Sunday, December 08, 2013

Advil Calendar 2013 Day 8: ERRAND APPARENT EDITION - Why we drink in the morning

Ho ho mutha-godforsaken ho... it is the first Sunday in December and you have a LOT to do.
  • Have you picked a photo and ordered cards yet?
  • Have you made this year's photo album (I'm doing it today! I'll do it! Get off my back!)?
  • There are still leaves to be raked.
  • Ice storm's comin' - you should check to see everything's charged.
  • Did you order the pig yet? 110 lb pigs don't just grow on trees you know. (that may not be on your to-do list, but it is on mine)
  • Have you seen Catching Fire? Better get on it while it's still at the good theater.
  • Oh and it's Take Your Kids to a Bookstore Day, did you know?
  • Besides the fact, have you noticed the state of their shoes lately?
  • Not to mention, if you don't goad them into buying each other presents, they... just won't.

That's a great idea, Haymitch. Pour me one of those, too.

And don't even use the t-word in my presence for at least another week. If we have to have a live dead plant in my living room, it's not going up until the last fucking second.

I know you hear me: IT'S BLOODY MARY TIME.


It is so wonderful when they gain a little independence, isn't it? You just have to be sure you get the change back. I swear, it's his primary source of income.

Bloody Marys come in all shapes and a variety of sizes. Mostly jumbo, because my cute and squirrelly god must love me. People put 'em in pint glasses, Mason jars (don't make me drink alcohol from a Mason jar, ok? sooner or later it's gonna end up all down my shirt), and even wineglasses.

That is a cube of cheddar cheese
skewered between an olive and a
pepperoncini. At Franks, Austin TX.
People put all kinds of excellent crap in 'em, too. Shrimp, olives, bacon, pickled okra, pickled green beans, pickled peppers - it can get to be a regular deli department in there. There's a restaurant in Baltimore, Miss Shirley's, makes a Bloody Mary that... I mean, you can't even drink that thing for all the stuff hanging off the edge: "Green Tomato Slice, Pickled Okra, Peppers, Jalapenos, Celery, Peppadews, Lemon Wedge, Lime Wedge, Old Bay Rim. Optional: 2 oz. of Jumbo Lump Crab Meat."

Optional? Half a crab cake's worth of crabmeat? What the...?

Restaurants love to compete like this. We recently took a little trip to Austin, and for some reason I got a little obsessed with the Best Bloody Marys of Austin. Austin takes its food and drink seriously, and so there was chipotle-infused vodka at drink.well, sun-dried tomato infused vodka at Opal Divines, Zing Zang bloody mary mix at Rio Rita, salt rims, bacon garnishes, and an entire 50-item buffet of Bloody Mary fixins at Freddie's.

The kids and I ate at Freddie's. We were entertained by an insane grackle sitting on a fence making noises like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. All the shrieking, all the grinding, all the beeping, even the Wookiee noises - all from one bird. But I didn't have a Bloody Mary.

Austin has totally replaced New Orleans and Seattle as my favorite eating town in this country. If I lived there I would give up on cooking altogether and bankrupt myself going out to eat at restaurants.

And food trucks.

Not every restaurant meal in Austin is flat-out decadent, but the brunch buffet at Green Pastures - despite the presence of both quinoa and lentils - is the closest approximation of... you know in Hunger Games when Katniss gets to the Capitol and is suddenly confronted with these lavish spreads of meticulously-prepared exotic foods? The Green Pastures buffet was like that.

Shot glasses of gazpacho. Mussels. Pickled grapes, pickled watermelon rind, pickled baby green tomatoes, pickled pickles. Green pea dip. Braised short ribs. Two 3-foot-long salmon, each cold-smoked a different way. And at the far end, an immense, generous soft-spoken giant of a man carving quivering slices of rare prime rib.
May the odds be ever... hm. Maybe not.

A dessert buffet with a chocolate fountain and candied chocolate-covered bacon.

And it all came with a glass of milk punch.

Let's not even get into milk punch. The Green Pastures version is just Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, bourbon and vanilla, blended, poured into glasses. Ice cream that gets you hammered? I may be drinking in the morning today, but even I have my moral limits.

