Fruitier, Juicier Grenadine
At London’s retro-modern Dandelyan bar on the banks of the River Thames, we discovered a refreshing update of grenadine—the mixer often mistaken as cherry-flavored that is in fact traditionally made of pomegranate juice, sugar and water. Most commercial grenadines today are toothachingly sweet, fluorescent red and made from high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. But at Dandelyan, they simmer elderberry, sour cherry and pomegranate juices into a syrup that’s spiked with cumin. The result is a sophisticated sweetener the bar uses in its version of a Manhattan. We created a simpler but equally delicious grenadine by simmering 1 cup each pomegranate juice and sour cherry juice with 6 tablespoons white sugar, 1½ tablespoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Strain and cool, then refrigerate for up to a month. We like it mixed with soda water for a grown-up Shirley Temple or shaken in a gin daisy (2 ounces gin, 1 ounce each lemon juice and grenadine, shaken with ice and strained, then topped with 4 ounces seltzer).
A Brine-Free Olive Scoop
We’re generally suspicious of single-use kitchen tools, but we were won over by London kitchen utensil-maker Joseph Joseph’s solution for briny fingers when serving olives and pickles. Their Scoop & Pick spoon features a long handle with a colander-like scoop that is perfect for pulling olives from tall-necked jars. Embedded into the back of the spoon is a thin, two-pronged pickle fork. Available for $6 at josephjoseph.com.
As Fast as Tea, as Flavorful as Stock: Dashi Packets
When we explored Tokyo’s swanky Akasaka district recently, we discovered another world of culinary shopping: stores specializing in chopsticks, titanium tumblers, pickles and sweet potatoes; soft-serve ice cream adorned with gold leaf; and high-end fruit vendors selling single melons for hundreds of dollars. Of everything we browsed, we were most taken by Kayanoya’s dashi stock packets. Designed much like a tea bag, the packets infuse simmering water with the complex, umami-rich flavor that characterizes dashi—stock made from dried kelp and bonito flakes—in two minutes. For a stronger, cloudy broth, tear the packet open and add the powder directly to the water, then bring to a simmer. The powder in the packets can also be used as a dry seasoning for stir-fries, spice rubs, rice and noodles. Kayanoya sells various dashi, vegetable and mushroom stock packets starting at $5 at usa.kayanoya.com.
We recently discovered a fresh alternative to disposable cutlery— collapsible travel chopsticks. At the Wok Shop, a warren of pots, pans and cooking equipment in San Francisco, we found a stainless-steel set that screws together and packs neatly in a plastic case ($3.95 at wokshop.com). And at Snow Peak in Portland, Oregon, the U.S. headquarters of the Japanese camping gear producer, we found Wabuki chopsticks, which feature screw-apart bamboo tips that nest into stainless-steel handles with a nylon carrying case ($39.95 at snowpeak.com).
Upgrade Your Ice Cream Sandwich like a Sicilian
In Sicily, a common breakfast in summer is a lightly sweet brioche bun dunked in granita, a sorbet-like treat made from fruit juice and a bit of sugar. But at 126-year-old gelato and pastry shop Caffè Sicilia, in the hilltop town of Noto, owner Corrado Assenza explained that the buns are also used for brioche con gelato—a sophisticated version of what we’d consider an ice cream sandwich. Shops across Sicily serve the buns halved and stuffed with scoops of gelato. The combination of almond and chocolate gelato at Assenza’s shop was deliciously creamy and doughy. This is an easy treat to recreate at home using purchased gelato and brioche buns.
A Sleeker Water Bottle via Italy
Milan is a city of high fashion, even when it comes to water bottles. At the city’s Eataly outpost, we discovered the Ripples— an innovative flat-pack water bottle designed to be more easily carried in briefcases and backpacks. The flask-style bottle is the size of an iPad mini and is made from heavy-duty, yet lightweight plastic that comes in a variety of colors. Available for $30 at fratelliguzzini.com.
Sorghum syrup—an old-time Southern sweetener—has been enjoying a bit of a resurgence lately, making us wonder whether it merited a place in the Milk Street pantry. The maple syrup-hued sweetener, which tastes like a blend of molasses and honey, is made from juice extracted from the stalks of the sorghum plant (the grains of which can also be ground for flour or cooked whole, similar to rice). The juice is then cooked down until thick.
We tried several pure syrups (avoid blends) from small-batch producers in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Missouri. All were deliciously sweet and thick with noticeable nuances—some tasted more of molasses, others had more floral or citrusy flavors. Our favorite was Kentucky Sorghum, made by Oberholtzer’s Sorghum Mill in Liberty, Kentucky, which had balanced sweetness and a light, grassy flavor ($28 for a 42-ounce jar on Amazon). We loved it drizzled on biscuits, pancakes and waffles, spread on just about anything, or made into flavored butter to toss with roasted carrots.
To make sorghum butter, mix together 8 tablespoons very soft salted butter, 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, then stir in ¼ cup room-temperature sorghum syrup. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.