ew Yawwkers love to hate Los Angeles, from experience I know this , I lived in the city that never sleeps for fourteen of my years, and have now been in LA for almost six, my die hard NY friends turn their nose up when I suggest they come and experience life on the west coast, its just not cool to live here so they say. I like to think of myself as an honorary NYer, I mean after battling through fourteen sweltering summers and frigid winters, countless subway rides with weirdos leering at me , been held up at knife and gun point, and turning a blind eye to all the literal and figurative rats I feel I’ve done my time in the trenches and deserve some sort of badge of honor, no ? I also have a luff hate thing going on with LA, so I think its appropro that I write this story.
I moved to Los Angeles to reset my life, to escape the constant clamoring of sirens and tourists and players OH MY! LA has been good to me, because I’m not constantly focusing on my survival or recovering from the exhaustion of the fight I have opened up time and energy to focus on my creativity and and my general wellbeing, I live minutes from the beach ( that yes I rarely visit, too many people ) but that cool ocean air and misty mountains surrounding to the north of me are a tonic to my nervous system. Through all of this though I have many moments that I yearn for the thrill of NY’s vibrant energy where anything is possible, including bugs being tossed at you on the subway, Los Angeles seems so boring and pedestrian in comparison.
In this issue I thought I would pay tribute to New York via that quintessential LA hater Woody Allen and his nervous romance Annie Hall I know not technically a book but at one point it started life as a screen play which is written word and good enough for me .The poster above is in Polish, thats me representing my heritage in this post, this issue is also a loose ode to the fifteen year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and those iconic twin towers the double exclamation marks at the end of the gritty sentence that is New York City , Yo!!
The premise of this edition is taking classic beverages and either dirtying them up NYC style or making them healthful a LA mode
Nazis and Neurosis
Woody’s character is called Alvy Singer, a Jewish boy raised in Brooklyn who made good by becoming a famous comic , we first meet him as he laments to the camera the downfall of his relationship with Annie , he can’t seem to grasp what went wrong. In the next scene he’s waiting at the movies for his girl to appear, as he waits his comedic self is recognized by a couple of teamster looking guys that he refers to as the cast of The Godfather, one of which pesters him for his autograph for his brudder . Annie finally shows up looking depressed, Alvy complains its too late to see the movie ( it started two minutes before) and that he has to see a flick from start to fin, so he suggests they go watch a documentary on the holocaust instead,cheery activity for a Saturday afternoon! Annie reluctantly agrees . As they wait in line Alvy complains about the guy behind dissecting and critiquing Fellini’s film efforts rather too loudly like he’s trying to impress his date , it winds Alvy up to no end ,to distract himself he asks Annie why she’s depressed , her response that she missed her therapy appointment tightens his ticking time bomb of frustration even further , he calls it a selfish gesture since they are having problems in the sack and the therapist is helping her work through the issues she has with Alvy who I should mention at a precocious six years old was already lusting after the opposite sex.
My first offering to accompany Alvy’s neurosis and the melancholy of the film would be that classic movie snack popcorn and a coke, except how about trying it healthy LA style without all those chemicals and corn syrup, I know how I hear you, how can it be any good if its not the classic, coma inducing formula . Well I think mine comes pretty bloody close, the caffeine kick comes from oolong tea, a cross between green and back teas and packed with natural stimulants, its sweetened by a mix of coconut sugar , dates and for color a bit of burnt organic cane sugar syrup with veggie bouillon, yes indeed ! The syrup takes a couple of hours to make but you will be glad you tried it, scent wise it comes ridiculously close and taste wise too but a little more aromatic. Make it as sweet or as not as you feel, its the real, real thing !
“The Real Thing”
For the “Cola ” syrup
*A large pitcher
*A chinoise strainer
*A heavy bottomed pan or an immersion circulator and bath
*A Y peeler
*A measuring cup
For the syrup
1/3 of a cup of dried oolong tea
1 ½ quarts of boiling water
1 Navel orange both peel and juice
2 lemons both peel and juice
2 black limes ( from most Middle Eastern stores or Amazon)
4 cinnamon sticks broken up ( I used a hammer)
6 star anise pods ( whole stars not just seeds)
2 cups date syrup and 1 ½ cups coconut sugar or 3 cups organic cane sugar ( more if you want it sweeter)
¼ oz vanilla extract
¼ cup of bitter orange peel ( from your local brew shop or again Amazon)
½ a teaspoon of veggie bouillon
Optional 3 oz of Tipplemans Burnt Sugar syrup ( Amazon)
Start by steeping your tea in the boiling water
Strain and pour into either your heavy bottomed pan or your ziplock bag
To your pan or bag add your lemon and orange peel, black limes, cinnamon, bitter orange and star anise
In the pan bring to a simmer, then turn heat way down and cover pan allowing aromatics to infuse, in the bag add to your water bath, set immersion circulator to 55 degrees C.
