I was really touched.

Sure enough, a month or so later a woman from The Rainbow Society phoned me to get some more information about Bennett, who has a genetic condition called 18q-. His condition expresses itself as developmental and cognitive delays that look a lot like autism. Autism on its own doesn’t qualify a child for a wish, but because of Bennett’s underlying condition it looked like we’d be eligible.

Bennett and me in San Antonio in 2012, where we attended the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society annual conference.

Bennett and me in San Antonio in 2012, where we attended the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society annual conference.

When I told Blake the news he couldn’t believe it. Like me, he’d always thought wishes — like those granted by charities such as The Rainbow Society or the Children’s Wish Foundation — were saved for kids with life-threatening illnesses, whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a trip to Disneyland, for example. We felt guilty wishing for Bennett — he has daily challenges, but he’s healthy. Surely there were more deserving families out there?

The Rainbow Society considers Bennett’s condition chronic. It is; he can’t be “cured.” Like other families referred for wishes — regardless of income or the child’s particular disability or disease — we live with our child’s struggles and challenges every day. A wish is small thing but something with the power to transport us from the unromantic and imperfect grind (as it often is) of raising a child with special needs.

Once it was settled that we would make three wishes on Bennett’s behalf (he is not cognitively capable of understanding the concept of a “wish”), we talked as a family, including our daughter Avery in the conversation, about what Bennett would want. There are certain rules around wish-making; for example, not all wishes can be travel-related, and those that are must be in Canada or the mainland United States (no African safaris or trips to Hawaii). The society also doesn’t grant wishes that involve medical equipment or medical travel.

After the flood Bennett was devastated about the Calgary Zoo being closed. He didn’t understand what had happened; he only knew that it was closed and we couldn’t go. The worst part of it was we’d been planning an outing to the zoo on Friday, June 21 — a.k.a. Flood Friday — with his SAS aide and behaviour therapist from Renfrew. We’d been preparing for that outing for weeks — the therapist had even created a social story about Bennett visiting the zoo. And just like that, the trip was cancelled. Almost every day for the month of July Bennett asked if the zoo was open. When I said no he would start to cry. He still asks every time we drive by the zoo (I don’t have the heart to take him there until it is completely reopened on Nov. 28). So, if we can’t take him to the local zoo…

Bennett’s wish No. 1: A trip to the San Diego Zoo.

The Rainbow Society will only grant one vacation wish, but it will let families wish for things that involve travel, such as a trip to a family reunion, or a trip to Ottawa to meet the prime minister. When Blake and I took Bennett to San Antonio in 2012 to attend the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society annual conference, we enjoyed meeting other families whose children have the same genetic condition as Bennett. We thought that maybe now, since he’s older, he would like to meet other kids like him — and Avery would have a chance to meet their siblings and perhaps talk with children in her shoes (e.g. kids with a brother or sister with special needs). So, since there are only three other people in Alberta with Bennett’s condition…

Bennett’s wish No. 2: Attend the 2014 Chromosome 18 conference in Connecticut.

Now it becomes more difficult. You want the third wish to make sense for Bennett, and to count. We thought of experiences (a hot air balloon ride? No, he’d freak out!). We thought of possessions (his own iPad? He spends too much time on the family iPad already!). What does Bennett love to do? He loves to swim. And since we can’t wish for a swimming pool…

Bennett’s wish No. 3: A hot tub.

Just last week our contact from The Rainbow Society called to let us know which wish had been granted. The best part was telling Bennett that night at dinner.

Me: “Bennett? Guess where we’re going to go? The San Diego Zoo!”

Bennett: “The San Diego Zoo! Yay!”

I’m not sure he knows all about this zoo in particular, but he heard, “We’re going to the zoo!” and all was well. Yes, a wish is a small thing, but its granting transformed that dinner into a magical trip planning session. We had Bennett guess all the animals he thinks we’ll see in San Diego (no surprise hippos, gorillas, tigers, elephants and butterflies are on the list), while Avery mapped out some other stops on our itinerary, such as Sea World. Now we just have to decide when to go. Thank you, Rainbow Society.

