Springtime Adult Beverages

Everyone should know that “adult beverage” translates to “alcoholic drinks”. The following recipes have been gleaned from several sources, including a local grocery circular. They all have some appeal to us, and so we share them with our readers.
POMEGRANITE VODKA COCKTAIL
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 oz. orange juice
6 oz. 100% pomegranate juice
2 oz. lime juice
8 oz. Absolut Vodka
3 Tbsp. superfine caster sugar
½ Tbsp. ginger juice
1 orange, sliced and quartered

Directions 
Whisk together all ingredients to combine.

Divide among 4 glasses and serve over ice, or pour into a pitcher and pour over ice as needed.

Add a wedge of orange to the rim of the glass for a festive addition.

 

FIZZ BOMB
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
4 tablespoons powdered lemonaid
½ cup water
4-6 ounces tequila ro vodka
4 cups lemon sparkling water or ginger ale
8 scoops lemon sorbet

Directions 
Place lemonade mix into a pitcher and add plain water, stirring until dissolved.

Add sparkling water and alcohol. Pour into glasses.

Top each glass with 2 scoops lemon sorbet. Enjoy immediately!

Leave out the tequila for a great virgin drink.
SWEET BOURBON MOJITO
Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

Ingredients per drink 
8 fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp turbinado (raw) sugar
½ ounces club soda, chilled
Ice cubes
3½ ounces bourbon
¼ tsp almond extract
1½ ounces pineapple juice
2 tsp pure maple syrup
Pineapple wedge for garnish

Directions
Muddle mint leaves with sugar and club soda, then pour mixture into a cocktail shaker.

Add the bourbon, extract, juice and syrup. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
BLOODHOUND WITH JERKY
Hands-on Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
3 cups tomato juice
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large dash Tabasco sauce
Celery salt or kosher salt
Lime wedges
Ice cubes
6-8 oz. vodka
4 sticks beef jerky (I like Jack Links)

Directions 
In a large pitcher, combine tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon juice, celery seeds, pepper and Tabasco. Stir well.

Place celery salt or kosher salt on a small plate. Rim 4 glasses with the lime wedges and dip the rims, coating well.

Fill the glasses with ice and divide the vodka among them. Pour in the tomato juice mixture.

Garnish each drink with a beef jerky stick.

For an added treat, garnish with a skewer of grape tomato, beef jerky, and a mild or hot pepper. This garnish adds more color as well as a dash of panache.

 

Remember, always drink responsibly!

— Ann Cathey

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Cruise Cuisine – Pancho’s, Cozumel, Mexico

 

In the duty-free marketplace on Cozumel, our intrepid fellows insisted that we have lunch at a local establishment they were already aware of. It’s called Pancho’s, as might be expected in the tourist area, but the food was not typical tourist fare. It was delightful to have real Mexican cuisine instead of the Tex-Mex hybrid dishes so profligate in Texas.

I started off with a coffee, while some of my fellow travelers indulged in frosty adult beverages as seen in a previous blog. The coffee was a locally grown blend, dark and rich, and served with heavy cream. it was so good I almost didn’t order food.

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My empty cup.

 

 

My partner wanted to try a Mexican beer in Mexico. Upon finding out that Dos XX was available on tap, he chose to make that his beverage experience.

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for the meal itself, we went with a couple of dishes we are quite familiar with, wanting to know how they would be served in their homeland. He went with the queso flameado (as we had previously learned to call it), while I settle for the chicken flautas.

The queso came all melty, as we know it, though it came in a shallower dish, and covered in a mild green sauce. It was served with flour tortillas as we are also used to. Somehow it tasted better than anything we had experienced back home.

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The flautas were just as I had been told to expect in Mexico. There was nothing added. Roasted chicken was rolled into tortillas and fried. The chicken was flavorful, but without all the crazy spices Tex-Mex utilizes. The sauce it was served with was a little sweet and a lot spicy, just as I had hoped it might be. There was even a large spoonful of guacamole to help cool my tongue after the first taste of that sauce.

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We were fortunate to be able to get a table on the “beach” as the hostess referred to it. It was outside on a built up bit of sand, with palm fronds for a ceiling and a view of old coral coastline and sparkling blue water.

