Hawaii:Tiki Drinks and Tall Tales


Dave, who was our bartender for the Hawaii edition of supperclub, doesn’t cut corners.  This means getting original recipes, infusing his own mixers, and making his own mixers.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.  For our Hawaii supperclub, Dave donned his best vintage aloha shirt and treated us to not one but two beautifully crafted South Pacific themed drinks for the occasion.

And what are cocktails without tall tales? This one happens to be true, but it’s hard to believe.  Peter had been to Hawaii at least a few times before Linda’s first trip, which was in the summer of 1995.  Linda had just finished her first year of medical school, and sometime in the winter of that first year, had casually looked for summer internship opportunities.  One day, she read through the alumni notes section of her medical school magazine.  There was a feature on someone who had graduated about 10 years prior and was working at the University of Hawaii and had done some research on lifestyle factors in heart disease.  This was long before Linda realized that she would also one day get into the field of lifestyle medicine, but what caught her eye were the words “Honolulu, Hawaii.”  Ever the enterprising student, Linda send a letter to the alumna, which read somewhere along the lines of:

“Dear Alumna,

I am a first year medical student at your alma mater.  I read with interest about the research you have been conducting and am wondering if you could use a summer research assistant.



Into the mail it went (pre-email!), with dim hopes for a response.

A few weeks later, Linda received an unbelievable response!  It read:

“Dear Linda,

Thank you for your interest.  I do not need a research assistant, but you are welcome to stay with me.  I don’t have a guest room, but you can pitch a tent on the back deck.


Incredibly Generous Alumna.”

Call it naivete, but Linda decided this was an opportunity she could not pass up.  So she took some of her student loan living expenses and bought a roundtrip ticket to Honolulu.  Peter thought it was a good idea, too, so he did the same.

Summer came along, and somehow, it still seemed a reasonable idea to fly all the way from Providence, Rhode Island to Honolulu with the only plan being to stay with a complete stranger in a strange land.  Linda went alone, to be joined by Peter the next day.  She was greeted at Honolulu airport by the very friendly alumna who welcomed her like a long-lost sister, and drove her to her home.  There, she was also welcomed by the alumna’s boyfriend and her son, who was about 6.  “This is my son,” she said.  “Maybe you can babysit him one day.” Then she showed me a tent set up on the promised deck, which was along a canal.  “That’s where you will be staying.”  Finally, she handed Linda a ring of keys.  “Here’s a key to my extra car– it’s kind of a clunker.  And that’s the access key for the yacht club, in case you want to hang out there.”

So the next day, Linda drove in her borrowed car to the airport to pick up Peter, who couldn’t believe his eyes.  They spent one happy week on one beautiful island, and only good things, like sunsets and beaches, happened.

Their host shared her story.  Linda and Peter accepted it as truth, but in retrospect, it’s a bit hard to believe.  Their host said that after completing medical school, she wasn’t sure what field of medicine she wanted to go into.  So she pursued her other passion, sailing, and decided to crew yachts for people around the South Pacific.  This is how she found herself on Tonga, the Polynesian island Kingdom. While she was there, a young member of the royal family had a seizure.  She happened to be around, and using her very limited medical knowledge, helped stabilize the young boy.  Once he was stable, she examined him, and saw that he had an ear infection.  Thinking this might have been the cause of the seizure, she approximated a dose of penicillin for him from her own supplies, and he recovered.  She was rewarded for her efforts by being given her first medical license (from the Kingdom of Tonga), and use of a house, a horse and houseboy for the summer.  She named the horse “Ti’e Ti’e,” “stitches” in Tongan.


Skeptical? Don’t forget, Linda and Peter were told and believed this story at their impressionable young ages of their early 20s, and with perhaps more than an average amount of naivete.  Would they allow their children to follow in their trusting footsteps? Of course not! Would they do it again? Maybe… But they are so very glad that they did, tall tales or true stories regardless.

And they lived happily ever after.


South Pacific

1/2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz passion fruit juice

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 oz citron vodka

1 oz lychee liqueur

Shaken, served in citrus-sugar rimmed cocktail glass.


Homage to Traditional Trader Vic’s Mai Tai

1 oz pineapple ginger infused rum agricole

1 oz Jamaican rum

1/2 oz orange curaçao

1/2 oz orgeat (preferably home-made)

Juice of one lime

Shaken, served in tiki mug over ice with mint sprig.



Thirsty for more? Come back next week for our starters! For a overview of our Hawaiian menu, visit the first post.  Aloha!


