In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

How To Work Hush Puppies Into a Sparkling Summer Evening

It's tucked away in a little visited corner of Washington, but just a few blocks from the Smithsonian metro stop -- on Independence Ave, not the Mall -- is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Inside said hotel is the Sou'wester restaurant, and inside the Sou'wester Restaurant, is Carlton McCoy, wunderkind sommelier and I suppose what most people would call a mixologist. The Sou'wester has a lovely terrace on a garden facing almost due southwest, so while the weather is great you should hie on over there and order, at minimum, the following things: The Revenge of Napolean III, and hush puppies.

Those are the hush puppies. I take seriously my fried starchy products and my friends, these hush puppies are heaven. HEAVEN. The outside is like crunchy lace, but tastes much better than crunchy lace might be expected to. Inside: tender, sweet corn bread. Spread them with honey butter, of which your waiter will provide a never-ending supply in tiny little pots.

I'm not kidding. Turn off your computer, go to Sou'wester and order them. Now. I'll be here when you get back.

WAIT WAIT WAIT! You also have to order a cocktail called The Revenge of Napolean III. Carlton works on these things for hours -- using fresh herbs and fruits...he said something about Paw Paw coming up in the spring. But never mind that now. Now you are focused on the Napolean III, a magical mix of fresh grapefruit juice, fine tequila and what is that aromatic something that hits you when you lift the drink to your lips and then lingers long after?

It's absinthe, friends -- not the kind that will rot your brain and make you hallucinate like Oscar Wilde did -- that's long since been outlawed (I think). But this -- the tiniest little spoonful and the whole drink explodes into a giant YES. Order it.

Then when you are done with that, you might want some Chesapeake oysters -- raw, with a bloody mary sauce -- or fried with an aioli that is pink from I forgot what because of the next picture.

Clever, handsome Carlton who is soon to be one the youngest master sommeliers in the country and a DC native -- did I mention? graduated from the CIA in Poughkeepsie, NY, but really learned to cook from his Pentacostal minister grandmother in DC who also ran a catering business out of her church -- has done something deeply wonderful: he has paired wines into reasonably priced (and generously poured) flights, allowing diners to compare similar wines from different countries while they eat. It's like a wine tasting party with none of the annoyance.

So. Get over there while the weather is still good, and read the cocktail menu closely, because it is slyly funny.

And in the meantime, dive into local peaches. This is perhaps their last week. This was our morning-after-5-cocktails-each at the Mandarin breakfast: white peaches and good orange juice. You must eat like you mean it. Summer is fleeting.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, absinthe made with the variety of wormwood that contained the mold that produced all the pseudo-psychotic visions has come back into production and the ban that kept it out of the states was dismissed about two to three years ago. Leaves room for new cocktail creations! My vote: Serenity Now, Insanity Later.