Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Trip to Saint Paul, A Prairie Made Dinner, & A White Peach Gin Fizz



A little over a month ago I was lucky enough to travel to Saint Paul, Minnesota for a large dinner hosted by Prairie Organic Vodka, whose liquors are manufactured locally near St Paul and are made from USDA certified organic corn. I'll go into the flavors later....but it is prettttty delicious stuff. I got into Saint Paul early in the afternoon and the dinner wasn't until 7 pm, so I took the opportunity to walk around the city, take in the sights, and relax a little in my stunning room at the luxurious Saint Paul Hotel. For some reason, in my mind I thought Minnesota was a lot like the Dakotas geographically, (i.e. totally flat with a whole lot of plains) but I was completely wrong. Flying over the state I was blown away by the beauty of the scenery, there were lakes everywhere (seriously, there are 11,842 lakes in Minnesota), and everything was so, so green because of it. And there were hills in the distance, putting my plain-like assumptions to shame.




I didn't get outside of the city to go hiking, but that's mainly because there was so much to see and do in Saint Paul that I ran out of time to check out anything else. The first thing I got kind of obsessed with was the Landmark building. It's a giant arts center in the middle of the city where they hold plays and other live musical and theatrical performances. I walked around the outside of the building at least three times just pretty much in awe of the structure, and apparently (according to old city lore aka my cab driver) there are some hidden stairwells in the building that go up to the roof where the old timey gangsters of Saint Paul used to hang out and wait to "take out" other gangsters. I don't know if they give tours of this part of the building, but I'm definitely going to investigate this further the next time I'm there.





From there I wandered over to the library and the park and took in the adorable statues of Charles M. Schlutz's characters from his Snoopy cartoon strip. And because I wanted to be a living postcard, I sat and read my kindle for a bit on the bench next to Marcie.




On my way to lunch I passed by an antiquated store front with some neat menswear in the window. Intrigued, I decided to stop in after eating, and that was when I realized that I was in the coolest mens clothing store ever. Everything inside was beautifully arranged with hats and ties and pocket squares galore! And the suits....my God, the suits. I'd never seen so many snappy and unique blazers in one place. And the best part was that the store connects to an old-school barber shop where they do shaves with straight-edge razors. I ended up getting Jeremy a really nice razor with a tortoise shell handle as a gift, but there were so many other neat finds it was really hard not to walk out with several bags full of clothes and accessories (like this bag that could definitely be used by men and ladyfolk alike). Thank goodness I had my tiny carry-on-only luggage to prevent me from spending an excessive amount of money there. If you're ever in St Paul, though, you neeeeed to stop in Heimie's Haberdashery. If not for the menswear, then at least for admiring the astounding displays of fancy goods and watching a dude get a classic straight-edge shave.




After spending an hour wandering around the Haberdashery, I walked back to the hotel with the intention of napping, but ended up snapping some pictures of the inside and outside of the hotel before taking a bath and then napping in the tub (I knooooooow. So dangerous! I didn't intend on falling asleep in there, it just sort of...happened.) It was an easy transition from the Haberdashery to the Saint Paul, since the hotel has the same 1930's feel to it that the Haberdashery did, complete with chandeliers in the foyer and hardwood everywhere (yeah hardwood!!! I am not a fan of modern architecture and steel beams, so the vintage feel definitely made me feel so much more at home and relaxed, hence the tub nap.) It was such a gorgeous place, and along with the antique beauty of the place, the staff really made me feel quite at home during my stay.






I woke up from my nap, got ready, and headed over to the Prairie Made dinner. It was held in an amazing old mill which had been turned into a beautiful restaurant. And, being an old mill, it was huuuuuge inside. But the size of the structure was nothing compared to the flavors of the dinner that was to come. Each course was prepared with fresh local ingredients and paired with a different Prairie cocktail, and while they were all delicious, my favorite drink was the rhubarb fizz, which was made with Prairie Organic gin, rhubarb jam, soda water, and lemon. It was a tough choice between that and the refreshing cocktails that featured their new line of cucumber-infused vodka, but I've always had a soft spot for the tang and complexity of rhubarb and gin and in the end it won out over all the others. While there I made certain to try the cocktail paired with every course, and since there were 5 courses and I am only 5 feet tall, you can imagine how easy it was for me to sleep through the crazy thunderstorms that apparently blew into the city that night.


When I eventually got back home to the dry heat of Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to make something similarly refreshing with their new organic gin, and decided to take advantage of the our local summer peaches. I used the peaches to make a simple syrup, and mixed it with a bit of gin, club soda, and muddled peach slices topped with some raspberries from the garden and a bit more of the peach for garnish. The result was a drink as elegant as it was delicious. Bright, clean, and fruity with a bit of bubble, it cuts right through the summer heat and delivers instantaneous cool refreshment. I took mine outside and relaxed out in the yard while the sun was going down and the temperature was starting to become tolerable again. It was a wonderful way to unwind, so much so that I plan on repeating it this weekend, and perhaps every weekend for the rest of the summer... I recommend you try it as well!