Eastern Europe: Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes


Ever the culinary perfectionist, Dave did not deign to serve the Supperclub pre-made blintzes. Instead, he took a few moments to excuse himself to the kitchen to prepare this next, lovely course.  The rich aroma of butter was seductive, so much so that the less wise of us asked for two, not one, of these decadent blintzes upon their arrival to the table.

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes by David Tanis (modified)

Serves 8 -10.


Note from Dave: I changed the mushrooms to use porcini and crimini instead of chanterelles. I also tripled (!) the blintze (crepe) recipe.

Eastern Europe: Zwack! Cocktail Hour and the Perfect Challah


Chris proved his chops as a Master Mixologist with a survey of Zwack liqueurs from Hungary.  Not satisfied with shots of each of the liqueurs in their pure forms, he also treated us to 3 masterfully mixed cocktails bringing out the unique fruity character of each.

For a little history, Chris found this information on drinkhacker.com:

Zwack Unicum Liqueur – This spirit, originally crafted from more than 40 herbs and spices in 1790. Very bitter, it’s a digestif for the Fernet fan, with sweetness a distant afterthought. Pushing past the initial shock of bitterness, Unicum offers a heavy cinnamon note character, with orange peel beneath. Secondary notes include licorice, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and some wood, driven by the six months Unicum spends in oak barrels before bottling. This is a solid alternative to Fernet, offering its own take on the bitter liqueur without reinventing the category.

Zwack Liqueur – Alternately known as “Unicum Next” internationally, this is Unicum’s lighter-colored and far sweeter take on Unicum, clearly designed for a younger, more sweet-toothed audience. Slightly syrupy, Zwack is quite fruity, driven as I noted in my original review by cherry notes — though these are more of the cherry jelly variety than the fresh fruit. It’s quite a different beast than Unicum, one which lends itself to drinking as a shot, using as a mixer, and generally appealing to a more novice drinker. That’s neither good nor bad… but it’s not Unicum.

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur  – Take Unicum and age it instead for six months in oak casks on a bed of dried plums (huge in Hungary) and you have Unicum Plum. The nose isn’t immediately distinguishable from Unicum, licorice and spice notes. The body is instantly familiar, but brings more fruit to the table — a Port-like prune character that helps to balance out some of Unicum’s overwhelming bitterness. If you’re looking for something somewhere in between Unicum and Zwack on the bitter to sweet spectrum, Unicum Plum may fit the bill, though I find the bitter Unicum more exciting.

zwack shots


Zwack Cocktails


Adapted from recipe by Joaquín Simó, the New York City bartender best known for his work at Death and Co. and Pouring Ribbons. Unicum and Zwack are traditionally consumed as shots, but their herbal makeup gives you plenty to work with when mixing drinks.

Hungarian Orchard

1 ounce Zwack

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce fresh orange juice

Apple slices for garnish

Fresh grated cinnamon for garnish

Combine Zwack, apple brandy and orange juice into a cocktail with ice and shake vigorously. Strain contents into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices and fresh grated cinnamon.

Masked Man

1/2 ounce Unicum

1 ounce apple brandy

1/2 ounce pumpkin spice syrup

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Grated nutmeg for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain contents into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Unicum Plum Cobbler

1 ounce Unicum Plum

1/2 ounce aperitif (I used apple brandy)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 tbsp strawberry preserves

3 dashes aromatic bitters

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a Nick & Nora glass (or a coupe). Garnish with lemon peel.


Both to serve as a warm and meaningful welcome, and to to ensure that the Spicebox Supperclubbers could make it through the meal, Dave presented us with a beautiful challah.


Dave writes,

We were going for two different traditions with the bread:

Slavic tradition of welcoming distinguished guests with bread and salt.


Jewish tradition of serving challah with salt.

From a culinary point of view, the salt provided a nice flavor contrast to the slight sweetness of the dough and the raisins.  The recipe from the challah comes from Zabar’s, that great New York deli, to which Dave’s family has a personal connection (almost could have been related!)

Simple Sweet Challah
from Andrea Watman


This is my favorite Challah recipe. It is easy to make – and the sweet taste of the bread is just wonderful. I serve it warm with honey on Rosh Hashanah. Growing up my Grandma Bertha made dinner every Friday night. She set a beautiful table with a Challah as the centerpiece. No, she didn’t bake it – she walked to 161st Street and Gerard Avenue in the Bronx – to The G & R Bakery. If you lived anywhere near Yankee Stadium The G & R Bakery was where you met on Friday’s. You had to go early in the day because there would always be a line. The Challah was so shiny that as I child I thought it was polished. For years I tried to bake Challah and could never master it. This recipe has never failed me – so I hope you’ll give it a try.