“Cook” for 1 ½ hours , place infusion in fridge overnight to get nice and flavorful
Strain and add lemon and orange juice , vanilla, coconut nectar or cane sugar, bouillon and Burnt sugar syrup
Stir well and refrigerate before serving .
Note: You will need 2 parts of Cola syrup to 4 parts Soda water for a glass of the real “real thing”.
For the Real Thing Cocktail
2 1/2 oz of “Cola” syrup
1 1/2 oz white rum ( I used #62 from Rum Society)
1/2 oz PX sherry ( a raisinated sweet sherry)
1/4 oz lime juice
2 dashes chocolate bitters
2 oz soda water
Add everything to your shaker tin with 5 ice cubes, don’t shake stir to chill the mixture.
Transfer mixture to a your carbonation system ( I used Perlini’s cocktail shaker )
Charge with Co2 and wait for gas to subside before opening
Pour into your vessel of choice .
Serve with a side of popcorn tossed with coconut oil, smoked salt and Togarashi spice
Sacked in the sack
In an attempt to understand whats troubling their relationship Alvy and Annie discuss his past sexual relationships with his two ex wives which we watch via flash back, the first who was sexually voracious and turned him off for wanting him too much , the second who found it impossible to climax. He can understand why those two marriages failed but with Annie, things are different, in the beginning they would have a blast doing ordinary things like buying books, sitting in the park or driving in her VW bug at rapid speeds, somehow somewhere Annie has lost interest in Alvy and he delves even deeper into memories to try figuring out the root cause .
My suggestion at this point would be a good dose of lettuce juice , whats that you say , why lettuce ? Ask the ancient Chinese, they believe that lettuce contains a powerful aphrodisiac , something to do with the minerals within that create a potent love potion to get your mojo moving, your groove grinding and your bits pumping.
Take the standard green juice and dirty it up with a shot of smoky , earthy Mezcal
1 oz Mezcal ( La Nina Espadin or Del Maguey Vida are my choices )
1 oz Floc de gascogne or Pineau des charentes ( a wine based aperitif )
1 1/2 oz romaine lettuce juice
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Miracle Mile celery bitters
pinch smoked salt for garnish
seasonal green garnish ( I used wood sorrel above but fennel flowers or celery leaves work too)
Add everything to your shaker with 5 ice cubes and shake for 3 seconds
Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice, preferably one giant cube
finish with pinch of smoked salt and garnish with greenery
Tennis elbow or speak to me in shellfish
Flashback to Annie and Alvy’s first meeting , a tennis doubles match set up by friends, after Annie invites him up to her place for some wine and awkward conversation that via mental subtitles we realize is actually flirtation , they both start to realize they’re into each other, after having sex on their second date Alvy is a neurotic mess and Annie chills out by smoking some grass, a portent of things to come. Cut to another scene with Alvy reminiscing about a weekend getaway with them trying to corral lobsters into the pot , both of them hooting with laughter and screaming as the ill fated lobsters try scuttling off behind the fridge sensing their imminent butter drenched doom.
I figure some light refreshment at this point would come in the form of California Chardonnay, great for their rooftop scene or to pair with shellfish, the first cocktail I experienced in NY was a classic martini, its also rumored that the dry martini was invented in the Knickerbocker Hotel in NY . In the EU when you ask for a martini you’ll get a glass of martini vermouth served over ice with a twist or olives, same premise but packing way less of a spirited punch, a dirty gin martini still happens to be one of my all time favorites though these days I’m drinking it as a 50/50 half gin and half vermouth, great if you want to keep your night going a little longer as I suspect Annie and Alvy would want to do , only in this case using some Cali chardonnay instead of dry vermouth .
The Long Shot Martini
1 1/2 oz London dry gin
1 1/2 oz Broc Cellars Neutral Chardonnay ( great with Lobster)
1 1/2 oz olive brine , my current addiction is to castelvetrano olives, salty without being bullies
Stir in a mixing glass for 10 seconds with a scoop of ice
Strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe
Garnish with olives or a couple of cucumber slices
Alvy’s neurosis starts to get the better of him, he becomes a man obsessed with Annie, she catches him following her as she innocently walks arm in arm with another man, Annie starts to feel stifled by him and annoyed by his lack of support for her aspirations so she breaks it off with him, Alvy still hanging on to the idea that he’s done nothing wrong questions random people in the street about the success of their relationships , his agent Rob encourages him to start dating other women. He agrees to go on a blind date with a writer for Rolling Stone mag , whilst consummating their first night together the date gets cut short when he gets a frantic call from damsel in distress Annie , can he come over to kill the spiders in her bathtub, spiders as big as a Buick are as good an excuse as any to restart their romantic dialogue , Annie extends a peace offering of chocolate milk, Alvy the knight in shining armor slays the dragon, erm spider his reward a giant case of Miss Hall.