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and the chance to sit and do relatively little for an hour or so. We hope to be able to revisit Pancho’s and try some of the more adventurous items on the menu.

–Ann Cathey

Breezes on the Bay – George Town, Grand Cayman

As an offshoot of our Cruise Cuisine series, allow us to share with you the stop we made on Grand Cayman for lunch.

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When visiting George Town on Grand Cayman, be sure to look up Breezes by the Bay ~ Tropical Grill & Rhum Deck. It’s a lovely casual dining experience forlunch and dinner, complete with a brick oven for pizza and Caribbean fare. While they do not currently have a website, their Facebook account stays pretty active.

Breezes is located in the heart of George Town with great views of the waterfront from just about any seat in the house. They focus on classic Caribbean fare rather than touristy food, except for the pizza, of course. That is a familiar favorite in many countries. They have a large lineup of tropical cocktails, too.

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What Breezes has to say for itself.

 

The folks working there were all very nice, though keep in mind that English is not always their primary language. There were some barriers, but we got over most of them with little trouble. Our waiter was a first-day employee, and while he was trying hard, one of my table mates later wondered, “What was that guy DOING?”

Our excursion group had to try a little bit of everything. From snacking on jerk seasoned fries (“I’ve never paid that much for fries in my life, but hey – Grand Cayman is ‘spensive”), to the local version of pepper steak, to the brick oven pizza, everything was a delight for the palate, if a bit pricey.

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Jerk seasoned French fries.

 

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Quattro Fromage – the four cheese pizza.

 

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Jerk chicken pizza.

 

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Cayman Pepper Steak, with black bean rice, cole slaw, grilled plantain and breadfruit.

 

 

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Pina Colada

Frosty drinks in hurricane style glasses give the place a festive feel, though they do maintain a full bar for those not into frozen concoctions. This Pina Colada was overwhelmingly pineapple, which drowned out the more delicate coconut flavor, though the rum was full bore.

 

We also gave a local beer a shot. This is a glass of Iron Shore Bock from the Cayman Islands Brewery. It gave us a light head over a clear brown beer with only a little lacing. The aroma was simple and pleasing, mildly hoppy with a flavor of caramel malts. Not particularly strong on the alcohol, but that allowed a nice smoothness to the mouthfeel.

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Iron Shore Bock

 

 

This establishment is on the second and third floor of it’s building. There are wide tread stairs, but no elevator available as of our visit.

On the 1-5 scale, Breezes has earned:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 4.5
Pricing – 2.5 (Grand Cayman can be expensive)
Overall experience – 3.5

 

 

Breezes by the Bay
8 Harbour Drive
George Town, Cayman Islands
Phone: +1 345-943-8439

— Ann Cathey and Cruise Cohort
Additional photos by Christopher

Barcenas – Houston, TX

At first glance, Barcenas Mexican Restaurant looks like just another up and coming strip mall eatery. There area ctually three locations currently, serving Houston and Friendswood as well as the LaMarque location we were introduced to.

We happened to be there with some friends for a small wedding reception in the back room. Their Christmas finery was up and was fairly understated except for the whopper of a Christmas tree in the front entry. The rest of the decor was fairly laid back, but typical of the venue with broad swatches of earthtones highlighted by bright red and green accents.

Sadly I was unable to take photos of our food or the venue itself due to the occasion, but
rest assured it was very comfortable and the staff was on point.

When checking out a new restaurant, my partner and I usually have a specific dish that we
order as a litmus test. For Mexican food, that test dish is Queso Flameado. For those not
experienced with this excellent appetizer, it’s a hot dish of melted white cheese topped with chorizo. A lot of establishments will call it flameado, yet offer fajita chicken, beef or
grilled onions and peppers to top it off. Those variations actually have other names, but you get the idea.

The Queso Parrilla, as they call it, with fajita chicken was outstanding. The flour tortillas
served with it were a little small, and there were only three of them, but they were obviously made on site with a lovely flavor that complimented the buttery richness of the cheese.

While some of the rest of the party was much more adventurous, we stuck to known quantities for this visit. I ordered the flautas, while he chose a burrito plate. The portions were generous and very tasty.

