One day while sitting at my desk at work, I heard these low-pitched groaning sounds coming from the cube next to me. Needless to say, this was unusual—even for Southwest Airlines. Curious, I peeked over the wall to investigate and found my cube mate using her lunch hour to find a new recipe for an upcoming dinner.
Without taking her eyes off the screen, she began to recite a list of ingredients for a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. As each delicious morsel—semisweet chocolate, pecans, bourbon—rolled off her tongue, the sound wafted through the air and into our ears. We both could imagine how the different flavors would meld to create a desert so scrumptious, that we both let out an “Mmmm.”
It’s amazing that words on a page can make a person salivate. I wish I had a dollar for every time I excitedly uttered the words, “Oh … that sounds good!” On Southwest flights alone I would earn a couple of dollars as the Eat and Drink section of Spiritmagazine always gets my “Mmmms” going. This month was especially nice and refreshing, so I thought I would share them with you.
“I designed our cocktail list to complement the extensive French wine program we have at La Coop. All the cocktails we serve have some sort of fortified wine, and they’re lower in alcohol content—more aperitif-style—than what you would traditionally find on a cocktail menu. Because this is Louisville, I knew we had to have a bourbon drink, so I picked a low-proof bourbon and jazzed it up with Dolin Blanc vermouth, which is a really complex, floral, and herbaceous vermouth. To that I added a little bit of ginger liqueur and lemon and then lemon bitters to heighten the citrus experience even more. The sprig of thyme is there for olfactory reasons. It definitely helps accentuate the herbal qualities in the vermouth. The drink is like a really citrusy, gingery Manhattan, with half the booze content, so it’s perfect for summer. There’s actually a town in Kentucky called Versailles, but everyone pronounces it ver-sales. People from Louisville come in and order the drink using that pronunciation, and everyone else says it the French way.”
1 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth ½ ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur 1 ½ ounces Four Roses Yellow bourbon 1 lemon wedge 2 dashes Fee Brothers lemon bitters
Combine vermouth, ginger liqueur, and bourbon in a footed rocks glass. Squeeze juice of lemon wedge into the glass, then drop in wedge. Top with bitters, then fill with ice. Pour into a cocktail shaker, then back into the glass. Garnish with a thyme sprig.
Charlie Ayers, executive chef/owner of Calafia in Palo Alto, California, puts a new spin on watermelon:
“The inspiration for this dish comes from a dishwasher I used to work with. He would make a watermelon-habanero salsa, and I watched him eat it on all kinds of foods. I tucked that flavor profile away in my head, and then years later when I was doing watermelon skewers for an event, I thought of it. The melon we had was completely void of flavor, and I knew I had to do something for it. So I created a dipping sauce that was reminiscent of that salsa, and I’ve been making it ever since. There are lots of flavors that you’d think wouldn’t go well together that are actually quite complementary to each other. Oftentimes, they’re complete opposites. People know what watermelon tastes like. But when you eat it dipped in this honey-vinegar-habanero sauce, the earthy sweetness of the fruit meets the mellow balance of the honey and the tartness of the vinegar, with a spicy finish.”
6 tablespoons orange blossom honey 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar ¼ teaspoon cinnamon ¼ teaspoon habanero chili powder ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 1 small watermelon
1. Bring all ingredients except watermelon to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cool, then refrigerate. 2. Cut watermelon into cubes, and place on small wooden skewers. Serve with sauce.
Photography by Adam Voorhes Styling by Robin Finlay