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‘Cocktails and Cracklins’ Category

  1. Campari: Life’s Bitter Kiss

    April 9, 2012 by David Bridges

    Has love ever turned a bad eye on you? Your mate took and took until the last thing left to take was your heart. Tossing it aside like one would a peach pit when there is nothing sweet left to taste. The emotional drain guides you through a bevy of feelings until one day there is nothing left but bitterness. But is Bitter something that should be shunned and pushed away?

    We are all brought up with a false notion that La Dolce Vita is an attainable and desirable Utopia. Since it doesn’t rain in Utopia, every day would be considered perfect by waking up to the warmth and glory of the sun. You would eat confections with no consequence. Even love and be loved without ever feeling heartbreak. It is at this point that you are left with no genuine measure of ecstasy. Having expelled all the bitterness from your life, how could you ever measure the brix of pleasure? Heartbreak and bitterness give value to both pleasure and love. Without the downs of life there cannot be the highs.

    Campari to me is beautiful. Every time I sip on the bitterness of what surely are the red tears of some poor tortured Italian souls, I am reminded of just how sweet my life has become. I believe my body craves Campari to correct the injustice of my life being too sweet. Don’t get me wrong; the hardships of my existence are many. One of which has even shown it’s self to be a cruel brain tumor. But on the sweet side, I have a crazy hot wife with a love for me and I for her that will far outweigh any medical problems leaving them with a weight that is trivial at best. It is in fact this requited love that forces Campari into my life and across my palate. I want to taste the sweetness in mywife’s kiss and a heavy measure of bitterness is just the counterbalance that my heart desires.

    Unlike Love, finding bitterness is almost effortless. It peddles into my glass in the form of a Bicyclette. The old men that partake in this drink are known to haphazardly teeter on their bikes as they precede home, hence the name. Harry’s bar in Venice even refuses to serve it. It is just a simple mix of inexpensive white wine, since we would never drink anything that was “cheap”, a few well placed ice cubes and Campari. You may ask how much of each? Let the current amount of passion in your life be the guiding counterbalance to the Campari. My glass will of course be deeply imbued as red as a Ferrari from such a heavy pour of Campari. The graces of my wife’s lips are just that sweet.

  2. We don’t call it SUNday for nothin!: Bloody Mary “Bubble Tea”

    March 13, 2012 by David Bridges

    In my 6 or so month stupor from the blog, some of it being voluntary and some involuntary, there have been many fine creations to come out of my kitchen, bar and mouth. I have been reluctant to share with everyone due to involuntary reasons. But today, I have decided to volunteer my time back into the redevelopment of mankind to his former glory.
    We don’t call it Sunday for nothin! If you gaze towards the sun peeking from the crest of the horizon onto our souls, I will be standing with a beverage for all to spike a sense of invigoration back into your lives that have been drunken with a plastic liquor bottle full of insincere smiles, gender neutralizing clothing and cookbooks with yet another meatloaf recipe from a famous chef who “cooks at home”. Our sense of intelligence has just been slapped. Here’s a little secret: CHEFS DONT COOK AT HOME. Maybe 2 or 3 times a year. But for the most part, we are going out to eat. After serving 100s and even 1000s of people a week, we want and deserve for some one to attend to us for once.
    The quintessential Sunday late morning hang over breakfast. The Bloody Mary has legions of fans and just as many variations. The devotees swear by the medicinal and almost black magic properties that the beverage possesses in exercising the demons from your head. It instills a vigor back into one’s step and gets you ready for yet another day of reveling right when you thought another day’s worth of sin was too much. Feel free to substitute into the garnishes any number of vegetables and pickles or even a boiled shrimp, a crab claw and a raw oyster for that extra potency that one might require in the latter era of HIS life.

    Bloody Mary “Bubble Tea”
    Serves 4 people not ready for another day of Mardi Gras Parades

    1 bottle Fine Vodka
    1 bottle Tomato juice
    1 bottle Tabasco
    1 bottle Worcestershire
    1 jar prepared Horseradish
    2 Lemons cut into halves
    Sea or Kosher Salt
    Fresh cracked Black Pepper
    Firm Veal Demi-Glace cut into 1/2 inch cubes
    1 jar of each Pickled Okra, Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Quail Eggs, Boiled Shrimp, Crab Claw, a raw oyster
    4 stalks of Celery

    Pour 2 ounces of vodka into a highball glass that is over flowing with ice. Add 3 ounces of tomato juice to the glass with 4 dashes of Tabasco, 2 dashes of Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon horseradish, the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Use a long spoon and stir very well. Stir in 1/3 cup of your veal demi jewels. Impale an okra, a few green beans and a quail egg with a cocktail pic. Place the highly decorated pic into your beverage and plant the celery stalk down into the ice. Place a large mouthed straw into the libation so that the luxury of the demi-glace and tickle your tongue. Serve and repeat as needed to help your guests revive their sense of good taste and exercise the demons of bad food media.

