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SUPER SIPS

December 31, 2011

Memorable cocktails that rise to the top of the list
Stories curated by and photos by Jason Rowan (except where noted)

Photo by Virginia Miller

Most publications are busy prognosticating; focused on the year ahead, projecting trends and anticipating the future. But at INSIDE F&B we decided to take a moment before rushing pell-mell into 2012 and invite you to join us in relieving some stress that always comes with looking ahead. Instead, stop and smell the proverbial roses as we take a look back at some of the spirit industry’s best drinks tasted around the world.

Simon McGoram, Drinks Editor, Australian Bartender Magazine (boozebraggart.blogspot.com/)

The best drink I had all year had to come from one of the more unlikely places in Australia – Katoomba in the Blue Mountians in NSW. Once upon a time it was known as Sydney’s playground – especially during the roaring twenties with Gatsby-like characters parading around in finery. Now the place attracts only a few weekend tourists with its beautiful art deco cafes and hotels remaining for the large part empty and falling into disrepair.

I was up there with my partner for a Valentine’s Day getaway – with February being the middle of summer down under we were expecting swelter. Instead a cool mist hung eerily over the whole town as we walked up the steps of the Carrington Hotel for a pre-prandial tipple. The hotel by the way looks like something out of The Shinning and sure enough during the middle of the week the place was empty and spooky.

We were sat next to a roaring fire in an anteroom next to the grand 1930s ballroom. I was expecting that they might manage a decent G&T but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cocktail offering. I ordered an Old Cuban – an Audrey Saunders masterpiece that had somehow found its way to this country town. My partner had a Bramble – a Dick Bradsell modern classic from London. The drinks were good. Not exceptional. bBut it was the more the fact that in rural Australia I could order drinks created by the best bartenders of London and New York whilst being transported to almost untouched art deco setting. I thought truly cocktail culture has come of age and perhaps one of America’s greatest inventions can be enjoyed at all ends of the earth.

Stephen Myers, Illegal Mezcal
(www.ilegalmezcal.com)

Drinking a Negroni at an outdoor cafe with a beautiful girl and a great friend on the Sardinian coast as the sun set over a Phoenician ruin and a lighthouse. Rather than the 1:1:1 ratio of the drink on its own it was all the elements of the time, place, people and the great drink itself that made it my best drink for 2011.

Philip Gandevia, cocktail bartender, Eau De Vie, Sydney
(eaudevie.com.au/)

We were having a meeting at Eau De Vie, going over our recipes and making sure that our techniques were uniform. We mentioned a Bijou (equal parts gin, Dolin and Chartreuse, orange twist and discard) and I made a casual statement that of course it was always stirred. One of our team, Taka Shino, demurred, saying that he always shakes his. Not only was this interesting in terms of discovering an inconsistency but it was also something I’d never entertained for this cocktail. “Well, let’s try them,” I said and we made side-by side identical Bijous, mine stirred and his shaken. When we tasted them I was fairly shocked to discover that I preferred the shaken. It was an excellent reminder that the junior bartender can show the senior bartender something Continue Reading…

Eat Here Now

EAT HERE NOW – TAIWAN

December 31, 2010

Taiwan isn’t the world’s largest country, but it might be one of the friendliest, yummiest, and calmest; despite the swarms of citizens zipping by on their motorbikes. Little did we know all this before arriving. Existing guide books just don’t offer that kind of insight.

Boarding the 11:30 p.m. EVA Airlines (www.evaair.com ) flight to Taipei came with some mild trepidation. Was the uncertainty coming from wondering about how to manage a 14 hour 36 minute flight (not that anyone was counting); the fact that Asian cuisines are not (well, at least until this trip, WERE not) top of our list of foods that please our palate and we knew we were in for nothing but Asian food breakfast, lunch, and dinner; was it sheer fear we’d have to go for more than a week without seeing a piece of cheese (thank you Chef Ashish Deva, at Taroko Silks resort in Hualien www.taroko.silksplace.com.tw/index_en.html for making that an unfounded fear); or was it that uncertainty of not knowing our traveling companions and wondering how we would all get along over eight days and knowing that if we didn’t it was going to be really painful finding ourselves stuck in a foreign country with people whose company we didn’t enjoy.