Ingredients:

White Peach Simple Syrup

1 white peach, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

The Summer Love (White Peach Gin Fizz)

1/2 cup Prairie Organic gin, chilled
3/4 cup club soda, chilled
3 tablespoons white peach simple syrup, chilled
pinch turbinado sugar
4 raspberries, for garnish
4 white peach slices, 2 for muddling & 2 for garnish


To make the white peach simple syrup, macerate the white peach slices in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. Once the peaches have been made relatively pulpy, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Remove it from the heat and allow to cool completely before straining the peach pulp out and reserving the syrup. Keep the syrup refrigerated until use.


For the cocktail, muddle 2 of the peach slices in the bottom of the serving glass. Add the gin, club soda, 3 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and the turbinado sugar. Stir until blended. Garnish with the raspberries and float the remaining two peach slices on top of the drink to form a heart. Serve immediately.





33 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for this post!!!! I grew up in MN, I went to college in St. Paul, before leaving and making my way around the country to Chicago and then the South and eventually to San Diego where we've been almost 10 years now. It's posts like these that make me truly miss Minnesota. The people, the city, the place I grew up and will always be home in my heart :) The lakes, the green, the blue blue blue skies, it's not at all what people generally think of when they think of MN. I used to live downtown St. Paul, too! Wow.

    I savored this post and these pictures. And of course, your drink is beautiful, as are all your images. You did the Prairie company very well. And me, too :)

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    1. You grew up in a truly beautiful place, I was completely in love with the scenery. Coming from Oregon originally, I love seeing green everywhere and Minnesota was awash with it. So stunning! I really want to go back sometime with Jeremy and do some camping and hiking. So much natural beauty outside of the city that I have yet to see, the brief peek from the plane window was such a tease! I'm definitely going to be heading back that way again.

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    2. Now I am doubly disappointed that I couldn't make this dinner. It looks like you had a wonderful time in my hometown, Eva. We love Prairie Vodka and Gin here.

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  2. Oh my gosh, MY PEOPLE!!! Okay, so I'm from Wisconsin, but my very best friends live in and around the Twin Cities. I always end up there when I'm home. Isn't it beautiful there? Southern MN and WI were fortunate enough to be saved from the glaciers (unlike the flat, flat Dakotas), so they have all kinds of bluffs and lakes and things. Oh gosh, I just LOVE it. I have wondered what kinds of fun food culture existed in my homeland...I wasn't really into those kind of things when I lived there, so now I'm wondering what I missed out on. This distillery sounds wonderful! What an awesome opportunity you had to visit such a great place. I just love your photos. And the drink you made is gorgeous. I love that you paired golden raspberries with the pink drink. I've not found them around these parts, but I would love to replicate this drink with whatever raspberries I can find.

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    1. Ahhh I need to see these bluffs you speak of! Seriously, the lakes were incredible enough, but knowing there are bluffs there just waiting to be camped on is realllly making me feel like I need to plan another trip back sooner than later. And I was so lucky to be able to go, Prairie Vodka was so kind to invite me and their drinks and food were just mind blowing.

      And fall gold raspberries! I could never find them in LA either, so I ordered a plant in the mail this past fall and it is starting to produce berries finally, hurray! I'd be careful about where you plant it though, the shoots are coming up everywhere around it...it's a pretty invasive plant and I'm having a really hard time keeping up with cutting down all the shoots. I have a goodeberry and currant right next to it and I'm afraid they're slowly being demolished by the highly aggressive raspberry bush :/

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  3. This drink is stunning! I just posted a Gin Rickey today--- summer must really be kicking in. I love these photos, I want to live in that men's haberdashery :)

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    1. Yes, summertime is definitely when I start breaking out the gin, too! It just tastes so refreshing in the heat. And I'm glad you liked the haberdashery, I was completely in love with it. So many beautiful items to ogle!

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  4. Beautiful photos... I want all those place settings at that mill...awesome trip! Cheers~
    Tiffany @thymeoftaste

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    1. Thank you so much Tiffany! It really was an amazing experience that I was very lucky to have :)

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  5. Thanks for a great post, Eva! I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who takes pix of my hotel rooms... I just came back from Wales a few weeks ago, and posted photos of my room (yours was much neater), including - tastefully - the gorgeous bathroom! I always enjoy your cocktail recipes, as my husband doesn't drink, so I need small recipes! Pam

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    1. Haha, thanks Pam! Yes I never really get the recipes for cocktails that make 4 or 6 servings...I like to have a cocktail at home sometimes when it's hot in the summer and that doesn't mean I'm going to throw a party about it haha :) And yes, taking pcitures of your hotel rooms is so much fun! It's a great way to remember all the fun places you stayed on your travels.

