Charleston Introduces Us To The Firefly Half and Half

This is our new drink of the Summer discovered on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina.  It is a Firefly Half and Half and it is the second installment of our Charleston, South Carolina vacation review.  It’s discovery must have been fate.  It all started when my other adult vacationing friends ordered up some late-morning Bloody Marys.  Being someone who does not like hard alcohol or tomato juice, the idea of drinking a Bloody Mary was just not going to happen.  So I asked the bartender at the restaurant where we were eating to suggest something for me to sip on and she came up with the Firefly Half and Half.  It contains some Southern classics–Sweet Tea (infused with vodka), lemonade, a lemon slice and some ice.  As you can see by this picture, my Firefly Half and Half was much better than the Bloody Mary as mine is half gone and the other drink only just sipped.

Our discovery starts with some Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.  It was first created in a small still on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, before becoming the world’s first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka.  Keeping true to its Southern roots, Firefly is distilled four times, infused with tea grown on a plantation five miles from the distillery and blended with real Louisiana sugar cane.  It tastes just like real sweet tea, but with an even sweeter kick.  It is available nationally, but finding something made close to Charleston just seemed a little more special than say finding it in Iowa or Connecticut.

For those of you who want to cut down on the sugar cane, Firefly also makes it in a skinny version using the natural sweetner stevia.  It’s the same great taste, but less sugar.  The choice is up to you.

You really can’t mess up this recipe for the perfect Half and Half.  Here it is:

Firefly Half and Half

  • 3 oz. Firefly Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka
  • 3 oz. Lemonade
  • One Lemon Twist
  • Mix over ice in a highball glass

You will also hear this drink called an Arnold Palmer or a John Daly.

An Arnold Palmer is a beverage consisting of half iced tea and half lemonade named for pro-golfer Arnold Palmer.   It is often called a Half and Half.  A John Daly is an alcoholic mixed drink, named after pro-golfer John Daly.  It is simply an Arnold Palmer with vodka.  A John Daly could also be made by combining vodka with lemonade and sweet tea.  Anyway you order it, as a Half and Half, as an Arnold Palmer or as a John Daly, just add Firefly to the beginning and a bartender seems to know what you are talking about….at least in South Carolina anyway.  However, no one that I talk to seems to know why this alcoholic beverage and its non-alcoholic cousin are named after golfers.  I can imagine the correlation, but I will wait to write about it until I can find facts and not just my evil conjecture.

By the end of our vacation, the adults had made a batch to take to the beach on a daily basis.  Name something better than vodka iced sweet tea to drink on a hot beach!  I also must give credit for the lead-in photo of my Firefly Half and Half to my 16-year-old traveling companion.  Since I was on my second (o.k., maybe third, but I was on vacation) drink, I was a little shaky with the camera and so my friend stepped up to the plate with a great shot.  Give the Firefly Sweet Tea vodka a try.  It is actually the perfect drink for your Labor Day festivities and a farewell to Summer…but I’m sure it will be great in Winter too.  Is there such a thing as an out-of-season cocktail?  Have you ever sipped on any of the Firefly vodka products?

A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

This is Le Farm restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.  We were lucky to go there for dinner over the weekend.  Le Farm is one of those great restaurants where it seems one dish is better than the one you ate right before it.  It is an absolute great place for dining.  What else is great about it is that it is one of the front-runners in the farm to table movement.  Bill Taibe is the executive chef and here is how the restaurant and local farmers operate together to make the food at Le Farm some of the best and freshest food in the area.  This is from the website for Le Farm:

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.  Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.  The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.  Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.  Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.  Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  RSA is less structured – shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, CT, plus Wilton, CT’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk, CT) receive a list from local growers of whatever is ripe.  By 4 p.m. each Monday, the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.  The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning.  By 2:30 that afternoon, Green Village Initiative volunteers have gathered it and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

Le Farm is a very small restaurant.  We counted 11 tables and were told that the restaurant holds 34 people at capacity.  That doesn’t mean there are 34 people dining there at one time.  The hostess told us that the kitchen cannot accommodate that many diners at one time.  So when you dine there, you are eating with a relatively small number of people and the atmosphere is really quiet and relaxed.

