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....

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