Saturday, June 27, 2015

the bitter truth

So it's June 27th, I've been home for a few weeks now, and it's pouring rain outside.

Is this really summer here in Toronto? Is this it? Never thought I'd be complaining about June weather here, but damn, it blows. Hard. Yet another reason to wax poetic about the bright, sunny skies of Barcelona. Wind blowing softly on that run to the beach, visions of vermut and jamón waiting for me on the mind. Alas ... alas. Those days are no more, but, hey, life goals right? I can live very simply, but I do like to have a lot on my table.

Bitters! In gin tonics!! I'm a big, big fan of finding the right orange bitters to give a bit of lift and spice to a gin tonic. Turning an otherwise very good drink to a great one. Complex but with balance you see - always with balance. Too much and you completely destroy the drink - the bitterness overwhelms the palate. Too little, and well, what's the point then? Balance. The most difficult, yet the most key element in food and booze. This particular one I really like. Rich orange oils, a slight spiciness, and quite powerful - only a few dashes needed.

Job hunting has been rough. It's soul-sucking, really, to send application after application into cyberspace, like this dark, empty void where nothing ever returns. It's a truly humbling experience when you spend an hour crafting the most poetic fucking cover letter only to be sent an automated rejection in 30 minutes. You know how after grad school, you're supposed to know what you want to do? I mean ... that's why we went to get a masters right?! And the bitter truth of it all? We have these grandiose dreams of coming out with an MBA to be agents of change, of contributing to whatever company and industry we join, to doing something different. But a month out, it's getting harder to stay so hopeful.

Chin up. Always hustle. What a trip back to reality.


Monday, June 15, 2015

France's gin game strong

Gin is the truth.

Two German classmates visited Toronto last week, on their Canadian leg of a big trip through the East Coast. Big vodka guys, one told me he liked vodka because 'it's the most honest drink there is'. I've been thinking about what he meant by that. Maybe just a random one-liner between (somewhat) drunk friends, but while we're on the topic of honesty ...

I've always loved gin, even before living in Spain. But man, that first real glass of gin tonic changes you. Even on a student budget, I drank oceans of gin tonics during my time in Barcelona, learning to see cocktails in an entirely different light. Spanish bartenders take a culinary approach to the cocktails, what North American hipster mixologists < BARF > call craft cocktailing - an excuse for them to completely sissify a good solid drink. They don't do that shit in Spain. No, the approach they take is always to respect the base spirit they use, in this case, gin. So you look at the character of the gin you're using to decide what tonic to marry it with, and what to garnish. And always, like any good chef, the star is the gin, not yourself. You can throw a half-dozen garnishes in the glass to appear impressive, but really, you have no clue - using flash and superfluousness to overcompensate for professional insecurities.

So of course, living there meant that I had access to the most amazing Spanish gins. But I want to talk about this one first, because I think Citadelle is an incredibly, almost criminally, underrated gin. Fresh, vibrant, floral with a touch of spice - but most impressive is that texture, a silkiness that hides the alcohol and leaves your mouth in full happiness. So when using a gin like this in a gin tonic, what approach do you take? You look at the elements of the gin that you want to emphasize - for me, it's the elements of freshness and texture. First thing to decide is what tonic to use. After all, the tonic makes up 2/3 of the drink. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water is my preferred choice. It has that freshness from the herbs that's fully integrated in the aromas - not too sweet - and just enough dry extract to give you a sensation of texture while still remaining elegant. Garnish of a lime wheel to play up Citadelle's floral notes and give some citric lift.

And we come back to trying to understand what makes a drink honest. At this point, all I want to say is - honesty comes from respecting the ingredients going into your drink, and being thoughtful in what you put together. What gin with what tonic with what garnish(es). And always, always, always ... leaving your ego out of it. The gin tonic ... the most honest drink there is.

Gin tonic de Citadelle

Citadelle Gin
Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
Lime wheel

Fill a gin tonic glass with large chunks of ice

Pour 3 ounces of Citadelle gin

Stir for 30 seconds to lower the temperature and texturize the gin

Pour the Fever-Tree into the glass slowly, over the back of the barspoon

Stir once to integrate, and garnish with a lime wheel


Thursday, June 11, 2015

the pride of Peru

So ... does one shake or blend?

It was really cool meeting the parents of some of my Spanish classmates. After months of cramped quarters living with roommates (men in their late 20's/early 30's - supposed adults - can still be dirty animals), it was nice to go into a real house, make drinks in a real kitchen. A lot of these parents, particularly the men, recall their trips to Peru in their youth fondly. And a lot of those memories revolve around the pisco sour.

Pisco is a brandy that's the subject of much contention as to its origin, particularly between the Peruvians and the Chileans. But there's really no need to fight. Both countries seem to have unique ways of serving it - the Chileans drink piscola (pisco and cola, duh), while they do it like this in Lima. Personally, I have my foot in both camps, with good friends on both sides not to mention a delightful young Chilean chica I met in Barcelona who, can I say, is just my kind of woman. Now, if I had to choose - had to - based purely on my personal, subjective preferences, as an outsider - I'll go with a pisco sour. This pisco sour.

The IESE pisco sour

Fresh lime juice
Sugar syrup
Egg white
Angostura bitters

In a cocktail shaker, pour 2 ounces of pisco

Add 0.75 ounces of sugar syrup, 0.5 ounces of lime juice, and half an egg white

Dry shake until egg white emulsifies

Fill shaker with ice and hard shake for 45 seconds

Strain into a chilled glass, allowing the egg white to create a half inch layer of head

Finish with a few drops of Angostura bitters

I've been told (by my Peruvian teammate) that most households in Lima employ a blender, crushing the ice into essentially a boozy slushie. I don't like it. It's lazy and we can do better. This is a pisco sour done in the IESE way - staying true to its roots, with a touch of refinement.

It's now nearly 5pm. Pisc-o-clock.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

David Fang, MBA

What a ride.

Growth. Development. Learning. All these buzzwords giving justification about why we moved to Europe, why we went deep into debt, why we called timeout on 2 years of our lives ... the endless questions about why in the f*ck would you go to Spain?! Well, at the end of this journey, you realize that all this, it's just noise. Because if not from school, then from Barcelona - the city changes you, changes your outlook on the things that are important (and just importantly, superfluous). Am I better person? Or simply a different person?

We graduated as IESE MBA's, Class of 2015 on May 15. What a day. Bright and sunny, perfect Barcelona weather. Prof. Lago held a presentation in the morning. A good idea, to explain to friends and family that no, despite what we've been posting online the past few months, we haven't just been partying/travelling/boozing. Graduation ceremony in the afternoon on the North Campus terrace, reception, and dinner. And then of course, a blowout party at Astoria and then Bling Bling, stumbling out at dawn. I stayed in town until the 27th - out of the sunshine, back to grey, muggy Toronto.

There will be plenty of time for reflection, I suppose. We've certainly had a few months already to reflect on what we've taken out of the MBA, what IESE has meant for us. At this moment, I simply feel gratitude and pride, for the experience, for the friends I've made, for truly giving all of myself to the program. It's been a precious two years that I will treasure forever. Many thanks to my teammates ... #LaFamiliaB5 forever.

And now it's back (hopefully temporarily) to Toronto. Slowly getting back to real life, to disconnect a little from our IESE bubble, and figure out our next move. Plenty of things I want to share though, about life in Barcelona. The food. The gin tonics. The travelling.

What a ride it's been.