When I was a very little girl, and had a horrible tummy ache, as a last resort my mom gave me this miracle medicine. It never failed to calm my belly and send me off into drugged slumber. It was available over the counter until 1970 and was called paregoric. The flavor was why the phrase “medicinal tasting” was invented. It was also chock full of morphine (guess that’s why you can’t just pick a bottle off the shelf at the Rexall anymore).
About two and a half centuries later, when I was a bartender at a country club, I made swimming pools full of gin and tonics without indulging. Finally, I took a taste.
I was transported right back to my footy pajamas, choking down a spoonful of that nasty stomach medicine. Nope, I decided that g&t tastes like paregoric, and thus would never again pass these lips.
I’m not really a big drinker anyway. For a few reasons.
- I don’t drink very much of anything. In my entire life, I don’t believe I’ve ever finished a bottle of Coca-Cola all by myself.
- Being out of control is scary and embarrassing. The worst is when sober Debbie’s in my head, trying to help, and drunk Debbie’s yelling, “Back off, Captain Buzz Killington! Besides, we’re fine; totally graceful, witty, and charming.”
- Alcohol is stuffed full of calories. And if I’m mindlessly consuming vast quantities of calories, they absolutely need to be of the chocolate persuasion.
But on Saturday, June 11th, The Kid and I went to The Carolina Inn for a BBQ Throwdown. There would also be plenty of various alcoholic libations
When I woke up that morning, I decided that at the throw down, all nutritional bets and caloric considerations were off.
Right after we checked in and got our arm bands, we sampled four kinds of Jack Daniels. They were good.
Then somehow I decided it was time to give gin another chance (although it may have been the Bourbon samples deciding for me). There were garnish ingredients so we could personalize or drinks.
I chose cucumber and lime.
How glad I am that I gave this most British of spirits a second chance. It was clean and bracing. The garnish worked well. And it gave me an idea.
1 Fifth of crystal gin minus 1/2 cup or so
2 cucumbers, peeled and grated
Stuff cukes in bottle of gin. Let sit in a cool dark place for 2 weeks. Drain, and pour gin back into bottle.
Green gin and tonic:
2 ounces cucumber gin
4 ounces tonic water
Pour gin and tonic into a rocks glass with ice. Squeeze lime into glass. Give it a gentle stir. Run the squeezed lime around the rim of the glass. Serve.
There were eight competitors, and I had at last one small plate from each—and more than one at a few.
The Carolina Crossroads’s Chef James Clark and his right-hand man, Chef Bill made my heart race in the very best possible way. Duck barbecue, and fries covered in lashings of roasted tomato aioli.
I took elements from Chef James’ entry to make some finger food.
Roasted tomato aioli:
Cut 10-12 Roma tomatoes in half, length-wise. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Roast at 450 for 25 minutes or ‘til dry and caramelized.
Chop in food processor until completely smooth. Stir into 2 cups mayo, either homemade or store-bought.
Cut leftover grits into rounds, 2 inches across by ½ inch thick
1 tablespoon butter
Toast grit rounds in butter until browned on both sides.
Then drop a small amount of pea shoots on each round. Lay on top crispy piece of bacon, about 1 ½ inches square. Drizzle aioli on top.
After the gin and an orange old fashion my knees got a little noodle-like, I knew it was time to switch to water.
But the other guests at the Throw Down have no idea what they missed. One more glass full of liquid courage, and I would have swung from the chandelier while singing an enthusiastic if not melodious acapella version of Pink Cadillac.
Thanks for your time.