Monday, March 2, 2015

A Blind Bear for a Christian

I first met Christian Kiefer a year ago when he came to the store for D. Foy's book signing.  D. Foy had just come out with his first novel, Made to Break, and since I'd known him for twenty years it was fitting that he read in the bookstore I manage.

His reading was fabulous.  We would sell a ton of books and members of our writing group from near and far came out to support him.  And then there was Christian - a friend of D. Foy's, a fellow author, local (kind of) - who would be interviewing D. Foy that night.  They had a terrific camaraderie - their exchanges were relaxed and funny with touches of the serious tossed in for good measure.

A great night that ended at the Hob Nob, the bar down the street from the bookstore.

Except Christian had to cut out.  He had a long drive back - past Sacramento.  But I'd see him again at the annual trade show put on by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.  He swears he kept calling my name during the mad scrum that is the author bash at the end of the show - I maintain I didn't hear him over the din.  Maybe I was distracted by the chocolate.

Christian was there promoting his not-yet-released novel, The Animals, that you can pre-order from us.

It's a helter-skelter story about identities lost and found, about violence in Reno, about wildlife sanctuaries being shut down for no good reason, about moose being shot in the back of the head when they're too wounded to save - written by this maestro who was introduced to me by a happy coincidence.

Segue to - I had just met Mandy Aftel, herself the author of Fragrant.  If ever there was a book that could be described as redolent, this was it.

Fragrant details the wondrous history of scent, the most evocative of the senses.  I'd been lucky enough to visit Mandy at her home studio where she delighted a handful of booksellers before Fragrant was released.  Although she's a terrific writer, her real passion is creating fragrances.  (You can learn more here.)  Her perfumes bewitched one portion of her audience that day - but for me, it was her Chef's Essences that were even more intriguing.

Edible scent?  A spritz that could be added to, say, a cocktail?  Ginger, maybe?  Peach or sarsaparilla?  Now you're talking.

I was especially hooked with one of the more esoteric flavors - fir.  Mandy swore it was like keeping a forest in a bottle and the possibilities for its use in an adult beverage began tick-tocking.

But that tick-tock reminds me that this was supposed to be about Christian, and here I am waxing rhapsodic about Mandy and her wondrous craft - which is of course easy to do.  Next time you eat vanilla ice cream, hit it with a little spray of her Pink Pepper Chef's Essence and you'll know what I mean.

Still - we began with my friend D. Foy, in conversation with his friend, Christian Kiefer.  A year ago last March.

Then we jumped forward to Christian.  His novel, The Animals.  The NCIBA trade show last October.  Christian was calling to me across the crowded floor, remember?  Was he wearing his hat that day like he had for D. Foy's reading?  I think so.  We talked - he about his book, me about the show.  I asked if he'd had one of the chocolate truffles.  Melt in your mouth deliciousness.

I told him about Mandy and her perfumes, her Chef's Essences - and that I was already thinking about some concoction to celebrate The Animals.

Like what? he asked.

And I told him about Fir and how I thought it would be perfect - since so much of the book takes place in or near the forests of Idaho, where the Animals live in a sanctuary-cum-zoo.  Those Animals include one of my favorite characters in the novel - Majer, the blind bear.  An animal who maintains majesty even without sight, even while its existence depends on the solicitude of Bill Reed, Majer's problematical caretaker.

Fir? Christian said.  That sounds disgusting.

It of course was only later that I realized Christian had heard the word 'Fur,' not 'Fir.'  And yeah, who wants that in their drink?

But Fir?  Pine needles and evergreen?  That I'd like.  So, in honor of Majer, tonight we'll be drinking a Blind Bear.  We'll use a little absinthe mixed with a little soda to get that wonderful louche effect that will turn the drink cloudy white - like the snowstorm that hits at the end of the book, or like Majer's cataracted eyes.  A little gin, too, because it's clear and because it'll play nice with the Fir Essence.

You can read all about it here in our March Newsletter, or down below.  Either way, after you mix it, close your eyes and breathe it deep - the forests will be all around.  And Majer?  You might here him snuffling, too.

This version is meant to be served in a coupe - but I'm thinking next time I'm going to serve it in a Collins glass over ice.  You decide how you want it and I'll accommodate.

Blind Bear:

1.5 oz. Plymouth Gin
.75 oz. absinthe
Soda water
Aftelier Perfumes Fir Needle Chef's Essence® Spray.

Stir gin and absinthe with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Top with cold soda water and stir.  Spritz once with the Fir.

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