As I mentioned in my blog post about my Piedra Azul cocktail- La Última Palabra- A Bolder Table was invited to participate in a Dip and Sip Challenge featuring Piedra Azul Tequila and Avocados in honor of National Guacamole Day, which is September 16. Sean and I had plans to invite friends and have a little soirée in our loft, but then Boulder suffered through a 100 year flood, making roads impassable. In fact, we were asked to stay put so only emergency vehicles were on the road, and at the time of this posting, we’re still under a flash flood warning. So, needless to say, there was no fiesta with the $25 gift card we received to Whole Foods nor with the bottle of Piedra Azul Tequila. It was just the two of us, tequila, and avocados.
Before the flood of the century, I had plans to go to the Boulder Farmers’ Market for all of the ingredients I couldn’t purchase at Whole Foods. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen because the market was canceled due to flooding. Most of the farms, in fact, were totally wiped out, so I’m not even sure we’ll have a market for the rest of the season. But, disaster aside- plans changed. When life gives you lemons, make lemon-aide. When Piedra Azul gives you avocados and tequila, make guacamole and libations. It’s simple, sometimes.
When there was a break in the rain we rode our Linus bikes (couldn’t resist the plug) to Whole Foods to grab some Hass avocados, Haystack Mountain Boulder Chévre, and a few other ingredients to make an avocado dip to pair with my tequila tail and some veggie fajitas that the chef planned for dinner after working a ten hour shift at OAK.
The Dip and Sip Challenge is straightforward: Create a unique avocado dip and tequila libation. We received a $25 gift card to Whole Foods, a bottle of Piedra Azul Blanco Tequila, and Gaby Dalkin’s cookbook Absolutely Avocados.
When I lived in Santiago de Chile, I ate avocados every single day. After moving to Boulder and seeing a $2-$3 price tag per avocado, I pretty much made them a food specialty item in my kitchen. So, I was eager to accept the challenge, the gift card, and the cook book since I absolutely LOVE avocados. Disastrous flooding canceled our party, but the bright side is Sean and I had two days of serious avocado indulgence, which is not custom in our home.
Sean made a caramelized onion chipotle chévre guacamole for dipping with chips and spreading on fajitas. The recipe is straightforward:
Caramelize a yellow onion in olive oil. If you’ve never caramelized an onion before, it’s easy. Slice them thinly and add them to a hot pan with olive oil. Turn down the heat and let them slowly turn brown over 30-40 minutes, agitating them occasionally.
The caramelized goodness went into a food processor with a log of locally made Boulder Chévre and a couple chipotle peppers from a can of San Marcos Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce purchased at Whole Foods.
While Sean sliced the avocados, I had a giddy-as-a-school-girl-look on my face. But, we have no photo of that. Just the aguacates.
The final steps are simple- add the caramelized onion chipotle chévre mixture to mashed avocado, add Meyer lemon, French sea salt, Aleppo Pepper to taste (recall those ingredients from my cocktail?), and mix well.
This was a fun challenge for both of us. We learned some interesting facts about avocados from Gabby’s book, were both challenged to create something new, and had a great dinner for two as a result.
Piedra Azul Tequila invited A Bolder Table to participate in a Dip and Sip Challenge, which will be judged by Gabby Dalkin, featuring avocados for the dip and Piedra Azul Tequila for the sip. As the owner of Local Table Tours, I bring guests on weekly cocktail tours and have had my fair share of tequila sips and tails for years now, so I jumped at the chance to create an original tequila tail.
A bottle of tequila blanco arrived at my door, and I was pleased to see it was distilled from 100% agave azul. Here’s a tip- when buying tequila, look for 100% blue weber agave or 100% agave azul on the label. Unless you’re buying Sotol or Mezcal, tequila that isn’t 100% blue weber agave can be distilled from all kinds of junk. Tequila law states that it must be distilled from at least 51% agave, so the remaining 49% could be sugar cane, cheap grains… anything, really. And, that’s the tequila that easily leads to a hangover. (I learned all of this from “working” as a cocktail tour guide:)
As I was saying… I was pleased to open a box and find an un-aged bottle of silver tequila. I tasted it and found it perfect for a mixing tequila. When I sip tequila, I tend to prefer reposados, but blanco tequilas are great for a number of cocktails since they impart the clean notes of the agave plant, not oaky, woody notes from barrel aging.
I don’t usually create my own cocktails because there is a well-trained group of bartenders in town who’s bars I frequent when thirsty. So, I really had no idea what I was going to do until I ordered a classic- The Last Word- while on vacation in Boston, and got curious how a tequila version would work out. I was pleasantly surprised on my first attempt.
The Last Word is my friend Molly’s favorite tail, and it’s simple: equal parts Gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino Liqueur, and Lemon Juice, shaken with ice, strained, and often served in a coupe glass. Chartreuse, unfortunately, is really expensive, and having a bottle of Yellow Chartreuse at home, I wasn’t inclined to spend another $70 on the green variety. Also, I didn’t have Maraschino, but I did have a bottle of Roi René Rouge Cherry Liqueur (made by the makers of Combier, the BEST orange liqueur you’ll ever taste). So, I improvised.
As I was working with tequila and am fluent in Spanish, I made a tail I call La Última Palabra- equal parts Piedra Azul Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Roi René Rouge Cherry Liqueur, and Meyer Lemon Juice. I added 3/4 oz of each to the glass mixing glass of a Boston Shaker. Next, I mixed French sea salt and Aleppo Pepper from Savory Spice Shop, of course, rubbed the rim of my glass in Meyer Lemon juice, and rolled the rim in salt and Aleppo pepper. This is a great tip I learned on my tours- prep your glasses before mixing the drink so you’re ready to pour the drink as soon as you’re done mixing or shaking to avoid a watered down drink that was sitting on ice.
