Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Herbs, Flowers & Spice

"Eros" cocktail, Zaytinya

"Eros cocktail, Zaytinya" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

Summer always puts me in mind to garden. I have a little herb garden with oregano, rosemary and lavender that always needs pruning, some roses that need constant watch from black spot, peonies dusty with blight – wait a minute. Gardening in DC is hard work, our weather vacillating between wet and humid to dry and droughty. Isn’t there an easier way to enjoy herbs and flowers?

Why yes. Drink them!

I love nothing better than to cook with fresh herbs and spices, and I’ve been known to throw some edible flowers into my salad, so I am loving the growing spread of these ingredients in cocktails. We’re both lucky and spoiled to be enjoying a cocktail renaissance here in DC. Time was a decent drink meant liquor + mixer, maybe with a garnish. Not anymore. Bartenders are approaching cocktails like, well, a chef would. The explosion of housemade syrups and infusions enable mixologists to make some potent magic.

But as with gardening, not everyone has a green thumb. It’s not enough to just toss some herbage in a martini glass and hey pesto! it’s a delicious cocktail. Just like that time I put too much adobe sauce in my sweet potato puree and set my guests throats on fire (um, sorry about that!). You have to know how flavors work together and how much power that pepper’s going to pop onto your tongue.

So here are my current favorites highlighting the trifecta of herbs, flowers and spice, with a few misses along the way.

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Food and Drink, The DC 100, We Love Food

DC Omnivore 100: #11, Calamari

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr (a shot from the DC Fish Market)

This week, our continuing quest to try all 100 foods a DC Omnivore must experience checks out calamari. 

Whenever I see fresh calamari, the first thing that comes to mind is Admiral Ackbar slurping, “your taste buds can’t repel flavor of this magnitude!”

Ok, maybe not. But this versatile cephalopod is truly a wonder of the sea.

There are a myriad ways to prepare squid – fried, grilled, stuffed, with the tentacles or not (no tentacles? wimp!). Squid ink makes a glorious rich pasta and salty sauce that can stain your tongue black as night. Raw squid as sushi can be disconcerting or refreshing, depending on your palate. My personal preference is sauteed or grilled. Perfectly prepared squid should not be overly chewy – it should have an initial ever-so-slight firmness that dissolves into a fresh from the sea taste. 

When I was a poor little match girl just out of drama school, I discovered I could get squid quite cheap and saute up a batch for both me and my cat (wow. that is a depressing memory!). But now if I cook calamari, it’s for a luxurious seafood pasta with squid, shrimp, and scallops. 

After the break, a more appetizing picture, and tips for rustling up calamari at home and eating out…
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