Friday links

Happy National Eat What You Want Day! Yes, that is a real thing, which I think we can all agree means food holidays have officially jumped the shark! Before you start eating aaaannnyything you want, a report came out this week saying by 2030 almost half of Americans will be obese. To me, no food is worth the feeling and trouble that comes with obesity.

One way to help curb obesity is to run. I have kind of gotten off the regular, strong run track. I’m not going as often and when I do, it’s not for as long. Something always creeps up during my run, and many times I feel I can’t catch my breath or I get a side ache. Four Ways to Stop the Dreaded Side Stitch (I’ve never heard that word but assume it means ache) hit my Google Reader, and the timing and tips are perfect. What is your cure to a better run?

Ok, now that all the seriousness is out of the way, time for a few fun links:

  • 12 uncomplicated summer cocktails, an interactive feature by one of my faves, Mark Bittman.
  • The flavored liquor craze has reached a fever pitch, and one man has had enough, saying “My favorite flavor of whiskey is whiskey”. (Seriously, enough is enough. If you can’t drink vodka without it tasting like sugar, you can’t drink vodka.)
  • Last drink link (lots this week!): Using booze in food.
  • If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that has a spring (unlike me in South Florida), Serious Eats shows some great ways to eat the produce in season now.
  • A light take on one of my favorite foods, kale. One man’s quest to love and eat nothing but kale.

New Orleans drinks

Bill and I went to New Orleans  for our wedding anniversary (four years) and milestone of when we met (10 years). While there we had a lot of good food and drinks, met up with friends for a day and saw a lot of great sights. This post is about the great drinks we had in the Big Easy, but I also wrote about the wonderful food we ate.

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Last time I was in New Orleans was two weeks after my 21st birthday. Needless to say, the drinks were mostly hurricanes and daiquiris. Not that they aren’t great, but I this time expanded my drinking.

My first drink was a NOLA Blonde at lunch with a delicious gumbo. The flavors played off one another really well with crisp, spicy drinks following a bite of gumbo. When on vacation I try to drink either local beers or beers not available in South Florida. This trip I also had a Lazy Magnolia N’Awlins Ale and an Abita Amber, two other solid beers. I was hoping to try more Abita, but it didn’t work out.

I will admit I had two different hurricanes while in New Orleans, including (only) one at Pat O’Briens, which is home to this sweet rum drink. I know the rum can sneak up on you in these drinks, so I stuck with one and opted to spend time catching up with friends who met us in New Orleans for a day.

Speaking of rum, we took a tour of the Old New Orleans Rum distillery, which was pretty cool explaining how rum is made. It was liberal with the samples, but I’m older and wiser to this town now, so I kept myself in check. I disliked the 10-year rum (tasted like whiskey!) and really liked the warming (not hot) taste of the Cajun Spice rum.

We had the best drinks our last night in New Orleans. We went to the Napoleon House, an old bar that had a great atmosphere, and sat in the courtyard. (I love the courtyards in New Orleans!) There we tried the house specialty Pimm’s Cup, which is gin, lemonade and a splash of citrus soda with a cucumber. It’s very refreshing after a day of walking in the sun. We also tried the sazerac, which is considered the oldest cocktail in the America, first made in New Orleans. Sazerac has a very specific preparation method and ingredients, including rye whiskey, absinthe, bitters, sugar and a twist of lemon. It. Was. Amazing. I was very surprised I even liked it since it has whiskey and absinthe, but all the flavors played well and balanced it out into the perfect drink. I still can’t stop thinking about it or wanting another. This was the perfect way to end such a perfect trip.

Have you  ever been anywhere where the drinks help define the location as much as New Orleans? I’m always interested in specialty drinks for specific locations.

Summer cocktails

The hottest trend I’ve noticed this summer is flavored drinks (both with and without alcohol) using fresh ingredients in creative ways. It can be something as simple as lemonade with tea or a take on punch. These are cocktails with a surprising addition or two.

Spicy pineapple and cucumber agua fresca

I can only look at so many refreshing drinks without developing a thirst to quench. I picked one of the many drinks I’ve seen, but have my eye on more to make throughout the warm months, especially as I get summer produce.

The drink that caught my eye the most features cucumber, a chile and pineapple. It seemed like an interesting combination of flavors and very refreshing. It’s from the Vegetarian Times article “Mix and Mingle” in the July/August 2011 issue. I couldn’t find the recipes online, but if you see the magazine at your newsstand or library, it’s worth picking it up for the drinks.

Spicy pineapple and cucumber agua fresca

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small English cucumber
  • 1/2 Serrano chile, seeds and veins removed
  • 2 1/2 cups pineapple juice
  • 7 tablespoons light agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) vodka or tequilla
  • Frozen pineapple, cut (optional, but I recommend; they will be like ice cubes and fill with liquor for a treat at the end)

Directions

  1. Puree cucumber and chile in blender until smooth. Pour the mixture through a strainer, pressing on solids to extract all the liquid. You should have about 1 cup juice.
  2. Pour the cucumber juice  into a large pitcher and stir in pineapple juice, agave nectar, lime juice and cayenne pepper.
  3. Pour 2 ounces vodka or tequila over ice or the frozen pineapple cubes in a glass. Top with 1 cup pineapple mixture. Stir and serve.

Summer cocktail recipe resources

What have you been drinking this summer?