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Tupelo Honey Cafe Charlotte

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Unless it is poured from a tap, I am generally clueless in the drinks department. Hence the need for me to attend a seasonal cocktails mixology event Tupelo Honey Cafe in Charlotte hosted last weekend. Corporate beverage manager Tyler Alford walked us through the making of three drinks you can find on the cafe menu, created an additional three drinks on a whim with ingredients brought by the participants, and allowed us  to ooh and awe over what may be the best Bloody Mary in Charlotte. Allow me to tell you more.

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Ramos Gin Fizz

This drink’s history that extends from the French Quarter to New York, you must shake it for at least three minutes to make it right (a straw will stand straight up in the drink when made correctly), and in addition to the usual suspects – gin, a splash of citrus, and simple  syrup – includes egg white and heavy cream on the ingredient list. Alford details this and more, including a full recipe, in his blog post Shake, Shake, Shake Senora!

I agree with what he writes that “it isn’t so much the ingredients of the drink itself that make this cocktail great, but the reaction in the shaker that create the creamy, frothy, meringue-like texture of the Ramos Gin Fizz.” All of that frothy fizziness makes this a fun drink, and it makes for a good holiday cocktail. Just don’t forget the orange flower water to give it a little extra depth.

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Gin is not my favorite drink. To me, it mildly tastes like a pine branch smells, which is not a taste I particularly enjoy. However, I get the sense that gin is something I could learn to like if only I could better understand its nuances. Alford recommends Hendrick’s gin for this drink.

Last night, I was reading a book that featured an entirely different discussion on gin, where the recipe’s drinker recommended Burnett’s gin but the recipe’s writer said Voyager or Tanqueray is the way to go.

To further complicate matters, the winner of Bombay Sapphire’s Imaginative Bartender competition just created a cocktail that “replicates the flavor of paper.” In terms of those beverages that flow out of taps, which I mentioned earlier, a drink that tastes like paper is a sign of something gone wrong. Clearly, I need a gin tasting.

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Brandy Apple Boom

With the approach of fall, this seasonal cocktail will be coming to menus soon. It’s name may change once it hits menus, but its deliciousness will not.

We crafted this cocktail by pouring some brandy over ice. Next we added an apple shrub, a sip of which was delicious on its own. Shrubs, which are essentially vinegars made to sip, seem poised to become the next big thing in cocktail circles.

Then we topped the whole think off with an apple hard cider and a dash of bitters. Naturally, this drink was my favorite of the day.

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Mint Julep

Our final cocktail was the classic mint julep. We muddled our mint, added ice, poured mint simple syrup and Jim Beam over it, and called it a day.

Alford went on to craft a few off-the-cuff cocktails from ingredients that ranged from smoked fish and jalapenos to blueberries and cinnamon. Meanwhile, I just sat there enjoying the Appalachian Egg Rolls (made with pulled pork in barbeque sauce, of course), fried okra, and Tupelo Honey’s signature biscuits.

We ended the event by watching as the Queen Mary – a golden tomato Bloody Mary that could alternatively be titled A Little Piece of Garnish Heaven - was created. Look at that beauty!

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Thank you to Tupelo Honey Cafe for hosting this event and sharing some of your delicious food and drinks.

Tupelo Honey Cafe is based out of Asheville, for which I will be leaving shortly to attend this year’s Food Blog Forum. In other words, more photos to come.

Enjoy the weekend!



Apricot & White Chocolate Cookies

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Dried apricots remind me of my Grandma. It seemed she always had a dish of dried apricots rolled in sugar (or a lemon meringue pie) sitting on her kitchen table when I would stop in to see her. And let me tell you about the kitchen table. It was small - only two people could sit at it comfortably - and a thick sheet of glass covered its wood surface. Grandma would slip photos or poems or whatever else she thought was important enough to look at while eating or doing the crossword puzzle at that table.

