Saturday, June 28, 2008

The World's Most Luxurious Ham

Whether it's prosciutto, serrano or country, ham is one of my favorite things to eat with bubbly. The crisp wine like cava is a perfect foil for the ham's richness. But there's ham and then there's jamon iberico, an unctuous, ultra-expensive Spanish ham that tastes of nuts.

The Food & Wine Classic at Aspen brought my first taste of jamon iberico a couple years ago. Chef Jose Andres was serving deep pink slivers with a smear of soft cheese on a Spanish flatbread. The chef confided that it wasn't available in the US yet, but that he'd brought over a couple legs himself.

It's finally available to the rest of us, now that the U.S. government decided that this ham was OK for import. Jamon iberico, which comes from a special black-haired hog, is still rather rare and pricey. Then there's the crema of the ham world: jamon iberico de bellota. The bellota means the hog ranged freely eating acorns and wild plants, which gives the meat a uniquely sweet and nutty flavor.

Shelling out $12 for 5 little dribbles of iberico at Cesar in Berkeley last week, I was a bit miffed. But the price came into perspective a couple days later at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena. After a funny double-take, I bought considerably less than a quarter pound and knew we'd savor every bite.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sex & Cocktails

If you're like half of the country (I'm talking the female half), you've probably seen the new Sex & The City movie this weekend or planning to go see it soon. It is long (2.5 hours) but was lots of fun, like an afternoon of catching up with some old girlfriends you haven't seen for a while named Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. And I was glad to see Jennifer Hudson adding some color to the mix.

Not to give anything away, but their quintessential cocktail - The Cosmopolitan - makes an appearance again in a key scene or two.

I love Cosmos, but in the interest keeping things fresh and since I'm the Bubbly Girl, I created a new version that's more in line with current cocktail mixing trends. My Sparkling Watermelon Cosmo uses fresh watermelon juice (just toss it in the blender, puree and strain) and gin - the new white spirit - topped with bubbly, in this case Piper Sonoma Brut sparkling wine.


Sparkling Watermelon Cosmo
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces cold sparkling wine or champagne
2 ounces fresh watermelon juice
1 ounce gin
1.5 ounces Alize Red Passion
Juice of 1/8 lemon
Lemon twist

Add cold bubbly to a martini glass. Add watermelon juice, gin, Alize Red Passion and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and shake 30 times or until your hands are freezing. Strain into the martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.