There’s a hip new local restaurant that has been taunting me for weeks with their signature drink, a frozen mojito. We haven’t made it to try the new restaurant yet, because it’s still super busy and super popular, and my toddlers don’t do great with long wait times. Eventually we will get there. But my thirst for a frozen mojito couldn’t wait that long, so I decided to try it at home. Maybe they were extra delicious because I made them on a day when my kids refused to nap, rendering Jon and I extra…thirsty, but they were basically amazing. And now I shall share this amazingness with you.
A key to the drink is making mint syrup. Making flavored syrup might sound intimidating, but it’s super easy, and it prevents you from having to blend actual mint into your drink, which can probably be done but would look like a green smoothie. I swear it’s as easy as heating sugar and water together until dissolved and then pouring over mint leaves until cooled. You’ll make more syrup than one blender of mojitos needs, but I bet you’ll be making another pitcher in a hurry, anyway.
They’re not red, white, and blue, but I bet these would go great with anything you’re making this holiday weekend.
Frozen Mojito Recipe
For the mint syrup (makes about a pint)
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
Handful of fresh mint leaves
For the mojitos (serves 4):
3/4 cups white rum
3/4 cups lime juice
1/2 cup mint syrup
5 cups ice
Fresh mint for garnish
For the mint syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water, stirring until dissolved. Place mint in heatproof bowl. Pour hot syrup over mint, and allow to cool. Remove mint and pour syrup into a jar. Will keep in the fridge for about a month.
For the mojitos: combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Divide among glasses. Add straws and garnish with fresh mint.
So, I’ve been slacking on the blog a little this past week. I expect posting to be lighter than usual for the next few weeks, as I work at a college and the end of the term gets a little crazy, and on top of that, I’m trying to get things ready for a new person to take my job, trying to sell a house, and working on coordinating our move to Little Rock, AR. That said, we’re still eating and cooking and working extra hard to try as many restaurants in Charleston as we can before we leave, so Kitchen Catch-Alls will definitely continue!
Didn’t do a ton of cooking this week, but one thing I did make was a spring fish and veggies dish loosely based on Rachael Ray’s Spring Fish in Parchment. Loosely because I used salmon, asparagus instead of green beans, and didn’t have enough parchment, so I cooked them in foil packets instead of paper. Still, a yummy dish! I had to make a quick run to the liquor store to get white wine for this recipe, which brings me to my next point…
We tried Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon this week. Firefly is a local vodka company, best known for their Sweet Tea Vodka, flavored with tea grown here in Charleston. We’ve been to their distillery and tried every single one of their products! I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but I am a whiskey girl, so I’m PUMPED that they’re now making a sweet tea flavored bourbon. I find the warmth of the bourbon is a nice compliment to the flavor of the sweet tea, and my favorite way to drink it is watered down with a big of homemade iced tea. I haven’t tried it mixed with lemonade yet, but I’m sure that would also be tasty.
Also this week, I got obsessed with popping popcorn on my stovetop. Apparently there are ingredients in microwave popcorn which can cause lung disease. This, on top of my concern at producing so much waste (a plastic wrapper and a paper bag) every time I pop a bag of microwave popcorn, was enough to make me give up microwave popcorn. My first two attempts at stovetop popcorn turned out a bit burned and once, very much oversalted. By the third attempt, I’d figured out that lower heat works better, and sesame oil is a better oil to use than olive oil. It’s a little more time consuming, but I figure shaking the pan burns off some of the calories from the OMGREALBUTTER I like to put on top, right?
Sunday we were hungry and the fridge was slim pickin’s as we had reached the end of the week and I’d yet to shop for this week’s groceries. Glancing in the fridge, I saw a few random veggies (half a red onion, half a green bell pepper, half a pint of cherry tomatoes), some eggs, and some bacon, which I threw together into a brunch of veggie-bacon frittata served with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you have eggs and a veggie or two, you always have the makings of a meal.
If you look in the “eating out” section, you’ll see that we tried Baked this weekend, and I was so impressed I plunked down $30 (which, don’t be dumb like me, buy it for $18 off Buy.com) for their cook book. Sunday afternoon, I made their Root Beer Bundt Cake, and, given that the blurb before the recipe says to expect an “avalanche of root beer flavor,” I was expecting some serious root beer taste. But this was not the case. While the cake was rich and chocolatey, and the “fudgy” frosting was so thick it was literally like smashing fudge on top of a cake, there wasn’t even a hint of root beer flavor under all the chocolateyness. All in all a great chocolate cake, and worth trying, but certainly not the “avalanche” of flavor it’s billed to have. Perhaps if I try again, I’ll use root beer schnapps as suggested for more intense flavor.
On Tuesday we checked out Aluette’s, which bills itself as “holistic soul food.” Though I’m sure some would argue with a pork-free restaurant that calls itself “soul food,” I found the place plenty soulful. Aluette herself, along with Chef Absalom, prepared our meals, and chatted with us while things were cooking. We enjoyed fried shrimp in a light, almost tempura batter, along with fries and coleslaw, and a delicious lamb dish served with rice and collards. Everything was plenty tasty, but a bit pricier than I’d be willing to pay for what we got without a restaurant.com certificate.