Grandma died about nine months before I started blogging, and since I started this blog with about three days of forethought, she never even knew it was an interest. Since she taught herself to use a computer when she was in her 80s, not being able to share this with her is my only regret. I think she would have liked this little space I have carved out. And heaven knows I could use the culinary tips she would have sent my way.

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I was thinking the other day how, even though both she and my grandfather have died, I don’t feel like I am disconnected from them. I can’t call them up or write them emails or drop by their home like I once did, but I can still hear their laughter. I can still feel my Grandma’s tiny body against my much taller one when I would give her a hug. The last time I saw each of them is seared in my memory as clearly as the scars on my skin. And whenever I eat a dried apricot, I think of those sugary dried fruits Grandma kept on the table.

This recipe caught my eye when I was perusing my most recent Secret Recipe Club assignment. The fanciest Rice Krispie Treats I’ve ever made won out for that post, but I knew these cookies were going to make an appearance soon after. The dried apricot white chocolate combination is a delight, and the basic batter is easily adaptable for whatever mix-ins you may fancy. Enjoy!

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Apricot & White Chocolate Cookies
Serves: 12
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Whisk the four, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and continue to mix until well blended.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
  5. Fold in the dried apricots and white chocolate chips.
  6. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
This dough is on the soft-side, so you may want to refrigerate it between batches to help the cookies from spreading too thin once they are in the oven. This recipe is easily doubled for two-dozen fairly large cookies.

Zucchini-Glazed Pasta

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After consuming my fair share of oven-roasted zucchini and slices of zucchini bread this summer, I set off to look for another way to use one of my favorite summer vegetables. Zucchini-glazed pasta – a recipe that uses the same zucchini as both a cooking liquid and an add-in to the finished dish- seemed like just what I was after.

The original recipe called for six large zucchini. When I think of a large zucchini, a vegetable the size of my forearm comes to mind. (I’ve seen gardens grow some large zucchinis; I’m convinced they could grow to be as a large as a baseball bat if you really let them go).

I started with three zucchini that were each approximately six inches long and the width of a half-dollar. (Apologizes for that reference, which I imagine is maddening for an international reader who has never seen a US half-dollar, but it is the best I can come up with.) These zucchini yielded 3 cups of finely grated vegetable and 1 1/4 cups liquid, which was right on track for the recipe.

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Although bowtie pasta is pictured here, a long pasta like spaghetti is recommended (view a photo of zucchini-glazed spaghetti). I am sure there is some law of pasta-shapes-meet-sauce-consistencies that I broke with my substitution, but the heart want what the heart wants.

Boiling the garlic-infused zucchini juice is best described as fragrant, although not in a way I particularly enjoyed. However, the aroma of the finished product improved immensely. I warmed this up at work for lunch one day, and shortly thereafter one of my co-workers tracked me down to ask what I made that smelled “soooo good.”

Maybe she was just hungry, or maybe this dish is worthy of consideration in your kitchen as well. The author of the cookbook from which I took this recipe, food historian Francine Segan, writes that this dish is one of her “all-time favorite recipes.” She likes that is is simple but fancy, light, tasty, and pretty. I could not agree more. Enjoy!

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Zucchini-Glazed Pasta
  • 3-6 zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound pasta
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
  1. Line a colander or mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
  2. Finely grate the zucchini (use the smallest holes of a cheese grater) over the colander.
  3. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and toss with the minced garlic.
  4. Allow the zucchini to rest for one hour, then squeeze the zucchini (through the cheesecloth) to extract the liquid to get at least one cup of zucchini juice. Set aside the juice and the zucchini.
  5. In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta for half of the time suggested by the cooking instructions on its package, then drain and set aside.
  6. Pour the zucchini juice in the now-empty pasta pot and bring to a boil. Once the juice is boiling, toss in the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. If necessary, raise the heat at the end of the process so any remaining juice absorbs into the pasta and creates a glaze.
  7. Finish the pasta by tossing with the grated and juiced zucchini, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Alternate ending: Instead of tossing the cooked pasta with the raw zucchini, fry the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Toss the crispy zucchini into the pasta.