2 packages dry yeast
2/3 Cup Warm Water (110 degrees)
5 Egg Yolks – Lightly Beaten
3 Whole Eggs – Lightly Beaten
7 Tablespoons Corn Oil
½ Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 Egg Yolk – Beaten
Poppy Seeds (optional)

1. In cup or small bowl dissolve Yeast in the warm water with approx 1 tablespoon of sugar. After just a few minutes the yeast should begin to “bloom”. It will become foamy and it will give off a sweet smell. If your yeast is not fresh this will not happen – do not go any further – start over with fresh yeast.

2. In a large bowl mix Egg Yolks, Eggs, Oil, remaining Sugar, Salt and Yeast mixture.

3. Add enough flour to form stiff but sticky dough (you can do this in a stand mixer – using the dough hook attachment).

4. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) – about 6 minutes – work in raisins as kneading.

5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl and turn dough so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in warm area to double in bulk – about two hours.

6. Punch down and knead briefly.

7. Roll dough into a 24” long rope. Create a spiral round loaf. (Sometimes I divide the dough into three parts, then I make three smaller ropes and braid them – then I form a circle from with the braid).

8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

9. Brush loaf with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle top with poppy seeds (if desired), and allow too rise until dough doubles in size – about 45 minutes.

10. Bake until golden brown in a pre-heated 375 degree oven – 35 to 40 minutes.

11. Allow to cool before slicing and enjoy!


Did you enjoy this sample of Eastern European food and drink? Visit the overview of our menu and come back next week for the delightful first course.  Thanks for coming by!

Trini Carnival: Callaloo with Macaroni Pie


Callaloo is part of what is known as “creole food” in Trinidad, among other foods served by the descendants of those African slaves, including macaroni pie and pelau (rice with pigeon peas).   It’s eaten alongside these other foods, served with rice.

*     *     *


Callaloo, despite its humble origins, is as smooth as a French bisque.  True callaloo uses taro leaves, which are carried by some Asian markets.  If unavailable, whole leaf spinach makes a good substitute.  The salt pork and crab add depth of flavor but can be omitted to make a vegan version of this stew.

callaloo leaf


1 pound taro leaves (about 12 leaves, stripped from tough stem), roughly chopped

8 okra, diced

4 chives or two green onions, minced

1 onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme, stem removed

2 tbsp butter

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (2 cans)

salt to taste

Optional: 1/4-pound salt pork, and/or 1/2 pound lump crabmeat

Accompaniment: steamed rice (in the Caribbean, parboiled rice such as Uncle Ben’s is typical) or roti


1.  Melt butter in a stock pot and then add all vegetables.  Saute until onions are fragrant and translucent.

2.  Add broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil.

3.  If using salt pork, add now.

4.  Simmer for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are very soft.

5.  Puree with an immersion blender or in a standard blender. (Remove salt pork first, if used.)

6.  Return puree to pot.  Add salt to taste.

7.  If using crab, add to soup and bring to a boil.  Cook for a few minutes until crabmeat is cooked.

8.  Serve over hot rice.


Film trivia: Bhaji, the Trinidadian name for spinach, is also part of the title of “Bhaji on the Beach” (1993), the first film by Gurinder Chadha, who later brought us “Bend It Like Beckham.”

A version of this post was published February 28, 2011 on Salon.

Macaroni Pie

mac pie

This is basically Trinidadian mac and cheese, baked into a casserole and sliced so that you could eat it by hand, if you wanted.  In Trindad, one way to enoy callaloo is to use it as a gravy on top of a slice of macaroni pie.  For fanciness for the Spicebox Supperclub, we’ve inverted the ratio so and used a small slice of macaroni pie as a garnish in a bowl of callaloo.


1 tsp salt

1 pound macaroni—in Trinidad this long type of macaroni is used, but you can substitue elbow macaroni if you can’t find it. We’ve found it imported from Mexico and Italian bucatini is similar.

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 12 oz can evaporated milk

1 egg, beaten (2?)

4 oz grated cheddar, plus another 4 oz for topping. Cheddar is the most widely available cheese in Trinidad, and when Peter was growing up , the only one.  For the right taste, use Irish cheddar, preferably Kerrygold, which is now widely available here, including at Trader Joe’s and Costco.


  1. preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8 inch square dish and set aside
  2. Brig a lg pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes.  Drain and rnse with cool wter.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat, then add the flour and cook , to form a roux until very light brown, about 1 minut.e  Tne whisk in the milk, add salt and peper to taste.  Simmer until thickened.  Let cook slightly, then slowly whisk in the beaten egg.
  4. Put the cooked macaroni into the prepared pan and pour the sauce over it.  Mix well.  Then put additional cheese on top and bake for 40 minutes, until top is light brown and bubbly.