Drink of the Week: Lillet-Basil Cocktail

I love Lillet. It had been awhile since we’d had a bottle of this French aperitif  wine inside the house, so the other week when I was in the mood for a “menage a trois” (Lillet, gin and St. Germaine) I sexted texted my hubby to bring home a bottle. Now, we have most of a bottle left and are in need of Lillet recipes. Enter the Lillet-Basil Cocktail, a yummy little Martha Stewart number I found on Yummly.

It's all about the Lillet in this refreshing sip.

It’s all about the Lillet in this refreshing sip.

Honestly, I could drink Lillet on its own, but it seems heavy and sweet neat, so I looked for a recipe that uses oranges (we are out of lemons and limes!). Plus, the last of our basil was begging to be used up. The original Lillet-Basil recipe doesn’t call for simple syrup, but I felt it could use a touch of sweet so I added a half ounce. I also subbed in club soda for tonic; I cringed at the thought of adding bitter Schweppes to my sweet Lillet. The result is a fragrant and refreshing sip that plays up Lillet’s inherent charms.

Lillet-Basil Cocktail

  • 1/2 cup Lillet Blanc
  • 1 oz gin
  • 2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus sprig for garnish
  • Splash tonic water (I used club soda)
  • 1 cucumber spear for garnish

Into a cocktail shaker add the Lilt, gin, orange juice, simple syrup, basil leaves and ice. Shake well. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler, add soda water and garnish with the cucumber spear and basil sprig.

— Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart via Yummly

My man’s growing a mo!

Sporting eight days of stubble after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last year, my husband Blake could hardly wait to have a hot shower and a shave when we arrived back in Arusha. But instead of completely shaving off his mountain-man facial hair, he left the fledgling moustache in place, as a joke for our fellow trekkers when we joined them for celabratory beers at the hotel bar.

Turns out the joke was on him, as seemingly no one noticed his attempt at being ironic — or his thin and wispy ‘stache. Eight days was simply not enough time to properly grow the hair on his upper lip. This time around, Blake has a whole month to grow a mo, as he recently signed up to be a “Mo Bro” during the annual Movember campaign. Will anyone besides his mortified family members notice this facial affront to all-things-suave? We’ll see.

Mo Peach Fuzz is the name of Blake's Movember team.

Mo Peach Fuzz is the name of Blake’s Movember team.

Blake got the idea to grow a mo during the Movember launch party at Libertine Public House in Calgary in October. He wants to raise money for men’s health and also to spice up our love life (we’ll see how that goes). The annual campaign uses that in-your-face symbol of manhood — the moustache — to get people talking. Blake’s ‘stache will no doubt be a conversation starter. If you’d like to help out, please donate to Blake Ford at Mo Peach Fuzz.

My husband is no stranger to facial hair. When we travelled around Asia in 1995-96 Blake not only grew his hair down to his shoulders to spite a hair dresser who’d told him prior to departure that he’d never achieve pony tail-length locks — he grew a beard.

Bearded and be-toqued in Nepal.

Bearded and be-toqued in Nepal.

Then, rather liking the look of hair around his mouth, Blake sported a van dyke — the more handsome sibling to a goatee — from about 2002 until 2007.

Avery loved the van dyke.

Avery loved the van dyke.

He’s remained clean-shaven ever since, except for those times when — as in Africa — hot running water and a mirror weren’t readily available. The rules for Movember dictate that the moustache not adjoin any hair on the chin; it must be a stand-alone mo. So a van dyke is out, but a ‘stache with a soul patch or big mutton chops is a possibility. Another question is which style of moustache should Blake grow? The Lanny McDonald and Fu Manchu are out of the question, given the time constraints. Which leaves us with the Clark Gable, Magnum P.I. or Hitler (never very popular, as you can imagine). Feel free to weigh in!