Once I had an Aleppo Pepper Salted rim, I added ice to the metal mixing glass, poured in my tail, shook, strained, and enjoyed.
As I’m not always a fan of salt with every sip, I enjoyed half of my libation through a locally hand blown Di Nalo glass straw. These straws always help me keep it classy.
As a big fan of whiskey, I had some pretty negative thoughts of Irish Whiskey. I’m not completely sure why, but I was under the impression that Irish Whiskey, unlike American Bourbons or Scotch Whiskies, were like the wild wild west of whiskies and you weren’t going to be certain what they were made of (barley, rye, corn, wheat, potato…). After an evening at Q’s with Robert Sickler, Master of Whiskey, I’ve completely changed my mind.
On Saturday, March 16th, I had the privilege of attending an Irish Whiskey dinner with an expert in whiskey who guided us through a whiskey sample and a play on a classic cocktail for every whiskey-inspired dish. Beverage Director of both Q’s and The Corner Bar Adrian Sutevski used the Bushmills family of whiskies in a number of updated classic cocktails, and Chef Shawn Murrell married each whiskey’s unique flavors with five courses of finely prepared food. At $65 per person, this was clearly one of the best deals (and meals) in town.
We started the evening with a Sazerac made with Bushmills 21 year.
It just so happens that I’m a Sazerac fan. Not just a fan- a super-fan. So, I was very curious to take my first sip, and, I declare: I really enjoyed this Sazerac with Bushmills 21 yr. After the first sip or so, esteemed Mr. Sickler explained to us that the 21 yr is made of a blend of whiskey that aged for 19 years in bourbon casks, 19 years in sherry casks, and then two years in Madeira casks. That essentially means the Bushmills 21 year whiskey is an incredibly flavorful whiskey and happens to work well in a Sazerac, which is traditionally made with Rye or Cognac.
Our first course was Black Bush Cured Salmon and Orange Fennel Slaw on a Soda Bread Crostini.
I had never had soda bread as a crisp crostini, and now I want to see this presentation on menus. The Salmon and slaw were light, delicious, and went well with our next take on a classic cocktail: A Mint Julep with Black Bush.
The Salmon was followed by Whiskey Seared Shrimp on Organic Seared Greens with Potato Frites and and Irish Sausage Vinaigrette.
Everyone at the community table commented that the shrimp was cooked perfectly, which it was. We also wanted to have a bowl full of those potato frites to nibble on with our next cocktail- an updated Negroni.
There was definitely no shortage of great food and drinks, as we moved on to Whiskey Molasses Glazed Pork Belly on a Parsnip Apple Hash with Arugula and Dried Cherries paired with a Manhattan made with Bushmills Single Malt 16 year.
Robert Sickler explained to us that the Bushmills Single Malt 16 year is made of barley, water, and yeast that is distilled and aged for sixteen years in Bourbon casks, sixteen years in Sherry casks, and then married in Port barrels. It definitely made a nice Manhattan…
Our final savory dish was Smoked Angus Beef on a Gold Potato Cake with Caraway Braised Cabbage, Crispy Leeks, and a Guinness Reduction.
This was served with a Sidecar made with Bushmills Single Malt 10 year.
I could hardly eat anymore by the time our final course, dessert, arrived. But, as we all know, there’s always room for dessert.
We finished with Honey Bread Pudding with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream, Candied Orange Zest, Whiskey Caramel Sauce, and a Bushmills Irish Honey Coffee.
This was the first dinner like this I had attended at Q’s and I’m looking forward to enjoying another. Sampling each whiskey on its own and then in a cocktail while being guided through each whiskey’s unique flavor by a whiskey master brought a great understanding and appreciation to Irish Whiskey. The entire meal was well orchestrated and I’d suggest signing up to the Q’s newsletter so you have a chance to attend their next event.
Citrus season is upon us, and lucky for me, a local Boulder chef wanted to preserve some ripe ruby red grapefruit in a mint simple syrup right here in my house. I got to watch, take some photos, and will eventually get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Not such a bad deal for me…
Chef Sean Smith plays with fire at Boulder’s esteemed OAK at Fourteenth. Recently, we decided to collaborate on a few food projects, and preserving grapefruit in mint simple syrup is one of the first recipes in a series that will be featured here on A Bolder Table.
- 10 pounds of ripe ruby red grapefruit
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh mint
- 1 cup sugar- not the refined crap. I prefer Vegan Cane Sugar
- 1 quart water
- 2 quart or 4 pint jars for canning
Sean started by preparing the jars for canning. This is a boiling process to kill anything that might cause spoilage, and I’m not a canner, so please don’t just trust me when I say to boil the jars for 15 minutes or so. To avoid botulism, check out these canning tips.
While the jars are boiling, bring the quart of water to a boil in a non-reactive pot. When it’s rolling, add the sugar, lower the temp a bit, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add most of the mint to the sugar water, reserving a few sprigs for later, take it off the heat, and let it steep for 20 minutes.
Then it’s time to supreme the fruit, or remove the skin, pith, membrane, seeds, and segment it. This takes a little time, and gets juicy, so be prepared to capture that grapefruit juice in a bowl.
Fill each jar slightly more than halfway with the grapefruit, layering with the reserved mint. Remove the mint sprigs from the simple syrup and pour evenly into the jars.
Process each jar as you properly should, and allow them to cool at room temperature. Enjoy at some unknown date in the future.