At least a Bloody Mary has Vitamin C.

When I make a Bloody Mary, I've always gone with a fairly simple construction. I am too distracted in the morning to try to keep a pickled green bean from going up my nose. Although I'll garnish a Bloody with a pickled okra. I'll never say no to pickled okra. Hell I'd drink a White Russian if it had a pickled okra in it.
Making Bloody Marys for a party: Buy regular tomato juice, mix it up with celery salt, mustard seeds, horserubbish, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke, chipotle paprika, minced garlic, Sriracha - go to town. Put some soy sauce in that mother if soy sauce is what you like. Don't forget the salt and pepper. Put it in a pitcher and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. If you're feeling super fancy or your mother-in-law is coming over, strain out the by-now tasteless horseradish pulp and other solids just before serving.

But making a Bloody Mary for yourself and whatever grownup pal is sharing your Sunday morning, well, I expect that pal is already impressed enough with you that there's no need for horseradish, you know what I'm saying? YNL readers make better lovers, ever'body knows that.

Here's what's going to impress: Tito's Handmade Vodka. Almost all of those artisan Bloodys in Austin were made with Tito's, so when we got back home I bought a bottle. And holy shit, there is finally a vodka I like! It tastes like... something. Not like nothing, and not like rubbing alcohol. It's a bit earthy, maybe even sweet? Ish?

And it's hard not to love Tito. Guy was an out-of-work geologist who made flavored vodkas as a hobby. When he decided to start distilling himself, he built his own still - based on, he says, looking at old photos of bootleggers. He peddled his handmade hooch from liquor store to liquor store and bar to bar until he started winning medals and the stuff starting selling itself. He fought all kinds of regulatory battles with the state of Texas and with the Feds, and now I can buy a handle of Tito's at the Liquor Pump on Old Harford Road. Best damn vodka I have ever had.

I don't usually treat books like this.
Librarian's Shortcut Bloody Mary
1 oz Tito's vodka
1/2 oz brine*
4 oz Spicy Hot V-8
2 dashes of Worcestershire
wedge of lime
salt and pepper
pickled oyster or pickled okra for garnish
*Ok so the brine. If you've got spicy pickles, like Talk o' Texas pickled okra or Mean Beans, use the brine from that. If you make your own refrigerator pickles, that's awesome. If you tried my nuts-ass recipe for Pickled Oysters, you've got some leftover oyster brine, which is just fucking wicked in this drink. Olive brine is good. Sweet pickle brine is not so good.
This is not the strongest Bloody Mary in the world. I like the taste of this drink so much it just doesn't do to make it too strong, because I am going to want another.

OH MY FUCKING GAWD Y'ALL - that Talk o' Texas website is a GEM. They have a standing call out for recipes using their products - which are just the okra and a liquid smoke, bless their hearts - and they'll send you a check for $25 if the recipe's good enough to go on their website. I can only imagine where that "good enough" bar is set:

Okra Cream Cheese Appetizers
1 Jar Talk of Texas Okra
1 8 oz block cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
Optional - Crushed potato chips
Mix cream cheese and sundried tomatos. Press mixture around each piece of okra. It is decorative/cute to leave about 1/2 of the stem end out/ not covered. Chill and serve. Optional-Roll cream cheese covered okra pieces in crushed potato chips. If you roll in the chips, serve immediately. * I will soon be entering this recipe in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe contest. Enjoy.
-- Kathy Barnwell

Oh Kathy. Oh baby. I already have.

Just in case I have not convinced you that Tito is our kind of guy, let's let him show us how to mix the Christmas Lights Out - bourbon, vodka, maple syrup and milk. "One usually does the trick. If not, repeat."

That's the week! Whew! Wake up tomorrow ready to charge through another five days of wage-earning joy. Take a break at lunch or after work to see what I'm mixing up - next week will include some very hot words about ICE, a celebration of the best bars in Baltimore, EXCITING GUEST WEDNESDAY, and a special feature on DRINKS FOR THE DAMNED, as well as drinks made with sunny, spicy applejack.

"Merry Christmas, sweetheart."