31 July 2011

El Gato Fuera de la Bolsa

Yesterday I let the cat out of the bag. A few people know--Devon, my boss at the cafe, our Neighbors Smithington, my brother. And on el facebooko yesterday, I told my co-Red River lookout and his wife, figuring that, since we have no mutual friends that have steady internet service, it might not show up for everyone. Oh, silly little me. So here you have it:

I have wangled my way into a lookout here in Washington for what remains of the summer (that is, what's left of the months usually assigned to summer, and fire, weather). Thorp Mountain Lookout is northwest of Cle Elum and Roslyn (made famous by Northern Exposure). At 5854', it falls just a wee bit below Sheep Hill's 8402'. It is even a little short by Washington lookout elevation standards, but is reputed to have such excellent views that it has been in service since 1930 or '31, and the existing L-4 cabin is the original. If this is the 80th anniversary year, well, how effing cool would that be?! I am curious to find out.

Thorp is also a hike-in, though as short as 2.5 miles, and will still involve a pack-string of mules to get my grub and gear in. Interestingly, it is nearly the same distance between Thorp LO and Seattle as between Sheep Hill LO and Grangeville. With the small difference of an interstate highway and a couple of million people in between, rather than backroads and a few thousand people.

What with the short hike and the 'easy' (by comparison) drive, and with the addition of 4 days off after 10 on, I will be coming off the lookout occasionally, too. Which feels like cheating. Hell, I could even save my laundry for town. I can have fresh vegetables. And more riesen candies, or gin, if I run out. If something is lacking, that allows me to do my job well, or take care of the lookout properly, I can hike out and fetch it, instead of putting it on the to-do list for next year. Whoa.

Of course, the short hike and easy drive (from Seattle, sweet jeebus) mean that I could also see as many people in a busy Saturday as I saw all season, last year.

My food and goods are starting to pile up, along with this year's reading list. My friends gave me some excellent reading suggestions last year, and I am quite open to hearing more. I'm very, very lucky to have the support of my boss (and good friend), Charles; and the support and love of Devon. The two of them had the power to say no, or at least make me feel very guilty about doing what I need and love to do, and they did not. Thank you both. I am very excited. It will be very different, in what feels like nearly every way. If it's interesting enough, and you all want to hear about it, I will share my gleanings again this fall.

Link to SummitPost
(photo courtesy of the WTA)

13 July 2011

Delicious Wodka!

So...to start off with something (not entirely) related, I have to tell you a story that everyone who's ever drunk vodka anywhere near me has probably heard at least once. It goes like this: My friend Jessica (whose awesome stuff you should love and buy, too), loves to say "Svedka...Svodka...Svedka...Svodka...", and it's particularly nice when you have someone else echoing Svodka when you've said Svedka. Its creation involved herself and another friend walking around town after having had a fair dose of Svedka Svodka, and now I can't see a bottle of it without getting that phrase in my head on an endless loop. It's really fun to say out loud, too. Try it sometime.

Anyways. I am here to tell you about my Very Exciting Venture, here recently. Not long ago, I discovered a blog, because she had discovered me. On[Blank] is written by a great and funny gal named Kristina. She had been having a similar dilemma to one I was experiencing: how to get rhubarb into one's cocktails with all of the rhubarb-y greatness alive and well, while not doing a baleen whale move to strain out the fiber? I have decided that infusing one's simple syrup with herbs and spices makes for some delicious cocktail-age (Even if you're making a mojito with fresh mint in it: steep mint in your syrup, too. Fantastic.). Fortunately, Kristina had done the hard work of figuring out that while you get some beautifully colored results when you go this route, it tastes enough like kool-aid that you should probably save yourself the hassle and just buy a packet of powder. She had had another fail previously, to worsen the pain of rhubarb rejection. I wrote to commiserate, when suddenly I had a {brilliant} idea: do with the rhubarb what I had done with spruce needles a few months ago: steep them in vodka. Which turned out to work. And is flaming delicious. So now she's trying the method with gin. Sounds fantastic, and I can't wait to hear how it turns out.

Without further ado, Rhubarb Vodka and Spruce Vodka:

I love just looking at the bottles.

So here's how to make some stuff yerself, if you want. Which you should, because it is SO EASY.

Rhubarb Vodka
3/4 cup Rhubarb, finely diced. Use the reddest bits you've got, for nicest color.
1-750ml bottle of decent Vodka 

-Place the rhubarb in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the vodka over it.
-Put the lid on and put it in a dark place, like a cupboard, but a cupboard you use a lot, so that you remember to:
-Tip the jar around to mix up the contents a couple of times a day.
-After one week of steeping, strain the vodka, and press the liquid out of the rhubarb if you're cheap like me. The vodka will be a little cloudier, though.
-Pour back into the original vodka bottle, or store in the jar, and place in the freezer for keeping. 

-You could probably use up to a cup (maybe more) rhubarb, if you want to. And you should certainly try infusing other fruits and vegetables at this same ratio.

Spruce Vodka
1 cup Spruce Needles, stripped off of the branch. Use mature needles, not fresh tips, and also use gloves.
1-750ml bottle of decent Vodka

-Place the spruce needles in a blender or food processor with some of the vodka. Blend the crap out of it. 
-Pour into a clean jar. Rinse out the blender/processor with the rest of the vodka, and pour it all into the jar.
-Put the jar into the fridge, and agitate it every so often. 
-After one week, strain the spruce out of the vodka, and then pour your pretty green vodka through a coffee filter.
-Pour it back into the original bottle or your jar and store in the freezer.

-I have had hops, chai, and coffee-infused vodkas using these same methods. All delicious.

I wanted to save this post until I'd come up with an award-winning cocktail containing the rhubarb vodka, but I've decided that's not completely necessary. I've been drinking it with a splash of ginger ale to sweeten it. Me gusta. As I told Kristina, it seems as though it would be delicious in a Cosmopolitan-type of drink, or with plain or basil simple syrup and soda. I'll have to find out. 

I drink the spruce vodka on rocks, or in a well-chilled thick shot glass.