While some will disagree, cooking is often a rewarding, useful, and relaxing endeavor that all should have some measure of skill in. Not only is it a great creative outlet, but the end result of a well done meal is rewarding in several ways. The same, however, can not always be said of cooking in a high profile, high volume, high pressure kitchen where the work is grueling, thankless, and sometimes cruel. Yet many in the business will tell you the challenge of it is strangely addictive, and that there is no greater satisfaction than a well done shift, and consistently making the perfect meal.
Now there is an app called “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” that perfectly captures that mix of emotions. The iPad version of the PC title of the same name, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” is a restaurant management game that separates itself from the sizeable number of similar titles out there by being insanely detailed, and ridiculously tough. The very basics of the game see you taking incoming orders and building them via the simple recipe prompt. As the orders pile up, you’ll find yourself having to manage several meals at once (done through a upper corner quene), prepping some while others finish,and always being careful to get to everyone in time without ruining a meal.
It would be an intense enough experience, but where the game separates itself is in the almost anal nature it takes towards its subject matter. You don’t just cook and serve meals, but you also must handle back of the house work like setting rat traps, washing dishes, and taking out the trash. It’s not all grunt work though, as since this is also your restaurant, that means you are the chef, owner, and manager. This is where things get really exciting, since you are tasked with buying food for the day and building a menu that must be familiar, yet fresh, and always evolving. You must deal with food costs, menu changes, special requests, challenges (including “Iron Chef” like competition invites), and even the occasional robbery all while running the day to day activities of your restaurant (a day in the game takes 6 minutes in real time). Ultimately your efforts are in the pursuit of increasing your restaurant’s star rating and public buzz level (and of course purchasing restaurant upgrades) in order to move on to bigger, better, and more challenging venues.
Nothing comes easy in “Cook, Serve, Delicious!”, and during the game’s rush hour moments, things can seem downright impossible. While the actual cooking mechanics aren’t as detailed and interactive as games like “Cooking Mama”, it’s the fact that you are tasked with managing everything, and that everything is so richly detailed, that makes the game so very worthwhile. Building a popular, yet inventive, menu in your own style, and being able to eventually serve it almost instinctively is one of those gaming nirvana feelings that never grows old, because it is always difficult to achieve. Thankfully the challenge doesn’t derive from the touch controls (which are well implemented), and the game’s appetizing graphic style and catchy soundtrack are a constant and welcome presence.
In many ways “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” reminds me of the recently released starship simulator “FTL” where your dream of running a starship (or restaurant in this case) is quickly burdened with the reality of doing so. Yet thanks to some ingenious design, and a well implemented balance of challenge and reward, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” provides a long journey that proves the thrill that comes from overcoming true adversity is often greater than that of any pre-conceived fantasy notions you may have had on the subject. It goes beyond your ideas of the genre, and serves up a tasty app of the week.
So it’s the last weekend before Christmas, so it’s time to get serious about getting gifts.
We’re always fans about giving booze gifts, and if you’re buying for women in particular, you can’t go wrong with flavored vodka. Van Gogh has tons of great flavors, and we recently tried their delicious Dutch Caramel Vodka. Trust us – this stuff will bring a smile to her face. Even better, take some to the next holiday party you go to and you’re guaranteed to be a big hit.
While you’re at it, learn to make the cocktail picture above.
HOT CARAMEL BUTTERED RUM
3 oz Ron Abuelo Añejo rum
1 oz Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka
1/4 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
Combine all ingredients (excluding rum and vodka) into a hot drinking cup or mug. Mix together with a spoon then add Ron Abuelo Añejo and Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka. Pour in hot water (1 cup or more to personal taste) and stir vigorously until the mixture has dissolved. Garnish with cinnamon stick.
It’s a weird world out there as December 2012 heads to a close, but this week at DOTW Central our theme is holiday bounty. An example of that would be the bounteous bottle of Carpano Antica I received from a mysterious publicity benefactor late last week. For those not in the know about this sweet vermouth with a more complex, dark chocolate-like undercurrent, it’s become increasingly ubiquitous in the craft and classic cocktail scene. Some may find it more bitter than sweet, and its growing popularity probably says something about us cocktail snobs, which is not to say it isn’t completely tasty all on its own. Carpano made a guest appearance in last week’s beverage where it actually kind of saved the day with its not so hidden depths. More about it later.
And what better drink to celebrate holiday and the benevolence of whatever cosmic powers you may or may not believe in than the Jumbo, a drink comprised of a trinity of historically benevolent boozes? Better yet, while last year’s more traditional Christmas cocktail threatened to make me jumbo — I’m not exactly microscopic right now — today’s drink is relatively quite low cal and 100% fat free. It’s also super easy to make and even easier to memorize the ingredients and proportions. So, hooray for all that.
Combine the liquids in the most festive cocktail shaker or mixing glass you can find and then either shake or stir — I’m feeling ecumenical this week but I’d still shake it — for a good long time. Then, strain into ye olde chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. If you’re a cheapskate like me, it’s likely to resemble Santa’s nose but, I have to admit, it will taste better if it looks more like, well, a black cherry. Sip in honor of a great holiday and, let’s hope, a better new year.
I actually tried this drink with two different vermouths and got two fascinating and kind of delightful results. With Carpano Antica, it was a not-so-sweet but charming drink with a rich, deep undercurrent.With Martini & Rossi, the universal fall-back sweet and not at all bitter vermouth, it was light and enjoyable — your basic good natured, cocktail treat. A more easy going Manhattan. I actually think both versions are perfectly legitimate and, in their way, almost entirely different drinks. Just another testament to the infinite variability of cocktails. My rye this time, by the way, was the new Knob Creek rye, which I’ve been really enjoying.
Speaking of ingredients, I once again need to speak up for bitters, in this case Peychaud’s. I mistakenly got the idea from something I read somewhere that at least some people made the Jumbo without bitters. And, so, I made versions of this that were completely bitter free and it was, well, a pale experience. Let me tell you folks, while Angostura/aromatic type bitters will do okay in a pinch, it really takes the lighter and more cheerful Peychaud’s to make the Jumbo sing. Also, I found out, just as this was being posted, that some folks go with a bit more whiskey and dry vermouth and a bit less of the sweet vermouth, so if you find these versions too sweet, feel free to try out a drier Jumbo.
Finally, since the holiday is almost upon us, let’s end with a song. Remember, folks, only three drinking days left until even more drinking days.
One singer is gone and the other is still with us and it’s not who anyone would have guessed. Life and death are beyond predictability; we don’t have a choice about that, but that’s also all the more reason to cherish life. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily overdo it, at least not most of the time.