Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spirited Dinners, part 1

Pairing cocktails with dinner may sound like a novel concept, but as the Spirited Dinners on the next night of Tales of the Cocktail showed, spirits offer a range of flavors that compliment many foods. The dinners held at top restaurants around New Orleans were sponsored by the delicious new ginger liqueur Domaine de Canton.

I managed to get into the sold-out dinner at Restaurant August owned by Chef John Besh. Back in 1999, Food & Wine Magazine named Besh one of their Best New Chefs for his modern American cuisine with a southern accent. Besh earned acclaim for his work feeding people after Hurricane Katrina and appearances on Iron Chef. I loved the feel of August, set in a historic building with brick walls, wood floors and chandeliers.

Award-winning Brit bartender Charlotte Voisey started us off with a brilliantly subtle Lavender and Cucumber Sour (gin, ginger liqueur, lavender syrup, lemon, egg white) paired with a chilled melon soup spiked with Vietnamese herbs.

The most startling cocktail of the evening came next: a BLT martini. Juice from heirloom tomatoes was strained and paired with silver tequila and fresh basil. A mixture of "bacon dust" and spicy chile made a savory garnish. I can't say I'd whip up a bacon martini every week, but the novel drink was perfect with Besh's delicate crawfish agnolotti tossed with bacon and chanterelle mushrooms.

Next time, I'll tell you about the best cocktail of the evening....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Champagne Punch in New Orleans


I just came back from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the Lollapalooza of serious bartending and spirits. I'm not sure how one captures everything that took place - the tastings, lectures,parties and general naughtiness - but here goes.

The opening night featured a reception by the Pernod Ricard brand Beefeater's Gin, one of the event's major. The party featured a super cool bar carved completely from ice. The list of cocktails on offer were embedded in the bar! I made my way up to the bar, and ran into Desmond Payne, the master distiller at Beefeater's He's been at it for 40 years, using a recipe for Beefeaters originally created by a pharmacist named Burroughs. He points out that of all the spirits, gin is the one that gets its flavors from the unique blend of botanicals created by the distiller.

Though the Burroughs punch looks pink and very innocent, it had a definite tart bite with a bittersweet finish. And punches seem to be getting fashionable again; Julie Reiner's new bar Clover Club in Brooklyn features cocktails served in bowls for a crowd.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Have a Fizzalicious Fourth!

Hope your Fourth of July is a full of fun and fabulous explosions of laughter, fireworks and fizz!