Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review: Babes on Bourbon Street

The Culinary Center of Kansas City has always been one of my most-favorite venues in the KC area…besides a really cool and inviting ambiance, they really have it going on with the classes and events they offer.

Case in point: a few days ago, they were offering an event entitled: "Girls Night Out! Babes on Bourbon Street!" - which promised fun, food and frivolity. And drinks. The best part? This was completely a "demo" class - which meant that the chef would do ALL the work, and I'd get all of the benefits - as in, all I would have to do is eat. And drink. Count me in.

Gathering up my sister, because we were overdue for our monthly "dine and dish" - where we go out for dinner and then dish out on everything under the sun, whether that be husbands, kids or jobs, we headed over to join in the festivities, along with about twenty or so other women. Because this was heading into Mardi Gras weekend, the entire venue was decked out with New Orleans-inspired decorations - including beads, masks, and feathers…and the menu, including cocktails, would all have a bit of a Creole theme.

Our class handbook - which included all of the recipes, and more….

Our instructor for the evening, Bruce, quickly got the good times rollin' by demonstrating the original "Hurricane", the signature drink of Pat O'Brien's bar on Bourbon Street. Many years ago, Bruce was a bartender here, so he knew all sorts of tips and tricks on how to make this drink to perfection. The drink got its name - NOT from a Mother-Nature inspired hurricane - but from the glass that was shaped like a hurricane lamp that it was served in.

Bruce suggested adding a 1/4 oz of passion fruit juice to the mix, if you're able - as it will really give the drink a "Wow!" factor. If you're making large quantities of the drink, you can always substitute Hawaiian Punch for the fruit juices. Also…the 151 Rum gets poured on the very top - right before serving - but always let the drink sit about 5 minutes or so before drinking…as the flavors will have a chance to "settle" and it will taste truly divine. And a bit of trivia: if the drink has rum, it's a true "Hurricane." If it has Vodka, then it's a "Cyclone."

Many years ago, I'd visited Pat O'Brien's bar while vacationing in New Orleans…and I'm pretty sure I'd tried the Hurricane, but being that I'm now old and my memory is pretty shot, I couldn't remember if I'd liked it or not.

The verdict? Yum. Me likey. Me likey rum. In my tum.

My sister then gave it a try:

Did she like it? Eh…not so much. She's not a big fan of the sweet, fou-fou drinks like I am.

Next up was a Creole Bloody Mary…with some interesting ingredients such as Emeril's Bayou Blast seasoning, pickled okra juice, and whole-grain mustard. I'm not a fan of Bloody Marys, so I was a bit hesitant about this one, especially when I saw all of the seasonings that can pack a kick.

Bruce, getting ready to pour the final product…

Note that Bruce substituted Emeril's Bayou Blast seasoning for the Zatarain's Creole Seasoning…but either will work...

My sister loves Bloody Mary's, so I was anxious to see her reaction to this drink:

Hey Mikey! She likes it!!

She gave it a resounding thumbs-up, saying that it had "meat" to it. I, however, hated it - even if I could get past the tomato-taste to it (I hate tomatoes, by the way), I could NOT get past the fact that it was extremely spicy. Gah. I handed my drink over to my sister, who then handed me her unfinished Hurricane, so we were both happy.

Wait…how the heck did my sister get THREE Bloody Mary's in front of her???!! Lush.

Our third cocktail of the evening was something called a Ramos Fizz…which was, frankly, just weird:

Looks deceivingly like a milkshake…but don't let it's "innocent" look fool you….

This drink…is hard to describe. Let me post something that was written about this drink by Esquire Magazine's cocktail reviewer:

"The Ramos Fizz, alias the New Orleans Fizz or the Gin Fizz, breaks all the rules. It's fussy, dated, takes a long time to make and uses too many ingredients, one quite hard to find. It's not an everyday drink, yet you can't mix it up in big batches for company (nor should you order one in a bar). You've got to make these babies yourself, one or two at a time. So why bother?

If the Sidecar is jazz, the Ramos Fizz is ragtime. Sure, it's from New Orleans -- cradle of jazz and all that -- but it harks back to 1888, two years before Jelly Roll Morton was born and thirteen years before the great Louis Armstrong joined us. Like ragtime, Henry C. Ramos's creation is a matter of poise, of balance, of delicacy. This isn't a drink to throw together from whatever you've got lying around; every part of the formula is crucial. The egg white gives it body, the cream lends smoothness, and the citrus provides its cool. The sugar tames the citrus, the gin does what gin does, and the seltzer wakes the whole thing up. As for the orange flower water -- that's for mystery.

To sip a Ramos Fizz on a hot day is to step into a sepia-toned world peopled with slim, brown-eyed beauties who smell of magnolias and freshly laundered linen, and tall, mustachioed gentlemen who never seem to work and will kill you if you ask them why."

My sister hated this drink…so did pretty much everyone in the room, with a few exceptions, notably moi. I kinda' liked it. Maybe I'd had enough Hurricanes at this point that I would have liked anything - who knows - but I especially liked making milk mustaches while sipping this…at which point, my sister implored, "Give me your keys. Now." Whah?? She thinks I'm tipsy, just because I like having some fun and making milk mustaches??? She's such a spoil-sport.

Perhaps it was the sight of some of us (okay, me) making milk mustaches, that had Bruce deciding it was time for us to get some food in our tummies. We headed over to the buffet, where we dined on (all gluten-free, by the way) such delicacies as:

Artichoke, Asiago & Spinach Dip…Salad with a Black-Eyed Pea and Bacon Vinaigrette…and Jambalaya...

Nom. Nom. Nom. Sadly, thé dessert, White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise, was NOT gluten-free, so that's when I had a "Sucks To Be Me" moment, as I couldn't indulge. That's okay…I just made more milk mustaches from my Ramos Fizz.

Our after-dinner drink was a variation of the World's Oldest Cocktail, the Sazerac Cocktail. For some interesting history on this drink, click HERE. Bruce told us the story of this as he mixed it all together:

And no, I haven't taken a picture of a half-drunk glass…that's ALL the drink you need, trust me.

I took a sip of this, and WHOOOOOAAAAAAA, MAMA!!! That was one strong drink.

I liked it. Sister didn't. Yum. Which means more for me.

Actually, this drink is enjoyed slowly…reallllllllly slowly. Sips…sips…sips…letting it roll off your tongue, where you can then pick up on the subtle flavors that are embedded in this. As Bruce said, this would be a drink to nurse all night at the bar, sipping slowly while enjoying the ambiance and company of friends.

One last drink…a Cafe Brulot Diabolique, which was a very strong, and very hot, coffee…Bruce REALLY heats things up in the kitchen while preparing this:

The picture is grainy, as they'd turned the lights off in the kitchen, so we could experience the full effect of the flames. Awesome.

This black coffee has some magic voodoo dust (cinnamon), as well as cloves, lemon, sugar and brandy. I hated it, but I'm not especially fond of coffee. Sister, sticking true to form of liking everything I didn't - and vice versa - loved it. We make a perfect team when we go out - the Ying and the Yang, so to speak, of the culinary world.

All too soon, it was time to head home…but not without some last-minute fun:

A great evening, full of good food, good drinks, but most of all, good company. I enjoyed having fun with Sister, as well as the other ladies at our table…we learned a lot, laughed a lot, and lived just a bit…which is the whole point of a good Girls Night Out.



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