You may be wondering whether this post’s title refers to the 1987 American police detective film (that not even I have seen, even though I’ve seen every 80s movie ever), or is perhaps a hat-tip to the lyric from AC/DC’s Back in Black, or whether I just can’t spell. But fans of rye and bourbon (and folks who notice the picture of the bottle of Bulleit bourbon on the left over there) will realize that I’m going to blog about my “Beef and Bourbon” class at the Philadelphia Wine School. And I rode there, just to gin up an excuse to write about it.
Anyone who has met me knows that I am the quintessential anti-vegan. My idea of haute cuisine is this:
Drool. (In fact, if you eat vegetables, you are eating my food’s food. Stop depriving my food of its food.)
Can such a succulent repast be accompanied by mere water? Maybe – if you’re a Cro-magnon and alcohol hasn’t been discovered yet. (But if you’re a Cro-magnon, you may not have discovered fire yet either, so grilling that burger could be tricky.) The more-highly-evolved of us know that at least beer or (preferably) hard liquor is needed. And to appreciate hard liquor, one must study it. Thankfully, I went to a lot of good schools and I study things really well.
So, why did I decide to take two hours out of my life and devote them to the study of red meat and hard alcohol? Because (like Hans Gruber) I know the benefits of the Classics. Not Iliad and Odyssey-type classics. Real classics: like steak and a perfectly mixed Manhattan.
Is there anything worse than a bad Manhattan? In a word: No.
Some of you may try to argue that there must be worst things – like Death maybe. False.
If you are dead, you don’t have to suffer the heartbreak and insult of a poorly mixed Manhattan. You’ve shuffled off this mortal coil; you’re done. Return to stardust (or something).
I can hear others of you: But, Liz, surely you’d acknowledge that having ebola is worse than a bad Manhattan? No. I would not so acknowledge. First, ebola (especially Ebola Zaire, the really nasty one) is likely to result in Death. In which case, see supra for explanation Why Bad Manhattan Trumps Death on bummer list. Second, hemorrhagic fever is something that happens to you against your will. No one goes to bar after a rough day and says, “I’d like some of your best ebola, straight up and be sure to chill the glass,” with the expectation that she will feel better. Here, expectations matter: Oh, I have ebola? Gosh, there will be blood and pain. (And then there is, and you got what you expected. No disappointment.) Versus: I can’t wait to enjoy this Manhattan – oh, darn, the bartender mixed this with the care and delicacy of a rampaging Visigoth horde.
So, to be better able to defend myself against the scourge of bad Manhattans, I wanted to study what makes them tick. (Mine generally tick with Rye, but once in a while I’ll take one with Bourbon — I like to keep my options open…)
Bourbon: America’s Whiskey:
The class did not disappoint. (As if sitting around on a Sunday afternoon drinking bourbon could disappoint.)
Behold the menu: that’s right, a lotta beef and a lotta bourbon.
Our “education” began with the chef-instructor’s homemade, barrel-aged cocktail, crafted using bourbon, chocolate, and honey. (When you age honey in a barrel, you get mead. Mead goes great with bourbon — and, as the instructor taught — it is best to “dilute booze with more booze.” True dat. We also received rudimentary instructions on how to create this magical libation ourselves at home:
Step 1: Get a barrel.
Step 2: Put bourbon, chocolate, and honey in it.
Step 3: Wait two months.
Step 4: Drink.
Armed with this knowledge, you may rest assured that my basement will soon look like this:
The class continued with tastings of Boiu Siccati (Corsican Drief Beef with Artichoke & Parmesan), which was paired with Perennial Artisan Ales Saison de Lis. (The class was billed as Beef, Beer, and Bourbon — so here is where some of the beer came in.) Importantly, the instructor noted — and this is for my friends who think that IPA and hoppy beers are the only thing to drink during the summer — the instructor (i.e., a Learned Scholar) said that “Hops are bad for pairing with barbeque.” The bitterness fights the food. You don’t want war between your beer and your food. You want peace, comraderie, a blissful union. So, consider avoiding the IPAs at your next BBQ.
From here, we moved to Bourbon-Glazed Beef, paired with Pabst Old Tankard Ale. My beer-snob friends (I confess I am one too) may raise an eyebrow at seeing Pabst. But, relax, the Old Tankard Ale is a throw-back recipe from the 1940s — to quote the instructor “Back when America made good beer, before the dark ages of the 1980s.” Mercifully, I was too young to drink in the 1980s and I came to age when craft brewing was becoming a thing. (As they say, timing is everything in life.)
If you haven’t had bourbon-glazed beef, you should. In fact, I have made a personal resolution to glaze as many things as possible with bourbon. Seriously, everything. I may try Bourbon-Glazed Peanut Butter-And-Jelly Sandwich for dinner this evening.
Next up was more red meat paired with Henry McKenna 10 Year BIB Straight Bourbon. “Straight” means that the bourbon has been aged at least two years. It is the bourbonese equivalent of “Reserve” for wines. “BIB” stands for “Bottled in Bond,” i.e., the folks who crafted this bourbon had to put up a bond as a guarantee that various strict standards were met. (Trust me, they were met.) Henry McKenna 10 Year BIB Straight Bourbon is 100 proof. (Praise the Lord Almighty!) It has a special warning label on it from the government. And, it rocks.
You may be wondering: How does one follow 100 proof straight bourbon? With dessert!
Our dessert was Whiskey-Smoked Chocolate Truffles paired with Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon and Great Divide Brewing Company Hibernation Ale (that’s a barley wine, folks). If you’re ever wondering what to have for dessert some evening, let me assure you that you cannot go wrong by having whiskey-enhanced dark chocolate blobs, coupled with bourbon and barley wine.
The class concluded with an open period for questions (and additional drinking). Eager to learn more, I noted that I had learned to “sniff” wine at the wine class that I took, so I asked: “Am I supposed to sniff bourbon when I’m out at a bar, or will I look like a colossal dumbass?” The instructor told me I would only look like a colossal dumbass if I swirled the bourbon. Wine should be swirled because of its lower alcohol content. Swirling is needed to release the aromas. Bourbon is not crippled by a low-alcohol content Thus, swirling will damage the natural notes, leaving it to smell “like diesel fuel.”
So, there you have it — sniff and drink your bourbon, but don’t swirl. As always, I give you pearls of wisdom.