Wooden tables line the walls in a very homey and country sort of way.  Glass jars filled with dried split peas hold the silverware.  Water for the table is brought to you in country-style bottles.  There is a wine list for sale and limited cocktails are available made with spirits that were hand selected by Le Farm.  Have you ever heard of:

  • Tito’s Hand-Made Vodka
  • Caeden Head Old Raj Gin
  • Gran Centennaro Plata Tequila
  • Ben Riach 12 Year Scotch?

After you’ve secured the beverage of your choice, the food starts to roll in and you can’t believe what you are feasting on.  Let us show you some of the things our party ate while at Le Farm.

Let’s start with appetizers.

This is roast pork belly with whipped cornbread, collards and sweet bacon vinegar.

How about foie gras terrine with cherry marmalade, pistachios and toast?

This is smoked duck potato hash with black truffle and a fried egg.

This is an aged beef meatball salad with green cabbage, pignoli, parmesan and pickled cipolinis.

Last, but definitely not least, here is some cavatelli for the table made with sweet 100 tomato pan sauce, spicy oregano and parmesan.  We asked what sweet 100 was and we were told it was a type of tomato.

Who said we were done eating yet?  Now it is on to our main courses.  Not as many pictures as many of us got the same dish.  Great minds think alike I guess???  Here is what we had.

A Southern classic.  This is shrimp and grits with italian sausage, roasted corn and shrimp sauce.

A little comfort food?  Brisket braised in beer with beet tops, potatoes with horseradish and dill.

You can’t leave without dessert can you?  We couldn’t, that’s for sure.  Take a look at these treats.

This is a chocolate pot de creme with peanut butter cream and salted pretzels.

A brown-butter almond shortcake with strawberry gelato and cajeta caramel.

Some bourbon white raisin bread pudding with vanilla gelato and hazelnuts.

We’ll admit we were stuffed.  Well, with all this food, we were beyond stuffed.  If you are ever in Westport, Connecticut, Le Farm is a restaurant you must go to and enjoy.  We think you can tell a difference when you are eating really fresh and local ingredients prepared in such fun and inventive dishes like those served to us.  Tell us about your favorite farm to table restaurants in your neck of the woods?

A Tomatillo First Here On Glen Road

This is a group of tomatillos that we bought on Sunday.  We have never cooked anything here on Glen Road that contained tomatillos.  Why the sudden change of heart?  On Sunday, we went to the market and we were going to buy some green salsa.  For some reason, we turned the bottle around to read the label and we were shocked at how many ingredients were in it that we couldn’t pronounce.  Then at the farmers’ market, a woman told us tomatillos are great right now and so we bought some.  We went home to make our own green salsa and we are glad we did.

Tomatillos are small green-tomato look-alikes encased in paper-thin husks.  Tomatillos are only distantly related to true tomatoes.  Raw ones have a distinctive tangy citrus flavor that is great in salsas.  They are also great roasted until soft and then pureed.  Good ones have taut husks and lime green skin underneath.  You can refrigerate them in a paper bag up to 1 week.  When ready to use, peel away the husks and rinse any sticky residue off before using.

We decided on a classic roasted green salsa to serve with tortilla chips.  The roasting effect gave the salsa a deep, slightly smoky flavor.  All ingredients are roasted under the broiler until they are a little blistered and the vegetables become somewhat soft.  The vegetables become soft depending on their size–small vegetables are first and the tomatillos and onions are last.  As you take soft vegetables out from underneath the broiler, place them directly into the bowl of a food processor while the other vegetables continue to broil.  Our salsa definitely had a little heat to it.  If you prefer less heat, use fewer jalapenos or remove the ribs and seeds from the ones that you do use.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of tomatillos, husks and stems removed
  • 1 medium white onion, halved
  • 3 japapenos, stems removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat parsley (you can use cilantro if you prefer)
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat broiler with rack in the top position.  Place all vegetables (except parsley) in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Broil until vegetables are blistered and slightly softened.  Rotate the sheet often and flip vegetables frequently.  Vegetables will become soft depending on their size from 8 to 15 minutes.  Take them out as they become soft.

