November 17th, 2009
“Mise en place” literally translates, from the French, as “Put in place”. In the chef business, however, mise en place means gathering, slicing, dicing, preparing, etc., all ingredients required for meal service. I hold that it also entails assembling the collective knowledge, experience and abilities of all hands involved in a given task.
Both cases are true for “Fall-ing In Love”, the cocktail created by Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen, served at our paella bbq wedding reception. It required equipment, ingredients (purchased and created), knowledge, sensibility and, believe it or not, three years of preparation!
Impetus (other than our impending nuptials) for the cocktail came in the form of a derelict cider mill and press, found at a barn sale near the gates of Mt Rainer during an ice-run for our annual epicurean camping trip known as Big Kids Kamp.
I knew I had the right woman when my newly-minted fiancée simply smiled and said, “Well, there’s a story in that, I have no doubt!” as she helped unload (now half thawed) bags of ice.
With the help of a local machine shop (who, by the quality and detail above and beyond expectation or price, had obvious fun in restoring the old dinosaur) we had the 300lb, double-barreled antique ready for use mere hours prior to our engagement party (good thing too, as it was after all, a Cider Pressing Party!).
Tom Sawyer had nothing on Caryn and I as 50-odd of our friends washed, ground and pressed over 700lbs of Granny Smith, Fuji and Cox Pippin apples into cold, sweet cider.
While a portion of the golden juice was consumed with our bbq ribs, mac & cheese and cornbread, the vast majority was inoculated with champagne yeast and left to its own for about three weeks.
Through the efforts of a dear friend and Swiss biochemist (who has since fled the country) and the services of a nominally legal distiller, the cider “reduced volume and increased potency”.
Our long engagement (Caryn in graduate school and all) allowed for over two years of age and complexity, enhanced by chunks of toasted French oak.
As a wedding gift, Kathy appraised the nearly-illicit elixir and created a pre-dinner adult beverage with the same deft hand she’s used to create world classed cuisine.
Blending simple, yet exquisite, ingredients into unique culinary experience is work-a-day stuff for chefs. Doing the same with hooch might be a stretch for some culinarians; but not for our Platinum Princess of Potation!
Accentuating autumnal notes in our “Calvados” while sanding off its (many) rough edges with complimentary flavonoids and phenolics, in the form of exquisitely chosen distillates of fruits and herbs, Kathy orchestrated an effervescent dance for the trigeminal senses (effervescent due, not only to the occasion but also a brilliantly placed splash of champagne atop the cocktail).
“It takes a village”, they say. In the case of our Wedding Cocktail, neigh a village was employed in its first phases. Only one villager, however, could change the profane to the profound and the work (and the waiting) of so many into expectations far exceeded.
Thank you Kathy Casey, from all who fell in love with the Falling In Love cocktail!!!
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