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  6. If you could ever bring yourself to visit St. Paul in the winter, the Landmark Center area is amazing during our annual Winter Carnival. Rice Park across the street from the Landmark and the St. Paul Hotel is filled with the most intricate and enormous ice sculptures, during the evenings you'll also find street vendors, a full service bar made out of ice, and live music. Market Street is closed down and an ice skating rink is set up in its place. Every decade or so they just go crazy with it and build an enormous ice palace. The last one was in 2004, the link below has some history on it. It is cold though!

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19622_5-real-places-plucked-straight-out-fairy-tales.html

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    1. Oh. My. God. That is SO AWESOME!!!!!!! I am definitely going out there in the winter now. I wasn't very good at ice skating when i was little, but I recently skied for the first time and was pretty good at it, so maybe I'll have better luck ice skating as an adult with my grown-up coordination skills :)

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  7. Oh man, how cool is St. Paul??? Really, I never would have guessed! The hotel is beautiful, and that Haberdashery.....gah! It kind of makes me wish I was a guy so I could wear all the things.

    And this cocktail sounds so good. I love pretty much any kind of gin fizz, most especially a rhubarb one. The peach + raspberry combo sounds like the perfect summer take on it, with the tartness of the raspberries against the peach yumminess. And I'm going to have to see if we have those Prairie spirits out here. I can't recall seeing them in the liquor store, but I've been known to miss things that are right in front of my face. :)

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    1. Haha, I am the same way with labels :) I'd had the Prairie brand before though, I was so curious about that corn vodka and it ended up being my favorite kind. Such a clean and smooth flavor. And the rhubarb fizz was INCREDIBLE. I am definitely going to try an recreate it in the spring when I can get my hands on rhubarb again.

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  8. snoopy! now, i don't go crazy getting excited about cocktails, but this one sounds delightful! lovely images, eva. :)

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  9. I'm a blogger and I love a menu article that tells a story with plenty of pictures. I find myself following the story no matter what it is about..............

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    1. Thank you Doug! I loved their menu, too. The dishes were so flavorful and the cocktail pairings were just perfect.

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing such beautiful pictures of my gorgeous city! And I love that you stopped into Heimie's... my husband loves that place. :) I love Prairie vodka -- I haven't had a chance to try their gin yet but this drink may have to be my first experience with it! PS If/when you are back in town, let me know! :)

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    1. Heimie's is soooooo fantastic. Your husband has great taste :) I highly recommend their gin, my fiancé is a gin fanatic and he loved their line. And I will definitely let you know when I'm back in Minnesota again! We'll have to hit up some of the tasty local restaurants I kept hearing so much about :)

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  11. Such beautiful travelogue photos, Eva—especially those interior shots of Prairie Made... White peaches always seem just a bit more subdued and delicate than their equally delicious counterparts. Perfect for a classy gin fizz drink.

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    1. Thank you Irina, I feel the same way about those white peaches. They just have such a soft and delicate touch to them, and their flavor is just as tasty as the golden varieties :)

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  12. Hello, I love your cooking blog, I am always looking at it and drooling! I was wondering if you have ever made or had a recipe for tarte du pomme (french apple tart) I don't really trust random websites and you seem like you would make anything amazing!

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    1. Thank you so much! I actually have made one and it was very very tasty. I made it with a filo dough crust, but you could definitely make it with thawed puff pastry dough instead or make your own pastry crust. I just loved it with the filo because all the apple-toffee syrup got aborbed between the layers of filo dough :) The link is:

      http://www.adventures-in-cooking.com/2012/10/toffee-apple-tart-tartin-with-vanilla.html

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  13. Oh wow, your photos are gorgeous! I am a huge fan of gin :) this drink looks fantastic!

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    1. Aww thanks Brandy!! It was so smooth and fruity, I loved it! :)

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  14. Eva,
    These photographs of Saint Paul work so well with the spirits labels and your recipe shots. It all gives me such a nostalgic feeling, even though I haven't ever been there. Thank you for sharing these. Just beautiful.

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    1. That is so kind of you to say, thank you so much Katie! If you ever get the chance to go to Minnesota, definitely stop in Paint Paul. The architecture there is beautiful and the local food and booze are amazing!

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  15. Your photos are just so incredible... every single one of them!

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    1. Thank you so much Kristen! It means a whole lot coming from you :)

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  16. What an amazing trip! Fantastic photos too. And I agree with you, I feel much more comfortable in old and vintage. The mens store reminds me of my Grandpa. He wore fedora hats and routinely, went to the barber for straight razor shaves. And that cocktail, is definitely speaking my language. Beautiful, all beautiful!

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  17. Thanks for a great post, Eva! I love this drink recipe and your pictures also

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