Discard garlic skins.  In a food processor, pulse garlic and vegetables until coarsely pureed.  Season with coarse salt and ground pepper and pulse to combine.  Transfer salsa to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.

Refrigerate until cool and serve.  Salsa can be kept into the refrigerator up to 3 days or 3 months if frozen.

What a treat our roasted green salsa was and, better yet, there was nothing but natural ingredients in it.  If you serve salsa like this, a margarita cannot be far away.  It’s the perfect start to a Summer dinner party.  The next day, remember to use your left over green salsa over a grilled chicken breast or use it in place of ketchup over a burger.  There are tons of ways to use a fresh Summer salsa if you think about it.  So bring a tomatillo home this Summer and enjoy!  Do you have any recipes that use tomatillos that you could share here on Acorns On Glen?

Our Happy 4th of July Picnic Celebration

This is our second day of recovery from our July 4th celebration held on Saturday.  Our party started five or six years ago and was really a small affair.  We would invite our immediate family and close friends over for a barbecue.  The kids would swim most of the day and the adults would gossip about what was going on over the beverage of their choice.  Oh yes, we also ate…and ate…and ate.  Each year after that first party, the July 4th celebration just kept getting bigger.  We weren’t really increasing our immediate family so that wasn’t the reason for the growth.  I guess we were just meeting more friends that we felt we wanted to come over.  So this year, it was our biggest party to date.  125 people big.  So big that we thought we needed a tent for people to sit under to ward off the sun.  That was a good idea as temperatures hit 85 degrees with full sun.  The tent that we got was like a circus tent.  We were joking that later that night, one of us would be performing a Cirque du Soleil performance at the top of it.  Festivities went from 1 in the afternoon until about midnight.

Believe us when we tell you that 125 people can eat.  We had food on the barbecue grill outside and lots of good old Italian food on the inside.

We will try now to the best of our ability to document all the food that we enjoyed.  I am sure we forgot a lot, but here’s a good try:

  • 20 pounds of hot dogs
  • 30 pounds of hamburgers
  • 20 pounds of skirt steaks
  • 30 pounds of baby lamb chops
  • 20 pounds of boneless chicken thighs
  • Large tray of chicken marsala
  • Large tray of eggplant parmesan
  • Large tray of sausage and peppers
  • Large tray of penne marinara
  • Large tray of rigatoni with sausage and broccoli rabe
  • Tomato brushetta with ricotta salata
  • Filet mignon on toast points with carmelized onions and balsamic reduction
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Potato croquettes
  • Antipasto (cheese and sliced meats)
  • Pigs in the blanket (because it is not a party without pigs in the blanket)
  • Italian sausage wrapped in phylo dough
  • Salad
  • Bread, buns, rolls (you can’t imagine how much starch there was)

Now the dessert.  Our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother put out the call for all Brooklyn and Staten Island bound guests to hit their best Italian pastry shops.  You can imagine the results.  We had so many pastries, cookies and cakes that we actually took many of the leftovers to the homeless shelter the next day.  There was no way we could eat all of the desserts that entered our house on Glen Road.  Here are some cupcakes (which are always a favorite):

Each year, I also ask one of my best friends to make her famous flag cake which is from Ina Garten.  She always obliges.  The flag cake sort of ties it all up here…you know, a symbol of why we are celebrating.

So Happy 4th of July to all of you from all of us here on Glen Road.  We also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our women and men in the armed services who risk their lives to protect all of us.  We appreciate your dedication.  By the way, if you are looking for us, we are still recovering from the big party.  Our beverage of choice was not lemonade, so that fact, coupled with the number of hours that we partied have made all of us Glen Road old people tired.  Thank God we have to go back to work tomorrow.  At our age, work is much easier than partying.  What are you doing today to celebrate the 4th of July?