Flautas – Three corn tortillas wrapped around Ranch chicken and deep fried, served with
Spanish rice and refried beans, a small bed of lettuce topped with sour cream and guacamole.

Burrito Azteca – A large flour tortilla stuffed with fajita chicken and white cheese, topped
with moderately spicy chipotle sauce. Served with Spanish rice and refried beans.

“Big, warm, and flavorful. Definitely a $10 burrito plate.”
— Christopher

A bar is available , specializing in margaritas, cocktails, and a small list of beer and wine. Check out their full menu  for the wide variety of entrees and appetizers they offer, then go give them a try when you are in the area.

Barcenas offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as banquet and party services, with three locations to serve you.

On the 1-5 scale, Barcenas gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 4.5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 4.4

Barcenas Mexican Restaurant
11013 Delaney Road
La Marque, TX 77568
(409) 908-9801

Let us know if you go, and what you think about Barcenas.

— Ann Cathey

Foodie Fights!

Foodies find the silliest things to argue over. I mean, really – they’re foodies. They should
be open to new experiences, right?

These are some of the things I’ve recently seen hotly debated on Facebook and other places on the web, with my personal opinions:

1. Cornbread: sweet or not sweet?

Personally, I’m nto a fn od sweet cornbread, though I will make it upon request. The sweet
tends to cloud savoury flavors from dishes like chili or beans. I can see a certin attraction
for sweet cornbread for beans cooked with a hamhck, or as a treat with butter and honey.
2. Chili: beans or no beans?

Who cares? Chili was originally a dish created to serve the worst cuts of met, and meat that
had just started to turn. It’s been turned into a gourmet delight with everything but the
kitchen sink added to recipies from all over the world.
3. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Why not? Unless, of course, you are allergic to pineapple or are overdosing on vitamin K.
Again, it’s a personal preference, like anchovies.

 

4. Chocolate (cocoa): sweet or savoury?

Yes! Cocoa was not origianlly a confectioner’s device. It’s earliest use was as a spice and
thickening agent. Europeans found it tasty and began the practice of chocolate as we know and love it now. It’s still a valuable spice, being an excellent additive for chilis and stews,
savoury breads, and coffee – without all the sugar.
Share your thoughts with us!

— Ann Cathey

Gypsy Joynt – Galveston, Texas

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In a building that has survived multiple hurricanes, a little hippie restaurant opened that’s a definite winner. Gypsy Joynt is an eclectic mix of atmosphere, food, coffees, and desserts that’s sure to grab your attention. Don’t be fooled by the exterior where the flagpoles proudly bear bandannas, t-shirts and jeans, this place rocks.

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From the time we walked in to the time we left, we were treated to an array of Rolling Stones music. Seemed to be the sound of the day and we didn’t mind in the slightest. The dj booth is built of what looks like scavenged wood, with racks of LPs, and a command station presided over by a computer that rules the sound system. I didn’t get too good a look at the rest of the goodies in the booth, as there was so much more to see.

There’s a lot of dark wood, including the tables and mismatched chairs, that helps to give a comfortably cave-like feel to the interior, Shawls hung over the windows, scarves and beads from the ceiling, with a scattered mix of period posters, toys, and other implementada ranging from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s along the walls. The bar top (they do serve beer) where you place your order, is cut from an old pool table. The slab still has it’s felt jacket, and the pockets their leather baskets.

Pick up a menu and be prepared for a wild ride!

From pizza to focacia sandwiches and wraps, to salads to a truly decadent dessert bar, this place seems to have a little bit of everything.

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Smoretella – Nutella, toasted marshmallow, Graham cracker.

Autumn Cocoa – fudge, pumpkin spice, homemade pumpkin marshmallow.

 

 

Rocco Rocks – mac-n-cheese and brisket pizza. Think what you will, but one of our tablemates called it “possibly the perfect pizza”.

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dsc_0021Big & Sloppy – a chili cheeseburger that might best be served on a plate instead of a burger basket! I ordered bunless and was not disappointed. The grilled sirloin patty was served up beneath sliced cheddar and a ton of house-made chili. The chili wasn’t hot, which was a very pleasant change from today’s trend toward scorching your face off, though it usually comes with hot onions and jalapenos. Yes, those are sweet potato waffle fries.