A few days after they get back together , Annie has a gig at a local club singing her usual torch songs, Alvy is there naturally perpetuating their push , pull relationship . Tony Lacy excited by Annie’s performance introduces himself as a Hollywood music producer and man about town , asks if she has representation and invites them to go hang out with Jack and Anjelica, you know the it couple of seventies New York. Alvy declines for them saying they have a “thing” afterward but Annie is obviously into the idea, Tony tells her to look him up if she ever in LA. Coincidentally Alvy’s agent Rob suggests he present a TV award in LA that winter, Annie joins him and they spend Christmas in LA. Driving through town Annie Remarks how clean Los Angeles is, Alvy quips “Its so clean because they don’t throw their trash out they turn it into TV shows” , later they wind up at a house party hosted by none other than Mr.Lacy, much to Alvy’s displeasure. The next day as he preps for the award ceremony Alvy starts to feel ill, complaining of feeling nauseous , perhaps disgusted from watching Rob add canned laughter to a skit he’s just recorded either that or he’s anxious of presenting an award for crap TV , as he’s lying in bed with a Doctor by his side, Annie lets him know that he needn’t worry they found a replacement presenter for him, Alvy miraculously recovers and starts to chowing down on boiled chicken .
Boiled chicken for an upset tum never much worked for me ,ginger ale or ginger beer are the usually prescriptions I’ve been offered but my own miracle elixir is anything gentian based and bitter, Fernet especially puts me right pretty much in minutes.
The drink of choice for many a San Franciscan Barfly is Fernet and ginger, I Californiafied it with Ginger water Kefir, water Kefir is sparkling probiotic beverage that helps restore the healthy flora in your gut , mixed with Fernet I think Mr.Singer would have been much happier than eating his boiled chicken regardless of where the drink hails from .
For the Ginger water Kefir
1 large sterilized mason jar
Muslin or a clean tea towel
A chinoise strainer
1 large plastic soda bottle with cap ( cleaned out please)
4 cups of water
1 tablespoon prepared water kefir grains ( that have been soaked in sugar water to wake them up)
1 oz lemon juice
4 1/2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup ginger juice or chopped ginger if a juicer is not handy
Pour everything into your mason jar
Add the kefir grains and cover with the muslin or tea towel, secure with elastic bands
Store at room temp and out of sunlight for 48 hours
Strain and transfer to your clean soda bottle, at this point you can add some botanical flavorings if you wish .
Leave at least 2 inches of space at the top of the bottle, screw on cap tightly and store out of sunlight until carbonated. The beauty of the plastic bottle is it will fill up with gas and turn rock solid letting you know its ready.
Store in fridge to stop fermentation
Note : must be consumed within a month, mine lasts a day or so. Water kefir grains can also be used to make a delicious sparkling wine
For the drink
2 oz Fernet Branca
4 oz ginger water kefir
Fill a tall glass with ice
Pour in Fernet and top with sparkling ginger kefir
garnish with a lemon or lime wheel
Dead Sharks and Mashed Yeast
Returning from LA, Annie and Alvy realize they’re headed on different paths she dreaming of being an LA woman he likens their relationship to a dead shark, they agree to call it quits on the plane , Annie returns to LA to take up with her music producer, Alvy trying to reconcile how easy it was for her to leave him pines after her and comes up with a plan to win her back , he goes back to LA where he meets her at a health food restaurant on Sunset Blvd , he orders a plate of alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast, she’s not too pleased at him being there and gets annoyed with his yet again questioning what she’s doing with her life . She storms off , he races after her but she drives away into the sunset, frustrated he tries to follow her in his giant yacht of a convertible car but he can’t even maneuver it out of the parking lot, he gets arrested for causing a scene and spends the night in a lock up, giving him time to ruminate over his errors . Its interesting too that Woody uses the symbolism of white clothing to show LA people as enlightened creatures who can wear white because LA is so clean in comparison to the grime of NY.
The movie ends with Alvy writing a play about their relationship only he changes the ending to where Annie goes back to NY with him.
Rather than the unappetizing plate of mashed yeast I thought perhaps a glass of mashed avocado smoothie would go down a little easier, its sullied with a mix of Tikiesque ingredients , Tiki being a movement that was big in CA , its topped off with sprouts yes, but the flowering cilantro variety . The glass is wrapped on the inside with a Hoja Santa leaf or a “Sainted” leaf for Holier than thou white clothed saints of Los Angeles .
The drink is called Yogi’s choice since you can choose to drink it boozy or booze free. If you choose no booze add 1 oz of coconut or date nectar to sweeten it up .
1 ripe avocado
2 oz pineapple juice
1 1/2 oz aged rum
1 /2 oz mezcal
1 oz lime juice
1 oz Velvet Falernum
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Add everything to your blender with a 5 or 6 ice cubes and blend on high for until avocado is completely mashed . You can omit the ice cubes if you ,like me prefer warm beverages, I am English after all!
Transfer into a tall glass and garnish with cilantro sprouts