Way Out Wicker

This is our new way out wicker.  There are a lot of second-hand stores in our area of Connecticut.  Many are pretty high-end, with beautiful antique furniture, china, crystal of all shapes and sizes and outdoor furniture.  Granted, there is a lot of junk in some of these stores but if you keep an eye out on the merchandise, you can find some good deals.  That’s the case with our new funky wicker set.  Who knew you could find real wicker in turquoise?

So when we saw the furniture we knew we had to have it.  We bought the pillows and cushions to match at a local home store shop and we were ready to go.  The set fit perfectly at the South end of the pool where it resides now.  It’s a perfect way to relax after a long day at work and enjoy a glass of wine or dinner.  We know that we will be spending a lot of hours here this Summer.  Do you know a special drink that is colored turquoise to match our wicker set that we can drink all Summer?

Friday Dance Party – Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

We’re getting ready here on Glen Road for a big 4th of July party.  125 people are coming and we just keep inviting more people.  It’s crazy.  Everything is set for a good time.  Plenty of food-the BBQ kind outside on the grill and the Italian kind inside the house.  The pool is heated to a warm temperature.  Since it is forecasted to be 90 degrees outside, it is important that the pool be kept at a constant 80 degrees, right?  Speaking of the temperature, we have had a large tent put up in our back yard so anyone not wanting the sun beating down on them can sit under it.  The tent itself could host a circus.  At night, it has lights in it so the party can go on late into the night.  Oh, and did I mention the booze?  Needless to say, there are bottles everywhere.  All the makings of a great 4th of July!  Now all we need is the music.  Music is always a tough one because at a party like we are having, you need to please people from 5 to 90 years old.  However, this song will absolutely be played because it is one of our favorites this month.  It’s Mumford & Sons ‘The Cave’.  It’s one of those songs that is a cross between several genres of music.  Great strings.  The best part of it, we have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean.  Internet surfing says everything from a song about recovering from addiction, getting over depression to getting over a failed relationship.  Sounds great for a party, right?  Whatever it means, its our dance number for this week.  So turn the speakers up and celebrate another week of living.  Happy 4th of July and enjoy your dance.  You deserve it.  What are your plans for the 4th of July?

Fruit Juicy

This is a very good sign.  Earlier in the Spring, we planted two miniature citrus trees with plans to put them on the patio during the Summer and hopefully harvest some fruit.  I think we might get our wish!  After planting the shipped trees, there was about a month where it appeared there was little, if any, growth.  Then all of a sudden and at about the same time, both trees erupted in a mass of blooms.  There was a little bit of fragrance from the blooms, but not too much.  Towards the end of June, the trees were placed outside where they receive several hours of direct sun.  The blooms stayed intact for about a solid month and now many of the blooms have turned into baby fruit.  Above is a picture of the Meyer Lemon tree and below is a picture of the Calamondin Orange tree.  Both are packing some serious baby fruit!

So we’ve already talked about marmalade making with any oranges the Calamondin tree produces (with the help of regular oranges to make up any shortfall), but this is my vote for the Meyer lemons.  It is one of my new favorite Summer drink recipes.  Don’t worry if you don’t have Meyer lemons because regular lemons work just as well.

Meyer Lemon Drop

Ingredients:

  • Sugar, for rim of glass
  • Powdered yellow food coloring (optional)
  • Lemon slice, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 teaspoon Cointreau
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Directions:

Tint sugar with powdered yellow food color, if desired.  Place sugar in a saucer.  Moisten the rim of a martini glass with a lemon slice.  Dip rim in sugar.  In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and superfine sugar with ice; shake well.  Strain into prepared glass.  Make another, and another and then fall over.

So here’s hoping we get to harvest our lemons and oranges by the end of the Summer.  We don’t want our marmalade jars and vodka to be lonely if the fruit doesn’t make it, do we?  That’s the one thing with gardening…fruit today doesn’t always mean fruit tomorrow.  A bad storm or a big bug can ruin your plans (and crop) in an instant.  However, if they do make it and you see us walking slightly unsteady with lemon-scented breath, you know why.  Do you have any lemon or orange recipes that you can share with us here at Acorns On Glen?