I have just one week of finals to go before I complete my second semester of culinary school. Finals week marks the end of the most rigorous 16-week schedule I’ve experienced yet, and come December 9, it will be time to celebrate! Continue reading “Finals and Finishing Strong”
Whiskey Fit For A King
What do you get when you combine a bunch of food and beverage lovers, a beautiful venue and exquisite whiskey? One hell of a SOME KINDA GOOD Tuesday evening! The high was 96 degrees in the Lowcountry, without a cloud in the sky. We met on the roof of Stars Rooftop and Grill Room in downtown Charleston on historic King Street for one reason: to explore two new variants recently introduced by Crown Royal Canadian Whisky. Here I would meet Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, the brand’s first-ever blended rye whisky, and Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel, a drink which pays homage to the brand’s signature smoothness.
During cocktail hour, waiters circulated the rooftop with trays of summer tomato-mozzarella skewers and shaved salmon crostini with capers and cream cheese. I met other marketing professionals and beverage connoisseurs, among them Susan Lucas of King Street Marketing Group, representatives from The Local Palate, Taneka Reaves and Johnny Caldwell of the Cocktail Bandits (super fun girls!) and Robin Rodriquez of locally owned Egan’s Spirits.
Meet Brandon Verkaik and Bud Huber, the two mixologists who created the four signature cocktails of the evening: Holy City Brunch Punch, Royal Shandy, The Light Dimmer and Wild Flower Whiskey Sour. I can’t wait to share one of the recipes with y’all! Choosing a favorite of the four cocktails is a bit like being partial to your best friends or family members…you appreciate them each for what they bring to the table. If I had to choose one though, I’d pick the Wild Flower Whiskey Sour. This drink features Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, known for its oak flavor with spicy notes of vanilla and a hint of butterscotch.
For the guided whiskey tasting portion of the event, we made our way into the air-conditioned (thank you, Jesus!) Wilkinson Room on the second floor of the restaurant where we were enlightened by Master of Whiskey Stephen Wilson. At one point, this guy asks if anyone in the room is a fan of country music. Are you kidding!? Without hesitation I raised my glass and in my sweetest Southern accent, said with fervor, “You can’t be a whiskey fan and not love country music!” He later asked how we enjoyed whiskey best, and I told him “To the tune of George Jones.” Is there any other way? Maybe a Jack Daniels audience would understand this better. 😉
I was pleased to learn Wilson first discovered Crown Royal Deluxe in none other than the beautiful Savannah, Georgia. Here’s a guy who grew up on the Tennessee Virginia line, and says he “fell into” a career as a Master of Whiskey and now works for Diageo, the company who owns Crown Royal. He said, “There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy whiskey. Good conversation over a glass of good whiskey is what it’s all about.” Sounds like we share the same philosophy! He taught us that Crown Royal was first created as a gift for the King and Queen of England to celebrate their visit to Canada in 1939. The iconic purple bag which the whiskey is purchased in is a concept from the original packaging! It was developed to suit the royal occasion and outfitted with gold drawstrings, a tradition that continues to this day.
The attention to detail at this event was unmatched! Dessert was a moist, rich chocolate cake shaped like a bottle of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye whiskey. Who knew eating whiskey could be fun too? HA!
I’ll leave y’all with this: A refreshing concoction suitable for any summertime happy hour, courtesy of the mixologists mentioned above. Thanks to Taylor Strategy for an evening really well done, and a valuable education on the top-selling Canadian Whiskey in the United States.
Wildflower Whisky Sour
2 oz. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
1 oz. St. Germaine
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz. Wildflower Honey Syrup
Stir together ingredients. Serve over ice and enjoy!
Georgia Cocktail Meatballs Make a Perfect Party Appetizer
Grape jelly combined with apple hickory BBQ sauce and hot pepper jelly is an unlikely combination, but when paired together with perfectly seasoned meatballs, they make the most decadent and savory bite. Continue reading “Georgia Cocktail Meatballs Make a Perfect Party Appetizer”
My Cruise Vacation of Gastronomic Proportions
During the first week of October, I forsook my fall traditions – The Luke Bryan Farm Tour, the Georgia National Fair, Homecoming at Old Richland Baptist Church and the Georgia Southern University Homecoming football game – to sail the open seas on the Carnival Liberty. During my seven-day cruise vacation to the Western Caribbean, I didn’t write, cook, work or blog, but…I ate, and what a gastronomic experience it was. This was my second cruise, the first one I’d ever taken with Carnival Cruise lines, and while the food experience varied depending on location in the ship, dinner was the meal I anticipated most, brunch made my heart sing and late night dessert from room service was worth every calorie.
Allow me to introduce you to my new friends and table-mates for the week. From left: My good-looking boyfriend, Kurt, Brandon, Christina, David and Sarah. From right, that’s me, Christy, Scott, Will and Courtney. Y’all know my philosophy, good food and good company…that’s what it’s all about!
We made four stops during the week: 1) Cozumel, Mexico, 2) Belize, 3) Mahogany Bay/Roatan Island in Honduras and 4) Costa Maya, Mexico. In Cozumel, we lounged in hammocks under the palm trees and were serenaded by three natives and their guitars while eating the best guacamole ever in an entertaining little restaurant called Three Amigos.
In Belize, we sipped rum from a fresh coconut and took a 2-hour tour of the city and countryside. Our ferry-boat also broke down in the Atlantic-Caribbean Coast and we had to return to Belize and catch another ferry back to the ship. In Honduras, we swam in the ocean in the pouring rain, and I got my dad a souvenir–a rosewood guitar pick.
In Costa Maya, I tried a native beer called Sol (tasted similar to a Corona) and I bought my mom a hand-carved wind chime.
Now, let’s get down to the food. Dinner time for us was 8:15 p.m. each evening. Throughout the week, I enjoyed most the lobster and grilled shrimp. My other favorites were Lobster Bisque, Shrimp Cocktail, Alligator Fritters and fresh fish. I ate a lot of seafood–after all we were on the ocean. Here’s a photo gallery of some of the plates and beverages I managed to capture photos of before scarfing them down.
Brunch was served only on days at sea in one of the most elegant dining rooms with big windows. On our first day of travel, we ordered spicy bloody marys and indulged in the French croissants with whipped butter.
One night, just for fun, we ordered cheesecake and chocolate cake from room service.
If you ever take a cruise with Carnival, I highly recommend spending your money on what will be one of the most exquisite and mind-blowing dining experiences you’ll ever have: “The Chef’s Table.” A private dinner with a seating of only 13, you’ll get a tour of the kitchen and one-on-one time with the Chef de Cuisine of the entire ship, along with unlimited wine. I regret to say that I didn’t have my camera on the Tuesday evening of our event, but I’m excited to share the menu we experienced and our group photo with you.
The attention to detail, from the correct spelling of my name on both the menu and my place card to the presentation of the plates was absolutely stunning. Chef Singh is one amazingly talented and detail oriented chef. Every week, he and his team cook thousands of dishes for multiple nationalities representing countless cultures. I have so much respect for the man! I was introduced to so many new concepts and flavors. Air pillows and passion caviar anyone? I left completely inspired, really full and a little tipsy.
After all that food, we still managed to look this good. Thanks Carnival Cruise lines for a vacation to remember!