Thanks for coming by! This is the 5th post in our series on our Trinidadian-themed meal.  Come back next week for the next course! It involves the spirit of Anya Ayoung-Chee, from  Project Runway.  Intrigued?

Comida Porteño: Empanadas


After being welcomed by pisco cocktails and centered by a few rounds of yerba mate, we began with a classic and mouthwatering appetizer: empanadas.  Chef Chris has kindly described the two types of empanadas he prepared:

Empanadas are common and everyone seems to have their favorite empanada joint. We went to several places and all were very good. Empanadas are common throughout Latin and South America. In Argentina, empanadas are baked although each region has their own differences. Common flavors were Carne (usually chopped steak with red peppers, green olives and hard boiled egg), Jamon y queso, Humita (mashed corn with red peppers and cheese). There are also sweet kinds with dulce de leche and coated with sugar.

Empanada de Carne (adapted from recipe on blog “From Argentina with Love”: Mendoza-Style Empanadas from the Oliva-Quiroz family).

empanada beef

Traditionally,  ground beef or chopped steak is used. We exchanged for short ribs prepared the day before with our slow cooker for fantastic juicy meat.

makes about one dozen

1 lb Short ribs, trimmed. slow cooked in slow cooker for 8 hours on low setting

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

8oz tomato paste

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 Tbs smoked paprika

1 tsp cumin

~6-10 green olives, pitted and cut into slices

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper, to taste

12 empanada rounds (tapas): we bought brand La Saltena at a local grocery store that specializes in Argentine food products (Evergreen Market in the Mission District of San Francisco.) We used estilo hojaldre, which makes a flakier crust.

1 egg, beaten, for glazing

1 glass water, to seal edges

Note: The meat can be made a day/s in advance and keep in refrigerator.


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until they start to become translucent, then add in the beef. Cook the ground beef, chopping as it cooks with a flat spatula to maintain ground beef texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the beef has cooked through, then taste for salt and pepper, and stir in the paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and mix well.

Or, use our variation with slow cooker. Trim short ribs and cut into 2-3 inch chunks. As above, sauté onions then stir in paprika, cumin, tomato paste and crushed red pepper. Then transfer to slow cooker. Next, heat more olive oil on medium-high heat and sear short ribs on each side for 1 minute each. Do not cook through. Place short ribs in slow cooker. Pour in warm water to add some liquid but not too much (about ½-1 cup). Cook on low setting for about 8 hours. When cool, shred meat into smaller pieces and return to remaining sauce.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the tapas on a lightly floured work surface. With a tablespoon, put a little of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. Add a piece or two of green olive and hard boiled egg.

For sealing, you’ll need a small glass of water. Moisten the edge on the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.

Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!

Empanadas de Humita

(also adapted from recipe on blog “From Argentina with Love”)

empanada humitas

10 ears of fresh corn

1 medium-sized onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup cornstarch

about six roasted piquillo peppers or three roasted red bell peppers

one teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

12 tapas or discos for empanadas, either store-bought or homemade (we used La Saltena)

1 egg, beaten

Shuck the corn, removing all hulls and silk, and rinse the ears under cold water. Then, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the kernels into a large bowl. Rotate the ear around, grating the ear of corn, until all the kernels have been grated off. Slide the flat edge of a butter knife down the edge of the ear of corn all around to release any additional starchy juices into the bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onion, and heat the oil in a medium-sized non-reactive sauce pan to medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, but not browned, lowering the heat if needed. Add in the grated corn and stir to incorporate.

Bring the corn mixture to a boil (it will just sort of bubble up slowly) and continue to boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add in the cornstarch and stir to incorporate, and continue to cook at a simmer until the mixture thickens, about a half hour. Meanwhile, dice the peppers. Stir the peppers into the corn mixture, then add in the salt, crushed red pepper, and grated Mozzarella, and stir to incorporate.

Remove the mixture from heat and let cool completely, first on the stovetop and then in the refrigerator–this helps a lot in getting the mixture to thicken and make a good spoonful of filling. When the humitas have cooled completely, you’re ready to fill the empanadas.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.

Lay out the tapas four at a time on a clean countertop, lightly dusted with flour. Put out a small glass of water for sealing the empanadas, along with a small glass with one beaten egg, for brushing over the empanadas before baking.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the humitas filling in the center of the empanada shell.

For sealing, you’ll need a small glass of water. Moisten the edge on the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead. (Make sure there is a good seal, some of ours had leaks!)

Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!

This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Please visit previous posts and come back soon– there’s more food to come, plus dessert!