Q: I hope you can help me find birch beer in my area. I recently was introduced to Moscow Mules, and one of the ingredients is birch beer. I searched for it at Kroger, Publix and Walmart, no one has it. If you can help, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you in advance. Mary N. Nelson, Covington
A: Mary, according to culinary lore, the Moscow Mule was introduced in the early 1940s at the Cock ‘N Bull lounge in Hollywood, California. The bar owner needed to unload cases of slow-selling Smirnoff vodka and a stash of house-made ginger beer. The cocktail we know today didn’t really take off until Russian immigrant, Sophie Berezinski, arrived on the scene with 2,000 copper mugs from her father’s copper shop. Today, the popular drink is still offered in frosty copper mugs.
What I can’t find, however, are any Moscow Mule recipes that use birch beer rather than ginger beer. Birch beer is a soft drink closely related to root beer. The soft drink, flavored with oils from the sap of black birch trees, is easily found — and popular — in the Northeast, especially in Pennsylvania, where it’s been produced for hundreds of years. Around here, birch beer is more difficult to find. Grocery stores near you don’t seem to stock it, and none of the liquor stores I checked with have it, either.
However, if you were served a Mule-style cocktail with birch beer, and want to try to make one yourself, then you’ll want to find a place that offers old-time, and hard-to-find soft drinks. Check out David’s Produce and Country Store, 3561 Lavista Road, Decatur, 404-325-0709. The store stocks Sioux City birch beer in 12-ounce glass bottles for $1.99. However, if you want to try the original Moscow Mule with ginger beer, then visit Nitro 2 Go Beverages, 9135 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Covington, 470-205-3600. You’ll find a variety of ginger beer brands, including Fever Tree, Cock ‘N Bull and Gosling’s.
Q: I’m looking for egg-roll wrappers to make egg rolls. They used to be in all the grocery stores. I have tried everywhere, even Asian markets. Please help me. Jeanine Murphy, email
A: Many grocery stores offer a variety of wrappers. For those not familiar with which type of wrappers fit which rolls, here’s a brief primer. The paper-thin white wrappers made with rice flour are used for making soft Thai or Vietnamese spring rolls. These are bought hard and dry, then soaked in hot water to soften. They also can be deep fried for a thin crackly skin. Slightly thicker, won ton and egg roll wrappers are made with wheat flour and eggs, and are slightly golden in color. They’re pliable before cooking. They resemble fresh pasta dough, and some people use them to make ravioli. These can be steamed, deep fried or pan fried, and have a slightly chewier texture than spring roll wrappers. Note that won-ton and egg-roll wrappers are made with the same ingredients but won-ton wrappers are smaller.
You’ll find a wide variety of wrappers, including egg roll wrappers, at Buford Highway Farmers Market, 5600 Buford Hwy., Atlanta, 770-455-0770. You’ll find the frozen egg-roll wrappers in the Chinese grocery freezer section, aisle 22. A 32-ounce package costs $3.29.
Q: My young great grandchildren visit me a lot, and they often spend the night. They’re very active and curious, and I’m careful about putting away my medication and other things that might be dangerous for them. My neighbor has a handy metal lock box that is made to lock up medications. It’s not heavy like the fireproof boxes. She received it as a gift, and doesn’t know where it came from. It would be ideal for me. Do you have any idea where I might find something like this? Mrs. Meyers, email
A: The Container Store, 3637 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, 404-963-9602 stocks a solid steel prescription security chest for $39.99. It comes with first-aid stickers, and it can be bolted or screwed down if you want it to stay in place. The white box isn’t fire safe, so it’s not insulated, nor is it heavy. It measures about 12 inches by 8 inches, and about 7 inches high.