Crossing another restaurant off my list, we tried Bambu in Mount Pleasant this week. I had a Thai Basil dish with tofu, Jon tried General Chang’s Chicken, and our friend had Green Coconut Curry. We also sampled the potstickers, which were pan fried for a really satisfying crunch on one side. All of the food was excellent, the patio we sat on was lovely, and if I weren’t trying to try so many restaurants before leaving town, I’d say we’d definitely go back.
Friday night, after a dinner of leftovers at home, we met friends at McCrady’s for another 25 cent cocktail night. After giving our waitress the password, “beep beep,” we received our 25 cent sidecars. A sidecar is a drink made with brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker. The sidecar was probably a little sweeter than I’d order regularly, and would definitely not top my list of favorites on McCrady’s cocktail menu (I think my favorite is still the Blood and Sand, or maybe the Ward 8), but it was still a tasty drink. We also enjoyed fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, and Jon and I shared an apple tart with bourbon ice cream (I wasn’t kidding about my love of bourbon).
After McCrady’s, we decided to head across the street to Baked for still more sweet treats. Baked originated in Brooklyn, and when they expanded, chose to add a location in good old Charleston, SC (apparently one of the owners has family here). Baked is not a frilly, frothy, pink and white sort of place. The entire shop is themed in orange, brown, and white, with some seriously trendy elements like antlers and lots of knotty pine. Their desserts are not typical. Each person in our group got a different dessert, and they were all passed around the table for everyone to try. Among the things we sampled: salted brownie (OMG, I will have to fight the urge to put salt on all my brownies from now on), strawberry whoopie pie (I confess I’d never had a whoopie pie before, and it was darn tasty), key lime bar (I’m always a fan of key lime), cherry cream cheese bar (this was my choice– a bar with a crushed pretzel crust, a thick layer of caramel, and a fluffy layer of cream cheese and cherry goodness on top), and a cashew bar (I’m not a cashew fan, so I didn’t try this one.) I loved everything so much that I bought their cookbook, so you can expect to see some Baked goods on this blog, probably sometime soon! (You can score their Red Hot Red Velvet Cake recipe right here.)
Saturday morning we met friends for brunch at Virginia’s on King. Virginia’s is one of the best brunch spots in a town that is seriously all about brunch (other great options include Hominy Grill, the Glass Onion, Fleet Landing, Lost Dog Cafe). One perk of Virginia’s? $9 bottomless mimosas. And our waitress’s stated mission was “to get you sloshed.” Man, I love this town. We downed so many mimosas we lost count, shared fried green tomatoes, and some of the braver among us tried fried chicken livers (our waitress brought us a complimentary plate of them)– I admit I did not try them after witnessing 3 people recoil and describe the aftertaste as “like dog food.” I had a plate of biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns. I have to tell you, I didn’t like biscuits and gravy until I moved here, and I’ve realized it’s because they make actual sausage gravy, not that gloopy white stuff of unknown origin. Jon tried the fried chicken with collards and mashed potatoes, and though he got some funny looks for tearing into it like a caveman (but seriously, who eats fried chicken with a fork? Only stuffy people, that’s who!), but it was darn good. After all those mimosas, we wandered around on King Street until the buzz wore off. A great way to spend a Saturday.
Clafouti. It sounds like an instrument you’d play in a band that also features a flugelhorn. It turns out, however, that a clafouti is a tasty dessert, one that Julia Child had a recipe for (Bon Appetit!), which I found, by way of Honest Fare (you can go there and read for yourself what Gabi’s husband thought clafouti sounds like, and also snag the recipe). When I read that it was like a cross between a custard, a cake, and a pancake, I knew I had to try it. I love custard AND cake. I made mine with fresh raspberries and blackberries and some frozen cherries. After we finished eating our first slices, Jon said, “I like clafouti.” Me too, man, me too. To paraphrase Schlotzsky’s Deli: funny name, seriously tasty dessert. You should try making one– way easy, way good. Tip: to make the homemade whipped cream extra yummy, add a little vanilla to it.
We’re still trying to eat all the food I froze during the last CSA season, so I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week. One recipe I did try was a hit, though. It was Real Simple’s roast salmon and peppers with caper vinaigrette. We really liked this, and I pretty much followed the recipe– the only change I made was adding some lemon juice to the vinaigrette, because I thought it needed a little bite of citrus. I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my binder full of keepers.
eating (or should I say drinking?) out
McCrady’s is probably the most talked about restaurant in this town full of excellent restaurants. The chef, Sean Brock, was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award this year, and in a recent Oxford American Food Poll, many of the chefs and food writers surveyed listed Brock as a favorite and an inspiration. McCrady’s is also rather expensive– we ate dinner there because of one of my husband’s work events, but would otherwise only go there for a special occasion. But the expense of the dinners isn’t a reason to miss out on the McCrady’s experience– just head to the bar!