None of these fears were of concern from the moment we started eating in Taiwan, just about an hour after we arrived. Our first meal was in the hotel club lounge of The Regent Taipei www.grandformosa.com.tw/EN. In the Tai Pan lounge, where the concierges were as gracious and welcoming as any weary traveler would want to meet, a wide selection of appealingly tasty Asian and Western fare was beautifully presented.

And it just got better from there. Street food galore (intestines you didn’t want to put down, scallion pancakes that put others to shame), local dumpling houses, country restaurants, mountain resorts serving indigenous fare and others offering the finest cuisine in high Taiwanese style.

And there were great cocktails to be had too thanks to Angus at Marquee www.marquee-taipei.com and Aki at Indulge www.indulgetaipei.blogspot.com where we encountered the same kind of personalized attention we love here, partnered with warm Asian hospitality and knock-your-socks off terrific cocktails.

All these foods, and more, were worth traveling for to a country where it’s easy to communicate and get around even if you only read English and women can feel safe walking alone in towns, at most times of the day or night.

So, if you find yourself in Taiwan, check out some of our favorite spots (detailed list to follow), explore to find your own and, for a sure bet, try these five frequented by Florian Kuhn, Hotel Manager, for the new W Hotel, slated to open in February.

Ding Tai Fung
+886-2-2321-8928
No. 194 (corner of Yunkang Street), Xinyi Road Sec. 2, Taipei
(Best Dumplings)
Ding Tai Fun is a must visit place if you want to have good “xiao long bao”(pork dumplings).
The consistency of great quality food attracts not only the tourists, but locals, too.
Other recommended dishes: chicken soup, and beef soup noodles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Din_Tai_Fung

2. L’ATELIER de Joel Robuchon – Taipei
+886-2-8729-2626
5F., No.28, Songlong Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei
(Business Lunch)
Worldwide famous 3-star-michelin Chef Joel Robuchon has his L’atelier in this luxury department store “Bellavita,” which is located next door W Taipei.
Robuchon’s French haute cuisine is served in a stylized environment. An open kitchen is set in the middle for gourmets to overlook while the chefs are preparing the food.
Signature dishes: Cauliflower Cream with Caviar and Potato Puree./ Free-range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras

3. ABU
+886-2-2707-0699
No.28, Siwei Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei
(Romantic Date)
ABU is named after Chef Abu who is originally from Hong Kong.
Open just under a year now, Abu is clearly making his mark in the upscale dining scene of Taipei.
During dinner hours Abu features two prix fixe menus, approximately $80 US each.
The 8-course meals offer fine French inspired dishes, including two sinfully delicious dessert courses.
For the dessert connoisseurs, be sure to ask about Abu’s special soufflé that needs its own table for delivery

4. Yuan Guo Hot Pot
+886-2-2723-2111
No.6 Alley178, Zhuang-Jing Road, Taipei
(Gathering for friends)
Of all the restaurants, Yuan Guo is the most relaxing and fun place to be.
The restaurant is run by famous local movie star/artist Tony Young – close friends called him yoyo.
(http://yoyo520.tv.to/) Thus it’s a hangout place for models and artists after work as well.
( The restaurant is open until 3 in the morning during weekends!)
Hotpot and traditional Taiwanese stir-fried are served.

5. HANABI
+886-2-2511-9358
No.1-3, Ln. 20, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei
(Gathering for friends)
HANABI is a Japanese tapas restaurants that starts serving alcohol at noon and the dishes on the menu are all appetizers that go well with booze, like tapas dishes.
They have great selections of sake, wines and cocktails. Recommended dishes: Fluffy Fish Egg Omelet./ Mushroom and Truffle Rice Bowl./ Grilled chicken wings./
One interesting item, not listed on the menu, is the Miso-flavored ice cream!!