Even though we tend to think of our city as an always-in-motion, always ready for a party, constantly changing entity, it really is a great repository of sameness.
While watching Panic in the Streets, an early 1950s movie set in New Orleans and filmed mostly at the Mississippi River and in the French Quarter, I was struck at how little has changed from then to now. If those scenes were re-filmed today, the cars would be updated, some of the street traffic directions would have reversed or two lanes would be one, and the Moonwalk would be in place, but after that, not much is all that different.
I find the constancy comforting, or at the minimum interesting. The current issue of Alaska Airlines’ in-flight publication features our little burg, with chef John Besh in glorious display as a cover-boy, noting that Alaska is now flying into Armstrong with direct flights to Seattle. The accompanying story is written by a fellow who went to Ben Franklin but had not been back in his home town for a long, long time. And he made the point that New Orleans was pretty much as he remembered it going back to his high school years. It’s a good article, and you may enjoy it. (Find it here
. Page 36 begins the article.)
And so here we are on this Fourth of July weekend, and we can depend on a lot of traditions with at least one thing for certain: it’s going to be hot. Everything else is up in the air. When will it rain? Do we enjoy chicken, hot dogs, red beans, crawfish, shrimp, or potato salad? Or all? Do we head for the river, or should we just hang out in the back yard with plenty of Off slathered into every pore?
Then there’s that whole what-to-drink decision. That can be a pretty big stumper. Keep it simple and easy is a good rule.
Always icy cold and a good choice on a hot summer day. A few years ago the choices would have been obvious. Today, not so much. Local breweries have done an amazing job of pairing beer styles to our food styles, and even if you don’t particularly like beer, you will find these high-quality beers approachable and enjoyable.
NOLA Brewing Company is creating some very exciting beers. Just about everyone’s favorite is Hopitoulas, an homage to their location on Tchoupitoulas, but not to be overlooked is NOLA Blonde, which is quite refreshing.
Another personal favorite are the beers from Bayou Teche Brewing over in Breaux Bridge. Going a bit against the trend, Bayou Teche packages beer in brown bottles, not cans. Their Bière Pâle really goes down smooth and is widely available in bars and retail stores.
Lazy Magnolia is up in Kiln, Mississippi and their Southern Pecan brew, available in bottles at retail, has already earned status as a Southern Classic. Even if you don’t particularly nuts or berries in your beer — and I’m one of those — this one will enlighten your tastes.
Canebrake has burst on the scene from Parish Brewing in Broussard, Louisiana, and they are taking the local tap-world by storm. Now they are available in bottles so giving them a try just got easier. It could widen your beer horizons.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention 40 Arpent Beers from Arabi. Not yet available in bottles or cans, these guys are on a roll in bringing out really bright, fresh ales, lagers and stouts. Available in all the usual beer-centric bars.
No need to turn up your nose or your attitudes. Rosè wines are about the hottest things going, and they are ideal for a great holiday like the Fourth. These delightful wines are not sweet, but are well structured, and when chilled, go very well by themselves or with a wide variety of foods.
Since (OK, I’ll say it) pink wines are made from fine red grapes, they still possess power and composition that you would expect in the full-on red version of the same grape. Rosès can be made from grenache, syrah, pinot noir, merlot, among other red grapes.
The key to enjoying these wines is to chill them down and quaff. No need to spend a lot of time on examination and critiquing. Just drink. A great benefit is that usually rosè is lower in alcohol than its deeper-hued cousin so you can drink more without the resulting air of confusion settling into your head.
Rosès are meant to be enjoyed young, and all of these are 2013 vintage:
Domaine Lafarge Miraflors Rosé
Domaine de la Janasse Rosé
Chateau Pesquier Terrasses Rosé
Ga'ia Greek Rosé
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon
They are available at better wine stores all over town, including Pearl Wine Company, Swirl, Martin’s, Dorignac’s, Bacchanal, Faubourg, Bin 428 and Second Vine.
Break out the blender. The Fourth is a real fruit-based, crack-some-ice kind of holiday where spirits are concerned.
While it is fun to experiment, I like to stick by the tried and true cocktails, the ones that got me this far (wherever the hell “this far” is).
The classic 3-ingredient recipe from our buddy, David Wondrich, Esquire
2 ounces white rum
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/2 ounce lime juice
Squeeze the lime into your shaker, stir in the sugar, and then add the rum. Shake well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Note on the rum: Some prefer dark over white; if you do use dark rum, cut back a little on the sugar.
As a tribute to Brazil, and this was written before the World Cup game between U.S. and Belgium is played, I again call on David Wondrich in Esquire to provide a perfect recipe, this time for a Caipirinha, which is literally the same as a daiquiri except that Brazilian cachaça is used instead of the rum with which we are familiar.
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces cachaça
Slice the lime into 1/2-inch rounds, cube them, and muddle them in an Old-Fashioned glass or small tumbler with the sugar. Add a couple of ice cubes. Pour in the cachaça. Serve with a stirring rod.
We’re on a good roll so let’s continue with our string of 3-ingredient, classic cocktails, and with the recipes of David Wondrich, Esquire.
2 ounces silver tequila (always use 100 percent agave)
1 ounce Cointreau (better than triple sec, or one of those “margarita mixes”)
1 ounce lime juice
Shake well with cracked ice, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has had its rim rubbed with lime juice and dipped in coarse salt.
Hope you have a great, fun and safe Fourth of July. Drink well, and do it responsibly.