Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Local Cocktail and Food Pairings

We get invited to participate in some pretty cool events. One of the most fun in recent memory was billed as a Pottery Barn Dinner. We teamed up with our new friend, potter Melissa Monroe, as well as Chef Efrain Cuevas from Clandestino, to design a five-course dinner with cocktail pairings.

As many as possible of our ingredients were fresh and local, including our spirits. Melissa made all the dishes for the meal in her pottery studio, and hosted the dinner in her barn/studio. Chef Efrain and I pulled many ingredients from her fantastic garden for the food and cocktails. She even has some roosters running around in the garden - see pic below.

Here's a rundown of the menu, with the drink pairings. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the food & drink - we were so busy making them I didn't take pictures! You can find some more photos of the event here and here (in an article about the dinner).

First Course:
ood: Caprese lollipop amuse, then summer gazpacho with shrimp in prosciutto jackets

Drink: Cucumber Caipiroska - posted on my blog last week.

Notes: I was really happy with the garnish for this one, I used a c
ucumber wheel with a sprig of oregano flowers in it. It was a great starter drink, and the cucumber and herbs played nicely with the gazpacho.

Second Course:
Food: Squash blossoms filled with local cheese, dipped in egg batter and pan fried, served on a bed of fresh greens with vinaigrette

Drink: Muddled Mary
1½ oz Aquavit Private Reserve
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup (1:1)
3 Cherry Tomatoes
Few Sprigs of Fresh Herbs (Basil, Oregano, Thyme, etc.)
Muddle toma
toes, simple, herbs and lemon. Add aquavit and ice, shake well. Strain into cocktail glass, garnish with cherry tomato on rim.

Notes: This one was a bit harder to pair with - salads are tough. I aimed more at the blossoms and cheese, and to integrate the flavors of the drink with the vinaigrette. It wasn't my favorite of the set, but I think it worked relatively well, especially with the cheese-stuffed blossoms.

Third Course:
Food: Housemade fettucini with zucchini buttons and wild mushrooms, in a vodka cream sauce

Drink: Grapefruit Basil Fizz
2 oz Distiller’s Gin No. 11
¾ oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Simple Syrup (1:1)

1 oz Club Soda
Large Basil Leaf + Sprig
Combine gin, juice, simple and basil leaf in shaker. Shake well with ice, strain into glass filled with ice. Top with sod
a, garnish with sprig.

Notes: In this one, I tried to provide a nice foil for the rich cream sauce with some citrus and a hint of bitter from the grapefruit, along with some fresh herb notes from the basil.

Fourth Course:
Food: Grilled (local) chicken with herbs and a maple glaze, pole beans, potato terrine

Drink: Apricot Thyme

2 oz North Shore Vodka
1½ oz Apricot Puree/Juice
½ oz Aperol
1 oz Club Soda
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
Shake vodka, puree, Aperol and one sprig of thyme with ice. Strain into ice-filled glass, top with soda. Garnish with fresh apricot

slice and thyme sprig.

Notes: I was a little worried here too, since chicken is so lean. We went lighter on the drink, and pulled in the Aperol for depth and balance. This drink worked especially well with the maple glaze, it was really spectacular.

Fifth Course:
Food: Olive oil almond cake, grilled peaches, homemade peach ice cream

Ginger Gimlet
2 oz Distiller’s Gin No. 6
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
¾ oz Ginger Simple Syrup (1:1)
2 sprigs Fresh Mint
Shake gin, lime, ginger syrup and one sprig of mint wi
th ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with 2nd sprig.

Notes: This dessert was rich, so I went up a little in alcohol to balance out the fat and intensity of the flavors. The drink worked especially well with the ice cream, the mint and ginger played very nicely with the peach and helped cleanse the palate after the rich ice cream.

All in all, a fantastic evening of food, dri
nk, pottery and conversation.

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