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I Love Lucy – This lovely combo sandwich was ordered as a wrap. Stuffed with ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, house-made pickles and mustard, it was a tasty and filling meal when coupled with the sweet potato waffle fries.

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House-made pickles – What a pleasant surprise! With a firm crunch, these thick wavy slices come in somewhere between hamburger dills and kosher, with a sweet afterglow on the back of the tongue.

 

When next you are on Galveston Island and feeling a bit peckish, skip the Strand and give this Joynt a try.

On the 1-5 scale, Gypsy Joynt gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.2

Gypsy Joynt
2711 Market Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
409-497-2069

 

— Ann Cathey

Spanish Flavor Highlights

Mexican cooking and Spanish cooking have a lot in common, it’s true. Spanish cooking, however, missed most of the New World influences so prevalent in Middle America.

Some of the particular flavors found in Spanish cooking come from regional availability of certain plants.

OLIVES
Spanish olives and olive oil are known for their high quality and unique flavors. While the olives generally available in the United States that are commonly known as Spanish olives are most often small, green, and stuffed with pimento. They are also extremely salty. Like the wines of Spain, true Spanish olives are distinctive in flavor and texture to their regions, raging from subtle and floral to robust and nutty.

Olives grown in Spain go through a rigorous grading system, with a larger portion being used for oil pressing. The remainder fall into four color/ripeness groups that then become many of the olives known in Spanish cuisine.

Green olives are harvested for their firmer flesh and smokey flavor. Semi-ripe olives have a mottled, pinkish color, and a vibrant flavor. Ripe olives are dark and robust. Ripe black olives are harvested before they fully ripen, and treated to maintain their color and to remove any bitterness.

WINE
As with any other wine producing country, Spain is known for it’s many regional vintages. Wine if often the drink of choice at meal time and topped off with sparkling water. Spanish wines come from grapes with names like Albariño, Tempranillo and Verdejo, and pair with regional spices like no others.

While I am not a wine drinker by choice, I know where to find the best in my area. I frequent Spec’s and enjoy perusing their selections.

MEATS
Jamon is an air-cured ham. It is a visual fixture in Spain as well as a culinary one. These hams may be found hanging everywhere form restaurants to home kitchens to meat markets. Thinly sliced, it adds a rich flavor to a variety of dishes from tapas to stews.

Chorizo in Spain is quite different from the more familiar chorizo from Mexico. Mexican chorizo is made from fresh pork, whereas the Spanish counterpart is smoked. The Spanish variety imparts is regionally spiced flavor to paella among other dishes. It can also be found sliced very thinly and served with a complimentary selection of cheeses.

SAFFRON
Among all the spices grown in Spain, saffron is the most outstanding of the lot. It’s origins trace back into Asia, but the majority of the world’s saffron in modern times comes from Spain. It takes thousands of Crocus sativus flowers to yield only an ounce of saffron. the spice is collected in “threads” which are ground and added to a variety of dishes. Saffron is also known for imparting a rich golden-yellow hue not only to foods, but to textiles as well. Along with cumin, tarragon, dill, sage, anise, thyme, fennel, mint, cinnamon, cloves, the Spanish have collected spices from around the world and embraced them as their own.

These are but a few of the outstanding ingredients found in Spanish cooking. For your edification, give this recipe a try, or look up one of the many recipes available online.

Fabada Stew
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2-3 hours
Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:
1 large onion, peeled but still whole
1 head garlic, whole
4 cans (15 oz.) beans (cannellini or other large white beans), drained
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 large pinch saffron threads, crushed
1 (1 lb.) meaty  ham hock
½ lb. bacon, unsliced
½ lb. chorizo
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Drain beans and transfer them to a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, paprika, crushed saffron, ham hock, bacon and 12 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer the stew, tucking the ham hock under the cooking liquid as necessary, about 1 hour.

Add the chorizo to the bean stew and cook until the meat and beans are tender and the cooking liquid is thick and slightly reduced, about 45 minutes longer.

Discard the onion and garlic and transfer the meat to a bowl. Pull the meat from the ham hock and cut it into large pieces. Cut the bacon and chorizo into pieces. Add the meat back into the beans and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Serve hot. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Enjoy a taste of Spain in your own kitchen!

–Ann Cathey