  3. Equal To None: Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapeno and Chicharron “Scoops”

    May 15, 2011 by David Bridges

    The most important man in any professional kitchen is the dishwasher. The dishwasher doesn’t wear a big hat or a monogramed coat. But his stature is equal only to the highest chef in the brigade. He dons the cloth of the peasant. A baseball cap with a white polyester shirt bound by metal snaps enrobes what is sure to be the most revered individual in the kitchen. Day after day preforming a sweaty unwanted job for the smallest of pittance commands 100% of respect’s attention.
    Sergio was my dishwasher. He was walking down the sidewalk when he saw me trying to paint the outside of my restaurant in preparation of a not so grand budgeted opening. He picked up a roller and started working. From that day on we would never be apart. He never took a break to partake in the daily lunch, “I eat later”. He was never late or did he ever miss a day of work. He never asked for a raise, so one year I bought him a van. To instill respect and equality to the cooks, I abolished the use of chef coats in the kitchen and we all wore dishwasher uniforms. Our joint tireless work ethic and preservation towards excellence afforded us a fair amount of success. There we were, a couple of downtown kids dressed up like social elitists, noses in the air ordering all the best Restaurant August in New Orleans could cast upon our table. Nothing was too extravagant or too expensive for the guys that felt equal to everyone. Although our hearts humbly whispered, that we had no equals.
    The next night we catered the GRANDEST wedding the French Quarter has ever had the pleasure of hosting. 250 miles from home, Sergio and I with OUR brigade walked into Latrobes and you would have thought we were mafia by the way we just assumed ownership of the city as our natural rite. No cost was spared, from the indoor snowball stand, the sushi station, the dessert buffet, po-boy profiteroles to the jazz marching band. We busted our ass and etched a memory that will last in 300 people’s hearts for the rest of their lives. Just like every night, as we wound down the evening and mingled with the guests that insisted on professing their love for us. I asked Sergio if he wanted a cerveza. He turned to me, “Si” with an apron that seemed to have blood splattered on the front. I asked him what had happened and he said “Nothing, cutting meat”. High from the constant adoration from 300 guests I didn’t question him. I knew he never butchered anything that day. The next day Sergio didn’t wake up. He passed from my life in the same way that he entered it.  Working hard to make our lives equal to none.

    This dish consists of 2 peasant foods in a silver cup. What else is there to say?

    Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapenos and Chicharron “Scoops”
    Serves 2 indentured souls

    1# or so of pork skin
    1# sharp cheddar cheese in the block form
    1c red bell pepper stemmed seeded and diced small
    3 ounces of cream cheese
    1/2c mayonnaise
    2T lemon juice
    10 dashes of Tabasco
    1T olive oil
    1/2c candied jalapenos diced*

    Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay a piece of foil over a sheet pan. Take the skin of the pork and using your best knife cut the skin into 3 by 3 inch squares. Arrange the squares onto the sheet pan with the skin side down. Lightly salt the skins the way any sensible person with a decent amount of pride would do and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan after 15 minutes just in case your oven suffers from a small case of schizophrenia.  Make sure all of your “scoops” are golden brown and set them aside.
    One would have to really dislike their parents in making the conscious decision to spit on their legacy by constructing pimento cheese with pre-grated cheddar.  Make your family proud and grate the cheddar then set aside. Place a small pan over low heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Scatter the pepper into the pan, season with a touch of salt and cook until soft. Set aside to cool. Take a medium sized bowl and mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until it is smooth. Add the respect of your family’s name disguised as freshly grated cheddar along with the lemon juice, Tabasco, candied jalapeno and softened red pepper.  Add some salt if you believe it to be necessary and fold the mixture with a wooden spoon as a nod to tradition.  If you are kind enough with your stirring the pimento cheese will have the confidence to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best Europe has to offer. Place the Mexican “Scoops” onto the table accompanied by the Pimento Cheese in a silver cup. For this dip has no equal.

    “Truly great cooks never cook with people above them”

    *If you are unfortunate to live where candied jalapenos are not readily available or you’re just that much of a go-getter, make them yourself. Slice some fresh jalapenos and place in a pot to which you have 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar with1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar. Simmer a few minutes and set aside for a day or two or ten.


  4. Coming of Age in Cognac : The Sidecar

    April 28, 2011 by David Bridges

    This is my all time favorite transition drink. After wasting all too many of my youthful years on cheap rum and coke. Only to follow that up with screwdrivers which turned out to be an even larger corruption of my innocence. “Adult Dave” was born the moment my friend Lu Brow the Master Bar Chef of the Brennan’s Swizzle Stick Bar poured me the most perfect blend of maturity disguised as a Side Car. Classically, the libation is served in a martini glass. I personally may be not confident enough in my manhood to order a drink that comes in the same vessel that I have seen so many Cosmos and Appletinis. Although I do make an exception in the allowance of a sugared rim, go figure! But by all means, don’t let my mental defects distract you from what is surely a celebration of life in liquid.
    Social lubrication always requires a snack. Crispy, spicy and salty rule the bar counter and this recipe for fried hominy will keep the drinks flowing and the inhibitions low.

    Side Car
    1 orange sliced thinly
    1 bottle of Hennessy Cognac VSOP
    1 bottle of Cointreau
    1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

    Pour a 1/2 inch layer of sugar onto a small salad size plate. Take one of the slices of orange and rub the cut flesh across the rim of the glass. Invert the glass and mount the rim onto the layer of sugar. Give the glass a few twists into the sugar in the same way you nestle your foot into the sand at the beach. Remove the glass from the sugar and place the orange slice into the glass. Over fill the glass with large ice cubes. Pour one portly shot of both the Cognac and the Cointreau into the glass. Pour 3/4 of an ounce of lemon juice into the glass. Give it 3 gentle stirs and serve.

    Fried Hominy
    1 10 ounce can of Hominy
    1 Tablespoon chile powder
    1 Tablespoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon cayenne powder
    1 teaspoon powdered garlic
    Kosher or Sea Salt
    chopped cilantro

    Pre-heat a deep fryer to 350 degrees. Expose the hominy by removing the lid of the can. Drain the hominy thoroughly and submerge the it into the deep fryer. You may need to stir the hominy in the fryer to keep them segregated. Fry for 5 to 6 minutes or until the hominy is brown and not so insistent on spitting at you from inside the fryer any more. Remove the hominy from the fryer and place in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Liberally season the fried nuggets with the salt, spices and cilantro. Toss into the air 7 or 8 times and place into a dish for everyone to snack.

    “In good times people want to drink, In bad times they have to”