McCrady’s is known for its pre-Prohibition Era cocktails, which are priced reasonably, on par with most other cocktails in town. And to add even further incentives to check out their spirited offerings, they’ve been running a Prohibition style promotion on Facebook and Twitter, releasing a password to their followers and fans each week that will get them a pre-Prohibition Era cocktail for just 25-cents! Friday night, a friend and I settled ourselves at the bar, and whispered “Burma” to Ben the bartender. He smiled and whipped us up two Pegu Cocktails, a combination of Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Cointreau, Stirring’s Orange Bitters, and lime. They were delicious, and I’m not usually a gin drinker! We also checked out the menu of bar snacks. I ordered the Crispy Pork Rillettes with Cranberry Ketchup, and my friend chose Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing. We loved both!
Since our first cocktails were only 25 cents, we had plenty of money left over to try another of the cocktails. My friend, who had studied abroad in England, went for a classic Pimm’s cup, and I, being a whiskey fan and a sucker for a cool name, went for one called the Blood and Sand. I mean, doesn’t that drink just sound badass?? It featured Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Brandied Cherry Juice, and Blood Orange, and I enjoyed it very much. While McCrady’s might be out of my price range for regular dinner dining, the cocktails and bar snacks are very much my speed and friendly to my budget. I’ll have to take Jon back to try other things very soon!
food for thought
I originally was going to put info about a new study on the connection between consumption of high fructose corn syrup and obesity in this section, but it got so long, I made it its own post.
New research confirms that consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) promotes considerably more weight gain than consumption of the same amount of calories in regular sugar (glucose). Though the study was done on rats, there’s reason to believe they’d get similar results on human beings. Jon happens to be on an endocrinology rotation right now and got the lowdown on why this is from an endocrinologist (they’re the ones who are experts on diabetes and stuff, so they know all about the body and sugar). I thought I’d try to explain it as simply as my simple mind understands.
Basically, when your body breaks down glucose (normal sugar) to make energy, there’s a special mechanism that tells the body to stop processing the glucose once the body has enough energy, and rather than break down the rest of the glucose, the excess just passes out of the body through urine. However, with fructose (found in HFCS), there is no such mechanism to shut it off once you have broken it down into all the energy you need. So the body just keeps breaking down fructose, and the excess gets converted to fat.
Our bodies just weren’t designed for consumption of high fructose corn syrup, and this research (and understanding why they got the results they got) confirms my decision to avoid high fructose corn syrup as much as possible. HFCS is in almost every processed food, probably even in the bread you buy, so start looking at those ingredient labels! If you’re a big soda fan (I like some soda with my whiskey or rum), see if Jones Pure Cane Cola is available in your area. It’s the cola I use at home, and I can find it at my local Harris Teeter. Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are also sometimes available in “throwback” form, and if you can find ’em, they’re sweetened with cane sugar. Right now you might also be able to find “kosher for Passover” Coke, which is also sweetened with real sugar.
I just read a post from Salon’s Broadsheet about a UK poll that found most respondents were having most of their sex while under the influence of alcohol, and the respondents said they prefer it that way. Broadsheet blogger Mary Elizabeth Williams mentions that a writer for the Independent suggested these women prefer sex the influence (SWI?) because of poor body image, and Williams also notes that we should consider the poll’s source, a feminine hygiene company. While I’d be inclined to agree that the type of women who find crotchular deodorants necessary for purchase may also have a tendency toward low self esteem in other areas, I sort of wonder if there isn’t another explanation.
At least in my observations of fellow young women, alcohol isn’t just a form of liquid courage to give us the confidence to get naked and down to business. It’s also a liquid excuse. Many young women pretend to be drunker than they really are as an excuse for doing things they wanted to do anyway. I’ve seen friends act completely wasted after one beer, because they seem to think drunk girls can get away with behavior “good girls” can’t. If you can say “but I was soooooo drunk,” you can excuse hooking up with a guy your friends (or you, by the light of day) disapprove of. In a society where good girls are supposed to say no to sex, alcohol becomes a handy scapegoat for our behavior.
I’m not saying I approve of excusing behavior by way of alcohol, first, because I think that we should be allowed to feel confident in our sexual choices, and to own them as proudly as we would stone cold sober, but second, because I’m wary of the level of consent anyone who is legally intoxicated can give. In many states, someone who is legally intoxicated cannot legally consent to sex, and I think men AND women should try to avoid having sex with drunk people to avoid thorny issues of consent-confusion.
Lots of women drink. Lots of women have sex. Does it automatically follow that women need to drink to have sex? And is imbibing before bed the mark of a self-loather “looking for a boost in self-esteem when it comes to bedroom antics,” as Lakeland says, or simply an uninhibited sensualist?
I’d add that some of them are simply looking for an excuse for “bad girl” behavior. And either way, though I’m a fan of both moderate drinking AND sex, I’d encourage people who mix sex and drinking to make sure their partner is still capable of clear and enthusiastic consent.